7 Ways Police Work Made Me a Better Writer

Andrew Raynor

Note: This is a guest post from John Patrick Weiss. John is an artist, writer, and police chief. Find out more about John’s amazing story on his blog.

My father was a man’s man. In World War II he served as a drill instructor in the United States Marine Corps. He went to law school and passed the state bar exam on his first attempt, despite being ill with a high fever and hands swollen from hives.

7 Ways Police Work Made Me A Better Writer

He became an administrative law judge, deciding multi-million dollar cases. He wore a crew cut, had a deep voice, embraced pragmatism and was a veritable polymath. In contrast, I was a sensitive kid with long hair who loved to draw cartoons and write creative stories. Not exactly Marine Corps material.

When I was sixteen I worked up the courage to tell Dad I wanted to be an artist and writer. He sat back in his reading chair, closed his book and said, “There’s a fellow in town named Jack Wilson. He’s a palette knife painter. I like his work. But here’s the thing, Johnny. It’s a tough life. Jack is on the road a lot, going to different art shows. A career in the arts can be hard.”

Where dreams confront reality

Dad’s response was not what I wanted to hear. But then he added, “There’s no reason why you can’t be an artist and writer. But get an education first and find a career that interests you, to pay the bills. Then, in your off time, you can paint and write. If the art takes off, great. But you’ll always have the other profession to fall back on.”

“So pragmatic and predictable,” I thought to myself. “The perfect recipe for selling out and settling into an unremarkable life of mediocrity. Nope, not for me.”

Of course, I folded pretty quickly.

After all, the old man was footing the bill for college. I put my art dreams on hold and declared a major in criminal justice administration. My thought was to become an attorney or police officer to pay the bills.

Between classes, I drew editorial cartoons for the university newspaper, which fed my creative appetite. After graduation, Dad talked me into graduate school where I obtained my master’s degree in criminal justice administration. I was clearly on the pragmatic career path.

Everyone has something they’re waiting for

In Jeff Goins’ book The In-Between, he writes, “Everyone has something they’re waiting for…” and “[t]he irony is that when we think we are standing still, we are actually growing the most. What gets us to our destinations are the pauses, the breaks, the in-between.”

I accepted the fact that my art would have to wait. I enrolled in the police academy after graduate school and in short order was hired by a local police department. Six months of field training later and I was released to solo patrol. Just a young artist trapped in a policeman’s uniform.

I was firmly ensconced in my in-between. What I couldn’t have known was how the roller coaster that followed would change me.

There would be a fatal police shooting in my rookie year. High-speed pursuits, death notifications, and the suicide of a close friend. I would bear witness to heartrending tragedies involving abused children and forgotten seniors. But there were also inspiring moments of true grace.

I saw the best and worst in people. And all of it was teaching me volumes about life and humanity. The kind of stuff that gets into your soul, sharpens your insights, and equips you to be a better writer.

Seven cop tips for better writing

I spent 26 years in law enforcement and the last ten as a police chief. I enjoyed my career but felt like it was the long interruption — keeping me from becoming an artist and writer.

What I didn’t realize is that police work was an investment in my future, creative self. As Jeff espoused in The Art of Work, “Nothing is wasted. No job, no task, no obstacle is useless, if we are willing to see how it can fit into our calling.” To that end, here are seven tips on better writing, gleaned from years of police work.

1. You have the right to remain silent

If you want to be a good writer, you need to be a good listener. That means shutting up and paying attention to everything that’s going on around you. What people are saying, how they’re saying it, and the environment they’re in.

Look closely at most cops and you’ll spy a small notebook in their breast pocket. It’s where we record everything.

Do yourself a favor and start carrying a small Moleskine notebook and pen. You’ll discover they come in handy to record thoughts, quotes, wisdom from overheard conversations, and more.

They also teach you to listen and write down details. And real life details are what make your stories and articles more relatable and interesting. There’s a reason writers like Ernest Hemingway, Mark Twain, Thomas Jefferson and Alexis de Tocqueville all carried pocket notebooks. To remind them to listen, observe and record their ideas.

2. Summon your courage

It takes guts to put on a ballistic vest, uniform, badge and gun belt. Doing so immediately marks you as a potential target. What’s worse, when the excrement hits the fan, most people are running away. Except cops. We get to run towards the disaster. Doing so requires courage and a willingness to confront your fears.

Maybe you’ve been hesitant to pitch that guest post idea or finally start your writing blog. No one likes rejection and criticism, but they can help you grow as a writer. You can’t rely on family and friends. They’ll just tell you you’re brilliant. Strangers, however, will give it to you straight. So, summon your courage and put your work out there. It’s the only way to become a better writer.

3. Never a cop when you need one

Doesn’t it just burn you to go into a Starbucks and see three cops sitting around, sipping their lattes on the public dime? Shouldn’t they be out protecting and serving? The reality is that tons of police departments run 12-hour shifts. To stay fresh and alert, it’s important for cops to take breaks.

Writers need to take breaks, too. Face it, writing is a sedentary and often solitary pursuit. You need to step away, go for a walk and recharge your batteries. Exercise will reinvigorate your mind, keep you healthy and more focused. You’ll return to the keyboard refreshed and with new insights. And besides, nothing beats a pumpkin spice latte to ignite the creative process.

4. Adopt the K.I.S.S. principle

People like to talk, and they often include endless details. As a cop, you learn to listen intently and separate the wheat from the chaff. It takes experience and an intimate understanding of the law to know what’s important for a police report, and which details are superfluous.

Many experienced sergeants over the years taught me how to write better police reports. What I learned was the proverbial K.I.S.S. (keep it simple, stupid) principle. Judges and prosecutors want the facts, relevant details, and elements of the crime. Similarly, you need to learn how to edit and get to the essence of your article or story. Editing and simplifying is a big part of effective writing. So kiss those nonessential details goodbye.

5. Once upon a time

Since we know why cops hang out in coffee shops, let me tell you what they talk about. Stories. Everyone enjoys a good story. We all want to know what happens in the end. A good police report tells the story of what happened so that juries and judges can make informed decisions.

As a writer, you need to tell a good story so your readers can envision exactly what you want them to see. This means you need to read both deeply and broadly. Pick up Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces to understand the craft of effective story arcs. Learn how to hook readers with enticing lead-ins. Study a little copywriting. Tell a good story and people will listen.

6. Continuing professional training

California police officers are required to have 24 hours of continuing professional training (CPT) every two years. Beyond their department training, officers attend approved courses, seminars, webinars and conventions. Why? The law is constantly evolving, best practices change, and there’s always more to learn.

To be a great writer, you need to keep training, too. That means taking advantage of the best classes, webinars, and on-line courses available. Tribe Writers is a good place to start because it provides a comprehensive education for online writing.

Continuing professional training is an investment in yourself that will improve the quality of your work, your stories, and their impact on your readers. This, in turn, is what leads to writing and publishing opportunities.

7. If you want a vacation, check the schedule

One of the downsides to a law enforcement career is shift work. Your whole life revolves around your work schedule. As a sergeant growled to me once, “If you want a vacation, Weiss, check the schedule!” Shiftwork taught me the importance of good time management. Beyond family and close friends, I learned to say no to distractions and time wasters.

Our calendars tell the real story about our lives and priorities. How are you allocating your writing time? Are you getting up early before work to write? Or, are you on the couch watching NCIS reruns, checking Facebook, and playing video games? Remember, we are what we do.

You say you want to be a successful writer? Take a good hard look at your calendar. It never lies.

End of watch

Looks like my tour of duty is about done here. Let’s return to The Art of Work for one last nugget of wisdom: “In the journey toward our callings, there will be roadblocks and inconveniences, setbacks and slowdowns that we may mistake for distractions when in fact they are as much a part of the calling as the job itself.”

I thought my law enforcement career was a long distraction from becoming a writer and artist. Except it wasn’t. It was the in-between. It moved me forward.

Dad was right. A career in the arts can be hard. But no one wants to reach their end of watch with regrets. May your own tour of duty bring you closer to the person you always wanted to be.

How is your day job contributing to your creativity? How are you living in the in-between? Share in the comments.

Andrew Raynor

Blog post planning

Andrew Raynor

 

 

Maintaining a blog takes more than just writing a bunch of blog posts. You should develop a strategy and planning for your content (especially if you are writing with multiple authors). Also, you should interact with your audience and respond to their comments. In this post, I’ll explain the importance of content planning and give some practical tips on how to effortlessly plan your blog posts.

Blog post planning: create a plan!

If you are serious about blogging, you should make a plan for your content. If you have a personal blog, planning your content will be relatively easy. Planning becomes much harder if you are working with multiple authors writing about different topics, or invite guest bloggers. I’ll give you five important pointers that will help you to create a plan:

1. Create an editorial calendar

A plan starts with a calendar. You should create an editorial calendar in which you plot out all the posts that you (and your co-workers) are going to write. This could just be an excel sheet, but you could also use a plugin or service for this, for instance, Trello or MeisterTask.

2. Sit down and brainstorm

If you want to create an editorial calendar, you could start with a brainstorm. Invite all your blog authors and sit together. Ask everyone what their ideas are and which posts they would like to write in the near future. Make a list of these ideas and wishes, and then plot them out on a calendar. Make sure your authors finish their blogs a few days before the post date so you can proofread, edit if needed, and find or create accompanying illustrations or photos.

3. Use news & current events

When planning content, you should take a look at your calendar as well! Are there any major events coming up which are worth mentioning in your blog post? Or should you write some seasonal posts? Make sure to mix these ‘current-events posts’ with the other posts you have lined up.

4. Blog regularly

You should blog regularly. Giving exact numbers is hard. For a company blog, a daily post will be totally acceptable. For a personal blog, this will probably not be doable at all. Try to establish some frequency and stick to it. Your readers will appreciate a reliable schedule. Once you know you can commit to your chosen schedule, make sure to communicate it to your audience somehow, so they know what to expect.

5. Add variation

If you often write about similar topics, make sure to mix things up a little. Don’t write articles about nearly identical topics one after the other. Of course, you can still write blog series but try to vary between subjects as much as possible. You could also make variations in the form of your content. A video post for example spices things up!

Conclusion

If you take your blog serious, you should create a calendar. It’s a must-have if you are working with multiple authors. Creating an editorial calendar doesn’t have to be hard at all. Good luck!

Read more: ‘SEO Copywriting: the complete guide’ »

SEO New Hampshire

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113: Great Writers are Risk Takers

Andrew Raynor

Playing it safe is comfortable. It makes you feel in control. It gives you a sense of security. But it may be killing you slowly.

It’s like driving a car with a slow leak in your tires. It might work for a while, but sooner or later, you will get stuck, fall behind, and need to make changes to get back on track.

I played it safe for years in my 20s. I had a job that was comfortable enough, and so I kept my dream in the “someday” pile. I wasn’t ready to take a risk and call myself a writer, and as a result, I wasn’t one.

It’s been a few years since I decided to start building a bridge toward my calling, and what I’ve learned on the journey is that the fear of taking risks never goes away. It doesn’t get easier to try something new, but it does get more comfortable than standing still can ever be. It’s certainly more comfortable than driving with deflated tires.

I’m not saying you need to risk everything in blind pursuit of a dream. Far from it. There are healthy and unhealthy ways to move from where you are now to where you want to be.

But I am saying that all writers are risk takers. They just are. Taking risks is how we become better at what we are called to do. It might be the only way, in fact. We must do the uncomfortable things if we want to create interesting and enduring work, and if we want to make a difference in the lives of others.

This week on The Portfolio Life, Andy Traub and I discuss wrestling with the tension of playing it safe and taking risks, and why taking risks is necessary to improve yourself as a writer.

Listen in as we talk about how I’m pushing myself with my latest book, and the risks we’re taking with this blog and Tribe Writers in the future.

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:

  • Where I need to take more risks and make changes.
  • The downside to living the Portfolio Life.
  • Why you need to be good at a few things if you want to succeed as a writer.
  • Why I want to provide community and connections for writers.
  • Focusing on getting better as a writer.
  • How I’m pushing myself as a writer with my latest book.
  • What risks we’re taking with this blog and Tribe Writers in the future.
  • Creating meaningful work that will stand the test of time.
  • How taking risks is good for you and your work.

Quotes and takeaways

  • Focus your life and work to continually improve yourself as a writer.
  • Community creates opportunity.
  • Identify your core skill, build it, and then develop complementary skills.
  • You will do more interesting work when you aren’t afraid to lose what you have. And you will do more boring work when you’re afraid to lose.

Resources

Where are you taking risks in your life? Where do you need to seek out risks? Share in the comments.

Andrew Raynor

Landing pages and why they matter

Andrew Raynor

 

 

Landing pages are a very important part of your business. You see, if you optimize your landing page, you can be increasing both your traffic and your conversion rate. Obviously, you should tailor that landing page to your preferred audience, but there are a number of things that go for all landing pages. In this post, we’ll go over some best practices to get you going!

Of course, you’ll have to do quite a few different things for your landing page to gain more traffic as opposed to increasing your conversion rate. In this article, we’ll focus mainly on how to increase your conversion rate. But don’t underestimate the importance of optimizing your page’s SEO. Check out our post on cornerstone content to get you started in that department.

Product pages vs. landing pages

If you have a shop and offer just a few products, your product pages will be landing pages. Take our company as an example. Our plugins all have product pages, and these pages are the pages people use to enter our site when searching for our plugins in Google or after they clicked on an ad on Facebook.

If you have a large shop, product pages and landing pages could very well be different. People will search for specific products, but also for particular categories. If you own an online shop selling clothes, people could search for a specific brand of jeans or jeans in general. You should make sure both function as landing pages.

Focus your landing pages

Focus is especially important on your landing pages since this is where you’re selling your products! Make sure you only have one thing people can focus on and not a lot of different things. If people come to your landing pages because they are looking for the ballet shoes you are offering on your website; you want to guide these visitors to your checkout.

For most landing pages it’s usually pretty easy to figure out what you want people to see most prominently. If you’re selling a product, your landing page for that product should focus on the ‘Add To Cart’ button, also known as the call-to-action. Think about the placement, color and text of your call-to-action. We’ve said this before.

Safety signs and security seals

Safety signs are security seals and logos that increase the trust of your visitors. They make sure people feel like your landing page is a safe place. Of course, some safety signs seem to be more effective than others. Though, having a security sign works better than having none.

Landing page: security seal examples

Payment options

People also prefer your eCommerce shop supporting more than just one payment option. And if people see your landing page has (multiple) trustworthy credit card logos, they’ll feel safer on it! But most importantly, about 60% of your visitors will just abandon their transaction if their preferred payment option isn’t or appears not to be available. So make sure these signs and logos are easy to find on your landing page.

Social proof: testimonials

Wikipedia gives the following description of the term ‘social proof’:

“A psychological phenomenon where people assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect correct behavior for a given situation.”

This means that people will try to copy the behavior of others. And if you show them others who were (very) happy with your product, this will convince them to use it as well. One way to do this is by showing testimonials on your landing pages.

Another way to do this is showing how many other people have already used your product. This is often used for newsletter subscriptions, for example. We’re doing this on our WordPress SEO plugin page as well:

Landing page: reviews work

Headlines of your landing page

Your landing pages have to be very clear about your product from the start. People’s attention span is just about 8 seconds, so you have to make sure you tell all the important stuff first and tell it as fast as possible.

Make sure to optimize your headline and tagline. These should clearly communicate the core goal of your product. Create a headline for your landing page that attracts your visitors’ attention. Below that could be a tagline that brings home the message of your headline. Writing decent headlines and taglines is a science on its own, so this is something you need to test.

Images

Images are said to have a significant impact on navigating your visitor from your landing page through your website. If you’re selling physical products, having decent images on your landing pages can have a really big impact. This way people will better understand what they’re buying. It’s a replacement for actually touching and seeing a product in a physical store.

An excellent way to increase people’s understanding of your product is by having pictures of people using your product on your landing page. People can envision themselves using the product then as well. Beware of the dangers of this, though: using people in pictures will almost always result in facial distraction. Make sure the people in the pictures are looking the right way.

Summarizing

Your landing page should at least optimize for the following things I’ve mentioned in this post:

  • Focus
  • Social proof
  • Headlines
  • Safety signs
  • Payment options
  • Images

All these things require some actual thought and testing before you’ll know what works specifically for your website. So make sure you put some thought in this and test different versions before deciding what to go with. Good luck optimizing your landing page!

Read more: ‘Testimonials: increase your visitor’s trust’ »

SEO New Hampshire

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How Accountability Helped Me Finish My Book in 90 Days

Andrew Raynor

Note: This is a guest post from Sandy Kreps. Sandy helps people cut through the chaos of modern life and find a simpler path. She writes regularly on her blog, Modern Simplicity.

How long does it take to write a book? It depends on who you ask. By August 2015, I had been working on my book, Mommy Simplicity, for two years… and I was maybe only 30 percent through the first draft.

How Accountability Helped Me Finish My Book

Instead of intentionally working on the book regularly, I wrote a little here and there, with the manuscript collecting digital dust for months at a time.

I’d already written several simple living and home organization Kindle books for Amazon, but in my mind, I’d built up Mommy Simplicity as my “masterpiece,” the book that I’d finally publish in print and be a “real author” — and I’d basically psyched myself out of even writing it.

Then I went to Tribe Conference in Franklin, Tennessee, hosted by Jeff Goins. As a long-time “pioneer” Tribe Writer, I was excited to finally meet so many of the online friends I’d made through Jeff’s courses.

It was my first writer’s conference, and I hoped it would be a fantastic weekend full of inspiration, learning, and relationship building. I didn’t realize it would be life-changing.

A weekend of pure inspiration

The speakers were amazing. My head spun with new ideas, and I filled a notebook with the knowledge, experience, and inspiration the speakers imparted.

Allison Fallon urged us to our authentic voice, and Tim Grahl encouraged us to focus and start small by setting manageable goals.

Joshua Becker — whom I had been dying to meet as a devoted follower of his blog, Becoming Minimalist — encouraged us to dig deep and see how we can best help people.

Christine Royse Niles encouraged us to map out our 90-day goals and encouraged us with the words I needed to hear: Do It Afraid.

Throughout the conference, three key messages kept popping up again and again:

  • Be the truest version of yourself and don’t be afraid to use your authentic voice.
  • Help others relentlessly, without expectations of reward.
  • Don’t let fear hold you back. Do it anyway.

Following Christine’s presentation, we sat in small groups to work on our 90-day goals.

With the lessons of the conference rushing through my head — do it afraid, help others relentlessly, dig deep, be authentic, set manageable goals — I finally spoke up, vowing to my new friends at my table that I would finish my book, Mommy Simplicity, in just 90 days.

Brenda McGraw, a fellow Tribe Writer and writing coach, immediately offered to keep me accountable to that goal with weekly check-ins.

There was no getting out of it — I was committed to finishing, and Brenda was going to hold me at my word.

The real work begins

At the airport, as I waited to return to Dallas, I outlined what needed to be done to get my book completed in just 90 days. And I panicked.

What was I thinking?! It couldn’t be done! Not by me anyway!

Texting with my new friends from Tribe Conference, they encouraged me that it was, in fact, doable to get the book done and that they were rooting for me.

That’s one of the things I love most about writers — we’ve got each others’ backs, and we love to encourage each other. How many other callings are filled with so many encouraging companions?

The next 90 days were a blur of outlining, writing, and rewriting. I checked in with Brenda weekly to update her on my status, and almost daily I received messages of encouragement from friends I had made at Tribe Conference.

I was awed as I watched a scrappy bundle of words develop into an actual manuscript, and even more amazed that the words now rang true with my authentic voice, a voice I’d been struggling to find for years but finally came through by pouring my heart into my book.

On day 89, I sent my completed manuscript to an editor that Brenda had helped me find.

I had done it.

I had finished the book I’d been struggling with for years in just 90 days thanks to the inspiration I’d soaked up at Tribe Conference and the friends I’d made there that kept me accountable to achieving my goals.

One of the greatest days of my life was opening the brown package that arrived containing the finished product of my labors: a beautiful book with my name on the cover.

4 things I learned from my accountability group

When you’ve got a big goal in your heart, it can only help to connect with others for accountability and encouragement.

Here are four things I learned about finding accountability to reach my big goal.

1. Make your goal specific.

I knew that I wanted to finish my book, but I was a little unclear what that would look like. My accountability group encouraged me to plot out a total word goal as well as weekly word goals so I could measure my progress.

2. Choose a specific length of time to accomplish your goal.

While this timeline doesn’t need to be set in stone, you need to feel a little pressure to perform. I think most goals can be accomplished in 30 to 90 days.

3. Find someone who supports you.

Whether you have one accountability partner or a whole group, having a trusted support system to encourage you and give you a little push when needed is absolutely key to success.

I don’t think I would have finished my book if it hadn’t been for the guidance and motivation I received from Brenda and my Tribe Conference friends.

4. Make accountability easy.

It needs to be as simple as possible to get the encouragement you need when you need it. I communicated with my support system via text and Facebook, but also had weekly phone conversations with Brenda until I completed my book.

Do you need encouragement to finish your book?

When creative people come together, it’s hard to even describe the energy that fills the room — a bubbling up of ideas, inspiration, and camaraderie.

If you’re interested in meeting like-minded writers, developing your craft, and learn how to build an audience for your writing, then I encourage you to join me, and a host of others, at the Tribe Conference this year.

Attending a conference is arguably one of the best ways you can meet like-minded people, get inspired, and create work you never thought possible. This is what I learned first-hand!

Are you being held accountable to complete your book? Has this helped your writing? Share in the comments.

Andrew Raynor

4 Things You Should Never Say to Someone Who is Hurting

Andrew Raynor

Note: This is a guest post from Mike Foster. Mike is the Founder & Chief Chance Officer of People of the Second Chance. Mike creates tools that help hurting people find freedom. Check out his latest course, Rescue Academy .

Have you ever said something you wish you could take back?

4 Phrases You Should Never Say

I once asked a friend if she was pregnant, and she wasn’t! Another time, I made a male friend cry due to my personal frustration with his choices.

Regardless of our best intentions, it’s easy to stick our foot in our mouth, especially when trying to help someone through hurt. Trust me, I’ve done it so many times I’ve lost count.

Though pain and loss are universal themes in all of our lives, we still struggle with knowing what to do, or what to say, or how to respond when it comes to helping others in their struggles.

What do I say to my sister who just miscarried her baby?

What advice should I give to my friend who is struggling with an eating disorder?

Am I responsible for fixing everyone’s problems?

How do I help people without shaming them or judging their actions?

Should I send a card, flowers, or cookies, or should I call when tragedy strikes?

It is true that, sometimes, the most basic questions leave us feeling confused or overwhelmed, and often prevent us from getting involved at all in people’s suffering.

But this shouldn’t scare us away from being rescuers to those around us. Instead, it should keep us aware of the power our words have.

I want to see a world full of not-so-perfect people rescuing other not-so-perfect-people from their hurts and hang-ups with words that are like grace-filled snow cones on a hot judgmental day.

Sometimes, it just takes a few small adjustments. For example, here are four things you should never say to someone who’s hurting.

1. Don’t say, “At least… ”

If someone has just experienced loss or is dealing with a tragedy, the last thing you want to say is, “At least you still have…”

For example, if your friend has just had a miscarriage, it’s not helpful to say, “Well, at least you have other children.”

It’s important that we never minimize anyone’s problems. This statement can actually make the situation worse. Not only that, it also makes you look incredibly insensitive.

Bottom line: Don’t ever use that phrase if you want to be a rockstar rescuer.

2. Don’t ever say, “Why did you… ?”

This statement puts blame, responsibility, and additional shame on the hurting person.

For example, if your friend has just told you her teenage daughter got caught with drugs, don’t respond with, “Why did you let her go to that party?”

If your friend’s car gets stolen, don’t say, “Why did you leave the door unlocked?”

Our natural tendency is to be curious about the details, but asking Why? questions in the middle of someone’s suffering usually isn’t helpful.

3. Avoid saying, “Don’t cry.”

Tears are a natural physiological release of psychological symptoms. We need to let others express their emotions and deal with grief the way the body intends.

Trying to control someone’s grieving process will never be effective. Usually, we say, “Don’t cry” because we feel uncomfortable and want to do something to alleviate the tension of the situation.

In this case, the best something to do is nothing. Simply remain silent, and let the body do what it needs to do.

Just remember: in that moment, it’s about the hurting person, not you.

4. Don’t ever utter the words, “God has a plan.”

This might be the most overused cliché that we default to when trying to help. Try to avoid using this statement if you can.

When people are dealing with serious grief or pain, don’t start problem-solving for them. Fight the tendency to try to comfort the person with a silver lining or by refocusing on the future.

A statement like, “I don’t even know what to say right now, but I’m so glad you told me” is much better than trying to fix the problem.

Allow people to grieve. Resist the urge to get to the happy ending by using clichés.

There’s a pattern here for all of us: becoming a good rescuer is less about what you can add and more about what you can subtract. Simplicity. Brevity. Silence. These are the brushes of a master rescue artist, an expert in the style of minimalism.

If you’d like to learn more about how to effectively help people in pain, whether family, friends, or those you influence, we just launched our e-course, Rescue Academy. I’d love for you to join us.

What was the most helpful thing someone did for you when you were experiencing pain? Share in the comments.

Andrew Raynor

Insights in Instagram analytics

Andrew Raynor

 

 

Instagram isn’t yet the traffic source Facebook is. But Instagram is growing rapidly. Just last month, the milestone of 500 million users was reached. It makes you wonder whether or not to incorporate Instagram into your default marketing mix, right? Therefore, it would be nice to have Instagram analytics.

In 2015, 33% of US teens chose Instagram as their personal number one social network. Of all the Instagram users, about 50% is male. 96 percent of US fashion brands use Instagram. Those are all impressive stats, but what about your Instagram account? What are the stats on that? For these numbers, you’d say you have to dig into Instagram analytics, right? I found no such thing. Facebook has Insights, Twitter has Analytics, Pinterest has Analytics, YouTube has Analytics, Instagram has… no such thing. There is no native analytics for Instagram. Facebook Ads for Instagram gives some insights, but that is just for the companies advertising on the social platform.

How do I get to my Instagram Analytics!?

I can’t imagine that Instagram won’t roll out Instagram Analytics (or Instagram Insights, following Facebook Insights) at some point in the future. But it won’t be rolling out as fast as Pokemon Go, that much is clear. There are some stats in business insights for advertisers, but hey, not all of us advertise on Instagram. As far as I know, these business tools are still a work in progress and not available to all. Brand Profiles will be limited to companies that have a Facebook Page (for now?). Be sure to check this article for more insights on those stats. Long story short, for the time being, we have to fall back on third-party applications. And that works pretty well, actually!

Third party Instagram Analytics apps

There are a ton of iOS and Android apps for Instagram, and a lot of these are apps that give you stats. Most provide an overview of things like new followers or most popular media. All of these apps seem centered around this information:

  • New followers
  • Lost followers
  • Users that are not following you back (called ‘non-followers’)
  • Followers that you don’t follow back (called ‘fans’)

This is the standard information every one of those apps gives for free. And to be honest, I wouldn’t waste my money on the other intel these apps provide. Although it’s quite hard to publish on Instagram from your desktop, the third party analytics apps have a way better overview than most mobile apps. Again, there are tons of desktop/browser apps available. Apps like Minter.io or Quintly handle more social networks than just Instagram. These cost a nice monthly fee and will tell you more about your social efforts and the effects they have.

In this article, I’d like to focus on another tool that I find very handy for my Instagram Analytics: Iconosquare.

Iconosquare

Iconosquare has a free trial, and after that, it costs you from $49/yr (per IG account) up to $499/yr. Key differences between the packages are these:

  • The cheapest package doesn’t allow for hashtag monitoring
  • The more expensive ones add competition monitoring
  • Comments will be tracked for the last 5, 15 or 30 media
  • The most expensive one includes photo and video contests

They all include a variety of interesting stats. Your Iconosquare dashboard will show you Instagram analytics like your follower growth and the number of lost and gained followers, much like the other apps I mentioned.

Iconosquare: overview | Instagram Analytics

It will show you the love, talk, and engagement rate of your Instagram posts:

iconosquare: love, talk and engagement rate | Instagram Analytics

  • Love rate is based on the likes given by your followers divided by the number of followers at the time of the post.
  • Talk rate is based on the comments received from your followers divided by the number of followers at the time of the post.
  • Engagement rate is based on the likes and comments received divided by the number of followers at the time of the post.

Makes sense, right? Next to that, Iconosquare will tell you what your most liked, most commented and most engaging media is. You can base your Instagram strategy on that: post more of what is popular among your audience.

Engagement

For better insights in your posts, check the Engagement section of the tool. It will tell you things like average likes or comments, but also what Instagram filters work best. The one that works best for me is Aden. I have to say that that name isn’t directly ringing a bell for me, as I usually pick a filter by what it does to the photo, not the name 🙂

Furthermore, the engagement section holds tag cloud with your most-used tags, which I like as I am a heavy tag user these days. Tags simply work like a charm to trigger engagement with / market towards new people.

Best time to post

What I like as well, is the Best time to post – Engagement rate table. It will tell you when your posts trigger the most engagement with your audience. The darker the square, the better the engagement is:

Iconosquare: best time to post | Instagram Analytics

To me, that is one of the most important pieces of information Iconosquare provides. It’s good to optimize posting times, using for instance Later.

Community

Another section in this Instagram analytics app is Community. This section provides information about your followers, like their location or the structure of your community (how many followers have your followers):

Iconosquare: location | Instagram Analytics

You can zoom that world map, by the way. Makes it a bit easier to analyze!

Another interesting section is the “Top Followers” section. It shows you the followers with the most followers, so to say. You know that you will reach the most people when you interact with these followers (comments, likes)will be seen by the most people. So be sure to do that as well, to grow your following towards their numbers.

To sum things up

Even though there is no such thing as Instagram Analytics (yet), there are lots of ways to get these valuable insights about your efforts and followers. I think Instagram will make its own analytics available, maybe even for non-business Instagram users. If that time comes, I’ll be one of the first to write the insights about that on this blog 🙂

Read more: ‘Facebook Page Insights explained’ »

SEO New Hampshire

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Why Your Greatest Work May Die With You

Andrew Raynor

This is the final lesson of an eight-week book study I’m hosting live on The Art of Work. Click here to watch the previous seven lessons.

Your greatest work will die with you… If you don’t do this.

Posted by Jeff Goins, Writer on Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Book study highlights

In this week’s lesson, we talk about:

  • What it takes to leave a legacy.
  • Why success can be dressed up like an enemy.
  • Identifying how you want to be remembered by your family and friends.
  • The point of discovering your calling.
  • How to know if you’ve fulfilled your calling.
  • Why you need a community to help you pursue your calling.
  • The importance of sharing what you know now with others.
  • Why your calling needs to be bigger than yourself.

Resources

Don’t forget to join the conversation that’s happening on Facebook. Go here to get started.

Andrew Raynor

112: How Your Surroundings Ignite Your Creativity (And What To Do About It) with Eric Weiner

Andrew Raynor

I used to believe that creative work was mysterious. That coming up with a good idea, finding inspiration, or writing a blog post or book wasn’t something I could plan for, but was something I had to wait to happen to me.

I’m not alone in this, either. There’s a shroud of mystery that surrounds creative work. And I totally get it. Creative ideas can at times appear out of nowhere. And when I’m most in need of creative inspiration, it can be hard to find.

So, is creativity something you can plan for?

Well, the answer is yes and no.

You see, there’s no exact science, formula, or process you can follow to successfully yield creative results 100% of the time. What works for some people doesn’t necessarily work for others.

However, you can teach yourself how to become more creative, learn how to identify good ideas, and even change your surroundings or the place you live to improve your creative work.

This week on The Portfolio Life, Eric Weiner and I talk about why creative work flourishes in certain places today and throughout history. Eric discovered in his research and travels a significant connection between the place you live, your surroundings, and the influence they have on your personal creativity.

Listen in as Eric shares the common elements that not only lead certain places to become more creative, but will also help you to improve your personal creativity.

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, Eric and I discuss:

  • The process Eric used to land on his book idea for The Geography of Genius.
  • Why you should maintain a balance of knowledge and ignorance when writing.
  • Celebrating and learning from your mistakes in life and work.
  • Finding creative inspiration in unlikely places.
  • Embracing the challenges in your life to grow in your creative work.
  • The three common elements that make places creative.
  • How to turn harness creativity in your home and family.
  • The importance of doing creative work in collaboration with others.
  • Why you need to possess courage in your pursuit of doing creative work.
  • Eric’s hypothesis on the world’s next most creative place.

Quotes and takeaways

  • “Nothing is new except arrangement.” -Will Durant
  • If it takes a village to raise a child, then it takes a city to raise a genius.
  • Learning from mistakes is an important part of the creative process.
  • As a creative person, you need to learn how to discern between good and bad ideas.
  • Successful creatives are engaged with people and their world; they’re not isolated from it.

Resources

Is your creativity fostered or inhibited based upon where you live? Have you considered moving to a certain place to pursue creative work? Share in the comments.

Andrew Raynor

Yoast SEO 3.4: accessibility first

Andrew Raynor

 

 

Today we’re releasing Yoast SEO 3.4, a release mostly aimed at improving our accessibility. Which means you won’t see most of the changes, but they’ll make a world of difference to others. We’ve also improved our readability checks and how we deal with some languages, more on that below.

Accessibility changes

When we hired Andrea a while back (more on that here), we knew we were in for a treat. He’s one of the leading accessibility developers for WordPress, and he didn’t disappoint. This release is, in large part, his work. Improving accessibility means a ton of small changes, and we have the changelog to show for it.

Some simple highlights that show that where accessibility is concerned, the devil is in the details:

  • Improved the headings hierarchy on several admin pages.
  • Improved the knowledge base search and admin menu by making it focusable and operable with a keyboard.
  • Adding labels and titles to several fields.

Yoast SEO configuration

Accessibility is more than just technical changes; it’s also allowing people without specific knowledge to use your product. That’s why we’re introducing the Yoast SEO configuration service today too! If you think setting up Yoast SEO Premium is too daunting, we’ll do it for you. If you’re migrating from another SEO plugin: we’ll do that for you too!

Readability checks

We’ve added one readability check this release. The plugin now warns you if you start 3 or more consecutive sentences with the same word. We’ve also improved the wording on some checks. Yoast SEO can now deal with characters with diacritics correctly in 75 languages.

The choice is yours!

As of this release you can disable the SEO analysis. You can also disable the readability analysis. You can do this just for yourself, or an admin can do it for an entire site. If you disable both, you’ve got just our snippet preview left. We’d obviously recommend using both features, but if you don’t want to, the choice is now yours!

Update!

We’ve, of course, fixed bugs in Yoast SEO and quite a few of the Yoast SEO extensions too. So… Go update!

SEO New Hampshire

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