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.

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! 

How to Land a Guest Blogging Pitch

In my former role as Director of Content for a digital media company, I received countless pitches for guest blogging. I would estimate–conservatively–that for every 15 pitches, one was worth pursuing. And of those, roughly half fall apart because the writer never replies to my response, the writer submits shitty copy that’s unsalvageable, or because the writer misses the deadline.

All the rest of the pitches–14 out of 15 or so–never made it far enough to have the chance to fall apart.

How to land a guest blogging pitch in 3 simple steps

I’m going to assume that if you’re reading this, you know that if you pitch a website, part of being a successful freelancer includes finishing the assignment, doing it well, and turning it in on time. Let’s skip those should-be-obvious points.

Instead, let’s focus on securing the gig in the first place.

Here’s how to land a guest blogging pitch in 3 simple steps:

  1. Learn the publication before you pitch. Seems, I don’t know, logical. But somehow this step gets overlooked far, far too often. Read the website, and not just the single most recent post. Read the About and PR pages. Read the staff bios. What topics does the site cover? Not just generally–a website about dogs–but specifically–a website about training retrievers. When you write your pitch, indicate that you’re familiar with the site by citing specific examples or suggesting the appropriate category or column for your piece.
  2. Find their contributor guidelines. Please don’t just send an email that says something like, “I’d love to contribute this story I thought of for your website. It’ll be a great fit! Do you have any guidelines you’d like me to follow?” You should 100 percent know for a fact that they do or do not have guidelines online. Search the site. Search Google. Check repositories like mediabistro.com. Our site’s guidelines are in a dropdown menu on the top nav bar. What happens when someone emails me to ask if there are guidelines? Delete. Why? It shows that they didn’t follow point one above and don’t know the site, and it also shows that they’re not willing to take the two minutes required to do the research. That makes me think they won’t be a responsible contributor.
  3. Get the editor’s name right. No “Dear Editor” or “Hey, Websitename Team!” Again, it would take a minute or two to click on the team bios page, skim them, and identify me as the editor. Maybe that seems small or petty, but it demonstrates to the editor that you’re willing to take an extra step or two and that you’re a courteous pro!

Nobody’s perfect. Mistakes happen. But, considering how many freelancers are competing for the same few opportunities, it pays to take the time to demonstrate your professionalism. These three tips, when performed together, might just be the thing that gets your pitch greater consideration–rather than quick delete.

5 Steps to More Authentic Writing

How often have you, as a blogger, been told to write authentically?

How frequently have you read the advice to be authentic and your audience will find you?

Sure, you should absolutely write authentically. Yes, if you are authentic, the right people will find you.

But…

How do you do that?

How do you write authentically? How do you balance all the social media dos and don’ts with being your true self?

5 Steps to More Authentic Writing

Here are my 5 steps to authenticity that apply to anyone creating content:

  1. Write like you speak. Nothing makes your work sound weirder faster than trying to write in a way that you think sounds “smart” or, really, anything other than your natural voice. Focus on being conversational.
  2. Cut the jargon. Related to the point above, jargon alienates most readers. Unless you’re writing for a technical audience who you’re sure knows what you’re saying, cut the jargon. If someone has to look something up, you’ve probably lost that reader.
  3. Edit for concision. Aim for clarity, not length. Check out these 5 editing tips to learn more.
  4. Write in active voice. Whenever possible, write in an active voice rather than a passive one. Check out this blog post for the hows and whys.
  5. Read your work out loud. Always. You could probably do away with tips one through four if you simply read everything out loud. Trust me on this one. Here’s more.

Not one of those tips will take you much longer to complete your piece, but every single one will improve your work.

If you want to dig into this topic more and really examine your blog for authenticity, check out my eBook, Authentic Blogging. With tons of worksheets to go along with the content, you’ll come out the other side feeling confident and self-assured in your writing!