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Why do we always have to be first ?

I wanna tell you a story. It’s kind of embarrassing so bear with me…..

Last week you may have noticed how many people on Instagram Stories were sharing templates. Amazing, creative, cool templates that seemingly came out of nowhere (as all good crazes do) and swept our Stories.

Cats or Dogs? My Instagram Origin Story! That kind of thing. You know the drill. They were fun to do, fun to read and seemed to be a super cool way to do something different on a saturated platform.

They annoyed me. I swiped right to no avail as there was seemingly nobody I followed who wasn’t fillling one of these damn things out. And then tagging others to do the same. Now, I’m a huge contrarian so I HATE anything where people tag me in stuff because it repels my inner rebel and makes me want to scream: ‘NOPE. I DON’T HAVE TO DO ANYTHING’ 

I’m quite childish like that.

 

BUT then one of my favourite humans, Dom, started doing them…..and I thought, okay – I’m into this. Then I heard the story of the girl who went from 14k to 400k in a week because of her templates. And I though….hmmmm I want to be that girl.

WHO EVEN AM I? Yes. I am ashamed to tell you that I wanted a piece of that pie. I ignored every instinct in my body, and created some templates too. I uploaded them and eagerly awaited my millions of followers to roll in (I mean, I’d like to tell you this thought was a sarcastic one but it was not…..facepalm.)

What happened? CRICKETS. Why? Because it wasn’t the right thing to do! I wasn’t being true to myself, true to my ‘brand’ and, more importantly, I knew that — so I didn’t even promote it properly. I wanted a shortcut to a number that isn’t even part of my business strategy!

I preach about why you need to know WHY you want the numbers you do in my SEO course, and this is the chapter I get the most positive feedback about. People think it’s a game-changer, and I understand why because it was a game changer for me too.

So what happened to me?! Why did I lose my head?

I wanted to be the FIRST at something.  

Flashback to a few weeks ago when we all jumped on Vero, using the hashtag #onVerofirst; that felt the same to me. I wanted to be the first. I wanted to rewrite my terrible, oversaturated, overfiltered Instagram history and be an early adopter. A success story.

If you arem’t cringing into your brew right now, I judge you. I am cringing so hard right now it’s surprisingly hard to type…..

Anyway. Someone snapped me out of this. 

I asked Barb to fill out my templates and she said no, because she hated them. ‘They are making Stories so boring!’ she said. Hold up, isn’t that what I thought before i lost my head too? OH YES, IT IS. 

And that’s when I realised something. I don’t have to be the first at anything. I already am the first and so are you. We are all the first at being US. There’s no roadmap, or blueprint to each person’s individual success and none of us have to follow anyone else. Equally we don’t have to do every single thing differently! If you wanna do a course, or follow a blueprint you’ve seen work for others — that is TOTALLY OKAY. Because you are still doing it as you, so it is still totally unique. 

Revolutionary, I know.

But I think it need to be said because I am seeing a real trope of every single part of the internet being taken over by RULES. ‘I love my little corner of the internet because I do what I want’, except I don’t because I use a mobile responsive WordPress theme so Google doesn’t hate me,  I always pin horizontal images so Pinterest likes me and I NEVER film more than three talking to the camera videos in a row on Stories. 

SNORE. 

Who created these rules???? And why are we beholden to them? (Except for you Google, I love you and will do everything you tell me to……)

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Eating my words 

This is where I tell you that of course, I follow lots of rules. Some self-imposed and some Google-imposed and I’m okay with that. Especially in the areas of my business that pay my mortgage. 

But I’m making some energetic boundaries  (what is that phrase Being Boss?! I don’t understand it but it works well in this sentence…..) when it comes to the areas of my business that are priority to me and the areas that aren’t.

Instagram is a priority. It’s where my tribe are, and what fills my cup. Facebook is not. My podcast is but my blog can be a little more passive. 

PHEW. That was tough. How are you feeling about being the first ever you? 

L x

 

How to Use Instagram Stories to Engage your Audience

How to Use Instagram Stories to Engage your Audience

I’ve long been a fan of Instagram Stories, except I definitely haven’t…..in fact, I used to be a Snapchat addict and, while I adored Instagram for sharing beautiful pictures, poring over other people’s and general product enabling, I felt very uncomfortable with its jazzy new feature.

In fact, I guess you could say I hated it.

Remember Snapchat?

I liked that. I liked the impermanence and raw footage vibe. I liked that it was fun and the only stat you could monitor was that weird, pointless number you were given. BUT, I also LOVED Instagram and felt as though I needed to try it out. I mean, streamlining my social media addiction could only be a good thing right?

So I switched my allegiance to my beloved Instagram and through gritted teeth started using the Story function. Guess what? I LOVED IT.

Since then, I’ve become quite the Stories obsessive sharing snippets of my daily life and engaging with my Insta-tribe. And I’ve found it to be one of the best ways to build community, promote my work and identify what my community want to hear from me.

If you’re a blogger, or a brand or small business I want to show you how Instagram Stories can help you too.

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Updates to Instagram Stories

As of December 5th users can now archive their Stories (so they last longer than 24 hours) and you can also add your own little highlights pinned to your profile.

This is a great way for you to quickly share a few facets of your brand to those visiting your page. It’s also FAB if you want to keep your Stories to repurpose for a blog post, or upload to YouTube later because you don’t have to consciously think about saving every Story.

I love stories so much, Helen even included me in her favourite Instagram accounts!

Why you need Stories

It’s currently pretty underrated to be honest, and there aren’t many of us using it consistently. That means that you have a FAR greater chance of being seen and seeing others work too. Although, of course, there’s an algorithm in play whereby you’ll see certain people’s Stories (within those you follow) first, it’s a far less harsh one than Instagram ‘proper’ so you’re in a good position to get your voice heard.

A really good place. There are around 250 million people on Stories daily, which is HALF of Instagram’s total daily active users. Stories have increased the amount of time people spend on Instagram, and if you are creating compelling content it will generate customer leads and engagement.

Be in the 50% who are using it!!!

It’s a great way to test things out. For example, I often ask questions in my Stories to gauge the kind of content I should/could be writing. I’ll do this in a few different ways: using the poll feature, taking a couple of pictures and asking people which I should post, and literally speaking to camera and asking a question.

The reaction is always useful, even if only a couple of people respond. I’ve steered my business toward new endeavours based on my Instagram Stories research and I get a lot of blog coaching clients this way too — as I’ll use this to answer questions in a less traditional ‘free consultation’ method.

Approximately 20% of my total followers watch my Stories, and this number rarely fluctuates. I am less active at the weekend, but my followers are too so this doesn’t cause any issues for me.

And I’ve seen big spikes when I’ve been added to a location or hashtag story and have gained exposure to people outside of my following too. This is a good reason to add location or hashtags when appropriate!

Get creative

Although they exist to rival Snapchat’s spontaneity, I don’t see anything wrong with curating and adding filters to your Stories. I treat it in the same way as my grid and try to maintain a fairly consistent style, using 3 different colours for my text (I do occasionally break out of this!) and sticking to similar tones. Ish.

But where I would never post images of food on my grid, or really write about it on my blog – I often share what I eat in Stories. It’s a nice way for my followers to get to know me, and my vegan diet — and a great way for me to start transitioning into what I’ll be writing about more often (vegan lifestyle)

How to use them

I really suggest you have a good play around in Instagram, using all the different functions on offer. You can always delete anything you post, and you could even send them to one trusted follower, as opposed to your entire crew.

My favourite ways to use Instagram Stories is to share my vegan meals, show behind the scenes of a blog post/podcast edit or photography session. I love sharing what I’m up to and having a moan! And I try to check in with my followers to see if they’ve read my latest post, or listened to the podcast too.

And I share accounts I adore with my followers regularly, because #communityovercompetition!

Some things you could try are:

  • Sharing a picture before and after editing
  • Behind the scenes of your Instagram 
  • Chat to camera about your day/new blog post etc etc
  • Show something that doesn’t fit with your grid (for me, that’s food)
  • Use a poll to survey your followers
  • Promote your new blog post/product launch
  • Use cute filters as a form of procastination
  • Boomerang your swooshy skirt, or champagne bubbles in a glass 

If you need some extra inspiration, here are some awesome brands and bloggers smashing it…..

Pret a Manger

Pret share awesome updates with their followers regularly. Things like the recent doubling of discount for those bringing in a reusable coffee cup, and their philanthropic efforts as well as their commitment to creating more Vegan and Vegetarian sarnies.

Feather & Wild

Victoria has the most divine Instagram feed and she seamlessly transfers that over to her Stories where she shares creative, beautiful snaps of nature and her home.

Weekend Candy

I love Claire so much, she is a fabulous travel blogger and takes divine pictures of her weekend breaks around the UK & Europe. She also injects so much humour, that even though she doesn’t do a whole stack of chatting to camera you get a real sense of her personality.

She Flourished

Rabya often shares the behind the scenes snippets from her dreamy Instagram posts, and makes really creative videos too. She’s ace.

Useful resources

Beverley’s guide to using Instagram Stories creatively

Sara’s Instagram Stories Prompts

L x

The ONE SEO Trick That Will Improve Your Blog

The ONE SEO Trick That Will Improve Your Blog

I really struggled with this blog post title, which is ironic really, given the topic. Do as I do, not as I say I guess 😉

Seriously though, if you’re reading this you are probably pretty into SEO and trying to make your blog that little bit less invisible.

Because that is honestly all SEO really is.

Take away the fancy lingo and all the rest of it, because optimising your blog for search engines (aka SEO) is simply about removing the invisibility cloak. You work hard on your blog and I’m positive it is awesome, so you just need to tweak the little bits and pieces that help other people see how amazing it is too.

Psssst, if you don’t want to read this post head to this episode of my podcast What She Said where I chat all about SEO with my pal Simon Heyes.

If you want some more guidance, head to my guide where I give you my best tips for SEO. Then come back here!

But back to why you’re here. To understand what the fudge the Google Keyword Planner Tool is and how it can help you get your blog posts ranking higher.

Digital Detox - magazine coffee cup mobile phone

UPDATE

The keyword planner tool can sometimes be really tricky to access. It often looks like it’s only available if you set up a paid Adwords account but that’s not true, you simply need a Google account.

This is a GREAT tutorial on how to get around it and access the KP tool for free.

WHAT IS IT?

The keyword planner tool is within Google Adwords, which is typically where most people land, get confused and quickly click back to Twitter because it’s all too alien. No judgement. I did this too.

Google Adwords is where those who want to pay for an optimised search engine listing (one at the top of the page) go to create campaigns and bid to get their listing at the top of their chosen keyword. If that sounds nuts, do not worry as you don’t really need to know about it to use the keyword planner.

Although you don’t need to know about the inner workings of Google Adwords to use the keyword planner tool, you do need an account. I’ll go into more detail about that and walk you through what you need to do later in this post.

HOW IT CAN HELP YOU

How many times have you written a catchy title for your post only for it to bomb. Or seen someone else’s doing far better? I’m not suggesting following this tutorial will suddenly triple your traffic, there are no quick fixes here. BUT, more often than not the blogger who takes note of what people are searching for, incorporating the right keywords into their post in the right way will have a better chance of getting decent traffic to the aforementioned blog post.

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That’s a very long-winded way of saying that the keyword planner tool is where you should start with every blog post. Because, if you’re ONLY using your Yoast plugin and popping a keyword in, diligently following the guidelines to make the plugin turn ‘green’ — which is to say that your post has good searchability for the keyword you’ve told Yoast you want it to rank for — without researching the keyword first: you’re missing a step.

If this is a facepalm moment and you’re wishing you never read this post — don’t worry! I’ve not only got your back but  I’m also here to tell you that keyword planning is EASY. It’s simple. There are a few slightly techy things to note and then you are GOLDEN.

google keyword planner tool screenshot

google keyword planner tool screenshot

HOW TO USE IT

Right, so are we all on the same page with what the Google keyword planner tool is, and why you need it for your blog?

I’ll presume the silence = a million high fives and joyous whooping, yes?! Moving on…..

Here’s are the steps you need to take:

  • Hit the ‘create an account’ button, and follow the instructions to get your Adwords account setup. It’s free!
  • Once that’s done and you’re signed in, go to ‘tools’ & ‘keyword planner’.
  • Using the top box (‘your product or service’), enter your keywords. Think about what your audience would be typing into Google to get to your post and use those words.
  • You can utilise the targeting options to narrow the audience, but if you want to keep it simple, click ‘get ideas’
  • The results are easier to interpret in Excel, so download and choose the option: ‘download csv’.
  • Save the file, and upon opening in Excel (which is the best way to look at the data) you will see a LOT of information.
  • Delete everything apart from these two columns: Keyword and Average Monthly Searches
google keyword planner tool screenshot
google keyword planner tool screenshot
google keyword planner tool screenshot

So, how do you interpret this data? The keywords column shows you everything people are searching for around the product/service term you input. I’ve chosen ‘solo female travel’ in this example, and you can see that some of the search terms related to this are things like: ‘travelling alone’ or ‘solo female travel destinations’ etc etc.

This gives you a huge amount of potential keywords you could use in your blog post. Which one do you choose?

The next column you need to look at is the ‘average monthly searches’ column. Here you’ll be given volume chunks, from ‘0- 10′, right up to ’10k -100k’.

TOP TIP: Because this is formatted as words, not numbers, you won’t be able to sort it. I suggest you use a filter instead 🙂

If the keyword you choose is ‘fun solo vacations’, you’ll see that between 0-10 people each month are searching for it. That means your post will be that much less likely to get decent traffic because people simply aren’t searching for it. Conversely, using the term ‘solo holidays’ and you are looking at up to 100,000 monthly searches. So you pick the solo holidays keyword and sprinkle it throughout your blog post right?

Hmmmm, not really. The thing with picking the Marilyn Monroe of search terms is that everyone wants it. It’ll be used by big travel websites, hotel booking sites, tourist boards……you get the picture right? Your beautifully crafted, witty personality blog is going to find it really hard to rank against big hitters, and why would you want to compete anyway? There are easier ways to rank. Smarter ways.

The sweet spot (I think there’s actually proper Adword jargon for this!) is when you choose a keyword like ‘travelling alone’ which has between 1k – 10k monthly searches, and could fit into a blog post with more context. ‘Why I decided travelling alone was for me’, for example. Or, ‘Travelling alone isn’t for everyone’.

Finding that middle ground between decent monthly searches (even 500 a month is great if you think it’s just for ONE post!) and a keyword that fits naturally into your post. Trying to shoehorn a search term you would never use just won’t work. Be a person, not a robot!

Google likes people, so always remember that when you are going mad over SEO and frantically checking your Yoast score (I’m guilty of it too!).

Further Reading

My simple guide to SEO post

This video tutorial.

L x

How to Use Social Media to Promote Your Blog the SIMPLE Way!

How to Use Social Media to Promote Your Blog the SIMPLE Way!

If you’re anything like me, you’ll have a love/hate relationship with social media. I hate the way I am sucked into it. I’ve lost hours, days and maybe even weeks browsing this timeline or that inanely not knowing how I got there or when I started. BUT, as a blogger (and a journalist too) I rely on it for finding work, promoting my blog and connecting to other freelancers.

PS – all the pictures in this post are 100% unrelated. They are basically on my camera roll with nowhere else to use them 😉 

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The amazing Sara Tasker wrote recently about being a ‘Webtrovert’ and it was a total lightbulb moment for me. I’m an introvert by nature (and no, that doesn’t mean I’m shy or unsociable) but I have found a wonderful community on Instagram, and find myself chatting to Insta-friends daily. I’ve even met up with some in real life. I look forward to posting on Instagram, connecting with people, checking out my Explore page and finding new accounts to pore over.

Because of this, I have a fairly steady referral stream to my blog from Instagram and those who come from IG stick around a whole lot longer than those who come from Facebook.

I do think social media is important when you blog, at least to promote it. When you are truly engaged, it’s even better. So if you hate Twitter with a passion, don’t use it for the sake of it….pick something else.

Note: I’m including Pinterest in this post despite the fact it is a search engine, and NOT a social media platform because it is another tool you can utilise to promote your blog.

How to use social media to promote your blog

Schedule

I use the full gamut of social media platforms but with varying diligence. I post to Facebook twice a week, Instagram once a day, Twitter several times daily and Pinterest a gazillion times every damn day.

But I do it all in one hour on a Wednesday morning (sort of).

How? I schedule. People – you need a content plan, and you need to schedule! Otherwise you’ll spend your life on social media and go batsh@t crazy.

THE PRACTICAL STUFF

I’ve used lots of free scheduling tools, and paid ones too – here are my faves:

I LOVE using Buffer to schedule Twitter & Facebook posts. With the free version you can schedule about ten posts, but for about £7 a month you can schedule an unlimited amount, look at your top performing posts and quickly re-post them, and review some basic analytics.

My favourite feature is the power scheduler, where you can schedule four posts in one go (super handy for your own blog posts).

Hootsuite is also great, as is Meet Edgar, albeit quite expensive.

For Instagram, I use Planoly to plan content, curate my grid and respond to comments.  I prefer Mosaico to be honest but it’s not available on Android. It’s worth noting that you cannot auto-post on Instagram, you always have to press publish in the ‘instant’ you want it posted. But you can save stacks of time planning ahead of time.

And my ultimate tool for scheduling Pinterest pins is Boardbooster which is a scheduling tool of dreams. You can schedule and loop (where the tool deletes poor performing pins and re-pins others on a ‘loop’).

CAVEAT ALERT 

If Facebook is your thing and you really wanna grow it, don’t schedule posts. Do them in the moment (and ideally make them a video or live post!) because Facebook hates scheduled posts by a third party app and penalises them in the algorithm, meaning they get seen less. Gah.

On another note, Facebook also hates links within your post text. I know, I know…..post the link until you get the link preview (usually with a thumbnail image) then delete the link, add your text and post. The image will retain the url so anyone who clicks the image will head on over to your post. Phew.  

Also, I have a very talented VA while I’m on maternity leave, although I’ve retained my beloved Instagram.

How to use social media to promote your blog

Cross-Posting

You don’t always need to waste time creating a whole new post for each platform. Sometimes you can repurpose content instead, which is what I do a LOT. I always start with my blog content, and then essentially repurpose it for everything else – that way, you are always leading people back to the source!

All I mean by re-purposing is to take an original piece of content (a blog post perhaps) and re-use the words or pictures, tweaking for every platform you then repost it too. For example, you might reuse an Instagram picture in a Pin, adding words and tweaking slightly. Or turn your blog post about social media into a tweet with one top social media tip, linking back to the post.

One of the easiest (ahem, laziest) ways to do this is with IFTT.

IFTT (if this, then that) is truly a game changer. When I discovered it I went mad using recipes (as they were previously known) like mad and went a little too far.

WHAT IS IT? It’s basically a resource library full of clever little ‘applets’ which, when triggered, mean you can do super clever things on social media. Like automatically post your Instagram pictures as native Tweets (with your picture still visible).

There are honestly thousands of applets (recipes) so have a play around, you’ll find hundreds that can make your life a whole lot easier.

How to use social media to promote your blog

Get Creative

What’s your favourite social media platform? And where do your biggest traffic referrals come from? It’s potentially the same or, like with my Instagram example, you get the best engagement from one.

Either way, use these two metrics to decide where to put all of your eggs, so to speak, and get creative. I always promote my blog posts in Instagram, within a post, in my bio and on my Stories too. I even did a cheeky Instagram Live.

Facebook prioritises video content, so create a little video or do a Facebook Live stream. On Twitter you can use Periscope (basically live video streaming) and on Pinterest I really encourage you to get involved with groups, like Mappin’ Monday (travel).

Share

I know it sounds counter-intuitive but it’s best practice to get into sharing other content aside from your own. There are stacks of resources that will give you an ‘ideal’ ratio of sharing….’three of theirs to one of your own’ or whatever.

But, unsurprisingly, I think that’s BS. I also don’t think it’s a good idea to share a set group of content in a prescriptive way. By which I mean to have a list of bloggers whose posts you share, regardless of whether you’ve read and liked them or not.

You’re a blogger, so I’m almost positive you read stacks of content across various diffetent topics right? I love reading stuff from The Pool as much as I love reading the latest from The Travel Hack and I devour anything by The Bloggess (including her hilarious books).

I share these with abandon, but only if I’ve actually read and enjoyed the posts. I do this using Feedly, which keeps all of my fave content in one place, then sharing my fave posts with the Buffer extension for Safari.

SIMPLE. Or is it? You tell me. Have I missed anything?

L x