What is SEO, Anyway?

Learn more about websites, SEO, and small business from someone that actually knows what they’re talking about.

Happy Friday morning everyone! Today’s newsletter is an interview with an old friend of mine, Andrew Fair. Andrew is one of the most driven people I know. He owns/runs a small business in the Athens, Georgia area, Website Genii. I got the opportunity to interview Andrew and get his thoughts on business, websites, and life in general. He has his own Substack newsletter up and running now, All About Websites

For those reading who don’t know anything about you, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Andrew: I got my GED and have no college education so I am 100% self-taught. I have a drive that can’t be stopped and have conditioned myself to learn every day. I have seen my grandfather-in-law continue to go to classes to be educated because the act of learning is like exercising a muscle. The ability to retain and gain new information is insanely important in today’s ever-changing world; I feel it’s a requirement to keep learning something new everyday to be at the top of my game and be the best in my business. 

Before you started your own business, what did you do for a living?

Before I started my first business I worked at Dial America, Walmart, and Golden Pantry. I had no real direction on what I wanted to do with my life. I spent the first few years of my working career going from job to job trying to decide what I liked to do. 

As a kid (from 7-13), I worked at Captain D’s. My dad was a district manager and manager of the store, and it was cheaper for me to go to work and work with him. I did everything from unloading the truck, waiting tables, running the register, prepping food and working all day long. I was brought up on hard work and saw first-hand what it’s like to be in that type of business. 

I was always a worker and knew I couldn’t do it for my whole life. While working at Dial America, I got the idea to open my own business. I opened Doorway Deliveries and Website Genii came along about 1.5 years later. 

Did you know you would be successful when you started your first business?

LOL! No, although I hoped I would be. I had the vision of being successful but my first business was a reality check. Things don’t happen overnight for most of us, and it has to be achieved through hard work and knowledge. The biggest issue with running your own business is you don’t know what you don’t know. There was a lot I didn’t know and I learned that fast. 

What do you do now?

I own multiple businesses but my main focus is Website Genii. We do everything from copywriting, website design, website development, videography, photography, search engine marketing and search engine optimization, and website optimization (speed). Basically, if it has to do with a website, we most likely do it. 

For people who don’t know a lot about SEO or web optimization, how would you explain what you do?

This, I’ve found, is more difficult than it first comes across. When I speak with folks who don’t know what SEO is I start with what search engines are. Search engines are algorithms specifically made to find the best results for your search terms. Search engine optimization is making the website meet the user’s needs, like load time and information, and meet the search engines needs, such as understanding the website. 

Webpages are no different than essays and articles that you would write for school. You need a title, description, subtitles, and proper layout to show the website. The title and description need to be clearly outlined in the code (technical SEO); the Schema markup and metadata is exactly what this is. The code tells search engines what this page is about, then the search engine scans your page and tries to understand the content. 

If you have 4 H1 tags (the proper on page title tag) for example, then the search engine cannot decide which title tag is appropriate for the page and reduces the rank of your site drastically. So SEO, in a nutshell, is structuring the code and content on a website so it can be understood by the search engines and rank for the topics of each page.

Do you find that business owners know the value you provide and are willing to pay for it, or do you have to convince them?

So many times I end up speaking with medium to small businesses that do not understand the value of SEO or what it actually does (when done right). The sad truth is I do have to end up educating many of them because so many businesses get screwed all the time. People say “yeah I can do SEO” and have no clue the extent that SEO entails. 

They typically put a meta title and description in and call it a day. Then the company sees no results and thinks, “Well, I got SEO and it did nothing.” Completely untrue, they got told they got SEO and actually got crap SEO or none at all. So it’s kind of convincing them but mostly educating them that what they thought they got, they didn’t get, and what I am providing is the real deal. 

For established businesses who know SEO it’s a walk in the park. They know what I have to offer, I demonstrate what we do and the knowledge I have, and they jump on it. There are WAY too many fake SEO companies out there that will take your money and do nothing because they know naturally websites will rank higher (for a brief period) and they can charge for that.

The last thing I will say about this is that there is a certain point in my industry where we all know the same stuff. I can name multiple companies I respect that do the same as us. When you all know the same, it then becomes about how good you are at executing your knowledge. 

That’s where case studies come in. These big companies know what we know, they know how it should be done, they just don’t have the execution to do so, so we show results of our execution and that creates new sales. That’s the market we are targeting now once we launch our new site and those are the folks that will appreciate our services and we will spend far less time with education and more time with demonstrations.

How do you get most business?

100% word of mouth. We don’t advertise on any platform right now. I do a lot of networking in local organizations, and word of mouth (referrals) has the highest return-on-investment of them all. We started with no money, and have worked our way up to having a budget. We actually plan on launching our new site and investing heavily in advertising, marketing, and gaining new clients. 

What are the biggest mistakes you’ve made, or have you made any?

I’ve made many mistakes! I spoke with a business owner that had been running a very successful sign company that does millions in revenue and he said, “I’ve made about every mistake you can.” That is the life of the “do-er.” At the end of the day, something may fail or something may succeed. It will always fail if you don’t try, so we try. 

One mistake I made was hiring a guy when I thought I could handle him. I ended up paying him because he needed my help, and instead of him doing the development and me doing sales, I was doing training and he was doing development. The jobs quickly dried up. 

Another mistake I made was investing in a software platform that provided me and clients marketing automation. Though the service ended up being subpar to what it was stating and we spent thousands on a product that never converted anything for us. So mistakes have been made but every time I learn something new which makes me a better person and businessman. 

What was your perception of running your own business like before you started and how is it now? What did you think would be different before you started?

The only difference I would say is I knew it would be hard, but I didn’t know how hard. The fallacy that business owners have it made and get paid great with little work is not true for most business owners. There’s a ton of work and you don’t get paid hourly. I do 80 hour weeks many times so that I can get stuff turned over quicker or just run many parts of the business. 

If I didn’t want to continue growth then this wouldn’t be the case, but I do, and I do multiple jobs that keep me up late. Though I do still absolutely love the flexibility of my job and try to grant that to all my employees! 

What advice do you have for people out there who are thinking about starting their own business?

The advice I have is DO IT! From a realistic perspective, though, you have to figure out your motivation. If you want to make something that’s all yours and build it up to greatness, it will take a lot of work! If I could do it differently I would have gone to college, gotten a good job, and saved up so I could buy a franchise. 

Franchises have an 80% success rate, and starting your own business only has a 20% success rate (in the first 2 years). With the knowledge I have now I would have run a franchise, but I never would have had the experience to do so if I hadn’t started my own business. 

There are plenty of businesses with low start-up costs and it only costs about $100 to get your LLC license, about $60 (depending on area) for your business license, and then if you go as far to pay a CPA, $500 for your taxes and $360 for Quickbooks online. So for as little as $1,000 a year, you can have a business and run it officially and safely. 

The best advice I have for anyone starting a business is to utilize your free local services. In Athens, UGA has the SBDC (small business development center) that offers free business coaches. They can help you from everything with your taxes to marketing, and much more, all for free. Setting up an LLC to protect you and your stuff is essential and all this is provided for free. Don’t try to be 100% self-sufficient, some people are better at certain tasks than you will ever be. Utilize them so you can do what your best at!

I’ve also got a Substack newsletter up and running now, so if you’re interested in learning more about SEO and everything related to websites check me out there.

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