Speakers on SEO, organization = a spinning head from Bloggy Bootcamp

Bloggy Bootcamp
Bloggy Bootcamp

Aside from spending a lot of time at the hospital last week, over the weekend I spent my Saturday at Bloggy Bootcamp hosted by SITS Girls. By lunchtime I felt like I had gotten my money’s worth ($125). And by the end of the day, my head was whirling with information, new relationships, and then, there was a cocktail party to go to! Aside from all the education, it was also nice to be in a room full of women and NOT be talking about breastfeeding and potty training.

When I was telling Toyin about it, I told him I felt like I’d just had a semester’s worth of classes crammed into one day. It was an incredible experience for many reasons, one of them being the knowledge that blogging is still highly uncharted territory in the world of communication and media influence.

There’s no telling where the blogosphere will go in the future and I’m excited to be a part of it.

The information shared by six speakers, along with host/organizer Tiffany Romero was so much I worried that I would get home and forget some very important things.

There’s no way I can go over all of the speakers for the day, but the two sessions I found the most informative, because they spoke to my personal needs, were Tip Junkie’s Laurie Turk, who spoke on organization and Angela England from The Untrained Housewife, who spoke on SEO (Search Engine Optimization).

Organize your time

The first tip from the Tip Junkie was, get your schedule organized. Set a time to write every day. And secondly, when sitting down to work, do the most important task first. It seems, given my background in journalism that this would be common sense. But it’s been a few years since I was ruled by the world of time clocks instead of child clocks. Child clocks are way less forgiving, and they give you way less time to screw around.

In any case it was nice to hear that I’m not the only person who logs on to Facebook before writing a blog post only to find an hour later, I’ve wasted all my work time looking through baby photos and commenting on my friends’ kids’ bowel functions for the day. Don’t get me wrong. That stuff IS important. But Laurie says, get the big stuff out of the way first, so you can play and not feel guilty about it later.

The Tip Junkie had lots of other great advice for would-be professional bloggers.

Schedule your blog posts for the same time every day. This keeps you on a schedule and it helps your readers know when you’ll have new posts. (Clearly, I don’t do this. I need some serious help in this department!)

Set an alarm for when online time is done. When you’re working against a clock, you’re more likely to get your important tasks done.

And the Tip Junkie didn’t stop there. She had lots of other great tips for making your online presence more organized. Laurie suggests doing these things to your front page:

  • Declutter your sidebar.
  • Use a profile picture, of yourself, not a cupcake.
  • Make sure you have an RSS feed available for your readers. (Yippee! I have that.)
  • Put up links for your social bookmarks. Have at least three. The most obvious are Twitter and Facebook. Pick one more and you’re good to go.
  • Have a search bar. (Score two for me!)
  • If you have sponsors, put them underneath your own stuff. It’s your blog. Make sure you are the top dawg y’all.

These weren’t the only tips the Tip Junkie had for us, that was just the tip of the organizational iceberg.

Humanizing SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

The other topic I found unbelievably informative was on SEO. This talk was given by Angela England from The Untrained Housewife. For months now, SEO has been somewhat of a mystery to me. I’d Google it and come up with vague articles about metrics and keyword searches. I’d ask Toyin to explain it to me and he’d start droning about metrics and keyword searches and my eyes would glaze over. I just didn’t get it.

I understood the concept. Google uses certain keywords to rank web pages in order and the higher your page ranks, the more likely you are to get found.

Then Angela explained it in human terms, while offering practical tips for increasing your rankings.

Google is like a very, very literal child. It doesn’t get witty titles. It doesn’t understand sarcasm or metaphors. It understands words and you must use enough of them, in the right places, and with their actual meanings to make Google understand what the heck you are talking about.

SEO tips

Here are some solid and practical tips from The Untrained Housewife for making our blogs more SEO friendly.

  • Make your titles more active, more literal. Yeah, yeah, yeah, that’s really boring. But if you want to rank higher in Google, you’ve gotta make the title say what the article is really about.
  • Use bold subheads. See, how I did that up there? Looks like I’ve already learned a couple of things.
  • Cut out fluff. Focus on the topic, don’t meander. That kind of sucks because one of the things I like about blogging is that I was able to meander more than when I used to write news articles. Ah well. Maybe one day we’ll create a more user friendly Google robot.

Here’s an article written by Angela on one of her other sites, about SEO. It’s a briefer version of what we learned at Bloggy Bootcamp.

I’m going to just go ahead and say here that I’m a little embarrassed about not understanding this stuff sooner, because, quite frankly, these are pretty standard journalism rules too. Make it simple and make it obvious. And use lots of words that describe what you are talking about. It all seems so clear now.

More SEO tips

  • Fix your permalink structure to ensure that your URLs reflect the post name. This is an easy to fix setting in WordPress under settings and then permalink.
  • Crossposting is highly valuable, which is why guest posting is a valuable tool for bloggers, not only for new readership, but for higher search rankings.
  • Use keywords in your photo descriptions.
  • And finally, my new favorite blogging tool, the Google Keyword Tool. This is a free tool that lets you put in a word and it will tell you how much it gets searched, other similar search words and the competition rate for those search terms. I’m in love with it already. I feel like a dork for not knowing about this because I’m pretty certain that Toyin has told me about it before. But what the heck, now that I’m a little more tech savvy, maybe I won’t glaze over when he starts talking about metrics and blah, blah, blah.

I’ll have to just start tuning myself out I guess.

Setting intentions can make this ordinary life beautiful

Every single choice we make affects our lives for the long-term. This is a lesson that has been hard for me to grasp. I’m a procrastinator. I’ve spent much of my life thinking of the someday. Well, someday never happens unless you make a choice. Someday isn’t going to just happen.

We can make our lives ordinary by settling. Or we can make our lives beautiful, by setting our intentions toward our life goals.

Let me explain.

I had a recent stint as an Avon lady. Stint is probably over-selling it a tad. I signed up, avoided it for a month and a half. Went to two training session where the leader of the group pronounced jewelry as jewrree. Then I bought several bottles of lotion, shower gel, nail polish, and bubble bath, thinking I’d just sell it out and about.

Then I decided to quit.

Not because there’s anything wrong with selling Avon. Not at all. I signed up because a close friend of mine had signed up to do it and for a brief moment, it seemed like a good idea. I figured it’d be easy. I mean, who can’t sell lotion and shit? Right?

Ummm, me.

For those of you who know me in real life, or if you’ve been reading my blog for very long, you’re probably having quite a chuckle right now. That’s okay. Go ahead. When I announced it to a group of my friends, they laughed. I laughed along with them. I mean, what the fuck? Me, selling fucking Avon? It’s wrong on so many levels. Not that I can’t sell. I can. But I can’t do it unless I believe in what I’m selling. And ladies, I just can’t sell wrinkle filler. Can’t do it. Plus, this shit’s priced higher than I would personally pay for that kind of stuff. I have no idea what the hell I’m going to do with these $8 bottles of lotion. I guess everyone knows what they’re getting for Christmas.

The reason I’m telling y’all about this is because it totally fits with last Sunday’s talk at my Buddhist program at Miira Suniita. The group leader spoke about the beauty of preciousness of ordinary life.

She talked about how our intentions are all we need to ensure that our lives reflect our goals.

The fact is that selling Avon doesn’t reflect any part of my life goals and it is a poor intention for me.

In order to live your life every day, the way you want, you set your intentions. She suggested setting weekly intentions. And even intentions for your sleep, right before you go to bed.

So that’s what I did this week. I made a list of all concrete things I’d need to do this week to set me down a path of goals that have been hovering around my brain for months, years, hell, some of them, all my life. I set intentions in my head for having good sleep and productive dreams.

Last Sunday, our group leader talked about how powerful our brains are, we imagine our lives. She said how very important it is to maintain a positive mind, because a positive mind will lead us down the path toward our intentions. A negative mind is something to be avoided.

I couldn’t agree more. I’ve spent way too many years allowing the negative thoughts to control my life. Thoughts like, “Oh, it sure would be nice to have that, but I can’t afford it.” Or, “Well, I’d love to do that, but it would be too hard.” Then I forget it. It’s done. See how a negative mind shuts down dreams?

Not trying is worse than trying and failing. Because at least if you try and fail, you’ve learned something.

As she spoke I thought about how easy it is to shut down my own dreams and wishes with one fell swoop. I wondered if I allowed myself to have that dream. To say, “It sure would be nice to have that thing that I want. I can’t afford it right now. But someday, maybe I will.” Or even better, “It sure would be nice to do that thing, It’s going to be hard, but I wonder what I would need to do to make it happen.”

Because really, our lives are pretty damn amazing. We have everything we need. No matter where we live or how much money we have in the bank. We live in a free country, where we have so much power. We have control of our government (in theory). We have power as consumers. We have free speech. We have freedom of religion. We have an almost absurd amount of choices in what we eat, drink, wear, and do. We can change our lives without any interference from anyone.

I think that in itself can be a problem. When you have an infinity of choices, it can be paralyzing. So much so that we often give ourselves excuses of why we can’t do it, simply so we won’t have to make any decisions.

Decision making is hard. It paralyzes me over and over. All the what ifs get in the way of making clear choices.

But what ifs aren’t concrete. They aren’t bold statements. They are possibilities. And possibilities aren’t that great unless you make a choice and move forward into a clear path.

I’ve settled for mediocrity too many times because I was afraid of the “bad” what ifs. Taken jobs I really didn’t want because I thought it was all I could get and I was afraid of getting behind on bills. So, I got what I intended. I set my intentions. I just didn’t realize what I was doing. I thought I had time to change. I thought I had time to make things different. I was just settling, “for now.”

But what I was really doing was making habits for myself. Steering myself away from rejection. Playing it safe.

When I signed up to sell Avon, it was just another way of avoiding what I really want. Because it’s scary, to define yourself with what you really want in life. Because if you fail, then you’ve lost your dream. Failure to sell Avon isn’t taking a chance. Because I can blame the product, or the lack of availability of customers. Or a poor economy. It was a safe choice straight into failure.

What I really want in life is to make it as a writer. To get paid to write. And I don’t want to just settle for writing mediocre mass-produced crap. I want to write things that really make a difference to people when they read it. I want to step boldly into new territory, and make possibilities spring to life. I want to give gifts to world with my writing.

And hell, if I lose my dream. Maybe I’ll find another one. Life is full of choices. Because, as cliche as it is, if you don’t try. You’ll never know what could have happened.

In the mean time, while I come up with world changing topics to write about, I’m offloading some overpriced lotion and shower gel. Let me know if you want some. (See? Just can’t do it.)