Thursday, February 17, 2011

Oh, What a Difference a Year Makes:The Cast of CoffeeShopBloggers

It is shocking to me that it's been a full year of blogging for our little group, the CoffeeShopBloggers, and I wanted to give you an update on how blogging has affected our lives. A year ago, the economy was in the tank and we all had time on our hand. Our paying gigs were slow and we had time on our hands which we were not used to.

We were in various stages of blogging. I had launched mine as a work-in-progress (still is) but had no audience. DesignTrackMind was about to launch hers and her husband, GreenCollarEconomy, is an SEO/SEM expert. Capability:Mom was curious about blogging but had to be coerced into starting, and iCommunicate had a blog up a while back but had no idea how to find it.

Our various states of blog dishevelment lead to the birth of the CoffeeShopBloggers group which we formed, met weekly, and shared everything from tips on getting more traffic to setting up carpools to leaning on each other for support. We laughed (a lot!) and we cried (usually when our blogs blew up and we thought all was lost).

And we learned a lot! It was just like drinking out of a fire hose and thank you to everyone who helped along the way: Sherpa Report, GreenCollarEconomy, TweetDeckTutor, and others. We collectively spent several days on help desk at various companies talking to nice, helpful folks including BlueHost, GoDaddy!, SoloStream, and Wordpress.com. Thank you to all of you too!

So, where are we now?

Our poster child for success is DesignTrackMind who was the Interior Designer for the Auburndale project of This Old House. Out of the zazillions of Interior Designers (all with pretty websites), they chose her. Why? Her blog!!! THEY LOVED HER BLOG! Now that the 16 episodes have aired, she's totally slammed with work. Her most colorful story of how blogging has changed her world is this: she recently got a call from a new client who moved from Barcelona, Spain to her neck of the woods to help with her new house. And how did she know about her? She and all her friends had been reading her blog during the last year in Barcelona. When she found out she was moving outside of Boston, she and all her friends screamed, "YOU CAN WORK WITH DESIGNTRACKMIND FOR YOUR NEW HOUSE!!!" And that probably made the move more palatable!

Capability:Mom started her blog under duress. DesignTrackMind and I freely admit that we badgered her into jumping off the cliff with us. And now? ... birth of a really funny writer. Who also gets paid gigs to write! And has found her voice. And is ready for more. She also turns out to be a secret tech geek and supplies us all with new widgets and techy tools for SEO and other stuff. Turns out she's learned so much about social media marketing that she consults on the side!

iCommunicate is a MarCom consultant. She is now so busy with clients that we barely see her anymore. But that is great the goal of her blog was to enhance her business and it worked.

As for me, PragmaticMom, I wanted to see if this could evolve into a small business -- it is, but ever so slowly -- and I wanted to understand Social Media Marketing. I get it now: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, WordPress, Blogger, and creating a community (the social part of Social Media Marketing). And yet this is the tip of the iceberg because there is so much more to learn. It's been so much fun to meet both with my blogging group to group learn and to meet like minded people in the blogosphere and on Twitter. Here's a little sampling of my blogging experience:

  • If you type in "Best Education Mom Blog Boston" in Google, I once came up first. I still seem to come up on the first page of search results. Crazy, huh?
  • I met many wonderful people through blogging. The ones I want to bow down to and say unworthy include Newbery winner Sharon Creech and Blue's Clue's founder Angela Santomero.
  • I've learned how to track and fix my blog load speed, sell merchandise through Amazon, and add html code to my blog, This for a person who is has NO TECHNICAL SKILLS whatsoever.
  • I've come to appreciate structure in my blog by adhering to an editorial calendar. And I stick to my calendar at least some of the time!
Capability:Mom and I have tried to document our learning along the way such that if you see our blogs and wonder what it took to get here, there is a road map for you to follow. We hope that you have learned from our mistakes so that you won't be crying while on help desk with the nice folks at BlueHost when your blog transfer from Wordpress.com to Wordpress.org because you want advertising that pays $ did not go smoothly. Been there, done that and that is best avoided.

Thanks for reading our group blog and please let us know what you need help with. We are all in this together (to quote my kids' favorite movie). But isn't that what blogging is all about?!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

It's Not Free (From Erica Napoletano at RedHead Writing)

As a blogger, isn't this what you hear all day? I do. And I don't always have a consistent policy or strategy other than, "For all the time I spend on my blog, I really should be making more money from it." Erica Napoletano nails this and gives us all a little slap (as she is wont to do). 

Pragmatic Mom
----------------------

I want to pick your brain.
Could I buy you coffee?
Would you guest post for me?
May I guest post for you?
We’d like to get your opinion on…
What do you use for…
Would you teach me how to… ?

The past several days, I’ve been reminded of an important question we all face each day in our business lives: what do we give away and what costs money? Chris Brogan covered it last year in The Audacity of Free and Gabriella Sannino broached it again in a post today about social media ROI. Today, I’m going to try to break down this pervasive question into one simple thought: strategy.

Why Do We Give Things Away For Free?
I’ll dispell the myth now: 90% of the time, it isn’t out of the goodness in our hearts filled with unicorns and rainbows. It’s because we’re looking to add people to The Funnel. Now, The Funnel varies depending on your business. Perhaps you want email addresses for a mailing list. More RSS subscribers. More Twitter followers or Facebook Fans. But the bottom line of it is we are all selling something and it’s pretty shitty to hate us for it.

Giving things away gets people’s attention and it might get them in your circle, but you’d better have a strategy behind what you’re going to do with them once you get them there. And I’m exhausted with the begging and bitching. Stop asking people who work for a living (just like you) to give you something for nothing. We’re all giving something away. Me? I give away copies of books. iPod Touches. VISA gift cards. Seats to PAID webinars I’m teaching. Why do I do this? As a thank you. To get some new eyes on my site. But I know WHY I’m doing it. If you’re giving something away for free, here four hard truths you better own – we’re all hookers and hookers don’t rent fishnet stockings.
  • People will complain that what you’re giving away isn’t enough.
    • Appropriate Response: Shut up. It’s free.
  • If you run a contest, people will complain about not winning.
    • Appropriate Response: Ummm…call Publisher’s Clearing House. If they give in, I’ll give in.
  • If you’re looking for something for free, you’re going to get a lot of 36,000 foot view information mixed with some 5,000 foot view gems. If you want ground level insight, that shit costs money.
  • If you give something away for free, you need to compel people to return to your site/you/your business. It’s not a hit and run technique. It’s relationship building. Free was just what got them in the door.
Sometimes Free Costs You
I occasionally guest post on outlets like Copyblogger. Why? Aside from having been a long-time reader, they have kickass site traffic. I can get new readers and reach thousands of people who aren’t on Redhead Writing’s radar in a single post. And I do it for free. That’s my trade off. It costs me time an intellectual property.It’s an opportunity cost I’m willing to bear. And I’ll keep doing it as long as they’ll have me because not only are Brian and Sonia pretty kickass human beings, I can justify the expense.
But free can cost you.

There are those coffee meetings. The “pick your brain” sessions. The new client courting processes. I have new rules for anyone who wants to buy me a cup of coffee that I don’t already know. I’ll find the time to met with anyone if you tell me in advance (1) what your agenda is for our meeting and (2) why I’m the one you want to discuss it with. I think that’s common courtesy. And I have a certain approach I take with new clients as well.

We’ve all walked away from coffee meetings thinking, “Holy balls – that’s an hour of my life I can’t get back.” We’ve all been three months into a prospect only to realize we’ve just spent about $2,500 on earning business we haven’t closed yet. Both are bullshit.

It’s up to you to put the hammer down on free things that cost you. Just like there’s no crying in baseball (except opening day always leaves me a little weepy). People who want to pick your brain are asking for something for free. You have to be in control of what you’re willing to give as well as have the cajones to explain to people:
  • It’s awesome that you see me as a credible resource. That’s why I offer consulting services. This is my business and if we’re going to proceed, it’s probably smart for us to get a scope of the project put in place so we can hold one another accountable.
  • While you think you’re buying me coffee, a $5 chai isn’t proper (repeated) compensation for my time.
Your clients aren’t in business for free. Neither are you.

Strategy: It’s What’s For Breakfast
It should actually be every meal of your business day. Sit down today and consider what you’re giving away for free, why and what it’s REALLY costing you. If you’re on the hunt for free, understand that it’s going to be a lot of general mixed with few specifics and in order to get more, you have to pay. There’s nothing wrong with running a business and earning a living and the people who want you to give away more are much more concerned about their bottom line than yours.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Twitter and How to Use It Correctly...from Antonia Harler

OMFG – another GUEST POST? Yes, Preeeeeeeeeeecccccious, it’s true. Today, we have the bubbly and slightly snarky Antonia Harler. Antonia holds a degree in Management, Communications & IT and works as a social media strategist at Paratus Communications. For more information about Antonia, visit her blogfollow her on Twitter or join her on the SocialGlitz Facebook Fan Page.

I started a new job a few weeks ago, which is completely irrelevant in context of this post, except it’s not. It made me realize something. I no longer have time for BS on Twitter. But sadly, Twitter seems to be turning into a mad circus full of creepy clowns that shamelessly self promote, are not afraid to spam you with useless links or simply tweet for the sake of tweeting. And let’s not forget about those, who think it’s unnecessary to read the content they are tweeting.

I know I’m not alone with this feeling. I see a lot of Tweets every day complaining about the uselessness of some users, which begs the question whether or not it’s our fault for following them or if “they” just forget that they are dealing with actual people.

Don’t get me wrong. I *love* Twitter and the opportunities it has presented to me. But this kind of BS made me miss all the good stuff that’s floating around in the Twitterverse. And I refuse to miss it. That’s why, much unlike myself, I started to organize and plan. Scary, right? But it’s made such a difference.
And today, our amazing redhead, allowed me to share. (Holy sweet Jesus on a cracker!!) Anyway, here are some nifty tips and tricks to filter through the noise and kick the creepy Twitter clowns in the butt.
  • Twitter clients! I’ve been in love with Tweetdeck from the start but there are many others. Hootsuite & Seesmic to name just two of the most popular. Whichever you decide to choose, you’ll be in heaven. The options they present to you are almost infinite, which brings me to my second point:
  • Lists, lists, lists! I refused to use them for a long time. If you are unconvinced, take it from me, they are magic. By organizing the people you follow and putting them into lists you cut out 75 % of the noise. MAGIC. All of a sudden you don’t miss the good stuff anymore and even if you do, you can scroll down without having to read hundreds of useless Tweets. (Sidenote: Start using lists soon after joining Twitter. It will save you a ton of work in the longrun.)
  • Re-evaluate and curate your stream! Now this, my lovelies, is an ongoing process. As much as I wish it wasn’t, it is. By unfollowing people that add no value to your stream, and instead adding people that do, you avoid a lot of frustration.
  • Use #hashtags! Twitter hashtags are popular for Twitter chats, conferences and events but they are also a great way to organize yourself. If you and your followers agree to append a certain hashtag to Tweets about a particular topic, it becomes easier to find said topic in search and it’s also more likely for the topic to appear in Twitter’s trending topics.
  • Don’t Auto Follow! There’s a great big myth floating around that says that the more followers you have the more influential you are. For some that may even be true but for the most part I think differently. The number of followers you have is irrelevant as long as your audience is there to listen to *you*. Be picky about who you follow. Quality over quantity.
  • If all of the above doesn’t help, consider using a tool such as Proxlet. It’s a tool I’ve secretly been dreaming about. It let’s you block apps, filter Twitter tags and mute users (without unfollowing them) for a day, a week, or.. gasp.. forever! A puppy just got wings! And to top it all off, it doesn’t only work on the web but also with Desktop and mobile clients.  Brilliant!
By following those steps, I’ve transformed my Twitter experience and actually managed to make the most of it while working full time. Do you think I’ve missed something? Then PLEASE, share it in the comment section. And if you have a question, then post that too. If I don’t know the answer, I’m pretty sure Erika will. And in case Erika doesn’t.. gasp gasp.. I’m pretty sure someone else in this lovely community will.
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FYI, Antonia & Social Glitz are the authors of the immensely helpful Ultimate List of Free Social Media Tools. You owe it to yourself to stop by and have a read.

Monday, February 7, 2011

How to Talk to a SEO Copywriter (complete with urban slang) by Erica Napoletano (Redhead Writing)

Erica Napoletano is a hoot and her blog, Redhead Writer, usually is ranting and raving on her own life but in this post, she talks about her SEO copywriting consulting practice. As bloggers, maybe we don't really focus on maximizing our SEO words and this may not be necessary if we write consistently and authentically on the same topics. But, if you want to write for companies who are doing this mostly for their Google rank, then this is the "ad agency" strategy. It's like anything in marketing: fancy jargon and matrix to do something that is pretty straight forward. Impress your friends (and clients) with this fancy stuff. Or just enjoy and thank the heavens that your blog is your own labor of love and you don't have to worry about this stuff (and we'll post on the some of the best SEO plugins for Wordpress to help you achieve your SEO goals later -- we're still trying them out).
Pragmatic Mom, http://PragmaticMom.com , Education Matters. My blog is a mash up covering education, parenting and children's literature. 
Without using this matrix (or even worrying about key words), my blog comes up #2 and #3 in Google if you type in "Mom Blog" and "education." I come up #1 if you type in "Mom Blog," "Education" and "Boston." Case in point that you don't really have to screw with this matrix stuff if you are writing consistently on the same topics and with authenticity. Google your blog and see how you do just for fun!
geek writer seo copywriter




Given that a significant portion of my company’s project work is SEO copywriting, I thought it was high time I give you an inside scoop on how to talk to us. SEO copywriters may seem an alien breed to some, but we’re the geeks who are the perfect mix of literary and mathematical (yes, MATH) prowess that help get your online project found.
Found by whom? Well, people who can spend money with you, silly.
Most of our clients haven’t worked with an SEO copywriter before, and this means we go through an education phase. Today, you get to see what that looks like! I know, you’re excited (pom poms for everyone). I hope you enjoy the tour and that you see what Redhead Writing thinks it takes to deliver a successful SEO copywriting project.

Step One: Gather Up Yo Schiz (translation: bring something to the table)

Wanting to “spruce-up” your website copy isn’t enough of a reason to talk to an SEO copywriter. Here are the things we need when you come to talk to us about your project:
Site Architecture: This is either a flow chart, spreadsheet or bulletpointed list showing the Parent Pages and Subpages in your website. You can also think of this as your navigation.
site architecture
Why do SEO copywriters need this? Because we need to understand how many pages we’ll be writing copy for, which pages need to be optimized (as not all do) and…uh…because we can’t really wrap our heads around a project unless we see what it’s going to look like.
Keyword Research & Keyword Matrix: Oy vey and pass the Mylanta. No, this isn’t a movie starring Keanu Reeves and unless you’re an SEO specialist, this really isn’t something you want to jack with running and building yourself.
About Keyword Research: Quite simply, the results that you and I can get from Google’s Keyword Tool are okay. But what they don’t give you is a true picture of competition and popularity for each of the keywords you may consider targeting. A little green bar in the keyword tool shows Competition. Per Google, “The Competition column gives you a sense of how many advertisers are bidding for a particular keyword. This data can help you determine how competitive the ad placement is.” If you’re not going an Adwords campaign, I hope you see how useless that information is for web copy. Let a pro give you a report so you can make better decisions. And if you think it’s not worth the couple hundred bucks, see you on page 8 of the search results.
keyword research
WTF is a Keyword Matrix? It’s a map of your site made with words. (Fancy!) I’ve included a sample below. These can only be created (wait for it) after you’ve done your keyword research!
keyword
Why do SEO copywriters need a keyword matrix? Because we need to know which words to target on each page we’re writing and how the pages of your website need to talk to one another (in words). An internal linking strategy is a factor in search engine rankings for your website, so when we write, good SEO copywriters include a solid internal linking strategy for their clients.
Step One Redux: You’ve come to the table with your site architecture, keyword research and keyword matrix. An SEO copywriter can now get a complete picture of your project. For clients who come to us with only a site architecture, Redhead Writing also provides keyword research and matrix-building services. We added this in June of last year as it was more common than not that clients didn’t have this essential piece of the SEO copywriting puzzle.

Step Two: Gettin’ All Up in Yo Bidness (translation: discovery session)

Any SEO copywriter worth their salt will hold a discovery call with a new client. This is your chance to find out if the SEO copywriter you have in your sights has any bloody idea what they’re talking about.
But let’s go back for a minute: it’s my steadfast opinion that if you’re bidding out an SEO copywriting project and the company in question hasn’t asked you for the things in step one, run screaming. I simply can’t fathom how they can produce effective copy without those three things. Redhead Writing will not take SEO copywriting projects without seeing the research a keyword matrix was built on unless it comes from one of our referring SEO firms. Why? Because we don’t write for giggles. We write to produce results for our clients.
What should you expect from a discovery call? This is your opportunity to tell your SEO copywriter about your business. Your clients. Your industry vernacular. The tone you want to convey throughout your website. We’re geeks of just the right sort that, when you find the good ones in our herd, we’ll make your site visitors fall in love and stay on the page, digging deeper into your website and driving them to the desired action.
What should you be able to give your SEO copywriter on this call? Well, here’s what we ask OUR clients: for each page of your website, what are the THREE most desirable actions you’d like a site visitor to take? Those can be things from calling you, filling out a form, downloading something, making a purchase decision or clicking through to another page. But if you don’t know what you want your site visitors to do when they land, an SEO copywriter isn’t going to be able to create copy to produce the desired results.
Step Two Redux: Your discovery call is your chance to have home court advantage. Download on your SEO copywriter everything they need to have a solid grasp on the look, feel and tone of your project and company. Understand where you want site visitors to go on your site…what you want them to do. Finally, ask about time to first draft and the revisions process, what’s included in the project fee, etc.
***
These are the two most important steps to your SEO copywriting project’s success. Do your home work and help your copywriter understand your company and we’ll take it from there! We find it simple to quote a per-page rate that includes one rough and two rounds of revisions, with a change fee if the keywords change or a page is requested to be modified with more than 30% new content. And please – if you have questions, ask away. We won’t do your project for free, but we’ll help you ask better questions that will make your project, website and company an even greater online success!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

ProBlogger Explains Google Reading Level

by Capability: Mom 
Problogger is a terrific resource that I read to help me figure out what the heck I am doing with my blog. Here they explain how to use a new Google feature called Google Reading Level and how to measure your own blog's reading level.  Basically, you want to be accessible - See how we did below then go to Google Advanced Search and type in your blog (scroll down for reading level) and you are good to go!

Results by reading level for coffee shop bloggers:


Results by reading level for capability mom blog:

Results by reading level for pragmatic mom blog:

From Problogger: 

Use Google Reading Level to Improve Your Blog Message
This guest post is by Rhys Wynne of the Winwar Media Blog.

Last month, Google launched its new Google Reading Level feature. What this does is algorithmically work out the reading level of the search results, to help users more easily decide which search results to click on.

How is it worked out?

Like everything with Google, I’m not entirely sure how Reading Level is calculated. I do know that teachers were paid to grade web pages, and an algorithm was worked out using that data.


Read the full post from Problogger here.

I am off to try an app, review a book, write an article, assess a volunteer opportunity, walk the dog, write a post about CoCoCozy, head to the store for storm provisions and make dinner for a friend. What does your day look like?