Thursday, August 27, 2009

If You Add Content, Will They Come to Your Website?

Just saw this blog post (Great Content - The Secret to Success? Maybe) from Pete Hollier at SEO

I love how he calls attention to the theoretic divides between the inbound marketing strategists who put a stake in the ground around PPC (pay-per-click), social media marketing, search engine optimization, or content development.

As an inbound marketing strategist and a small business owner, I read A LOT of articles about all these varied school of thought and have generally concluded that there a mix of all strategies is the best way to go.

Pete makes that point in his article, too, and I found it rather validating.

Each inbound marketing strategy has its own pros and cons, its own business requirements (guidelines, costs, management, care & feeding) and its own audience. The strategies that will work best for your small business are the ones that:
  1. you can implement
  2. you can follow through with and maintain
  3. you can afford
  4. reach your audience
Want to know more? Just ask me.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Top 10 Free Sites to Add/Submit Your New Website

After you design, program and populate your website with content, you want to get it found online.

If your website was produced by a professional, s/he probably submitted it to the search engines for you. But if you built your website yourself, here are the next steps.

Submit your website URL to Google.

Submit your website to Yahoo!

But what about MSN—I mean, Bing? And what about AOL, Lycos and Ask? Bing may be coming into its own, but the rest of the search engines partner with the big ones above to get their feeds. If you're searchable on Google, you'll be searchable on AOL.

Just listing your URL with the search engines doesn't mean you'll get traffic, though. Nor does it mean that the search engine spiders will spend any time crawling through your pages of brilliant content. They may just hit the home page and run.

To get the crawlers to come back, and to start the process of building inbound links to your site, list in free directories. To assist you, here are:

Tara’s Top 10 Free Sites to Add/Submit Your New Website:

  1. (create a classified ad in the business services section; this isn't a permanent submission, as it comes down after 7 days, but it helps get things jump-started)
  4. Business Finder (Not from Oregon or SW Washington? Look for a similar service at your local newspaper.)
  5. Weblistings
  6. Open Directory (Good luck with this one; I've been trying for two years to get Maternitique to appear here.)
  7. DirectoryM/Business Journals (national network of business journals online)

Questions? Just ask.

And yes, I know it’s been a while since I posted. Okay, a long time since I posted, but I’ve been busy!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

You Know It. Do It.

Do you ever catch yourself in this kind of desperate pursuit of information, feeling as if you can only move forward when you learn enough?

Sometimes, my fellow entrepreneurs, this is a trap. "Enough" information is an illusion.

I'm a vocal advocate of life-long learning and believe that there is always room to educate ourselves and improve ourselves, our careers, our skills.

And yet, there have been times over the last few years of starting my own businesses when I've caught myself saying aloud, "I don't know what to do next," or "my business would be more successful if only I knew how to _________ (fill in the blank: market online better, improve my site's search engine rankings, tell my story better, tap into the power of social media)."

Gripped by indecision, I've spent weeks, or even months, researching, reading books, attending workshops and conferences, taking experts to lunch and digesting dozens of electronic newsletters and articles online only to discover through all my questioning that I already knew most of the answers.

I began to realize that I wasn't going to find earth-shattering advice or sure-thing strategies that would guarantee success in my endeavor; what I was reading and learning were things I already knew. And that's when I realized that I wasn't really looking for answers. I was looking for safety.

It was my doubt and lack of confidence causing my indecision, not my lack of knowledge.

Sure enough, when I imposed on myself a moratorium on more learning and challenged myself to doggedly move forward in doing the work, my businesses started to flourish.

If indecision has you stopped in your tracks, there won't be "enough" information to move you forward. You have to find the courage to implement and act on what you already know.

Recently on LinkedIn, Andrea Stenberg of The Baby Boomer Entrepreneur posed a question to business owners, asking: "How do you know when you need to keep learning and when you need to stop and implement what you know?"

Andrea chose my answer as the best response to her question, and here's what I wrote:
If you have to ask, it's time to implement!

When I was first launching my businesses, I took course after course, read book after book, devoured newsletter after newsletter. At some point, I became aware that I already knew much of what I was consuming; it wasn't knowledge I was seeking, but confidence.

Sometimes, we choose to pursue information to try to protect ourselves from making mistakes. If that's your motivation for spending money on courses instead of marketing campaigns, STOP!

Being a small business owner requires risk-taking and "mistake-making." So go out and make the mistakes. There's more than one way to learn!

Following that Q&A, Andrea wrote a great article on her website (that includes a quote from my response, how cool!), including five steps to break your dependence on outside information and to start making things happen.

Are you an information junkie? Read Andrea's challenge to "Get Off the Information Merry-go-Round and Start Implementing What You Know."

Then stop reading, and start doing.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

International Entrepreneur Perspectives: O Canada!

Canada has great online resources for small businesses and entrepreneurs.

In addition to The New York Times, Entrepreneur magazine, and assorted online marketing newsletters, I also subscribe to Canada's national news source, the National Post. Each week, I look forward to reading its Financial Post. In it, there's always a variety of detailed stories about small business ownership that provide practical, useful information no matter where you live and work. To see what I mean, start by checking out the series 12 Weeks to Startup as well as the following stories:

Should I use a call centre?

Optimism key to entrepreneurial heart

Timely Tips for Recession-Racked Entrepreneurs

The Canadian government also has a wealth of information for entrepreneurs, including great business planning guides and even an interactive business planner software.


Saturday, March 7, 2009

Did You Miss Me?

Thank you to all for your e-mails and inquiries as to my whereabouts in the blogosphere.

I'm here! I didn't drop off the face of Blogger for any negative reasons. On the contrary, both of my ventures have been growing and keeping me quite busy.

In August, Maternitique had joyful news with the arrival of a bona fide celebrity customer. She kept us busy for several months and the excitement was just too much for me to handle! No really. I couldn't eat. I couldn't sleep. I almost cracked. Hence, I dropped the blog.

While the store has been getting more mature and shop-worthy, I've also been developing relationships with truly fabulous copywriting and consulting clients. Websites, proposals, newsletters, direct mailings, press releases, brand platforms, articles...I've been working on just about everything! In fact, you can see updates to my portfolio here.

To answer all of the "Are you going to keep writing your blog?" questions: I don't know.

If I do, I'll be irregular with posting. While there's so much I could write about, so many lessons learned over the last several months, new books and resources to share with you, and so many new developments in the world of marketing and business ownership in this s**thole we call an economy, my plate is really too full.

But in case you were wondering, I've missed you! There have been so many times over the last few months that I've thought, "Oh, that would make a great blog post," or "I have to share this teachable moment on my blog."

I'll do my best to check in again and try to share with you. Feel free to do the same!

» Copywriting Is One The Most Important Things Search Engine Optimization Journal - SEO and Search Engine Marketing Blog

» Copywriting Is One The Most Important Things Search Engine Optimization Journal - SEO and Search Engine Marketing Blog

Posted using ShareThis

It takes more than just any old content to succeed in have a fully optimized website. It's worth it to hire a professional writer, and not just not any old writer, but one who has proven experience getting results on the Internet. Oh, I don't know...someone

Read the above and don't just take my word for it!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

It's Official: I Have Low Standards

The process of positioning myself as an "expert" has begun, but I can't say that it's taking off quite as planned.

Those media mentions I was expecting from the big name magazines for women - "Bitch" and "Parenting" - haven't happened. Whether the stories were "killed," haven't appeared yet, or I just didn't make the cut, I don't know.

I did, however, manage to be included by name with a reference to one of my businesses in an article about succeeding in the work-life balance as a mother working from home. The article, entitled, "How She Does It: 75 Multitasking Moms Weigh In," was apparently posted in July at Stay at Home Mom Answers, an online community to support stay-at-home moms.

Here's the mention:

After email threads and discussions with these 75 women, one recurrent piece of
advice rings through repeatedly:“Lower your Standards.” For some, like Tara
Bloom, a divorced mom of an 11-year-old daughter who manages online maternity
and baby business, those “standards” apply to the definition of
“clean home.”
To read the full article, click here.

Okay then. I'll point out that I offered advice in the interview, too, but apparently the most newsworthy thing that I have to contribute to the discussion of how to balance work and life is that I can't do it and maintain a clean house at the same time.

Which is true...and why my writing clients are never invited to meet me at my office.

Tune in next time when I'm quoted in Entrepreneur magazine admitting to working for days on end in my pajamas without bathing.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Marketing Messages That Sell: Using Puns

Small business owners need marketing genius.

We’re not able to compete with the big boys and their big advertising budgets. Those of us who advertise in newspapers or magazines usually have smaller sized ads that can easily get lost on the page. We need to stand out.

One way to do this: pun.

A pun, or a play on words, can be effective as a marketing message because it gets people’s attention—and the first challenge of creating marketing messages that sell is to succeed in getting people’s attention.

When skimming over the newspaper, glancing at billboards, or digesting the chatter of the radio that’s on in the background, a play on words makes people stop and think.

What was that?! Did I read/see/hear that right?

A recent ad in my neighborhood newspaper made me do just that.

It’s a very small ad—only 1.75” x 2”—but it made me stop on the page, smile, and read it in detail. It also made me think about what was being advertised and whether it would benefit me.

The ad is by a business called The Cycling Salon. Their logo (pictured above) is awesome; it’s playful and sets the tone for the pun to come. You see, The Cycling Salon is in the business of offering (drum roll please) Pedal Cures for Women! Here’s the text of the ad:

Pedal Cures for Women

Bike fittings for all!

Want to start bicycling again? Don’t know where to start? See us for bike fitting, bike shopping, or basic repairs!


That’s a TON of information to fit into a tiny ad smaller than 2” x 2”. Nevertheless, The Cycling Salon effectively communicated who they are, what they do, who their target market is, what the benefit is of acting on the ad, and two ways to get in contact.

It's a marketing message punned to perfection, I might say.

Read some additional ways to incorporate puns into marketing messages that sell on Copyblogger at this post, Let’s Hear It for the Lowly Pun! by Maeve Maddox.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Weekly Affirmations for the Self-Employed

I am flexible enough to meet obstacles and change my goals when needed.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Small Business Marketing Tips: Collect Best Practices

As you undertake developing marketing materials for your small business, you will inevitably consider the question: “What do I envision for my ___________ (ad, logo, brochure, web site, fill in the blank with the name of your project)?”

Whether you work with freelance creative professionals to design and produce your marketing materials, contract with a firm, or—despite my advice to the contrary—do things yourself, it helps to have plenty of examples of material you like.

For this reason, small business owners should keep numerous files of “best practices” or “best ideas.”

Including samples of clever ways to market using exterior envelopes, small business ads from local newspapers and magazines, and effective post card campaign pieces, I have a file of printed marketing samples that all make me say, “Wow!” As in, “Wow! That’s clever!” or “Wow! I wish I’d thought of that!” or “Wow! That’s really effective!”

In your “Best Practices” hard file, you should collect those types of marketing tools that spark ideas for how to market your own business, or that simply grab your attention and strike you as really well done. Even if the advertisement is for a furniture store and you sell fishing gear, keep the ad if it contains imagery, style elements, a unique offer or some other clever marketing technique that you could repurpose for your own needs.

Suggestions for what to collect in your “Best Practices” hard file:
Newspaper ads
Magazine ads
Direct mail letters
Post cards
Press kits
Press releases

Most, if not every, small business can benefit from electronic marketing of some kind. When it comes time to redesign your website, ramp up your e-mail marketing program, or advertise your business online, you’ll increase the chances of developing effective online marketing messages if you refer to best practices that you’ve stored electronically.

In your email management tool, create a folder as part of your in-box and call it: “Best Newsletters,” or “Newsletters I Like.” As you receive e-marketing campaigns that strike you as effective, file them in that folder for future reference.

To store websites and advertisements as best practices, use your Internet browser to create a folder of bookmarks or favorites—whichever you prefer. Create a folder to name “Best Websites” or “Websites I Like.” As you’re surfing the ’net and encounter those you like, add them to the folder.

In this way, you can easily create folders to also keep track of “Competitors Websites,” “Online Ads I Like,” “Website Designs I Hate,” and so on.

Suggestions for what to collect in your “Best Practices” electronic files:
Electronic newslettersBlogs
Websites you like
Websites you don’t like
Competitors’ websites
Banner ads

Most small business owners aren’t fluent in creative vocabularies. We may not be able to describe to graphic designers that the brochure we’ve commissioned should use a sans serif font in order to convey a contemporary, modern and airy feel. We may not know how to say that we want a comfortable, conversational tone to our website content. We may not understand how to balance visual style elements with copywriting to create a direct marketing piece that’s effective.

But like everyone, small business owners know what we like and don’t like. By having examples of what you like on hand when you’re beginning to create your own marketing materials, you jump-start the process and provide valuable guidance to the professionals you’ve hired to help you. It’s a cost-effective use of your time, too—providing examples improves your chances of getting the materials you want in a shorter amount of time.