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Somewhere along the way, I lost my voice. The irony… a degreed writer, a blogger, and the owner of two communication companies… a person without a voice — publicly that is. My personal life is a different story. That “self” has grown and flourished and found it’s own voice perhaps more than ever before.
But at the same time, my professional voice grew quieter. Eventually, I found myself living between a fragmented personal and professional self that I’ve found difficult to merge.
A couple of weeks ago I attended the Content Marketing World 2012 event. Something about the way the stars were lined up in my own life(s), layered on top of this event, changed everything for me.
I’ve been piecing together how exactly I lost my voice and then what it was that gave me the courage to use it again. Maybe if I can, someone else suffering in this quiet hell of being awake but paralyzed to speak, will be set free. I don’t think I’m the only one.
The Tale of the Rise and Fall…
When I started Self Made Chick, I was a solopreneur with a thriving copywriting business. I was on the recovery after losing pretty much everything in my life. An incredibly social person, I was meeting friends again through fellow bloggers after spending years in physical and emotional isolation. Life was great. Things were awesome. The sun was out again. I blogged because I needed an outlet for that story. Not for search engine rankings or visibility or to create a name for myself — I just wanted to get it out. In the beginning, it never really occurred to me that anyone would even be listening. There was nothing to lose.
But then something happened…
My business was growing so quickly that I could not even keep up with the inquiries nor possibly execute the workload. I was faced with a choice… raise my rates and cater to a handful of clients, or create a system that could provide quality copywriting services at affordable rates for as many people as possible.
One thing you might know about me if you’ve read any of my blog is that I have an immense love for the small business entrepreneur. The person that’s just getting started. The person with more passion than money. Being in a position to help that person is kind of what I’m all about. There was no way in hell I could possibly turn my business into something that served a small exclusive group and leave my kind of people behind. No way.
So I made what was perhaps the best decision of my entire life (personal and business included) and I formed a partnership with Tara Geissinger (who lives on the opposite coast of the United States from me and who I got to know solely virtually because of this blog) and we took this thing on together.
There was no guarantee that I would ever get back up to my income — and as a single mom doing everything alone, that was kind of scary. But I had my morals and values — and those were (and are) to do right by the small business and provide the best quality services at an affordable price.
And if we don’t live by your morals and codes, than what are we really?
And This Is Where I Started To Choke…
a. To slow down the movement, growth, or action of
b. To block up or obstruct by filling or clogging
c. To become blocked up or obstructed
d. To bring to an end as if by choking
e. To be unable to speak because of strong emotion
f. To be seized with tension and fail to perform well
strangle, stifle, suffocate, smother
So many times when I’m writing, I come to my senses and wonder — “why am I spilling my guts here???”
I guess it’s because I don’t think I’m the only one… And if anyone else is battling this right, I want you to know that you’re not alone.
After the partnership it wasn’t just me anymore. We had a “company.” I’m perfectly comfortable in my own skin and with my own voice, but now everything I said and did was a reflection of “the company.”
Do people that own successful companies have flaws and weaknesses? Do they publicly come clean about their insecurities?
Intellectually I thought, yes… they must. There were countless other examples of this being the case. But whenever I would start to blog, I choked on my own words. I made a commitment to myself when I started this blog that I would only write about first hand knowledge. But I was learning so much as I took on these new things. How could I give ‘advice’ on something without long term proof that it worked?
And there was another, more complex layer… With a nerve that is hardwired directly into my very soul. One that if damaged, might destroy me for good.
What if my next blog post is a total flop? What if no one cares? I made a promise to myself from the very beginning that this blog would address the human part of success. The part that’s missing from those motivational books that give a 30,000 foot view of where the subject came from opposed to where they are now, but don’t leave out the really hard stuff in between getting from there to here. What if I bared my soul and it turned out that people didn’t like it, or worse… didn’t care?
Add that to the fact that I was having my own personal “mid-life” crisis. Kicking ass in business, but in an after marriage relationship with someone that wasn’t in a place in life to value me the way I knew I needed be valued — just because I was too weak to be alone. Was I in any position to be giving “advice?” I made a promise to myself from the very start that this blog would be authentic… that it would reveal the stuff behind the curtain. But what if my “authentic” was not good enough?
I watched as many my blogging friends went on to do great things. To make names for themselves. I told myself it was ok because we were busy building companies — and those two things couldn’t coexist. You couldn’t be “a person” and “a company” at the same time. Right?
Enter Content Marketing World 2012
The title of this blog post was originally going to be “How Content Marketing World Changed My Freakin’ Life.” That’s how critical this turn of events was for me. On the day that I boarded the plane for Columbus Ohio for Joe Pulizzi‘s Content Marketing World event (Joe, you’re amazing), several important events had just taken place in my life that put me into a zone where I was open and ready for change.
1. I made a conscious choice to end a relationship that I felt in my heart wasn’t exactly right for either person. I took a stand that I would rather risk being alone forever than do something I didn’t feel was right. I was starting to design my life again, rather than just “letting it happen” to me.
2. I learned that if you have too many friends and stick to your code of ethics vs. trying to please everyone, that eventually some of those friends will weed themselves out of your life. I began to realize that it’s more important to believe in something and stand by it than to seek the approval of others. And sometimes it takes a lot of courage to take a stand for what you believe in and there’s no way to win without losing something or someone — and that’s never fun. As Brian Clark said in his presentation with Sonia Simone at CMWorld on the topic of not being afraid to rock the boat, “You don’t even need to be controversial. Just take a stand on something and watch the haters come in.”
In short, I was becoming more comfortable with ME. Step one.
Thank you Mary Lou and George…
After an amazing day of presentations at Content Marketing World all geared toward having a voice and purpose through content, Joe and the CMI team had a special treat for us — a free concert with Rick Springfield. I tell ya, internet marketing people know how to have a good time. In addition to the concert, the CMI team had set up a pre-party with an open bar in the expo hall, a BBQ dinner at the concert pavilion with an open bar, and then a post party back at the hotel with an open bar. Work hard play hard at it’s finest.
I met Mary Lou at the pre-party and we immediately hit it off fabulously. What an amazing lady. I’ve never really been into talking about the normal “fluffy” stuff people tend to talk about when they first meet (yawn) — I like to break the ice and get down to the human stuff. By the time we finished our cocktail, Mary Lou and I had already gotten way past that ice were fast friends.
The thing is, now that I wasn’t blogging… and because I work at home by myself pretty much all of the time, I really had very little interaction with my business peers any more. Would they like me for “me” the way my friends did? Could I talk about my businesses success and my misadventures in dating and about working my way up from being homeless in one conversation and still be taken seriously? My time with Mary Lou reminded me that I could.
On the way to the concert pavilion, we met George Passwater and we all hit it off immediately. By nature, people who communicate for a living are pretty easy to converse with — especially after a couple of free cocktails.
By the time we had sat down with our plates of delicious BBQ to eat, the conversation had turned to blogging. I shared my story of my fall from grace and about how mad I was at myself for totally abandoning my blog. I never revealed the name of it, but kind of shared the gist of it.
And then this moment happened…
George looked at me and said, “Wait… what’s your name again? I used to read your blog when I was just starting out!”
George… whether you realize the impact of this or not, I’ll never know. But to find out that you, living on the opposite coast of the United States, remembered this blog from four years ago — and that it was one of the resources that helped you grow your now successful content company, was a life changer.
From my perspective, I’m sitting at my desk all alone having major anxiety over pushing the “publish” button. But it turns out, that once that content is out in the world, it may just reach someone that really needs to hear it.
From “how-to” tutorials, to stories that make you feel more human, I started to realize just how much I rely on information shared by others every single hour of every single day.
One could even argue that it’s irresponsible and selfish to be so wrapped up in being worried about putting yourself out there that you fail to share the knowledge you’ve collected throughout your life with others who may need it. And that’s how I’m looking at it now.
We all need each other in this world. Whether it’s to figure out how to edit my settings on Facebook, or get an option on that campground, or to have a laugh, or to be inspired by a story when we’re feeling low, we all need each other.
And in today’s digital world, we give and receive that through online content.
It’s not about “marketing.” It’s about contributing the information you’ve collected in your life to the world so that we can all try to make sense of things better. And with so much noise out there online, it’s about doing it in such a way that is authentic and genuine and designed to be selfless rather than selfish.
Please, tell your story. It can be scary and hard to put yourself out there. But there are people in the world that need to hear it.
From broke and busted to bringing in more than a quarter million in revenue — change is difficult, but possible if you can let go of the things that are tying you to mediocrity.
Two years ago, a short time after starting this blog, I entered into a renaissance period in my professional life. During the first few months that this blog was in existence, I was wrestling with a stomach churning emotion — something between fear and exhilaration — to make a decision that I believed would either destroy me or set me free…
Let me backtrack. After quitting my corporate job and moving to the middle of nowhere with literally nothing but a crazy hunch that I could make it on my own if forced to. I did this because I felt I had reached the pinnacle of my career and realized that it sucked.
I had an awesome job and lived in a great place in San Diego. I could have continued to lead that life, making a cool 6-figure income in an unhappy marriage. Lots of people do it. It would have been totally normal, adequate, and acceptable. But I didn’t want to accept this so-so, unfulfilling existence was “it.”
I wanted to see what would happen if I was forced to either sink or swim with growing my own company — I felt I could do it, but I was scared to the point of immobility to actually take action. I may have still been living that robotic life if a series of events hadn’t practically forced me out of my comfort zone. But they did, and that has made all the difference.
A month after quitting my job and setting out to make my own destiny with my own business, I was dull and discolored from eating nothing but over-processed cheap food. I was ho-ing myself out for any job and taking far less than I was worth in compensation — and still unable to do anything but barely pay the rent. I had been wearing the same filthy sticky jeans for weeks because I didn’t have any money to do laundry.
One day my 4-year-old son came out of his room wearing his blue sleeveless Christmas picture vest and red Hawaiian shorts — when I went to find him something matching to wear, I realized that his closets and drawers were absolutely bare. I went to my closet and began to dig into a pile of dirty laundry at least 3 feet tall and 5 feet wide for something salvageable — but instead just sunk into the pile and cried.
What an absolute loser I had become. Why in the hell had I given up my job, as soul sucking as it was, for THIS!!! I thought I was creative and smart enough to handle anything life threw at me and with that overdose of pomp gave it all away. But what was revealed when everything else was stripped away was someone that was weak and small and ineffective.
This went on for months. It went on so long that by the end I really used up what seemed to be all of my reserve levels of self-esteem. Before, when I looked in the mirror, I saw an unstoppable, award winning business ass kicker. Now when looked in the mirror, I saw a poor, broke, ugly, dull, stupid loser. The fact that I had a husband at the time that reinforced all of these things I felt about myself only made me believe this more. I walked around the world like a ghost hoping not to be noticed.
Still, I worked on building my freelancing business from 4 or 5 in the morning until 10 at night. Every. Single. Day. I devoured books and blogs and information while adhering to a strict information diet. I eliminated all distractions including TV, friends, acquaintances, and cell phones. There was no choice but to make this work.
After about 6 months, the clouds had parted and the world was bright again. I realized that I wasn’t struggling for rent any more. I was able to free myself from that very negative, soul sucking relationship. The kids and I could even do some fun things, like go out and get ice cream or a movie sometimes.Eventually, things got really great! I was a successful freelancer with money in the bank! I had more business than I could possibly take on. Leads were streaming in on a consistent basis! I moved out of the middle of no-where and to a town that I LOVE. My kids were in activities! I bought a new car! Life was amazing!
Rolling The Dice, Again…
But even then, I wasn’t completely fulfilled with what I was doing. I knew that I was not living up to my own potential. And because of that, I was existing, but not completely alive. Maybe it’s silly and pompous and selfish to believe that there is something beyond living a fulfilling life — a life where you feel ‘alive,’ but I yearned for it. I had tasted it before and I wanted it again.
If you’re an entrepreneur, a lover, a dreamer, or a rainbow seeker, you probably understand the drive behind this decision. Being “ok” was a welcome relief to being poor, broke, dejected, and miserable. But being “ok” was not what I wanted out of life.
So after months of contemplation, I took a leap of faith, and made a conscious choice to make a change that would possibly cause me to lose it all. I decided to bring on a business partner, systemize my business to convert it into a company vs. a solo venture. This meantgiving up 75% of my income. It was based on a hunch that if I created a void strategically and consciously, that I could manifest something better to fill that void.
Trust me, I asked myself… Christine, why the hell would you risk everything you have now and possible end up like you did a few years ago when you gave up everything?
But this time it felt like less of a gamble. Less like stumbling into the unknown. I had come to believe in some sort of science, that if you create a void, it will become filled. And if you consciously work to fill it, you will end up with something you intend rather than ‘whatever’ rushes in to fill that void.
As a busy freelancer, I had worked myself into a very demanding job. I was no longer an entrepreneur, but a technician. I had created a job for myself. True, it was better than working for someone else. I could set my own hours. I didn’t have to play politics with people or make small talk in the hallways. I could pick and choose which projects I wanted to work on. It was better than before, and many people that I met envied what I had accomplished. But it wasn’t good enough.
After the honeymoon period of freelancing is over… when you learn that you can in fact make a living freelancing and that you can in fact quit the cubicle… then what? Is that enough to satisfy you?
I wanted to reach more people.
I wanted to affect more lives and more businesses.
I wanted to solve more of the problems that I saw out there that I didn’t have the time or means to solve
I wanted to create something that was bigger than myself.
I wanted to be able to use the business building creativity that I didn’t have time to use any more
Long story short, I grew my one person freelancing business into a company that now consists of myself, my incredible business partner Tara, 5 amazing project managers, 15 writers, and one assistant. The company’s revenue reached well over a quarter million dollars in the first full year of operation in its new system. During this time, Tara and I started a second venture — a dream of ours that is designed to help more people, affect more lives, and solve more problems.
Where I’ve Been For So Long….
It was during the onset of this renaissance period that you first met ‘Self Made Chick,’ the blogger. And soon after I started this blog was when I made that conscious choice to give up 75% of my income. There have been months on end where I didn’t post — and there’s a reason.I know from the comments I’ve received and the feedback I’ve gotten from people that they really do listen to, trust, and base some of their life decisions on the things I’ve said in this blog. I take that responsibility VERY seriously.
I made sacrifices to follow this path, but I believe that it was right for me. I could have continued being “the chick who taught people how to be a freelancer,” but how could I do that when I myself had become trapped by the very lifestyle I was teaching others to do. That absolutely does not mean that I don’t believe freelancing is an excellent choice — it is!
Becoming a freelancer saved my life.
t’s just that for some people, there will be a yearning to grow beyond that. And that was a path that I needed to take. And before I shared these lessons learned with you, the readers that I absolutely adore and love, I needed to struggle through those lessons.My goal here has always been to give advice, and there were many, many, months where I felt I was not in the position to do so because I myself was being swept through the currents of this new river I was sailing upon and was in no position to be reflective enough to offer any sound advice because I had no idea of what the outcome would be.
But now, after a long period of discovery, I am ready to share the new things I’ve learned. My goal is to share those stories that I set out to share from the beginning and that this blog continue to be a place for others to learn from my trials and errors and to share your stories and challenges of entrepreneurship.
I’m sharing this story because I love entrepreneurs and the spirit of entrepreneurism so much. I feel that too many success stories highlight only the good and amazing, and not the fear, risks, uncertainly, loss, and grueling work that goes into getting anyone successful where they have gotten today. I never want to see any entrepreneur’s fire snuffed out when they face these realities — not knowing of the reality behind the curtain.
Day by day, step by step, constantly, slowly, purposefully, and meticulously, it is possible to forge a path between where you’re at now and where you want to be. I’m still forging that path and I hope to be for a long time as my goals constantly expand beyond my reach. I hope that sharing some lessons from along my path will resonate with you, no matter where you are on your path.
If you're reading this blog post, then you may be a blogger or someone who is thinking about starting a business or in a transitional stage in your business and looking for answers. In that case, you're probably reading the material of many other bloggers that have sold millions of dollars worth of products or have rabid blog fans or a seemingly unreachable number of newsletter subscribers or blog followers.
If you're like many people I speak with on a weekly basis, you may be depressed and in a panic to figure out how on earth you could ever catch up to so-and-so's number of mailing list subscribers, or have x number of blog posts per week like [insert name] blogger, or gain the rankings of xyz competitor, or manage to fit into one day all of the social networking and content production and video production that gurus A, B, and C say is required.
Stop. This kind of chaos and pressure is enough to squash your confidence and perhaps destroy your chances of creating your success.
I'm not saying that it's not smart to strive for this level of visibility in social media — hear me out.
I also work with a lot of extremely successful people that many of you have never heard of.They aren't on social networks. They aren't high profile bloggers. They aren't A-List celebrities. They are smart, savvy, business owners, quietly earning hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars.
Being a social media/blogging icon is not the measure of success for every person or every business. These are just the visible, sexy, popular people — and the way they are achieving their success is not the only path to success.
There is a difference between building a solid, successful business and being a highly visible public figure or sales person. If building a social presence is your goal, then you can follow a path to get to that A-List status with enough persistence. It's not impossible. But the danger may be in setting off in that direction blindly when it's not the direction that you need to go to achieve your true measure of success.
If you are going to compare yourself to others to set your success goals, then be certain that you are comparing yourself to the right people.
I recently listened to an audio book called "Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don't" by Jim Collins. I highly recommend this book to anyone building a business. After studying 15 different companies that made the leaps from good to great, he found something very interesting about the people running those companies. The people running the great companies were often quiet (not to be mistaken for timid), not particularly flashy, modest, realists, and strategic thinkers.
My fear is that people look to marketing gurus to learn marketing — but they then use the same tactics that name brand marketers use to promote themselves. They may create the same measurements of success for themselves that they believe name brand marketers measure themselves against.
My fear is that people will create only a façade — an empty house of cards without any substantial foundation beneath it. I have people come to me that know they want "5 blog posts a week" and "to have a presence on Twitter and Facebook," but they have given little or no thought at all to the actual messages that will be conveyed through these communication tools. They've had designers create the templates and are ready to fill them up because that is what they feel they are "supposed" to do — but are more interested in the fact that there is noise on the communication tools than the message being communicated. Rather, find the substance, and then as it overflows, decide on the right vehicles to share that information.
My fear is that people will try to make up for in marketing and promotion and tactics what is lacking in business substance — because that is all they "see" is the marketing — not what goes on behind the scenes. If you're the sole business owner or a business owner in a small company, you should be spending a great deal of time working on your business rather than just promoting it. No amount of promotion will make up for a business that is empty or lacking at the core.
My fear is that people will engage in marketing tactics for marketing's sake and never ask themselves the most important questions:
How can I better serve my clients?
How can I create the most impact in the lives of those I serve?
How can I deepen the benefits that I provide to my target market?
What is the most effective way to introduce myself to the people who could benefit from my products and services?
And only then ask…
What tools are available to accomplish these goals?
I believe that the process of finding these answers comes from a place deep within yourself. It comes from listening more than talking to those that you serve to truly "hear" the needs that underlay their own challenges, dreams, and goals.
A Challenge: Create an Uncomfortable Span of Silent Time To Look Inside Yourself
Five years ago, I was in a sink or swim situation in my life. There was no time to waste — I needed to figure out exactly how to create a viable business immediately. I put myself on a strict information diet and that, I believe, made all the difference.
What is an information diet?
An information diet is the process of being highly selective about the information that you put into your mind. On an information diet, you want only high quality, high value information and no junk. Just as junk food can make your body fat and bloated, allowing too much of "just any kind" of information can do the same. Oftentimes, the messages filling your mind are competing and contradictory; make it difficult to make choices and decisions. Other times, the messages aren't focused on the critical task(s) you are working on at the movement, taking essential focus away from those tasks and diluting that focus out to things that won't help you achieve your goal.
The other critical part of an information diet is silence. Before I went on my information diet, I had to have the TV on in the background as I made dinner or fell asleep. I had to have the radio on in the car. I had to have a steady stream of someone else's messaging fed into my mind so that I could avoid my own thoughts.
When I turned off the noise and faced long periods of silence, I was confronted with my own thoughts… and it wasn't always fun.
And in this challenge lies the discovery I hope you'll make about your business.
I challenge you to make uncomfortably long blocks of time in your life silent. You don't have to make more time — they are already there. It may be while you're cooking dinner or falling asleep or driving your kids to school and back.
If you've ever had an epiphany in the shower, you might understand the magic that can happen in even a short period of silence. It was during a no-radio drive to pick my kids up from school that I had the epiphany that would change the direction of my business forever and be the lynchpin of my success. Had I instead spent that time comparing myself to my competitors or blindly following the advice of marketers by trying to make up for in promotion what was lacking in substance, that revelation may have never happened.
By "silence" I don’t mean turning off the TV or radio and still reading and talking to people on Twitter. I mean significant periods of time where you aren't reading or chatting or in any way allowing the influence of others into your mind.
What I hope that you will discover is a gift that no one can give you but yourself — the gift to uncover the right path for your business and your customers. The gift of uncovering what you know to be effective and logical.
There exists a very perceptive, aware, and intelligent authority inside of you that knows exactly what needs to be done next — or at least which questions to ponder further to reach that conclusion. All you need to do is make the time to listen.
Here’s a smart question from an awesome Self Made Chick who is working through the 90-Day Challenge:
I’ve accepted the 90-day challenge and have completed all four weeks worth of exercises so far – the amount I’m learning is astounding. As I’ve researched the keyword and SEO info I’ve come across a (smallish) dilemma.
We currently have a product that is called and searched for by two names. The first keyword gets around 720 searches a month with approximately 4,610 in organic competition. Another similar term (the same item, different name) has about 5,400 searches a month with 17,000 in organic competition.
In theory it would be great to optimize for both words, but I’m stuck as to how to do this. Does it make sense to have a “double title” in the SEO and on the page?
You can definitely optimize for both keywords on the page! You can absolutely create a title tag with both keywords and use the two different keywords throughout the page and in the headings and subheadings.
Here’s a quick run-down:
The most important parts of the page to optimize for SEO are:
The title tag (the text at the very top of the browser)
The “H” Tags (Headings and subheadings on the page labeled with “H1″ or “H2″ in the HTML)
The content itself
You’ll also need to build backlinks TO your page in those keywords (see challenge #4)
Today’s Mission: Optimizing Your Onsite Content
Est. time to complete: 20-30 minutes per page for existing content, 45-90 minutes per page for new content
The Nitty Gritty of On Page Optimization
Step #1: Keyword Map
You absolutely, positively, must do keyword research and create a keyword map before you get started optimizing your onsite content. This may seem boring and tedious and frustrating, but it is essential! Plus, you’re likely to experience an enlightening revelation at some point during the process where you really “get” what visitors are searching for and how best to reach them.
Before you even start, you should have a page that looks something like the image below that will become your sacred document whenever you’re writing any piece of content for your website.
Tips for creating a keyword map:
Each page should be optimized for different keywords! You don’t want to optimize all of your pages for the same keyword. If you decide that you want your homepage to rank for “motivational speaker,” then only your homepage should be fully optimized for the term “motivational speaker.” Other pages can be fully optimized for other terms people may be searching for like “inspirational speaker,” “business speakers,” etc.
Each page should be optimized for only one primary keyword and maybe one to two secondary keywords.
With this keyword shortlist in hand, you can now optimize your pages.
Step #2: Writing Optimized Title Tags and Meta Descriptions
A title tag is 62 characters and a meta description is around 175 characters. These are important pieces of the page – both for SEO and for conversion. Not only do the title tag and meta description need to be keyword rich, they should also be something compelling that invites a person to click through to the site. You can think of it like a mini AdWords ad.
What I recommend is doing a search in Google for the keywords and find one that jumps out at me. Then I try to figure out WHY I was drawn to it and try to recreate something similar.
This example is from the always awesome Lynn Terry who has done an excellent job of optimizing her title tag and meta description for the term “learn internet marketing.” But the title and meta aren’t just keyword stuffed… the way she’s written them begs me to click through!
Step 3: Writing Titles and Subtitles
A big block of text with no subtitles is intimidating and frustrating for readers. Visitors use titles to make a judgment about whether the page will offer the information they were seeking. They use subtitles to skim to the part of the webpage that will answer their question. But titles and subtitles serve another purpose in onsite search engine optimization.
Instead of simply bolding your titles and subtitles or putting them in larger font, you’ll need to place them in H Tags. Just like the title of a book or the chapter names in a book, the titles and subtitles should reflect the content below it. Content within an H (heading) tag tells the search engine “Hey! This is the gist of this page!” Because search engines give greater significance to the text within H Tags, it is essential to use keywords in your titles and subtitles.
However, when writing these keyword rich titles and subtitles, never lose sight of the fact that they need to also be useful to the reader.
Step 4: Content Writing
Here’s where I could go for days about the craft of writing — but I’m not going to. I’m only going to focus on the technical aspect here.
After you write your titles and subtitles, it’s time to start filling in the content. My suggestion is to write first and optimize later. After a while, you’ll be able to do this simultaneously. However, if you focus too much on keywords in the beginning, it can really slow down the writing process and result in robotic writing.
After you write content that is 100% useful in relation to the title or subtitle, you can go back and look at keywords. You will likely find may places where you used words like “it” or “this” or “we” or “they” or “these” that you could replace with or add in a keyword. (Ex. “After two years in beta testing, we felt it was ready for market.” Vs. After two years in beta testing, our application development team felt that the workflow process software was ready for market.”)
After writing you’ll want to calculate your keyword density and make adjustments as needed. I like Live Keyword Analysis for calculating keyword density of a Word document. However, there are some tips for calculating keyword density with this tool that you’ll want to read before you unknowingly calculate the terms incorrectly or get so frustrated that you want to punch your computer in the face.
When writing content here are few things to keep in mind:
Shoot for a keyword density of 2.5% to 5.0%
Plural terms are different from singular terms. If your keyword is singular, use singular — not plural.
When optimizing for location specific keywords, optimize for the root term and use several variations of the location a few times on the page. Pairing the location with the keyword every time sounds spammy and weird.
Step 5: Internal Keyword Linking
Now that you’ve optimized your page for its primary keywords, you’ll want to look at places where you can link to other pages on your site using the other page’s primary keyword as anchor text.
Recall our motivational speaker. One of her internal pages is optimized for the term “business speakers” and she has optimized that page for that term by using it properly in title tags and writing content with a solid keyword density. Recall that the target keyword for her homepage is “motivational speaker.” Now, on her page, she will use the term “motivational speaker” once and place a link to her homepage in that anchor text. An internal link.
Please don’t get too hung up on which pages link to what or try to base everything on this exact diagram. Just be conscious of trying to link to other internal pages within their target keyword throughout the site where it makes sense.
Now its time to take action! No doubt you will run into some issues with optimizing when writing your web content. After 5+ years of writing web content for just about every industry, I’ve probably run into your issue or something similar. If you have questions, feel free to comment and add to the knowledge base for others!
Here in lesson #4 of the “90 Days to Higher Search Engine Rankings Challenge,” I’ll show you how to create content designed to generate backlinks, rank in even more positions in the search engines for your keywords, and all while laying down the foundation of branding yourself as a thought leader in your industry.
There is a search term (with 2,300,000 results in Google) that when searched for, my content appears in 5 of the top 10 natural results spots. But even more likely than that is the fact that they will click multiple links in the search engine results to see their options. And when they find my content over and over and over and over and over again, they are likely to realize something… this chick must know what she’s talking about. This is how you begin to develop yourself as a thought leader and gain visibility in the search engines while also building backlinks to your site.
The way to hold more than one spot is to publish quality, optimized content on authority sites. Instead of only posting on your blog, publish content on user generated content authority sites as well. A search engine will at the most show 2 (sometimes 3) result listings for your website or blog – but if you publish content on authority sites you expand your ability to rank in more spots in the search engines while also building quality backlinks.
Coming Clean With Excuses…
I’m a writer by trade. I have been running a copywriting agency for five years. I have a degree in literature in writing. You’d think it would be simple for me to crank out content non-stop. But it’s not! And the reasons have nothing to do with time, skill, or lack of something to say, they are all excuses that are deep rooted in fear. If I have them, I bet you do too. And like me, you’ll need to come clean with those excuses and deal with them before you will successfully execute anything on the rest of this post.
Even though we produce thousands of pieces of content per year for other people, I still get nervous and agonize about everything I write with ‘my’ name in the byline.
Here’s the exact process that I go through when writing content for myself including this very blog post you are reading now. (Interesting enough… this magically does not happen when I’m doing work for other people.)
Is anyone even going to care about this?
My last post didn’t get as many comments as some of the others so I’m a loser and I should just give up
I’d better call Tara and see what she thinks of this topic
I need to run to Starbucks and get a coffee. Need to be alert and focused
Ooooh! I heard an email, it might be important – better go check (this means I come back to it at 8pm)
Man… I’m really tired. I should get some sleep and get up early when I’m refreshed and on my game
I really want people to try this and have it work for them – do I have enough detail?
OMG… this has gotten so long. No one is ever going to read it. What’s the point?
There is too much to cover in one piece. I think I need to create an XYZ and an ABC to accompany it
Why am I giving away all of this freaking content for free? I should be spending my time writing a book
I’d better ask Tara to proof read this… No doubt I’ll have some error in there and some snarky commenter will point it out to me without mentioning one thing about the 2000 words that were correct.
Maybe I should read over it one more time before I push the publish button
Ugh… why did I write THAT. I need to fix that really quick…
What if everyone hates it or no one reads it at all, or if no one really cares in the first place?
But when I bite the bullet and push through and get it done, it always well worth it!
Avoiding The #1 Most Common Mistake I See People Make With Content Marketing
As a content development strategist for hundreds of companies over the last five years, I see business owners making #1 blatantly gigantic thinking error time and again: They want to publish advertorials instead of informational content. They only want to create content that will directly sell their product.
They want to publish an advertorial titled something like: “Why XYZ Web Design Company is So Freaking Awesome”
vs. an informative piece like:
“7 Winning Strategies for Web Design that Converts”
or “The Conversion Impact of Right Navigation Contact Forms vs. Contact Pages”
or “The Impact of Website Color Pallets on Buying Habits: A Case Study”
I hear people say (and understand why they do):
“Why should I reveal to people how to do what I do?”
“Won’t they then go do it themselves?”
“Won’t I be giving away my secrets to my competitors?”
“My customers won’t need me any more!”
But that’s not the way it is…
This is the information age. Companies can no longer control people by withholding information. People are already looking for this information. And if they don’t find your content, they are going to find someone else’s.
When you publish useful, valuable, informational content, you establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry:
Good customers like to work with industry leaders
People want to interview you as an expert for blogs and info products
Event coordinators want to book you for speaking engagements
Strategic partners want to find ways to work with you
Publishing “thought leader” worthy content also has numerous SEO benefits:
By publishing good optimized content in the right places, customers have more ways of finding you through various search terms
People will naturally link to good quality informational pieces — one-way inbound links from a variety of sources improves the “value” in the eyes of a search engine. (Remember, when a search engine perceives a page as useful and valuable, it tends to rank higher).
People tend to mention quality pieces on Twitter, Facebook, and other social networking sites, giving the piece viral buzz. Remember, someone’s reputation is on the line when they recommend content on social networks — influencers want to good, solid content pieces to endorse (link to).
Being interviewed and mentioned on blogs, trade journal websites, and newspaper websites has the same inbound link power effect.
For the Naysayers…
There are some people who will no doubt say “well…some of the places where you can publish user generated content have no follow backlinks and that won’t help with rankings.” In a way that is true, but in a more important way, this is not thinking big picture.
First, many places where I suggest publishing content do have ‘do follow’ links – so therefore does work to increase your site’s position in the SERPs. Secondly, one of the most important goals with leveraging authority sites in your content marketing is to gain top rankings with that content for an additional search engine results for your keywords and therefore another point of entry.
With any of these, I feel that it is essential that you write about things that you have first-person experience with. People can spot when you’ve just researched a topic and haven’t walked the walk. When reading content, don’t you look for information that comes from as close to the source as possible?
#1 Write ‘How To’ Guide That Address Common Things People Struggle With As They Relate To Your Product or Service
If you’re already working with customers or you have a blog, you probably get emails with questions. Think of all of the content you are writing by answering those questions! Why not leverage your knowledge by publishing good, solid, how to guides. Not only will publishing give you more visibility, backlinks, promotion, and position you as an industry expert, you can point people to those guides when they write and save yourself valuable time.
In your content:
Give actual examples (screenshots showing figures, quote real numbers, etc)
Weave a personal experience story into the content
State your credentials (without bragging)
Look beyond questions too where you as a professional see people struggling. For example, because I run a press release distribution site, I know that press release headline writing is a major problem for people. They don’t think it’s a problem, so they don’t know to ask. I have a series of 10 ‘How To’ guides in the works that address things that people aren’t necessarily asking, but that I know most people need some direction with.
What are the most common questions you receive from customers or readers?
What in your industry do you see people struggling to do effectively?
If you have employees, what problems do they struggle with in learning your industry?
Sometimes it’s scary to write a ‘How To’ that explains exactly what you do. I was terrified the first time that I wrote a ‘How To’ that revealed the ‘How To’ behind what I do. I thought it would make me obsolete. I thought it would make all of my competitors take my business away. But in fact, it had quite the opposite effect.
#2 Think About The Core Needs Of Your Target Audience As They Relate To Your Products and Services — Then Provide Solutions
Your target audience has more needs than just your product or service. A lot of times, they may not be searching for what you offer, because they don’t realize they need it — but that doesn’t mean that they don’t. Why not reach out to them where they are looking by solving some of their other problems?For example, let’s say that you sell engraved award plaques. When trying to pick topic ideas, my clients will often suggest things like “How To Pick the Best Award Plaque,” or “3 Reasons to Present Award Plaques.” Both of these topics are somewhat company-centric vs. customer centric. And with such a narrow focus, it’s possible that they are missing out on reaching a big chunk of the target audience.
More useful topic ideas that address the target audience’s real needs might be:
“5 Ideas You Can Implement This Year to Increase Office Productivity” (one of the ideas being an award ceremony where plaques are distributed)
“Coaching Strategies: 7 Ways to Turn 20 Kids Into a Winning Little League Team” (one of the strategies being handing out awards to each team member)
“Planning a Lively and Effective Employee Award Ceremony”
Notice how these topics aren’t centered on awards themselves — they focus on topics that solve real problems for their target audience where awards are a solution.
What is the catalyst that causes people to need your product or service?
How can you help the person who needs your product or service perform incredibly in front of the people who are judging him or her (boss, customer, little league parents, employees, etc)?
What mind shift needs to take place in order for people to unlearn their old systems and try a new solution?
What are some other ways customers can (or have) used your solutions?
#3 How Can You Teach Potential Strategic Partners Make More or Achieve More?
In my post How I made $100,000 by spending 25 minutes and $0 on Marketing, I talk about how I grew my business by helping other people grow their businesses. I feel that this has been the key to my success not only because it makes sense, but also because it keeps my head in the right place. It keeps me thinking “How can I help my clients and partners become better” rather than “How can I make more money.”
No matter what business you are in, there are companies out there that can be your strategic partners. They need what you have to better serve their clients. Speaking to them is different than speaking to the end user who needs your product or service. They have different needs, different challenges, and different goals.
For example, if you sell a tanning lotion that for use in tanning beds. Your end client is the tanner, but your strategic partner is the tanning salon that can display your product and make it available to purchase right when the customer needs it. A piece of flagship content titled “How Tanning Salons Can Increase Product Sales by 60%” or “Sales Training for Tanning Salon Employees” would be a good pieces of content to attract the attention of potential strategic partners. When they depend on YOU for solutions, you’re in a position to earn trust. When you’re solutions really work, you’ve earned that trust.
Here are some other strategic partnership relationship examples:
You offer talking virtual spokesperson technology – they build websites
You create and edit short, fun product demonstration videos – they build ecommerce sites
You wrote an e-book on motivational techniques – they provide business consulting
Which industries that offer related but not competing products or services could benefit from reselling what you offer?
How can you ‘teach’ those people to sell more of your products while improving their business as a whole?
What “old world” companies could desperately be brought up to date by using the new solutions that you offer?
Once you use these guidelines to write the content, you’ll need to know where to publish them and how to promote them…
5 Places To Publish Your Content That Offer Search Engine Visibility And SEO Value
Writing great quality content pieces is step one. But just as important is WHERE you publish them. If you’re only publishing content on your blog or your website and not leveraging authority sites, then you’re missing out on some major opportunities for visibility and search engine authority.
Leveraging authority sites is a solid way to get more visibility and generate leads. Done right, it’s not a waste of time. In the 28 months that one of my hubs has been published, it has been ranking #1 position in the search engines for various keywords, generated business for my company, and to date has gotten 17,341 views (an average of 619 views per month). Not bad for one piece of content.
This post being over 2,000 words now I felt it was a good idea to split it up so created a HubPage titled Authority Site Content Marketing: 5 Powerful Strategies for Leveraging Authority Sites To Publish Your Content. But length is not the only reason I’m going to direct you to HubPages for the rest of the content. I’m doing this to show the strategies discussed in this article in practice. By splitting it up between a blog post and a HubPage (and soon to be slideshow, PDF, and press release), I’m getting more mileage from this topic while having the space to give you all of the critical information necessary to really and truly use content marketing to your advantage — and you can do the same!
What’s Stopping You From Starting?
I want to hear about your questions, challenges, and successes about content marketing!
What are your greatest challenges around content marketing?
What is stopping you from starting?
Want to brainstorm some topic ideas?
Get a conversation started — I look forward to hearing from you!
You may be wondering why for three straight lessons, I’ve been obsessed about keyword research — but it’s because it is that important. I know it’s not as much fun as diving into social media or publishing kick ass content, but I promise… if you want to start building qualified leads and sales through organic search engine traffic, strategically choosing your keywords will be the foundation of your success.
Today’s Mission: Finalizing Your Laser Targeted Keyword “Short List”
Est. time to complete: 40-80 minutes (depending on the number of keywords found)
You may be feeling overwhelmed right now based on the number of keyword opportunities that you found in the last two challenges. You may have found hundreds of keywords that you want to optimize for.
However, not ALL of these keywords are going to be good target keywords. And even if they are, some are going to be more effective than others. This list has got to be prioritized. I’ve found that it’s far more effective to pick 5-10 keyword terms and hit them hard for a few months before moving onto another group, rather than spreading your efforts over 20-30 keywords at once.
Keyword Refinement Step One: Identify the HIGH CONVERSION TERMS
If we’re going to have to narrow down the list, we may as well start with terms that are HIGH CONVERSION TERMS — terms that imply that someone is looking to buy.
If you did the second session of the ‘90 Days to Higher Search Engine Rankings‘ challenge, you downloaded a keyword research worksheet and filled in some of the columns. Now you’re going to complete more of those columns. In the column titled “type” you’re going use your gut instinct and what you know about your industry to designate which of these are actionable (conversion-focused) terms. If it is a high conversion term type “actionable” in Column D. Do this for all keywords.
For example, if you’re a graphic designer, you might imply that someone who searches for “hire a graphic designer” is more likely to buy than someone who searches for “graphic design elements.” Therefore, the term “hire a graphic designer” would be an “actionable” term.
Next, click the arrow buttons on Column D and “sort descending.” All of your actionable items should be grouped together. For now, we’re only going to work with these. You can cut and paste all of the other items onto another tab on your excel sheet — we’ll come back and revisit those at a later date.
Here’s Where The Nifty Little Keyword Research Trick Comes Into Play…
Keyword Refinement Step Two: Analyze the Organic Competition
You’ve seen the “1 – 10 of about” number that appears when you do a search for a keyword term. These are the number of pages that Google believes is relevant to your search query. I don’t believe that this number is important — what matters more in terms of identifying how many pages you are REALLY competition against are the number of pages with the search term in the title tag of the page.
“allintitle:” is a Google Operator. This particular operator returns only the results where your keyword is in the title tag of the website. This allows you to get a good feel for the number of sites that are actively optimizing for a particular keyword — i.e. how steep the competition truly is for that keyword.
Note If you conduct a between 25 and 30 of “allintite:” search results consecutively; you will get a “We’re sorry” screen from Google. Don’t be alarmed. You need to take a break and come back to it later. You haven’t done anything wrong by searching for “allintitle” — in fact, Google tells you how to do this. They only reason the search gets blocked for a while is because, if you’ve done many searches like this consecutively, Google thinks that you are running a script to do automated meta searches — which is NOT allowed.
One by one, enter the keyword terms you’ve listed into Google
This time however, precede the keyword with the term “allintitle: ” (do not include quotation marks and leave a space between allintitle: and your keyword.
Copy the number of search results and paste that number into column C.
Graph the results
Analyzing the Keyword Research Data
Now that you’ve got all of this raw data, you need to know how to read it. Looking at a spreadsheet full of numbers can be hard to read at first. I usually work with the raw data, but I know it helps to have something to “look” at that gives a visual snapshot of the data. Adding a graph can help you to quickly get a visual picture of your data.
The ideal keyword is one that has high search volume and low competition. That doesn’t mean that you can’t rank for high volume keywords — it just means that it’s going to take a little bit longer.
Highlight the data in columns A, B, and C (including the titles)
If you have a newer version of Excel, click the “gallery” icon and select the “charts” tab
Scroll through the chart types until you find the “bubble” graph
Select the bubble graph – and a graph will instantly appear
Reading the graph:
The SIZE of the bubble represents the amount of competition. A bigger bubble = greater competition.
The height of the bubble on the page represents the search volume
A small bubble high on the page = a term with high search volume and low competition
By hovering over the bubble, you can read the name of the keyword
Building Your Keyword Short List
Next, you are going to build your shortlist of keywords. These are going to be keywords that you are going to work very closely with over the next 30 days. To keep things simple, I suggest that you choose 6 keywords. For this first month, those 6 keywords will be
3 absolute “must haves” in terms of conversion
3 of the lowest competition keywords that have a relatively significant amount of searches (I’m not going to give an exact figure, because each industry is different. For some industries “relatively significant” may mean 1000 and for others it may mean 300.)
If you’ve made it this far, congratulations! You have made it through what I consider to be the most tedious part of SEO! Keyword research can be boring, frustrating, and mind numbing, but if you’ve pushed through, you’re in a better position than everyone else who gave up.
Now that you have a finely tuned list of keywords, your upcoming challenges will revolve around ranking for those keywords. It’s time to start planting the seeds and soon reap the fruits of your labor…
This week, I’d like to give a shout out to Edward Lujan of Setster (NOT an affiliate link) for introducing me to a way to cut out the hassle of trying to schedule a call. Thought I try to handle everything through email, there are times when a call is necessary. I have a 5 hour window of time per day when I can take a call — and that time fills up FAST.
It has been such a pain in the @$$ to try and go back and forth with people. If you schedule phone calls, then you know exactly what I’m talking about.
Here’s a pretty common scenario when scheduling a call before Setster…
First, I go and check Google calendar and write out an email listing the scattered hours that I’m free.
The client writes back the later that day and say that they are available at “x” time.
In the time it took them to write back, someone else has already scheduled a call during that slot because I had given 2 other people the same email with my available times.
Then we start the dance all over again
The process now with Setster
I give the person a link my Setster calendar (which is linked to my Google Calendar) and they schedule the call themselves during an available time.
This would be a great tool for people who offer paid consulting, because you can embed a widget on your site — and the tool integrates PayPal so that you can charge for consulting. I may use these features in the future, but right now, I’m just THRILLED to have an easy way to schedule a call that doesn’t take so much time and frustration. If you’re looking for appointment scheduling software, I definitely recommend Setster.
I run a press release distribution site that is designed for SEO — we offer people the ability to add anchor text links within their press releases because building backlinks in keyword rich anchor text links (within relevant content on quality sites) is an important component of SEO.
Day after day, I am continuously blown away by the keywords I see people choosing — keywords that will not help their SEO campaign at all.
The biggest mistake most people make when choosing keywords — and it is a critical one — is that they choose keywords that are far to broad or that do not directly relate to either the services they offer or the problems their customers are looking to solve.
In this post, I’m going to show you a process for not only identifying profitable keywords, but also discovering ones that you actually have a shot at ranking for.
I’m also going to show you a few pictures of my Scottish Terrier Molly modeling Kai’s new marketing product.
Tara and I do our best to educate every customer, providing personal one-on-one SEO counseling to every person who submits a press release using one of the upgraded packages that includes editing. It is one of my personal missions to show as many people as possible how to choose effective keywords that will increase their search engine visibility for their target audience.
And that leads us to this week’s Mission: Laser Targeting Profitable Keyword Opportunities For You To Dominate
When choosing keywords, there are several layers of consideration:
The conversion potential of the keyword
The search volume of the keyword
The estimated time required to dominate the search engine results page for a keyword (more competition for a keyword means its going to take more time and effort to rank for it)
Choosing profitable keywords is a process that requires a combination of common sense, gut instinct, keyword research tools, and some smart analysis.
Open a Word doc and list 5-10 keyword terms that relate to the services you provide and the solutions you provide for people. Use your gut instincts and common sense when compiling this list. Do yourself a favor — don’t just think about these keywords and not commit them to paper. Not only does it help solidify your thoughts — but you’ll be using this doc in the next step.
When Choosing Keywords to Jot Down:
Think from a customer’s perspective
Before you open any keyword research tool, think about the SOLUTIONS you provide for people. What are people really trying to accomplish when they are searching for what you provide?
If you’re a graphic designer, your first instinct may be to target the word “graphic design.” Not only is that term so broad that it will likely be an arduous battle to the top of the search engine rankings, but it may not be what your customers are looking for. Specific terms like “flash animation designer” or “freelance website graphic designer” often prove to more lucrative and to be easier to rank for.
Be Conscious Of The Type of Customer You Want to Attract
In just about any industry, there are terms and phrases that only those ‘in the know’ use. For example, in the CD manufacturing industry, industry terms are “CD duplication” or “CD replication.” Someone who has at least some level of familiarity with the process might search for these keywords. On the other hand, someone who is not in the industry might search for a term like “how to make a CD.”
If your business sells products and solutions applicable only to a more sophisticated industry buyer, it’s best to target industry specific terms. Using too general of keywords can bring you unqualified leads. However, if your business provides solutions for people newer to the industry, it might be more lucrative to avoid industry jargon.
Step 2: Expanding The List
Estimated Time to Completion: 30-45 Minutes
Next you are going to use a keyword research tool to expand on or narrow down the list of terms you’ve created based on your common sense and gut instinct.
Enter the ROOT phrases of your common sense terms. For example, if one of your common sense terms is “freelance website graphic designer “graphic designer” — and you’ll likely discover some new possibilities.
When you find a term that is relevant to what you offer, enter that term in column A
Enter the Global Monthly Search volume number in Column B (this number represents the approximate number of times that this keyword is searched for in Google during a given month. Keep in mind that Google accounts for about 70% of search engine use the last I checked, so the actual number of searches for these keyword terms across all search engines is actually higher.)
Do NOT enter the “advertiser competition” number (I’m going to show you a better way to analyze the real competition next week.)
NOTE!! A broad term that has a HUGE volume of searches doesn’t necessarily mean that it is a “money term.” How often have you done a broad search and then narrowed your search term because the results were just too broad? Broad terms are often where people begin their search, but not where they finish.
NOTE!! Do not get hung up on search volume! A graphic designer that structures their business correctly can generate years of profitable work by attracting one solid client. For businesses that don’t rely entirely on new business volume, it can be more important to dominate several laser specific, lower volume keywords than chase search volume.
It’s also important to note that NO keyword research tool is perfect. Search results for keyword phrases will be swayed by many things like advertisers and keyword researchers doing keyword searches to evaluate potential terms.
Your goal with using a keyword tool is:
To use this to get ideas that slipped by you in the common sense phase
To get an idea about search volume
As I mentioned above, I am going to show you how to analyze the organic competition for these keywords next week. This, I believe is the most exciting part of the process. But — you’ve got to get through this step before moving on to the next!!
Share Your Progress, Questions, and Frustrations
The keyword research step is so critically important that it should not be overlooked. If you just have general questions, by all means post them! My goal is to help you get a firm grasp on these concepts and dominate your niche on the search engines.
Today, after many, many, many long months of preparation, Kai Rostcheck has launched Free Marketing Made Easy. I’ve had the opportunity to review it before hand and I highly recommend it. I didn’t just ‘review’ it — I consumed it.
While I do have some bias because I’m an expert contributor and affiliate, I believe that this kit is an ideal compilation of resources for anyone who is a beginner to internet marketing or who is skilled in some areas, but wants to branch into new areas.
Contributors to the Free Marketing Made Easy Program Include:
Denise Wakeman, online Marketing Advisor, and Founder of The Blog Squad.
There are many effective ways to drive traffic to your business today: social networking, guest blog posting, viral marketing strategies, referrals, affiliate programs, newsletter outreach programs — the internet has truly opened a world of possibilities.
However, one of the absolute essential components that has constantly driven a steady stream of business, often more than we can even take on at one time, is the fact the people find my site in the search engines.
Even when I was so unbelievably buried with building my businesses that I could not seem to find the time to post blogs or get in the amount of social networking I truly wanted, inquires continued to pour in.
Because of the way that I structure my business, one lead can mean thousands of dollars year after year after year. Multiply this by 4 years and you’ve got a nice set up. What started with ‘just me’ as a freelancer has now blossomed into me, a 50/50 business partner, 5 account managers, and a dedicated team of about 20 freelancers. I attribute about 75% of the company’s growth to the fact that the right people find us on search engines precisely when they need us.
SEO isn’t ideal for all businesses — but I think it is for the majority. If you have a product or service that solves a known problem to people, and they are out there searching for a solution, then optimizing your site for search engines can be an extremely profitable move.
Let’s Get This Show On The Road…
The very first mission — the first several in fact — revolve around strategically choosing keywords. I am a keyword evangelist. Starting an SEO campaign without keywords is like starting to build a house with no blueprint. You may get something, but it won’t often be what you wanted and you’ll waste a lot of time, effort, and energy on things that won’t help you achieve the end goal.
By starting with your SEO strategy solid, strategic, keyword research, you will be laying the foundation for highly targeted search engine visibility that can bring you a stream of leads and customers year after year after year.
Are you ready for your first mission?
Your First Mission:
Analyze Your Site Through the “Eyes” of a Search Engine Est. time to complete: 15-20 minutes
**The purpose of this step is to help you understand where you are now so that you can get to where you want to be.**
Your challenge today is to identify what your web pages are currently optimized for using the tool provided below. Your mission is to analyze your homepage and any key product or services pages on your site. For example, if you offer financial services, you likely have a page on your site dedicated to “will planning,” another that explains you “estate planning services,” etc.
Enter your URL in the tool below:
(If you cannot view this tool in the post, click here).
What appears after you enter your URL is a keyword cloud. This is a visual representation of the dominant words on your page, i.e. the words and phrases that search engines would assume were the primary focus of the page.
I like the keyword cloud because most of us are visual creatures and we can “get it” right away without having to weed through a bunch of numbers and percentages. The terms that are most relevant to your page, from the eyes of a search engines, are displayed the largest. The most relevant terms on your page should be the largest and ideally, should be in the top left-hand corner of the box. If not, there is work to do — and that is something we will tackle in a future mission.
Take a look at the keyword clouds below. Both of these sites sell office chairs. One is ranking in the #1 position in Google for the terms “office chairs” — the other I found by doing an online yellow pages search and does not show up at least in the first 200 search results for the term “office chairs.” Which do you think is which?
Part two of your mission is to document your findings. Follow the link provided below and download the current optimization analysis form and complete the quick exercise for 5 to 10 of the most important revenue-driving pages on your site.
Download your free keyword planning worksheet and complete the quick exercise for 5 to 10 of the most important pages you need to rank for.
This simple exercise can be a serious eye opener for you. In upcoming challenges, the knowledge gained from this challenge will become the foundation for a strategic, actionable, search engine optimization plan….
Now for the Tough Part…
It’s one thing to learn a concept by reading, but it’s another thing to dig in and do the work. I encourage you to accept this challenge — and even if it gets frustrating, seems ‘boring’ or seems like it doesn’t matter — follow through. I promise you that, although somewhat boiled down for ease of understanding, these are the exact same steps that I take when conducting SEO audits and action plans that I charge between $750 and $1000 for.
Most of you who read Self Made Chick are self-starters. You want to dig in and take a first hand approach to your marketing. Many of you are just starting out and don’t have the money to hire a search engine marketing firm — or don’t want to.And you don’t have to. You can do it yourself — if you are willing to invest the time into learning and the effort into doing. None of this is rocket science — but it can be quite complex and there are a lot of moving pieces involved.
Many Self Made Chick readers are overachievers – i.e. busy and juggling many ideas and tasks at once. My goal over the next several weeks is to break out some of the most absolutely critical pieces of the search engine optimization process into manageable, actionable chunks. Each week, I will publish a new mission for you — something that will take anywhere from 15 – 45 minutes to accomplish. Each step is published in a logical, systematic order. All steps will be published on the blog, so you can subscribe to post by RSS or by email to ensure that you don’t miss any essential pieces in the process.
Share Your Questions and Frustrations
There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ marketing plan — but by sharing strategies with you at a fundamental level, I hope to address the needs of every different type of business, website, service, etc. However, there will certainly be questions for certain types of businesses. Please, feel free to ask those questions here in the comments section so that everyone can learn!
If you just have general questions — post them! I’ve been entrenched in SEO for the last 5 years of my life. It is likely that I’ve used some jargon or missed some logical steps between points A and C — ask away! My goal is to help you get a firm grasp on these concepts and dominate your niche on the search engines.
1. SEO value – when you embed anchor text links in your press releases and publish them on authority sites, you gain valuable backlinks — which helps your site rank higher in the search engines.
2. Visibility – When you publish a well-optimized press release in the right place, you can gain almost instant page one visibility for even very competitive terms. If you have something to announce, don’t wait for people to find you, put yourself in front of them. News results typically stay on the front page for 1-2 days, but they stay online indefinitely (depending on where you publish them – some sites want to charge you to keep them online indefinitely, others take them down after a while, at Online PR News, they stay online indefinitely).
3. Authority – Submitting well-written press releases can help you establish yourself as an authority in your niche.
You don’t need to be a Fortune 500 Company to write a press release. Your news doesn’t need to grace the pages of the Wall Street Journal to be considered ‘successful.’ Give yourself the credit you deserve. If your news could be useful, interesting, or beneficial to those in your niche, then you have a damn good reason to put together a press release.
Here Are Some Examples of the Power of Online Press Releases:
Top SEOs put out a press release titled: “The Best Social Media Optimization Agencies for March 2010 Ranked by topseos.com.” Later that day, I Googled “Social Media Optimization Agencies” (notice that there are 1,370,000 search results for that keyword) and their press release is ranking in spots 1, 3, and 4 as a result of the distribution on Online PR News.
The image below (snapped a few weeks ago) shows a search for another competitive search term, “seo internet marketing tips.” Even though there are 143 articles related to that topic, Scott’s press release title is being displayed. Also notice that this screen cap was taken 4 days after the press release was published.
Online Press Releases and Twitter
In the past, press releases were only distributed by big expensive PR firms that had connects with journalists. And the only way your news was going to get out was if a journalist decided it was print worthy. But the social media age has turned that balance of power upside-down.
Now people decide what is newsworthy. People are the media influencers. Scott Moir has been very active with integrating Twitter with his press releases – and the results are awesome.
It’s tough to deny that online press releases have online power, but there are a few key ingredients to success.
1. You’ve got to have a news angle: Many press release submission sites will not publish your press release if it doesn’t have a news angle. It doesn’t have to be earth-shattering news, but it does have to be timely and relevant. There are probably lots of things happening within your company each month that are newsworthy and relevant.
Here are some good examples of topics:
A new product or service
A new client or employee
Announcing an award or accolade
Announcing a special event, contest, or sale
Announcing a new website, blog, or website enhancement
2. Appropriate tone and style: A press release should be written in 3rd person – meaning you need to avoid using “you,” “I,” “we,” etc. Otherwise, it tends to sound too promotional and subjective and that will likely mean it won’t get published. If it does, people reading may not take it as seriously as they should. You can use first person if you’re quoting someone in a press release. Some people try to get around that by making 90% of their press release a quote, but that defeats the purpose. A good rule of thumb is to have 1 quote per every 200 words in the press release – and that quote should be 1-2 sentences long.
3. Filling in all the pieces: There are several standard pieces and parts of a press release that you need to have in place:
Title: Should be around 100 characters in length. The title should reflect the news angle! This is one of the main problems we see at Online PR News. Anyone should be able to get a feeling for what the press release is about just by reading the title.
Summary: Should be about 250-300 characters in length – a few sentences that summarize the press release
Body: This is the main part of your press release where you talk about the news announced in the title
Quote: This is where you get to be a little bit subjective and toot your own horn a bit. While the majority of the press release needs to be objective, you can give an opinion here
About the company: Wrap up the press release with a short “about the company” paragraph that gives and overview of your company.
Contact info: Many press release sites will not publish your press release if you don’t have adequate contact info. This includes name, phone number, email, website, and sometimes physical address.
How to Submit An Online Press Release
Now we’ve covered how to get your press release published on a press release distribution site. But that alone won’t get you the type of results you’ve seen above. To gain great visibility with your press release and to have it work for you in the search engines, it needs to be optimized.
4. Keyword optimization: The most important place to use your keyword is in the title and the summary of the press release. You’ll also want to include at least keywords in the body of the press, but don’t worry about counting and calculating – just get them in there naturally.
5. Anchor text links: If you’re using a press release distribution site that allows you to include anchor text links, this is ideal for SEO. You should already have three of your most critical keywords in the body of the press release. Then you’ll want to turn these keywords into anchor text links by linking to your targeted webpages in those keywords.
And even if you do all of these things, your press release could fall upon deaf ears if you don’t submit it to the right places.
7. Not all press release submission sites are created equally: You’ll want to submit your press release to a place that has certain characteristics:
Visibility: Look for sites that are indexed by Google News.
SEO Friendliness: Press Release sites that are coded for SEO friendliness will help your press release rank higher. For example, the title of your press release is in the title and the URL, your summary becomes the Meta description, etc.
Offers anchor text links: Links are the currency of the web. If you’re going to submit a press release, you might as well get some anchor text links!
Press release stays online indefinitely: Some places will only keep your press releases online if you continue paying a monthly fee. Once you stop paying, your links are gone. Others will just take them down after x amount of time.
Extended distribution: Some sites will push your PR our to their content networks for much less than you would have paid if you would have submitted to all of these places alone. For example, Online PR News’s $49 package includes extended distribution worth $225. Strategic partnerships and volume discounts that the PR submission site can leverage help YOU get more for your money.
Tara and I put together an ebook that offers even more detailed info about how to write a press release titled “The 7 Deadly Mistakes People Make When Writing Press Releases” that is free to download.
I want to give a couple of shout outs to two awesome people who are really working hard to educate people and give them the tools they need to create successful businesses. I also want to graciously thank them both for allowing me to be a part of their projects.
Dave Navarro: Dave is one of the most genuine people I have ever met. Not only is he an @$$ kicker, but he is passionate about teaching others to be the best that they can be.
His More Buyers Mastermind program is packed with so much information from industry experts that I had to absorb all of it in small doses in order to fit it all into my head.
Kai Rostcheck: Kai definitely fits his title as the idea guy and his energy is contagious. He’s on a mission to help people go from zero knowledge of online marketing, to having enough information to be dangerous.
He’s always got his target market in mind. When we were doing the podcast and screencast for Free Marketing Made Easy, he did such a superb job of keeping me on track and asking questions that are important to his audience so that they can take the information and hit the ground running with it to market their businesses.
Dave and Kai – Thank you both for inviting me to be a part of your projects!
I’ve always avoided explaining why I break one “rule” of blogging that many people parrot by posting irregularly and infrequently, but here’s why: When I started this blog, I made a commitment to myself not to add to the noise pollution on the web by writing about anything that I didn’t have first hand experience with. I don’t want to bore you with regurgitated posts or writing about things that I speculate to be true. That, and I don’t want to be on Caroline Middlebrook’s list of 11 pointless blog posts that waste my time (one of my favorite blog posts of all time!)
Cutting the Crap and Getting Down to the Point: The Monkey Bar Theory
What the Hell is the Monkey Bar Theory? The Monkey Bar theory is something I’ve noticed after living a dual life of fear and risk-taking. In order to make big changes in life, you’ve got to let go of one monkey bar to harness the strength, fear, and resolve to jump to the next.
When I was first desperately trying to find a way to escape the cubicle, I wanted to make sure that I had one hand firmly positioned on the next “monkey bar” before letting go of the last. In that situation, the last monkey bar was my current job, and the one I was grasping for was entrepreneurial freedom. For 3 years, I hung stagnant between those two bars, with nothing but sleep deprivation, a few business plans, and a couple full stacks of glossy business cards to show for it.
Why didn’t it work? Because building a successful business is based on making some scary decisions. It requires action that will sometimes make your insides feel like rotten Jello and making decisions that will scare the crap out of you. In the past, when I had a hand on that other monkey bar, I would ‘conveniently’ get too busy at my ‘real’ job find some other excuse why I couldn’t make the final reach to that next bar. But when you don’t have anything else to hold on to, you will likely summon every ounce of gusto within your being to ensure you get a hold on that bar to avoid crashing down.
What it took for me to finally make the leap was for my ex-husband to have a 15-year premature midlife crisis, decide that we needed to leave the downtown San Diego 5-9 grind (intentionally transposed), and move to the cheapest place possible, which happened to be in the middle of nowhere in the California desert. If it weren’t for the fact that I was living a life dependent on two incomes and pretty much felt I “had” to go, I doubt that I would have ever had the cajones to make such a leap.
But it was that move… literally throwing myself into a situation where I had NO backup plan, NO family to bail me out and NO ‘decent’ jobs within 150 miles, that caused me to get my business off the ground.
Do I recommend being this extreme? For those that know they have what it takes to survive at any cost but can’t seem to harness that power — yes. Is it risky? Hell yes. Is it guaranteed? Hell no. Does it suck? For a while — yes. Is it worth it? Hell yes.
The Monkey Bar Theory and Love
For years, I was in a miserable marriage and wanted out. But I was afraid. Yep. Before I was the Self Made Chick, I had created a lifestyle that depended on two incomes, allowed said other income earner to ‘almost’ convince me that I was pretty much worthless and incapable of making on my own, and only dreamed of being able to support myself and two kids. In the back of my mind, I ‘hoped’ I would meet someone else — another monkey bar — to grab onto so that I could let go of that one. But I didn’t have the courage so I waited in limbo for years.
But when I started to have some success in business and some confidence in my ability to support myself, I finally let go of that monkey bar and did all those things that once seemed ‘scary’ with no problem. And eventually, once I learned to love myself, and with space in my life I had the room to meet someone else.
How many people are in a loveless, unhealthy, unhappy relationship but too afraid to let go?
A Closet Full of Compromises…
There’s a reason why ‘the closet’ is such a strong metaphor for our lives. Within most of our closets is a biography of our compromises and insecurities. It’s a clear picture of how we cling to things that are no longer of use to us and that choke out room for new things to come into our lives.
I’d venture to guess that you, like me and many other people have closet guilt resulting a closet packed with clothes and things you don’t really need and that just don’t ‘feel’ right when you wear them. Perhaps even things that are dragging you down emotionally.
Do You Dare Take This Challenge?
A ‘safe’ way to test out the monkey bar theory is to get rid of all but 3-5 pieces of clothing that truly represent you now and where you want to go in life. If you were to get rid of all of your clothing, I can almost guarantee that you would find the resources to fill your closet again. By making a conscious decision to only fill your closet with things you WANT, you would eventually create a new wardrobe of only things that you wanted.
Would wearing the same 3-5 things be embarrassing for a while? Probably. Would you feel tempted to fill your closet with just anything? Probably. Would you have to give up other things to find the resources to buy new clothes? Maybe. Or maybe you’d figure out some other way to create those resources. Would you feel great once your wardrobe was filled with clothes that defined you? Certainly.
On a simplistic level, the above scenario is similar to what it takes to build a business from scratch. It’s scary to make the choice to DO IT. It takes resolve to stand steadfast in your decision NOT to fill your time with things that won’t lead you to your ultimate goal.
It Get’s Easier, But Is Never EASY
Risk taking is a learned skill that gets easier with practice. But it’s never EASY. I’ve learned to become much more comfortable with taking calculated risks, but there is always an element of fear. I think that if we wait around and hope for courage or for something not to feel scary anymore, we are selling ourselves short! In fact, whenever I feel a bit of fear about losing, it feels exhilarating, because I know the result could be a big change.
Even so, I’m struggling right now with letting go of some things in my business and in my life. Are you? If so, why? When you talk it through, are your fears rational — or just as irrational as holding onto that old shirt in your closet that just makes you feel yucky when you put it on? Have you ever ‘let go’ and come out better for it?
Several years ago I quit the cubicle cold turkey to take more control of my life. With 2 kids and no savings, there was a lot at stake. At first it was damn hard. But once I unplugged from the cubicle mindset, the opportunities and money began to flow. This blog is a place to learn from my trials and errors and to share your stories and challenges of entrepreneurship.