Found My First SEO Customers
By John Alexander
Back in 1996, I had left a successful career of 24 years in the propane industry, to start my own business,
in what I thought would be Web Design. By 1997 I had began to focus more on what was then referred to
as Web Positioning (before the acronym of SEO had been popular.) Unfortunately, at this time in my small
town, most business owners were not even sure they needed a Web site, so here is the way I introduced
my services to get my first paying customers.
I began by creating a Web site of my own, which focused on the downtown section of Newmarket's historical
Main Street. I called that early Web site Focusonmain.com. I included a number of free pages for various
merchants. I tried to include content for the whole family and to make it engaging.
I paid for the Web site and maintained it during the first early years, (although it has been offline now for a few
years.) When it cam to getting publicity, I had little in the way of an advertising budget. I realized that in order
to get some buzz going about the Web site, I needed a different approach.
I only had $965.00 at the time, so that was hardly enough to buy any ad space in the local paper. So instead,
I took that $965.00 and split it up in to $5, $10, a few $20s and even a few $50s. Then I printed up a series
of thank you cards and stuffed each card into an envelope with either an assorted cash bill. On the card it
said, "Thank you for shopping on Main Street" along with the Web site URL. To have a little fun with it, I left
the envelopes unmarked so that even I had no idea what the dollar value in the envelope was. Then I would
simply go walking down Main Street until I'd notice someone in one of the merchant stores there, getting
ready to buy something. Each time I spotted someone, I would walk into the store and hand the customer
the envelope and say to them, "Thanks for shopping on Main Street." Although some thought it was strange
to be handed an envelope, I would say, "now don't throw this card away, there is cash inside." I recall in one
instance I had approached a lady buying some wild bird seed for around $8.00. She was thrilled when she
opened the card and found it had a $50.00 bill inside.
In one case, a merchant came after me on the street asking. "I don't understand this? Are you paying people
to shop in my store?" It gave me the chance to get to know the business owner, learn about their business
and let them know about my services. I decided to put out some PR on my ideas and concepts for the site.
The story was about how business has changed over the years and 100 years ago, people would usually shop
in downtown Main street district. But these days, people gravitate to the big malls and so the merchants
remaining on Main Street needed to find ways to compete with the Malls. The Internet was perfect for this.
Once I sent the PR out, I got nibbles from the National Post, but it was the Toronto Star that sent a photographer and
reporter out to interview me. This resulted in a very nice article appearing in the Toronto Business Congress section of
the newspaper, and most of those merchants were thrilled with the early exposure I was able to bring them.
I gained many of my very first paying customers who bought stand alone Web sites and SEO services from me as a
result of these early promotional efforts. Then in 2002, I changed my business model again, to begin to transition to the
SEO education and training industry.
Today, more than 10 years later, we have grown the Search Engine Workshops business to global proportions with a
family of certified SEO trainers located in communities in like across the United States, in Canada, Australia, Singapore,
Hong Kong, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, and coming later this year into the United Arab Emirates.
About John Alexander:
John Alexander works together with his network of globally located Search Engine Academy SEO Trainers who teach
hands-on SEO Certification Workshops in communities across Canada, The United States, Australia, Asia and soon in the
United Arab Emirates. John also is a writer of the Free SEO Tip of the day which offers you literally hundreds of free
SEO tips (one fresh SEO tip each day for free.)
If you are interested in training for an SEO career please visit one of our local community based SEO training Workshops
located closest to you. Read a few SEO graduate success stories here.