Category Archives: Blogging

8 Marketing Blogs You Should’ve Subscribed To Yesterday

marketing blogs for creatives - best of the best

Last month, I fangirled like crazy when a woman visiting our offices for a few weeks told me about the online community she was building to help people find their purpose by connecting them with trained mentors (psychologists, for example).

(My passion is helping people help people, if you haven’t already guessed.)

We got to swapping stories. At one point, she’d been in the marketing industry, but this whole world of online marketing and community building was new-ish for her. She had the army of people and stacks of books, but wanted to know where I went to learn about marketing.

What blogs did I read on a regular basis?

I think I probably turned about fifteen shades pinker when I admitted I could rattle off a dozen or more without even thinking hard.

The truth is, the Internet has propelled us into a state of fear that we’ll miss something if we don’t devour everything. But in that fear, I’ve sifted out the bad and whittled my list down to the core resources for online marketing.

Here’s how it rounds out:

Duct Tape Marketing

Every Wednesday, John Jansch delivers a concise newsletter with a couple new digital tools, a few more articles from some of the industry’s best + brightest, and a sponsor (usually a book or course). To be honest, the newsletter has introduced me to some of the most useful marketing tools to date.

Hubspot

I’m an e-book addict. Send me to the support group. With downloadable guides to social media marketing to best examples of web homepage design to online lead generation, this online all-in-one-software company puts everyone else’s basic 101 guides to shame.

With Intention by Jess Lively

Jess was born to help creative business owners. Her weekly newsletter, “What I Wish I Knew Wednesday,” is a quick + informative read. I always skim them to see if they’re applicable and toss what I don’t need.

Social Triggers

You’ve got to love somebody with a little personality and no nonsense. That’s Derek Halpern for ya. He basis his marketing and social media posts on psychological research, so everything he does and teaches is backed by science.

KISSmetrics

I found KISSInsights, the software behind KISSmetrics, last spring when I was searching for an easy-to-use client survey tool. Since then, I’ve trusted the blog side of things with information about keeping clients happy + building better email newsletters + landing pages.

Help Scout

Things I love about Help Scout: the psychology of purchasing decisions + the guides to better client satisfaction and support (especially for product developers). The content is in-depth, but it’s worth the read.

Mashable

When I visit this site, it’s a cluster of technology information and small business news. Yes, you’ve got to sort through it. But if you know what you’re looking for, you’ll find a quality post on that topic. Everything has thousands and thousands of shares, comments, etc.

Content Marketing Institute

Content marketing is the wave of the future, um, present. It’s now. That’s why we blog, develop infographics and diagrams and videos and slideshows. It’s why we are consuming and consuming – so we can learn and teach others who then ask us to design their websites or manage their Facebook pages or write their brochure copy. CMI has ideas on ideas when it comes to all of that.

SEOmoz

Because SEO changes err’day. Because Google keeps it fresh. SEOmoz broke it down for me step by tiny step when I wanted to learn SEO from start to finish. My suggestion? Start with the all-inclusive beginner’s guide.

The Creative Professional’s Website: 5 Core Components

5 core components to a creator's website[photo credit: 12345]

If Google isn’t showing you the SEO love, no amount of freshly baked gluten-free chocolate chip cookies delivered straight to its headquarters will change that.

Being found online requires significant effort; a huge chunk of which is your website.

Think of your website as your digital house. Even your favorite aunt, persistent though she may be, won’t scoot her butt up your driveway if she can’t find your house hidden behind ivy walls an unmarked mailbox; she’ll likely whip out her flip phone (I said she was your favorite – not forward-thinking) and call to say she’s been circling the same street for an hour now.

The difference between having a poorly identified house and a scatterbrained website is that your aunt will call; the one-woman flower shop looking for a new logo design won’t. If she can’t find you, or worse, leaves your digital doorstep more confused than when she first arrived, you’ve lost her.

And not just her, but employers + clients + networking opportunities + guest post offers + advertising sponsors + affiliate sales.

You won’t capture everyone who wanders around your site but gosh, girl; you’ve sure as heck got to make it easy for them to know who you are, what you do, and how to contact you.

Let’s look at the five core components of a creative’s website. This list is highly distilled and doesn’t cover SEO, social integration, contact forms, etc.

the creative's website - 5 core components

Numero Uno: Content Management System (CMS)

A CMS makes your job as a creative so much easier. It means your website is templated, so when you make changes, you won’t have to modify things like header images, sidebar widgets or site navigation on every single page.

You’ve got three main options here: WordPress, Joomla + Drupal.

The good news is that they’re all open source, which means they’re free as birds. The bad news is they’re not all created equal; some are more difficult to operate than others.

From easiest-to-learn to most sophisticated: WordPress > Joomla > Drupal.

The White House website operates on Drupal. For RWL, I use WordPress (self-hosted – not the dot com version for bloggers). I’ve been told Joomla is a great alternative to WordPress.

One the CMS is installed on your website’s FTP account (see WordPress’ Famous 5-minute installation), you can say “Hasta la vista” to managing the site page-by-tedious-page.

Step two is to download, and install, a theme (either to customize that baby like your very own Christmas morning wrapping paper or to stick with the standard color scheme, layout, etc.). I’ll dive into look + feel later on.

Numero Dos: Cornerstone Content

In a nutshell, this is your blog. If you’re a photographer specializing in captivating landscapes, you best be writing about f-stops and neutral density filters.

Blogging should complement your business. Cornerstone content covers the basics of your industry in a way that positions you at the forefront.

Let’s go back to the photographer example. Miss DSLR might make a how-to video on how to create Photoshop actions. Or write posts on the process of setting up a shot or interfacing with clients (if she does portraits). She might answer FAQs sent via her contact form.

The content centers on educating other photographers and giving Google a thick trail of breadcrumbs when searching for those same terms so that future clients find her, too.

Numero Tres: Email Newsletter

There are two schools of thought on email marketing. The first is that you are crazy to think anybody will read YOUR message in a pile of unread inbox notes a mile high. The second is that if you produce content that people willingly subscribe to, they will fawn over your words each time you hit the send button.

I’m a fan of Option #2. When done right, email marketing is permission marketing. In short, it means somebody asked you to sit in their inbox. They opted in via a form on your website.

Because of that, it’s crucial your email signup form be visible and captivating. That list is your golden ticket to new clients, new projects, new horizons, really.

(This is a quick intro, and likely I’ll circle back to elaborate on how email marketing works for creative professionals, but suffice to say it’s similar to cornerstone content.)

My go-to email marketing tool: MailChimp

(I’ve played with Aweber and Constant Contact, but in terms of look + feel, I always come back to MailChimp’s template options. Plus, the first 2,000 subscribers are free.)

Numero Quatro: Portfolio

Newly-minted creatives tend to fall into two categories: they either complain they don’t have any work to show or say they have some, but certainly not a volume of work.

Let me tell you something: a few great, swoon-worthy projects trump a volume of mediocre-at-best projects any day. And if you’re not proud of what you’ve got, you better hike up your belt loops and step into the sunshine and snap something awe-inspiring or load InDesign and go to work on a magazine layout rebrand.

Give. Yourself. Projects.

Your clients want to know what you’ve done.

So, with that in mind, your portfolio section should include only the projects you feel excellent about. If you don’t like it, don’t show it.

Numero Cinco: Branded Look + Feel

You are a creative. Your cells are buzzing with aesthetic understanding. You are critical. You are hardworking. You want to present yourself well, right?

The average website visitor spends only 8 seconds on a page before deciding whether to leave. Part of that decision is a clear understanding of the page and its purpose. Another part, especially for people in the business of making things, is the consistency in the way the site looks and the emotional appeal it evokes.

If a visitor arrives at your site and it’s a hot mess – hard to navigate, a myriad of eye-throbbing choices, none of which seem to mesh together – they’re out in 3-4 seconds tops.

It’s not so much that your site has to be stellar, or that you have to invest in a 10k design project, but color choice, font selection, etc. should match the logo, header images, social media icons, email signup forms, link colors, etc.

Creating a site like that will make your potential colleagues and clients sigh with relief because they can entrust you to create something for them that’s equally cohesive, fully developed and in tune with their own mission.

Bonus: Freelance Information

This is for the people who are ready to hire you. They’ve sifted through your site, subscribed to your newsletter, read your latest blog posts and decided you are their cup of tea when it comes to their wedding photography.

But they don’t know how much you charge or whether you just take the photos or edit them, too. And is that included or separate? Do you offer packages?

Is your head spinning? Yep. If you don’t want all of this front and center on your freelance page, at least consider providing a form for them to submit the scope of work or contact you for pricing and package options.

Questions? Email me at kay@kaleighsomers.com or leave ‘em in the comments section below.

Google Doesn’t Want You To Be Prom Queen

Google doesn’t want you to own your title. But I do.

photographer writer designer

Please hold.

I need you to do something weird, something you probably won’t share with your dinner date between the coat closet and the wine selection. Something you really want to, maybe already do, like, every other week, but would never admit out loud.

Google yourself.

Trust me when I say it’s good for you; trust me when I say you need to know what the itsy bitsy Google spiders are digging up and spinning into a web of results. Trust, for the fifteen millionth time, that knowledge is power.

Because it SO is.

You’re hitting the ground running with your big bad blogging self or your Etsy shop skills and you think, “Well I’m snapshot savvy. I can create designs that build brands and tell stories and convey emotion so deep it cuts through your small intestines like acid. Who cares if Google knows about me? This isn’t high school. I’m not the prom queen. It doesn’t matter.”

C’mere for a second. Just a little closer. Lean in.

Google doesn’t want you to be everyone’s prom queen. Google doesn’t even want you to be your OWN social circle’s prom queen. But you’ve got to want your little design-loving, DSLR-wearing, typewriter-tapping self to wear that tiara when it comes to what you know.

The best way to do that is to know what Google thinks of you – it’s the one and only time anyone should tell you to dwell, for a itty bitty minute, on someone else’s opinion of you.

Google’s a shallow kind of guy. He teaches us to look at the first page, the first impression, and never dive deeper.

For strangers, you are your SERPs (search engine results pages). You are distilled to what Google weights as most relevant.

Let me tell you a tale:

I used to Google myself and find altar server schedules and gymnastics results and cross country race times and random guest posts on 20-something blogs, all mixed in with a ton of my own blog posts.

There weren’t any other Kaleigh Somers vying for my place on Google, but did my readers care that I was a tough cookie when it came to ripped palms and twisted ankles and hills so staggering they had their own bone-shaking names like Death Mountain?

Heck no.

May is about making you matter to your potential employers and clients and competitors by punching Google with a consistent online presence that threads itself neatly together to make finding you, the one-and-only YOU, easy.

So that when you take a second to search yourself, the little sidebar factoid box pops up that says, “Hey, this girl owns it. Look at her.”

Do yourself one more favor. Go to Google.com/alerts and add your name. Choose how own you want to receive your alerts and how filtered they should be (depends on how many others you might have floating out there vying for the top seat on the search results). Sit back and let your inbox take to telling you when your name appears in a newly crawled page. Magic, isn’t it?

It’ll make knowing your results easier and it feels good when you see the daily or weekly digest come through in the middle of a crazy day when you’re feeling like nobody in the world ever knew you tried to create something totally awesome.

Here’s a little sneak peak at what’s ahead:

+ core components of a creative’s website
+ social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn)
+ email newsletters
+ digital portfolios

The Cereal Aisle Is Full Of Blueberry Vanilla Almond Granola + The Internet Is Full Of Discordant Blogs

don't let your blog become just another box of blueberry almond granolaWriters, right now, are vying for spots on cereal aisle shelves.

Last month, Jane Friedman, a woman I’ve regarded as the editor for Writers Digest (though she’s since moved on to the Virginia Quarterly Review), shared this post by L.L. Barkat on her blog.

In it, Barkat told writers to stop blogging.

The title cycled like a nasty Google Display Ad traveling from one webpage to another as I browsed my Twitter feed.

Of course I disagreed. Of course I believed in blogging the way engineers believe in calculus or truck drivers believe in the speed limit (emphatically, that is to say, even when the rest of us groan trapped behind the mammoth beasts crawling our fast-lane interstates).

What he was saying was maybe, probably, OK definitely true for experienced writers. They’d done the dance and shimmied and shook for the whole literary world and we just craved more from them.

But for those of us who cannot make a small booster seat out of our published works, blogging is still a core component of writing growth.

We Blog For Ourselves

Writing is a personal act of creative expression. If that definition hasn’t hit you over the head yet, let this be a reminder.

You write because you need to say something and it’s bottled inside you like a message bobbing through the ocean of your heart for a hundred years before making landfall.

But your publishing content online should never ever smack-me-over-the-head-if-it-does alter that fact.

Blog for you and watch yourself grow. Watch your ideas converge. Watch your self-expression refine.

You don’t have to blog to do that, and sometimes the criticism of a few measly pageviews at the start will be enough to make you click the red circled (or blue squared for my PC lovers) X at the top of your web browser.

(That’s a shame, kids. That’s a real big shame.)

But if you stick around because it’s for you — or at least the people you care about — and you’ve got direction and drive, you’ll grow emotionally and intellectually from the experience.

We Find Our Voice In The Abyss

There will always be a difference between those who start blogs and bloggers. It begins with dedication and follows through with a mission.

Imagine starting a new cereal brand. You’ve got a wacky name in a stiff all-caps serif typeface printed across the top of each box (all different sizes, too) and you’re wondering why Wegmans and Shop Rite and Giant and Piggly Wiggly and Krogers refuse to put that future household name on the shelf.

Because. It’s Not. Going Somewhere.

You could have the tastiest blueberry vanilla almond granola sitting fresh and crunchy in a tight sealed eco-friendly recycled plastic pouch but ain’t nobody got time for your discordant cereal dreams.

There are too many other product lines featuring blueberry vanilla almond granola for anyone to even dream of picking your hott mess off the shelf, even if you didn’t get shut down by the big guys.

The same thing happens when you load yourself up with blogging ideas that don’t meet in the middle with some larger goal.

You write about the final exam you failed and then about the time your grandmother walked in on you toweling off from a hot shower.

You write about the reason you love one-for-one campaigns and the art of mastering the Facebook page as an Etsy storeowner.

And ya wonder why nobody put you in their Google Reader (oh, sorry, forgot that that ship has sailed out to the Bermuda Triangle)?

The abyss of blogs is too great for you not to write with a common thread, a dedicated mission of sorts, and expect somebody to stick around.

When you get serious about blogging, you find two things: your voice (because err’body decided writing didn’t have to be boring but nobody wanted to write with a little fear in their bones) and your purpose (for blogging).

It’s a little bit magical when you don’t think too hard on it. When you do, though, you realize that all those shenanigans you’ve been pulling by messing around, treating your blog like a diary that the whole world is privy to, only prevented you from practicing writing as a thing you, like, get paid for?

Yeah.