In this week’s episode, Katie talks to Ahmed Khalifa, an SEO expert and deaf awareness advocate. He works with clients on monthly contracts to build long term, converting SEO plans for their own businesses. And he combines his skills and passions to advocate for the deaf and hard of hearing. He creates content – particularly videos, blogs and podcasts – around his experiences of being deaf to bridge the gap between the hearing and non hearing worlds. He also advises and trains marketers to make their own content more accessible for everyone. 

Katie and Ahmed discuss the barriers to making great content, of marketing two seperate businesses and Ahmed shares his techniques to staying consistent and keeping his messaging relevant to his audience.

As always, this is a packed episode, full of great marketing suggestions and ideas you can start using on your business today. Make sure you don’t miss any gems by listening to the full podcast now.

Today’s episode is sponsored by our Instagram MOT. This 20-point checklist will take you through all the most important things you need to get right in your Instagram marketing. Click below to sign up for the free training and download the checklist.

How one business became two

Ahmed’s SEO career began over 10 years ago and he worked for a broad range of businesses and sectors before setting out on his own, servicing clients using WordPress SEO.

He’s been partially-deaf since he was born and around two years ago, he realised his SEO skills were extremely useful in bridging awareness between the hearing and non-hearing business worlds. What started as a passion project, soon became a second business – Hear Me Out! [CC]. He began by producing content around deaf experiences and making business owners more aware of how to improve their own content for their non-hearing audience.

The reality of juggling two businesses at once

Ahmed’s approach to both businesses so far has been pretty fluid. He didn’t set out to work for himself as he enjoyed his work. But, having worked abroad and in the UK, he needed a new challenge. He tried out a few side projects and caught the ‘entrepreneur bug’.

He’s unsure about the future of both businesses, but hopes to continue them as two separate entities. He’s reluctant to outsource any of the creativity and decision making but does have plans to bring in more support around the editing and technical side of his services.

Ahmed’s very aware of the constant pull of energy and time, but his passion for both businesses keeps him going.

 

“People tell me to focus 80% of energy on just one thing – the 80/20 rule. I fail at that very badly, but I can’t help it. I love running both businesses!” – Ahmed

The driver for setting up his own businesses

Freedom of expression was the one thing holding Ahmed back from complete satisfaction as an employee. After years of working for employers, he wanted more freedom around his choices.  

    “I feel like having your own business is like art. People like art because they can express themselves. Music, painting, whatever it is – you get to express yourself and it’s the same when you have your business. You can express where you want to go, how it can be done. I feel like I can do that now (as a business owner) than ever before. That’s what made it appealing for me. I feel free when it comes to expression.” – Ahmed

    How freedom of expression adds value to SEO clients

    The variety of clients keeps Ahmed motivated and inspired. His thoughtful approach to his own business carries through when speaking to clients. When it comes to SEO he understands there’s more to it than people finding his client’s websites. By getting creative, asking questions and understanding their business goals and purpose he works with clients for a more comprehensive approach to SEO, conversion and analytics.

    3 key areas of SEO to focus on 

    There are lots of individual parts to good SEO and Ahmed focuses on all of them for his clients. He recommends spending more energy and time on:

    • Content – without this you won’t get search traffic
    • Analytics – without data you won’t understand where you are right now and what your audience is doing.
    • Conversion – without this, you won’t make any money

    Ahmed is keen to remind people that SEO is a long-term game. It’s about sustainable growth, check on performance, testing and tweaking. Set your goals on 6 or 12 months minimum with any SEO plans.

    Breaking down barriers between the hearing and non hearing world

    Ahmed combines his creativity and own life lessons to talk about deaf experiences, break down barriers and raise awareness in general.

    He produces weekly content and different formats: videos, blogs and podcasts and posts across all platforms including YouTube.

    He begins with longer content – a video or podcast episode, and then breaks the content down to use on social media and blog posts. When picking a topic, it’s either personal to his life or speaks to something relevant in problem solving.

     

    Using content pillars to strengthen the message

    There are two key content pillars that Ahmed focusses on when creating content for Hear Me Out! [CC]

    • Support for the listener: You are not alone
      Ahmed shares his life story and experiences to give others in his situation the comfort that someone understands what they’re going through.
    • Support for employers of deaf people                                                                                                                                                                                                             Hear Me Out! [CC] aims to make the working life of deaf people better. He produces content aimed at employers so they can resolve any issues in the workplace for  deaf people so they can give the support needed so the employee can access it and have a great work experience.

    Hear Me Out! [CC] also offers workplace based training, workshops and public speaking events to raise awareness of deaf people in the workplace for a more inclusive working environment.

     

    Ahmed’s marketing strategy for both businesses

    Offline

    Ahmed focuses on networking as a main marketing tool for his SEO clients. He loves conversation so he can get to know people and give answers to their questions. He loves contributing value to his community. He knows this is the key to building trust and relationships that last.

     

     “I don’t go into events and networking sessions to sell. It’s about socialising for me, and getting to know people. I focus on building relationships and not being a cliche sales person. Because of that, I still have clients from day 1”. – Ahmed

    Use your website as a hub for your digital marketing 

     After building relationships in the real world, Ahmed backs up and strengthens the value he offers by adding more resources and value on his website. He does use social media and other platforms but that comes after adding value on his site. 

    How SEO works for SEO consultants

    Ahmed believes SEO consultants can neglect their own SEO efforts because they’re so busy servicing their clients. He tries to keep the basics up to date on his own site. These include:

    • Having great call to actions
    • Easy navigation throughout the site
    • Writing great content that proves your expertise
    • Use your content to answer your audience’s questions

     After building relationships in the real world, Ahmed backs up and strengthens the value he offers by adding more resources and value on his website. He does use social media and other platforms but that comes after adding value on his site. 

     

    How Ahmed uses Social Media

    Ahmed’s main priority is to make all content SEO friendly first, so it’s engaging after away from social media. He then repurposes the content to use on social media as text quotes and longer posts. In the future he’d like to get more savvy about taking audio and video sections out of his podcast and YouTube videos to use as teasers on social media.

    To feel more in control of content planning, he blocks out time each week. Tuesday is his ‘content day’. He creates and edits everything for publishing on Wednesday and Thursday. For Ahmed, if he didn’t time block he wouldn’t be consistent which is essential.

    He also keeps to two rules of thumb before creating any content:

    • Listen to your audience and pay attention to your followers so you can talk directly to the people who want to connect with you
    • Identify your audience before putting out content. Make sure the content meets their needs

    Katie and Ahmed both agreed that focussing on the audience you have now is essential for adding value in the world.

     

     “That intersection between who you have a connection with already and the change you want to make in the world. You have to think ‘what can I do with my existing resources, my existing network?’ And then start expanding from there’. – Katie

    How to make your content more accessible and inclusive

    • Captions plays a huge part in Ahmed’s content. Video with captions gets more engagement than without, and, of course, makes it easier for the deaf community to access his message.
    • Alt-Text wherever you add mages online – don’t forget to include alternative text (alt-text).
      • Some people find it hard to see images, so they choose not to – alt text helps them get a feel for the page in text only format.
      • Other visually impaired readers will use screen readers, and they can still get a feel for what the image is showing.
      • Be specific, be detailed with your description
      • Do this for social media and websites – keep in mind that some scheduling tools for social media don’t have this function.

    Brilliant Business Books

    Overcoming barriers and obstacles in life is a recurring theme throughout Ahmed’s life and business and highly recommends:

    The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday

    The future for Ahmed’s businesses

    Ahmed’s feeling optimistic about his future. He’s resilient and quick to adapt ideas to suit the moment. Mostly, he’s optimistic about not needing to rely on his wits to pivot his way through the future because there is a slow, but incremental growth pattern in terms of traffic, social media engagement and revenue.

    He’s confident the slow and steady nature of his businesses are great foundations to build upon.

     

    Previous Whin Big podcast episodes mentioned in this week’s podcast

    4 lessons I learned from failing at blogging

    Start marketing on Pinterest in 30 minutes

    Creating your Pinterest marketing strategy

    About Ahmed Khalifa 

    Ahmed was born partially deaf and has overcome barriers and obstacles throughout his life. He’s an SEO expert and an advocate for deaf awareness and turned both passions into value adding businesses. After 10 years of working in SEO related roles, he set up his own SEO business ‘I am Ahmed Khalifa’. He now runs this business in tandem with Hear Me Out! [CC] a deaf awareness and training business that breaks down the barriers between the hearing and non hearing worlds.

    Get in touch with Ahmed

    Ahmed Khalifa’s website

    Hear Me Out! [CC] website

    Ahmed Khalifa on Twitter

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    Katie:

    Hi everyone. And welcome to the Whin Big podcast episode 39. I’m your host, Katie Goudie and today I’m chatting with Ahmed Khalifa, an SEO consultant and content creator. Ahmed creates videos, blogs, and podcasts around his experience of being deaf and of how marketers and business owners can make their content more accessible and more effective for their hearing audiences too. We also talked about the ins and outs of content creation and SEO and how Ahmed markets his two businesses. As always, you can find the links and resources mentioned in this episode at thewhin.co/podcast. Today’s episode is sponsored by my Instagram MOT. This 20 point checklist will take you through all the most important things you need to get right in your Instagram marketing. Head to thewhin.co/mot to sign up for the free training and download the checklist. That’s thewhin.co/mot. Now let’s get into the episode. Hi Ahmed, welcome to the podcast. How are you doing today?

    Ahmed:

    Fantastic. Thank you for inviting me, Katie. Great to be here.

    Katie:

    No worries. Yeah. So tell us about your business or your businesses should I, because I know you got two.

    Ahmed:

    Businesses. Yeah, it’s couple and I can’t help myself. My background is SEO, that’s my bread and butter of my experience. That’s what I’ve done for over 10 years in different jobs, whether it’s with a small local business to a national fashions company, to work in abroad, it had always been SEO in terms of my main forte. And yeah, after doing that I decided you know what? I’m ready to do it on my own with my own business. And I specifically focused on WordPress SEO, that’s what I call it because I have been using it for over 10 years as well, and I’m very comfortable with it. And I’m also part of the WordPress community and that’s a big thing. So it makes sense for me to be able to combine my experience with SEO, with my knowledge and expertise and experience in WordPress, combine it together.

    Ahmed:

    And on top of that, I also have a deaf awareness business I suppose, and it’s called Hear Me Out [CC]. And that is something it’s a bit more personal because that’s something that I go through and people can’t tell, but I’m partially deaf and have been all my life. And I’ve got various set up on a podcast to make sure that I can hear well, well as much as I can. And basically on that side, I help to kind of bridge that gap between deaf and hearing world and make people more deaf aware, make businesses more deaf aware. And just to make it comfortable for anyone who is deaf and hard of hearing to be wherever they are, whether it’s jobs or events, stuff like that. And I should be focusing on one business, but really I’ve got two I can’t help myself and I really, really enjoy doing both anyway. So I’m quite lucky that I enjoy what I do.

    Katie:

    Okay. And so it’s Hear Me Out [CC], is that a bit newer than your SEO business?

    Ahmed:

    It kind of is, it’s been maybe a couple of years right now. In the earlier day it was mainly creating content, just sharing the content around experiences or advice and tips and advice. So in terms of doing the content and website that side, it’s been two or three years. However, I’m very lucky that with my background in SEO, I can use that experience onto my deaf awareness side of the world, I combine it and then I can kind of take advantage of my own skill. And that helps a lot, but obviously I’ve been doing it for two or three years, but I’ve had it since the day I was born in terms of living it. So I’d like to think I’ve got experience on that side as well.

    Katie:

    Absolutely. Yeah. And do you have a vision in the longterm of how the two businesses will kind of sit next to each other or combine? Or will you prioritize one in the future?

    Ahmed:

    It’s very hard because I didn’t plan… First of all, I didn’t plan the SEO stuff in terms of having a business and I didn’t plan having deaf awareness business either, it just happened. And I think that’s kind of the field that we play, you just never know what’s going to happen, you just go with that path. I honestly, I don’t know what is my plan in 10 years time for both of them, I’d like to think that I can do both at the same time. And hopefully I would have more support around me to help me with for example, managing the content. I don’t want to outsource the task I do from a clients, that’s just me, that’s who I am.

    Ahmed:

    People want to pay me and that’s what they want so I’m not going to outsource that ever. But if it comes to managing content, creating, editing videos and podcasts I would love to have more people help me with that eventually. So that will make it easier for me to manage the two businesses. So in the real world I would love to have both going at the same time, but here’s the thing when you have your own business, you just don’t know where it’s going to take you. So that’s exciting, but also like, “Come on now, just make up your mind.” So a bit of both.

    Katie:

    Yeah. I just have the one business, but within it I build websites, I do Instagram coaching, I have a podcast, I do all these different things. And sometimes I’m like, maybe if I just picked something life would be easier but where’s the fun in that.

    Ahmed:

    Mm-hmm (affirmative). Exactly. I know. I tell myself all the time people say that you should focus at least 80% of your time and energy on one thing. Whether it’s business, whether if your favorite social media platform focus 80% on one place. Whatever it is there is the thing about 80/20 rule, and I’m failing at that very badly, but I can’t help it, I can’t help it.

    Katie:

    Yeah. So you must really love running businesses then, if it’s something that feels like it’s just happened to you and you can’t help yourself. There must be something about it which is really appealing to you, that’s kind of drawn you in. Do you know what that might be?

    Ahmed:

    I never ever thought I would do this. I was happy doing my job at various companies and organizations and it was really the plan in my head about my career. That was my intention, I never had an intention even having my own business. It was just something toward the end of my employment career where I felt like something was missing and I also wanted to express myself even more. Sometimes in certain situation, you can’t really do it fully because of maybe some what it takes or there are too many people involved or a middle man involved. I felt like I couldn’t really do the thing that I really, really wanted to do. It just had that nagging feeling in the background, like thinking should I do it other way? Should I do something else?

    Ahmed:

    So I dabbled with it and I did things on the side and it got me very, very curious and then I got the bug of call it the entrepreneurship bug if you call it that. And it made me realize that actually this is what I want to do and this is after like I said, 10 plus years of working then I realized this is actually what I want to do. And I’m really lucky and happy that I can do that because now I feel like I can express myself because I feel that having a business is like art in a way. People like art because they get to express themselves, whether it’s music or whether it’s painting, you get to express your personality, your creativity, all these things. And I feel it’s the same thing like that when you have your own business, you can express how you want it to go and how you want it to be done.

    Ahmed:

    Whether it’s for your client, whether it’s for your website anything like that and I feel like I can do that now more than I ever did before. And I think that’s what really made it really appealing for me and more exciting for me because I feel free when it comes to expression and that was a big part of it for me.

    Katie:

    Yeah. I love that metaphor of the art. I think a lot of new business owners particularly want someone to tell them how to run their business and what’s the best thing to do. And a lot of the time there’s so many good things to do that you as the business owner and get to choose and exercise your judgment and that’s the art of it. But you can’t ever imagine a painter kind of standing there looking around for a boss, being like someone telling me how to paint this painting and then business is kind of the same. No one’s going to tell you this is how you should run your business because-

    Ahmed:

    And that’s a good thing I think.

    Katie:

    Yeah. Well, if that’s what you wanted then you should get a job with a boss who can tell you what to do.

    Ahmed:

    Yeah, if you want that I think someone can help you with that. And this is the thing, there have nothing wrong with that. I’m very, very critical of people saying, “Oh God, I don’t want a job. That’s just beneath me.” I’m very critical of that and I feel like it’s extremely disrespectful for employees. There’s nothing wrong with that and if you’re happy and you get to do that in your job that is totally fine. So I would never appreciate anybody who is disrespectful about people having jobs because you can do that.

    Ahmed:

    You can have that expression at your job that’s fine, I just didn’t find it in my own situation. But at the same time it’s like what you said, if you have your own form of expression through the art, then it’s your way of doing it. And it’s better that it comes from your way, your style, how you speak it rather than you copy someone else because then that’s not yours, you’re just copying someone else. So as much as someone can tell you what to do, maybe guide you along the way, you have to do the work and it has to come from your heart. Your beneath you, it has to come from you are not just from copying other people.

    Katie:

    Yeah, absolutely. So thinking about that self expression then and how that actually plays into your business, what is it that you’re doing for your clients? I have a broad idea of what SEO is, I’m sure people listening will have a sense too, but it’d be interesting to hear what’s kind of the day to day, what are you doing for clients? What helps and what helps them?

    Ahmed:

    I’ve got a variety of them which is the exciting thing about it. And the general thing across all of them is that it’s really, really important for me to understand what they really want. Because when people say, “Okay, I need SEO.” And I’m like, “Why?” And then you get more traffic. Okay, why? So people can find me. Why? You have to keep asking why, why, why until it’s that final answer that you can’t go any further. Because it’s all well and good you say, I need SEO because I want more organic traffic, but there has to be an end goal because organic traffic is not going to make you money. I mean, there has to be something further down the line that is more about what is your business goal?

    Ahmed:

    So if you’re going to stick to being more business oriented, the end goal really is about conversion. And that is part of it, I do a bit of conversion rate optimization as well because when I talk to my clients we talk about, “Okay, what is it that you have right now?” I look at their set up especially with whatever analytics tools that they have, essential. If you don’t have that, then you would really struggle. So I’d need data to know where they are right now and see what’s working, what’s not working and if there’s anything broken, fix it. And look at whatever they’re doing right now, why is it not bringing them the revenue? Why is it not bringing them traffic?

    Ahmed:

    It could be something technical, maybe something like your pages are being blocked for whatever from Google, or it could be because you just don’t have direct content that is making it easy for people to find you when they search for you. Or it could be because you have content, but you’re not targeting the keyword or too genetic, too broad. And then I just have to sit down with them and say, “We need to focus on X, Y and Z.” The three things that I always focus on is content, analytics and conversion. The way I see SEO, if you break it down in so many segments there are a lot of them, and these three are the really heavy one that I focus on a lot. And there’s other things around here like social media, all the things that have an indirect effect on SEO.

    Ahmed:

    But without content you’re not going to get first traffic. Without data, you’re not going to understand what is working right now and what your audience is doing. Without conversion, you’re not going to make any money.

    Katie:

    Yeah. That makes sense.

    Ahmed:

    And that’s all of them, talk about what they have right now.

    Katie:

    Yeah. Cool.

    Ahmed:

    And from there, it’s a long game and I make sure that they are aware of that, that it’s not a quick win, it’s not a short term thing, it’s maybe not even a medium term thing. I mean, there are things that you can do a quick fix here and there, but really about having those sustainable growth, you wanted to build it and build it month by month see what’s working, see with not working. Whether it’s content, whether it’s conversion, test it. And I specifically like to work with people who have that longterm plan, like six month even 12 month plan and go further than that.

    Ahmed:

    Because then you can really track how well things are doing year on year. So day by day is so, so different. It could be technical, it could be content, it could be data, it could be so many different things, but I think that’s the exciting part about it. So as long as they have an idea of that, then I’m happy because I don’t want to give them any illusion that it’s a quick win, it’s a very easy thing to do. You just fixing things here and there. No, I can’t call Google and say, “Fix this site.” No, there’s a lot of myths around that. So that’s kind of a very genetic thing of what I do with my client.

    Katie:

    So you don’t I guess have one off projects with people, it’s like a six month, 12 month contract with everybody so you can keep doing the work over time.

    Ahmed:

    Most of the time, it’s like that. The only time when it’s like a quick one off thing is when there is like a major issue like for example if a client has done what we call a site migration. Which is when you change from one domain to another or you need to change a bunch of URLs and you have to make sure that all the re-directs are working. If you don’t do it correctly, you don’t do it safely, you will lose traffic, organic traffic anyway. Sometime that involves me coming in, doing a one of project. It could be a month long, a few months long, depending on how severe it is, but this is one of those rare occasion where okay, there is a specific problem because of this specific action and a specific set of thing that I need to do to fix that issue. This is one of those rare situations where it could be one off for me anyway, but I definitely prefer long term because that’s more exciting for everyone.

    Katie:

    Yeah, absolutely. I love watching the organic traffic on my site growing over time, I’ve got a couple of blog posts that suck people in and I’m like, “Ooh, it’s so good.”

    Ahmed:

    It’s a nice feeling.

    Katie:

    Very satisfying. So what about the Hear Me Out [CC], what are you doing there? How are you helping people with that? Who’s your audience and what difference are you making for them?

    Ahmed:

    The big focus on that is I create a lot of content around that. In the past, I did create a lot of content around SEO and everything that we’ve talked about. But I wanted to talk about the things that related to deaf awareness because I kind of got sick and tired of the barriers and I felt, you know what? I need to do something about it and I need to talk about it and break down those barriers and raise that awareness, stuff like that. So a big part of it is the content I create every week is on the blog, the podcast and video on YouTube. And basically most of the time it’s a YouTube video or a podcast that have been repurposed and then I make sure that you can put it in different places.

    Ahmed:

    These videos tend to solve a particular problem, or it could be something very personal about me or a particular person for example. The idea about that is I target kind of two different places. One is to make sure people who are in my situation they are not alone. And what I mean by that is that you’re not going through this alone, you’re not suffering alone, people go through it with you. Here’s how I go through it, here’s how I can help you and this is how it benefits me, you can learn from that. And then there’s the other side of it which is if you have a business where for example in your office this an issue, this is how you fix it.

    Ahmed:

    So that you’re an employee you can do the job, done. Those are the two types of content I create and in terms of the selling part of it is the workshops and sometimes public speaking. And that tend to be related to I’ve mentioned earlier, by making your workplace deaf aware or making your events more deaf aware. What you need to think about for your employees or your attendees or anything like that, to make sure that they can deliver for you and make sure that they are comfortable where they are. And that’s mainly done through workshops and public speaking. And it’s kind of really, really nice to see that people respond to my content which means that it’s working nicely. And then it’s my responsibility to get them to sales for those who are wanting it done in real life in their offices.

    Katie:

    Okay. So do you have workshops that are publicly… Maybe not at the moment, but in general do you have workshops that people can just sign up to with a single ticket or do they have to hire you to come into a workplace?

    Ahmed:

    It’s mainly in person and at there places. And the reason being because a lot of the time I prefer it to be bespoke and just focused on their particular need, in their particular environment, their industry. And I tend to prefer doing it that way. I have thought about maybe doing some kind of online workshop or courses, stuff like that and that’s something that I am thinking about doing in the future. But for now I feel like when you are there in person, it’s a nice thing, you have that interact human face to face. We are lucky that we have all the technology, but in my opinion you can never replace the face to face interaction that you get when you are there in person with the people around you and you interact with them in person. That for me though was more valuable than doing it over a video call or a video software or anything like that. And that’s why I prefer to do it in person.

    Katie:

    Yeah. I think it’s easier as well when you’re… Certainly when I’m doing workshops, I really appreciate the body language and the atmosphere in the room as part of understanding if I’m doing a good job. So I really miss doing workshops in person, I’ve done a lot of webinars recently and it’s just not the same.

    Ahmed:

    It’s not the same. Yeah. It’s not the same.

    Katie:

    Yeah. So let’s segue now and talk a little bit about the marketing you do for your two businesses. I’m guessing you’re using social media channels along with podcasts, videos, blog posts, email newsletters, I’m guessing. So give us a sort of a breakdown and we’ll start with the SEO business. What kind of marketing are you doing for that at the moment?

    Ahmed:

    In the beginning and then it’s still kind of what I’m doing now, the main marketing thing is kind of old fashion which is offline. And what I mean by that is I focus a lot on interacting with for example, the WordPress community and then other business communities as well. Basically my intention never just to mingle with people, talk to people, get to know people just to help them provide solution for them and just contribute. And the only intention was that I didn’t go in there to sell. So for example, one thing that I did a lot in the past was going to my local meetup groups. And that really just for social reasons and it’s not to sell anything. Because of that, that helped me in terms of my business because I built that trust with them, that credibility, build relationship with them.

    Ahmed:

    I connect add that to the earlier clients that I have gotten. If it wasn’t for that, I think I would have struggled. And that was really because I just focused on building relationship and not just being that cliche, sending out business cards and trying to get people to buy from you. That’s not going to work. And it’s because of that, I still have clients from day one that have resulted of me being asked to local meetups and just getting to know people. And then you kind of build that network slowly, you build that connection then people can talk to you or get word of mouth in a positive way. That was a big thing for me in my earlier day, which kind of laid the foundation for my SEO business. It’s still working for me today because I still have that network around me and I can’t emphasize enough on how crucial that was.

    Ahmed:

    Which is to contribute to community, contribute to some community that really means something to you, that makes sense for you. If I want to do it for fun fine, but I’m not going to go contribute in a community with people who are I don’t know, skateboarders. If it’s my hobby then okay, I go in there and enjoy it, but I’m not going to go in there to talk about SEO, no. It just has to kind of link in some way. So that’s my old fashioned call it maybe, offline marketing, nothing to do with digital marketing at all. The only thing that’s digital about it is I looked online to find local events, local meetups, and interact with people that way. And that also helped me to also build a relationship with them and people around them online via social media.

    Ahmed:

    Because then when you connect with them online, social media, then you get to see their connection. You communicate with each other again, build a relationship because people forget that social media the keyword is social, so be social and people I guess forget about that. It’s not for selling. That’s the big one for me in terms of my SEO side, that was how I built it from there. Word of mouth, local events, meetups, or all these things, social media, and then gradually build content to make people aware that, okay, I do know my stuff. I told you in face to face but you go to my website, I can help you more for free. So [inaudible 00:23:45]

    Katie:

    SO your social media and your website are like backing up what networking you’ve done in person rather than the website and the social media being the source of those contacts in the first place?

    Ahmed:

    It was that order is how I started having said that if I had like a one page website, it won’t look that good on me. So I made sure that along the way, as you build, as you grow, as you get better at saying than learn. I made sure that, okay, let’s start building up content on the website. I’m a big believer of making your website the hub of everything. Yes you can use everyone else, but use the website.

    Katie:

    Yeah. So what’s SEO like for SEO consultants? Do you have to do a whole bunch of search engine optimization on your website in order to show people how good you are? Because I have to do a lot of Instagram marketing to convince people that I’m good at Instagram marketing. So I’m interested to know if there’s an element of that in SEO as well.

    Ahmed:

    I think a lot of SEO consultant, they neglect their website because they spent a lot of time on their clients website that they forgot about their own. I’m not saying they’re all like that, but I know a lot of people like that and that’s through no fault of their own. They could have other ways to cement their credibility and that’s totally fine. Of course your own website, you’ve got to have the basic stuff. I’m not saying my website is the best optimized website in the world which by the way, that doesn’t mean anything that doesn’t exist. There’s no metric to say this is the most optimized website ever. No, it’s impossible. You got to have the basic steps, so I made sure that I have clean instruction, clean design, make them to know where to go from here to here. Make sure you have the call to action and make sure that on your blog, you can show that you know what you’re talking about.

    Ahmed:

    By showing your credibility in terms of written content about Google Analytics or any kind of Google algorithm or whatever. And if you talk about it in a way that makes sense to people and they understand it and you solve a particular problem, then that is a really, really good way of proving that you know what you’re talking about. It’s the classic content marketing and an example would be I see a lot of clients, they don’t set up their Google Analytics properly from the beginning. They just get it out of the box and then that’s it, but there’s a lot of problem with that because then you’re not going to get accurate data. So I have a blog post about saying how to set up your Google Analytics and you can all a website like that, but you just have to try and make it your own and answer to the best way that you can, image driven, videos and structured and all these things.

    Ahmed:

    That’s another way to tell people that I know what I’m talking about. So as well as making sure that my website is optimized and to make sure that the content really shows that I know I’m talking about. So if you want help out on this topic or this topic, I’ve got content around a bunch of new things and I can prove to you that I can help you by telling you this is how to do it. If you want to move it to the next level then okay, let’s talk about working together. So I would say that one of the best way to show your credibility is to show that your knowledge is worth consuming via by the blog. The blog is so, so central. I mean, yes, social media is important, but to blog is where you can show your knowledge to everyone.

    Katie:

    Yeah. Kind of get into the details and the nitty gritty of it.

    Ahmed:

    Yeah.

    Katie:

    And so you do a lot of content then, well you were saying the majority of the work you do for Hear Me Out [CC] is content. So how are you promoting that content through social media? What channels are you using?

    Ahmed:

    I’m quite deliberate about making sure that not all of them, but a lot of my content are obviously SEO friendly so obviously just that side kind of covered. And I wanted to also make it social media friendly. And the way I do that, is I try to make sure that I take segments of maybe a quote or something, and then I can use that on Twitter or Instagram or whatever. Ideally I need to do better at cutting segments of my videos and use that as a video snippet and put it on social media and all these things. I’m not good at that because I haven’t done it, I just feel like, okay I need to be better at that. But in terms of social media, the big, big thing for me again, is that I need to make sure that whoever is following me, I need to make sure that they will get something out of my content.

    Ahmed:

    So a lot of the things that I’ve done in the past is I was building up my network of people who are marketed themselves, there all into SEO and digital marketing. And then gradually I’m getting other people who are into that deaf awareness topic of the world, but that’s still growing in own way. I knew that I had to in the beginning write content to also resonate with marketers as well because that’s who at the beginning, my social media followers are all in SEO and digital marketing. So I had content that are relevant to them. Examples would be around captions. A caption for me is essential, I depend on it, I just can’t live without it, that’s my own way. But then I say, “Well, you know what? Caption can benefit you in many ways because caption is good for SEO, caption is good for Facebook engagement.

    Ahmed:

    They are evidence that if you caption with your videos, you are more likely to get engagement.” And then that’s what I’ve tried to build up that way. And even at a recent event that I did around public speaking, just like on social media, I get to make sure that okay, who am my audience and I need to adapt my content around them. And again, I was speaking at an SEO conference and I knew that okay, I want to talk about caption and why that is going to help you with your YouTube SEO. The same thing on social media. I knew that I had to make sure that I know who are my followers and everything around there so that if I talked to their language like caption and video SEO, YouTube SEO and put it all together, then they will resonate with that more than me talking about why my hearing is broken and how I fix it. They’re not going to resonate with that, they’re not going to get it and that’s okay, there’s nothing wrong with that. So it’s important I listen, I look up who is following me from the beginning.

    Katie:

    Yes. That intersection between who you have a connection with already and the change that you want to make in the world, you have to see what can I do with my existing resources, my existing network? And then it will grow from there and it can start expanding during that incidence.

    Ahmed:

    Yeah. It’s almost a quick win, but I could’ve easily gone to other direction and not do that at all. But I just thought, “Well, is this going to help me?” Because I’ve got a bit of leverage by having that, why not use it and help them.

    Katie:

    Yeah. Rather than starting from scratch, trying to reach a brand new audience.

    Ahmed:

    Which is really hard work.

    Katie:

    Yeah.

    Ahmed:

    Very hard work.

    Katie:

    Don’t do that again if you don’t have to.

    Ahmed:

    Yeah. I’d rather not. I’d rather not.

    Katie:

    Yeah. So this actually seems like a good moment to ask you then, so you’ve mentioned captions on videos as being really important for accessibility for you and for others, as well as having other benefits. Are there other specific things that small business owners who do a lot of social media and a lot of online stuff, are there other things we should be thinking about in order to make sure our content is accessible and inclusive?

    Ahmed:

    Don’t forget about alt text or alternative text and that is social media is a big one. I mean, on website, any image that you have add alt text. And that is for many reasons, but the couple of main reasons would be one, some people don’t want to show images, but if I show the alt text it will describe what that image is. And then there are people who are blind or visually impaired and they will use screen readers and they will be able to know what that image entails. I have a rule about alt text that if you see an image, if you have uploaded an image, social media or website, and you want to add an alt text, be specific and be detailed. And what I mean by that, don’t just say for example, if there’s a picture of a dog running on the field beside a waterfall chasing a red ball. If that’s the picture then don’t put in just dog.

    Katie:

    Okay.

    Ahmed:

    Be detailed, be descriptive. Imagine the easy way for me to say is to imagine you describing that image to a blind person in approximately 20, 25 words, for example. Just describe that image to a blind person, that is generally your alt text. So don’t forget to do that when you do for your website and social media because you can do it now. I am quite critical of social media scheduling tools that they don’t make it easy to do that. I know some of them out there they just don’t have the option or they’re looking into it and it’s not essential for them, whatever it is.

    Ahmed:

    But for example, if you do it directly on Twitter, then you can see then that option that you say edit the description or edit alt text always, always use it. Describe the image and that will go a long way to help people who are dependent on it. It’s going to help you in a long run as well in terms of author SEO, in terms of for the website, it would help you with what we call image SEO. Google will be able to read that image, as well as the person who requires it would be able to read that image. So always, always use alt texts in every single image where possible.

    Katie:

    Okay. So what I will do in the show notes of this episode then is I will link to instructions for each of the major social media platforms on how you can add the alt text to your images. So if anyone listening doesn’t know how to do that, they can go to the show notes and I’ll pop the instructions there.

    Ahmed:

    That sounds good.

    Katie:

    Cool. Okay. So let’s talk then about some of the real specifics of what you’re doing with your marketing. What marketing do you have planned for this week coming up? So it’s Tuesday at the moment, what does Wednesday, Thursday, Friday look like in your marketing world?

    Ahmed:

    I have a couple of things. So one thing, a plan that I need to get done eventually is to create a lead the market that is based around a specific a content. And I want to update that lead market actually because I’ve got it ready, but I want to update it. So I’ve got content and you know how sometimes you want like a downloadable guide, for example. And some people like that, like a poster guide instead of like a big long blog post. That is one thing that I need to do for specific a content that I have mind. The other thing as well is that… At this moment in time anyway, traditionally Tuesday is my content day. And I’ve been most of my day on Tuesday, creating and editing and putting together my content.

    Ahmed:

    And then on Wednesday and Thursday I put it together on the website, make sure I’ve got captions and transcript and all of this things. And then on Wednesday/Thursday I publish it and then do the promotion. And I am very deliberate about making it Tuesday every week is my content day, that’s just something that I’m quite strict about. And that’s how I make sure that I am consistent in my content and it’s an important part of my marketing. It’s just essential. So people say, “I don’t have time.” Well, just set a time, every week use that calendar, block off and say, “Okay, every Tuesday morning I’m only going to do content and then that’s it. And that’s what I have for this week.”

    Katie:

    Yeah. It’s like what we were saying about that earlier on, you’re the business owner, you decide what you have time for. No one else is the boss telling you don’t have time to create this content, you’ve told yourself that.

    Ahmed:

    And you follow up your action, just do it. And it goes together what we said earlier about here’s your chance to express your creativity, your art. And that’s what I try to look at my content, it’s a way to express. Especially if it’s something around creating videos or creating podcasts or your writing, at the end of the day they’re all kind of artistic in its own way, they’re all very creative in it’s own way. So here’s your chance to show yourself, show your personality, show who you are and that’s what people buy, people buy you. They don’t buy the logo, they don’t buy the brand, they buy you. So that’s why I think it’s essential for people to just make a time to create content and make it your own, make it just who you are rather than you copy other people and say, “Well, I like the look of that.” No, just make it your own and people will appreciate you for who you are.

    Katie:

    Yeah. I did an episode, I think it was episode 34 is about why I was really bad at blogging and has some tips in there for other people who really bad at blogging to get into a better habit of doing it consistently. Related to how I’ve done podcasting because I never got good at blogging, but I’ve got pretty good at podcasting consistently so that’s been good-

    Ahmed:

    Find what works for you.

    Katie:

    Yeah, exactly. I find so much joy in talking to other people and it helps to have a bit of a team around you who are responsible for doing other bits of the work as well.

    Ahmed:

    Definitely.

    Katie:

    Cool. So let’s talk about books. One of my favorite things to do on the podcast is ask people about their favorite books and what they can recommend so you mentioned one, before we started recording which you find really useful.

    Ahmed:

    I am obsessed with books. So it’s very, very hard to pick your favorite book so I don’t have one favorite book. To just go over the same topic I talked about earlier about barriers and going through obstacles in life and going through these challenges in life and you have to overcome them. And I find for me one book that really spoke to me quite well is The Obstacle Is the Way by Ryan Holiday. He’s a prolific writer, he’s very much heavily into stoicism. And it’s been around for thousands of years and it’s nothing new. It’s just about reminding what happened thousands of years ago and how people lived their life and what you can control, what you can’t control and it’s all about that. It’s just about control what you can control. So if you see something that will make you angry, well, you can control your reaction to it, but you can’t control what other people are doing to some extent.

    Ahmed:

    So Ryan Holiday does talk a lot about that and that kind of fits into his book about The Obstacle Is the Way and the general gift of it is that he used stoicism, but also historical context, major figures in the past. About how when they have hit major lows and they have hit major obstacle in their life, whether it’s because of personal or business, they’ve manage to overcome that. And what he’s trying to say, if you have hit that obstacle, you are going in the right direction. You just need to learn how to overcome the obstacle because once you do, then there’s something there waiting for you. And the reason that would resonate with me is because I just always seen deafness as barrier and I can’t do what I want to do and all these things. But if I can just look at it in a different way, look at it in different angle, maybe I can use that to my advantage. And use that too in a way that can help me and help other people.

    Ahmed:

    So for example, now I talk about captions a lot. I know that I have a unique angle to talk about caption, but also having a unique way to incorporate that into SEO. That’s one example I can say. And it’s a very actionable book, it’s easy to read, it’s easy to kind of soak on. And I just feel like every single person has some kind of obstacle in their life, there’s no doubt in my mind. It doesn’t matter if it’s not big to other people or it’s not big to you, it’s all relative. If it’s an obstacle to you, if it’s a barrier to you then that’s all that matters. It doesn’t matter what other people say, it’s not big enough or if there’s other thing bigger, of course there are other things bigger. It’s still relative. What I took from that book is to say that if you have those barriers, if there’s something in front of you, you are going in the right direction. You just need to learn how to overcome it because if you do, there will be pot of gold at the end of the rainbow if you like.

    Katie:

    Yup.

    Ahmed:

    And that’s what I got a lot out of that book, It’s just really beneficial for me and I think it would help a lot of people.

    Katie:

    Yeah, that sounds excellent. I haven’t read that one, but I’m going to put it on my list. It sounds brilliant. Okay. We’re going to wrap up soon, but before we do we have time for a little game of would you rather, which is my new favorite game. So what I’m going to do, it may be similar to a version of this game you’ve played before, but it’s very business friendly. So I’m going to give you a scenario and there’s two options and you have to choose which one would you rather. Okay?

    Ahmed:

    Okay. Right. Let’s do it.

    Katie:

    Perfect. Okay. First scenario for all of your marketing, you’re only allowed to use Pinterest or for all of your work in its entirety, you have to use a tablet. Which one would you rather?

    Ahmed:

    Tablet.

    Katie:

    Tablet?

    Ahmed:

    Yeah. I feel like that would give me a lot of flexibility, I can do a lot of things with that. So yes, I’ll go with that.

    Katie:

    Interesting. I would always choose Pinterest. I love Pinterest.

    Ahmed:

    Interesting.

    Katie:

    I’m a big fan.

    Ahmed:

    I need to go back in there, I haven’t been there for ages.

    Katie:

    It’s very good. I’ve got a couple of podcast episodes on why Pinterest is awesome if you’re not sure. Cool.

    Ahmed:

    Oh, God. Okay. I’m need look into it again now, right? Okay. Yes.

    Katie:

    Second question. You have been challenged to create a full day of behind the scenes content for social media. Would you rather do it all as a time lapse or would you rather take one photo every hour to illustrate your day?

    Ahmed:

    But they both have benefits.

    Katie:

    They do so you have to choose.

    Ahmed:

    This is hard. Okay. I reckon, multiple loads of photos. Because then I can combine that with not just individual photos, but if I would do like one of those multiple shots per second and you can make a GIF or video or whatever out of it, then I can hit both sides of the story.

    Katie:

    I said one photo per hour, you’re bending the rules a little bit. We’ll let you get away with it. Photos it is.

    Ahmed:

    I’m sticking with photo. I’m sticking with photos, you can do a lot with that.

    Katie:

    Okay. Cool. Yeah. Picture tells a thousand words.

    Ahmed:

    Exactly.

    Katie:

    Exactly. Okay. Next one, would you rather start a new business all over again in a new industry or get a job for year? If both of the businesses you have at the moment just disappeared overnight. Is it a new business or job?

    Ahmed:

    That’s a tough one. Isn’t it? Because you’re thinking about what happened, it can happen to anyone. What if your business fail? And that’s fine, if it fails it fails. And I’ve always thought, okay, would I get a job or would I start again? I think all it depends on the circumstance, but I feel like I will start again. And that is merely because I’m sure a lot of people can relate to this, there are so many ideas in my head and you just want to do so many things. I’m lucky that I’ve got only two right now, I could have done more, but I’m just holding back. So because of all the idea that I have already, I’m going to say start again with a new idea, new energy all after because that will get you excited again.

    Katie:

    Yeah. Well fingers crossed you never have to find out for that one-

    Ahmed:

    True.

    Katie:

    You wouldn’t want your business to disappear overnight.

    Ahmed:

    Mm-mm (negative). No way.

    Katie:

    Okay. Two easy ones to finish up. Would you rather have pineapple or anchovies on a pizza?

    Ahmed:

    Oh anchovies, anchovies.

    Katie:

    Oh really?

    Ahmed:

    Oh yeah. I love anchovies. Absolutely love anchovies, put it with anything. Anything.

    Katie:

    Interesting. I’ve never had anchovies on a pizza, but I’ve tried them off of pizza and I didn’t like them.

    Ahmed:

    I think it’s a very acquired taste. If you eat it alone which I do, I can do that, it’s quite strong, but if you eat it with lots of flavor, you might be able to do it. But at the end of the day, one of them was popular pizza think it’s Napolitano and I think that’s anchovies and olives so. it’s there.

    Katie:

    Yeah, not for me. Okay. The last one-

    Ahmed:

    Yes, that was easy.

    Katie:

    Would you rather only read books or only watch movies for the rest of the time?

    Ahmed:

    Only read books, easy.

    Katie:

    Yeah? That’s an easy one.

    Ahmed:

    There’s no doubt. That’s an easy one for me. And I can live without TV if I have books all the time at disposal. Yeah. Easy.

    Katie:

    Cool. I approve. Okay. Let’s wrap up then. Tell me what makes you optimistic about the future of your business?

    Ahmed:

    The slow, but incremental growth that I’m seeing. In terms of traffic, in terms of social media engagement, in terms of revenue. It’s very, very slow if you look at it over a day, week or month you don’t see it, but if you look at it over years, then it looks more optimistic. And you were saying earlier about how it’s nice when you see your organic traffic growing slowly and slowly and slowly it’S like that. So because of that don’t expect huge spike all the time. It’s just that slow steady growth makes me really optimistic about what’s to come in the future.

    Katie:

    That’s wonderful. Well thank you so much for coming on the podcast today. It’s been an absolute pleasure to have you.

    Ahmed:

    An absolute pleasure to be here. Thank you for inviting me.

    Katie:

    I learned so much by chatting to Ahmed today and I hope you did too. You can find links to Ahmed’s platforms and to all the other resources mentioned in this episode at the whin.co/podcast. This has been episode 39 of the Whin Big podcast. Thanks for tuning in.