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Top picks for best planners

Planners, Calendars & Journals, OH MY! (Top picks for planners)

This timely guest post comes from my uber-organized, proficient planning, brand-strategizing friend Victoria Vitarelli and originally appeared on her website, V Dot V Marketing.

A hope is a dream without a plan.

I often get asked, “how do you keep track of your ‘EVERYTHING’!?” Juggling my clients, my kids, my mom and life in general. I’ve gotten to the point if it’s not written somewhere, it ain’t gonna happen.

I have notebooks, whiteboards and paper scraps all over for the urge to list and do a brain dump. I have figured out over the years that I need to be disciplined every day and keep one main repository as an extension of my memory. Journals for different topics or goals do not work for me because the arteries of life often bleed into one another.

So I keep my system to a family whiteboard, google calendars merged together and a paper planner – currently diving into Self Journal.

Since my very first job out of college, I’ve kept a notebook to write down my notes – from meetings, calls, thoughts, ideas. I had a plain spiral notebook to “get the job done” and a de rigueur Filofax.

Today there is an onslaught of planners, calendars and such! For me – a lot of fun! However, I have a friend who is paralyzed by the choices to make the purchase. Here are four questions I asked her to help her with her decision.

  1. Do you want to fill in the blanks or have a white canvas? How do you set your goals? Best practices say to write out your big goals; distill them down into weekly and daily to-dos. Depends on your style and what makes you productive vs busy. There are planners that have the year/day date written out and are very structured. They are designed to deliver the general best practices in keeping a goal and getting it done so you don’t have to think about that aspect. There are journals for very specific goals e.g. fitness, business, parenting. Daily Greatness has many specialized versions. If you have your own structure or want to be more creative about your pages, try the Bullet Journal system. You make the rules, but there is a system to writing it down. Here is a video. Bullet journal “porn” is all over Pinterest and Instagram. There are some beautiful, truly amazing works of art out there!
  1. Are you carrying it around everywhere and anywhere? Weight matters!  Certain paper stocks can get heavy and depending on what you use to write with, the ink can bleed through light paper. Details…Details…Most planners have the weight listed on their respective websites. And depending on if you want a defined calendar style e.g. 30 days or week at a glance, full year by the day, quarterly etc. this can make a big difference in weight as well. Also there are various sizes from 8.5″ x 11″ pages to small pocket styles. Think about what you will be carrying this in – purse? briefcase? pocket?
  1. Does brand/color/style matter to you? Once you decide on white canvas or fill in the blank style and weight- the search narrows down. There are hundreds of journals out there by designers, planner brands, etc. I found a Lily Pulitzer planner with every page in her signature style. Some white canvas, purists will stick to a classic marble notebook or the ever-reliable Moleskin.  Both are sold in all kinds of stores in addition to online outlets e.g. Staples, bookstores, Target and boutiques.
  1. How much “woo-woo” factor? We use this term affectionately. There are some that have messages of inspiration and faith as well as planning out your dream days and life. An example is Danielle Laporte’s Desire Map Planner. Per the description, “This planning system incorporates your inner and outer worlds; your gratitude and your goals; your Core Desired Feelings into your daily regime”. Personally, I enjoy seeing a good Zig Ziggler or Aristotle quote to inspire me. And then there are days when it’s just about checking the box and getting stuff done without guru sounding pep talks. This one is very interesting, The Sacred Circle Planner – starting on December 18th, the Winter Solstice. Per the description, “Through the use of Divination, Affirmations, Archetypal Wisdom, Goal Manifesting, and specially designed Spiritual Practices that keep you in sync with the seasons–you have the opportunity to craft a whole new you this year!

As you go through the many other lists and ideas the key is to start somewhere and think about how you get stuff done NOW! You can always shift or try new styles or methods as the year goes on. The key is to find something that is going to support your goals and motivation. These are tools to help us get the job done and get to our destination! The discipline to follow a system is KEY no matter what you use. Happy goal setting and getting stuff done!

Check out Vicky’s video where she test-drives some of the best selling planners and journals.

Also, tune into this recent Plannerpalooza podcast from the “Best of Both Worlds” team of Laura Vanderkam and Sarah Hart-Unger who take planner enthusiasm to a whole new level.

Are you a planner perfectionist? Which one(s) do you use? Please share in the comments.

How To Write a Blog Quickly

How To Write a Blog Quickly

Here’s some great advice from my friend Kate at Digital Marketing Momma...

Do you want to blog for your business, but can’t find the time to sit down and write?

Almost everyone I know who runs their own business struggles with the same thing. Writing content.

Challenges: 

  1. What to write about
  2. Finding time to write it
  3. Getting people to read it and share it

We all face this.  Even if you love to write, it can difficult!

I came across this post the other day from Huffington Post and I wanted to share why this type of content and blog strategy is brilliant and a great way to get content out there quickly.

This was posted on August 24, 2016.

Stephen Colbert Has Finally Figured Out Hillary Clinton’s Illness

Screenshot 2016-08-28 11.21.10

To date this post has been shared, 2.8k times and the actual youtube video that was posted by The Late Show With Stephen Colbert was viewed 1,232,310 times.   WOW!

Here’s what I love about this post. 

  1.  The author focused on a very trending, hot topic at the moment.  Hillary Clinton’s health during this wacky election.  This has been all over the news lately and all the media outlets are obsessing over it.  So, his choice of topic was spot on for what’s happening now.
  2. The content is obviously of interest since it’s being shared and “liked”.
  3. It probably didn’t take him that long to write it up.

Here’s how you can do this in your own business to post great content at lightening speed.  Hate to write? There are ways to make it not so awful!

First you need some inspiration to write about.

Step 1: Start by asking yourself these questions: 

  • Is there anything trending online that’s relevant to your audience? I use an amazing online tool to help me with this.  It’s called BuzzSumo.  Totally worth my monthly investment.  I use it every day!
  • Is there an upcoming event that your audience needs to know about?
  • Is there a product launch that could enhance your products or services that you offer?
  • Did a celebrity jump on board with an endorsement or cause that’s relevant to your business?

Step 2:  Go on YouTube and do a search for videos that will help/educate/anger/empower/ease/bring laughter to your audience.  

Do a search for your topic/industry/idea and see what shows up first.  Find a video that’s from a credible source.  TIP:  Don’t post a video by someone that could be considered your competitor… Just sayin’

Step 3:  Write a short, easy blog about the video.  

Tell your audience your thoughts on the video.  Give them your opinion.  It doesn’t have to be a novel.  Just tell them what you are thinking.  Add in your expertise and wisdom.  Tell them what to do with the content.  Share how it can benefit them.

Step 4:  Embed the Video on Your Blog Post.

Make sure to cite the source of the video and relevant content.  You can see I’ve done it in this post. Give credit where credit is due!  You could even go a step further and tag the author and media outlet in your own social media.

Now your turn . . . What’s the hardest part writing blog posts for you? Please share in the comments below. Also, if you need help with content creation or strategy, reach out.  We LOVE to come up with plans!

Your website is ready to go live, take a deep breath…and check again!

In this month’s guest blog post, website designer Veronica Agabs offers a great “check list” before launching a new website:

So, you worked hard and everything is ready but there still things to go over. I am not asking you to be a perfectionist but few simple things can make a big difference. So be sure to check one more time. Here is the list you should go over before you turn the ‘switch’ on.

1. Is the navigation where you’d expect it to be?
2. Is the navigation terminology clear (i.e. “Contact” versus “Reach Out”)?
3 Are there any broken navigation links?
4. Is there excess clutter in the form of graphics or text?
5. Are the colors pleasing to the eye or do they give you a headache?
6. Is the text on the homepage clean and simple?
7. Is it clear what the website is about? When considering the ten-second rule, this is one of those areas where there should be no doubt in the visitor’s mind.
8. As a visitor, are your most important questions answered quickly?
9. A simple About page is fine. In almost all cases, this includes a photo and a brief bio. It’s always nice to know who you’re doing business with, wouldn’t you agree?
10. Optimization for conversions means making sure your website serves a purpose – it doesn’t necessarily mean a big red “BUY NOW” button.
11. Do a basic SEO audit. Here are a few other things to look for:
– Does the website have an appropriate site title and meta description?
– Are the major pages of the site optimized with an appropriate title, meta description, and content?
– Is permalink structure set-up properly?
– Is there address and contact information in the footer of each page?
– Is their NAP (name, address and phone number) consistent across all their profiles (website, social & business listings)?
– Make sure all pages are verified by Google

Beyond the obvious navigation, general layout and color selection, does the site feel intuitive? Are things where you’d expect them to be? More specifically, is the existing design trying too hard to be creative at the expense of simplicity? Put yourself in the shoes of a real visitor, because this is who the website should be built for.

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Veronica Agabs is a a freelance web developer, a WordPress fan, dog and coffee lover, and mother of three.  She is passionate about helping businesses and individuals to build their visibility online. No project is too big or too small. Rather than being just a designer or developer, she sees herself as a business partner. Her specialties include branding, design, user experience, development, integration, and maintenance. 

When you dont know what to write

Blogging When You Hate To Write (or You LOVE To Write, But Don’t Have Time)

In this guest post, Kate Schell, aka Digital Marketing Momma shares her best tips on how to come up with ideas for your blog:

Let’s face it!

We are running businesses and families.  Time is LIMITED!!

It’s hard enough trying to find time to manage doing the work and juggling kid/husband/life stuff, but we also have to find time to promote, market and share our wisdom with the world so more customers and clients find us and want to hire us.

When I tell people that they “should” blog I can feel their insides groaning.  I know because mine do too and I enjoy writing.  Blogging feels so….Big.

What do you write about?

It’s going to take a long time?

What if no one reads it and I’ve wasted my time?

Where do I post it?

My challenge with blogging is that usually when creative inspiration strikes, I’m not in the right place to stop everything and write.  Like…when I’m making dinner for 4 hungry kids.  “Sorry gang here’s some cereal without milk because I forgot to buy it,  Mommy’s gonna go write”… Say wha?!?!

Of the flip side – when I do have some time to write, I stare at a blinking cursor for an hour and nothing comes.

Here are some tips!

Tip #1: Remembering a great blog idea

Create a google sheet or excel spreadsheet (for you Microsoft users) that’s called “Blog Ideas”.  When inspiration hits and you can’t stop, just add it to this spreadsheet to reference back to when you do have some time.

It can look at simple as this:

blog tracking

Tip #2:  Do a voice recording

If you can’t stop what you are doing and add something to a spreadsheet, BUT the ideas are flowing and you need to put them somewhere. If I’m in a jam and need to capture some ideas I plug my earbuds into my iPhone and use “Voice Memos” on my phone.

I wouldn’t trust it for a long recording because if you have a ton of photos, apps or “other” on your phone you may not capture a long recording.  But, it’s great for a quick memo.  The sound quality is pretty good.  Here – listen to my test I did.

If you want something fancier, there are several apps out there that have more features and can save in different formats. Here’s a great article on those apps.

By now you may be saying, “That’s great if I KNOW what I want to write about, but what if I have no idea (or time)?”

Here are some ways to get a blog published if you are stuck thinking of what to write about.

Tip #3: Ask your audience a question and then answer it

I discovered this beautiful book on Amazon.

4,000 Questions

Inside are some really great ideas that can inspire some creative writing.

For example:  let’s say you are a life coach – Ask your audience this little nugget of goodness:

“What do you need changed in your life before you can have more fun?”

Then write a blog, answering that question.

REMEMBER:  Blogs don’t have to be insanely long! Think about your readers attention span when writing.

Tip #4: Do a little research:

Go to www.buzzsumo.com and type in your topic you’d like to blog about.  The results will be the top shared articles and blogs based on that topic.  Use that article or post as inspiration.  It’s been shared a lot for a reason.  Can you put your own twist on the content?

BuzzsumoBuzzsumo

 

Tip #5: Go to the search God – Google

In the search bar, start to type a common question your clients or customers ask.

For example:  What is an autoresponder?

Screenshot 2016-03-17 13.11.17

As you are typing this, Google will make suggestions.  Those suggestions are commonly searched questions/phrases/words.  That means a lot of people are searching those suggestions.  Write a blog post based on those suggestions and put those keywords in the post.

 

Tip #6: Go to Google Trends 

See what’s a hot (or trending) topic.  Or see if a topic you want to write about has any interest.  You can also get some ideas for other keywords and topics that are popular. (see third image)

Here’s an example using email marketing again:

Screenshot 2016-03-17 13.18.10

Screenshot 2016-03-17 13.18.18

Screenshot 2016-03-17 13.18.30

 

Tip #7: Go to YouTube:

You can search by trending videos or search by topic. If you are going to use a video, make sure to watch all of it AND make sure it’s not done by someone who could be considered a competitor.

For example:  Let’s say you are a Fashion Blogger.

A trending video (today) is a video on Vacation Make-Up

Screenshot 2016-03-17 13.21.52

(SOURCE )

You can add the video to your blog and comment on it.

NOTE: MAKE SURE TO ADD THE LINK BACK TO THE VIDEO!!

All you have to write is “SOURCE” and hyperlink it.  Then you can use the video. (see below the image above)

TIP #8: Do a quick review on something you use everyday in life or business

Why not write up a quick review on something you love?  Is there a certain App that’s made your life easier?  Write about it and share the info.  Is there a Podcast you love?  Tell people about it.  If you share on your social media pages, try to tag the person who’s doing the Podcast.  You never know, you may get some social media love back.

Try those tips out.  See what works for you.  Let me know what you think over on our Facebook page!

Best of luck busy entrepreneurs!! Blog away!

XO Kate

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Kate Schell, aka Digital Marketing Momma is an entrepreneur and crazy busy mom to four. Digital marketing, online business models, funnels and sales strategies are her drive and passion in business! She gobbles up anything and everything that has to do with online business and backend technology systems. But her true passion lies in supporting women entrepreneurs in building their businesses and CRUSHING their fears around technology and digital marketing!