How to Answer the Telephone

A massage therapist gets a phone call:

Hello. I was referred to you by my doctor. I work long hours at a desk and…

Before the massage therapist hears another word, he is anticipating a series of topics. He already has an idea of which complaints are likely, and which muscle and nerve groups are most likely to be involved. The massage therapist draws on his experience to anticipate how he may be able to help, and is prepared for other questions that an office worker may have.

Is the the massage therapist’s web site equally responsive?

A brochure site is likely to stop at a mission statement, an address and phone number, a list of services, maybe a map and some background on the site’s owner. A brochure web site’s copywriting may not even touch on how the massage therapist would prefer to respond to whatever comes out after “I work long hours at a desk and…”

Bad Bad Brochure

A massage therapist’s web site gets a the call from a prospective customer:

Hello, Internet. Massage was suggested by my doctor. I work long hours at a desk and…

The bad bad brochure site answers:

Welcome to my home page. I have been in business in the AnyTown area for years and years and am really good at what I do. Please call to make an appointment.

Uh-huh. How fast do you think the “caller” hits the back button and asks Google to serve up another search result? What business owner would answer the telephone like that? Why treat web communication like a meeting of robotic answering machines?

There is no reason for brochure site type web content to behave like a so-so automated self-service telephone system. Brochures don’t need to stop at brochure-speak, either.

Good Brochure Sites Give Good Phone

Obviously, web sites have more room for answers than a 40 second answering machine message, but what does that mean?

Web Sites Can Paint a Picture

One quick diagram of affected nerves and muscles can show our office worker that the massage therapist has experience with their most likely complaints. Another diagram could empower independent self care by illustrating good desk ergonomics.

Add about 500 words per diagram page and you’ve invited search engines to the party. Indexable text gives Search Engines a way to cache a path between the searcher and the brochure site’s images.

The impression left on our interested office worker is of a thoughtful, knowledgeable, resourceful and professional massage therapist, ready to offer professional services. On the phone, our massage therapist can give that impression through tone of voice and basic knowledgeability. Online communication can afford to be wider, encompassing more than what is practical over the phone.

Web Sites Can Speak to Multiple Audiences

On the telephone, our massage therapist can only speak to one prospective customer at a time. Online, a full range of customer personas can be personally greeted.

Every business will have their own target audiences, each with a set of characteristics and needs that are beyond the scope of “Welcome to my home page. I have been in business in the AnyTown area for years and years and am really good at what I do. Please call to make an appointment.”

Massage might be of interest to these six prospective customer groups:

  • Office Worker
  • Hunched-over Gardener
  • Overworked Carpenter
  • Automobile Accident Victim
  • Injured Weekend Sports Star
  • Professional Dancer

Each of these customer groups can be distilled into personas who would have their own version of “the call.”

Hello, Internet. Massage was suggested by [referral source or influencer]. I am [a persona that is also a keyword] with [a problem that is also a keyword]. Can you [a solution that is also a keyword].

Can you hear the call? Write sites that can answer the phone!

Mom Remodels WordPress

Yup. That’s me. Empty nest and all, I am forever “Mom.”

::waves to a certain grown one who sometimes reads this blog::

I, the Mom afore mentioned, mentioned in my 101 Day Round Up earlier this month that I was up for doing a little documented WordPress theme redesign, starting with the WordPress default theme and working from there, step by step and out in public, if there was interest. Well, there was interest. :-)

This is the plan. I’ll start by installing an almost completely uncustomized version of the WordPress default theme on May 11th, Mother’s Day. Yes, Mother’s Day. Humor me. It’s a statement of solidarity for, um, nerdy mamas everywhere.

What’s the “almost” in an “almost completely uncustomized” installation? Well, besides wanting to keep a few niceties like my FeedBurner link, I was thinking of going to a girly header color for the week of Mom’s day. Hey, it’s my party.

Next, I’ll start making small changes, complete with screen shots and code, on Mondays and Thursdays. I’ll keep writing other sorts of posts in between. That way, people who don’t want to follow a WordPress remodel will still have something to look forward to.

Making WordPress into a real web site

Just customizing a theme is not enough to make a blog into a real web site. I’ll also be adding reviews of some of my favorite plugins, and some mini tutorials on blog basics. Blog basics will include a step-by-step, screenshot-enhanced guide to some of the frequently asked WordPress questions of total newbies, and pointers on a few attributes of full-fledged web sites, such as privacy policies and “About” pages.

Yes, there will be an eBook

After I’m done with the WordPress remodel I’ll offer up the whole series as an ebook. There will be a reasonable fee for the ebook. However (marketing alert) anyone who is subscribed to my RSS feed during the week of Mother’s Day (May 11-17) will see a special link where they can register to get the ebook for free.

Public Project, Public Opinion

Since I’m doing this in public already, I’m going to take advantage of being in front all your lovely eyeballs and ask for what features you’d like to see demonstrated. Leave your suggestion in a comment on this post, and I’ll consider adding it to the list.

Here are some of my to-do notes, in no particular order:

  • Print style sheets
  • Contact forms
  • Spam control
  • Comment policy considerations
  • Privacy policy considerations
  • Custom category pages
  • Adding analytics
  • Adding a favicon
  • Widetizing a footer
  • Going to dofollow
  • Basic blog security
  • Total beginner’s guide to making a blog post
  • Installing FeedBurner

What’s on your to-do list? Or your wish list?

Free Beer? Not From Most Brochure Sites

Yesterday Cre8asite had a brief fling with free beer.

I believe that the ability of a title tag and description tag to pull an unusual number of clicks in the SERPs is one of the most powerful parts of SEO. It can certainly yield traffic, put people in a certain mood… and the search engines might count it as part of the ranking algo.

Here are a couple ideas for “Eliciting the Click”… I hope that each person who reads this thread will ad at least one or two more.

Eliciting Clicks: Free Beer While It Lasts!

“Beer” sent me straight to musing about wanting German beer and a few other things to go with it.

Beer. German. Dark. Yum. With a slab of good cheese and a big chunk of that sour whole wheat bread with the great crust.

Today, wow oh wow, I am having cravings for German beer, a slab of good cheese and a big chunk of that sour whole wheat bread with the great crust.

I would so click on the right beer, bread and cheese title if it were in front of me now.

If I were to put [german bread] [location] into Google and get a good looking local search result nearby, I would so be there to pick up some lunch makings. [german deli] may also do it. An eat-in place or a bratwurst stand would do, too, and some of that warm German potato salad would be nice. I’m ready to buy. Sell it to me.

The wrong landing page would send me back to whatever I already have in my fridge.

Show me the beer, already!

If I were writing a beer, cheese and bread title to target myself today, the cravings title would be a little different than the curiosity title or the research title, and the content would be different, too. Different target audience = different content.

How many small business people who would like to sell me on their beer and cheese would give their web designer latitude to tempt viewers like me, viewers who may have almost pre-sold themselves on becoming customers? How many web developers would go toe to toe with the business owner and tell them that the brochure page they’ve requested is not going to bring home the bratwurst like more and better content could?

Pet peeve alert – Small business web sites being what they are, SERPS are likely to serve up brochure sites that are more about the business than my craving.

A basic brochure site is by nature egotistical. It is about the business. A basic brochure destination might be for a German deli that has a map to their door and a list of their services. I want to assume that a brick and mortar already has a location and business hours, at least. Giving them to me online is offering a convenience, not a strong selling tool.

This is different than a page that would get me in there to the beer and bread and then inspire me to tell others about what a cool thing I’d found. I wouldn’t be going there to worship at the altar of their map and list of services.

I’d want facilitation of temptation. Selling to me is about me and my hunger. Period.

Often, there simply isn’t enough room for a good, deep sell on a brochure site.

Sell me on Satisfaction

You want to sell me a beer and a sandwich? To sell me the sandwich, sell me the satisfaction I crave. Show me satisfaction. Puleeze don’t stop at showing me that you sell sandwiches and have a map to your door. Telling me how good your business is won’t do it either. Show me the sandwich. Show me you believe in that sandwich.

Got both sandwiches and traditional German potato salad? 101 other menu items? Pick a few. Hit me with your greatest hits.

Describe the scent, the sourdough tang, the old family recipe. Tell me you kept looking until finding cheese with just the right old world characteristics. Tempt me with your mustard and gherkins, and tell me why you care about the beer. I want luscious details I can taste, and don’t forget the pictures, baby. Lay it on, like the product would if I was hungry and there in person talking to a sandwich evangelist at your door. Do whatever it takes to give that landing page a quality of experience for the viewer.

While you’re at it, also make it easy to find the map and notice that you can set up an entire beer garden at my next event. The brochure stuff may facilitate, but the greatest hits are your selling points.


Added — Little did I know I was channeling Seth Godin’s blog post from earlier today. He cautions against getting hooked on traffic, and makes some of the same points from my post.

I think it’s more productive to worry about two other things instead.

1. Engage your existing users far more deeply. Increase their participation, their devotion, their interconnection and their value.
2. Turn those existing users into ambassadors, charged with the idea of bring you traffic that is focused, traffic with intent.

From Silly Traffic


My Bouncing Baby Benchmarks

My measures of success are a little different than most blogs. Though I like traffic and subscribers, at least a little, at this point my priorities are more towards personal connection, enjoying writing and the occasional nerd post. I’m all about the personal value judgment.

I did promise some statly benchmarks, so here they be. Get ready for a journey into Elizabeth brain gently seasoned with stats.


Benchmark: I want some. LOL.

Specifically, I want enough to tell what you like and how what I am doing is working. Other than that, I’d rather have a life than put my all into growing quickly. If this blog was all I did, or if there were two of me, I’d be doing whatever it takes to post something substantive five or six times a week for the first few months.

I started this blog not expecting much traffic, and not intending to chase traffic for a while. I, errr, Stumbled into traffic and then I wanted it and watched for it in spite of myself. I started out at absolute zero in late November, and gradually built to about 100 uniques a day by about the end of the second week of February. The third week in February I hit a wall, desperately needing time to myself, posting here only once. Ironically, that week’s post, Creative Blogging: Plans Versus Experience, is still getting a trickle of traffic from Stumble. Nice. I want that, too.

By March 1st I was up to 1,000 uniques a week, and then I needed a break again. No matter how hard I want to push myself here, I also I need to feel free to pull away now and again to, well, incubate elsewhere.

Right now I’m at 250-350 uniques a week, and I try not to worry about traffic, though I check it every day and I’d like it not to go away, please!

For the next few weeks, my goal is to average four posts a week, two of which I have a strong personal connection to, because I want what that kind of productivity does to my readership interaction.

Creative pressure is one nice side effect of a traffic goal. How goals work out depends on what you want, and how you’re wired. I am learning that, for me, writing with a sense of personal connection requires incubation time. When I’m on a roll I’m the ever-ready blogger, and when I need incubation time that’s all there is to it.

Writing for SEO is more straightforward, more of a get it, got it, good: know the audience; pick and research the topic; check the terms; outline the article; check the facts; write the article; re-check the terms. If I were here to to build traffic and sell widgets, I’d map out a framework of SEO-oriented posts and sparingly sprinkle in spirit-connection posts as needed to keep myself sparky and readers entertained.

Bounce Rate

Benchmark: LOL. Don’t tempt me to say anything sparky about the term “bounce rate.”

Are you beginning to see that most of my benchmarks for AbleReach consist of my own engagement?

My bounce rate is ginormous and becoming ginormouser – now up to 83%, after a low of 39% in January. I expected a high bounce rate, because social me has gone after Social Media traffic. Actually seeing it in my stats has been a heart-stopper.

When my traffic was at its highest, my bounce rate was 39% – not nearly as terrible as 83%. My theory as to why is that once Social Media users come to a site they are going to be hungry for more, especially more that is new. So far, it looks like when I have more than one fresh post that Social Media users like, my bounce rate for that day can shoot right down to about 40%. I think that this is helped by adding forward/backwards links between older and newer posts.

It is important to remember that Social Media traffic does not behave like search traffic: Social Media users are grazers, not concrete searchers.

Returning searchers may be coming to a site for the keywords, independent of any loyalty to a site. Returning searchers may be information driven, looking for search terms that they know are covered on a particular site.

My belief is that though Social Media users are attracted by titles and pictures and what their contacts have bookmarked, returning social media “grazers” are more likely to be fans of the specific site. They need to be attracted – a little different from information driven users. We’ll see how that plays out.

Feed Subscribers

I have two personal benchmarks for RSS subscribers:

  1. More, please
  2. Enough subscribers to give me insight on what motivates clicking through to my site. I find motivation to click to be verrry engaging.

My subscription number is a little higher when I have built anticipation of what will be appearing next, and it goes down noticeably when I post less than two or three times a week. I’m learning that I should not promise ahead. Creativity flows, but not necessarily as projected. The best possible situation is to have some “get em, got em, good” SEO-type posts written ahead. I’m not there, yet – LOL – and, until I am, there will be fewer promises.

The momentum needed to build an RSS subscriber base can be grueling. Anyone who calls blogging “passive income” has not done it for real.

Clicks are cool. Feedburner’s graph of RSS users’ clicks back to my site shows a dramatic increase that seems to be paralleling my dramatic bounce rate, click-through volume going as high as 80% of my total subscriber number. This fascinates me, especially since I offer full text feeds. RSS subscribers already have the full text, so why are they coming to What should I be looking at?

Time on Site

Time on site is my favorite statistic. I have no benchy mark for TOS because I can never get enough. TOS can be…. heartwarming, in an admittedly nerdy way. Is “heartwarming” a benchmark?

For instance, my favorite TOS numbers come from my WordPress tutorial pages. It’s very rewarding to look for what pages have the highest TOS and see that users have spent 8-14 minutes looking at a sidebar tutorial. I imagine that they are working through my tutorial, with their WordPress install open in another tab.

My average TOS is just under a minute, with about 1.36 pages per visit, more TOS for returning visitors and less for first-timers. Most posts are too long to read in under a minute.

I have a few theories for the low Time On Site. RSS readers who click through may have already read the page. Sphinn traffic, I am convinced, either doesn’t read or has already read a post elsewhere in feeds or through other social media. Social Media traffic in general can be made up of skimmers who stay just long enough to decide if they wanted to be there at all. When my SM traffic is high, TOS is really, really low. Most of my new visitors are from Social Media. New visitor TOS is averaging about .26 minutes, whereas returning visitors, including SM, average about two minutes.

Though my TOS goals are strictly feelgood, my version of feelgood always wanders over into user experience. For instance, I wonder if my SM TOS will increase if I start adding images to break up the page a bit: would that help skimmers read? So many things to experiment with, so little time.


Got ’em and love ’em, and am always pleasantly surprised.

For a newer blog, comments are like a magical life force. Once in a while I even get personal emails. I especially like getting personal emails on slow traffic days, because they remind me to have faith that my invisible friends are reading and enjoying their feeds.

I enjoy the give and take of comments. Here, I’d like to encourage lower traffic bloggers who want more comments to do three things:

  1. Directly ask friends for feedback – email, chat, telephone, whatever it takes to reach out and touch someone
  2. Be available for the same for them
  3. Leave meaningful comments on other blogs
  4. Link to those you admire
  5. Link to friends and fans
  6. Enjoy the process


For this site, now, my definition of conversion is when readers are motivated to do more than read what is in front of them. For instance:

  • RSS subscribers clicking through to the site
  • Readers leaving comments
  • Readers who Stumble, Sphinn or bookmark

Keeping an eye on what seems to be causing these three things will continue to give me ideas about how to get more of them, as outlined in various sections above. Though my priorities are a little different, I still can use what benchmarks are reported for similar sites to give a heads-up on where I may have problems. IMHO “problem” is another word for “unmet potential.”

Four months into this blog, having identified these three things as “conversions” gives me a frame of reference for measuring success, and that’s what benchmarks are for.

A Preface to my Bouncing Baby Benchmarks

Question: What did I want from my 101 days?
Answer: A sense of direction. An orientation beyond web design.
Question: Why couldn’t I just pick some keywords to write about? Use that to form a bridge between my beloved web stuff and a prospective audience?
Answer: Because keywords are only a part of the picture. Very often, the target audience is no longer a passive receiver. The Internet is in the midst of a paradigm shift that won’t be mastered by tactical logic… and, you know, maybe I am, too.
Question: Paradigm shift?

Answer: The one-to-many mass marketing that works so well via old school SEO is increasingly intermixed with not-so-little blips and sparks of one-to-one communication, and we natives are restless. Sometimes we don’t like being at the other end of one-to-many. Badly done online one-to-many is spam – the kind of thing that gives marketing a bad name.

With the explosion of social media, one-to-one is intermixed with one-to-many. People “talk.” Sometimes online one-to-one WOM is not marketing or gossip; sometimes it’s a real someone, or a someone we really know, who talks to someone else we know about the specific features and benefits of something that makes a difference in our not-so-unimportant, everyday, face-to-face lives.

Did Google see it coming? Was anticipating user’s hunger for one-to-one and social media part of why Google devalued potentially spam-like strategies? Did they read the writing on the wall, see that people wanted people, and there would be a backlash against being marketed at? Maybe it’s a chicken or egg situation. Some of the famous algorithm updates of the last few years were crushing to sites optimized for old school SEO, or Text Link Ads, or even sites optimized for Google’s own Adsense.

What’s a little guy to do, after Google rolls over? Erm… blog and network, perhaps? Try sharing, face-to-face-ish style, clumsily or slickly market-spammer-like, whatever you have at first, using whatever tool bypasses the search engines?

Those tools look a lot like social media, and…

Question: Excuse me?
Answer: …huh? Oh. Yes?
Question: Could we get back to the part about tactical logic and keywords, please?

Answer: Well, by tactical logic I mean strategies that give results that can be measured and anticipated in a quantitative way. If 100 people searching for brand x see a page about brand x’s product named keyword y, how many are likely to buy, move on, or ask for the product named keyword z? These things can be projected with statistical guestimates.

Social media and word of mouth traffic is more of a qualitative thing, more emotional logic than tactical logic. With social media you may get 1,000 people on the keyword y page, but if they’re not there for a reason targeted to looking for keyword y, the old quantitative projections are out the window.

Question: Why else would someone go to the keyword y page, if not looking for keyword y?

Answer: I believe that often those reasons are going to be less directly connected to wanting to acquire a product or service. There will be more dreamers, readers and self-educators, and fewer buyers. Want specific reasons? You name it, it’s possible.

  • Browsing favorite topics, for entertainment
  • Interest in a cause
  • Very early stages of research
  • Compelling title
  • Compelling image
  • Curious about what someone from some country across the world would bookmark
  • Curiosity about why someone notable liked it
  • Wanting to be seen bookmarking the same things as a rock star
  • Trusting the taste of someone you’ve “friended”
  • Building a social media profile
  • Promoting one’s own site
  • Curious about a friend’s site, or a friend of a friend’s site
  • Checking out a big brand’s really dumb typo
  • Looking for beautiful pictures of far away places, or of cats
  • Hunger for information and ideas
  • Browsing for recipe blogs
  • 101 things I haven’t thought of yet
Question: Remind me of what this philosophizing and social media speculation has to do with a business blog, or a business blog strategy?

Answer: OK. It’s like this. There are about a gazillion small brick and mortars out there who lack a good web presence. A majority of their keywords are not intensely competitive when combined with local search, especially if there is some existing brand recognition from existing face-to-face marketing.

They’re out there among social media users who are not Internet marketers or make-money-online bloggers. And they’re watching. And when they feel ready they’re going to want a site that gets votes on Yelp or reviews on Stumble, or whatever. They won’t have a corporate budget. They’ll want a lower cost site that still has web 2.0 perks – perhaps a customized WordPress theme, and they may need a coach and a writer or ghost writer to help them get started. That’s probably where I’ll come in…

Question: Erm…

Answer: I know, I know. What does all this have to do with my 101 days?

OK. It’s like this. For me, at least, emotional logic – empathetic, qualitative judgment – requires getting in there and stretching but good, with an open mind. Change and growth must be both learned and felt, and I need a sort of an emotional and informational immersion boot camp to get there. Eventually, I start to surface with a strong philosophical frame of reference that helps to give me an anchor.

Besides, this web thing is not natural for a lot of the people I’ll be focusing on working with. If I stretch my own comfort zone I’ll have more clues and cues for how to help them through stretching theirs. That’s the theory anyway.

Question: Noooo, I was going to ask myself if I knew, when I started blogging here in November, that I’d be having these thoughts about this target market.
Answer: LOL. Well… Not really. There is so.much.change in our world today. Sometimes I really need to shed my skin to find out what’s underneath, and what shape and size I am. IMHO everyone should try it.
Question: And why is this post called “A Preface to my Bouncing Baby Benchmarks”?

Answer: Because statistics are meaningless without a frame of reference, there’s no way I’m talking benchmarks before making you read this other stuff. It’s all about the brand, baby.

It’s not about the traffic. It’s about the relationships.

My Blogging Benchmarks Post

Tomorrow I’ll bring out some observations about my traffic and content. I’ll be chatting about my own ideals, plus some of the benchmarks Jenn blogged about over at Search Engine People a week ago.

Today, me, myself and I are closing by asking if any of you reading this have ever wanted to interview yourself? This is new for me! I started off by asking myself a few questions to write about, and the Q & A format started to flow.

Blog Post Ideas For the Technology Avoider

When an Internet marketing professional sees the phrase “blog post ideas” they’ll automatically think of two things: keywords and users. The hard core technology avoider lives on a different island; they are instantly lost. Only the hearty among them will ask, “What is a keyword, and what is a user?”

You and I know that they need to know some of this stuff to blog successfully. However, some of them may not need to know it all right away. Too much information would distract them, because there is a language and culture gap that they’re not ready to cross. You know who I’m talking about. You’ll see it in their eyes.

They’re the same people who go blank and nod politely when you try to talk about what you did today. When faced with getting web content together they get that deer-in-the-headlights look. Their web project frustration level may be pre-tuned to “high.” Some may seem like they’re ready to argue about every detail, when in reality they’re drowning, fighting to be in control. Sometimes they have created detailed plans in hopes of keeping the web site technology demon in check. Often those plans are based on misconceptions of how the print world might translate to online marketing. One symptom I’ve noticed is a determination to do what I think of as “leafleting,” by signing up for as many online “yellow pages” and directories as possible, though their own web site may consist of an under construction notice and a seldom-checked email address.

Don’t be surprised if in some cases there is a near-total disconnect between what you say and what is heard. Sometimes support will help. Some people may need to spend a few weeks with a Blogging for Dummies book before they feel ready to deal with a real live Internet professional, and some may throw up their hands and trot off to some form of DIY WYSIWYG hell. Let them go, if they need to go. The important thing for both sides is to be comfortable doing your best, whatever that is at the time; don’t let problems become stopping points.

Getting Content Gold From Technology Avoiders

First off, though this post was inspired by Jenn Osborne’s thoughts on blog post ideas for challenging industries, the truth is that I don’t think that there are any truly challenging industries. There are challenging mindsets – yours, mine and theirs. Try to put aside preconceptions and greet the adventure.

Avoid temptation to speak as if the technology avoider needs a vocabulary lesson. Do they start to zone out at the mention of unfamiliar terms? Get creative, and use alternative words that are not specific to the search industry. Try saying “Google” instead of “search engine,” or “article idea” instead of “targeted keywords.”

Don’t sidestep difficult communication by relying too much on keyword insight tools. Keyword insight may not get you to the low hanging fruit that can be a new site’s bread and butter. For the long tail and the low hanging fruit you are going to need user insight, and that’s probably going to involve getting the technology avoider talking about their customers, using specific, concrete terms.

Trust their knowledge. Get them talking about what they know. Take notes. Consider recording phone calls and keeping logs of online chat sessions. Try to listen at least as much as you speak.

Use what they already have. Customer questions can show what needs to be written about, and response emails can provide the bones of new posts. Ask about any previous writing. Any customer support type materials can be expanded upon online, where customers can review them at their leisure. Technology avoiders may not have considered that what they already have is useful as web content.

Ask specific questions. Be ready to prime the pump with some phrases from keyword insight tools, though you may not need to. Chances are they’ll have better insight into their customers than any keyword tool.

Don’t make the question list too long. Be aware of when that glazed-over, frustrated behavior starts to surface. Consolidate questions into related clusters, and let the client pick and choose. Be aware that in some people uncertainty leads to trying to take an overly authoritative posture on too broad of a focus. In reality there is no need to do it all, and certainly not all at once, and the business’s existing approach to authority and brand identity will probably translate to online just fine.

Steer towards short phrases that use concrete language. Help them boil answers down to words that are as specific as possible. For example, phrases like “our cheese is better” aren’t as useful as “local [county name] organic cheese.”

Here are some questions that may help get blog post ideas rolling.

  • List the client’s products and services. Add some issues associated with them, by listing ten things you’d like to tell a prospective customer about, in five words or less, using specific language.
  • Describe the customers. Are they individuals? Stores? Designers? Cooks? Daughters? Husbands? Sons?
  • Describe reasons for buying. Are customers purchasing necessities, gifts, treats? Are they buying for themselves or someone else?
  • What are customer’s frequently asked questions? What gets to them, in a good way? What bugs them, resolves their resistances, solves their thorny market-related compulsions?
  • Examine the research phase. Why might customers be searching for your client online? Are they researching something specific? Are they comparing products or services? Are they likely to pass on information to others?
  • Customer language. What informal and formal terms are they likely to know and use?
  • What are some customer problems and complaints? What do they worry about? What do they want to fix?
  • Unmet needs can become wish lists. What might they want more of? What do they wish they could find?

Breaking, Building and Leaning Into Limits

Nature fumbles all the time. Things break. Early sprouts freeze and die back. Erosion takes down hillsides, even hillsides where humans have not clear-cut. In the long run, our trying to catch up with nature is what ends up looking more damaged. Nature has built-in ways to compost and recycle what falls. We humans sometimes skip the recycling and head straight into rebuilding. Are we determined to live on the wet hillside with a view, or the ocean front flood plane?

I think it goes deeper than that. Maybe we need the possibility of “faux pas.” Maybe it’s part of an instinct for leaning into challenges.

I was thinking about inconvenient instincts this morning while watching my cat play with my bath water – such a joy. He is *fascinated* with the reflections and movement of water, *almost* to the point of wanting to get in on purpose. Once in a while there is a great scattering noise as he does whatever is needed to recoup his balance, but in a few minutes or less he’ll be right back at it.

When I pull the plug and the water has drained to about the last 1/4″ he often jumps into the tub: 1/4″ to 1/2″ is his kitty cat faux pas wet paws limit. He cringes a little as he lands in the wet bathtub. Fascination overpowers cringe almost immediately, as he races to watch the last of the water go down the drain, and then stalks and pats at water droplets rolling down the side of the tub.

I am like that when it comes to programming. I know how to do a few very small things with php, and it fascinates me. If I lean in too far, or get in over my head, it’s chaos. Wet paws are just enough, over and over again. I like patting at those water droplets.

My php tolerance has gradually increased. I remember when I felt the same way about html, and later on about css-based layouts. These transitions would not have happened naturally, without my encouragement, any more than it was strictly natural for humans to create culture protected by dikes and levies in Holland and New Orleans – but look at what we can accomplish. I like it, I work at it, and I protect it by building on what I’ve learned. I build my own version of dikes and levies – I look at what I can accomplish, and it makes me happy.

Lexi and iamlosts’s comments on my post, Sympathy for the Technology Avoider, led me to wondering about what makes us tick when we go for it anyway, whatever “it” is at the moment. As Jenn Osborne’s Blog Strategy series is on my mind this week, and I had planned to respond to her last post about coming up with blog post ideas for challenging industries, my next post is going to be about blog post ideas, with a little twist. I’ll be looking at how to approach blog post ideas for the technology avoider.

Ironically, I’ll be writing as it rains. We’re at the not-so-nice edge of Spring here, and I want to be doing outside things in between rain drops. I’m not going to glue myself to the computer until the sky is falling. When I’m outside I’ll be avoiding the rain. When inside I plan to glory in it.

Blog Content: Values and Strategy

I want this blog to be open-ended. I don’t want to make content for a defined goal, in the traditional sense of writing to serve the audience of a niche. I want my “niche” to be my fascination with how connections happen online… or basically whatever makes me think, and I’m a pretty eclectic person. This poses certain problems when it comes to defining a content development goal. As Jennifer Osborne said in part two of her Blog Strategy series, “A strategy is the plan for achieving a defined goal. A tactic is the “doing” part of the strategy.” There are some key words in there: plan; defined; goal and strategy. Planning is difficult without defined goals.

Defining goals and objectives gives plans a frame of reference that allows for assessment, polishing and re-polishing. A goal might be to write a blog post two or three times a week, but is posting enough? I want my content to go deeper than facts about topics. I want to connect. How?

I think there are levels of engagement that can be inspired by the qualities of blog content.

Levels of Readership Engagement

Level 1. Regular Posting Simply writing a blog post twice a week is not enough of a goal to be interesting or productive, to myself or, probably, to a readership. We’ve all seen and written posts that don’t say much or do much, and they may have their place. However, the posts that engender engagement are a different animal.

Level 2. Content With a Strategy I’d be getting closer to engagement with a plan to write a one- or two-page post, twice a week, that will help me get the word out about a specific topic. The difference is that I’d be trying to “get the word out” about “something specific.” Is word getting “out,” or does it stop at my blog? Which posts work? Looking at why things develop helps a blog improve. Keyword strategy becomes possible here, as concrete terms start to be investigated more broadly.

Level 3. Value There’s still a missing piece: why do I care, and why should the reader care? Specifically, why is this one- to two-page post going to be valuable, and what values are fed by this post? When someone who writes intelligently is also writing from a place of values, their material is more interesting and useful, and I am more likely to be engaged. If the reader is lucky, the writer is also brave enough to share personal insight, and insightful enough to have it in the first place. My belief is that this is where branding starts to become more than slapping a logo in the header: there is at least some identity behind the content. With identity behind the content, readers are given a window through which to identify with the blog.

Level 4. Stewardship of a Readership A smart, practiced writer or blog content manager will support the creative vulnerability of level 3. If they’re good, they take care of another set of priorities above and beyond the twice a week one- to two-page post: care and feeding of the readership. Give readers what they expect, generally when they expect, and them give them something extra – get to know them, promote them, promote to them. Make friends. Be friends. Mean it. Shake hands.

Level 5. Being Community Community is bigger than what happens withing the private garden of a blog or a forum. True community includes a relationship between the smaller world of whatever happens on the site, and the wider world of the rest of a readership’s lives and interests. Community is when link building strategies and reader stewardship tactics quit being part of the development plan and start to feel like natural outgrowths of the character of a place.

Thoughts About Blog Content Promotion

Keyword strategy on its own is good for about levels 1 and 2. Crappy link bait might get to level 2 1/2. Friends who already have a connection with the writer will help out at level 2. A readership will evangelize at levels 4 and 5, which also helps organically created, keyword-rich link text to have real value. I doubt that so-called “viral” is possible without some level 5 type community in place to help circulate ideas.

You may have noticed that I just skipped level 3. I think that sometimes marketers do, too.

  • What marketing is not. Marketing is like the connective tissue of the Internet. It is not the heart and soul, and it cannot circulate lifeblood; it can promote – mimic lifeblood – in the same way a heart-lung machine can keep a human body physically alive. Marketing cannot create the natural circulation of ideas.
  • People socialize and circulate ideas. Marketing builds conduits that attempt to move products and services. Social media provides conduits that attempt to foster a sense of community. Conduits are only conduits. Infrastructure is only infrastructure. People move the lifeblood, the opinions, interests and ideas.
  • People need community and identity. Community helps us trust and want to communicate. Identity helps us empathize, gives us something to hang a hat on, interpret difference between the party hat, the floppy sunhat and the classic stetson. IMHO the lynch pin of getting information listened to and associated with the source happens at level 3 – value, value and a brand identity with some soul in it.

Setting a Blogging Objective

Content is not visible without promotion, and promotion is not effective without an objective that is connected to a specific, quantifiable goal… so here goes.

My ultimate goal at this point in time is to enjoy writing about the Internet while making people think.

“Making people think” means more people: more RSS subscribers and more StumbleUpon fans. Organic search traffic is nice and linked mainly to WordPress, and some of those visitors do community-style things like send me emails to say they’re coming back for more posts on other topics, so I’ll also continue writing the occasional snack topics like WordPress.

For starters on the deeper gist of the “think” in “making people think,” these are three of my favorite thinking topics:

  • Identity – Branding beyond logo and colors
  • Community – What sparks it and keeps it energized, online and locally, through social media and other kinds of venues, and any supportive roles that marketing can play
  • Culture – Specifically how the Internet can be a positive force of understanding and respect in this era of terrorism and military activism

Community keeps coming up as a part of what I want to do and talk about. Could opening up to guest posts about online identity, community and cultural relationships help to build a sense of community? In a few weeks that may be something to think about.

The “All About Me” Factor

Here’s a theory on the “Elizabeth stuff” I was obsessing about a few posts ago. I think that if content is quality, maybe it’s OK to put myself first, IF I am also respecting the reader: no trying to “sell” anyone on thinking or behaving how I would like. The value for me will be to be making a deeper contribution through writing about what fascinates me personally. The value for my readers will be there or it won’t. Without exploring the possibility, I won’t know.

I’ll think of it as starting at the top. I’ve got a built-in corner on keyword me, and I might as well see where it takes me. The longer I think it over, the longer I put keyword “me” on hold, and life is short and I am not. :)

Next: Blog Post Ideas for Challenging Industries

Jenn’s post for today will be “How to Come up with Blog Post Ideas for Challenging Industries.” LOL. I am so there. This week I’ll be following along again, as well as thinking through how to get my ideas from this post into more of a structured outline.

In case you, too, are interested in following along, I strongly recommend it as a way to re-think your own goals and self-imposed limitations. These are the topics that Jennifer will be posting at the Search Engine People Blog each Monday, throughout the five weeks of her series on Blog Strategy:

  1. How to Sell your Client on a Blog Strategy
  2. How to develop a Blog Strategy What makes it a ‘Strategy’ versus just implementing a Blog?
  3. How to Come up with Blog Post Ideas for Challenging Industries
  4. What are realistic measures of success for your Client’s Blog?
  5. How to get your Blog Traffic to Convert

Passion as a Content Development Strategy

I’ve been reading and writing a lot about developing a personal sense of branding and identity since the first week of January. Before getting too busy with planned content generation for my new blog I wanted to feel out what matters to me on a gut level: inner mission first, then building a brand to connect the mission to the reader. Putting the colors of my curtains before the shape of my windows seemed backwards.

It’s been a little like traveling across country without a map, or imagining what I’d do as a trapeze artist, without a net. There is a strong attraction to staying safe and writing about facts that I already know. No matter how much I enjoy writing about what I already know, the goal was to go deeper than that. At times the going has been very, very slow.

Then, a few days ago I spotted Jennifer Osborne’s new series about blog strategy. I’m going to use it for re-fueling and re-assessing. The first post in the series, How to Sell your Client on a Blog Strategy, suggests making a list of potential categories and posts.

Coming up with post ideas is one of the Key Success Factor for your Blog. As such, before the final decision to launch is made; and before the Blog is built, we will brainstorm at least 30 ideas for future Blog Posts.

When implementing a Blog for our clients we often think of 7 to 10 potential categories for the posts then come up with 3 to 5 ideas for each category. This is important for two reasons. First, this exercise will help you (the client) to realize that there are hundreds of potential post ideas.

Jennifer Osborne

It took me a few days of hemming and hawing, but I eventually came up with a pretty long list. There were two kinds of ideas: those that are pure Elizabeth, and those that fit neatly into categories. Guess which felt like they fit my goal of building a personal brand? LOL.

Thinking Inside The Box

My easily categorized ideas are also more easily optimized for search, because they are connected with the kinds of topics and words that might come up in search. There are phrases I’ve been targeting that are starting to make my site show up on Yahoo and Google, because that phrase is mentioned in my posts. Because of Yahoo’s tendency to pay more attention to on-page factors, in Yahoo at this point you don’t need quotes around some phrases to find me in the top ten. I could keep chipping away at posts that contain various combinations of those terms, eventually building the kind of resource base that would get some nice inlinks, and then come up with a product to sell based on those terms.

Sounds sensible, yes?

Let’s take a trip back through time.

Enter Social Media

Also few months ago I had a nice little traffic spike from being Stumbled. It was fun.

I read about how social media traffic doesn’t convert and shouldn’t be trusted to give the same targeted results as search traffic, and then I got Stumbled again. Still fun. Fun is good. Fun helps me stay interested in what I’m doing. Besides, by reading other people’s Stumbles I was learning a lot and widening my exposure to new writers.

For a few weeks there I became a Stumbling fool. I kept reading. I made “friends” and friends. I read and I read. I kept bumping into “how to blog” posts that talked about finding and sticking with writing about your passion. I still thought it would be more reasonable to stick with the post ideas that are more easily optimized for search, though I fought myself less when I wanted to explore the “pure Elizabeth.”

Straight From the Heart

The thing is, my favorite posts are “Elizabeth” posts, the ones that don’t categorize or strategize easily. They’re about my curiosity and sense of humor. Some honor something that is important to me. I like the feeling of making myself think, or of making the reader think, or of entertaining myself and the reader while making us both think. How can I make something like that fit into categories and strategies for traffic and conversion?

Can these state-of-being posts get search traffic? Not much, so far. Maybe search traffic can be for later, or maybe the sense of intellectual connection I’m getting from spending a bazillion hours on StumbleUpon is enough for now. So far, StumbleUpon readers seem to like the me-being-me stuff just as much as the how-to posts.

What I need for myself right now might have more to do with finding my voice, with a side dish of community support — and lots and lots more reading.

About That List…

My first thought was to post it here, and I’m still thinking about that. The difficulty would be if I lose the drive to write a post after seeing someone else write something similar.

I’d be more comfortable sharing privately, with someone who is going through the same sort of thing. Is anyone who is reading this willing to put themselves in the same boat?

Sooo, about that list… there might be a lot of “Uncategorized” posts for a while. :-)

This Week’s Task: Developing a Blog Strategy

Before finishing this post I glanced ahead at the second post in Jennifer Osborne’s series – How to turn your Blog into a Blog Strategy. There are some solid directions in there about goals, objectives and outlining a detailed plan. I’ll avoid them for now, and first see what comes up over the next few days of living with my uncategorized list. By the time the third post in the series comes out in a week I’ll have dug into the points in post two.

In case you’re interested in following along, these are the topics that Jennifer will be posting at the Search Engine People Blog each Monday, throughout the five weeks of her series on Blog Strategy:

1. How to Sell your Client on a Blog Strategy
2. How to develop a Blog Strategy What makes it a ‘Strategy’ versus just implementing a Blog?
3. How to Come up with Blog Post Ideas for Challenging Industries
4. What are realistic measures of success for your Client’s Blog?
5. How to get your Blog Traffic to Convert

Are you re-branding or thinking about it? Let’s “talk.” Please leave a comment.

Grown Up Soul For the Inner Child

I’ve been writing most of the day today, off and on, and not getting anywhere. I’ve made a stab at practical idea after practical idea and come up with phrases that don’t stick together in paragraphs, and flat-spirited paragraphs that I can barely force myself to finish. Where’s the love?

It’s been like being on a diet and having a craving for chocolate fudge brownies. Instead of relishing eating half a brownie, or even a whole brownie, I’ll manage to nibble on everything else in the house and still not feel satisfied until I get my hands on what I wanted in the first place. Maybe I should have had the brownie.

The funny thing is, if I hadn’t promised myself I’d write a post every day I’d probably have been completely satisfied with spinach salad and a side of marinated boneless skinless chicken. I’m the kind of person who will happily eat a tomato for a treat-like snack. Not today. Got craving craving craving.

I get horny for my creativity.

Gilda Radner

Three cheers for Gilda, and two miscellaneous observations from me:

  • Search tech stuff makes me horny for communication.
  • Marketing is all about trend, but connecting is about what works for people.

Where am I going with this?

What’s going to work for me today? I am sooo tempted to head back into plotting what seemed practical when I thought I knew what I was doing this morning. But, this post is like an expose`, right? So, what’s going on in the back of my mind when I’m horny for my web-related creativity?

There’s a one-two punch.

One: yum yum Internet.

…the Internet is the hottest thing to happen to communication since movable type – the printing press, not the blogging software. The way it connects us across cultures and experiences is nothing short of revolutionary. Seven generations ago my ancestors were getting out of Virginia after the Civil War. Seven generations from now our descendants will be learning about the communication revolution of the early days of the Internet. The world will be a different place for them because of what we figure out today about the power of the link.

Ritual, Branding, Manners, Identity

Two: grown up soul for the inner child.

I want to make niche sites like Miriam’s Mexican Dress. Something with a personal sense of home culture. Seriously. Except some of my niches would be a leetle different.

For instance, when I was a teenager my grandfather and I got out the drill and the big hammer and made a very funky scratching post for my intrepid kitty. The dang thing fell apart, as most first runs will do, but I loved it literally to pieces. For thirty years I’ve thought that I’d want to make another, and make it better. Since the dawn of the hobby site (think Geocities 1.0) I’ve wanted to make a web site all about making cat furniture. I even own the drill and the digital camera, and enough scrap lumber for a trial run or two.

I could probably list a dozen more ideas for fun (IMHO) 20 page starter sites that could sell a few downloads and some advertising every year. Some would lend themselves to adding more pages of fun over months and years. Waaay different than the perennial…

I Quit My Job and Now I’m Rich

Follow my super secret plan. I’m a Rock Star.
Buy my ebook and be like me. Buy my system and I will tell you how.
Here is a picture of me and my new young wife in Hawaii.
I made $5,000 yesterday and so can you.
Buy my DVD. Anyone can do it.


If some people’s kids have the nerve to post gawd awful scams and spam, why am I waiting to document the creation of cat furniture or chocolate truffles or how to take apart an owl pellet? And don’t get me started on kid-style hands-on science, or I’ll be up all night writing and checking to see what sites would work better with decent photos and clear directions.

This doesn’t sound grown up or practical, but it does feel like me. Maybe these kinds of projects can be my battery rechargers. It could be that I won’t know unless I try — how’s that for tentative enthusiasm. LOL