Posts Categorized: Blogging

7 Ways To Spring Clean Your Blog (Swiffer Not Required)

spring clean blog

There’s nothing like the smell of fresh grass and new flowers to make you take a second look at your web presence, right?

No?  Well, realistically, those smells make me want to shut my laptop for three weeks and run around like this.

Regardless!  Let’s use this time of fresh beginnings to give our online spaces a little sprucing up.  

1. Find and fix any broken links on your site
There are tons of different apps and websites that will trawl your website for broken links, my favorite is Linkchecker.  It’s free and incredibly extensive and perfect if you, like me, have a five-year-old blog with thousands of archived posts and a gajillionty outgoing links.

If you’ve got a ‘younger’ website or hate downloading things, check out Broken Link Check.

2. Awesome-i-fy and promote your best posts
Did you write a really funny, helpful post in 2009 about how to go vegetarian without alienating everyone?  Back when no one was reading your blog?  Find a gorgeous, engaging creative commons photo, make a few edits to the copy to make the post more readable, and then schedule some tweets in Hootsuite to promote that high-quality vintage content.

3. Get real headshots
Your headshots needn’t make you look like a news anchor.  And you don’t have to spend a million dollars.  I got 15 headshots for less than $200!  If that’s still too rich for your blood, Craigslist is full of young photographers looking to expand their portfolios.

4.  Edit your e-products and re-write your sales copy
I’ve written three ebooks. Since I wrote them, my design skills (and the standards expected of ebooks) has increased dramatically.  Maybe the same goes for you?  A month ago I totally redesigned my ebook Smart + Sassy + Solo: Adventures in Lady Travel.  I got testimonials from 10 new readers and totally revamped the sales page.  When I first redid that sales page I’d keep going back and looking at it - just like you do after you get a new haircut!

5.  Schedule out a bunch of tweets to promote your stuff
Got a newsletter?  Write five different tweets promoting your newsletter and linking to the registration page - then schedule those tweets to go up once a day for a month. Same goes for your products, services, or any events you’re leading!

6. Fancy-fy your ‘best posts’ page
When I did this to my ‘greatest hits’ page I became convinced that I was “good at computers.” Obviously, you can fancy-fy in a way that works for you, but I think something that’s image-based (rather than a collection of blog titles) is much more engaging.

7.  Create a ‘Freebies’ page
You’ve probably created some free downloads, a few free samples, some mini ebooks, right? Don’t let them gather dust in your archives!  Make them shiny and pretty and put them all together in one handy place.  (Here are mine!)

What are you doing to clean up your online space this spring?

How To Get More Blog Advertisers + Keep ‘Em Happy Once You Get Them

After 5+ years of blogging, I’m finally (finally, finally) making actual money selling ad space on my blog
.  Sometimes I make enough to cover my rent!  It took me a looooooong time to figure out how to do this.  I coordinate all the ads myself -I’m not part of an ad network, I don’t use Google ad words, and I’ve been known to turn down advertisers that I don’t think are good fit.  If that sounds like something you’re into - read on!  If not, I’ve heard good things about Passionfruit Ads.

Include your advertisers in an actual blog post
This is the biggest thing you can do to keep your advertisers happy, drive traffic to their blogs, and keep them coming back for more.  70% of my blog readership (7,000+ people!) read Yes and Yes through an RSS feed, which means they don’t even see the ads on my sidebar.  It seems unethical to charge people for a space that most readers don’t see!  So each sponsor that buys a 220×100 ad space is included in a monthly sponsor post.  Each sponsor shares three photos, links to three of their favorite posts/products, and up to five social media profiles.  These sponsor posts go up on Saturday (a ‘slow’ internet day) so readers are happy to see fresh reading material and my sponsors get lots of traffic.  Win/win!

Mention them on Twitter
If you include your sponsors in a post, @mention them on Twitter and let them know!  You’re giving them an opportunity to retweet the link (so their followers will visit your site), you’re showing them that you take their sponsorship seriously, and you’re introducing them to your Twitter followers (who might be different than your blog readers.)

If you don’t include sponsors in a blog post, you could tweet a link to one of their best posts and send them traffic that way.

Let them (or encourage them to!) change their ad images each month
Blog readers can get ‘ad blindness’, so switching up the ad images increases the likelihood that someone will click on their ad.  It also keeps your sidebar looking so fresh and so clean, clean.

Remind them when their space is about to expire and offer them a price break if they renew
When my sponsors sign up, I set a Google reminder for when their ad will expire.  A few days before it expires, I email them, thank them for their time on Yes and Yes and offer them a price break if they renew their ad space.  Lots of people forget when their ad spaces run out and would be happy to re-up if we remind them about it!

Remind your readers each month that you’re taking new sponsors
At the end of each month, I remind my readers that I’m taking on new sponsors.  I include my prices, traffic stats, testimonials and I usually include a funny or inspiring video at the top of the post so even if someone’s not interested in sponsorship, they’ll enjoy the blog post.

Offer different sizes and types of advertising
Different advertisers have different needs and you’ll get more advertisers if you can meet those needs.

I offer:
300×60 ad space
not included in the sponsor post

300×100 ad space
included in post with other sponsors
post tagging for SEO purposes
@mention on Twitter
160×160 freebie or discount ad in newsletter

300×300 ad space
top of ad column
post tagging for SEO purposes
individual sponsored post
5 links in sponsored post
160×160 freebie or discount ad in newsletter

This way I can help out everyone from fledgling bloggers with a tiny budget to fashion labels who want to sell cute dresses to my readers.

Get testimonials from your satisfied advertisers
Every few months email your previous advertisers and ask them about their experience advertising on your site.  How much traffic did they get?  How many more Facebook fans?  How many people signed up for their email list?  Include those testimonials (along with headshots of the advertisers and links to their sites) on your sponsorship page.

When someone does you a favor and you can’t pay them, offer them ad space instead
Maybe you’re having a tough time finding sponsors.  Or you want someone to guest post for you/photograph some stuff for you/fill out a long survey for you.   Offer them ad space on your site!  It’ll help fill out that sidebar and keep you from being one of those jerks who expects things for free.

Whew!  Tell me about your experiences with blog advertising - as either an advertiser or ad space provider!

How To Befriend Bloggers

The story of one toy -

I thought, for a bit, that I should really title this post ‘How To Network With Bloggers’ - because, you know, SEO and what not.  But the word ‘networking’ feels intimidating and overwhelming and slightly gross.  Eating subpar appetizers while someone shoves their business card in my face and shrieks their elevator pitch?  No.  Sharing super useful advice/client referrals/traffic/cream cheese wontons with someone who I connect with, like, AS A HUMAN BEING?  Yes.

Really?  Networking is mostly just making friends.  And if you approach it as such (and think about what you can bring to the table, rather than what you can get from an interaction) you’ll be befriending bloggers left, right, and all over Twitter.

If there are any bloggers you’d like to collaborate with/pitch/take to coffee, here are a few things that you should do before you drop into their inbox.

* Leave productive, smart, helpful comments on their blog
No matter how big and famous they are, bloggers read their comments and if you’re regularly saying awesome things, they’ll start to remember you.  Of course, some blogs and posts engender better commentary - it’s hard to leave a mind-blowing comment on an outfit post.  But personal essays, tutorials, or thought-provoking posts are an opportunity to chime in.

Also:  make sure that the icon that shows up when you leave a comment matches the headshot on your blog and the icon for your Twitter profile, otherwise it’ll be hard for the blogger to recognize you.

* Interact with them on Twitter
Respond to the comments, answer their questions, ask them questions, send them links you think they’d like.  Just the same way you’d do with a friend.

* If you like something they did, link to it
We’ve talked about how oddly successful/useful link round ups can be.  Readers love ’em,  they’re a great way to share a bit of traffic love with bloggers you like, and if you’re one of those people who doesn’t like writing, they’re a clever way of creating content without writing 500 words.  When you include someone in a link round up, make sure to @mention them on Twitter so they’ll know you’re talking about them.

If you don’t have a blog, tweet links to bloggers’ content or retweet their links.

* Share things you think they’d like
My readers know my painfully, awkwardly well.  Three different people sent me a link to this inflatable cat unicorn headband and two people sent me links to Macklemore’s Thriftshop song.   And I loved it.  And I totally remember who sent me those links.   Don’t be afraid to reach out to the people you like and admire with information that you think they’d find helpful.

* If you’re going to pitch them, triple check that what you’re pitching is a good fit 
Do they host guest posts?  Do they offer giveaways?  What is the monetary value of those giveaways?  Do they review products?  Do they use c/o items in their outfits posts?  It would be a pity to waste your time (and theirs) crafting the perfect pitch email and then sending it to the wrong person or the wrong type of blog.

* Avoid doing any of these annoying things
Just like in real life, sometimes friendship is about Not Being Annoying.  I promise I’ll pay you that money I owe you, I won’t share that secret with So-and-so, and I won’t have four drinks when I promised to be the designated driver.

Here are some things you should avoid doing:
- Misspelling their name
- Sending them a template email
- Asking them about anything you could google
- Asking them to locate a post they wrote
- Writing an email that is more than two paragraphs long

I’d love to hear from you, bloggers!  How do you like to be treated?  How do you network and befriend other bloggers?  Small businesses, tell us about your interactions with bloggers!

photo by  // cc

How To Juggle A Blog + A Freelance Career + A Day Job + Life

Dear Sarah,
I am right now working on my own website and trying to cobble together a little freelance writing business. I was just wondering if you could speak to HOW YOU DO ALL THE THINGS? And HOW YOU DID ALL THOSE THINGS WHILE ALSO WORKING FULL-TIME?  I frequently look over my To Do List and there’s like eleventy jillion things on it. I mean, writing that list is exhausting enough. And then DOING it? And THEN trying to get clients to find me, let alone HIRE ME?!
- Lauren

Oh, girl.  I hear you.  For those of you who don’t know, when I first started Yes and Yes, I worked full time as an ESL teacher.  Back then I taught, blogged seven days a week, and took freelance clients.  Now I ‘just’ blog seven days a week and take freelance clients.  It’s way easier.  Here are some of the things I’ve learned along the way.

Write less, promote more
I blog seven days a week because I have So Many Things To Talk About, but you totally don’t need to! Set an editorial calendar (Tuesday and Thursdays at 6 am, for example) and stick to it.  Write two great blog posts each week and then promote the sweet bejesus out of them.  Because of the way we use Twitter, it’s possible to tweet about something three times a day for four days without anyone really noticing or getting annoyed.  But!  Make sure you’re writing different tweets each time.  This will keep your Twitter stream fresh and will attract different readers.

Stop writing everything on your blog yourself
On Yes and Yes, I have four post series that I don’t write myself - True Story interviews, Real Life Style Icons, Mini Travel Guides, and the occasional guest post.  And on this blog, I also host guest posts and will start doing interviews soon.  These posts cross pollinate my readers with my guest posters’ readers, bring in fresh content, and save me tons and tons of time.

Also!  If you write a blog post for someone else and it works with the content of your blog, re-post it on your blog a few months after they’ve used it as a guest post.  Of course, include a little intro noting that it was originally a guest post for So-and-So and that your readers should really go check out their blog.

Schedule everything
Devote a few hours at the beginning of the month to scheduling.  Write and schedule the blog posts for your own blog.  Schedule client invoices.  Use Hootsuite to schedule Twitter and Facebook updates.  If your email host offers the option (mine does) schedule emails to clients.   I love being able to schedule things months into the future and then forget about them.  Life changing.

Create boundaries
If you live with roommates or have a partner, make sure they understand what you’re trying to accomplish with your freelance career.  Don’t let them guilt trip you into a night out when you’ve got a deadline.  Don’t tolerate any “You’re no fuuuuuunnn!” BS.  Create a set of ‘collaboration guidelines’ for any on-going clients.  Mine are: limit emails to 2 a day, no unscheduled phone calls, pay 100% up front till we’ve worked together for three months.  Of course, make sure your client tells you how they work best as well, so you don’t seem like a terrible prima donna!

Get seriously productive
Make lists, use the Pomodoro technique, download Leechblock.  Turn off your phone and gchat.  If you remember an important task and it’ll take less than five minutes, just do it now.  It’s worth freeing up that brain space so you can stop thinking “Oh, right!  I have to remember to send a follow up email to that editor!”

Realize you’ll have to make sacrifices
Know that in order to make this happen, you’ll have to miss some parties.  You might have to pull some all-nighters.  Maybe you’ll have to give up your $5 coffees.  For the first two years of Yes and Yes, I spent every lunch hour, every weekday, networking with other bloggers.  That’s 45 minutes a day, 5 days a week, for 2 years.   If my math is right, that’s 375 hours that I did NOT spend picnicing in the park or trying the good Thai place down the street.   But now I get to picnic all I want!

Cut a few corners now and then
You’re going to be really busy getting your career going.  That doesn’t mean you should drop out of the rest of your life, but it does mean you might have to cut some corners.  Buy something at the deli to bring to the potluck, buy gift cards in bulk for Christmas, buy a case of wine so you won’t have to stop at the liquor store every time you’re invited to a dinner party.  Resist the urge to drink all the wine yourself.

Remember that you have a life outside of work - and your work will probably suffer if you drop out of your life
As busy as you are, make time for your friends + family + partner.  Get outside.  Unplug.  Go to art galleries and concerts and costume parties and stupid movies.  If you don’t give yourself a chance to recharge, you won’t have any energy to take over the world.

How do you guys juggle it all?  Any apps/platforms/techniques I’m missing?

P.S. Did you know that when you sign up for my newsletter and send me your URL, I’ll give your site a once over and send you three, specific-to-you suggestions to make your online space more polished, trafficked, and money-making?

original image (without text on top) by art photos diana, for sale here.

5 Things To Do Before You Launch Your Blog

A version of this post appeared on the Small Business Bonfire blog. Pop over and paw through their archives for tons of great info!

If you’re looking to launch a sweet, personal blog in which you post photos of your cat and cocktail recipes
a) please send me the link so I can read it
b) disregard this post because this ish is for Serious Small Business Blogs

With that said, here are five things you can do to make sure your business’s blog launch goes off without a hitch, gets lots of return traffic, and is professional + polished like whoa.

1. Create a backlog of content that corresponds with your posting schedule
Because you know that posting consistently is really important, you decided you’ll be posting twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, at 6 am.  Before you even tell anyone about your blog, you should create the equivalent of a month’s worth of posts and backdate them appropriately.  In this case, you’d write eight blog posts and backdate them for the previous Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Why?  Once you announce to your friends + family + customers that you have a blog you’ll have a big ol’ traffic spike as everyone pokes around your site.  And you want to make sure that there’s plenty of content for them to read.  And you want them to think “My goodness but she is a reliable + professional individual!  I bet if I hired her, she’d do a great job!”

2. Schedule at least a month’s worth of posts
Life happens.  You might get busy or uninspired and you’ll feel way, way better if you know you’ve got at least a month’s worth of editorial buffer.  And you want to retain the trust you’ve built with your readers by continuing to post regularly.

3.  Make sure your social media profiles are as awesome as possible
When you tell everyone about your blog, you’ll inevitably get new Facebook and Twitter followers as well.  Are your profiles up to snuff?  Do your Facebook and Twitter profile photos match?  Are you using the new Twitter layout?  Have you added apps and custom app icons to your Facebook page?  Do you have a custom background on your Twitter page?  Do your social media icons match?  Are they easy to find on your blog page?

4.  Write an email to introduce your blog to everyone you know
I know it’s hard to resist the siren song of ‘BCC all’ but this is a situation where personalized emails work wonders.  At the very, very, very least create a different email template for your friends + family, for professional peers, and for present/former clients.  Alex Franzen includes a great script for launches in her Five Scripts To Fill Your Client Docket ebook.

5. Make sure your professional goals are reflected in your blog content
Well, that’s a big one, isn’t it?  Before you started on this road to bloggery, surely you had a big think about what you wanted to accomplish, right? RIGHT?  If you want to sell more products, write promotional posts that don’t feel gross.   If you want to get hired for speaking gigs, post vlogs in which you are painfully articulate and clever.  If you want to be viewed as an expert in your field, write crazy helpful tutorials.

You’ve got a bit of work ahead of you, but if you can tick off this checklist, you’ll have a blog worth sticking around for.

What did you do before you launched your blog? Tell us in the comments - let’s build this list!

P.S. Did you know that when you sign up for my newsletter and send me your URL, I’ll give your site a once over and send you three, specific-to-you suggestions to make your online space more polished, trafficked, and money-making?

original image (without text on on top) from NASA Goddard Space Flight, for viewing here

How To Blog If You Don’t Like Writing

I originally wrote this for the Vianza blog.  Vianza is a platform that connects designers + wholesalers + retailers and removes approximately 99% of the stress and hassle of doing business.  Check out their blog for super helpful small business tips!

So we’ve established that your business probably needs a blogBut what if you don’t actually, um, like writing?

 Fear not, friend!  There are ways around it!  A few tips and tricks:

 1) Realize that your posts need not be Shakespeare
Grammatically correct? Yes.  Accompanied by attractive visuals?  Yes. Of a readable length with easily scannable bits?  Yes.  Pulitzer-worthy prose?  No.   Really, there are some very, very successful bloggers who are (in my opinion) non-awesome writers.  But they’ve got gorgeous photos, their lovely personalities come through in their writing, and the information they’re sharing is helpful and useful!  Done and done. Write the way you talk, be conscious of spelling and grammar mistakes, and be brave enough to try.  That’s about it.

 2) Podcasts
If you’re funny and articulate with a great speaking voice, podcasts should be your jam.  You can natter away on your topic of choice for 15-30 minutes, edit it a bit in Audacity (free!  easy to use!), write up a wee summary and, voila!  Blog post!

 3) Image-heavy posts
This method is best for certain types of businesses - photographers, designers, style or fashion-related businesses, etc.  Probably not a headhunter.  Or a life coach.  But if your business is image-based, your readers want to see what you’re up to!  So use Picmonkey (also easy! also free!) to create a nice layout of that kitchen you redecorated/that wedding you shot/the fabric for your next line and then add 100 words explaining the project and you’re done.

 4) Product round ups
If you’re a consultant or own a shop that carries multiple products that address specific needs, your readers and customers would probably love a roundup of this-is-life-changing-you-have-to-buy-it products. If you’re a interior decorator, how about your favorite wallpapers? Or colorful throw rugs?  These posts only require a short intro and product description.

 5) Videos
If you like podcasts (and you don’t mind seeing yourself on camera) vlogs can be a great option.  And they don’t even have to crazy professional!  JennaMarbles has made an entire career out of super funny but not-particularly-polished Youtube videos.  Marie Forleos blog consists exclusively of super professional, once-a-week videos.  Both approaches work!

 6) For the advanced: hire a Virtual Assistant
If your hourly rate is more than $50 and you really, really, really hate writing, it might be worth your time to hire a Virtual Assistant with writing chops.  You can record your thoughts or dictate a blog post and then have your VA transcribe it and shape it into a blog post.  How fancy!

Do any of your really, really hate writing?  How have you managed while having a blog?

image by life refocused, for sale here

3 Self-Promotional Blog Posts That Don’t Feel Gross

I originally wrote this as a guest post for the awesome Michelle Ward, of When I Grow Up fame.  Pop over and check out her blog full of helpful, crazy useful posts about business, self-employment, and dream fulfillment.

Promoting Yourself Online

You’re a clever, engaged, self-starting type of person.  So you obviously have a blog for your small business or consulting practice.  And you use it to network with your peers, showcase your expertise, and share juicy behind-the-curtain secrets of your work.


You don’t quite know how to actually promote yourself and your goods/services on your blog.  You’ve tried and it just comes out sounding like hard-sell malarkey.  Which is totally not your jam.

No worries!  Here are three ideas for blog posts that will promote you + your stuff without making you blush.

1. The ‘Why I Charge This Much’ Post (For: Everyone)
Gosh, but we all love transparency.  And we love it even more when it comes from someone whose prices are a bit more than we’re used to paying.  But the general public doesn’t understand the scope of the work that goes into photographing a wedding/sewing a dress/creating a logo.  Share your work process, your time frame, and – most importantly – all the benefits they reap from working with you.

 2. The ‘How This Works’ Post (For: Coaches, therapists, consultants)
If someone hasn’t worked with a coach or consultant before, the entire process can be really intimidating and weird.  “Do we just talk on the phone?  What’s the deal with this group class?  How is this different than talking to my best friend?”

Ask a favorite client if you can record – either on video or audio – one of your sessions.  Potential customers can see and hear how the sessions work and witness first hand exactly how awesome you are.

3.  The ‘These Are My Products In Action’ Post (For: Everyone)
People want to know that if they’re giving your their hard earned money, they’re going to look amazing/find their dream job/have a perfectly organized closet.  Of course, you have a testimonials page that says all that, but photos and links speak louder than adjectives.

If you’re a fashion label that specializes in easy-wear dresses, assemble a photo post of customers wearing your dresses while traveling.  If you’re a dating coach, you could craft a post filled with photos of happy couples you helped unite.  Designer?  You need a post of your five most recent logo designs.  A business consultant can write a post devoted to all her clients’ new offerings and business accomplishments.  And as always: add a call to action at the end of the post, linking to your services page.  But you already knew that, right?

See?  That wasn’t too painful or embarrassing, was it?  Now get out there and start (classily, cleverly) self-promoting!

How do you promote your products + offerings in a way that doesn’t feel gross? Tell me the comments - we’d all benefit from sharing our best stuff!

P.S. Did you know that when you sign up for my newsletter and send me your URL, I’ll give your site a once over and send you three, specific-to-you suggestions to make your online space more polished, trafficked, and money-making?

image by Black Apple, for sale here