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


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?


photo by collin anderson, cc

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 up 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 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:
220×60 ad space
not included in the sponsor post

220×100 ad space
included in post with other sponsors
post tagging for SEO purposes
@mention on Twitter

220×220 ad space
top of ad column
post tagging for SEO purposes
individual sponsored post
5 links in sponsored post
4 tweets
1 Facebook post

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 Create A Style Guide For Your Blog

Sarah is a web designer and aerialist living in metro-Detroit.  She writes about her adventures as a circus performer, her design inspiration and answers your web design & blogging questions.  You can befriend her on Facebook and Twitter.

Did you ever notice that most magazines use the same fonts, colors, page layouts and design elements in every issue? They have what’s called a Style Guide, which dictates an over-all look and feel for the magazine. The photos and text change, but the details stay the same. This is why when you open Bust, you know it’s Bust and when you open Vogue, you know it’s Vogue.


Here’s how to create a style guide for your website…

Choose an image style
Will your images be square? Have rounded corners? What filters will you use? My photos are either rectangle or a circle and I use Pioneer Woman’s Seventies action (at about 50% opacity) or Valencia in Instagram.

Pick your fonts
Choose a few fonts and stick with specific sizes & font weights throughout your entire blog. This means your sidebar, pages, posts and photos should all use the same set of fonts. On my blog I use Open Sans for titles, Habibi for text and The Only Exception for details.

Create templates for sidebar items, posts titles and photo captions
Once I’ve nailed down a style that matches my current design, I create a template in Photoshop. It’s much easier to just drag in the new photo than try to remember what size fonts I used every time.


Add the details
Bust Magazine ends every article with a B and many bloggers add a hand-written signature to the end of each post. On my blog I use straight lines to divide text, bold coral boxes for important information and 8px white lines to separate photos.

Blogs with consistent style
Breanna Rose uses photo collages with color & pattern blocks, small titles on photos, pastels & lighter tones / Ciera Design uses short photos with bold text for titles, text in bright boxes, uppercase section headers, teal + chartreuse + orange / Alex Beadon uses bold titles on self portraits and one of four colors for each post /  Honest Fare uses the same layout + green background for each recipe and photos almost always taken from over head

Are you consistent with the style of your blog or website?

8 Things Clever Bloggers Might Want To Read

Clever, helpful links!  Useful information that will help you kick ass on the internet, make more money, make internet friends, and navigate the world of social media!

Want to do one of those posts where your readers upload links directly into your post?  Here’s the widget you need.

There are a gajillion marketing strategies.  How do you find the right one(s) for your business?  Here’s some great advice.
Your marketing strategy should be about building trust, credibility and visibility for your brand, by reaching the right audience, understanding the existing needs and interests within that segment, and clearly communicating the value of what you have to offer … But not every strategy is appropriate for every business, and it does take some trial and error to nail down the ones that will yield the best results from your time and investment.

Great advice on branding your blog.

Want to see what’s getting pinned from your blog?

20 (!) ways to get people to link to your site or blog post.

A game to help you manage your email.

Need some productivity inspiration?  Here’s how Tim Ferriss works.
What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else? What’s your secret?
Saying “no” to things. I have a not-to-do list, which allows me to get more done than my to-do list. Second, I drink a LOT of yerba mate tea, preferably Cruz de Malta (con palo). Useful for 10pm-5am writing marathons on a deadline. My constant late-night companions are Casino Royale and Shawn of the Dead on repeat.

If you’re redesigning your website and need some visual inspiration, check out siteInspire.  

Leave any great links in the comments!

awesome otter-with-a-laptop image by Georgia Dunn Studio, for sale here 


How To Make Your Blog Look Professional (Without Going Broke)

A version of this post appeared on my blog Yes and Yes in 2012.


Now, I cannot claim to be an expert - I’m a writer, not a designer. But a significant amount you see on my blog (my ebooks, my travel photo layouts) has been my doing. Soooo, if you don’t find those things eye-searingly ugly, you can take the following pieces of advice.

Note, I cannot promise that these tips will make your blog capitol B Beautiful. But they will definitely make it way, way less ‘homemade looking’

*Accompany each post with an image - preferably an awesome one
Nothing makes a blog post pop like an awesome photo. Where do you find ‘em? Take them yourself or have a dig through Flickr creative commons! Or read Kyla’s awesome post on photo sourcing ethics and shortcuts.

* Resize photos so they’re the same width as your text column
Your awesome image doesn’t look nearly as awesome when it’s tiny and floating above a giant sea of text. Make your image the same width as your text column, forpetessake! You can do this by going into the html or by resizing them in Picmonkey.

* Full-justify your text column
I used to write for a newspaper so I am a diehard fan of full justification. That doesn’t mean supporting every stance you take (though you totally should). That means that the edges of your text column is straight on both sides. If your text column is ‘left justified’ it’ll be ‘ragged’ on the right side.

If you’re using Blogger, the justification icon is the ninth in from the the right on your posting dashboard and looks like a bunch of lines. You want to choose the one that looks like a square box made up of lines.

* Find an an awesome template/theme
There’s no excuse for using ready-made templates when there are approximately a million resources for free, fancy looking templates. Behold! Blogger templates, WordPress templates, Tumblr templates.

 * Resize the buttons on your sidebar so they’re all the same size
So you want to promote the blogs you love by adding their buttons to your sidebar. Aren’t you sweet? But, if you’ve got ten different buttons of differing sizes, things can get a bit hodge-podgey. Resize the buttons in Picmonkey and you’re good to go!

* Use social media icons that match the rest of your theme
If you’re rocking a mono-chromatic blog, an orange RSS button or a blue Twitter bird can look a bit out of place. Never fear, there are 8 million different social media icons you can use! Or if you prefer, you can spell out the social media platforms and create your own buttons.

* Resist the urge to over-design
Chevron squiggles and textures and shadowed fonts, oh my! Once you discover the wonderful world of templates and photo editing it can be a slippery slope down to this. Resist the urge, my friends! You are stronger than the gif! Some of the most gorgeous blogs on the internet are also the most simple.

 * Remove any of the following
(These are my personal design pet-peeves, so feel free to disregard if you feel I’m a Snotty So-and-so)

* Auto-playing music
* Gifs
* Pop-ups
* White font on a black background
* Anything that scrolls across the screen
* Blog posts with centered text

 * Use some of these awesome tools/platforms/websites
Picmonkey - edit photos, add text and stickers, all without signing up for anything or downloading anything
Pugly Pixel - tons of free and cheap downloads
Gimp - like, Photoshop. But free. And not as good.
Color Lovers - color trends and palettes

Now you! Share your favorite design shortcuts and tools!

piggy bank for sale here

4 Ways to Reboot Your Business After a Break

This guest post comes to us via Maria Ross, chief brand strategist and creator of Red Slice, a digital elixir of stories and strategies to boost your business, your brand, and your brain. Want more exposure, customers and brand buzz for your biz? Maria’s got you covered with her new Small Business Brand Bootcamp.

New baby. Extended sabbatical. Major health crisis. Six months abroad…heck, years abroad.  People ebb and flow out of big organizations without a peep. But when you’re a business of one – or even five – who’s left steering the brand awareness ship while you go island hopping?

I had my major health crisis just six months after launching my own consulting business. You know what happened? Well, for one thing, time did not implode upon itself – everything that seemed urgent faded away, as it should. While I did miss a conference call the day after my brain aneurysm ruptured (I bet the client never thought they’d hear that excuse from my husband), the world did not end. But practically speaking, the blog went cold, the networking ceased and the cacophony of market noise enveloped my absence like a black hole. In the blink of an eye, my business profile faded.

So how is it that almost 5 years later, my business is thriving more than it ever has? How is it that I had the best business year financially not long after I fell into the void?

If you have to take a voluntary – or unexpected – break from your business, here are four tips that served me well in cranking up the brand awareness engine again. These are also useful if you simply need to revive your personal brand after a long absence.

Rev up your blogging
When you emerge from your cocoon, one of the few things you have in your control is the ability to add useful content to the world again. And besides, perhaps your client work is dried up for now so what else have you got to do? Build out a new editorial calendar and maybe amp up your blogging for the time being. Maybe you normally blog once a week, so increase that to twice. Make your content super useful, super sexy and super keyword-rich so you can get back on the web radar again. Combine this with sending out a few Tweets and Facebook updates about your latest post and you can boost your exposure efforts.

Jump into the online conversation
Again, you can control your content output, so leverage all those great new blog posts in online forums or communities like Biznik, LinkedIn, or Bizhive– or whatever industry-specific places reign supreme for you. Start commenting on relevant blogs or articles on a consistent basis to raise your profile again. Just target 3 per day for about 30 minutes each day. Or maybe pitch a few contributed articles to media outlets like American Express Open Forum or Entrepreneur.com for even more exposure and street cred.

Invite key people to your welcome back party
When I returned from my hiatus, I reached out to several colleagues with phone calls or personalized emails letting them know where I’d been and that I was up to my old tricks again and ready for action. You may think people know what’s going on with you but really, they don’t. They are too busy. Reach out individually to trusted contacts via email or Linked In and take them out for coffee to let them know what type of business you are looking for and kindly ask if they can spread the word for you. Don’t be afraid to ask “competitors” as well – they might be so busy that they are turning folks away so you can help them out, and maybe give them a referral fee in exchange. And always ask how you can help in return. People are kinder than you think – and it’s a great way to reconnect.

Get out there live and in person
Pick 2-3 key networking groups or clubs and start amping up your face time again. Attend lunches, happy hours, book signings. When I was returning to work after my health issues, this was quite a challenge for me as I was still recovering and suffering from massive fatigue – plus I couldn’t drive at the time. But I forced myself to try to go to one live event per week. And I asked gracious friends to chauffer me. They were only too happy to help, since they didn’t want to go alone either!

There are some people on the periphery of my professional circle who did not even realize I had been out of commission for six months – not sure if that’s good or bad! But it tells me that I did a good job of staying connected and trying to be as present as I could.

What other tips have worked for you when revving up your business after a long break?

Maria’s killer Indie Brand Bootcamp that helps you create an irresistible brand so you attract more of the right people with less wasted effort.  

clock photo (without the text on top) by letters to brenda, for sale here

7 Posts To Read If You Want To Kick Ass On The Internet

Did you know there are lots of people (I mean, in addition to me) who are writing helpful, smart, awesome articles about internet and business awesome-ry?  Truth. Here are seven fantastic posts I happened upon recently.

Braid creative shares two quick, easy ways to shape up your online content.

Note to self: work on your media kit.  Here’s a great post on why you need one and what it should include.

Want people to pin more images from your blog or website? Here’s how to make your images more Pinterest friendly.

Soooooo much advice!  Some of it’s incredibly basic but even I learned a few things - 15 (!) Pinterest  boards for blogging.  

If you want to read Actual Books: 5 great books about blogging.

Whoa.  13 articles about goal setting for your business.

Evidence that you don’t need a gajillin dollar photo studio to take great product shots: Iphone + Picmonkey = Awesome Product Shots.

Have you read (or written!) anything particularly helpful in the last few weeks? Leave links in the comments!

image by Nat Smith Illustration - for sale here

3 Blog Post Ideas You Might Not Have Thought Of

Suffering from writer’s block?  Or blogger’s block?  Fear not!  Here are three clever blog post ideas to get your creative juices a ‘flowing.

1. Interview other people in your field
Are you a graphic designer?  Interview other graphic designers.   Health coach?  Talk to a raw vegan chef.  Stylist?  Interview someone at your favorite fashion label.  Just make sure to include lots of photos, keep the post to 300ish words, and ask them questions that will elicit really useful or interesting answers.  When I interview my Real Life Style Icons I always ask them about their favorite fashion-related childhood memory and their three best style tips. Of course, @mention your interviewees on Twitter so they can promote the interview if they want to.

2. (Number) ways to (verb) (noun)
5 ways to style our polka dotted cardigan!  7 ways to use our app!  10 ways to cook with our olive oil!   3 ways to decorate with our bunting!
You get the idea.

3. Show us that you’re on trend
Did you just launch a line of chevron patterned dresses?  Show us other chevron patterned goods.  Your boutique just started selling goats’ milk soap?  Show us other cute goat-y stuff. You’re launching a new series of yoga classes?  Tell us about cute yoga gear and link to other people who are writing about yoga.  As always, @mention anyone you link to.

Share your post ideas with us in the comments!

print by irena sophia, for sale here

Business Planning Made Simple

This guest post comes to us from Michelle, a project + operations wrangler for creative businesses, who also writes & teaches about productivity, organization, & systems (that don’t suck) for creatives.  Find her on the web at Bombchelle or on Twitter

The topic of business planning can be really intimidating for creative types-there’s a lot of information to cover, and most of it out there is based from a very “traditional” point of view (brick and mortar businesses, or startups seeking funding), rather than advice intended for the global, team-of-one business model that’s becoming more and more common.

But it doesn’t have to be that way! I’ll help you break it down so that you can have a business plan that works for you & doesn’t make you so overwhelmed you want to cry every time you look at it.

Keep it Lightweight
One piece of advice that flies in the face of traditional business planning advice: do not look too far into the future. Especially for businesses that function online, there are so many things about the landscape changing and shifting, that to bank on any one thing continuing to function the way it currently does forever would be…not a great idea.

Instead, I usually aim for the following:

● A pretty solid plan for the next three months - maybe not down to the last detail, but stopping just shy of that
● A plan for the next six months that’s about 75% solid with some wiggle room for new opportunities
● After that, a plan that’s 40-50% solid with more wiggle room so that you can add or subtract things as you try them out or discover one thing works really well or what have you
● A pie-in-the sky plan for the next 3-5 years (I usually refer to this as my “big vision”)

Just thinking of it this way alone takes a lot of the weight off for many creatives - if you don’t feel like making plans automatically means you’re stifled, then you’re not going to avoid making plans any more.

Have Some Standards!
Okay, maybe not standards, but priorities. Looking at where you want to be in the next 12 months or so, figure out what your top three priorities are. These priorities are going to depend on a lot of different things - how well your business is currently doing, if you’re still working your day job and want to quit, how much of a cushion you have, etc.

For example, the priorities for one person who got laid off before she could transition out of her day job slowly are going to be different from the priorities of someone who has a day job that they don’t mind and that they can go to part time at. Making money quickly is likely to be much higher up on the list of priorities for person #1.

Think about things like what kind of work you want to be doing more or less of, how you want to be spending your work-time, how much you want to be working, and so on.

Know What You’re Currently Doing
Now that you’ve got some priorities and a plan to guide your way and make sure you’re on the right track, you’re going to take an inventory of what you’re working on right now and see where everything falls. Over the course of a day or two, make a list of all of the business related activities you do regularly - whether that’s writing blog posts, using Twitter or Facebook, interviewing people, or what have you.

Once you’ve got your list, divide the things you’re currently doing into two categories:

● Keep doing. This is pretty simple - these are activities you enjoy doing, that support your three priorities.
● Stop doing. I’m going to encourage you to be a little ruthless with this category - there are a lot of things we’re told we should do as business owners that we feel like we have to, even if they don’t actually help us out at all. If a particular marketing method doesn’t work for you, then don’t do it! If you don’t enjoy working with people a particular way, stop it. And if an action doesn’t support your three priorities you’ve already decided on, definitely cut it out.

And then create a third category: start doing. After you decide what you’re going to stop doing & what you want to keep doing, you’ll likely notice there’s some holes - like, oh hey, if part of my big vision is to become a published author, I need to make sure I’m writing on a regular basis.

Once you create a list of things you need to start doing, add them into your life one by one (or all at once, if it won’t overwhelm you!). I’d recommend giving yourself a date to start each activity by so that you can hold yourself accountable, but you might not find it necessary.

Come Back for a Checkup
Now that you’ve gone through this process once, you need to make sure you’re doing some version of it on a regular basis. I know, I know - but the time & effort of spending five or ten minutes once a week, or fifteen minutes once a month, making sure that you’re still on track and that you’re staying true to your priorities will pay off a million times in the long run. Part of the reason that we wind up not achieving our goals is because we don’t do check ins - we just want to make grand decisions and plans and resolutions and then sit back without making sure that we’re actually doing regular, consistent work moving towards them. Check ins aren’t the sexy part of the process, but they’re definitely necessary.

Here’s a few ways to make the process more fun:
● Take yourself out! Go to a coffee shop with a pretty notebook that you use for planning and look over everything. Flirt with the barista and buy yourself a frothy drink and make it a fun event instead of a boring one.
● Treat yourself afterwards. Go out for gelato or something else similarly small but treat-y - positive rewards are a popular motivation technique for a reason!
● Have a buddy. This is a win-win - you both get the extra support & accountability that comes from working with a partner.

That’s my basic recipe for fun, un-overwhelming business planning! If you’ve got any questions, hit me up in the comments - I love to answer them (because I am a fantastic nerd). And if you want to learn more about business planning & systems for creatives, sign up for Systems 101, a free four part e-course.

image by chantelle ryter, for sale here

How Do I Write How-Tos + Still Get People To Hire Me?

If you’ve spent any amount of time reading Problogger or Copyblogger or, well, any website that bosses you around about blogging, you know you should be writing advice and how-tos and tutorials on your blog.

There are heaps of reasons that why is a good idea.

* It helps position you as an expert (“I know how to do this and I’ll show you how!”)
* It establishes trust with your readers (“I’m so experienced I can share my knowledge with you!”)
* It builds goodwill with your readers (“I’m sharing useful + valuable information with you because you’re important to me!”)

But. What’s the difference between a great tutorial that gets forwarded around the internet and one that inadvertently teaches your entire readership how to do what you do? And thereby teaches you out of a job?

Good question! Here are two ways to deal with that:

1.  Teach the small, easy, instantly implementable aspects of your field
I can’t teach you how to be an engaging, funny writer in one blog post.  There’s no how-to that will teach fledgling photographers how to capture every beautiful candid moment at a wedding.  But I can tell you five things you should do before you launch your blog.   Sarah can tell you about how to create a style guide for your blog and Alex will tell you about editing beauty shots in Photoshop.

2.  Teach the topics that surround and affect your topic
Let’s say you’re a makeup artist.  You want to be famous for your eyeliner skillz and get hired for photo shoots.  You’re worried that if you create a series of videos teaching people how to do a smoky eye or a beestung lip, they’ll do it themselves and won’t hire you.  So write a series of tutorials about choosing the right makeup for your skin.   Or when to splurge and when to save on beauty products.  You can still teach readers important things about your industry without laying all your proverbial cards on the table.

But before you hoard all that knowledge like a greedy little squirrel, I think it should be said:
Even if you wrote an exhaustive, free ebook that laid out everything you’d learned over the course of your career
Even if you wrote a tutorial for every blessed thing you know how to do

People would probably still hire you to do those things for them.

I know that I could commit to learning HTML and spend months (years?) honing my design eye to redo my own sites.  But honestly?  I’d rather write and consult and pay Kim to code wrangle. I’m pretty sure I could figure out my taxes, but I feel a lot better when Fox Tax does it. People who are serious about their businesses want to bring in an expert to help them. And when you’ve been showing them week after week, month after month, that you know what you’re talking about, you are the one they’re going to want to hire.

Do you write how-tos and tutorials on your blog?  Do you ever worry you’re “giving too much away”?