Entries by Sandra Clayton

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Website Optimization Time! 9 Must-Have Elements to Convert More Clients

Ever feel like your website should be working harder than it is? Say, do more of the heavy lifting in your business…maybe get on out there and bring you some fresh leads + customers already? Or maybe even let the universe know about your superhero talents and creativity?
I’m so with you on this one! Our websites should work harder. In fact, we want our websites to be the swiss army knives of the machine we’ve been working so hard to build.
The machine that’s going to drive traffic, build our audience and make us profitable.
Today, I’m sharing 10 website optimization tips to help keep that machine running at peak performance. These tips will be especially helpful if your blog biz isn’t quite where you want it to be, or if you feel like you’re doing everything right, but something is still a bit off.
You probably have questions about your website, or maybe you’re thinking…

  • I don’t have time
  • I’m done working on my site
  • How can this bring me customers?
  • Is spending time on my site even worth it?

I get it, another thing to add to the list, right? And YES, optimizing your website for more leads and customers will take time.
Here’s the thing though:
Most people who visit your website are doing a quick fly-by, looking for something specific. Once they find it, they’ll likely peace out unless you give them such a bangin’ experience that they want to stay longer!
The beauty here is that once you optimize your website, you can pretty much set it and forget it. This is because all of the heavy lifting will start happening on autopilot. You’ll have a system that builds relationships with complete strangers and a website that delivers leads + customers while you sleep.
Sound good? Here are my website optimization tips:

PART 1 – THE ART OF THINGS + LAYING THE FOUNDATION

1) A Value Proposition

WHERE TO PUT: ON YOUR HOME PAGE

A value whaaa? This is a fancy way of saying let people know that you solve one specific problem for one specific person. A value prop should be the first statement people see on your homepage and it looks something like this:
I help (who) do (what) so that they can (benefit).
Confused by this? I’ve got tons of value prop variations plus a template for you in this post. Your goal here is to let your audience know exactly what those 2 “ones” are above and to clearly communicate the value you provide. What do you do? How do you help? Who do you help? 
If you need help with your one person, you can download the customer avatar template I created to help you attract the right customers to your business. Click the image below to download it.

I recommend placing your value prop front and center on your homepage, ideally above the fold (which

3 Places to Find Your Next 30 Blog Ideas

In our Build Your Audience + Traffic series, we’ve been busy mapping out a heavyweight blog and social media plan, one that’ll knock the socks off any pro blogger. We’ve talked about the importance of researching blog ideas on the first of every month, so that you know exactly what you’re going to write each week.
Today, I want to get into the research part of the series, because coming up with blog ideas is something that can easily trip you up, especially when you’ve been at it for a while.
There will be days when you get writer’s block and can’t put pen to paper. Maybe you feel like you’ve written every possible word you can think of around your blog themes…like you’ve explored every possible angle of your topics.
I get it! I really do. It’s happened to me sooo many times. You start to feel drained, right? Like what else is there to write about?
Buut, we’re hunters and gatherers and there’s always more game out there! Knowing how to go about researching ideas that our audience will love is crucial if we’re gonna keep killin’ it.
In this post I’m sharing 3 of my fav go-to’s for ideas. Think of this as an addendum to the Build Your Audience + Traffic series, kind of like an “oh-and-by-the-way”.
Sound good? Let’s dig in…

1) Keyword Research

This is more of an action-item than a place. But, since there are a few keyword tools I use, we’ll call it a place for now, k?
Before we get into this, I’ve learned the hard way that you can’t stuff keywords in your posts and hope to get them on page 1! Google doesn’t play that game, so neither can we.
Still, keyword research is my first stop when I’m stumped about what to write and below I’m sharing the tools I use. Psst…keyword research is also going to help your posts rank higher on Google, you multi-tasker you!

Keyword Planner

This is the tool I use most. What you’re looking for with the Keyword Planner are keywords with a high monthly search volume and low competition. Before the 2017 update, it was pretty easy to find that data. Now it’s a little harder because you only see a range, such as 1K – 10K, which is helpful as a starting place, but we can’t leave it there and here’s why:

  • The range given can be hugely inaccurate, as you’ll see below.
  • There’s a huge difference in traffic between 1K and 10K searches.

So how do we get the data we really need?
Let’s walk through a typical search. First, enter your keyword into the planner, like this:

You can also filter the keywords and customize your search. I like to see results for at least 1,500 average monthly searches, so I filter my keywords like this:

On the next screen, I recommend

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Step-By-Step Blog and Social Media Plan for More Traffic

Ok, here we go. Ready for part #2 of the Build Your Blog Audience + Traffic series?
In part #1, we talked about some fundamental ways to get more blog traffic and build your audience.
We uncovered how important it is to really, really know your target audience, how to set monthly goals, and some of the things you should be doing every week to put your content out there like you mean business…like you want people to find you.
Today, let’s put the weekly tasks under a microscope and map out a plan for what to do each day, k? I really want us to have a blogging workflow that we can follow, one that will help us stay on track and get into a routine of things we do each and every week, over and over again. Like a machine.
Here’s what I’m covering in this post:

  • Researching blog topics
  • Writing posts
  • Search engine optimization
  • Creating images
  • Sharing + promoting
  • Repurposing
  • Scheduling
  • Rinse + repeat 🙂

Ready for it? Let’s turn on the Audience + Traffic machine.
First, this is what we’re going to be creating:
And this is the blog checklist we’ll use to make sure we get everything done:

If you want, you can grab the blog and social media plan to start creating your own Audience + Traffic Workflow. Click the image below to download it.

ON THE FIRST SUNDAY OF EVERY MONTH:

1) Research blog topics

One of the best ways to stick to a regular blogging schedule is to have your topics ready to go, so all you have to do is start writing.
Ha! I know, I know, if only it were that easy!!
Seriously though, remember the blog themes we talked about? What you want to do is on the first Sunday of every month, dig into your themes and come up with blog post ideas around them.
You may be thinking Why should I even spend time researching? I already know what I want to say and this will just hold me up!
I get it. Even though it might feel like a waste of time upfront, if you hang in there with me, you’re going to get back your time plus tons of valuable insight. Here’s why:

  • Knowing what you’re going to cover ahead of time means less time struggling with what to write during the week.
  • Your content is going to speak to what your audience really needs vs what you think they need, which is priceless.
  • Researching content is about more than just blog ideas – you’ll see how people spin their blog titles too, which is a biggie for driving traffic.

Have I convinced you yet?
If you’re curious about how to gather the research, I’ll cover that a bit more in one of my next posts, so stay tuned…
Now that you know what you want to write, it’s time to create your blogging workflow.
 

MONDAY

2) Write the post

Try to

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How to Build Your Blog Audience (Like You Mean Business)

Seems like forever since my last post and I’m having a heck of a time getting back into it, even though it’s been just 2 weeks.
Have you ever experienced that?
Where you fall off your blogging schedule for a bit, and when you try to get back on, you have to force yourself. Somehow it winds up being so much harder than it should be, right?
This struggle is what’s been on my mind lately and today, I’m sharing a blogging workflow to help you (and me!) stick to our blogging schedules, like we mean business. This will be part 1 of my Build Your Blog Audience + Traffic series, where I will be digging in to ways to improve your visibility and traffic, and ultimately, set the stage for making money with your online business.
Here’s what I’m covering in this post:

  • Knowing who you want to reach
  • Why you should be thinking about content funnels, even if you’re starting out
  • Setting monthly blogging + social media goals
  • Specific things to do each week to build your audience and reach your goals

Ready for it? Let’s dive in.

Step #1) Know who you’re trying to reach

Building your blog audience starts right here. This is such a biggie and worth mentioning again and again, even though you’ve probably heard it a hundred times!
The reason is because knowing your audience is the foundation of your entire business and online presence. And if you have a weak foundation, it’s hard to build up from there, with me?
To really build your blog audience, you have to solve one specific problem for one specific person.
If you want, you can download my Find Your Niche Workbook to help you zero in on your sweet spot – the intersection where your audience hearts what you heart, and your skills and passions allow you to charge premium prices. Just click the image below to grab it.

Let’s say you’re all about nutrition and eating a healthy diet, and you want to pass on tips that you’ve learned to others so they can be fit and healthy too. Your goal is to sell nutrition eBooks and products that help people get from zero to fit with ease.
This is a great start, but we’re not quite there yet. “People who want to eat healthy” is too broad a market, especially in a crowded niche like health and fitness. Let’s dig a little deeper.
First of all, are you trying to reach primarily men or women?
In the fitness and health blogosphere, women typically account for about 75% of purchasing decisions, so my vote is to focus on women.
Ok, we’re really getting somewhere here, but we’re still skimming the surface with “Women who want to eat healthy”. Let’s dig deeper and narrow it down even more. To do that, it will help to look at why it’s hard

How to Be Successful Blogging When You Feel Like You’re Failing

Hey there! Let me preface this post by saying that this is going to be a little different.
I usually try to give you guys actionable tips…things you can apply in a reasonable time frame that will accelerate your growth and help you be successful blogging and in your business.
Buut, this whole being-an-entrepreneur thing has been on my mind lately, and today I’m sharing a bit of my story, mostly so you’ll understand why it’s been on my mind. My hope is that it will inspire you to never quit, to always keep going, to believe in yourself, and to hold on to that special thing you’ve been put on this earth to do.
Ok, first, a little bit about me…
As a young girl, I saw my dad work his tail off to grow the family business. It was an Air Wick franchise that he ran from our home, which meant our whole family worked hard too. My sister and I learned to do payroll, balance checkbooks, and some other light accounting stuff.
By the time we moved the office to a physical location, I was doing just about everything for the biz…filing, answering phones, handling shipments, inventory, cleaning, delivering, attending trade shows, installing stick-ups, even cleaning up sewage spills (ick!).
It wasn’t easy or glamorous work, but it was a crazy thrill to be a part of it…the brainstorming, the hustling, the troubleshooting, the scrambling, the shifting gears…anything to make it all work.
I’m sure that it’s this experience, at such a young age, that made me fall in love with being an entrepreneur. And it most definitely shaped my worldview, which is:
I believe that we were put on this earth to create, to share, and to realize our true potential. And to never let anyone else tell us how much we should make, what title we should have, or what ceiling is too high.
Now, I did hold a job for a short time after college, but that was really it. When my boss offered me a raise and a promotion, I politely declined because I had seen what my dad had built, and I wanted that too. I wanted a business and lifestyle that I loved, and I was willing to work hard to get it. I’ve been self-employed ever since then.
Throughout my business journey, I have learned a whole lot about what it takes to create a sustainable, scalable business. I’ve learned how to fail at to too (failures are successes in disguise, though, so I say that with a grain of salt).
I’ve had 9 businesses in these industries:

  • Manufacturing
  • Designing
  • Marketing + branding
  • Music
  • Fashion
  • Accessories
  • Fitness
  • Nutrition
  • Now blogging 🙂

Ok, so what’s been on my mind with all of this?
I’m so glad you asked! Something struck me the other day that may strike a chord with you too:
It’s one thing to be successful blogging

15 Ways to Make Your Brand Stand Out

Does the thought of creating images, brand statements, and style guides put a big smile on your face?
I wrote this post a while back about creating a branding system for your business, and since then I’ve learned so many things that I can’t wait to share with you.
Now, to be fair, I can’t say that branding is my favorite topic just yet. To do it right, you’ve got to be relentless about every single detail and element. Ugh.
And does “branding your blog” even sound half as sexy as getting thousands of subscribers?
No to that…
But that’s not the question we should be asking. The real question is Why do we need to brand ourselves at all?
I’ve been thinking about this one for a while, and here’s what I’ve got:

  • First off, if we don’t define our brands, other people will do it for us, and that might not be a good thing.
  • If we’re going to stand out the way we truly want, branding is something we can’t afford to overlook.
  • Branding with purpose and intention will help us attract more of the right people to our blog.
  • We want visibility, baby!

We’re not building wallflower businesses here, k? We’re building climb-to-the-top-of-the-mountain, shout-me-loud brands that people notice.
So what are the things you can do to make sure your brand stands out above the rest? Let’s take a look!

1. Be consistent

This is one of the most important aspects of building a strong brand. There are a gazillion ways that people will find you and a gazillion different brands out there.
How do you rise above all that noise?
Pay attention to everything. Deets like your website, social media, fonts, colors, vibe, voice, the people you hang with, the emails you send, the way you respond to blog comments…all of it frames the way people think about you and your brand.
Your goal should be to present a consistent and harmonious brand image everywhere, online and offline.
For example, if you saw your pin in your Pinterest feed, would you immediately recognize your brand? That’s the kind of consistency and detail we’re aiming for!

2. Take a stand

You may not think this is an important step, and I get it. Trust me though, it’s a biggie.
Not only for the reasons listed here but because taking a stand will help you guide your brand in the right direction. Think of this as if you’re drawing a line in the sand between your tribe and everyone else.
Everything you do with your brand is going to etch that line deeper and deeper. With me?
Being 100% confident in what you stand for is one of the things that will help you effortlessly attract more of your dream customers. Those who heart what you heart will be naturally attracted to your brand’s purpose.
No better way to stand out than that, in my book…

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12 Time Blocking Tips for a Super Simple Weekly Schedule

You know what every entrepreneur has in common?
We all have a million things to do, and not enough time to get it all done.
But feeling scattered, flustered, and generally overwhelmed can be one of the worst feelings, especially when we feel like we’re doing everything right and really want to focus on the “the right” things to take our blog biz to the next level. Having a to-do list that crushes you – instead of you crushing it – is just not going to work. We want to keep our momentum going!
A while back I wrote this post where I shared the time blocking template I use to organize my week and get things done.
Hands-down, this is my most popular post to date! So if you feel like you’re juggling too many things and have no idea which to tackle first, you’re not alone, sister.
Today, I’m sharing a handful of things that will help you get the most benefit from the time blocking template (which you can download here), so that everything gets done in a way that makes you feel calm, centered and in control of your week.
Now this is easier said than done, I know! But there’s a way to make sure you stay on track, and that has a lot to do with how you manage time blocking, which I’m going to walk you through right now.

[ SETTING GOALS AND TASKS ]

First things first, we need to set some goals so we know what to focus on:

1) Create a high-level plan

Before we start time blocking, it’s important to have high-level goals and milestones in mind for what you want to achieve. If you’ve followed my last post, you already have or are working on your 12-month plan (at a minimum, your 3-month plan). This will make is so much easier to plan your week, because you will know where you’re at in your business and specific focus areas to tackle each month!
When you’re creating goals and milestones, you don’t have to get super specific. Really what you’re going for is a bird’s eye view of your business, where you’re at, and things you should be focusing on.

2) Make a list of tasks

Next up, break each month down into weekly tasks so you can start achieving your big vision goals!
Yep. I’m sayin’ it again because really want you to get this. Make sure you set tasks for each of the 4 buckets from our Blog Profit Plan (content, traffic, subscribers, profit).
Beyond that, the most important step here, and what you can’t forget to do, is to prioritize your tasks. Some things on your list will be high priority and others not so much. Your high priority tasks are the ones you MUST do, no excuses! That means when other things come

How to Use Photoshop to Create Branded Images For Your Blog and Social Media

I spend so much time creating images for social media and my blog. It’s a big deal to me that my images reflect my brand and are uniquely ME, and at the same time appealing in a way that makes people want to click.
I admit, sometimes I’m better at this than others! When it’s crunch time and I really need to hit that publish button, there are times when my images fall flat. I know it, and boy does it hurt…
I also know that half of your image has ev’rything to do with the blog title (more on titles here). We can create the most beautiful images the sun has ever seen, and if our titles miss the mark our post is going dark on us. That’s the way it goes, right? Sometimes we hit and sometimes we miss…
But I digress, because today, it’s graphics tutorial time! I thought it might be fun to get a behind-the-scenes look at how I use Photoshop to create my blog and social media image templates. Woop woop!
Having social media image templates is one of those things that makes your day-to-day so much more productive. No more worrying about what to share on Instagram at the last minute, k?
Here’s what I’m covering in this graphics tutorial:

  • Template sizes and editing tools
  • Design tips to help your images stand out
  • The Photoshop workspace, tools, and palettes
  • Using Photoshop to create an image template

Now, you’re probably wondering about images sizes and editing tools, so let’s kick it off right there.

1) IMAGE SIZES AND EDITING TOOLS

What size templates do you need?

Great question! This one really got me too at first. Here’s what I’ve come up with that works well for me, and it may work for you too:

  • Twitter + Facebook: 1000 x 500 (I use this image as the Featured Image on my blog post)
  • Instagram: 1080 square
  • Pinterest: 800 x 1200 (this is the first image on my blog) and a second, longer pin

Here’s an example of the image size templates I use:
I know you’re probably thinking Do I really need 3 or 4 different image templates? I don’t even have time to create one!
Really, you don’t need all of these, but there are a few reasons these work for me. First off, these are the social media platforms I’ve decided to build a following on.  Second, I like changing up my Twitter and Facebook images 🙂 And last, I’ve made it a habit to create 2 pins for every post, so that’s why that extra pin is in there. If you’re curious about that, this post explains why.
So that’s what works for me. What you create is really a matter of preference. You may decide to create templates only for Instagram and Pinterest, then use the same square image for Facebook and Twitter (keep in mind

Affiliate Marketing for Beginners: How to Start Making Money in 2017

Guess what, friends! I cracked the code!
If you remember in our Blog Profit Plan series, I promised to be back with the scoop on affiliate marketing for beginners.
Bump. Here it is!
I just finished this amazing course by Michelle Schroeder-Gardner called Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing, and today I’m sharing what I’ve learned, why I (finally!) decided to buy it, and why I highly recommend it.
Here’s what I’m going to cover in this post:

  • A quick bit about Michelle
  • How affiliate marketing fits into our Blog Profit Plan
  • Why we even need a course for this
  • What I’ve learned from Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing

If you don’t already know the basics of affiliate marketing, no worries, let me explain. Affiliate marketing is when you earn money by placing an affiliate link on your website or social media account, and have people purchase through your link. Basically, as an affiliate, you promote a product offered by another business.
Before we dive in, this post includes affiliate links! That’s my disclosure there and one of the first things Michelle explains in the course. FTC regulations require you to let people know if you stand to benefit from recommending a product. No biggie here, right? We’re just being transparent and honest!
Ready to do this? Let’s dig in.

First, who is Michelle?

Hands-down, Michelle is the go-to authority on affiliate marketing for newbies. She’s been blogging for about 6 years now and from her income reports it looks like she’s making between $50-100K a month from her blog. I call that an expert!
Before I share what I’ve learned from Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing, if you’re ready to dive right in, I highly recommend Michelle’s course. It really helped me understand how to approach affiliate marketing the right way, with a full-blown success strategy. Click here to find out more about it!

Note: From Thursday, August 17th through Sunday, August 20th, you can use the coupon code AUGUST28SALE2017 to receive $28 off Michelle’s course.

How does affiliate marketing fit into our Blog Profit Plan?

Seems pretty obvious, right? Money = Profit!
If you missed the #1, #2 and #3 from the series check them below:
#1: Blog Business Plan
#2: How to Make Money with Your Blog
#3: Social Media Strategy
Well, now you are all set with last three parts Blog Profit Plan. Now Let’s dive into part #4. Hmmm… Should we call this part #4 of the Blog Profit Plan series?
Seriously, you may be thinking about skipping affiliate marketing altogether. Maybe it sounds like it’s too hard or that it will be a waste of time, or that your followers just won’t be interested.
If you ask me, that’s leaving money on the table! And if we’re going to build hugely profitable blogs, we just can’t do that. We have to at least give affiliate marketing a try, right?
As long as we’re truly providing

7 Things Every Blogger Should Do After You Hit Publish

Hi friends! I don’t know about you, but for the past few weeks all I can think about is how to get more traffic to my blog. I mean, I want it so bad I can’t even see straight!
Does that happen to you too? You wake up dreaming about traffic, go to sleep thinking about it, and are literally consumed by it during the day? Maybe its my OCD, but there’s something about the thought of traffic pouring into my site that makes me feel all warm and snuggly inside!
So today, I want to talk about more ways to get the traffic we’ve been dreaming about… In this post I’m sharing a short blog checklist of things you should do as soon as your posts go live, so that your amazing content is found by as many people as possible.
Before we dive in, I’ve already covered some things to do before you publish (14 to be exact!), so be sure to read that post too.
Now let’s get into some things you should do after you publish. You may notice that one of the steps (#4 below) is included in both the before and after checklist. If you’re curious, it’s because this step is something you want to do both before and after you publish. And if that sounds confusing, don’t worry, it’ll all be crystal clear in a few minutes!
I’m forcing myself to keep this list short, partly because my brain’s a bit whoozy today, but mostly because I really want you to have a hit list of simple, actionable steps to take right after your post goes live. I figure if you can count the steps on your fingers, they’ll be easier to remember. Plus, I’m committed to writing a blog post a week (how about you?), so looks like we have to jump in and do this. 🙂
And if you’re really want a deep dive on this topic, be sure to read this post where I show you over 32 ways to get FREE traffic to your blog.
Ready? Let’s get this hit list party started!

Step 1: Create a second pin

You might be thinking, do I really need to do this?  It took me forever to publish my post with just one pin… Isn’t that enough? There’s no way I have time to create another one!
I’m with you. This is one of those things that is actually a biggie though. Trust me, having two pins will make a huge difference in your traffic. I know this for sure because I A/B tested two different pins  and one of them was a complete dud, while the other one is my top performing pin of all time! If you’re curious, you can read my case study for that test here.
#MORALOFTHESTORY  Don’t get left behind with a