5 Essential Online Rules Every SBDC Counselor Must Share with Their Clients


As an SBDC Counselor, you are increasingly being asked questions about websites, social media, and online marketing by your clients. Keeping up with the most current “best practices” in this area can be challenging. In this video, Eric Spellmann gives you the five most important concepts to communicate with your clients BEFORE they begin down this road. His “plain-english” and ground-zero style will have you understanding these technical concepts without you having to be a “techie!” Make sure your clients don’t make a costly mistake in the online world by watching this video!


Note from Eric: Below, you will find a word-for-word transcript of this video. I provide this as an aid for the hearing-impaired and for those who might just want to read it rather than watch the video. This conversational style is not reflective of how I write. Be nice! Hey, I am Eric Spellmann. And today’s topic is perhaps 1 of the longest titles I’ve ever done. 5 Essential Online Marketing Rules Every SBDC Counselor Must Share with their Clients. That’s right.

I am targeting, I am speaking directly to you people and the Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) all around this country who are trying to help new entrepreneurs who want to look into the world of Online Marketing. And I’m here to help you make sure that they know the right information. So let’s jump right into it.

Number 1, own your online property. Own it! Now what I mean by online property? That’s very simple. Number 1, own your domain. A domain is simply that “dot com”. Okay. Every company needs to have a dot com. Every organization needs to have a dot com. If you’re non-profit, you may have a “dot org” and that’s ok. But you’ve got to own it. Many times when an entrepreneur creates a brand new website, they’ll have their web developer register their address for them.

The problem is some unethical people will register it in their own name and not the name of the business. If you want to know for sure whether you own your dot com or not, you’re gonna have to do what’s called a “Who is” search. Now I have videos on this. Basically you’ve got to make sure that you are the “registrant”. Okay. The person who is registered as the registrant is the legal owner of the domain. And it needs to be the person who owns the business, not the person who builds the website.

Second, you’ve got to own your website. Now I’m here in Texas. And theres a lot of people who don’t know that in the State of Texas, when someone builds a website for you, he owns the legal rights to that website even though you have paid them for building that website! So, you need to make sure that when you’re speaking to your clients, that they find a vendor who will WAIVE those rights so that the website belongs and is legally owned by the business itself.

You’ve got to own your photos on the website. Now this is 1 of 2 things. If you provide the photos then you automatically own them. But, if someone is pulling Stock Photos for you, you’ve got to make sure that they are licensed in your name and not necessarily in the web designer’s name (in case you have relieved them). So, if you’re gonna used Stock Photography, you need to tell your clients to go create their own Stock Photography account like with Bigstock, iStock etc. It needs to be in their account (02:38)

You’ve got to own your content. When I say content, I mean text. Everything written on the website has got to belong to the business. Not a writer, not the person who built it! It kind of goes back to that owning a website, typically people who write it, they own it unless they waive those rights of ownership and sign them over to the business.

So, if your clients are having someone who writes somethings up, some copies, some PR etc, then you’ve got to make sure that somewhere in that agreement with that vendor, there is the handing over of the Intellectual Property Rights of the actual content. So that was number 1.

Number 2, you’ve got to have a purpose! Before you ever let any of your clients out there to build a website or find someone to do it for them, you’ve got to make sure you ask your clients “Why are you doing this?” And the answer they give back can simply be “Well, it’s part of starting a business. Right?”

No if they don’t understand what the purpose of Online Marketing and getting a website and all that is, then how are they gonna measure the results? I’ve often said you cannot manage what you cannot measure! And if people don’t know why they have something, then they have no basis for being able to tell whether it’s successful or not, or computing ROI.

So, 1 of the reasons people do Online Marketing might be Lead Generation. And in fact this is the primary use of Online Marketing i.e. someone might go online and finds them online and calls them for some business. So the actual sale occurs when someone calls them up or emails them or something else. But the lead generation occurs online.

The second is what I call sales. And when I say that I mean that they might have a website where someone can actually put something in a shopping cart, use a Credit Card and buy it! The only time when that comes into play is when there is a shopping cart on a website. Here is my point. If you have any realtors who are clients of yours, their goal with Online Marketing is not sales, their goal with Online Marketing is Lead Generation. Because the actual sale occurs when that realtor meets with the person and that person decides to use them as a realtor. So make sure your clients understand the difference between whether they are seeking Lead Generation or whether they are trying to Sell. And the easy distinction is if it has a shopping cart on a website, then they actually want to sell. If someone can put in a Credit Card and buy it online, that’s when the purpose is sales!

Branding. Branding can be added to either one of these. And there can be kind of mixtures of all of these. But branding is where you want to be known. They want to get their name out there so that when people hear their name and know who they are!

A lot of the things I do like YouTube, Social Media are for branding. It just helps get my name out there. Heck this video is part of branding, so that people go “Oh Yeah I’ve heard the Spellmann guy!” That’s exactly what it’s for and that’s what your clients are looking for and many times Online Marketing can do that for them.

And the biggest one of all is credentialing. If your clients are what I call White Collared workers. If they are Accountants or Doctors or Lawyers etc, people who basically sell this, they are basically looking for credentialing. And so when people choose to use them, they are trying to decide if this person is credentialed to do what I need him to do? Is this Lawyer good enough?

Is this Accountant good enough? And so the Online Marketing or the website tends to be a place where they can show their resume, show their successes and prove that they can do the job that someone is seeking them to do!

So, make sure when you talk with your clients and they are insisting about a website or social media. First question out of the box is why? And make sure it fits into at least 1 of these!

Okay. Manage your reputation. You’ve got to have your clients manage their reputation. If not, someone else will. There’s a lot of easy ways to do it. And let me just tell you upfront, don’t pay someone to do it! You don’t need to hire some company to manage their reputation. The business owners can do it themselves and it’s not difficult.

Number 1, teach them how to Google themselves. Teach them how to go online and type their business name, their individual name and do searches, maybe add their city after it. And just see what comes up! One of the tricks I’ve learned, and you’re gonna laugh and think that I’m not serious. But I’m serious as a heart attack here though! One of the easiest ways to see if people are talking bad about you is to simply put your name or your business name and then the word ”sucks”, because that is typically how people are gonna give you a bad review. So look for that.

Next, handle bad reviews. And you’ve got to tell your clients that at some point they are going to get a bad review. Everyone does! And they have to have a strategy in place when that happens. Now the best way to handle it is two-fold. There are 2 things you need to do. And once again don’t have them hire an Online Reputation company. There are 2 things that need to happen.

Number 1, they need to respond to it as the owner. And in most review places, like Yelp and Google, the owner of the business has the ability to respond to the review. And they basically need to say something to the effect of “Oh my Gosh I’m so sorry you had that experience. That is never our goal. Come in and we’ll make it right.” Now, you’re saying that doesn’t get rid of the review, the bad review. Right, but what it does show is that the owner takes it seriously, did not ignore them and is trying to fix it.

A lot of times you’ve been to a site where a person gets all 5 stars and you go Oh yeah! Really sure? Well, everyone is gonna get a bad review. My point is you’ve got to respond to it.

If you have a number of bad reviews or if they are really really really bad, and you don’t want anybody seeing them. Understand this. You can’t erase them, and you can’t commit anybody to erase the. The only thing you can do is bury them in good reviews. So, you’ve got to learn how to encourage people to review you!

And you’ve got to ask them to go review you on Google on Yelp after you’ve provided them with your product or service. And so what happens is all these good reviews come down and it buries the bad reviews and pushes them down. In fact most people never even see them!

Remember, the best time to ask for a review is when the customer is the happiest with your client! Which typically happens to be at the cash rep, when they are paying for the service. So what I’ve seen a lot of businesses do is they will actually place a kiosk, some little table with a computer or a tablet etc right next to the cash register and then someone can leave a real quick review. And that can generate lots! Restaurants can easily generate reviews from people when they’re sitting at their tables. You can encourage them to use their phones to review you. So, having a million good reviews will help get rid of those 1 or 2 bad reviews.

Number 4, understand how rankings work. Because there are so many scams. And I’ll talk about scams in a minute. But there is so much confusion out there and I get asked to speak on how Google ranks one website over another more than just about anything else in the world, because there is so much confusion out there. And so few people truly understand how it works!

In simplicity, basically it’s all about content. And if you’ve watched any of my previous videos, you know that when I say content I mean text! Google can only look at the text on a website and decide what is this website about. And is this website more relevant to this search than this website? And that’s what Google tries to do! It tries to figure out which website is simply more relevant based on the search.

And the only way it can do that is by looking at the text. And believe it or not, Google’s computers are smart enough now that they can even understand synonyms! I know it sounds creepy but really Google is getting good at this. You know regardless of what you say whether you’re an Attorney or a Lawyer, it knows what you’re talking about. And so the more your website talks about something, the better it is! But there is more to it than that.

The content, as you all know, has some requirements. And my egocentric self, I’ve come up with a great anagram to help you remember it and give me a little branding. And it’s basically this. Your content must have 4 ingredients. The text on someone’s website, social media or wherever online must have 4 ingredients for Google to like your client’s website. And here they are.

Number 1, it must be exclusive. That content must not exist anywhere else on Planet Earth. Do no let your clients copy something even with permission from another website and put it on their website. Because they will get NOTHING from Google. In fact Google won’t like it, they will rather get a little red flag for having duplicate content. So the content must be exclusive, written from scratch. They’ve either got to do it themselves, or find someone and pay them to write for them. (12:04)

Number 2, it’s got to be readable. And if you’ve watched my videos you know what I mean by that. It’s got to be at 5th grade level. Google wants to make sure that the results it serves up to people are understandable by the vast majority of people on Google, which means 5th to 6th or 7th grade level at the most!

You know anyone when they post some sort of PhD Thesis, Google knows the majority of people on this planet would not understand it. You know, we were all taught back in the old days to write to impress. And so may times in our writing, we would use bigger words to impress our English teacher. NO! You can’t do that, you’ve got to write to communicate. And that’s why I do these videos. People read my transcripts and the transcripts are word-for-word of what I say. And believe it or not the way we talk is about 5th grade level. It’s conversational. Readable!

It’s got to be interesting. Let me say that again. It’s got to be interesting! Now what I mean by that? You can’t just write for Google! You can’t just write a bunch of gobledeegook and hope that Google will rank you well. You’ve always got to think about the person who lands on the page. Keep in your mind, and I’ll tell you straight up. Your content has got to be written for People FIRST, Google SECOND! Because if people land on this page with all this wonderful content and don’t find anything interesting over there and leave, what good has it done?

You’ve got no lead generation, no sales! So you’ve got to make sure that your content is actually interesting, actually useful! The best way to do that is to make it educational. Because more people are going to Google and they’re typing in “how do i……” and “what is this……” etc. They’re trying to learn something from Google. So give people what they want. Give them some education about your client’s industry and what they do.

And finally, it’s got to be cumulative. Your clients have got to realize that when they build a website, they’ve got to keep adding content to it on a regular basis. You’ve got to make sure that your clients understand that a website is not something that you build and then forget about it for a year! It’s not a billboard. Your client’s website is not an online pamphlet. It is a living, growing thing. And if they expect to show up on Google for someone’s searches for what they do, they’ve got to be adding content on a regular basis. How often? Well in our tests when we write content for clients, we found that the magic number seems to be 2 600 word articles or 2 800 word articles per week. And I know that sounds like a lot! But that’s why a lot of people hire people to do it instead of doing it themselves.

Number 5, and this is probably the biggest one of all. As an SBDC counselor, you’re probably gonna hear horror stories from some of the people you counsel saying they were taken advantage of by this company, by that company etc. And one of the easiest ways to do that is to be proactive when they first come to you and say they want to go online. You’ve got to teach them not to fall for any of these scams!

Scam Number 1, the Ranking Guarantee. The second your clients have a website, I guarantee they’ll be called about once a week by some random person out of who knows where swearing that they can get them to number 1 on Google. They just need to pay this amount and you’ll be number 1 on Google tomorrow guaranteed! I’m here to tell you that is false, that is a lie!

There’s no one on this planet including me who knows what Google’s actual algorithm is on ranking one website over another. We just know what the rules are. But we don’t know the actual mathematical algorithm! So even though when people follow what I say about ranking well on Google, they will rank well on Google, even then I can’t guarantee that! So tell your clients that anyone who guarantees them top of Google, they should just hang up on them immediately!

Make sure your clients don’t buy a bunch of dumb domains. All they need is their “dot com”. And I highly recommend it only be .com! Because let’s say if someone buys a “dot biz”. You can tell them your domain .biz all day long and they’ll still type in “.com” So, have them get a dot com and have them watch my video “How to Pick a Web Address”, because I go through all of that.

And don’t fall for these scams where someone might by saying “Oh someone might be getting your .ch or your .to etc” They don’t need those because no one’s gonna use them and there is no longer any benefit to having multiple domains from a Google standpoint. Just go with your dot com. Well, watch my other video and you’ll get to know other handy information on this topic.

One of the biggest scams that your clients might possibly run into is the Phone Book scam. Keep in mind that the Phone Book companies. And I’m not targeting any particular one, I’m just saying theres a lot of them out there and they realize that their whole printed way of doing business is going away and they suddenly can’t sell print ads in those big Phone Books any more. Because no one uses them anymore! So they’re trying to go online and they’re saying Well if you let us do your website and if you be in our directory, we’re partners with Google and we rank higher than anyone else. Trust me, no one is a partner with Google! No one has a special relationship with Google that gets them a better ranking, it doesn’t work like that.

And also, being in their directory doesn’t make your website show up better. In fact, being in that directory simply means that if someone would have find your industry or your client’s industry, all the competitors would be there as well! And whoever is willing to pay the Phone Book company the most, would probably be at the top!

Trust me. Tell your clients if they follow the rules of content, if they follow the rules of what I’m telling you on How to Rank Well on Google, they won’t need that! And they will automatically show up. And they’ll do well. So, I’ll just be honest. I always tell the majority of people who come to me about this to steer clear of any company tied to Phone Books. Because a lot of times these people really don’t understand how Online Marketing truly works!

Never let any of your clients pay someone to do their local listing, also known as a Google+ page. You know at Google when you type in (e.g. plumbers) and it brings up a list and shows a map. How is that list created? Where does that come from? Well Google pulls it from what it knows about the companies based on its maps. And so your clients need to go “claim” their business on their Google+ Page for their business. And they can do that by going to Get My Business Online on Google and they can find that Google will walk them through on finding their business and claiming it.

Now, how does a person claim his business online? Well Google is very interesting and does it in either of these 2 ways. When you click “I am the owner of this business” on a Google Map or something, Google will then send a postcard to that business’s address with a pin number. And you have about 2 weeks to enter that code into a certain blank and then Google will recognize you as that business’s owner.

The other way, and Google will sometimes actually do this way and sometimes the previous one. Google will actually call the phone number of the business and give a code out. And you have like 5 minutes to enter it in. Google is just trying to verify that you actually or your client actually is the owner of his business, so that a competitor doesn’t comes along and claims your client’s business! So, don’t ever let your clients fall for someone trying to say “If you’ll pay us, we will create your local listings for you!”.

Some of the local Phone Books companies are offering that. And trust me your clients can do it themselves. And you as an SBDC counselor can show them how to claim their Google+ page.

Pay Per Click versus Organic is a very common misconception. Remember when someone does a search on Google the ads show up at the top. You know they’re the ads because they have that yellow box that says ads. Underneath that are the local listings and underneath that are the Organic Results which Google considers truly relevant.

You’ve got to tell your clients that 60% of the clicks on that page will go to the FIRST Organic Listing. 10% will go to the ads and the other 30% will go to the other Organic Listings on that page. There is no page 2! People will change their search. So if your clients are not on page 1, they may as well not be on Google, which is why ranking is so important!

But, one of the scams I see is that someone will call your client and say Yeah we can get you to the top of this page number 1 tomorrow! But in fact what they’re really doing is setting up a Pay Per Click (PPC) Campaign with ads. And what that means is your clients will get charged EVERY TIME someone clicks on it!

The best solution is to come up Organically. That way you’re gonna get 60% of the clicks and it will cost your clients ZERO! So don’t let your clients **** into not understanding the difference between the ads and the Organic Listings.

Well, I am Eric Spellmann and as you know, my SBDC friends I’m always here to help. So please don’t ever hesitate to contact me if you have a question or one of your clients has a question that you don’t know the answer to. I’ll see you in cyberspace.