The basics of email marketing

Andrew Raynor Dover NH

 

 

Email marketing is a great tool to bind your audience to your website. It’s relatively easy to set up an email newsletter and send it to your audience. In this post, I’ll explain the basics of email marketing. Why is email marketing an important element of your growth and marketing strategy? Moreover, I’ll also give practical tips on how to set up an awesome newsletter.

The benefits of email marketing

People who sign up for a newsletter expect and want to receive your information. So this part of your audience is very committed. That’s the reason email marketing pays off. The people you’re sending your newsletters to actually want to read your stuff! As the costs of email marketing are very low, email marketing has a relatively high return-on-investment.

Email is a great way to increase your customers’ retention. What this means is that it will increase the amount of customers that purchase repeatedly, instead of just once. So this would help turn your clients into return customers. By emailing your customers on a regular basis, your brand will stay top of mind and they’ll return more quickly to buy something again. Of course, your emails would have to be interesting, enticing and engaging for this to really work.

A newsletter is relatively easy to set up through a service like MailChimp or TinyLetter. It’s also easy to target specific subgroups within your entire audience with a newsletter. It’s a great way to inform your readers that you have written new blogs and that they should come and visit your blog.

Pitfalls of email marketing

Creating content for a newsletter can be a lot of work. Work on top of writing those posts for your blog. And if you want to send out a newsletter on a regular basis, you’ll have to fill it with content that’s useful to your audience. That can be a challenge.

People won’t open your email or will unsubscribe from your newsletter if they don’t like your content. It’s important not to annoy people with content they don’t want, or have already seen.

How to set up a newsletter?

1 Start with something important

Most people won’t read your entire newsletter. That’s why it’s crucial to start with the thing you really want people to know about. You could also choose something that people would like to read, something that will draw their attention and make them read the rest of your newsletter.

2 Make sure to choose a good subject line

Whether people actually open your newsletter depends on the subject of your newsletter. MailChimp makes it really easy to test open rates of newsletters with different subject lines and it really pays off to think about and test which subject lines work for your audience.

3 Clarity and focus

Make sure the layout of your newsletter is good and looks appealing, and that people are able to read your newsletter on mobile devices. Make sure you have clear calls-to-action, things you want people to do after they’ve read (part of) your newsletter. Give them enough opportunities to click through to your website (and buy your stuff or read your posts).

4 Tone of voice

The people who have signed up to receive your newsletter like your products, your blog or your company. So your tone of voice should be friendly and enthusiastic, not too aggressive or salesy. Your newsletter should make your audience even more fond of you and your products. You’re telling them something other people won’t hear. Make them feel special.

5 Make it visual

If a newsletter is just a wall of text it could become a bit boring. Illustrations and pictures can make the newsletter look much more attractive and pleasant to read.

Tips on making your newsletter that much more awesome!

1 MailChimp

There are a number of helpful tools that make sending out emails that much easier. At Yoast, we love MailChimp. MailChimp allows you to send out emails to 2,000 subscribers for free and has a great interface to write content and manage your subscriptions.

2 Test!

You should test which topics convert best into sales or new readers.  To do this you have to make sure that when people sign up for your newsletter, the thank-you page is hosted on your own site and has your Google Analytics code. Otherwise tracking the sign up is going to be hard. You should also look into the time and day of the week you’re sending your newsletter. For some blogs, the weekend could be a time to draw people to your site while for other (more company related or professional blogs) a weekday and an office hour would be most profitable.

3 Getting people to subscribe

In order to send people your newsletter, you have to convince them to subscribe to this newsletter first. Make sure you offer a subscribe field beneath your posts and on other visible places on your website. You can also use a pop-up to invite people to subscribe. At Yoast, we used to use OptinMonster for this.

4 Make sure your newsletter is mobile friendly

Many people check their email on their phone. You should really make sure your newsletter is as mobile-friendly as possible. A lot of the mailing services offer default templates that are mobile friendly and will scale down nicely. If you don’t want to spend too much time or money on your newsletter, this is a good option.

Another thing to consider for mobile is your subject line. Since mobile screens are obviously not as wide as desktop screens, your subject lines might not fit the screen. Perhaps this won’t be a problem at all, but it’s a good one to keep in mind, or even test.

Conclusion about email marketing

Email marketing is a great way to reach your audience. You can communicate with those clients that really want to be informed about your products, your website or your company. It’s relatively cheap and contributes to keep your audience coming back to your site. So get those subscriptions and make sure you create a newsletter with interesting content and an appealing design that works on mobile as well!

Read more: ‘Social Media Strategy: where to begin’ »

SEO New Hampshire

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What’s Really Happening When You Get Writer’s Block (and How to Overcome It)

Andrew Raynor Dover NH

 

Writer’s block isn’t what you think. It’s not a medical condition afflicting writers everywhere. It’s not a disease preventing you from doing your best work. And it’s not a virus that takes control of the creative process, rendering you useless.

What’s Really Happening When You Get Writer’s Block (and How to Overcome It)

What writer’s block is, then, is an excuse.

Nothing more.

Ever wonder why other people in less creative careers don’t experience blocks the way we writers do?

Cubicle dwellers may lament the Monday Blues or the 3PM Slump, but in no other industry do professionals speak of being prevented from their work by an invisible and all-powerful force beyond their control.

As Liz Gilbert says, there are no engineers suffering from engineer’s block.

Why is that?

Few professions require the honesty and self-reflection that writing does. Few vocations demand the constant mining of one’s life experiences, and even fewer allow you to spin this information into beautiful prose for public consumption.

In that respect, writer’s block makes sense. It is a creative person’s pre-emptive defense against judgment. It is a wall between ourselves and the public. It’s what we say when we don’t want to answer any more questions about that book we haven’t written. We’ve got writer’s block.

People nod understandingly, almost empathetically. Oh, yes. I’m so sorry. That must be hard. I hope you get well soon.

Here’s the truth: writer’s block doesn’t exist. Not really. It’s a condition that exists entirely in your head. That wall you’re building is made of air, not bricks. But when we believe this lie we tell ourselves, it becomes real.

When we think we are blocked, we become blocked.

The concept of writer’s block has so infiltrated our daily lives that it gets a pass in nearly every creative conversation. We do not hold ourselves to a standard of daily discipline, and therefore, neither do others.

But this is a problem. When a toxin to our productivity gets into the creative bloodstream, it must be flushed out. The way we do this is not by treating the symptom, but by acknowledging the real disease.

The real cause of writer’s block

If you’ve ever felt like you have writer’s block, here’s what you actually have:

  • Fear
  • Exhaustion
  • High standards (which is basically fear of failure)
  • Imposter Syndrome (fear of rejection)
  • Perfectionism (fear of not being good enough)
  • Busyness (fear of not having enough time)
  • Laziness (or is it really fear?)
  • Lack of structure (fear of not knowing how to start)

Look: I don’t mean to impose my reality on you because every writer is different. But, for me, what almost always prevents me from writing is fear.

To help me understand what’s going inside of me when I feel blocked, I take the following three steps:

1. Acknowledge the resistance

First, I acknowledge the resistance I feel as a sign that I’m doing something right. I must be doing something important if an unseen force is trying to stop me from finishing, even if that unseen force is myself.

Subconsciously, I must recognize that this is important work, hence the need to self-sabotage. So, when I realize this, I am encouraged. Excited, even. Because it means I’m doing something that matters.

2. Identify the root problem

Second, I ask myself what’s really going on. Not, what’s preventing me from finishing? But rather: why do I feel stuck?

Am I afraid of failure? Of rejection? Of not being good enough?

Do I feel like I don’t have enough time? Enough talent? Enough grit?

Or, am I just tired?

Depending on the situation, my step three varies. But unless I’m tired, in which case I take nap or do some exercise, it’s most likely fear that I’m having to overcome.

I’m scared to publish because I feel like my best work is behind me or that I’ll never finish it. I’m scared of what people might think, or that I’ll somehow get pigeonholed into some role I don’t want for myself. I’m scared it’ll fail, and therefore I will be a failure.

So, it’s just easier to stare at the screen or procrastinate and find something else seemingly more important to do. Then, when the writing time is over, I play the martyr, pretending like I didn’t have “enough time.”

3. Ask what’s the worst that can happen

Three, once I’ve determined what’s actually wrong, I do a worst-case scenario. Could I fail? Sure. Would that destroy my career in a single stroke? Not at all.

It would take multiple failures all in a row to take me out of the game. That’s not impossible, of course, but it’s certainly not likely. And that takes away the pressure of this one creative act, which frees me up to do what is mine to do, today.

We must acknowledge the true cause of our writer’s block. Then, we must find a practical solution so we have a shot at getting back to work.

Start with structure

A quick word on writing structure: If you’ve balked before at structure as something that would limit your creativity or even induce writer’s block, that’s fear talking.

Your output depends on having a system in place that makes productivity not just probable, but inevitable.

That’s why my friend Tim Grahl and I recently worked together to develop The Productive Writer course. We designed this course to help you find the time to write, overcome your fears, and finish your book in the next 90 days.

You are not merely a vehicle through which writing flows (or doesn’t) despite you, which means that the thing you’re perceiving as a creative block is just you getting in your own way. This is why it’s important for you to use proven strategies to help you remove the obstacles that stand in the way of your writing.

Step aside, define the thing you’re actually experiencing, and try out this proven system to get real traction as a writer.

Register today for The Productive Writer course before it closes on Friday, August 26.


What’s happening in your mind when you’re facing writer’s block? Share in the comments.

Andrew Raynor Dover New Hampshire

Internal search for online shops: an essential asset

Andrew Raynor Dover NH

 

 

Internal search is a valuable asset for any informational website containing over 20 pages. That value is probably double or more when it comes to internal search for online shops. The easier a visitor gets to the desired product, the more likely he or she will buy it. Following my post on internal search for informational websites, I’d like to elaborate a bit more on internal search for eCommerce shops in this post.

Internal search for online shops

There is a reason the larger online shops add so much focus on their internal search: you will buy their stuff if you can easily find the product you are looking for. It’s as simple as that.

The number of products in an online shop varies from dozens to thousands. As soon as your online shop has more than 20 items, you need to start thinking about alternative ways to get to these products. They can’t all be in a submenu, right?

There’s a ton of things you can do to make the route to the desired product as short as possible for your visitor.

Location of your search bar

There is no default best spot for the search bar on your website. We think the location of a search bar largely depends on the type of page (or homepage) you have and the importance of that search bar for your audience. Rule of thumb is that you can’t ignore the search option when you are sitting down with your designer. It has to have a prominent spot on pretty much every page.

Most common spots are in or below the header, where a visitor will expect that search bar to be. A nice example is Cabela’s search option:

Internal search for online shops - Cabela's

You can see it doesn’t have to be a large, obtrusive search option. The position of that search bar makes it so that any visitor will be able to find it in a heartbeat.

There are a number of other positions that you can choose, but these two are the most common ones. Other options include in the hero image, like on Etsy.com, or as a part of the menu, like on Staples.com.

The main thing to keep in mind is that (in most cases) your search option should be one of the most prominent elements of your homepage. And probably of a number of other pages as well. That doesn’t go for product pages, as that would be the end result for a query. But please add it in a less prominent way to these pages, so people can continue shopping at all times. It wouldn’t hurt to test variations of that search bar location and see what works best for your audience.

Internal search result pages for online shops

There are two kinds of internal search result pages in online shops:

  • Actual internal search result pages, found by adding a search query to the search option on a website, and
  • your product category pages, that can be found by clicking a link to that category.

Both basically look the same, right? The main difference is that the category pages are presented after clicking a link, most probably in the menu, and the search result pages are presented after an actual search query. Think about an online fashion shop that gives you the choice between the main categories Men and Women. The search query is predefined.

These search result pages should have the following characteristics:

  • Highlighted search keywords
  • Add excerpts of your product description containing the keyword
  • Rank results by relevance
  • Make sure internal search results are not indexed by Google

There is one extra characteristic I’d like to add here. No matter what the product is you are selling, make sure a product image is shown in your internal search results. This makes searching a lot easier. For instance, with books (and even eBooks), I’d rather pick the one with a nice cover than the boring alternative. Make sure there is an image available. We’d be happy to check this and much more for you in our site reviews.

One more addition to this. And this is just me thinking out loud. If a visitor clicks a search result in your webshop, and lands on your product page, prevent the need to click back to the internal search results. That can be easily done by adding a related products section to the product page.

Filter options after an internal search

I already mentioned the importance of providing filter options for your internal search for online shops. The main reason is that on most larger eCommerce shops, the visitor is still left in the dark when doing that initial internal search. The number of results is overwhelming. The easier it is to narrow this down, the happier you will make your potential customer.

In this section, I’d like to go over a number of best practices. First, I’d like to mention the filter options in the mother of all online shops: Amazon.com. Here’s a screenshot:

Internal Search for Webshops: Amazon filter options

This is all in one large sidebar on the left-hand side of your Amazon page (not per se in this order by the way). What I think is especially nice in these filter options, is the option to filter on Average Customer Review. It emphasizes the Amazon community and in the very general search I did, this is a welcome filter option.

Zalando.de is one of the larger European online clothing shops. Always on the lookout for new, cheap t-shirts, I found these filter options:

Note that the global filter on the left has already disabled the filter options that don’t apply to this search, which is nice, and that it gives me the opportunity to filter for sale items only (I’m a cheapskate when it comes to t-shirts).

The most important filter options are right above the search results: Brand, Color, Price, Size, etcetera with a select option in the dropdown:

One could argue whether that brand list should instead be a long list right below the global search options. Zalando has most probably tested this a lot, and so should you. Test, or ask, what your visitors prefer.

The third and last case that I’d like to mention in this post is LEGO.com:

Internal Search for Webshops: LEGO.com filter options

Ow, what a teaser. “Coming Soon: 5”. And why can I filter retired products? So I can go on eBay and buy these for a lot more than the initial price:

Internal Search for Webshops: LEGO Retired Product

So that “hard to find” statement might not be entirely accurate, but I can see this pushing experience and price 🙂 LEGO does a very nice job on these filter options, by the way. Especially the Age and Pieces options come in handy for most visitors, I imagine. Note that where Amazon starts with the Rating filter, LEGO concludes the list of filters with that option. Perhaps Amazon users are looking for a type of book rather than a specific book, where LEGO.com users are looking for that one box to complete their collections. But that’s just me guessing.

You can see how filter options help you get to the desired product a lot faster than just entering more search terms in an internal search field in an online shop.

Read more: ‘Internal search: why and how’ »

Conclusion

Where a search option on an informational site is very much like your basic Google search, the internal search for eCommerce shops is a bit more complicated. You really want to add a second step to that: filter options. Together these make for a very good user experience, as long as your filter options are logical and are tailored to your target audience.

SEO New Hampshire

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116: Why Writers Need to Build a Professional Network to Succeed

Andrew Raynor Dover NH

 

Your success as a writer is not solely dependent upon your ability to write. If you believe this, then you might be missing out on one of the most important pieces to your success: Your professional network.

No matter how much we want to believe that successful men and women are self-made, it’s just not true. At times in your life and career, you will need the help, support, and guidance from someone else.

Someone who will pick you up when you fall down. Someone who can teach you important lessons and even speak hard truths into your life. And someone who will walk alongside you in support as you take steps toward pursuing your calling.

Like most writers, I’m a little shy and found building a community really difficult to do at first. But I learned that this type of network and support I needed couldn’t be developed behind the comfort of my computer. It wasn’t until I stepped away from my writing and into a community when I not only began to forge key friendships, but began to improve as a writer and professional.

This week on The Portfolio Life, Andy Traub and I talk about the importance of building a community for your development and success as a writer. We also share some good and bad examples of building community, and practical steps you can take today to expand your professional network.

Listen in as Andy and I share my personal experiences and awkward moments in building my network and what I’ve learned along the way.

Listen to the podcast

To listen to the show, click the player below. (If you are reading this via email or RSS, please click here.)

Show highlights

In this episode, Andy and I discuss:

  • Being intentional about creating community.
  • How stepping away from my writing and joining a community changed everything.
  • Finding and creating a community where you live.
  • Connecting with like-minded people.
  • Why real success comes from finding people who are as ambitious as you are.
  • Networking with people who are ahead of you and similar to you professionally.
  • What to do when you lack self-confidence in approaching others.
  • How to develop and maintain relationships after forming them.

Quotes and takeaways

  • Close your laptop. Put away your work. And step out into your community.
  • Wherever you are, there is some kind of opportunity to network.
  • Identify and network with people who are ahead of you and similar to you professionally.
  • Don’t worry about your perceived level of success. That’s not the point. The point is to connect with someone at your level.
  • A network is a relationship of people working together to give and receive.

Resources

What steps can you take today to connect with people who are ahead of you and similar to you professionally? Share in the comments.

Andrew Raynor Dover New Hampshire

To blog or not to blog?

Andrew Raynor Dover NH

 

 

To blog or not to blog? That’s the question. Or, at least, that will be the main question of this blog post. The answer to the question is pretty simple: yes, you should blog. In this post, I’ll explain why you should blog. I’ll also explain some of the challenges that you’ll face as a blogger, and how to cope with them.

Blogging is great for SEO

Adding content on a regular basis should be part of every sustainable SEO strategy. It allows you to rank for new keywords and to keep ranking on those you’re already found for. If you blog regularly, Google will ‘see’ your site as active, alive and relevant. This will definitely help your rankings.

One of the reasons WordPress websites usually are able to rank relatively high in Google is all because of the blogging structure of WordPress. A blogging structure makes it easy for website owners to create new content. The threshold to write is very low! And if you’re writing more often, you will have a higher chance to conquer the competition in Google. Blogging therefore is a very good way to keep creating content and to start ranking in the search engines.

Read more: ‘Blog or vlog?’ »

Blogging is a great marketing tool

A blog will be a great marketing tool for every website. In your blog, you can tell readers about your brand, your products and perhaps also about yourself.

Maintaining a blog will allow you to give readers to get more acquainted with your brand and your products. It is a great way to let your audience in on new ideas or plans you might have.  A blog can be a reason for people to come back to your website. You can interact with your audience in the comments of your blog.

Keep reading: ‘How to handle comments on your blog’ »

Blogging will be a challenge

Publishing content is rather easy with a content management system like WordPress. Writing a great story, unfortunately, is as hard as it was in the Middle Ages. Writing remains a skill. It requires skills from its performer, it requires some basic understanding of language and spelling, it requires some creativity, it requires some thinking and reflecting. And, writing web texts requires some basic knowledge about the internet, SEO and user experience as well. The pitfall of blogging is that people quickly create a lot of crappy content. And in the end, that is not a very good SEO strategy at all.

In order to blog, you need to be able to write a decent text. Check out our SEO copywriting course, one of our eBooks, or our SEO copywriting: the Ultimate guide  if you need some help.

Conclusion: to blog or not to blog?

If you have a website, you should blog. At least every now and then. Blogging is great for SEO and it is an important marketing tool. Above that, it can be great fun!

Read on: ‘6 tips for coming up with blog ideas’ »

SEO New Hampshire

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How to Get Your Writing Done Every Day: The Three-Bucket System

Andrew Raynor Dover NH

 

Note: I have a free video teaching on this system. If you’d rather watch that, click here.

Most writers struggle with getting their writing done for one surprising reason. They think writing is a one-step process, when in fact, it’s a three-step process.

How to Get Your Writing Done Every Day: The Three-Bucket System

What we call “writing” is actually made up of three distinct activities: coming up with ideas, turning those ideas into drafts, and then editing those drafts into publishable pieces.

When I decided to become a writer and made the commitment to write 500 words per day, every single day, I quickly ran into the resistance that holds most of us back from doing our work.

I’d get up early, brew my coffee, and sit down to write. And I’d wait. And wait. And I’d wait for the words to come, but nothing would come quickly. Some days, nothing would come at all.

The minutes would tick by, with me stupidly staring at the cursor, squandering what little time I had before having to go to work. When my writing time was over, I’d pack my stuff up, defeated, and beat myself up for the rest of the day.

Why couldn’t I focus?

The truth is most writers struggle with this. Because they believe the myth that writing is one thing. When I realized that coming up with a great idea, writing 500–1,000 words on that idea, and then editing that idea into something I could publish on my blog – all in one sitting – was, in fact, a ridiculous goal, everything changed.

I began breaking those activities – ideation, creation, and editing – into three separate actions. And you know what? When you have one goal to accomplish, you are far more productive and focused than when you have three.

Imagine that.

As I did this, writing became easier and easier. I started writing more. I stopped getting writer’s block – period. I didn’t feel stuck anymore. I knew exactly what I needed to do, and I knew I could do it – so I did.

What resulted was, to my own chagrin, a system. To be honest, I’m not a very organized guy. I wish I were. But the truth is most of my life is messier than I care to admit. But what I’ve realized is every working writer I know has some sort of system to get the work done.

A system doesn’t have to be complicated or confusing. It just has to work. To quote my friend Tim Grahl, a system is just a way of doing something that gets you a predictable result every time. Like, putting your keys in the same place every day after work (which I only recently started doing).

Below is my system, and maybe it’ll work for you, too. I call it: The Three-Bucket System. And it’s how I get my writing done.

Bucket #1: Ideas

All throughout the day, I capture ideas using an app called Drafts that syncs with Evernote.

That’s the first bucket: ideas.

I have a whole folder full of them for when I’m feeling dry in the creativity department.

You can use a notebook for this as well. The tool doesn’t matter, as long as you aren’t just hanging onto all those ideas in your brain. Don’t trust that operating system. It will fail you.

You must capture ideas in a place where you can return to them later when your memory fails you and the coffee hasn’t kicked in yet.

Bucket #2: Drafts

Then, when it’s time for me to write (usually in the morning), I’ll pull an idea out from the first bucket and start writing, usually around 500 words in one session. This process makes it easier to just start writing because I don’t have to think about what I’m going to write – I already have a prompt.

The ideas I collect function as prompts for me, but this is not just a writing exercise. It’s work. I never write something without the intent of publishing it. This is what my friend Marion calls “writing with intent.” The best practice is the kind done in public, and the best writing is the stuff you intend to publish.

Once I’ve written about 500 words on my idea, I save it as a draft in Scrivener (if I’m working on a book) or in Byword (if it’s a blog post). Again, these are the tools I use. They don’t matter as much as the method.

This is the second bucket: drafts.

At any given time, I have a whole bunch of half-finished chapters and blog posts on my computer begging to be edited and completed.

This is not an overwhelming feeling. It’s an empowering one, because when it’s time to edit, I get to choose what I want to work on. I don’t have to come up with an idea or “just write.”

The point of this system is to think as little as possible and just do the next thing.

Bucket #3: Edits

Finally, I pull out one of those half-completed drafts and edit it. I’ll polish up the flow and sentence structure and of course, check for grammar and spelling.

At this point, the piece isn’t perfect, but it’s at least 90% done. I’ll either schedule it for a blog post or tuck it away in another folder called “Finished pieces” on my computer.

This is the third bucket: edits.

These are pieces of writing that are more or less ready for the world to see. The next step is to share them with an editor or publisher or post to my blog. Again, I don’t write anything just for fun. It all has a purpose.

This is what professionals do. They write for an audience, always with the intent of publishing. Anything less than that will result in something that isn’t your best work.

Putting it together

So here’s how this works in practice. But a quick word: if you’re just beginning, you’ll really need two days to get the system fully running.

1. Collect Ideas

Today, as you go on with the rest of your day, grab any ideas that come to you and capture them in a notebook or on an app that you can easily return to later. Shoot for five ideas. Write down a sentence or a phrase. Just enough to save the idea.

2. Write and Save

Tomorrow, when it’s time to write (say, in the morning, or whenever works for you), pull one of those ideas out of that first bucket.

I find that certain ideas speak to me, call to me even, and I try to listen to that voice. But sometimes, I just pick one. Typically, I choose the one that either most excites me or represents a deadline I have to meet.

When you’re done, put this piece in the “drafts” folder and save it for later. Then today, you’re done.

3. Edit and Publish

The day after, return to yesterday’s draft and edit it. Then move it to bucket three, maybe even publish it on your blog or wherever. Then go to bucket one to pull out a new idea and start writing again.

Do this every day, and you’ll never run out of writing topics. You’ll never run out of things to edit and publish. You’ll never have writer’s block again.

As long as you remember: writing is not one thing. It’s three things. So that’s my system. Give it a try, and let me know how it works.

If this advice has inspired you and you want to go deeper in becoming a productive writer, you should check out the free video series I’ve just released with Tim Grahl. You’ll learn more about this three bucket system as well other strategies you can use to create a writing system that gets results every day.

Click here to check out the free video series.

Can you relate to my story of feeling stuck as a writer? Do you ever feel discouraged because you aren’t making progress? Share in the comments.

Andrew Raynor Dover New Hampshire

How Tiny Goals Changed My Life And Made Me a Real Writer

Andrew Raynor Dover NH

 

Note: This is a guest post from Shaunta Grimes. Shaunta is the author of Viral Nation and Rebel Nation. She blogs about writing at What is a Plot? You can sign up for her free class on how to develop and test a story idea here.

Hi. My name is Shaunta, and I’m a “tiny goal” addict. Also: Hi. I’m a writer, and I have never had writer’s block. Like, ever. It’s true. And guess what. Those two admissions are closely tied together.

How Ridiculously Tiny Goals Changed My Life And Made Me a Real Writer

I’ve never had writer’s block because I am addicted to tiny goals.

It wasn’t always that way. I used to make big goals for myself. I’d get a notebook and write out an elaborate plan for writing three hours a night after my kids were in bed (even though I’m totally a morning person.) Or writing 2,000 words a day, because that’s what Stephen King does. He said so in On Writing.

And I might make it through a day or two. Maybe a week. But inevitably, something would happen. Some family thing. Some work thing. And when I was faced with not having a three-hour block for writing, I’d skip the whole day. And without fail, that day turned into a week or a month or even a year.

And then the whole thing would start over again.

I was writing, sometimes, but I didn’t feel like a writer. I didn’t feel like it was my job, because I was making such sporadic progress. Sometimes I wrote like a fiend. Sometimes I’d go weeks or months without writing a word, because I felt so behind that it was hard to even think about writing without feeling guilty.

How I started using tiny goals

When my daughter Ruby was five, she had pneumonia. We lived in a tiny rural Nevada town, so I had to travel with her to Las Vegas where she was in the hospital for three weeks. I wrote a lot during those days, and I thought a lot about being a writer.

I didn’t have much else to do, and writing kept me sane. Writing has always kept me sane, so pulling out a notebook every day was a no-brainer.

I realized, during those weeks, sitting with my little girl in the hospital, that I really did want to be a writer, and I wasn’t going to get there by writing in short-lived (but heroic) bursts. I needed a daily writing habit. I made a promise to myself to write a page a day for a month after we got home.

Six weeks later, that page a day goal turned into the first draft of my first published novel.

How tiny goals work

Think of either an amount of time or a number of words that you are absolutely certain that, no matter what else happened in a day, you could meet.

Now cut that in half.

Maybe, cut it in half again.

Keep going until you have a goal so small that it would be psychologically more difficult for you to break it than it would be for you to just give in and get it done.

Now, small is relative. After years of working really hard to get here, I was finally able to quit my day job this year. I’m a full-time writer. So writing 500 words or working for thirty minutes a day on my fiction writing is my current tiny goal.

You might be thinking, Jeez, lazy. Thirty minutes a day, and you don’t even have a day job? That’s ridiculous. I get that. Just stick with me, though.

You’ll see.

A few months ago, I was still working full-time, and I was building an online business, and I still had the regular family obligations. (I’m a soccer mom, I have an adult son with autism, and my parents-in-law with dementia live with me.) Back then, 500 words a day wasn’t a tiny goal. It was a pipe dream.

My tiny goal then was ten minutes a day.

I can do anything for ten minutes a day. I can write for ten minutes a day—even on my busiest, craziest day. Sure, sometimes I might be scribbling at red lights or in a notebook balanced on my knees when I’m in the bathroom, but I can do ten minutes every single day.

I’ve never personally had to go less than that for a tiny goal, but I see absolutely nothing wrong with having a thirty-second goal if that’s where you are. A one-sentence goal. Honestly, whatever hits that sweet spot for you where it would be harder to skip it than to just get it over with.

Tiny goals are (mostly) just a trick

I mean, sure. Technically, if you want to set your timer for thirty seconds, write one sentence, and quit until tomorrow, go for it. At that rate, you’ll probably write one book in your lifetime, and that’s all Margaret Mitchell knocked out, right?

But if you can do ten minutes, here’s what that might look like in practice:

You sit down at your desk. You open your manuscript file. You maybe re-read your last paragraph. You put your fingers on the keyboard. You start typing.

Here’s what the transformation from ten minutes of writing to twenty or thirty or an hour or more looks like:

You keep typing.

See?

The whole purpose of a tiny goal is to get you started. The stuff that happens before you start writing can be monumental. You have to talk yourself into choosing writing over all the other things you could be doing with those ten minutes. And if you are anything like me, every minute of your day, you’re making a choice between at least three things you could be doing.

Write or start a load of laundry?

Write or check your kid’s math homework?

Write or talk to your partner about that bill you forgot to pay?

And those are just things you could do instead of writing for ten minutes. If you have a goal of, say, writing three hours a day, now you’ve entered a whole other ball game.

Write or have a part-time job?

Write or take a college course or two?

Write or take your kid to the park?

Whew. Pressure! No wonder it’s so easy to just skip it, sometimes for days or weeks on end.

Tiny goals to the rescue!

What a tiny goal does is help you get past the initial hurdle of starting to write. It gets your butt in a chair. It gets that manuscript file opened. It gets your fingers moving.

Once you get going, momentum takes over. I would estimate that at least 90 percent of the time, I far exceed my tiny goal. Right now, I generally write fiction at least two hours a day. When I was still working my day job, I usually managed twenty to thirty minutes a day.

Having a daily tiny writing goal does something else, too. It keeps the idea that you really are a writer front and center in your brain. And you want to be a writer, so keeping that little bitty commitment becomes something that feels really good on more than one level.

Tiny goals aren’t only a mind trick, though. It’s not like I give mouth service to writing 500 words a day but secretly expect myself to write 2,000 instead. I truly give myself permission to write 500 words a day (or, when things are super hectic, 10 minutes a day.) There are days where I stop mid-sentence and put it away until tomorrow. There are days when I feel like I’m fishing each word out of my gray matter with a toothpick.

On those days, I get my little bit of forward motion in, and then I don’t think about it again until the next day. The key is to make that forward progress every single day.

If you commit to making a tiny bit of progress every day, you’ll find that momentum carries you right through writer’s block like it doesn’t even exist. If you’re really stuck, go ahead and give that thirty-second goal a try.

What ridiculously tiny goal can you set today? Share in the comments.

Andrew Raynor Dover New Hampshire

Ask Yoast: fix website or start new one

Andrew Raynor Dover NH

 

 

Imagine owning a website with a lot of outdated content. What to do? Should you try to fix the old website? Or would it be better to start all over again with a brand new website? In this Ask Yoast we’ll dive into this frequent dilemma.

We’ll do so by discussing the following question, sent to us by Roc Krivec:

“I have a blog with 1K+ blog posts. I cannot update, nor improve these posts and I don’t dare to delete them. Some posts still rank quite good. The site is generating very little revenue and a lot of posts are of poor quality. Should I try to fix this website or start all over again with a new (high quality) website.”

Watch the video to get an answer to this question or read the transcript below!

Fix old site or start new one?

“Well, I would never start all over again, even if you have over 1K posts and you think most of them are really bad. Just delete all the bad ones. Just delete them, do nothing else. You can either choose to 410 them or to 301 them to the homepage. Both are in this case a valid choice. But keep the good ones, and at that point start producing high quality content. Even if you’re only left with 20 or 30 good posts after you’ve deleted all the other stuff. You’d still have more than what you would have when you’d start fresh.

So, don’t start over. Just fix it up. Remove all the old stuff and then keep on going. Good luck!”

Read more: ‘10 tips for an awesome and SEO-friendly blog post’ »

Ask Yoast

Do you have a question on content creation, site structure, duplicate content or XML sitemaps? We’d love to help you out! Just send your SEO question to ask@yoast.com.

SEO New Hampshire

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115: Why You Need to Stop Trying to Write the Perfect Book with Shauna Niequist

Andrew Raynor Dover NH

 

I find it difficult to focus on what’s in front of me. With the lure of my phone in my pocket and my time filled with my family, running a business, and writing a book, embracing the imperfect, right-now moment I’m living in is a challenge. And I know I’m not alone.

rsz_photo-1469208882181-68a3cc9d3260

All of us feel a little overwhelmed. We have obligations to our family and friends (in a good way), we’re either working or studying in school, and then there’s exercising, volunteering, leisurely activities, and side projects. It’s really easy to always feel behind, disengaged, and potentially late for everything.

But we don’t have to live our lives this way. Busyness is not a virtue ingrained into the fabric of our moral order that all of us need to aspire to obtain. If anything, busyness—whether it’s real or contrived—will do you more personal harm than good.

You don’t have to be afraid of having down time. This is the challenge all of us face with life. Regardless of the obligations or distractions we face, we have to learn to embrace the magic of the moment life throws our way. And this is exactly what I’m talking about with today’s guest.

This week on The Portfolio Life, Shauna Niequist and I talk about her latest book, Present Over Perfect, and how she learned to forgo settling for busy in order to live a more simple, yet actively engaged life.

Shauna also allows us to peer into her writing life to let us see how she turns ideas into books, how she outlines her work and collaborates with editors, and what it means to not fixate on being a perfect writer.

Shauna’s story is our story. At one time or another, all of us will battle with feelings of exhaustion in our pursuit for more.

Listen in as Shauna and I discuss what was going on in her life that motivated her to write this book, and why the perfect story or book doesn’t exist.

Listen to the podcast

To listen to the show, click the player below. (If you are reading this via email or RSS, please click here).

Show highlights

In this episode, Shauna and I discuss:

  • Whether or not you should read while you’re writing.
  • Authors you should be aware of and read.
  • What was taking place in Shauna’s life that inspired her latest book.
  • Why your sense of value doesn’t come from what you earn.
  • The importance of telling your life’s story unfiltered.
  • How to find book ideas from your life and turn them into books.
  • Respecting the relationship between readers and writers.
  • Why the concept of perfectionism is not really applicable to writers.
  • Working with editors in your book writing process.

Quotes and takeaways

  • “I’m always telling a story, and mine is the only one I know how to tell well.” –Shauna Niequist
  • Our sense of value does not come from what you create and earn.
  • “Don’t like to write, but like having written.” –Frank Norris
  • Don’t forsake the well-being of your personal life for your professional aspirations.
  • “There is no there-there.” –Gertrude Stein
  • There’s always time to let go of bad habits in order to pick up new ones to carry with you to tomorrow.

Resources

What’s the one thing you took away from today’s life that applies to your life? Share in the comments.

Andrew Raynor Dover New Hampshire

5 blogging tips for your web shop

Andrew Raynor Dover NH

 

 

A blog is a great marketing tool for web shops. On your blog, you can tell readers about your brand and products and perhaps also about yourself. In this post, I will give five blogging tips for web shops that’ll help you to maintain an awesome blog on your eCommerce site!

Why should you blog?

Maintaining a blog will allow you to let readers get more acquainted with your brand and your products. It is a great way to inform your audience about new ideas or plans you might have. Blog posts can be a great marketing tool for your shop. You’ll be able to tell the story of your products from your own perspective.

Maintaining a blog contributes to SEO as well. Every time you write a new blog post, you’re adding fresh content, which Google likes. Above that, maintaining a blog will allow you to write content around those keywords you would like to rank for.

5 blogging tips for web shops

Maintaining a blog can be hard. You’ll have to keep coming up with ideas for new blog posts. Above that, you’ll want to create awesome content, making sure that your audience will return to your web shop.

1. Do your keyword research

You can write about all kinds of things on your blog, but make sure to do proper keyword research first. You really need to know what search terms you want to be found for. These keywords should be leading when you choose what to blog about.

Read more: ‘Keyword research: the ultimate guide’ »

2. Current events

A great way to keep coming up with ideas for new post is to follow current events. Keep an eye on different news sites, and write posts in which you incorporate your views on the news in your niche. Perhaps you can set up an alert for a specific topic. And if a holiday is coming up, write a post about how your products could be used during that specific holiday.

3. Interact with your audience!

If you invite your audience to leave comments on your blog, you could receive feedback and questions. Use these comments to interact with your audience. This interaction is a great way to connect to your audience and make sure that people will come back to your site.

Keep reading: ‘How to handle comments on your blog’ »

4. Add that personal touch

Writing blog posts will allow you to add that nice personal touch to your company or your brand. A large company or brand could really benefit from a blog that appeals to people on a personal level. A CEO of a company could, for instance, write about his view on the market or the way he uses the products he sells. This will give the company and the brand a face and a story. That’ll help people to connect to a brand or a company. It might even convince them to return to your web shop.

5. Tell stories about your products

Your blog is a great way to share stories about your products. If you sell cleaning supplies, write blogs about which stains are best removed with which supply. If you sell kids clothes, write blog posts about children wearing your clothes. Add lots of photos! Tell stories about how to use your products. Don’t make these blogs to salesy. Write informative pieces about your products. Show people why they should buy your stuff.

You could also ask your audience to share their stories. Ask them for their experiences and to share their photos. You could write beautiful blog posts based on these user experiences. You could also ask your clients to write a guest blog.

Conclusion

A blog is a great marketing tool for every web shop. It’ll allow you to create an engaging audience and add a personal touch to your brand or company. With the use of our blogging tips for web shops, you should be able to maintain an awesome blog!

Read on: ‘5 tips to write readable blog post’ »

SEO New Hampshire

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