3 Things to Check on Your Blog ASAP

While you focus on creating fresh, new, engaging content for your readers, chances are a few spots on your blog are gathering dust.

It happens: You want to keep your blog fresh, of course, but that makes it easy to “set it and forget it” with your blog’s static pages.

3 Things to Check on Your Blog ASAP

Ask yourself a handful of Qs about your blog’s static spots:

  • When was the list time you revisited your about page?
  • Is your privacy policy up to date?
  • Has anything changed with your email, social profiles, or affiliate programs?
  • Is your headshot current? (Current = last 5 years NOT that awesome snap of you looking tan that one summer in college!)
  • What’s new in your footer? Is your copyright date current?
  • Is your contact form GDPR compliant?

OK, so maybe now you’re feeling overwhelmed, and that’s certainly not my goal. Instead, let’s get empowered to fix the most important things now, then schedule the rest in your schedule for future pockets of free time.

Check these 3 things on your blog ASAP:

Your Privacy Policy

Seriously,  guys, this is a big one now that GDPR is officially in effect. Now, I’m not a lawyer. This is my informational-purposes-only advice: Either have an attorney draft a compliant policy for you OR hire a lawyer to review the one you draft. Don’t open yourself up to major problems because your site isn’t compliant.

Normally I’m all about the blogging-by-your-bootstraps method of everything. (If it can’t be YouTubed, it shouldn’t be done!) This is one area where I say: SPEND.

The  Ways to Contact You

Let’s say your dream brand discovers your blog (YAY!), devours your most recent posts (YAY! YAY!), decides to hire you right away (YAY! YAY! YAY!), then can’t find a way to contact you. Or, they click “email me” and it’s a dead link. Or, they can’t figure out where the heck you are on social and who has time to Google this stuff so let’s just find someone else!

Oof.

Reality check: Readers–whether they’re brand reps, publicists, PR firms, or your average blog reader–are impatient and have very little time on their hands anyway. You want them to be able to contact you, right? Make it easy, intuitive, and functional!

Check every single “Contact Me” spot on your blog right now. Make sure the links are valid. Make sure your social channels appear at the very tippy top of your site. Make sure that when someone fills out your contact form that, first, it’s GDPR compliant, and, second, that you actually receive the correspondence.

About Page

Chances are you’ve achieved new heights since you first drafted your About page. Can you include links to publications on other sites or profiles of you or your blog? How about adding links to your most popular posts so new readers know where to start when they first discover you? If you have an external package like a media kit linked to your about page, does it open the most recent version? Is your Privacy Policy linked here? How about any other policies–like your comment policy, affiliate disclosures, etc.? Retire old clips and replace with new, relevant ones at least every three or four months.

Once you’re up-to-date, what’s next?

Once you’ve made sure these static pieces of your site are current, set a reminder on your calendar to review these on a quarterly basis. I’m a big fan of using time-bound cards on Trello with checklist reminders. Keep your digital home clean, shiny, and dust-free with regular, routine maintenance so you can focus on doing what you do best: creating that fresh, fun, engaging content! 

Does blogging have an environmental impact?

Can you work online and minimize your impact on the planet?

Whether your job is entirely digital or not, chances are you spend a chunk of your day consuming digital media. It’s inescapable.

If you do create in a digital space or if you simply consume, the reality is that your tech habits do have a significant environmental impact.

What is the environmental impact of social media?

Let’s look at three of the big problems and then consider ways to reduce that environmental impact:

What is the environmental impact of blogging_ And how can we diminish our tech footprint_ _ MaggieMarton.com

 

Can we use our online businesses to diminish our carbon footprint?

Tech Waste

According to Rubicon Global, “Electronic Waste (e-waste) is one of the fastest growing segments of our nation’s waste stream. It encompasses all broken, unusable, or outdated/obsolete electronic devices, components, and materials. In addition, e-waste also encompasses items that can be e-cycled (electronics that are going to be reused, resold, salvaged, or recycled).”

How much tech waste do we create? According to DoSomething.org, “20 to 50 million metric tons of e-waste are disposed worldwide every year.”

Bloggers use a LOT of tech.

Think about your own tech footprint: How many cell phones have you used over the last decade? Or gaming consoles? Or TVs, laptops, and all that obsolete tech like fax machines and land line telephones?

Resource Guzzling 

Producing all that tech takes a ton of resources, of course, but so does keeping it all up and running. How often is all your personal tech turned off? Or, conversely, how many glowing lights are around your home and office? How often do you have something plugged in somewhere charging?

Same goes for all the services you hire to run your blog: Think about all the servers and 24/7 support centers, the overnight (or same day!) shipping, and so on.

Consumption Lifestyle

According to that same Rubicon Global piece, “Between June 29th, 2007 and November 3rd, 2017 there have been fourteen iPhone releases – from the original iPhone (First Generation) to the latest iPhone X.”

Sheesh.

Do you need to blow through 14 phones in 10 years? Most likely not, but lots of people do… simply because they *need* the latest and newest model. You’ve seen the lines outside Apple stores on launch days, and–ironically–everyone standing in line to buy the next-model Apple phone is playing on their current-model Apple phone.

This consumption-driven habit isn’t relegated to only the iPhone. Striving to keep up with every changing style and trend to keep your Instagram feed fresh results in this same disposable behavior with everything from fad diets and ingredients to clothing to cosmetics.

How can we lessen our digital impact on the environment?

Demand Better Tech… and Use Your Stuff Longer

Is there a company or product you’re loyal to? Write them, and let them know that you’d like to see their products made with environmentally-responsible materials in a responsible production facility. Or, perhaps, encourage them to make a “green” version of the product you love.

Commit to using your stuff as long as possible. Instead of swapping out for a new version each year, stick with yours until it’s no longer serviceable, then find a way to re-purpose, reuse, or recycle. For tech waste, my town offers a once-a-year e-waste recycling drop-off day where they’ll take any tech for free.

Switch to Responsible Service Providers

A couple years ago I changed hosts to Green Geeks (<—– that’s an affiliate link because I believe in them so much) and haven’t looked back!

When it’s time to renew a contract–whether it’s with your host, your ISP, your utilities, or your recycling pick-up service–take some time to research and compare. Make sure you’re subscribed to the most environmentally-responsible service providers available to you.

Consume Less

This is the big kahuna. Use less stuff, and you generate less waste. This goes with tech waste and also utilities like electricity and water.

Before you buy anything, ask yourself: Do I truly need this?

If the answer is no, give it a second thought before you make the purchase. Because, ultimately, every single little decision–like keeping your iPhone for a year longer–adds up to big change.

We all can and should do better whenever and wherever possible! 

On a final note, if you’re a pet lover who’s interested in learning more about your pet’s impact on the planet, check out my ebook project, The Zero-Waste Pet. We–people, pets, the planet–are interconnected and related in so many ways. Our tech waste has a massive impact on the animals we so adore, as well.

Always, always learn. Strive to do better.

Why You Shouldn’t Rely on Facebook to Build Your Audience

Can you please hand me that rag so I can dust off my soap box?

Facebook.

Love it, hate it, or love to hate it, Facebook pervades every part of our existence.

Why You Shouldn’t Rely on Facebook to Build Your Audience

Facebook has never been in our daily conversation more so than now.

I get that folks are upset. I get it. I do.

Except…

Facebook isn’t a charity. It’s not a nonprofit organization dedicated to connecting you with that classmate you kind of liked in the third grade, nor is it a community outreach program that links your birthday with causes closest to your heart. (I mean, it kinda does that, but still…)

Facebook is a corporate entity whose goal is to make money.

How do they do that?

Well, they sell data about people to other companies so that those other companies can craft really specific, high-targeted, customized ad campaigns to get you to buy stuff.

You get to connect with that kid from third grade, support your favorite charity, share pics of your kids and pets with all your family and friends around the globe, organize local events, sell your car, market your blog’s content, etc., etc., etc. not for free, but for the cost of your data.

That has been the cost, the exchange, since the day you set up your profile.

I’m OK with that. I was pretty clear what I was trading to use the platform, and I thought it was a pretty decent deal. I got a lot of connectedness in exchange for some details about my life that I was already willing to share on the internet. Anything I’m not willing to share? Well, they don’t get that “payment” from me.

Not everyone is OK with this exchange. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure why because targeted ads also make online shopping a heckuva lot easier these days, and you’re the one choosing to publish private info and family photos and your birthday on the internet.

But I digress.

Not everyone is OK with this exchange. That means some of your readers might not be OK with it and might quick Facebook. That means some of your readers might stop checking Facebook minute-by-minute and, rather, do a quick weekly scan of their timeline.

In other words, all this attention on Facebook’s data-selling business might diminish your audience.

Plus, a ton of publishers are up in arms that Facebook is charging companies to have their content seen. (See previous point re: Facebook not being a charity.)

I mean, I have to hand it to them: It was an epic bait-and-switch. Facebook got us all to create pages to promote our content. We did. We built an audience. That audience grew and so did our readership. The more you shared, the more engagement you got, the more you kept your readers on Facebook, the bigger your numbers became. Awesome, right?!?

PSYCH! Now you gotta pay!

With their new algorithms and rules of engagement, Facebook prioritizes paid content.

Unless you “pay to play” your content isn’t seen even by your own audience that you build following all their previous rules. Now? In order for even those folks to see what you create, you have to kick in some cash.

And who’s to say that won’t change again down the line? Maybe Facebook will go all-in with Bitcoin, and none of you use Bitcoin (I mean, honestly? Who does.) Well, then you’re stuck.

Really, they can decide anything they want because it’s their platform.

Know what isn’t their platform?

Your blog.

Your email list.

You shouldn’t rely on Facebook to build your audience. Facebook connects you to your audience, sure, but it shouldn’t be the place your pour your time and energy into (unless, of course, Facebook growth is somehow critical to your business’ success somehow for some reason…).

Pour your energy into your blog.

Pour your time into building your email list.

Those are the things you own. Those are the things you control.

Why build a house on someone else’s land?

Don’t rely on Facebook to build your audience!

And now I shall step off my soap box, but I’d love to connect with you on this topic… tweet me @maggiemarton your thoughts on Facebook and audience building! 

5 Tips for Brainstorming

My work plate has been piled high with new projects.

I love starting new projects because I love the opportunity to brainstorm – it often leads me to fresh ideas to pitch to other outlets, too!

Even though I love the opportunity to brainstorm, I don’t always love brainstorming itself.

Let me explain…

5 Tips for brainstorming tons of fresh ideas... even when you're not in a creative mindset!

I get super-duper pumped about new ideas. It’s invigorating to come up with fresh concepts. However, if you’ve been doing the same thing for a while – say, working with one client or on one project type – getting out of a creative rut can be tough. It takes a mindset shift from that client or that project into a new way of thinking.

But, of course, it can be done! And once you get going, it’s rewarding and refreshing to generate a ton of new ideas.

If you’re in a similar spot, here are my top five tips for brainstorming new ideas (note: they can apply to absolutely any type of project or industry):

  1. Leave your space. Go somewhere new. Brainstorm in a novel environment to come up with novel ideas. (BTW, my public library has ahhhhhhmazing work rooms you can “check out” for free!)
  2. Pick up a magazine outside your industry and flip through everything, including the ads, with a pen and paper nearby. Jot down anything that catches your fancy.
  3. If you’re a writer, doodle. If you’re an artist, write. Don’t worry about good or bad, just let your hand flow with a skill that doesn’t come naturally.
  4. Stare out a window. Turn on wordless tunes. (I love the “Deep Focus” playlist on Spotify for this.) Let your mind wander.
  5. Go for a walk. Walk out your door with a specific idea–what’s the perfect , click-worthy headline for this blog post? is there a fresh angle for this piece on a tried-and-true subject? how do I cover this topic in a way that would surprise my readers?–and focus on that idea as you walk. Your mind will drift. That’s OK. There’s some kind of magic to letting your subconscious work out a problem, but that only happens if it knows what problem to work out!

You’ll probably notice that there’s a consistent pattern among these five ideas: That is, do something differently. The very best way to come up with your very best ideas is to step away from your usual, mundane routine and try something new.

No, it’s not always comfortable. But that’s the whole point!

So, try something new. Try something unusual. Try something outside your norm to brainstorm the very best ideas! 

What I’m Working On…

What I'm Working on via MaggieMarton.com

Confession time: I’m working on taking a break.

I’m not very good at it. In fact, I’d say I have a lot to learn around this particular skill.

See, here’s the thing: My job with BlogPaws ended at the close of April. My goal was to take the first week of May completely, entirely, 100% off. But–and here’s the confession–I couldn’t figure out how.

Like, what do I do with myself? What if people send me messages? What if there’s some sort of digital content emergency that needs my particular set of skills? (erm, OK, maybe not that last one…)

In truth, I want to take a break. I really want to. I need the rest. I want to spend time with the kid. I want to read and journal and nap. I want to pursue creative projects without a timeframe or deadline.

But, man-oh-man, am I having a hard time letting go!

So, what am I working on?

I’m working on letting go. 

How about you? What are you working on these days?

Annoying Business Jargon: Avoid these 5 in your writing

Meaningless at its worst, trite at its best, business jargon clutters up your writing.

When writing anything–whether it’s an email or a proposal–your goal is clarity. Duh, right? You want your readers to understand what you’re saying.

Toss in a whole bunch of annoying business jargon, and you risk losing the clarity of your presentation.

Annoying Business Jargon_ Avoid these 5 in your writing _ MaggieMarton.com

So, what is some of the most irritating “corporate speak”? Here my five biggest annoyances:

Move the dial: Also, move the needle. This means that the task or project has a visible impact. Remember the most important tenant of good writing? Show, don’t tell! Instead of saying something will “move the dial,” tell them how, what, and why your idea has impact.

Drinking the Kool-Aid: I’ve heard this one a lot lately, and while I agree that blind allegiance makes zero sense, I’m also not fond of comparing office politics to an actual massacre.

Moving parts: This one crops up when someone wants to convey that a project or task is complex. Instead of the vague, “There are lots of moving parts,” quantify what those parts are to create a greater impact.

Synergize: I hate this word. It’s meaningless. What are you really trying to say or convey? Write that instead.

Out of pocket: This one bugs me. The intent is to convey that you’re not at you’re desk. You’re out of the office. It cropped up ages ago to imply that you were so important you’d still be working but limited to the Palm Pilot or whatever was in your pocket. Now? It’s misused, overused, and needs to go!

Ditch these annoying phrases; your writing will be succinct and clear. Plus, you won’t annoy people! 🙂

Authenticity and SEO: Can you have both?

Of course!

OK, see ya next week!

Just kidding… sort of…

Authenticity and SEO: Can your blog have both?

I recently had a conversation with someone who was griping about having to write “SEO copy” and coming off sounding awkward and forced.

Hmm.

That can happen. That does happen. I read awkward copy all over the web, copy where you can skim it and say to yourself, “OK, this guy’s trying to rank for XYZ.”

But it doesn’t have to be like this! There’s a better way!

Here’s the big secret.

Ready?

Write for people, real people, not for bots. 

See, all the SEO tips and tricks in the world are designed for the bots that skim websites to catalog and rank the copy.

Writing for a non-human results in non-human copy, and no one wants to read that.

OK, so how do you write good, authentic copy AND appease the bots?

Write for people! 

Seriously, write for your readers. Cover the topics that your readers are interested in, and write in the way that is unique to you and your style. Create posts with passion. Write well. If you deliver the copy your audience wants, people will find you. They’ll stick around (another important, but often overlooked, ranking factor). They’ll share your content. The bots will notice.

It can’t hurt to have an idea of what you want to rank for. So, for example, if you’re a blogger who covers training reactive dogs (HI! My name is Maggie, and I would love to read your blog!), you obviously want to rank for phrases like: how to train a reactive dog. So, write a post with that as the headline. Work that phrase into a post here and there as a header IF and ONLY IF it fits that post naturally.

That is truly the secret sauce for SEO. Write for people. Write your blog, write your topic, write your passion, write your best. Then you will have authentic, search-friendly copy, along with hordes of readers who love and adore you! At least, I think that’s how it goes… 🙂

Want to learn more about authentic blogging? Need to figure out how to discover and use your authentic voice? Check out my ebook, Authentic Blogging, for a self-paced mastercourse in blogging with authenticity and style!