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What’s Your Blogging Motivation?

When I saw the Ramit Sethi quote below, I laughed very hard and very alone in my office for about five minutes:

For 99% of people, starting a blog is a terrible way to make money. You might as well take your money, shred it, spend a year sewing it back together by hand, and then light it on fire. You will still have saved time and heartache.

I laugh because the imagery is amazing. I also laugh because it’s true… which probably is leading you to say, “Why the heck would I even blog then?”

The money you’ll make blogging, or at least the substantial amount of what you’ll make, won’t be actually on your blog but related to your blog. I’ll get into that a bit later on.bloggingmotivation

Here are three motivations for you to blog:

Motivation 1: Blog because you love to write. 

I started a blog for this very reason. You know when people ask you when you are 9 what you are going to be when you grow up? I always wanted to be a writer.

I was told by a couple ‘important’ people that I wasn’t a good enough writer to be published anywhere. So after a few frustrating attempts to charm the uncharmable in the competitive world of writing (apparently my dream is not very unique), I decided I’d start a blog back in 2007 and write. Write to practice writing, write to learn things, write to meet interesting people, write to get better at websites.

From the stats on this website, I see thousands of people are reading what I have to say. And if I would have listened to those couple important people, I wouldn’t be here today saying it.

So if you want to blog because you are tired of the gatekeepers who tell the world what’s good and not good, blogging is a great project for you. Your writing will be known and someday, you may even get paid to write on other websites.



Motivation 2: Blog because you want to get traffic to your business website.

Let’s say you want more people to come to your website. You can pay thousands of dollars a month for Google Ads, slick SEO dudes in India to do mysterious things for you, and other tactics. But honestly the best thing you can do to get traffic to a website is to have a blog.

Search engines love blogs (this graph via Hubspot):

what-factors-do-you-attribute-to-traffic-increase

People love blogs:

Bloggers love blogs for obvious reasons (I mean basketball players like to watch other people play basketball too, right?). And as someone who regularly follows about 800 blogs, I would say I’m a more ‘heavy’ blog reader than someone who doesn’t blog at all.

So what am I saying with all this? People read blogs and they drive traffic to your website, which gives you an opportunity to make money if you sell things there.



Motivation 3: Blog because you want to be seen as an expert. 

Have you ever walked around talking about how smart you are about, say, growing plants? How did that go for you? I bet if you actually did that, everyone would think you were kind of a jerkface.

Now what if you had a blog with pictures of your tomato plants being taller than your house with interesting ideas for getting rid of slugs? Now that’s much better isn’t it? It’s the antibrag: you just put awesomeness out there and let people find it.

See with a blog, people can see how and if you know your stuff. And since it’s out there working for you 24-7, the blog is introducing people to you that you have never met.

Just last night, I went to a gathering. The friend I went with said that one of the party hosts (who I had never met) has always wanted to meet me. “Like you’re famous or something.” my friend laughed.

That, my friends, is the ‘blog effect’.

Any substantial money most people will make from blogging is indirect. You’ll be hired to speak at conferences or to write for other websites. You’ll sell products on your website or throw together an ebook that people will pay to download. You’ll be seen an an authority on whatever and be hired by people to help them. Yes, it is money you make because you have a blog but not from the actual blog itself.

If you want to pull off enough advertising revenue to impress your grandparents, that will be a long hard road which you may never get to the end of. The most successful blogger I’ve ‘met’ who admitted the truth to me said they made about $11,000 a year off ad revenue from their very popular blog. A nice chunk but not much above the federal poverty line. If you are making about $100/year off your blog, you are considered in the 90th percentile. This is not to discourage you from blogging… just from blogging for this reason.

What is your motivation? If at least one of the above motivations speaks to you, give it a shot. But if you are tempted by the fruit of another motivation, you might just want to look at another way to use your time.



Three Google Analytics Metrics I Care About (And Three I Don’t)

On Facebook awhile back, Breanna asked about reading Google Analytics:

breannaquestion

I’m sure she’d want me to say she sent that from her phone and it typed it for her. She’s normally a very clear sentence writer. But I totally get what she’s saying. And since I’ve never written about it before I thought this would be a good time to do it.

If you have ever looked at Google Analytics, you know it’s enough to be overwhelming. And while I am writing this from my business point of view (year round, service-oriented business not doing ecommerce) it might give you a few good places to think about (or not think about)

Three Metrics I Care About

These are items I look at when I figure out how I should be spending my time.

Social Overview

socialmediagoogleanalytics + Read More

Seasonal Businesses And Social Media

closed-signAbout half our clients are seasonal businesses. This isn’t surprising when you think of the town we are in swelling from its year round population of 5,000 to at least double that for the months of May-October. A coastal town with the second most visited national park in the United States, there are cute shops, ocean views, and as much beautiful nature as you can stand. And most people prefer this in the warmer or foliage changing months.

But after Columbus Day (mid October in the US), about 70-80% of businesses close or open for very limited hours until Memorial Day (in May). Many storefronts are literally boarded up as the seasonal workers leave and the seasonal business owners move south to work another seasonal business or relax post-summer craziness.

Since I am online and local, year round, I do notice a dip in people keeping business social media accounts up-to-date. Most people will post they are closed for the season and not touch their Facebook page, Twitter account or website until they, in April or May the following year, come back and try to get everything ready for the upcoming season.

In general, I have lived here long enough to know not to counter this approach. I have tried doing the ‘let’s get your website ready early’ pitch or holding workshops in February when seasonal business owners are least busy but it seems people aren’t interested.

What I will say though is there is merit if you are a seasonal business to updating your social media profiles year round, even if you do so less often in the winter. Here’s why:

Maintain momentum.

When you update a Facebook page daily (for example) you get a lot more engagement (see 5.95% and 5.26% on the daily one) versus 2.78 and 2.36 percent on the several times a week page, even though the lower engagement one has more then double the fans:

facebookupdatesversusengagement

 

If your page is growing like crazy in the summer, updating it through the winter will sustain growth and keep those fans engaged. (As you can see the more often you do it, the more people see/react to it.)

Let locals know when you’re open.

I got engaged in January. The part of the story I didn’t mention? Driving to FIVE restaurants looking for a place to celebrate and only finding Geddy’s, a dive bar turned tourist trap, open. I am still annoyed at the two restaurants whose Facebook pages I checked (their hours on Facebook said open but hadn’t been posted to in about a month. We had figured one of the two would actually be open!)

If you want more locals to come in (and recommend your place to their friends who visit in the summer), seem like you’re open on social media, especially in the offseason. There are plenty of times I would have cleaned off my car of snow and drove into town if I knew that more than Geddy’s was open, not just that particular evening.

Promote your online store or virtual events.

While your storefront might be closed, winter is the perfect time to sell some stuff online. Whether you are selling on your website with an online shopping cart or using something like Craigslist, post what you’re up to on social media to a group of customers who already like you. You might be surprised to make more money off your merchandise in the slow months… or how holding a virtual event can get some new prospects to try you out. Keeping it online means locals don’t have to drive anywhere and your far flung fans can support you year round.

Tempt people ahead of time.

Especially if you are in the lodging or transportation business, there is nothing like teasing someone with a beautiful Maine photo mid March and urge them to book their vacation. We had a rental client do this via an email blast to a couple hundred customers and he got four weeks booked before April 1st.

So consider working your online presence year round… you might get more out of it then anyone is expecting.

New Site Launch: Jeremy Frey

Jeremy Frey is a rock star in the basket world. His one of a kind creations go for thousands of dollars (or tens of thousands in many cases). They take months to make and every detail is perfect. When I saw them in his workshop I was blown away.

When we began working with Jeremy, orders were a little slow and he was gearing up for summer shows. He had applied for and gotten a grant to develop a website and some branding materials, knowing that these tools would take him further then he could go at several yearly shows and with his current client base, many who collect his work.

He wanted to reconnect with people he had lost touch with and find new customers who were specifically searching for him online (and clearly not finding him).

We took care of the website part while Jason at Loop Design Group worked with Jeremy on the logo/branding. Since this was finalized earlier this week we can write about the project (we had a stand in header so Jason and Jeremy could work without pressure and so in the meantime so Jeremy would have the site to use for his shows).

jeremyfreyhomepage

I like to joke with Alice about having an inherent bias against black background color websites. (I had a proto-hipster boyfriend about ten years ago whose blog was black with white writing as were the black and white photos he posted. He wrote deep thoughts on this site and it makes me roll my eyes to this day to think of it.) But this website really changed my mind about the whole ‘black background is a moody teenager’ thing.

Alice is right, done properly it can look artistic, and depending on font choices and other design elements can look either ‘boudoir’ or ‘masculine’. In this case, clearly masculine.

Alice also wanted to incorporate lots of basket textures since Jeremy’s work is so intricate. (Loved the Facebook icon she came up with!) These were only used as touches since we didn’t want it to seem over the top.

jeremyfreyportfolio

Since Jeremy’s baskets are made to order (with custom colors, etc.) a shopping cart was not necessary but we did want to communicate that people could order with the website. ‘Baskets Available For Order’ in the menu as well as a custom inquiry form below each basket type meant that people understood they could order without us having to actually show every kind of basket that Jeremy could make (hint: a lot, like hundreds).

But most importantly is Jeremy happy with this site? “I”ve already gotten a lot of inquiries from it.” he said. He says mainly in the way of people he’s lost touch with over the years that have found him and his work again as well as some new customers.

I know many artists who hesitate to spend money on their websites… but  I think people would be surprised that they’d make their investment (if not more) back by just having somewhere online people could see their craft.

Check out Jeremy’s site if you want to learn more: http://jeremyfreybaskets.com/

jeremyfreyportfoliopage

 

 

Buying Online: Getting Your Customers To Do It More

So you’ve gone ahead an invested in the creation of an ecommerce website, a place where your customers can buy your products online. Good for you!

What happens sometimes, with a lot of smaller stores especially, is you’ve built it but yet the people are not coming. Why is that?

buymystuff

Do people offline like your stuff?

Here’s a reality you might not want to face but…. is your stuff cool? Useful? Do people buy it at trade shows, craft shows, in your store, etc. but just not online? If so, it’s probably just your actual setup and not your product.

But if no one has ever bought from you and they aren’t buying from your online store, you might have a reality check to cash.

The very smart Ramit Sethi said this example once in a seminar (I’m totally paraphrasing.) Show a room full of people your product, tell them the specs and the price and you’ll have a room full of people who say they want it. Now tell them you have a  supply with you and you’ll sell it to them right now. The people with their hands still raised after the second question are your customers and the people you actually care about pleasing.

Do people know you have an online store?

You can have the prettiest little website but if no one knows it’s there, you will get no sales. What are some simple ways to raise awareness you might not have gotten around to yet?

  • Put up the web address in multiple places at your physical store location (maybe even on your shopping bags or flyers you put into bags).
  • Tell each person who leaves your store to visit your online store.
  • Put ‘Check out our online store’ with the QR code linking to your website in your window.
  • Do the same in your print advertising. (Note: If you don’t like QR codes, you can create a custom shorty link by using a website like bit.ly)
  • Once a week or so link to a product in your online store from your Facebook page, Twitter account, Pinterest account, etc.

Tell people until you think you sound like a broken record. Because you might hear yourself talking about it all day but your customers don’t.

I bet the day you start this stuff, you will have one regular customer who says to you ‘Oh, I didn’t know you had an online store!’

Look at a website like LL Beans:

llbeanshop

 

As you see, you can say ‘buy stuff; without flashing red letters. Make this idea of you having an online cart super obvious on your website and at your store location.

Is your store easy to find online?

If you Google some of your well known products, do you come up? Here’s a screenshot when I do a search for Dansko shoes in Maine (a kind of popular clog like shoe in these parts):

danskoshoesmaine As you see, below the ads comes an online clog store then Lamey-Wellehan, a Maine shoe store that sells Danskos in their stores and online. (JL Coombs shows you want they have in the outlet store and you can stop by and buy at their location.)

Can you compete with Zappos if your Lamey-Wellehan? If you’re local and have what I want you can!

Search engine optimization (getting your site ranked high in search engines like Google) is a whole field, and something you can pay lots for. But let’s go for some easy wins here:

  • Getting more links into your site: Try to get more links. Are your vendors listing your website as a place to purchase their products on their website? Many retailers have something like a store locator and will list you for free. You can also use social media, blogs, online directories, and more to get more links into your website.
  • Make your website search engine friendly: Do you have unique page titles? Detailed product descriptions with keywords people are searching? Search engine friendly links? A blog you update regularly?

I can’t explain it all here but there are steps you can take to make your site more findable by search engines. If you want to learn a bit more about SEO, I’ve written an intro blog post about it here: http://breakingeveninc.com/web-tech/better-seo-in-less-than-one-hour/

Is your store easy to navigate and use?

Find three people who would be your target customers (fitting age and other demographics) and offer them a gift certificate or some other small offering in exchange for watching them navigate your online store. Is there one point which they get hung up on, like the product search or how to get back to the shopping cart after they’ve been browsing? It may be (and probably will be) painful to watch but you will learn a lot about your website.

If you can’t bring yourself to do this, look at your website analytics (statistics). Is there some page on your site a majority of people are exiting on? Do you have a lot of abandoned carts (people who have put things in the online shopping cart and never finished the checkout process)?

Take steps to make your website easier to navigate based on the feedback you get from real people and/or your stats. Adding a search box, linking sizing charts to every product, streamlining your checkout process are just a few ideas. You will generate ones that are useful for you in watching your three people and looking at your web analytics.

Why should someone buy from you?

This might be the most difficult idea for any small business. In a world of Amazon.com, how are you supposed to compete?

Free shipping over a certain order amount and offering excellent customer service is pretty standard in terms of what people can expect online. What are some other ways you can stand out?

Do a bit of detective work (what the industry is doing) and soul searching (what you want to do) and see what you can offer in addition to your unique products without killing your bottom line.

Please note your offering doesn’t have to be expensive, just unique and unexpected. I once got a handwritten thank you note from our payroll company which probably took them all of two minutes to write but it was so memorable and nice). So pick your unique thing then publicize the heck out of it.

I (and many consumers like me) don’t mind paying a bit extra to get something unique or even just to support a smaller business… I just don’t want to have to pay $25 in shipping on a $25 purchase to do it.

So use your online store to its full advantage and you too can make your money in your online store!

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