How to Kick Adversity’s Ass

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Sometimes, life throws you a curveball.

I know quite a few folks facing hard times right now. Divorce. Illness. Financial problems. Death of a family member. You probably know people going through the same thing (or, maybe you’re the one facing the difficult days).

It’s interesting to see how people deal with life’s less stellar moments. Some people face their adversity head-on. They see what’s happening, they ignore the fear, and they charge straight ahead.

Other folks don’t handle it quite as well. They turn inward and blame themselves. Life feels uncontrollable and scary. And no matter how much things improve, they always expect the other shoe to drop.

That’s not a fun place to be.

Adversity is one of life’s constants, like death and taxes. No matter how good things are now, something…unpleasant…is going to happen.  The key is – will you let that thing (whatever it is) destroy you? Or will you kick adversity’s ass instead and thrive?

Oddly, I’ve found that my most successful times are a direct result of crappy things happening. When I got laid off and had no money, I started freelancing – and discovered that I loved the writer’s life. When my husband died, I focused my energies on building my brand – and SuccessWorks was born. When I got hit with a huge and unexpected tax liability, I creatively thought of ways to make more money – and had my best year ever.

Yes, I’m stubborn. But I’m also a firm believer that what doesn’t kill me does make me stronger.

Having said that, there may be some times that you’d rather curl up than fight. If adversity is weighing down your world, here’s how to deal with it – and eventually kick its ass.

Feel the emotion and let it go. It’s normal to feel scared, angry, remorseful, guilty – you name it. Pushing the feelings aside will do nothing but bottle them up. The key is to tell yourself, “I’m going to acknowledge whatever icky emotion this is, and then I’m going back to work.” It doesn’t mean that you’ll stop feeling scared, angry and remorseful. It just means that you’ll stop focusing on fear and focus on you instead.

Make a list of what you can control.  There’s always something you can do, no matter how uncontrollable the situation seems at the time. Can you contact past clients and see if they have any work that they need done? Can you start exercising – even a little bit – so you can clear your mind? Heck. some days, “controlling what you can control” means only having the energy to make one important phone call. That’s OK. Make a list of everything that you can do, both big and small. Reminding yourself that you can “control the controllables” is a huge mental-health move.

Take care of your business “baby.” Are you self-employed? It’s easy to put off important business things because your brain isn’t clicking along at full capacity. However, the last thing you need is for your business to suffer because you’re going through a dark time. Remember that your business is your baby. It needs your constant attention, no matter what else is happening in your life. If you can’t give it 100%, find someone who can fill in and help. Taking your hands off of the business wheel will add extra financial stress down the line – trust me. I know.

Take action every day. You may feel paralyzed by your current situation. That’s normal. The key is to snap yourself out of it and take some action every day. Maybe that means figuring out a new budget. Or calling some people who can help you. Or doing some research. Don’t let a day go by without doing something that will help shake you out of your current situation.

Don’t be afraid to pay for help. If you’re facing a financial hit, your first instinct may be to tighten your purse strings. That’s a smart instinct – but don’t be penny wise and pound foolish. If your business needs a tax pro to help you out of this situation, hire one. If you need a better business plan, work with a consultant. If you need to talk to a counselor, find one.  Don’t add “I can’t afford it” to your already high stress level.  Spend what you need to spend and pull yourself out of your current hole.

Talk to someone about how you’re feeling.  Do you feel your stomach tighten and your heart rate increase every time you think about whatever is going on? Don’t bottle it up inside – get it out. Find a friend or trusted confident and tell them what’s going on. Cry with them, laugh with them and let them show you the “other side” of your situation.  You’ll walk away with a new perspective (and focus, too!).

Remember that it will pass. The situation – whatever it is – is temporary. It may not go away tomorrow, but it will go away. You will learn some (hard) lessons as a result of the situation, but that’s OK. We all do. The more adversity we face, the better prepared we are to kick its ass – and move through it with grace, confidence – and even a little bit of humor!

What’s your favorite way of overcoming adversity and kicking its ass?

Women Who Rock SEO: The Second Wave

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Following up on last week’s post featuring the first generation of SEO Women who made the profession great, today we focus on the second wave of women who have joined in the work of building and shaping the SEO and search industry (and rocking it!)

So meet this second generation of fantastic women championing SEO and search, these movers-and-shakers who continue to make the industry great with their dedication to its highest standards, as well as their leadership, mentorship, and professional contributions that go far and beyond mere content.

As with the first wave of SEO women, they too have much to share and teach you. Get to know them and follow them on Twitter.

Jennifer Evans Cario

Jennifer Cario

Past founder and President of SugarSpun Marketing, Inc., Jennifer has been submerged in SEO since 2001. Her impressive client list includes Verizon, American Greetings, the State of South Dakota, and Highlights for Children. Jennifer serves as an Adjunct Professor at Rutgers University Mini-MBA program, and since 2004 she has been Editor-in-Chief and joint owner of Search Engine Guide. She has authored two books, including the free e-book  Zero Dollars, a Little Talent and Thirty Days, in which she shares her experience in starting an online business from scratch. Follow Jennifer @JenniferCario.

Donna Fontenot

Donna Fontenot Cavalier

Donna Fontenot (That’s FONT-KNOW) is an e-Business coach, HubSpot-certified inbound marketing consultant, Web developer, and SEO diva. Her motto is, “You’ll never shine if you don’t grow.” Donna’s vast work experience includes gigs as a ColdFusion Web developer and I.T. department head. Her blog, Making a Living Online, combines her technical background with her inspiring vision for success, and is geared toward home-based entrepreneurs. Follow Donna @DonnaFontenot.

Kalena Jordan

Kalena Jordan

Owner and Editor of ASK Kalena, Kalena specializes in everything search engine, and her blog offerings have recently expanded to include PPC analytics, social media and product launches on Google.  As the Co-Founder and Director of Studies at Search Engine College, an online training institution, Kalena tutors SEO and PPC courses and is the main contact for students. Her LinkedIn profile list her specialties as “Bionic, fibulous conglomeration of random search algorithms resulting in superior ascensionic ranking and visitation abilities. In other words, search is my life.” Follow Kalena @kalena.

Anne F. Kennedy

Anne F. Kennedy

With over 35 years in marketing and public relations, plus 10 years in SEO and search marketing, Anne is currently International Search Strategist with Beyond Ink. An accomplished speaker, her recent appearances include SMX Sydney Australia, SES Toronto, and RIMC in Iceland. She’s also a CEO coach and founder of Outlines Venture Group. Follow Anne @AnneKennedy.

Dana Lookadoo

Dana Lookadoo

We lost Dana a few years ago, but she still deserves a shout-out for everything she’s done for the industry.  Dana was the owner of Yo! Yo! SEO and used to call herself a “search geek who prefers people over search engines but optimizes for both.” Her specialty was in coupling audience engagement and social media with SEO. Donna began a career in computing/PC training in 1984, then moved into website development and online marketing. As a business trainer, Donna developed classes for Sun Microsystems Open Gateway Programs, Monterey Institute of International Studies, U.C. Santa Cruz Extension, and WallMart’s MEM Technology Conference Series.

Elisabeth Osmeloski

Elisabeth Osmeloski

As the past Executive Features Editor of Search Engine Land, Elisabeth managed all the editorial content and daily articles from industry experts. A veteran in the search engine marketing industry, Elisabeth has worked as an SEO consultant and search marketing analyst since 1999. Last year she became Founding Board Member and President at SLC Utah Professional Search Marketing Association. Follow Elisabeth @elisabethos.

Pamela Parker

Pamela Parker

As Executive Features Editor of Third Door Media’s Marketing Land, Pamela is an accomplished journalist, editor, and writer. In her diverse background, Pamela has worked for ClickZ, and covers media, marketing, advertising, and technology. Aside from her editing duties at Marketing Land, Pamela writes at her personal blog, The River, and has covered such diverse topics as The Future of Display and How Mad Men and Women Get Introduced to the Digital Ad Age in Google Trade at Marketing Land’s sister site, Search Engine Land. Follow Pamela @pamelaparker.

Gabriella Sannino

Gabriella Sannino

As CEO of Level343, an organic SEO and copy-writing company based in San Francisco, Gabriella operates on the core belief that “conversation is the new currency.”  She is fluent in five languages, and as an international content strategist, she handles everything under the SEO and SEM umbrella from content development to usability testing and data analysis. The Level343 blog covers a wide range of topics including How to Create Content Without Bombarding Your Readers to Buyer Psychology and The Effects of Influence. She states, “Great writers are everywhere but SEO is all about creativity and strong knowledge of search engine marketing.” Follow Gabriella @SEOcopy.

Catherine (Cat) Seda

Catherine Seda

Catherine is a 20-year internet marketing veteran and the author of How to Win Sales & Influence Spiders and Search Engine Advertising. Presently, she is the digital content strategist for Moonlight Bridal, and an internet marketing consultant, speaker & writer. Catherine wrote the “Net Sales” column for Entrepreneur Magazine and has contributed to eBay magazine, Leader Magazine, and Yahoo! Small Business Insights. Catherine served as Dean of Internet Marketing at LA College International, and is a sought-after speaker on the conference circuit. Connect with Catherine at LinkedIn.

Lyena Solomon

Lyena Solomon

Director of Service Now, Lyena began her career as a webmaster in 1995, then transitioned into web development and consulting.  Lyena specializes in helping small to medium sized businesses with analytics, social media, and web development. In 2011, she was voted by Level 343 as one of the Top SEO Women. Highly educated, she is fluent in Russian and holds Masters Degrees from Vladimir Pedagogical University and Illinois State University. Follow lyena @lyena.

Diane Vigil

Diane Vigil

As owner of the DianV. Web Design Studio, Diane oversees offices in Austin and Los Angeles. She discovered the web in 1996, and within months she was, “…convinced that I could do it because I’d seen <b> tags [and thought] how hard can it be?” She quickly fell in love with designing websites and started her Web design studio in 1997. Known around the Web as “DianeV”, she was an early moderator and administrator at VirtualPromote/JimWorld, a popular discussion forum for web designers and Internet promotion industries. Her diversified site design portfolio includes music, arts, internet marketing, business, and more, with her client list including the (late) singer Davy Jones, Cal Earth Institute, and KLR Motorcycle Parts. Follow Diane @dianevigil.

Our gratitude to all the women who rock the SEO world, both the first and second wave – and those who have yet to make their splash! :)

The lists of women honored here and in last week’s tribute were not intended to be exhaustive, by any means. Do you know a fantastic woman in SEO you’d like to add? We’d love it if you would tell us in the comments below, and it’d be great if you could include a link to her website or social profile! Thanks!

Photo thanks to Mike Baird

The Women Who Made SEO Great

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I remember it like it was yesterday.

The year was 2000 and I was invited to speak at the Dallas Search Engine Strategies (SES) conference. Back then, search conferences wasn’t the huge, three-day monstrosities they are today. In fact, imagine a really big room with a bunch of roundtables. Yeah, that was the conference.

I was speaking with Jill Whalen on writing for search engines – and boy, was I nervous! I have a clear memory of saying a silent prayer before we started our session. I was that stressed out! :)

Back then, I didn’t know many women in SEO (and the ones I did know about were faithful subscribers/commentators in I-Search, the main discussion list for our industry.) I remember meeting Barbara Coll during SES Dallas. I also met Shari Thurow. But it seemed like the majority of the SEO crowd back then were men.

My, how times have changed.

Today, women rock the SEO world. When I go to conferences, the gender ratio is 50/50 – and many more women are leading companies and hold some pretty nice power positions. It’s a wonderful thing to see.

This post (and there will be a follow-up, too) features the women who made SEO great. These smart females were in the trenches back at the beginning and deserve to be celebrated. They have unselfishly led discussion lists, built resources, and helped set best practices. I am proud to call many of them my close friends.

Get to know these women and definitely follow them on Twitter. They have a lot to share and teach you.

Thank you, ladies. You inspire me every day.

-Heather

Kim Krause Berg

Kimberly Berg

Kim began designing websites in 1995 and within a year launched her own SEO/Usability consulting business. Her impressive client list includes Geico, USC Information Technology Program, and the Discovery Channel – Travel. Kim is a frequent contributor to Search Engine Land, creating articles from successful marketing and web design to why blending usability and SEO really matters. Follow Kim at @kim_cre8pc.

Christine Churchill

Christine Churchill

Hands down, Christine is one of the nicest folks in SEO. As president of KeyRelevance, Christine has well over a decade of experience in the online marketing world. She has marketed cruise lines and hotels, steel foundries, schools, ecommerce sites – the list goes on!  A well-known industry speaker, Christine has appeared at Search Marketing Expo, Search Marketing Expo, and is a regular contributor to industry publications including. Follow Christine at @ChrisChurchill.

Barbara Coll

Barbara Coll

An early advocate of web marketing, Barbara started WebMama in 1996 because she “didn’t think people understood the value of search generated visitor traffic.” From there, she quickly became a recognized leading expert in Search Engine Marketing. As the founding President and Chairperson of the Board of the Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization (SEMPO), Barbara has helped to increase awareness and promote the value of search engine marketing worldwide. Follow Barbara at @webmama.

Debra Mastaler

Debra Mastaler

With a diverse background – including 15 years’ marketing Anheuser-Busch and operating an organic food and clothing directory – Debra transitioned to being the link goddess we know and love today. As President of Alliance-Link, Debra trains Fortune 500 companies and top SEO firms on link building best practices. Among her many accolades, Debra was featured among Search Marketing Standard Magazine’s 2011 “Women of Internet Marketing” and voted one of Level 343’s Top SEO Women of 2011. Debra is also a featured guest speaker at SES conferences and SMX expos. Follow Debra at @debramastaler and check out her site at Link Spiel.

Susan O’Neil

Susan O'neil

As CEO and Founder of Website Publicity (later acquired by Paragon Digital Marketing,) Susan established a digital marketing agency in 1998, long before the internet marketing explosion. She also co-authored Maximize Website Traffic, one of the first books on SEO ever published. Follow Susan at @suejon.

Jessie Stricchiola

Jessie Stricchiola

One of the founding board members of the esteemed Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization, SEMPO, Jessie has been “toying around” with search engines since 1997. The Principal at Alchemist Media – which is consistently ranked by B2B Magazine as one of the Top 100 Search Marketing Companies – Jessie pioneered the charge against PPC click fraud and has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, and NPR.  She co-authored the book, The Art of SEO, and serves as a litigation consultant on internet related issues. Follow Jessie @ltstricchi (protected account).

Laura Thieme

Laura Thieme

A 20-year veteran of SEO, PPC, and website/keyword conversions, Laura is the CEO and owner of Bizresearch, which she started in 1997. She is a frequent speaker at SMX conferences, and has been featured in the New York Times, Internet Retailer, TechNewsWorld and Search Engine Watch. A renowned Google Analytics guru, Laura was called as an expert witness in a case involving trademark and meta tags. Follow Laura @bizwatchlaura.

Shari Thurow

Shari Thurow

Shari was the first person who made people think about “search engine friendly websites,” and has been designing sites since 1995.  Today, she’s a frequent speaker at industry conferences and a regular contributor to Search Engine Land. Shari has been featured in many publications, including the New York Times, USA Today, Wired, and PC World. Her search usability site, Omni Marketing Interactive, offers fantastic resources. Shari is the author of Search Engine Visibility and co-author of Where Search Meets Web Usability. Follow Shari at @sharithurow.

Dana Todd

Dana Todd

Dana has over 20 years experience in digital marketing and is appreciated for her intelligent, no-nonsense speaking style. She’s also a past chairwoman for SEMPO after serving on their board. Dana has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Business Week, and The Street. She’s currently CEO of Balodana. Follow Dana at @danatodd.

Amanda Watlington

Amanda Watlington

Amanda is one super-smart woman. Her impressive resume includes working with 3m, Sharp Electronics, Mercedes Benz and Washington Mutual. She’s also a prolific writer, and has authored scads of articles and two books including Business Blogs: A Practical Guide (co-authored with Bill Ives.) Her site, Searching for Profit, says it all – she’s helping companies build long-term profitable relationships with their clients. Follow Amanda at @amandaw.

Jill Whalen

Jill Whalen

Jill and I started our SEO conference journey together and we were business partners for quite a few years (who remembers the RankWrite newsletter?) Jill was the CEO of High Rankings and started her SEO journey 1995. Today, she’s on a new journey and is owner of the site What Did You Do With Jill?

There were so many smart SEO pioneers, we even came up with a part two — enjoy!

Ladies, you have my sincere gratitude for building the SEO industry, blazing the proverbial trail, and guiding the rest of us! You rock! :)

Screw Resolutions. Take Action Instead!

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Lately, I’ve been seeing quite a few posts discussing how SEO content marketing should be on the top of every businesses’ resolution list.

These are all great posts. But here’s the thing…

…I’ve read these “write more quality content” resolutions before. For about 21 years now.

And you know what? Very, very few companies follow through. They want to. They mean to. But then, content marketing gets pushed to the back burner. Or, even worse – someone does a half-assed job just to get it off their plate – and the results (and writing) shows it.

To me, putting something on a “resolutions” list is the same as saying, “Here’s what I’d like to have happen. But I don’t have a plan to get there.” It’s a fuzzy goal – and I can’t get invested in a fuzzy goal. As soon as the next shiny thing comes along, I’m more apt to focus on that and ignore whatever resolution I created.

But here’s what does work: Taking action. Don’t just say, “I’m going to write more content in 2019.” Get off your butt and do something.

You’ve probably heard of creating S.M.A.R.T goals:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Timely

The S.M.A.R.T framework gives you an easy way to bring your resolutions into reality. The next step is breaking down the goal into action steps.

For instance, maybe you want to revamp your site’s copy. You know that sales have been slow for awhile, and you suspect that the writing may not “hit the mark” anymore. Action steps could be:

  • Reviewing your analytics – what pages are doing well? Where are you losing your readers?
  • Contemplate your customer persona – is your target market the same as when the content was last written? Are the benefits still relevant?
  • Review your SEO effectiveness – are the search engines driving qualified traffic? Are you positioning for your main keyphrases?
  • Review your sales copy – does it match your customer persona? Does the copy pop, or is it flat?
  • Consider your resources – who would rewrite your content? Do you have the resources to do it in-house, or would you need to outsource?
  • Do you need to find qualified vendors? If so, how would you find them?
  • What’s your drop-dead, deadline for all content to be on the site? Make sure you give your team plenty of time to complete everything necessary. My recommendation: Figure out how many months you’d need to finish the job, and then double that amount.

See? That’s much more specific than “I resolve to revamp my site’s sales copy.”

If you’re a freelance copywriter, one of the most popular resolutions is to “make more money.” Unfortunately, that won’t magically happen without you making some business changes. For instance, some action steps could be:

  • Contact old clients and see if there’s anything that you can help with.
  • Research a new marketing technique (such as Twitter) to help get the word out.
  • Go to a local business networking meeting.
  • Expand your skills and specialize in a new niche (for instance, going through the SEO Copywriting Certification training.)
  • Raise your prices (I know it’s scary. But you need to do it.)
  • Find a mentor and get expert guidance.

The key is: all of these action steps will move you forward rather than leaving you stuck. Instead of “resolving” to do something, you’re actually doing it and making progress.  Before you know it, you’ll have a SEO content marketing plan that rocks – or a freelance career that gives you the lifestyle you want.

It’s all about taking action.

Now, what are you going to do right now to improve your business and personal life? Leave a comment and let me know! :)

Photo thanks to Acererak

18+ Ways to Tell if You’re an SEO O.G.

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Are you wondering if your “SEO expert” has been around as long as he claims? Feeling like you’ve been in the business since the beginning of SEO time?

Here are 18 ways to tell if you’re an SEO O.G. (“old guard” or ‘original gansta”.) Plus, you’ll find even more tips, thanks to a little help from my SEO friends.  If you’re new to the SEO world, you’ll enjoy reading how much things have changed. And if you’re an O.G. SEO too – enjoy! Here’s your trip down memory lane.

  1. You remember when getting a Yahoo Directory listing was a big deal.
  2. You have a robot t-shirt from the original Googledance.
  3. You remember when Search Engine Strategies was so small that roundtable sessions were the norm.
  4. People didn’t know who Danny Sullivan was.
  5. One word: Looksmart
  6. You didn’t optimize for Google – because Google didn’t exist.
  7. RankWrite was the only resource that discussed SEO copywriting.
  8. You remember prospects telling you, “We won’t pay you, but we’ll give you a piece of the company. Our company is gonna be huge.”
  9. You remember the dotcom crash, the F*cked Company site and a bunch of companies going out of business.
  10. A little engine called GoTo.com launched – and you debated whether PPC was really viable.
  11. “Big Boy” reminds you of Inktomi first – then the hamburger chain.
  12. I-Search was THE email newsletter to read. Having your post featured was a big deal, too.
  13. Search Engine Strategies San Francisco was at the Fairmont – complete with a sit-down, steak lunch.
  14. “Content optimization” meant making sure that you had a 5.5% keyword density for AltaVista.
  15. You remember when Bruce Clay was featured in Wired magazine.
  16. You remember answering the question,”Commas or spaces in the meta keywords tag?”
  17. You didn’t need glasses when you first started your SEO career (after all, you were probably in your late 20’s or early 30’s!).
  18. Danny Sullivan called you a “first generation” search marketer way back in 2006.

Plus, here are some more – thanks to all of my O.G. friends who contributed!


HUGE thanks to David Burke of VisualFuture (and Sally Burke, too!) who let me post this pic from “back in the day!’ Folks pictured are David Burke, Sally Burke, Jill Whalen, Craig Paddock, me (back when I was a blonde) and Chris Sherman.

Quit Whining and Embrace Change

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I am about to embark on a journey that most people dread.

I am moving (and in my world, that means both my home and my office.)

My family moved about 1,000 times when I was a kid. OK, maybe not 1,000 – but definitely over six times. There were times when I attended a different school every year. I have such a negative Pavlovian response around moving that my heart rate will increase if I even see a moving box. That’s why I’m the world’s best tenant – once I find a place that I like, I stay there for a long, long time.

This has caused some…um…discussions with my husband. I’ve been pointing out everything that I don’t like about the new place. It’s too far of a commute. It’s not walkable. I don’t know if I’ll like it. It’s in the suburbs. I’ll miss my gas range.

My dear hubby’s favorite line right now is, “Sweetie, not all change is bad.” I can’t print what my typical response is, but it’s along the lines of “&#(*^#%#.”

Finally, after two sleepless nights in a row, I had what Wayne Dyer calls a “satori” moment. “This isn’t so bad,” I thought. “All will be fine. Everything is on track.”

I decided to quit whining and embrace change.

Personal change is hard – very hard. Changes within an organization can be even harder. That’s because change is usually implemented (and managed) by committee. One person is typically gung-ho (the evangelist,) while the other team members are feeling various forms of “Meh.” Instead of jumping on board and embracing change, people start nit-picking the process.

For instance, you’ve probably heard variations on these statements…

“It’s a bad time financially to make this move. Let’s put it off another quarter.”

“I like everything about this change except for X. Maybe we should shelve the project until we figure it out.”

“We’ve hired someone before and it didn’t work out. Why should we trust someone new?”

“What kind of guarantees can we get? I don’t want to do this if it may not accomplish X (typically an impossible goal.)

“Why should we change? Things are working.”

Or, if you own your own business, you may think…

“Everyone else is doing so much better than I am. Why bother marketing?”

“I’d like to start offering X service, but I don’t think I know enough.”

See, it’s a lot easier to complain about change (or postpone it) than embrace it. Change means you have to do things differently. Work with different people. Be in new surroundings. Go through unknown frustrations. Or, in my case, live in the ‘burbs.

And yeah, when you’re burned out and tired – it doesn’t seem quite worth it, somehow. We may not love our progress, but we’re comfortable with how we got here – and mixing it up seems too damn hard. Or scary. Or complex.

We’re all like that. It’s OK.

The key is to recognize when your need for comfort is screwing up your opportunity for growth. If your content marketing campaign is suffering because you don’t have a plan – quit whining about being “too busy” and hire someone. If you aren’t seeing the results you need to see, quit whining and try something else. It’s hard to catch yourself in those whiny moments and focus on what you can do rather than what you can’t. But if you can, you’ll feel remarkably less stuck – and it will be easier to figure out a plan B.

Granted, your plan B may not work either. And that means trying plan C and plan D. The key is to keep on going until it does work – because it will, eventually. Change is messy, but growth is always guaranteed (from both a personal and business standpoint.)

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some boxes to pack.

Life Lessons Learned After September 11th

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This Sunday, September 11th, I’ll be heading to NYC on an American Airlines flight.

And yes, I do feel the significance of flying on that airline on that date.

I’m not much for anniversaries, but there’s something about the 10 year anniversary of September 11th that can’t be ignored.  Like so many people around the world, I was glued to the television that day as I watched the events unfold. Two months later, I was in NYC for the first time with Anthony Muller, Detlev Johnson and Jill Whalen. I still remember the lights around Ground Zero as they cleared the wreckage. And the way people were just a little bit kinder to each other.

It was a terrible and beautiful time to be in the City and it will stay with me forever. Like so many people around the world. I learned some incredible lessons that day – many of which shaped how I run my business. Here are just a few:

People are good. In today’s “you must practically disrobe before boarding a plane” mentality, it’s easy to see evil around every corner. You hear stories about businesses being ripped off by clients who won’t pay – or mortgage companies kicking folks out of their homes – and it’s easy to believe that the only person we can trust is, well, ourselves.

Once upon a time, I was on yet another American flight. My dog was dying, and I needed to make it home that night so I could spend just a little more time with her before I took her to the vet the next day. My seat was in the back of the plane – and my connection was tight. The stewardess said that I wouldn’t get off the plane in time to make my connecting flight. I was devastated until…

…A wonderful gentleman in first class heard my story and volunteered to switch seats with me (he must have been an angel, because no-one voluntarily gives up their first class seat for a middle coach one). I was the first off the plane – and the last on my connecting flight. Because of that man, I was able to spend my last hours with Corky the Corgi. I’ll never forget him.

There are incredible stories about how people are helping others. Kickstarter is a fantastic example of complete strangers coming together to help someone reach their goal. Conferences have charity parties. Churches and community groups help people every day. You can choose to focus on what you read in the paper (which is usually negative,) or focus on the light you see in people. I prefer to see the light.

Don’t judge others. Six months after September 11th, I was rudely pushed out of line as I was boarding a plane. Imagine my chagrin when the “pusher” was my seatmate – and for half the flight, I was stewing over what I saw as a personal affront. Then the man started talking. He was back in NYC for the first time after the attacks. Not only did this man lose many of his friends in the World Trade Center bombing, he told the story of holding a woman who watched her husband die. By the end of the flight, we were both bawling like babies – and I realized what I considered “rude” was just another human being trying to cope.

Consider if you find yourself judging people, and see how you can change your attitude. Do you step around the homeless man on the street with the thought “Get a job” bouncing in your brain? Do you see people who are more successful than you and think, “Well, at least I didn’t have to sell my soul to get where I am today.” Do you judge the writer who asks for too little – or too much – money? It’s amazing how much more clearly we can see others when we drop our preconceived notions and allow ourselves to see people for who they really are.

You can make a difference in someone’s life today. There doesn’t need to be a worldwide incident for you to be the change you want to see in this world. Write a thank you note to someone who has made a difference in your world (I just wrote one to my high school English teacher – and damn, it felt good.) Help a stranger just because you can. Donate to a wonderful cause. Be a mentor and help someone’s career. Heck, even being friendly to your local Starbucks barista (rather than being on your phone and barking your latte order) can make a huge difference.

Other ways you can help right now:

– Answer a question in Linked In or Quora.

– Speak  at your local high school or college.

– Help someone launch their business.

– Volunteer to help a non-profit.

It may not seem like much to you, but spending just a little bit of time can mean a tremendous amount to someone else.

Life is short – live it. In the two years prior to September 11th, I had lost both my father and my husband. Since then, I’ve lost two other friends – one to an accident, one to cancer. What have I learned? I tell my friends that I love them. I cherish every day and take nothing for granted. I live life on my own quirky, eccentric terms. And I hold nothing back. I would rather give whatever I’m doing my all and fail spectacularly (although there’s really no such thing as “failure,”) than do a half-assed job and hope that no-one notices me.

If you’ve been holding yourself back, it’s time to break free. Screw the fear! It does nothing but hurt you. That could mean…

– Quitting your day job and starting your own business.

– Trying your hand at public speaking.

– Raising your rates.

– Trying something new – a new sport, reading a new book. Even listening to new music can pull you out of your comfort zone.

This September 11th, let’s take the time to celebrate ourselves – and each other. After all, we are the change that we’ve been waiting for.

How I Do What I Do: Confessions of a Content Curator

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Yes, I love content. Worthwhile, pithy content that I can sink my teeth into. I bookmark, curate and condense this content, and share it with you all via the SEO content marketing roundup each Wednesday on this blog.

I’m often asked how I go about it.

I feel a bit abashed in saying that I have no system per se, no formula to offer. But I can tell you this: I know “quality” stuff when I see it, immediately. And you’ll often see it in my Twitter stream, or liked, or recommended, or Google Plus’ed.  But to date, I cannot honestly delineate a rhyme or reason, method to my madness, anything that might help you all out. Sorry!

Call it a journalist’s hunch or just plain common sense or some sort of intuition.  Or not.  But for what it’s worth, here is what I do when curating content:

1.  Check the most credible sites and news sources

My daily diet of blogs and news includes: Top Rank Marketing, Content Marketing Institute, Conversation Marketing, Level 343, Copyblogger, Seth Godin, Forbes, Wall Street Journal, and then a ton of other Search Engine, SEO, and Social Media authorities and paper.li’s (yes, I find great value in paper.li’s from certain sources). And this list is by no means exhaustive or exclusive, or representing “site endorsements.”  I follow many other blogs and news sources. Just offering up my triage.

2.  Check my email inbox

I also make a point of tracking alternative sources of content, search, social and SEO blog posts and news.

I can only do so much internet research in a week – or day – so for instance: although social media marketing is not my primary passion, I keep in touch via email subscriptions with a number of social media sources.  As well as content, search, and SEO.  My inbox is intimidating.

I fillet my way through it ruthlessly.

3.  Keep my mind and digital ears open

I am always checking the Twitter stream (sorry, Google+) for news and links relevant to the industry.  For me, Twitter provides absolute web gems from sites and sources far and wide, in real time.

No voice or source of substantive content is neglected on its face. But again, it really is a matter of time and energy. Quite often, I’ve happened upon a thread that seeds the theme of my roundup from a brand spanking new source. The Twitter stream proves time and again to be a serendipitous source of inspiration for me.

So what say you?

That all said, I am wide open for your suggestions as to what you would like to see in the Wednesday SEO Content Marketing Roundup, or who you would like to hear from in the Tuesday guest posts.

Til then,

Laura Crest

Twitter: @ljcrest

Are You Writing Afraid?

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Ask yourself: Are you so afraid of the worst possible outcome happening that you’re holding yourself (and your SEO writing) back?

I started thinking about this after reading a Fast Company article about LeBron James and the Miami Heat. After a grueling loss to the Dallas Mavericks, the Heat teammates held a players-only meeting. Brian Windhorst, who covers the team for ESPN, was quoted as saying, “Guys were telling each other to stop playing afraid.”

Wow. That’s powerful stuff.

It made me think of all the ways that we, as freelance or in-house SEO copywriters, “write afraid.” We’re scared to death of being criticized, so we don’t write what we really feel. We don’t expand our businesses or career the way we could. Our fear causes us to “miss” some content opportunities (like repurposing content,) because we’re just too stressed out to notice them. Plus, we’re exhausted at the end of the day – heck, all of that fear takes a lot of energy.

If this sounds like you, here are some thing to try:

  • Take more breaks. A friend suggested this and I thought she was out of her mind (um, sorry Doti.) Turns out, research supports her theory – a recent study says that “the key to great success is working harder in short bursts of time.” I’ve used the Pomodoro Technique for this and it’s transformed how and when I write. Less stress. More focus. Awesome.
  • Take stuff off your to-do list. It’s really hard to focus when you’re thinking, “I’ve got way too much to do today. How can I get it all done?” Guess what? YOU are the master of your workday (even if it feels like your boss, clients and coworkers take precedence.) Start deleting some tasks and see how many better you feel.
  • Take a day off from writing and focus on the big picture. Did the thought of taking a day off from writing make you feel a little nervous? Good. That means you definitely need some time away! If we’re in creative mode all the time, it’s hard to focus on big picture “what do I want to accomplish this quarter” thoughts. You’re stuck on the fear hamster wheel of create, create, create – without time to figure out what it’s all for. This may be harder to implement if you’re working in-house, but see what you can negotiate. I’ve just started this myself, and noticed a really interesting side effect – my body and mind doesn’t feel trashed out by Friday. Cool!
  • If you’re feeling really messed up, get away from it all. The recession had an interesting effect on people’s psyches. Two years ago, people were scared to death. Today, people seem like they’re making up for lost time – so they’re working crazy hours. If you’re feeling chained to the computer because “an email may come in” or “you just have to finish this one thing,” you’re not working in the flow – you’re working afraid. A long weekend far, far away from your computer can help put life back into perspective. Which brings up…
  • Talk to someone if you need it. If you find yourself constantly writing afraid, it could be that you have to untangle some thoughts that are keeping you from moving ahead. The recession scared a lot of people, and getting yourself out of “the sky is falling” mentality can be hard to do by yourself. You can talk to a counselor, a coach, or a trusted friend or mentor. The key is having someone in your life who can act as a sounding board.
  • Get out of your comfort zone at least once a day. Post something edgy (c’mon – you know you want to!). Answer a question on Quora or LinkedIn. Consider running local seminars. The best way to kick fear’s butt is by showing it that you’re not afraid.  Flooding yourself with new experiences will give you a greater sense of mastery that will flow into your writing – and move you from “writing afraid” to “writing in the flow.”

What about you? What techniques do you use to move away from fear and into the flow?

Update:  For another great take, check out Seth Godin’s latest post, “Who is making you uncomfortable?” (Thanks to @ljcrest for bringing it to my attention!)

Should You Kill Your Blog?

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I know this will sound weird coming from the SEO content chick. But I’m going to say it anyway.

Some companies should give up on blog writing and kill their blog.

Here’s why.

SEO content marketers (myself included) agree that blogging for B2B and B2C companies is a smart SEO and customer engagement move.  Blogs are great for marketing and lead generation. Google and Bing reward strong resource sites. Sounds like a win/win – right?

Well, not always.

We’re pushing the blog, blog, blog mantra so much that we forget a rarely talked-about fact: Not every company should blog. In fact, blog writing could be taking budget and time away from things that drive more revenue. Here are five times when folks should back away slowly from their blog – and never look back.

  • The “no time, no budget” scenario. Too busy to blog? It’s easy to say “outsource it” except for one little thing – outsourcing costs money. If you can’t find a quality writer for your budget and your team doesn’t have time, put blog writing on the back burner.  It’s better to have a top-quality blog that you’re proud of than a crappy blog that doesn’t help you (and you’re ashamed to show people.)
  • The “hate to write, no budget” scenario. Some folks can’t stand to write. And it shows. If this is you – and you honestly have no other available resources – please do yourself a favor and let your blog go. Instead, focus your energies somewhere else. For instance, I know a few ex-bloggers who love sending tweets. There’s not as much pressure to write the “right” thing when you only have 140 characters to work with.
  • PR insists that the blog should always promote your product or service. Blog writing is different than sales writing. You’ll allowed to be a little more casual and a whole lot less sales-y. If PR (or someone else high up on the food chain) insists that all posts should push your product or service, it’s time to reconsider your blogging fantasies. Yes, blogs can certainly help soft-sell what you offer. Sure, you can throw in the occasional sales message. But your main blog writing goal should be to engage your readers and keep them coming back for more. Not hitting them over the head with another sales message.
  • A blog doesn’t support your conversion goals. If you’ve built a sales or lead generation-oriented microsite, a blog would actually detract from your conversion goal (getting people to buy from or contact you.) Blogs are great for folks in the “research” phase of the sales cycle. If you’re only focusing on folks who want to take action now, stick to writing conversion-oriented copy.
  • You’ve tried – you really have. But you aren’t seeing a ROI. There are scads of articles about what to do if people don’t like your blog content. By all means, see if you can “fix” your blog – an outside perspective can provide some fantastic ideas.  But if you’ve given it a solid shot and it’s still not meeting your goals (and yes, that means that you have to set marketing goals for your blog) consider saying “buh-bye” to your blog. Especially if other marketing channels are making you more money.

Are there any other times when a company should walk away from their blog? What would you add?