When You Have Writers Block…

I was talking to my son about overcoming writer's block this morning (he was struggling with a school assignment) and I realized that his challenge is one I hear from my product creation masterclass clients and newsletter subscribers. How do you deal with it when you just can't think of anything to write?

Two Tips For Breaking a Block

Stream of Consciousness Writing

This is what I recommend to my son and to clients working on an ebook or website content. Just open a document in Word or similar and start typing what's on your mind. For example:

“I had eggs for breakfast this morning, would have liked cereal but eggs are good for me. Now I'm supposed to be typing a daily email and I have no idea what to type, my mind is off in a million places, like at the car dealership test driving a new car that I really wish I could buy…”

Essentially this breaks the block because you're writing. You just skip a line and start typing what you need to type (like this daily email!) and let the words keep flowing.

Keep a Notebook of Ideas

This works very well for things like daily emails and content articles. As you go through your daily life you'll see things that inspire you, that make you think “I should write about that!” Jot those things down in a little notebook. If you're at a bookstore, you might get ideas from books in your niche, or from magazine covers in your niche. Things in your life (like my conversation with my teenage son) might inspire ideas. People will send questions to you – copy good ones into an idea file and use them to inspire content in the future.

Each of these tips works in different ways – one immediately, and one becomes as an asset that you build and can refer to again and again. Both help you overcome and just start writing (or recording, filming, etc. – Just start talking and hit “record” once you feel warmed up =D).

~Kristen

P.S. Are you having trouble creating a product? Check out the Product Creation Masterclass where I cover, step-by-step, how to find a concept, outline your product, and actually get it written and recorded. Then I show you how to write the sales letter for your product (this is actually a 30 minute recording where I write a letter live and talk you through the entire process!). It's a great fit if you're struggling with any step of product creation.

Click here to get full details on this powerful training

Why You Need to Podcast

Why You Need to Podcast

“Hi, I just wanted to let you know that I love your podcast.”

“I just signed up for your class – I found you through your podcast!”

“Where have you been, I haven't seen a new podcast for a couple of weeks?!”

These are all real comments that I've really gotten – and really get, over and over.

I'll be honest, the positive response to my podcast has really floored me!

I started my podcast because I personally enjoyed listening to podcasts, and I knew there were not a lot of them in my niche. As I've shared before, the Google Penguin/Panda update of 2013 really hurt my niche website (and for the record, I still think it was unfair). I needed to do something to connect to my audience that didn't rely on Google.

Podcasting seemed to be a good fit. I am forever grateful that I took that plunge! Podcasting has been a lot of fun for me. Plus, it's easy to do, and I have seen a return on investment that I never expected.

Here are the benefits I found with podcasting, and why you should consider doing one too:

Podcasting Reaches Your Audience (even when you normally can't)

In case you're not familiar with a podcast, it's essentially an audio show. You can also do a video podcast very successfully, but mine is audio only. Different podcasts have very different “feels” to them, but they are almost all set up to be a serialized show around a particular theme. Listeners generally listen to their shows regularly.

How frequently you podcast is really up to you – I started with every two weeks, and now I publish a show every week. Those are both pretty typical schedules. There are also daily shows, shows that publish every weekday, three times a week, once a month, etc. As with most content online, consistency is a good thing.

Back to reaching your audience…

Your listeners generally download the podcast onto their device – often a phone, or perhaps an MP3 player, their computer, or even their stereo system. Podcast apps automatically download episodes you're subscribed to – essentially meaning your listener gets you delivered straight to them every week.

Because phones and mp3 players are portable, they can take your podcast with them to listen to on their commute, while the exercise, while they cook dinner, and more.

People are getting to know you and consuming your content even while they can't use their computer or phone to be online – that's pretty powerful all by itself.

Podcasts Create a Unique Bond

Like I said, there are different podcasting “styles” – some are much like a morning radio show, with a host or a couple of hosts joking around. Some are more interview-style, where the host is talking to a different guest on each episode. Others are more of a monologue where you just listen to the podcast host talk.

My own podcast is a mix of the last two – most episodes are just me talking about a particular topic (at this point, usually topics listeners have requested). I also do a fair number of guest episodes – as my podcast has grown I have gotten a lot more requests to have guests join me on the show. I like these episodes though they take a little more planning, and I think my listeners like them to. I will probably continue the mix in the future.

Guest episodes are also powerful because they create credibility for you (your guest's credibility rubs off on you) and prominent guests often share your podcast with their audience, creating momentum for your show.

Even if you have guests or co-hosts on your show, you are one of the stars, and speaking to someone every week helps build a bond between the two of you. Listeners feel like they know you on a more intimate level than if they're just reading a few words in a blog post. They hear your voice, the tone and emphasis. It's very personal.

This is one of the ways that a starting entrepreneur can gain a lot of traction – you are often the face of your brand early in the game – and you can use something like a podcast to connect to your audience on a very, very personal level. That's powerful, and it's something that big brands don't do as well.

If you look at podcast directories, they are often dominated by solopreneuers or small teams working together. A podcast just has a little more of a home-grown feel, and that gives you a nice way to build a bond 🙂

Podcasts Build Loyalty

Because podcasts help you develop a bond between yourself and your listener, they're also a prime medium for creating loyalty. The serial, or subscription-based nature of podcasting also helps. Your listener can download just one of your shows, but as I said above, they often “subscribe” to your show. There are multiple directories that help listeners discover and subscriber to podcasts:

  • iTunes
  • Stitcher
  • Google Play Music
  • Soundcloud

Many apps also have built-in discovery and subscription management features, too. Podcast listeners like being connected with their shows – and they look forward to hearing from you every day/week/month (however often you're podcasting!). This loyalty keeps listeners tuned in to you as an expert source, so you can share recommendations, upcoming products and classes, etc. with your listeners.

Building Your Brand

Podcasting is Pretty Easy!

One of the biggest benefits of podcasting is just how easy it is. You just turn on the microphone and start recording! Of course if you're bringing guests in, it gets a little more complicated – but not much. Even now, I still have my guests call into my teleconference line. You can put together complicated podcasting setups, but you don't have to.

Having said that, I do think audio quality is important (and if I were recording guests every day or every week, I would look into how to get the best possible quality when bringing in a guest). Fortunately, quality is pretty easy – you can get a great microphone for around $50 USD! You can use sound boards and fancy software, but it doesn't take a lot. When I first started I used Audacity, which is open-source, and it worked well.

I eventually decided to subscribe to the Adobe Creative Suite for Photoshop and since that came with Adobe Audition, I use that. I do admit that it makes processing a podcast episode faster for me (it takes about 5 minutes!) – but Audacity worked well for its' purposes (as an aside, I used The GIMP for graphics at that point, but with freemium web apps like Canva [opens in a new tab] you can make amazing images for your site very easily today!).

Anyways – it is very, very easy to get a good setup for podcasting. I have never used a sound board, though I know some podcasters do. I paid a voice-over artist to do my “intro” and “outtro” and I think that was a good one-time investment. Otherwise, my microphone was the big investment – once I had that, I was ready to go on air!

I generally do a (brief) outline of my show, then I sit down and hit record. I talk for about 40 minutes on average. Then I'm done! It has taken practice – your first episode is not going to sound as good as your 100th. But you get better quickly, and you gain confidence, too. If you mess up, just stop, take a breath, and start again. You can go back and edit the mistake out. I do occasionally edit something out, but at this point I don't need to edit most episodes. I've lost an episode due to computer error before and that's painful – but I generally feel that the “second take” is better than the first 😉

I could never write a blog post at the same level of quality my podcasts are at in such a short time, so podcasts are an incredible way for me to publish content fairly easily.

I do publish “show notes” with my podcast, where I write out bullet points highlighting major points in the episode (this is a great way to get practice writing bullet point copy – you are “selling” the episode!). I also list and link to things mentioned on the show – both products and resources. I often reference other shows, articles, etc. And link to those. If I had a guest on, I always link to him or her.

The show notes take a little time, but I have a template for them that helps speed things up. I also try to keep a note open on my computer while I record so I can quickly type/jot down if I mention something I hadn't already planned on. This makes pulling together show notes faster. You could have a pen and paper nearby for the same reason.

Podcasting feels intimidating at first, but as soon as you establish a workflow it comes together very quickly. You could outsource post-production (many do) but I never have. I don't bother with audio effects outside of the intro and outtro. I would say that unless you feel it's really important to your audience, don't put those things in there! Interesting effects and “professional” sounding cuts can wait until you've gotten the hang of the podcast and know you're getting a solid ROI.

Podcasting Can Create Multiple Revenue Streams

Aside from all of the above benefits, podcasting can be a source of multiple streams of revenue.

One thing I'm still working on is making sure I have a call to action in every podcast. I try to remember, at the very least, to ask my listeners to subscribe to my daily emails and to rate the podcast in their podcasting directory. Many podcasters do a great job of directly promoting a product on each episode, or a webinar, or another upcoming promotion.

I am continually surprised by the number of students I get as a direct result of the podcast. Many, many of the women who sign up for my niche classes tell me that they found me via the podcast. It makes sense to me, since I teach via audio on the podcast, and my classes tend to be mostly audio (some video here and there). Podcasting is a powerful way to reach an audience that may have never found your blog, your guest posts, or even your Youtube channel – and if they connect with you, they may become customers!

You can also directly monetize your podcasting with sponsorships. These are essentially “commercials” you do on your podcast. I haven't begun doing sponsorships yet, but I would like to soon. Sponsors become interested as your podcast grows in popularity, so a podcast with many downloads is a good starting point (we'll discuss how to boost podcast listeners in a future post).

In his sponsorship guide, podcasting maven John Lee Dumas gives these numbers:

A 15-second Pre-Roll commands $18 per 1000 CPMs (listens).
 
 
A 60-second Mid-Roll commands $25 per 1000 CPMs (listens).
 
 
For ease of math purposes, let’s say your podcast averages 10,000 listens per episode.
 
 
18 x 10 (for the 10,000 listens) = $180 is the cost to the sponsor for a Pre-Roll.
 
 
25 x 10 (for the 10,000 listens) = $250 is the cost to the sponsor for a Mid-Roll.
 
 
Therefore, your 10,000 per episode podcast would cost a sponsor $430 for a Pre-Roll/Mid-Roll combo.
 
 
Let's say you allow 2 sponsors per episode, now you are making $860 per episode.

That's pretty incredible! That's a good income if you're podcasting once a week – and a lot of you're airing more often. It's decent even if your show is every two weeks. Regardless of how you look at it, there's a lot of money there.

Podcasting is a powerful way to connect with your audience, and it can create opportunities and revenue streams you had never considered before. Podcasting gives you a little bit of a “celebrity” status, too – which helps you connect with other influencers in your niche so you can build your brand and grow the overall authority of your website.

Have you considered a podcast before? What's been holding you back from getting started?

Why Does Content Marketing Matter to the Little Guys?

Content Marketing for Little Guys

Content marketing – could I build a business on it? I glanced down at the check in my hand, then glanced up at the two kids playing in front of me. I shifted my baby a little on my lap, studying the check again. Should I use that check to buy groceries, or to buy web hosting?

I made a gamble with that money – a small inheritance I received when my grandmother died. I banked that money on a website and a content marketing plan to build it into a business (except we didn't call it “content marketing” when I started this game).

In the years since I made that decision, I've often wished my grandmother could see how I've multiplied that little check over, and over, and over again countless times 🙂

I built my business on the back of content – and I built it by myself. Recently, Scott has come home from corporate America to help in the business, but for a long time, it was just me, one of the little gals, building something pretty big.

Can content marketing work for beginning digital marketers? Beginning niche businesses?

Yep.

Let me tell you how…

What's Old is New Again

It's important to realize that “content marketing” is a buzzword today. You hear it everywhere. It's like it's some new, fresh thing that you just have to do.

The problem with that perception is that it's wrong. Content marketing has been around a long time. It's just that it wasn't really called that (I'd say that the Content Marketing Institute really helped push the lingo ;)).

We used to call it “article marketing” or just “recording training” or “writing great blog posts” or “writing consistent posts that your visitors love.”

Of course there were many variations back them, and some of them were kind of spammy and even black-hat-ish (if you don't know, “black hat” search engine optimization (SEO) means trying to fool the search engines into giving you higher rankings – it's not a good idea).

But many people honestly just created great websites.

The Content Marketing Juggernaut (or, everyone thinks it matters)

Today we still believe in creating those great websites, only we call it “content.” To be fair, content tends to be distributed farther today than it was in the past – there are many more channels for marketing with content. Plus, there are so many accessible channels for every medium:

  • Videos (Youtube, Youtube Live, Facebook Live, Vimeo, etc.)
  • Audio (podcasts on iTunes, Stitcher, Soundcloud, GooglePlay)
  • Text (your site, your blog, guest posting, social media properties, email)
  • Images and Graphics (infographics, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr)

I only named a few channels and only covered mediums that are prominent today – it's hard to imagine what might be coming. So there are complexities in content marketing that weren't there even five years ago, and certainly not a decade ago.

But the core of all of that is still high-quality content that keeps your audience coming back for more.

Content marketing is essential to most corporate strategies today for good reason: people want quality information. They want to know, like, and trust.

In the past, we had heroes and fables, the people and stuff of legends. People looked to that for inspiration and guidance.

Maybe you still do look to something higher for guidance – but many people just don't. They're looking for a “hero,” or for a “wise elder” of some sort to lead them. Today, brands fill that role!

When brands build credibility and trust with their audience, the audience is likely to remain loyal – and to buy. Content marketing opens the door to access your audience and to grow that relationship with them. It brings people onto your mailing list (arguably the most important part of your marketing strategy) Savvy corporate marketing departments realize this key, and they build entire teams to deploy well-rounded content strategies.

Content Marketing for the (much) Smaller Business

Where does that leave you, the (much) smaller business? If you're like our business, you are likely a team of one, or maybe two. Maybe you're where I was for a long time – running the business by yourself with a little bit of help from a spouse here or there to read over a blog post before you publish it. Or you've got a virtual assistant to help with some of the grunt-work, but really, this is mostly you.

Is a content marketing strategy worth having if you're only one person? Is it even possible?

And, most importantly, does it make a difference when you're a very small fish in a very big sea… a sea filled with well-organized marketing departments going after your target audience.

**The answer is a resounding YES. You should have and execute a content marketing plan **

On NBBC, my primary website and the business I've been building for the past decade, I am essentially a one-person marketing team. I am a one-person content team. I am also fighting against very big fish in my niche. One key for NBBC has been that I sit firmly (and unapologetically) in a sub-niche. But the SERPs (search engine results pages) are still dominated by corporate websites with content written by paid “experts.”

Even with this reality, I am still able to rank relatively well in the search engines, and more importantly, my content helps me to connect with my audience on a deep, personal level. I bring them something that a corporation can never bring. I bring something that a bunch of “experts” can never bring. There's a human side, an “I've been there and understand you” side…

…that's something you can put into your content strategy.

Though you may eventually grow too big to personally reply to everyone who writes you, that day will likely not come for awhile. You can take the questions you receive and create content that speaks to that need. It's highly likely that many others reading your content have the same questions, so you connect on a deep level with all your audience because they feel you know their thoughts, wants, fears, and needs.

Another example of something that has been very successful for me is podcasting. My niche podcast has over 100 episodes and I get emails almost every day thanking me for recording and producing the show. I do have guests on many episodes, but most are me speaking directly to the audience – sharing my thoughts and experiences in my niche, and giving practical advice, how-to's, etc.

This personal voice is harder for a corporation to capture, but it's something you can do regularly in your own niche without too much cost or extra work. A simple budget microphone works well. Share snippets of your story (stories) in your articles.

Live video is taking off right now, and that's another area that being an individual who connects with your audience works well. People like seeing you, and they like hearing your responses to their questions. It doesn't have to be long, 10-15 minutes to answer one a question a week can be plenty. Your phone is good enough, or your phone with an inexpensive lavaliere microphone. Then you just go live and record, respond, and build relationship.

Of course, bringing in some strategy really helps – you can repurpose your podcasts and videos into written content. You can pull together a series of blog posts to create a book. There are many options available to the small content producer.

The bottom line is: content marketing makes a difference, even for the small digital marketer and niche marketer.

It Takes Planning

You do need to plan for content.

At first, you may have the enthusiasm to write excellent articles or to record podcasts or videos, without much planning. The content keeps flowing just because you're full of ideas, or you want to establish a strong base of content about basics in your niche.

But you'll likely come to a time when you need to think about your strategy for a couple of reasons:

  • You need to keep ideas for content flowing
  • You need to keep up with a consistent content schedule
  • You may want to bring writers, editors, etc. onto your team

Truthfully your audience will give you a lot of great ideas for content. If I feel particularly un-inspired, I can just send out an email along these lines:

Subject: I need your help

Body: I sat down to write today and just couldn't think of what to write. So could you take just 2 minutes to let me know what your two biggest questions about [insert niche/topic here] are?

Just hit “reply” and let me know, it comes right to my inbox!

[sign off here]

Once you have a small email list, a simple email like this can get big results. You can also write back with a few lines, acknowledging people for responding you. This is a great way to build further relationship.

Paste all the questions into a document or Onenote (it's what I use!), and you've got a great list to work from when you need content ideas. A little bit of planning will help you keep those content ideas flowing.

Another key is consistency. This is something I have really struggled with throughout the years of running my business. When I started my site, I had 3 kids. Now I have 7 kids! I love my kids, and I love homeschooling them, but life with a large family can get really hectic. There are times when it's just hard for me to produce content.

Staying consistent, however, has always lead to more success in my business. This has been especially true with my podcast, which brings many new students into my program. I want my products and classes to change lives, and to do that, I need people in them! So creating valuable content on a schedule is worth it to me.

You may need to tweak your schedule (often you're too ambitious at first), but planning out how frequently you publish and what kind of content you create is helpful.

A final reason for planning is because you may want to bring in a team at some point. I would eventually like to hire a writer or writers to help me on a smaller niche site I'd like to build out. I know that having a set content calendar and a set plan for getting the initial drafts in, having editing and formatting done, etc. will be crucial to the success of my team.

If you hope to have a team working on your content, you need to consider at least a loosely organized plan to keep everyone on track.

Strategy = Success

I hinted above that content like a podcast or video can be repurposed into further content. Having the plan to do this is crucial.

I've been reading the stories of other marketers recently, and a common theme has been carefully re-purposed content. I've decided to implement this with my live videos.

I did live video for NBBC for months and posted the video on my blog after the live broadcast. That's as far as I went with “repurposing.” After taking a break from live-streaming due to a family emergency, I decided to start again. I polled the NBBC subscriber base and heard (overwhelmingly) that they wanted Youtube Live and were also interested in Facebook Live. So I decided to stream from both services. Another successful marketer (Wardee Harmon from Traditional Cooking School – thank you!) gave me the idea to also repurpose into a podcast.

As I shared, my podcast has been a great way for me to personally connect with the NBBC audience. A second, shorter podcast seemed like a good idea too. So when I record the live video, I also have my microphone hooked up and recording just behind the cameras. I capture two live streams and an audio at the same time (I could also extract audio from the Youtube Live recording if need be). As I type this, we're about to launch the second podcast. It will have a post with the podcast and the video embedded, and the podcast will go live to each podcasting directory while the video is on Youtube and Facebook.

This does take a little extra time (mostly to get the blog post together) – but not much – and I'm distributing quality content out that goes to social media, sits on Youtube, and I can share with my subscribers and readers.

Podcasts and videos can also be transcribed to create further content. You can use a short transcript to form the foundation for a longer, more detailed content piece like this one.

All of that takes strategy – and this is just one example of a strategy.

If you're just getting started, choose one content medium and master it.

Then determine how you can repurpose that content strategically to widen your reach.

Remember, even if you don't have the money (or time) to do a lot of fancy work with video and audio, you have a huge advantage with your audience – you are real and relatable – people can form a connection with you easily. Flashy video effects are cool, but real people sharing real information and experiences still wins most of the time (look at reality TV – as “real” as you can argue that is ;)).

After you've mastered one medium and determined how your first repurposing plan works, you can look towards expanding and bolting more onto your business – always thinking strategically about how this advances the whole business.

Another hint: don't be discouraged if something doesn't work, or if you can't juggle quite as much as you're doing. Evaluate what does work and stay consistent with that.

Moving Beyond the Blog Post

I think I've already given you some great ideas for moving beyond a simple blog post, and as I've emphasized several times, I think this is a place where you, as a small content provider, can really shine.

Audio is powerful and simple, even if you're nervous about the way that you look or how messy your house is 😉 Video is a great choice if you want to seem personal and real to your audience. Don't worry if things are rough at first – you'll get better. I'm planning to do some posts here with tips to help you feel more confident from the start… but never forget that the more you write, record, and film, the better you'll get. The same is true for teaching, too 🙂

Remember that you can and should look beyond your own blog, too. Where you look past that point depends greatly on the niche you choose – some niches, for example, are good fits for LinkedIn. Others are not 😉

Look for places your audience hangs out online – those are good places to start sharing content. Today it's very easy to share articles, audio, and video.

Images are also very big today, and can be used to enhance and spread awareness both online and offline. In fact, I think that images should be part of your strategy. A clean graphic can make even an article more eye-catching and appealing to your audience. It can also set the tone for your brand (think about a cursive script font vs. a whimsical, child-like font – font can immediately set the tone).

Images can go way beyond “Pinterest-ready” graphics, however. Your niche may really lend itself to a strong presence on a site like Instagram. Phone apps make it easy to capture and share pictures. If this is a good fit for your niche, it's time to think through strategy (and consistency) – don't go too big too fast 😉 This is something I'm thinking of exploring for NBBC or even here at Milk and Mud – but I haven't done a lot yet so I'll be learning along with you!

The point is, there are many ways to think creatively about content marketing both on your blog and off your blog, and in many mediums. After you've built up a few quality content pieces on your website, and you've gotten a mailing list set up, guest posting can be powerful, so it's definitely an option to consider!

Small Start, Massive Growth

Key takeaways are:

  • Consistency is important for building relationship and traction
  • Being “small” is a big advantage – you can connect on a very personal, real level
  • Start slowly and add on more as you master content mediums (and locations)
  • Grow strategically – consider how to repurpose content

If you start slowly you can master each thing you do (or dump what doesn't work and move on to something that does), then bolt on something new. Measure and evaluate results so you know what works for you.

As you refine and built a content marketing strategy that works for you, you'll gain momentum. It's like a snowball rolling downhill – the impact on your business grows exponentially, and the impact you have your audience also explodes. You reach more people, change more lives (including your own), and people like you, respect you, and listen to your thoughts, opinions, and recommendations 🙂

Do you have a content strategy that's working for your online business?

Why is SEO Important?

SEO, which stands for Search Engine Optimization, is an important part of building your website and bringing traffic back to your pages.  SEO is a free traffic strategy, meaning it doesn't cost money to optimize your site.

There are two major aspects to optimizing your site, called “on page” and “off page.”  Both of these are important for increasing the traffic of your site, as well as leading people through your site to where you want them to be (probably the pages that make you money!)

On-Page SEO

This aspect of search engine optimization requires research and planning up front.  It starts with a site-wide plan, a broad overview of how you're going to organize your site.  It then drills down to work you do on a page by page basis.

Why is this so important?

Site-Wide Organization

Putting together a website that makes sense is important to both your visitors and the search engines (and it matters to the search engines that your site works for human visitors).  When I say “makes sense” it means that your visitor can navigate through your website with relative ease.  The organization is logical.

On-Page SEO Organization
Site Build It takes you step-by-step through organizing your site

For instance, your visitor goes from the home page to a page on traffic generation.  This page has several links to more articles, including one on SEO, article marketing, and directory submissions.  It doesn't link to a page on creating products, because that's not really related to getting traffic.

This logical, clean organization makes it easy for your visitor to find what they need.  This increases their time on your site and the number of pages they visit – both things the search engines measure and use to rank your site.

Search engines employ virtual visitors (special computer programs) called “spiders” that “crawl” through the internet and catalog what they find.  This is called indexing, and a well-organized site is easily indexed.  Though disorganized sites can be indexed and ranked in the search engines, a clean, well thought out site will be much more successful.

On-Page Tweaks

There are different strategies for on each page of your site.  Of course, creating good content that your readers love and get value from is very important.  That's why good writing and great information is important.  But SEO goes beyond that.

First, it's important to let your search engine spider visitors know what a page is about.  The page's keyword (which you researched way back in the planning stages of your site) sprinkled throughout the page gives the spider a good idea of what the page is about and what you'd like to rank for.  You want this to be there, but not overdone.

An anchor text example

You may also include links throughout the page.  These relevant links give your visitor ways to get more information on your site (or perhaps link to something that will benefit them and make you money).  They also help the search engines further figure out what your page is about.  The words that you use in your link (the part that's blue and underlined) are called your “anchor text” and they are a big part of on-page SEO.

Off-Page SEO

Off-page search engine optimization means what happens off of your site, but related to your site.

This generally means links back to your site — in other words, links that are on somebody else's blog or website that lead to your site.

The search engine spiders follow these links to your site.  The more links there are, the more popular and important they assume your site to be.

It's important for the search engine spiders to make this assumption because it drives up the ranking for your website in the search engines, meaning more visitors reach your site.

These links can also bring visitors to your site directly, especially if you earn a link on a popular website or blog.  There are various socially-oriented sites,  like Digg and StumbleUpon that may also give you tons of direct traffic if you get a link on them.

You want this off-page activity to be “optimized” too.  It's good to get these links from important sites.  It's also good to have control over the anchor text within the link — again, specific keywords in the anchor text let the search engines know what your site and its pages are about.  This increases the chance that you'll be ranked for the terms you want to be ranked for.

Planning and Implementation Are Important

As you can see, search engine optimization is vital to your site.  It should start in the planning stages of your site, with keyword research and the planning and structuring of your site.

It continues as your build your site and create a logical, organized resource for your visitors.  You'll also probably link back to old content and archived posts from your static pages and newer posts if you're using a blogging model for your site.  If you're using a static site, this internal organization may be more natural and easier to keep up with.

You'll also develop a plan for off-site SEO that you can follow systematically over time to build up your site's presence on the web.

All of this effort culminates in a site that pleases your visitors and the search engines — and a site that's set to make you passive income that you'll enjoy for years.

Photo by Danard Vincente and Danny Sullivan

Sitemap Generation Quick Tip

Creating a sitemap is important for SEO purposes.  SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization.  I will be writing more about SEO soon, but for now know that it's important to getting your website or blog ranked.  There are two categories, known as “on page” and “off page.”  Your sitemap is on-page SEO.

A sitemap is an organized listing of your website or blog made specifically for search engine spiders.  The search engines send out digital searchers or robots, which we call spiders because they “crawl” through the entire internet rating and checking each site that appears.  A sitemap lets the spider have a clean, well-organized way to study the content on your site.

If you're using a static website you may need to generate your sitemap alone.  If you're using Site Build It! or WordPress, however, you can quickly and easily get your sitemap started.  Each one only takes a few steps.

SBI! users: you'll find the instructions in the Search Engine HQ, as you can see in the screenshots below.  You'll be able to set up your sitemap quickly following the step-by-step instructions there:

WordPress users:  I recommend you use a plugin called XML Sitemaps.  The video below will quickly walk you through setting it up:

Photo by John Pavelka

Mastering Social Media: One at a Time

New services tend to feel complicated and unintuitive at first.  I remember the first time I looked at Twitter.  I thought perhaps I was peeking into some sort of secret society that was full of rituals that I had no way of deciphering.

You know that there are benefits to the various services and social networks out there — but you're just not sure on how to dip your toes into those cloudy waters.

I decided to get an introduction to Twitter by reading a book on the subject — and that was helpful.  It gave me enough know-how to start navigating the waters.  But what about from a business perspective?

Social Media is Big Business

You already know that social media is something your business should be involved in.  It's good for many reasons.

Firstly, it can help bring people back to your blog or your website.  That's a good thing!  You want to get traffic, and honestly, diversifying your traffic sources is always positive.  You can also measure which traffic sources are best for your business… if you're actually getting traffic!

Social media gives you the chance to build relationships.  You can build relationships with your site visitors and customers.  You also build relationships with other bloggers and writers in your niche.  This is important and can give you a powerful leverage point.

You want to excel as yourself.  Some people do choose to use a pseudonym online, but most of us want to be known as ourselves… and as experts.  Social media can help get your name out — everywhere.

But even with the benefits, it's still overwhelming.

A Plan of Action

So how do you approach social media?  I firmly believe that if you splash in and out of a service you won't get much out of it and you won't go very far with building relationship or branding yourself as an expert.  You'll just be in and out, like the hundreds of other business people every day.

That's why my tactic this year is going to be a little different.  The first thing I did was make sure I had a basic understanding of a couple of services — for me, Facebook and Twitter.  I can function on those and keep up.  But I'm not a marketing or communications master on either.  I want to change that this year.  I want to discover how to get into conversations and, importantly, bring people back to my own site from there.

I'm going to focus on one service at a time.  Since I have a basic working knowledge of both, I can monitor each one of them and keep up a basic presence while I get a more in-depth education on one.

Facebook is my chosen starting point.  I feel like I am more comfortable with Facebook because I use it personally every day.  I also feel like the more extended conversations that can be started on Facebook will be easier for me to learn to inspire (and keep up with) than the more fast-paced Twitter world.

After I feel comfortable with handling my Facebook pages I will dig into Twitter from a more business-minded perspective.  After Twitter I'd like to discover some more about something like StumbleUpon and I'm also watching Google+ to see where that goes.

Hitting the Books

I learn well from the written word, so I'm going to be picking up a book or course on Facebook for business.  I'll put what I'm finding out into action — immediately — so I can plunge right in.

My hopes are that by the end of this year I'll not only feel confident in managing several social media outposts to my business, but I'll be ready for whatever services rise in the future to influence the business landscape.

What social media sites are you focusing on this year?

Photo by Dhaval Jani

Shiny Toys Make Social Media Better

Social Media always seemed like an elusive game… one that I did not know how to play.  I didn't have the time or inclination to learn, either.  Then something changed.  As I shared yesterday, I started thinking about it different, and social media no longer sucked.

I talked purely about mindset stuff yesterday.  That's most of the equation, but getting some efficient workflow tools in place really helped a lot too.  So today, I'll share the joy of the toys.

Yes, a few shiny toys have made life easier for me.  These come, of course, outside of yesterday's revelations.  They really on serve as tools to enhance, though.  You can use these if you want to make social media smoother, but I think that pairing them with what I shared above will make it a lot more fun 🙂

Buffer

I resisted Buffer for awhile because I already used Hootsuite and I didn't really want to get into using two different services.

But the boys over at Buffer have done a good job making sure you see their name everywhere, so I finally decided to give in and give it a try.  I was hooked right away.

It's so easy to set up posts for Twitter using Buffer — I just click the Buffer bookmark, personalize my tweet, and it gets dumped into the queue at the times I've already set.  Nice!

I shared above that I feel now that social media is about learning, staying current, sharing, and listening.  It is.  But I'm still a mom of 5!  Homeschooling mom of 5 at that!  I also have to write a lot for my sites, so I can't be online constantly reading RSS feeds or following Twitter.  I can check in a few times throughout the day, then really relax and look things over in the evening.  Buffer keeps my tweets going out, even while I'm busy mothering and writing.

Hootsuite

I still use my Hootsuite dashboard to keep up with Twitter and my lists.  It's good since I have separate Twitter accounts as my websites are in a couple of different niches.

I also use Hootsuite to send out on-the-fly tweets.  Pun intended 🙂

Instapaper

I use Instapaper — a lot.  In fact, I flip through RSS feeds really quickly, marking those I want to tweet, share, or just read later to go to Instapaper.

I have my Instapaper set up with folders.  There are two folders for each website: one for Twitter and one for Facebook.  Then I have a business folder and a personal folder.

I quickly move everything from my Instapaper front page into the appropriate folder.  Personal articles go into personal, business articles of interest to me go into business.  Articles for each niche go into that niche's Twitter folder.

From the Twitter folder I visit the articles and use Buffer to schedule them.  Then I move those I want to share on Facebook to the Facebook folder.  I remove the others from Instapaper.  This keeps those folders lean and clean.

I'm still manually posting stories to my Facebook pages… I do that here and there when I have a minute throughout the day.  After I post to Facebook, I delete the story from Instapaper.  Again, lean, clean folders.

My iPad

How could I resist talking about the shiniest toy of all?  You can read more about each app that I use and how I use it within my workflow in my post:

7 Ways the iPad Instantly Increased My Productivity

But suffice it to say that the iPad has really, really made social media a lot easier for me.  I can get through RSS feeds especially quickly, and more importantly, I can get stories into Instapaper so I can read them more closely, comment on them, and share them more easily.

I also really like the Hootsuite app and how it lets me stay connected with the Twitterverse.  I will admit that I use Safari to visit my Facebook pages — the native Facebook app is just a little too limited for my tastes in keeping current with my Facebook fans.  It works fine in Safari, though.

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I want to mention that though my iPad makes this really easy and portable, which is great for my life as wife and mama, this workflow can be done on a netbook, notebook, or desktop pretty easily 🙂

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I also love how easily I learn on my iPad… books, books, books, and more books!  I can keep up-to-date, learn more about my niches and marketing, and even keep an eye on my competitor's products (and potential affiliate products).  I love that.

Of course, I'm writing this article out on my iPad right now… and I love it for that.  It's just me, white background, and text that flows oh-so-smoothly from my fingers.

I can discover, learn, read, write, share, and listen on the things that I'm passionate about.  Like I said yesterday… suddenly this social media thing rocks 🙂

[one_third][box type=”shadow”]Photo by theritters[/box]
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Why Social Media No Longer Sucks

I will admit that I've tried to play the “Social Media” game quite a few times. I own three websites, two of which I've actively developed, and I've tried to work social media for all of them.  It always felt overwhelming.  It felt like a chore.  It doesn't anymore.  What changed?

A few things made a big difference (yes, I'm going to tell you about some shiny tools — tomorrow), but I can honestly say that the biggest thing that changed for me was a shift in perception.

Thinking Social Differently

I'm not really a “social” person in real life.  I love my family so much.  I spend a lot of time with them.  My husband is my best friend — we talk all the time.  But outside of the family it's mostly acquaintances.  I've never been a mover or a shaker when it comes to social groups.  When I first heard the term “social media” I worried.  Did you have to be cool and popular to pull it off?  I looked at all the people amassing Facebook Likes and Twitter followers and decided I just didn't have the time or popularity to keep up with it all.  I was a geeky kid in school and, well, I'm still pretty geeky.

So what changed?  Well, I got a different picture of just how I should look at social media.  That came in two different ways.  First, I was introduced to thinking about becoming a leader in my niche, someone who has her finger on the pulse of what's going on.

Passion Trumps Popularity

Now, I was never a popular kid.  But I was always a passionate one.  My life is defined by my interests — I remember it by what I was really into at that point in life.  So the thought of knowing everything there is to know about my niche, and staying on top of the current trends, is really appealing to me. I mean, I do that anyways.  I want to know what's going on!

Being about to share this with others seems cool.  Sharing my thoughts and opinions on current events — that's really neat.  And that goes into the second thing that shifted my perceptions:  social media is about sharing my perceptions.  It's also about hearing what others say.

Forgive that I keep going back to when I was a kid, but really, so much of who and what we are comes from that, right?  When I was a kid, and had a hard time expressing myself, I wrote things down.

Enter social media: I use it to keep on top of what I'm feeling passionate about.  I use it to share my feelings on what's going on.  And I can also use it get an idea of what others are feeling — and even talk to them, behind the safety of the written word.  I get to see their thoughts and feelings expressed in words.

Discover.  Sound Off.  Listen.

That makes social media cool.  It's not just a mindless promotion of stuff, desperately hoping someone listens.  I'm not sure anyone is listening to me!  But you know, it doesn't really matter too much.  I'm still sharing.  I'm still asking for opinions.  And I think, sooner or later, somebody else is going to take up this conversation with me.

Maybe this is simple — but for me, it has been a revelation.  I'm not doing this to market, to push my brand, or anything else.  I'm doing this to stay on top of something I love, to sound off about something I love, and to hear what others are saying about the thing I love.  That rocks.

More on the shiny toy side of things tomorrow…

[one_third][box] Photo by James Cridland[/box][/one_third]