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Most Comprehensive SEO Guide for Small Business Owners

November 17, 2012

Performing SEO as a small business owner can be a difficult task. As a small business, you may have less time and money to devote to your online marketing campaigns, which can have a negative impact on your SEO efforts. Also, the fact that search engines such as Google favor large brands hinders your ability to gain a first page ranking for specific keywords. However, even though it may seem difficult to get your website to appear on the first page of the search engine results for specific keywords, you should not give up as obtaining a first page ranking can have a huge impact on your business.

Importance of SEO

The biggest reason why your small business needs to continue to spend time working on its SEO is to be seen by consumers in your local area. Consumers are no longer using the phone book to find a local business and traditional marketing methods are becoming less effective. When you are able to obtain a first page ranking in the search engine results, your website will be able to drive a larger number of consumers to your business.

How to Perform Local SEO

While you may think it is difficult to obtain a first page ranking for your website, local SEO is actually not that difficult to perform. A good local SEO campaign starts with keyword research. You need to find local keywords people are actually searching for that do not have a lot of competition. Once you have found several keywords you will target with your campaign, you are ready to move on to the next step of the local SEO process.

On-Page SEO – On-page search engine optimization is a fancy way of saying you need to set up your website in such a way so that the search engines know what your website is about. This includes putting your target keywords in the title of your blog posts, using H1 tags and writing a compelling meta description that also includes your keywords.

Ensuring your website has a good internal linking structure is also important for your on-page SEO. Linking to other pages of your website will allow you to inform the search engines what your content is about while also making it easy for the spiders to crawl your website and index all of your content.

Claim Your Profiles – After your on-page SEO is complete, you will want to claim as many local profiles as you can for your business. To do this, you need to create an account on the major social media profiles and local directories. The more web pages you control on the internet that point back to your website the easier it will be to increase your website’s ranking for your target keywords.

When creating all of your profiles, you will want to use your target keywords in your profile. This will help the search engines associate your website with your keywords, increasing the chances of your website appearing on the first page of the results.

Include Contact Information – On all of your social profiles and on your website itself, it is important that you include your business’s contact information including your address. By including this information, the search engines will know what region of the world your business is located and can serve up your website in the local results.

Update your Site with Fresh Content – Search engines love to see websites with fresh content. Placing a blog in your company website is a wonderful way to ensure your website is regularly updated with content that focuses on your local keywords.

SEO Tools

The biggest challenge facing small business owners when it comes to local SEO is finding the time to do the work. Using some SEO tools will help you reduce the amount of time you spend working on your local SEO campaigns while still being able to see positive results.

Google Webmaster Tool – Gives you insight about your website including where it appears in the search engine rankings, any errors encountered by the search engine spiders and the overall health of your domain.

Google Adwords Tool – This is a good tool for discovering local keywords. This tool will also allow you to gauge the competition levels of a specific keyword to determine whether or not you want to include it in your list.

SEMRush – Another keyword discovery tool that provides a little bit more data than the Google

Adwords Keyword Tool – It is definitely the best free tool on the Internet for keyword research.

SEO Book – Offers a keyword density checker to assess the keyword density on your website. If you over-optimize your website for a specific keyword, you could receive a penalty from the search engines.

Majestic SEO – This tool allows you to assess your inbound link profile. See which websites are linking your website as well as your competition to discover new backlink opportunities.

Guest Post Author Bio: Ben Sawyer is in Internet Marketing for more than 5 years. Currently he is working as SEO strategist for Vandko Candles NYC company. In this article Ben provided useful advice about importance of SEO for small business websites.

Building Your Small Business

October 4, 2012

If your dream is to start a business, you most likely have plans to see it grow into something larger. After all, no one starts a business in their basement expecting it to stay there forever. If you want to grow your business, there are several things you should be doing from the very beginning in an effort to ensure growth and plan for the future.

Review Finances

The first thing you need to examine is where your money is going and how the most money is made through your business. You should take great care to identify and avoid the pitfalls that can result in profit loss. This can be anything from the materials used in production to product theft, be it from customers or employees. In turn, you should put as much emphasis as possible on the activities that bring the most money to your business.

Decide How to Measure Success

Whether you’re looking to ensure profitability or simply cut expenses, you need to plan and do so in a way that can be measured as time passes. If you fail to meet your goals, you will know that you need to adjust your production or spending in order to meet this criteria. This means that you should be identifying specific goals as opposed to general “decrease production” or “make more money” type goals.

Know the Condition of Your Industry

A key step towards building your business is having a solid knowledge of both the history and current climate of your business. You should be in tuned to what your competition is doing and, to a certain extent, how they are doing it. If they are successful, take steps to emulate them where possible while avoiding the areas where they may be lacking. Success is business is about adaptation and staying ahead of you competition, so you should always be on the lookout for original ideas to improve your customer experience and bottom line.

Know Your Customers

Your customers are what drives your business. This is common knowledge among the most successful businessmen in the country a quick look at Charles E Phillips CEO profile shows that he has risen through the ranks of several different companies because of a desire to give the customer what they want. You should be looking for direct interaction with your clients whenever possible, be it surveys, panels or any way you can imagine to improve their experience.

Your business is as large as your dreams, and using the above tips will go a long way towards building your future success.

How To Implement Online Video SEO

September 19, 2012

Video Transcript…

Welcome to the online video masterclass. Today we”ll be looking at a hot video topic; implementing video SEO.

1. Use Keyword Specific Titles:

Just like if you were creating a landing page for a website or writing an article, your videos need to have clear and specific titles. Having your content correctly titled will make the search engine Gods smile fondly upon it. The last thing you want is to create content that can’t be found because of a poor title. Every online video you upload needs to be titled appropriately to give it a strong chance of popping up in both Google and YouTube Page 1 searches.

2. Optimize Your Online Video Descriptions:

Descriptions are an essential piece of the video SEO puzzle that must be optimized. Always put your website URL on the first line of your videos descriptions. This will help to improve conversion rates and give your website a little bit of link juice. Use all the text space available in your descriptions to tie in your keywords and phrases to your videos content. By doing so, you can make your online videos as search friendly as possible.

3. Use Keywords As Tags:

Given YouTube is the number two search engine and owned by Google you want to be on as good terms with it as you can. Tags are one way to do so. Tagging your videos with your keywords and words relevant to your niche will help to link your online video to other videos in the same field, which will increase its chances of being seen. Beware though, YouTube is pretty strict on Tags, try to switch them up from video to video and only use a few of them at a time in order to avoid the Spambots.

4. Use Closed Captions:

Transcripts and Closed Captions are very unused in online video and need to be optimized. Closed Captions and Transcripts in practice function as subtitles for any users with hearing impairments. However, in online marketing terms they provide great SEO benefit. Google and YouTube search through the text in these Transcripts allowing you to optimize them for your keywords and phrases. This will help your content appear higher in the search results.

5. Generate Social Activity:

Whether your hosting your video on Vimeo or YouTube you will have a user account and so will the majority of the audiences visiting the site. Generating activity amongst users on your online video content will help to boost your favour with the search engines. In pretty much every social media the users with the most views, friends, subscribers, likes, comments etc are always going to be top contenders in search results and the same principle goes for the activity on your online videos.

6. Refresh Your Video Content:

Update your old content regularly. By keeping your content updated you’ll be seen far more favourably in the eyes of the online video search engines. This in turn will help you get your content more views and let it stand a better chance at generating a better conversion rate as a result.

7. Use Your Channel To Its Full Potential:

If you’re on a site like YouTube you have a whole Channel at your disposal, not just your video. You can brand your Channel, include your URL, keywords, key phrases, provide calls to action and prompt connections to your social medias. Having a well branded Channel will work in the same way as your website, making your content seem more credible and trustworthy, which will help to generate conversion, content shares and more online activity.

8. Share & Connect On Social Media:

Video sharing sites are fantastically compatible with social media sites. They offer great ways of sharing content to wider audiences and help to promote not only your online video, but interaction with it. Ensure you’re videos are being shared on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Blogs and Tumblr. Google search now scans such sites for links and content giving your online videos a higher chance of appearing on Page 1 in the search results.

9. Use Sitemaps:

A sitemap is the best way of letting Google know where your online video content is. If you’re using embedded video from Bitsontherun, Brightcove or a Vimeo or YouTube video you’ll need to include a sitemap. It’s a common misconception that YouTube videos are automatically sitemapped to Google in their embed code. Sitemaps are a great SEO boost if you’re not using video sharing sites and merely want to use the content on your landing pages for your website visitors to see.

10. Use All Video Sharing Sites:

Everyone has a favourite video sharing site for watching or uploading content. YouTube is an obvious choice due to its sheer popularity, but getting your content, keywords and URL on all video sharing sites can be a great SEO boost. Check out underrated sharing sites like Daily Motion and Viddler and make sure you follow all the rules of the above on every one of your online videos. A website you can get SEO value from and generate traffic from is never a prospect to turn your nose up at.

That’s it for today’s online video masterclass. Be sure to share your knowledge and your thoughts in the comments section below.

About The Author:
Andy Havard is a Marketing Executive at Skeleton Productions, a UK based corporate video production company.

How Technology Is Affecting The Financial World

July 30, 2012

Technology has been constantly improving and changing over the last few years, and it is slowly taking over both our personal and professional life. These aren’t the only areas that are being affected by technology, however. The financial world and retirement planning are literally evolving and changing every day due to new technology, and this technology is making life easier for people all over the world.

Financial Apps for Smartphones – Although many people depend on their smartphone to keep in touch with friends, family and professional contacts and to e-mail their friends or check their social networking pages, there are actually ways that your smartphone can make keeping track of your finances even easier.

There are plenty of financial apps out there for a variety of smartphones, from iPods to Androids and much more. These apps allow you to keep track of your finances at the quick touch of a button, and you can make updates any time during the day. You can also synchronize your smartphone to your desktop or laptop PC in order to share data across the two platforms and to keep your data backed up, just in case. Financial apps allow you to make a budget, keep track of your spending and your bills, and it can even help you with your income taxes. You can even get help with retirement planning through financial apps.

Investor Software – Whether you are highly experienced when it comes to the stock market or if you are just starting out, you can probably use a bit of advice every now and then. Investor software installed on your PC can really help you out. It can give you tips and tricks on what moves to make and more.

Virtual Wallets – Keeping up with your checking account, savings account, investments, bills and more can be a major hassle, and it can result in a lot of paperwork. Luckily, however, technology has once again stepped in to make your financial situation even easier. Instead of balancing multiple checkbooks and statements, you can use a virtual wallet to make things easier. A virtual wallet allows you to create a budget, pay bills online, keep track of paydays and days that bills are due and can even help you to make smarter decisions when it comes to saving.

If you have not tried financial software, apps or websites yet, it is time to give it a chance. Not only will you be able to save yourself a lot of paperwork and headaches, but you might be able to learn a thing or two as well.

Feast & Famine: What to Do with Your Money in the Financial Extremes

April 26, 2012

Especially for those new to investing, but even for those with more experience, there is one basic, fundamental question that is formidably difficult to answer: What do I do with my money?

It might seem like a simple question, but the simplicity of its wording actually hides the complexity of thought that its answer requires. Knowing what to do with your money is the central challenge of investing, and is in fact what keeps most away from investing in the first place. The financial world for many is a foreign one that looks like a minefield from afar.

While there is no easy answer to the question of where your money should be going, there is one factor that will have more influence over the answer than anything else — and that is how much money you have available.

In broad strokes, you either have a surplus or scarcity, or you don’t. Meaning that you are struggling with money, you are in an average situation, or you recently had a windfall — most people fit more or less into one of these three categories. And it is these categories that will help you determine how to invest what you have. I am going to focus more on surplus and scarcity, as there are already a wealth of articles on personal finance for those in average situations.

Surplus

There are fewer people in this category than either of the other two, for apparent reasons. Not everyone has the luxury of a surplus of cash. Whether you won the lottery, inherited money, save a large sum while serving in the military or anything else, having a large sum of money to work with puts you at an advantage, but also brings new challenges.

Cash is best used for emergency situations or short-term spending needs, such as groceries, entertainment, and so forth. Financial planners generally agree that an ideal cash savings equals 12 months of your regular monthly expenses combined.

If you are sitting on more cash than that, you’re in a great position, but are sacrificing an enormous opportunity to grow your money. In the current market, you don’t want to throw all your money into stocks or other long-term investments at once because you will be more likely to lose more of it, but you should have a long-term investment strategy planned.

Michael Kitces, a commentator on the financial-planning industry, recommends that you move portions of your cash into the market a little at a time, over a period of three, six, or even 12 months.

Scarcity

Another word for scarcity is “debt.” They are both scary words, as anyone with a substantial amount of debt knows, and certainly words that introduce doubt about the future into your life.

No one will contest that investing for the future is an important part of managing your finances, but if you are drowning it debt, it doesn’t make sense to be regularly contributing the highest amount possible to your 401(k) every month. Instead, you should be trying to wipe out your debt as quickly as possible.

J.J. Montanaro, a certified financial planner, points out that “if you make an extra payment on a credit card balance that has a 15 percent interest rate, that’s equivalent to earning a guaranteed 15 percent return on your money — a promise the stock market can’t match.” In other words, the more quickly you pay off your debt, the more you’ll save in interest, and the more you’ll have to invest later.

Of course, if it’s possible, you should make contributions to your investments where you can, making sure that you have your priorities in line. Most families are saving for retirement and for a college fund for their children at the same time; if you are struggling with money, it is always a better idea to put the college fund savings on hold, as there are numerous ways to pay for college, and very few ways to pay for retirement.

In addition to rearranging your finances, you might want to start thinking creatively about how to generate more income, and not just cutting back on expenses. Renting out a room in your house or getting a second job are great ways to help pay your debt of more quickly, so that you can get back to investing in the future.

Guest post by: Mariana Ashley is a freelance writer who particularly enjoys writing about online colleges. She loves receiving reader feedback, which can be directed to mariana.ashley031@gmail.com

Fix Credit Now to Save Big Later

December 17, 2011

I know this isn’t the usual post topic you find here because it’s not necessarily about making money online. However, credit repair can save you money, and as the old saying goes, “a penny saved is a penny earned” so I think you will benefit from it nonetheless.

As an entrepreneur, it is vital to have your money affairs in order. What your credit profile says about you also reflects on your business. It is important for you to pay attention to not only where you are financially but also where you stand credit-wise.

Working in the online market can be highly profitable but it requires a stable financial foundation to start with. If you are planning to get any type of financing in the future for business or personal, it is imperative you do the work to repair your credit now rather than wait until it is too late.

Why Good Credit Matters:

  • In Your Business Life

Working as an entrepreneur, your business needs to build its own foundation financially but it will first rely on the credentials of the business owner. If you have poor credit scores, it will be hard for you to get any kind of financing to start or grow your business. You will also find it difficult to do business with vendors and suppliers with whom you need a line of credit.

Before you start a business online or off, you need to review your credit score and do the work necessary to get it back into the excellent sector. Your credit will be the springboard to starting a stable foundation for your business’s credit.

  • In Your Personal Life

Most entrepreneurs start a business for the flexibility and the financial freedom self-employment offers. One of the most apparent drawbacks of working for yourself is the potential for inconsistent income. You should start a business knowing you have at least a year’s worth of living expenses saved in the bank for when the business is still getting off of the ground. While many people will not wait until that amount has been saved up, most at least have some fall back money to tide them over and prevent serious issues with debt.

At some point you will want to enjoy the benefits of your company’s profitability. Socking away funds for retirement and purchasing a home are two common goals of the self-made business owner. But if you maintain a poor credit score, it will be difficult for you to save extra money because you’ll end up having to spend more cash over your lifetime for basic services including utilities, cell phone plans, and car insurance.

If you are able to afford a new home purchase as a self-employed entrepreneur, it is imperative to not only have your finances in order, your credit will play a large factor in not only the approval for the home loan, it will also dictate how much you end up paying on your monthly house note. The amount of interest on the mortgage you receive will be directly related to your credit score. If you can maintain a credit score over 730, lenders will not only give you the best rates, but also more loan options.

Credit scores under 730 may put you at risk for not getting approved for your home loan. They will also basically guarantee you will pay a much higher interest rate over the life of your loan. More of your business profits will need to go toward your mortgage payment. It is not just a small amount either. Just a few points difference in your mortgage interest rate can literally mean you will pay hundreds of thousands of dollars over the life of your mortgage loan.

Moving Forward With Better Credit

Since you have put so much effort into getting your business up and running at the same time balancing the rest of your life, it only makes sense for you to first start with the job of clearing your credit history and maintaining the highest credit score possible.

Despite the claims of some companies, credit repair is something every consumer is capable of accomplishing. Credit history reports are available to every consumer free of charge once a year and for 60 days after you have been denied credit approval. Credit scores are not a part of the free deal but for a minimal fee, you have instant online access to the credit scores maintained by the consumer credit reporting bureaus including TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax.

Once you have ordered your reports and scores, you must review all of the data contained in your credit history and double-check the data for inaccurate information which can lower your credit score. Incorrect information can be disputed with the agencies listing the data.

You need to account for all accounts that still have an outstanding balance and make a reasonable plan to pay off these debts and improve your credit profile. By eliminating debts, you will not only clear your credit, you will also have less financial pressures from your startup operating.

The better your credit is, the less you’ll have to pay in down payments, deposits, and interest rates moving forward in both your business and your personal life. Do what you can now to fix your credit because while any consumer has the power to improve their own credit, there is no overnight solution to repair credit histories. It takes time to improve your credit scores so work consistently over the next several months and see what a difference a little focus can make. Take your credit as seriously as you do your business and you’ll reap rewards for the long term.

Guest post written by… J.D. Roberts is a seasoned writer in finance, specializing in credit repair. You can find more of his articles located at CreditRepair.org

Choosing a Merchant Services Provider

September 26, 2011

Accepting credit cards isn’t a do-it-yourself project. It requires a credit card processor (also called a merchant services provider) who establishes and administers your merchant account. During a transaction, the processor also acts as a middleman between the merchant and the credit card issuer to make sure the process goes smoothly.

Choosing the right merchant services provider requires an understanding of your credit card processing requirements and research into the various deals that are available. Here are five steps you should take when making your decision:

1) Learn about merchant accounts and the associated fees. You must establish a merchant account before you can accept credit cards. Basically, a merchant account is a bank account that acts as the depository for credit card transaction revenue. Once your merchant services provider has processed your transactions, it deposits the proceeds into your merchant account. The provider charges fees for its services — ask about them upfront and make sure you understand them.

2) Consider your technical requirements. What types of credit card processing are you planning to do? Traditional point-of-sale (POS) at a credit card terminal? Online processing from your website through an electronic gateway? Mobile or wireless processing when your business takes you on the road? Mail order/telephone order (MOTO)? Are most of your transactions card present or card not present? What business expansion or diversification plans do you have for the near future? It could be you need one or more credit card processing options, and you should make that clear to the merchant services providers that you are considering so they can come up with the best package deal for your needs and budget.

3) Identify merchant services providers who want your business. Not all processors work with all businesses. Some don’t deal with start-up operations or merchants with bad credit histories. Many will not service so-called “high risk” businesses, a category that includes adult-related businesses, online casinos and businesses located outside the United States. Look for a reputable processor who deals with businesses similar to yours.

4) Compare fees and services. Once you’ve compiled a list of potential merchant services providers, compare their fees and services to see who comes closest to meeting you requirements. Ask detailed questions about the types of hardware and software each offers. If you’re in the market to change processors, determine if your current system is compatible with their technology. When it comes to fees, going with the cheapest may not be your best bet. Be sure you know what you’re getting for your money, that it fulfills your needs and fits your budget.

5) Scrutinize security. Solid, reliable security may be the only thing standing between your business and disaster. It’s no secret that credit card fraud and identity theft are major threats to merchants and consumers alike. Make sure your credit card processing takes security seriously and is PCI compliant. Your merchant services provider should be able to answer all your security-related questions and train you and your staff in the proper protocols to keep you and your customers safe from a data breach.

Guest post by Marc McDermott, the Online Marketing Manager at Merchant Express, a full-service merchant services provider that has helped thousands of businesses with their credit card processing needs since 1998.

The True Importance of Building a List

June 1, 2011

We have heard the saying “Money is in the list” many times before, but for some reason a lot of affiliates and marketers still don’t realize how important building a list actually is.

I am not sure why affiliate marketers forget this crucial business building step, but list building should be your highest priority if you sell anything online. I don’t care if you are promoting a “how to build an igloo” ebook. Build that list of subscribers, or your business will not last very long.

For example, Google banned thousands of affiliates a while back from their Adwords program and those who weren’t capturing names and email addresses got left out in the cold. Their income dropped almost instantly and there was nothing they could do about it.

The fact is that it should be your highest priority to build a list of raving fans that read your emails. Sure you can make money online by simply driving traffic straight to an offer, but as soon as your traffic source stops producing clicks or your ads get disapproved, you are finished.

Let me give you some of the biggest key benefits of owning a highly responsive list of subscribers.

1. Traffic on Tap – Anytime you want to test out an offer or make some quick cash, you can simply load up your auto-responder with a promo email and click “send”. When that email hits people’s inboxes they click on your link and go to the offer. If you did a great job at preselling, they are going to buy whatever it is you recommended. What’s really important is that you no longer depend on other traffic sources for income. You basically own a traffic source that you can always count on without paying a dime for clicks it generates.

2. Joint Ventures – This is a huge benefit that most affiliate marketers forget about. If you have a highly responsive list, you can leverage it to sell your own products and services. When you promote someone else’s product and do a decent volume of sales for them, 98% of the time they will offer a reciprocal mailing for you. There is a reason why marketers with big lists make most of the money in the internet marketing niche.

3. Knowing What Your Market Wants – Use your list to find out what they want and sell it to them. You can use a service like SurveyMonkey.com and create a simple survey to send out to your subscribers. Ask them what they want or what they need help with. Then create a product or service based on the data you collected. Why guess what they want, when you can simply ask them and remove the risk of poor conversions completely from the picture?

4. Leverage – Don’t ever underestimate people on your list. Some of them might have successful businesses and could become your super affiliates. Imagine announcing your affiliate program to thousands of people with a single click of a button. You could literally overnight get your site flooded with traffic by leveraging your subscribers’ efforts. 1000 affiliates driving 100 clicks per day is better than one joint venture partner, who can send a limited number of clicks.

5. Be Viewed As An Expert – When you have a big audience, your opinion and message, which you send out matters. You could have a big impact on your niche market if you have the power to reach thousands of people with a click of a button. A lot of marketers do not know how to position themselves as experts. Build a list and eventually you won’t have to worry about that because of the instant social proof you can generate.

I think the above 5 key benefits make things very clear and why it’s absolutely crucial to put 100% of your effort into growing your subscriber base. I hope you now realize how powerful this actually is, and how it can take your business to a new level very quickly.

Your ultimate goal is to capture the attention of your market and have it at your disposal any time you want them to take your desired action.

This is a guest post written by Pawel Reszka, the founder of Affhelper.com, a blog dedicated to making money online and internet marketing. Check out his blog is for some cool super affiliate tips.

I Can Attest – He is Real!

December 8, 2010

I Can Attest – He’s Real!

This is not a fluff piece.  It’s the story that resulted from tweeting, emailing and, recently MEETING Chase Adams.  The relationship with him dramatically altered my experience with twitter and provided an unexpected opportunity to test the “humanness” of social media.

Meeting Chase allowed the student in me to examine the nature of our exchanges, question the meaning of the words and see if my intuitive read matched the “real person”.  After sending hundreds of tweets into the “stream” only to hear silence, I could finally share each blunder, hiccup, pinch, warm fuzzy and moment of confusion with another human, in the flesh.  It turns out that humanity in the virtual world has very few differences from that of the real one.

On that note, let me fast forward to seat 23E, preparing to land in Atlanta.

Thinking on the plane…what should I do when I see him? I’d really like to jump up and down, scream CHaaaaaase, and then give him a great big hug.   No, I can’t do that –  unacceptable and he’ll think I’m odd.  I could be cool and look around the atrium with no obvious focal point, casually zero in on him and say with my eyes wide, surprised, OH!  Are you Chase?

Finally, there he was – 15 feet away – leaning with arms crossed, hanging back.  Instantaneously, my previous plans vanished;  I mustered my most friendly, “unpuppydoggish” self and sheepishly asked –  Chase?

Score One for the RealChaseAdams! He showed up, patiently waited even though I was 3 hours late and made our meeting happen.

First things that surprised me:

  • He didn’t talk in 140 characters nor did he tweet to others while with me

  • Took lots of time to be thoughtful and engaged himself – 100%

  • He redefined my idea of a “tech guy”

  • Was even more charming than expected

  • Took great care of our waiter who accommodated our 4 1/2 hour meeting

  • Smart and smarter – articulate – wise

  • Great, expressive eyes

Chase was a real collaborative guy who didn’t just decide stuff, but included me in creating the evening.

Score Two for the RealChaseAdams! He could relate, interact & generate a relationship without hiding behind a computer.

Meeting Chase, IRL,  produced a weird sensation.  My heart knew him but my brain didn’t.  I almost reached over and actually pinched him just to prove to myself that he was physically present, but restraint prevailed.  With this additional  visual-sensory input, I had a lot more to process – quickly.  The tilt at the edge of his smile, the twinkle in his eye, the way he moved his fingers when he reached for his “sweet tea” – all new input.  It’s the physical that we miss in the virtual world!

We covered lots of topics!

  • Chase’s vision for #usguys

  • My desire to learn technology and social media

  • Interesting life experiences

  • My gratitude for well… ‘him’

  • Previous tweet exchanges that occurred in the stream – some funny and others that left me “wondering about the outcome”

  • Twitter etiquette, social theory and relationship building within a tribe

  • Chase’s  dreams for the future, speaking at #sxsw, and my self-development game (I must admit, it was thrilling to share my hand-colored drawing with someone from the virtual world)

We were having a great conversation when quicker than I could say, “This is fantastic”, we dropped – Kerplunk! into a relationship “thing” that typically occurs only after knowing someone for some time.  Most “things” test the substance of a relationship.  And I wasn’t sure that one created in the virtual world could support the weight of a “thing”!

SNAG! ...heart racing...PANIC!  (What happens if we decide we don’t like each other?)

By way of background, we’d registered for @jonmorrow’s blogger apprenticeship program.  I was impressed with Chase’s ability to engage other members of this community.  He gave great feedback!  I followed – he followed back.  We then began trading tweets during Hurricane Earl.  Are you expecting the hurricane to hit hard?  Your name reminds me of a soap star.  Why are you driving in this nor’easter?

Lighthearted exchanges grew into a sense of connectedness, and we started sharing emails.  After a couple of “Wow, you’re pretty amazing’s” and “Can’t wait to see where you go next”, Chase asked me for feedback about something he was writing.

In my desire to illustrate my commitment to him, I responded with the smartest stuff I had to offer – but I was hesitant because I didn’t know how he’d react.  Over the next week or so, while participating in #usguys,  I started to sense my interactions with him had changed.  I pondered this for a while and then wrote to him and asked, “What’s up?”

At “the moment” at dinner, we talked about that blip and what had really happened.

I found out he was troubled by my feedback.  It turned out that I missed the point entirely.  Chase was wanting me to understand his concerns about pursuing a new job opportunity and what he got from me was an intellectual critique.  In my distorted attempt to provide substance, I bungled the chance to care about his feelings and him “as a person”.  This landed like a 2000 pound elephant given my intense commitment to relate deeply to others.  I played small and convinced myself it would be unwelcome in a “virtual” relationship.

I had an “alfalfa sprout” moment at dinner with Chase.  The kind of learning that’s fresh, unplanned and shocking to your ego.   Chase could’ve avoided telling me the truth and blown it off deciding this was too intense for a twitter connection.  But, he didn’t.  And precisely because of this, the tie between us grew closer.

Winning Score! This went straight to my heart.

Chase Adams connected with me through 140 characters.  He communicated with me through emails.  He influenced me to participate in #usguys.  He caused my participation in social media to become vital, compelling  and supportive.  And then, in real life, Chase was willing to risk it all and share a negative with me.

Turns out that the virtual world is no different than the physical one.  The venue doesn’t matter.   It depends entirely on our capacity and desire to build relationship.

Chase knew that.  Sentiment CAN build within 140 characters.  I could’ve discovered that this sentiment was a figment of my imagination.  But because of “who” Chase  is, the reality far exceeded my expectation.  I didn’t have to pinch him to determine that he is, in fact,

The Real Chase Adams!

Sandra Parrotto is fascinated by self development, creative expression, intimacy & relationships.  She is the owner of Qstreet, an organizational development, leadership and coaching consulting company.  Theguidequest website, scheduled for launch in April, will provide online training and coaching career opportunities.  She can be reached at sam @ qstreet.com, on twitter @qstreet and fb as Sandra Parrotto.

Blogworld Expo Day 3: The bad news (with solutions!)

October 20, 2010

As often happens with big conferences, the third day of the BlogWorld Expo was slower. This was partly because I wanted to thoroughly go through the exhibit floor, but mainly because I was getting pretty tired. I attended much more niche-type sessions not interesting to all; specifically, “Managing Blog Groups,” and the “Science of Social Media Marketing.” The morning keynote, however, was well attended despite the late-night partying of many of the attendees, and for good reason.

“7 Harsh Realities of Blogging for Bucks” was a fairly open-format round table with Darren Rowse of Problogger, Brian Clark of Copyblogger, and Sonia Simone of Copyblogger/Remarkable Communication. While they outlined the harsh realities, they focused more on the solutions to those problems. It’s difficult to distill down their message, and I’m sure others out there have attempted the same, but I’m going to give it a try:

1.Free is not a business model – You can’t make money if you give it all away, but you’ve got to give away a lot of good content to attract people to your premium content or your products. Finding the balance can be tough, but the panel has found that the more you give away, the more people trust that your premium content/products are actually worth buying.

2.The push-button internet cash machine is on the fritz – With few exceptions, you can’t make money fast as a blogger. Like most worthy ventures, it takes time and work to build something that brings in an income. Lots of bloggers treat it as supplementary income. Don’t expect to make a six-figure income overnight, and you’ll probably be fine.

3.You can talk to everyone – It’s easy to get caught up in trying to grow your blog so quickly you lose sight of making real connections. Their advice was to get real about how many meaningful connections you can make in a day. The key word there is “meaningful.” Stretch too far too fast, and you’ll be lost in the shuffle.

4.No one wants that much authenticity – Don’t lie, but don’t get too personal. You don’t have to share everything about your life. Have some boundaries; you don’t want to creep out or bore anyone.

5.Social media hates selling – But you have to sell. Your content is your “marketing.” People love to share content, so let your awesome writing sell itself. Consider that you are offering your readers something valuable, not just pitching a deal.

6.A blog is not a business – Plenty of bloggers out there have no intention of making money. You can set up a blog with no business plan and be perfectly happy with it. But if you want to make money, you need a business plan. Treat your blog like a business, plan where you are going, and be prepared to grow with the business.

7.No one is reading your blog – There could be several reasons that no one is reading your stuff.
a.Maybe you’re not talking about something they care about. If your niche is too obscure, there just may not be a lot of audience for your subject matter. Or, maybe you’re talking about just one aspect of your subject and need to broaden your horizons.
b.You haven’t been giving it time. It takes time to build a readership. Most bloggers start out with their friends and family reading their blog. It took Darren Rowse nearly two years to get his photography blog to the place where it had a good readership and began to make money. Part of this is that you may not be spending any time to spread the word in other ways, like a strong social media presence.
c.You’ve got a good topic, but you’re not being fresh. There are new blogs coming up every day, and the hot topics get covered first. If you can find a new way to present a popular subject, you’ve won half the battle. But, if you’re copying what everyone else is doing, you could be doomed to obscurity.

I learned a ton from this very knowledgeable panel. I hope you get a a little out of my summary.
Thanks for reading,
Sherry
Starting Fresh at Forty

Making it count: Your brand, your network

October 18, 2010

Day 2 of the BlogWorld Expo 2010
Now that I’m a little recovered from the convention, I’m excited to share more about the Expo.

The best and the worst aspect had to be all the different types of sessions you could attend. There were always at least 12 different topics ranging from podcasting to food blogging. I steered away from the specialty tracks like real estate and military blogging, but I still missed out on tons of great material. That being said, here’s a little of what I did get to see:

Standout sessions for me on Friday were Mari Smith’s “The Brand of You: How to Build a Profitable Social Media Based Business,” and a panel discussion with Wendy Piersall, Cecilia Mecca, Bridgette Duplantis, and moderated by Jeremy Wright, “Harnessing the Power of Numbers: Creating a Blog Network.”

Mari Smith is a master of the personal brand. Mari’s brand is Mari, from her signature “turquoise and bling” on everything – including the podium when she spoke – to her endearing Scottish-Canadian accent. Her biggest advice is to really interact with your audience. Get out and comment on blogs, answer questions on your Facebook page, tweet about interesting subjects. She advised everyone to use their name and picture as much as possible so people feel they are interacting with a real person. The exception would be if you wish to establish a company brand to possibly sell in the future, and even then you’ll want to provide a human face behind the name.

Now, she doesn’t mean get out there and natter on about nothing. Make your engagement worthwhile for the people you are interacting with. There were two things she said that stuck with me, “Don’t shout ‘look at me,’ shout, ‘how can I help you?’” and “It’s better to have 100 highly engaged fans/followers than 10,000 who don’t give a hoot what you say.” In other words, get involved with purpose and an eye for helping others. You can have thousands of fans and followers, but if they aren’t listening to you, it doesn’t matter. And they’re not going to listen unless you provide them with a good reason.

But the most noticeable thing about Mari is that she walks the talk. She was very gracious with those who came up to speak to her. Everyone got kind words and helpful advice with a genuine smile. She sat in on sessions with her colleagues, listened, and participated. There is nothing aloof about Mari Smith; she honestly wants to help.

The three ladies from the session on creating a blog network were also extremely helpful. In fact, the networks they created – Double Duty Divas for Bridgette and Cecilia, Sparkplugging for Wendy – were all about promoting those who participated. Their attitude is that those who blog within your niche are not competition, but opportunities for support and mutual advantage. While the Divas reward with promotion and bringing advertisers and bloggers together, Wendy – who recently sold Sparkplugging – paid her bloggers for their time and posted more content aimed at the home entrepreneur.

Putting together a network of bloggers can be a rewarding experience, but all three advised that you need to screen those who join you well. Establish guidelines from the very beginning to dictate the tone and style of your network as well as to ensure the network remains honest and transparent (the Divas do a lot of product reviews which requires full disclosure.) Stick to those guidelines and don’t bend. After all, it’s your network’s – and ultimately your – reputation on the line.

Whew! That’s a lot of information and I barely scratched the surface. Stay tuned for my next installment for Day 3.

Thanks for reading!
Sherry
Starting Fresh at Forty

10 Takeaways from Day 1 of the BlogWorld Expo 2010

October 14, 2010

Good evening from day one in Las Vegas!

As my own blog is still pretty young, I figured today I would do the Problogger track and sit in on the four connected sessions by Darren Rowe and Chris Garrett. They covered creating killer content, finding readers, building community, and monetization. Basically, everything you need to know to have a successful blog. There’s a good deal of rave reviews about these guys and now I know why.

Without going into the deep particulars and trying to recreate the several hours’ worth of material, I thought I’d give you my 10 biggest takeaways from the sessions.

1.Make each post count – Garrett echoed the morning keynote speaker, Scott Stratten, when he emphasized that if you don’t have anything to say, don’t try to force meaningless filler on people. Your readers remember your last post; your previous stuff may have been killer, but if that last post was no good, they may not come back.

2.Know your audience – If you don’t know who you’re writing for, find out. Take a look around, do some research. When he began his photography blog, Rowe sat down and wrote out bios for three of the potential types of readers he expected to get, then wrote for them. It changed over time, so he tweaked the bios and still writes with them in mind.

3.Don’t write for SEO, write for people – No one is going to read your stuff just because there are a lot of keywords in it. Don’t find popular search words and write around them. If you’ve got a good post, maybe you can refine it and work some keywords in, but remember it has to be interesting and readable.

4.Get off your blog – If you want people to read and continue to read your blog, go where they hang out online and interact. Comment on other blogs, use social media, maybe guest blog a little.

5.Give back to your readers – If someone has made a comment on your blog, answer back. Acknowledge your readers by checking out their blogs and recommending them to others. Thank them for participating. Reciprocity can be a powerful tool, and it’s just polite, darn it.

6.Invite interaction – Set little challenges for your readers, ask opinions, ask for their tips and advice. In other words, build a community.

7.Start small with advertising – Got a little blog? Find little advertisers. Team up with bloggers in your niche who could offer a new advertiser a package deal, then grow as your audience does.

8.Monetize progressively, don’t be stingy – Give away a really helpful Ebook. (Yes, don’t hold back all the good stuff. They have to know you aren’t blowing smoke, you really have valuable information.) If you see people like it then go for a low-priced product. Work your way up to that big consulting contract, service or product.

9.Trust is key – People will only do business with those they trust. Don’t lie, don’t exaggerate, be up front and forthright. Don’t be a jerk (this was emphasized quite a bit today, using several different synonymous words.)

And the biggest takeaway for me today:

10.Don’t give up – Building a good blog takes time. With few exceptions, most blogs don’t gain success overnight. Rowe’s first blog took a year and a half to really get a good readership and begin to make money. There are a lot of bloggers out there; it can be tough to build a readership when so many people are attempting the same. But if you persist and have good, valuable content, you really can have a successful blog.


There are two more days of the expo, if they’re anything like today, I’m definitely getting my money’s worth. Until then, keep blogging!

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