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Understanding Google’s New Emphasis On “Helpful Content” Related To SEO

As we’ve shared on social media and with our SEO company’s clients, Google announced in September 2022 a key revision to their search algorithm (the algorithm they use to decide which websites to serve up, and in which order, for search terms entered in their search engine) to which each and every website owner should pay close attention. And, that is that they, as the #1 search engine used by individuals (92% or more of individuals use Google as their primary search engine), will be paying greater consideration to whether or not a website’s content is “helpful” or “unhelpful” when making search engine results listing ranking decisions. As you would expect, sites with “helpful content” are more likely to be served up and rank well in search results for relevant terms.

Impact of Google’s September 2022 “Helpful Content” Algorithm Change

We know first-hand how much of a shift in ranking can take place when Google views your site as one that shares “helpful content.” Our site now rank approx. 50 spots higher in Google search results for a high-volume, relevant keyword and that shift happened almost overnight. We believe that the positive shift was due to Google recognizing that our Boston digital marketing agency consistently publishes blog posts that are easily understood by a “lay person,” but also provide enough instruction to implement some of the marketing tactics we describe and recommend in our posts.

Shared below in Google’s “own words” is information from Google’s Search Central blog about how to ensure your website content is “helpful.” We’ve highlighted (via bold italics) what we consider to be the most critical policies to apply when making decisions about what topics to write about — and how to write about them — to make sure your content is beneficial to the various audiences who visit your site. All of their recommendations should improve your website’s “bounce rate,” i.e., the percentage of people who land/start on your site without interacting it in any way, such as clicking on a link or call-out, or visiting another page of your site. When prospective clients or clients are bouncing too quickly from your site, it’s an opportunity for a competitor to win them over on their site, right?

Unhelpful Website Content And How It Impacts SEO

The flip side of the positive practice of regular production and posting of “helpful content” is to eliminate content that Google may deem as “unhelpful (which could negatively impact how your website ranks for “desirable” search terms).” Such “unhelpful” content includes:

  • Short content that is “stuffed” with keywords and was primarily loaded to your site to support your site being found on Google for those keywords.
  • Content that is outdated — think events that have already passed or information that is no longer relevant or accurate, particularly pre-pandemic information since the pandemic greatly changed both business and consumer behavior.
  • Content that is all “about you,”, i.e., too focused on selling your products and singing your praises or sharing your differentiators without explaining how your prospective clients or clients would benefit from your products, services, and solutions, i.e., explaining what pain points of clients they would address.

Our team is here to help you interpret this most recent Google algorithm change, and put the right steps in place to make sure you respond to, and take advantage of, this recent Google algorithm change appropriately, promptly, and effectively. It’s very much in keeping with what we shared years ago in one of our very first SEO blog posts about making sure your website is “authentic.” So, please reach out if we can help you effectively navigation this change in algorithm — one we think makes is warranted, was a long-time-in-coming, and will provide for a far better user experience on all websites.

Google’s Explanation Of What “Helpful Content” Is

Source of information below: https://developers.google.com/search/blog/2022/08/helpful-content-update#:~:text=The%20helpful%20content%20update%20aims,successful%20with%20our%20new%20update%3F

Focus on people-first content

The helpful content update aims to better reward content where visitors feel they’ve had a satisfying experience, while content that doesn’t meet a visitor’s expectations won’t perform as well.

How can you ensure you’re creating content that will be successful with our new update? By following our long-standing advice and guidelines to create content for people, not for search engines. People-first content creators focus first on creating satisfying content, while also utilizing SEO best practices to bring searchers additional value. Answering yes to the questions below means you’re probably on the right track with a people-first approach:

  • Do you have an existing or intended audience for your business or site that would find the content useful if they came directly to you?
  • Does your content clearly demonstrate first-hand expertise and a depth of knowledge (for example, expertise that comes from having actually used a product or service, or visiting a place)?
  • Does your site have a primary purpose or focus?
  • After reading your content, will someone leave feeling they’ve learned enough about a topic to help achieve their goal?
  • Will someone reading your content leave feeling like they’ve had a satisfying experience?
  • Are you keeping in mind our guidance for core updates and for product reviews?

Avoid creating content for search engines first

Our advice about having a people-first approach does not invalidate following SEO best practices, such as those covered in Google’s own SEO guide. SEO is a helpful activity when it’s applied to people-first content. However, content created primarily for search engine traffic is strongly correlated with content that searchers find unsatisfying.

How do you avoid taking a search engine-first approach? Answering yes to some or all of the questions is a warning sign that you should reevaluate how you’re creating content across your site:

  • Is the content primarily to attract people from search engines, rather than made for humans?
  • Are you producing lots of content on different topics in hopes that some of it might perform well in search results?
  • Are you using extensive automation to produce content on many topics?
  • Are you mainly summarizing what others have to say without adding much value?
  • Are you writing about things simply because they seem trending and not because you’d write about them otherwise for your existing audience?
  • Does your content leave readers feeling like they need to search again to get better information from other sources?
  • Are you writing to a particular word count because you’ve heard or read that Google has a preferred word count? (No, we don’t).
  • Did you decide to enter some niche topic area without any real expertise, but instead mainly because you thought you’d get search traffic?
  • Does your content promise to answer a question that actually has no answer, such as suggesting there’s a release date for a product, movie, or TV show when one isn’t confirmed?

Acceptance of Circumstances, Being Found on Google, competitive advantage, content marketing, digital marketing agency, fundraising/development, keywords, landing page, landing pages, lead generation, marketing best practices, marketing consultant, Marketing Planning, meta tags, organic SEO, pull marketing, sales, Search Engine Optimization, search terms, SEO, SEO tags, strategic planning, target audiences, Target Marketing, Understanding Your Environment, User experience, website

Is Your Website Holidays-SEO-Ready?

Where did 2022 go? It’s hard to believe it’s late October, and that means that consumers are already starting their holiday shopping. Regardless of whether your target audiences are shopping for Christmas, Hanukkah, or some other holiday celebrated towards the end of the calendar year, it would be a huge marketing mistake to not capitalize on the year-end uptick in online shopping by making sure your website ranks as well as possible for terms related to it.

While the focus of this post is related to retail, e-commerce, and B2C organizations offering physical products, as you read thru it, you’ll see there are applications for organizations trying to sell services, tickets to events, or even looking for someone to make a donation to their non-profit organization as a gift to someone else.

SEO Tactics For The Holidays

Below are both easy, and more time-consuming/complex SEO tasks your organization should complete by early November to support having a successful holiday sales season.

  • Conduct keyword research to determine the search phrases your target audiences are using most related to holiday shopping or holiday gift giving. If you don’t have access to a keyword planning/research tool, reach out and we will share holiday-shopping-related keyword research with you that we already conducted for FREE (a more extensive list than what we share further on in our post.) That’s our holiday gift to you!
  • Incorporate high-volume keywords (search terms) that are relevant to your target audience in:
    • the public-facing content found on a holiday-related landing page (if you plan to have specials/sales/discounts or want to promote certain items that make great holiday gifts) and/or incorporate such terms on existing product-specific pages.
    • website product and landing page headers (H1 and H2), as appropriate.
    • page title tags, particularly if you have a distinct landing page or several such pages for holiday shopping and specials.
  • Use structured data to support your products appearing at the top of Google search results when someone searches on a very specific product need like “yellow pocketbook.” As a result of the aforementioned fall 2022 algorithm change, use of Google “Shopping ads,” a Google Merchant Center Account and/or Google Surfaces is no longer mandatory to have your products shown to individuals who are shopping. This article details Google’s reason for making the change and where your product information may appear when you properly use “structured data.”

The above task/tactic may be a more complicated and difficult one for your organization and may require your website developer’s help. You can learn more about structured data (also known as “schema markup”) via these resources:

Google Search Podcast

Crowdcontent.com

How To Incorporate High-volume Holiday-Shopping Keywords In Your Website Content

Recent holiday-shopping keyword research we conducted indicated the following as being among some of the highest-volume search terms used related to holiday shopping or gift shopping, in general (the number shown represents the average # of monthly searches in Google for that term):

  • gifts for men – 301,000
  • gifts for mom – 201,000
  • gifts for dad – 135,000
  • gifts for women – 135,000
  • Christmas gifts for mom – 90500
  • Gifting ideas for men – 90500
  • mens gifts ideas – 90500
  • gift ideas for women – 90500
  • mom Christmas gifts – 90500
  • women’s gifts ideas – 90500
  • women’s gifts for men – 74000
  • Christmas gifts for men – 74000
  • Gifts for mens Christmas – 74000
  • Christmas gifts for dad – 49500
  • Gifts for girlfriends – 49500
  • Christmas gifts for boyfriend – 40500
  • Christmas gifts for womens – 40500
  • Gifts for womens Christmas – 40500
  • Gifts for wife Christmas – 33100
  • Best Men gifts – 33100
  • Gift ideas for mom – 33100
  • Husbands gifts – 33100
  • Unique gifts – 33100
  • Best Christmas gifts 2021 (note you can use this phrase but change to 2022) – 33100
  • Gift for Christmas for wife – 33100
  • Unique gifts for men — 27100
  • Christmas gift idea for her — 27100
  • Christmas gifts for a girlfriend — 27100
  • Christmas gift ideas for her — 27100
  • Best gifts for men 2021 (change to 2022) — 27100
  • Best gifts for women 2021 (change to 2022) — 27100
  • Christmas Gifts 2021 (change to 2022) — 27100
  • Christmas gf gifts (change to 2022) (reminder people use acronyms like bff, bf in searches) — 27100
  • Gift ideas for boyfriend – 22200
  • Gift ideas for dad – 22200
  • Best gifts for mom – 22200
  • Top gifts for guys – 22200
  • Best gifts for moms – 22200
  • Secret santa gift ideas – 22200
  • Fun gift – 22200
  • Ideas gift boyfriend – 22200
  • Christmas gift teenagers – 22200
  • Gifts for husbands Christmas — 18000
  • Best gifts for dad — 18000
  • Best gifts for dads — 18000
  • Gift ideas for girlfriend — 18000
  • Unique gifts for women — 18000
  • Christmas gift ideas for mom — 14800
  • Ideas for mens stocking stuffers — 14800
  • Good gifts for mom—14800
  • Gift ideas for wife — 14800
  • Christmas gift ideas for moms — 14800
  • Unique Christmas gifts — 14800
  • Secret santa gifts — 14800
  • Mom’s Christmas gift ideas — 14800
  • Christmas gifts to her — 14800
  • Christmas gift ideas for him — 12100
  • Cool guys gifts — 12100
  • Cool gifts for guys — 12100
  • Presents for mom — 12100
  • Gifts for mother — 12100
  • Women best gift — 12100
  • Best gifts for women — 12100
  • Gadgets for men — 12100
  • Cool Christmas gift — 12100
  • Christmas fun gift — 12100
  • Christmas gift ideas 2021 (change to 2022) — 12100
  • Best gift 2021 (change to 2022) — 12100
  • Gift ideas him Christmas — 12100

As mentioned above, we are glad to provide a much more extensive list of holiday shopping terms and their associated average monthly searches in Google. You can e-mail us at gail.moraski@allintheresults.com to have the list sent to you. As we share all the time with our new SEO clients and attendees of our SEO classes, and as we did in this previous blog post, keyword research can also help you identify new products, services or solutions you should offer.

As alluded to above, be sure to use the term 2022 once or several times related to holiday shopping, and also be sure to include terms for non-Christmas holidays that are celebrated in December. Plus, think about what acronyms or abbreviations someone might use related to a loved, such as “bff” for “best friends forever.”

Before you begin incorporating high-volume keywords in your content, think about whom would most likely be the recipient of a gift of your product, services, event or class tickets, or a donation, and use terms that the searcher of your product or service might use. Let’s say you offer hand-made jewelry for women, you’d want your site to rank well for terms above like “Christmas gifts to her”  and “Christmas gifts for mom” and should incorporate such or similar terms in your website content. 

We’re Here To Help You Rank Well For Holiday Shopping Search Terms

Got questions or need our help. Reach out today as holiday shopping has already begun!

Acceptance of Circumstances, brand promise, marketing best practices, Marketing Planning, Objectives Setting, sales, strategic planning, target audiences, Target Marketing

Why Business Success Depends On Knowing Your Primary Target Audience and Catering To Their Needs and Wants

I’ve been meaning to write this blog post for several months now — while folks were still wearing shorts. You’ll learn why shortly (hah, hah, see what we did there?) But, fortunately, it was a very busy summer at Results C & R, and when it’s busy, we always put our clients’ marketing work above our own.

Earlier this summer, I visited my local “Paper Store,” and while perusing and admiring their clothing items for women, I was extremely surprised to see how short their various short offerings were. I had always assumed The Paper Store catered to women of my age, i.e., women aged 40+ and that their “sweet spot” as far as target audience went was women 45 – 65. These assumptions were likely based on the following:

  • What I observed to be the demographic of other shoppers when I visited various Paper Store locations
  • The fact that, despite their rewards/coupons program, their prices for various items like clothing, toiletries, and accessories, are higher than what you would pay at a discount store like TJ Maxx, Home Goods, or Marshalls. And, therefore, younger generations (who in many cases would have lower income than the above middle-aged group) might be less likely to shop or make a purchase at a Paper Store.

I decided to take a poll on LinkedIn (which I also shared with my Facebook connections) a few months back to to see what other consumers believed The Paper Store’s primary target audience to be and to inform my planned blog post.

As shown above, poll results indicated that I am not the only one who believes The Paper Store’s primary target audience is women over 40. If the aforementioned is really true, then why didn’t The Paper Store offer longer shorts — shorts that hit you one, two, or three inches above the knee — to its shoppers this summer? Either The Paper Store overlooked their primary target audience’s needs and missed out on an opportunity to sell them a summer staple, or women 45 – 65 really aren’t their primary target audience (or, at least not their primary target audience for shorts). Or, based on our poll results, there’s a big misperception about who their target audience is. Regardless, one or more of the following seems to be at play:

  • The Paper Store is hoping to reach and sell to a younger demographic/consumer and is moving in that direction by selling clothes that appeal to younger audiences — and perhaps, they are achieving that goal. Only they know the answer to that.
  • The Paper Store isn’t giving enough thought to their primary target audience’s needs and what they will and won’t wear.
  • The Paper Store is targeting numerous target audiences at once as part of their overall target market, but only targeting certain products to particular target audiences, as indicated in part by the fact that they offer:
    • A very large collection of Vera Bradley and Lilly Pulitzer products which I see most used by middle-aged or older women vs. teens or 20- or 30-something women because of the price associated with those products
    • Alex and Ani bracelets or other jewelry items which I’ve seen worn by both younger and middle-aged women, but primarily by women under 30
  • In keeping with the above, there is no pecking order when it comes to the various audiences The Paper Store serves; therefore, there is no one true primary target audience – just lots of smaller target audiences to whom various distinct products are targeted
  • Being a “gift store,” regardless of the age of the actual primary “purchaser/buyer/consumer,” The Paper Store needs to offer gifts that can be bestowed on anyone of any age — baby/toddler, child, young adult, etc.

The Paper Store’s website has been updated for fall and at the time of this post, homepage images showcase women who appear to be aged 40 at most, and who could possibly be and pass for 30-something and younger. So, I’m left thinking my bulleted thoughts above are accurate. Did/do I and others have their primary target audience wrong or is the retailer just trying to move away from that older audience, and attract younger consumers/shoppers? Or, are they just trying to offer something for everyone?

Products, Services and Marketing Creative Must Meet Needs Of And Resonate With Primary Target Audiences

Ultimately, what I hope you will take from this post is this. Whomever your primary target audience is, if you want to maintain them as customers and grow the amount of business they do with you, you have to offer products and services that make their lives better and easier, and your marketing creative (messaging and images) should reflect those audiences and what they hope to accomplish with your products and services, i.e., their reasons for buying them. If, for whatever reason you want your primary target audience to shift, i.e., you want to cause a new audience with different demographics (this could be based on age, location, gender, income level, and more) to become the primary consumers of your products, you need to make sure that products and services resonate with and provide solutions to problems of that new audience and your marketing creative speaks to that new audience and their needs.

Know What You’re Good At And Who You Serve

We’ve always been of the mindset that “you can’t be all things to all men.” You need to know what you’re good at and understand what the demographics of the audience who will be most interested in your particular products and services, i.e., your primary target audience, will look like. That’s usually a best practice when it comes to deciding what products and services to offer and how you market them. But, in the case of The Paper Store maybe trying to be many things to many people is working for them? Regardless, I won’t be visiting The Paper Store again to purchase shorts. I hope that was The Paper Store’s intention/objective.

Acceptance of Circumstances, digital marketing agency, integrated marketing, keeping up with trends, making time for things you value, marketing consultant, Marketing Planning, Objectives Setting, pandemic marketing, Passion, Post-COVID-19 Marketing, staying current, strategic planning, Understanding Your Environment, walking, warriors, fighters, doing good, giving back, paying it forward

It’s A New Year. Time To Pivot, If Only Slightly

After writing several blog posts in recent years about one of my favorites hobbies — walking — I was torn about whether it should be a walking or a digital marketing topic that would be the focus of the first blog post of the new year. But, then, it hit me (while I was out walking, of course) why not combine the two topics? So here goes…

Depending on how your business, organization, or you personally fared in 2021, maybe the new year/2022 doesn’t require some kind of grand gesture or large overhaul related to new beginnings and resolutions. Hey, if it ain’t broken, why fix it, right? Maybe, it’s just a matter of making some small tweaks to last year’s marketing strategy and/or the particular tactics that are part of it, or to your personal habits and mindset, so you can optimize results even further in the new year.

That’s why, while I plan to keep up with my “no excuses” winter walking plan this year, I made a small adjustment to it in the beginning of 2022. Sure, in the blog post that I linked to in my previous sentence, I sang the praises of last year’s coat related to being “prepared for opportunity.” But, I realized this winter, I needed to do something slightly different. The coat I bought and wore last year was just too heavy for my back, which started troubling me in fall 2021 (life happens). Plus, the length of last year’s coat-purchase (down to my ankles) limits the length of my stride. So, I went to Macy’s last week to capitalize on post-Christmas sales, and bought a very reasonably-priced coat that’s a bit shorter and a bit less heavy –because life circumstances, business, and marketplaces constantly change and we need to adjust to them, even if only slightly.

We’d welcome the opportunity to chat with you about what your business/organization could or should do slightly or significantly differently in 2022, based on the following and other possible or anticipated changes pertaining to:

  • your industry
  • the competitiveness or other attributes of your marketplace, such as pricing and inflation
  • consumer or business buying behavior or interests
  • technology used by consumers or businesses to gather information about products, services, and solutions, i.e., consumer and business technology preferences
  • marketing technologies and opportunities to reach target audiences

So, please let us know how we can help and don’t be afraid to make some very small or some very large tweaks to personal habits or business processes, tactics, strategy, etc. if warranted for a more prosperous, less stressful, more productive, and/or healthier new year!

Walk On!

If you’re a fellow walking fanatic, enjoy our other walking blog posts:

A Live Constant: Why I’ve Always Walked

Why I’ve Always Walked Part II – No Excuses

Why I’ve Always Walked Part III: Brattleboro VT (150 miles) or Bust

Stay Tuned For #FridayNightWalks, #DestinationWalks, and More!

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Why I’ve Always Walked Part III: Brattleboro VT (150 miles) or Bust

While on the neighborhood walk I just completed I gave great thought to how, and when, I developed my great love of walking, it wasn’t the first time I noodled this. In fact, I captured this in the first of my blog posts about “Why I’ve Always Walked.” I think it all goes back to the candy store trek I mentioned in that previous post and the fact that homes were pretty spread out living in what-was-then-quite-rural Burlington, CT. As a child if you wanted to play with neighbors without having to ask your parents to give you a ride, you were going to walk a bit to get to their homes. And, if you wanted your “smarties,” you were going to have to walk an estimated 1.75 miles to get them — what felt like a very long distance when you’re age 9 or under.

As some of my readers know, since the beginning of the pandemic I’ve been supporting a family member who’s been struggling. In recent months, I’ve become more and more of a caregiver. This means I need to stick close-to-home, manage the stress of seeing a loved one deal with illness, and play a big role in making sure both of our daily needs are met and that we both enjoy the best possible quality of life. Walking has been a lifesaver as far as helping me keep my stress level down goes, but it also provides for an activity and goal in life that’s just about me — something a caregiver really needs.

Walking the Brooklyn Bridge In 2016

Why Brattleboro and 150 Miles?

As I also shared in the aforementioned first walking blog post, I’m a sucker for a good “cause walk” — something I consider a win-win. This spring, I signed up to walk The Kerry Fund’s “Walk Around The World.” I had set a goal to walk 50 miles during the month of May, but I came in about 8 miles under, I believe, because of the personal challenges mentioned above. But, I extended the timeframe and deadline for my goal and made it into a longer and larger one. To walk 150 miles between May 1 and Labor Day. I’m not someone who tracks day-to-day steps. Just true walks I go on whether they be around the neighborhood, to grab something at Dunkin Donuts (a beloved destination walk), or a walk at a park or on a trail.

Work and personal demands got in the way of me finalizing this post, so that the day I wrote the initial paragraph and the day I’m writing this paragraph, are several weeks apart. But, I’m pleased to say I’ve walked 120 of my 150 miles, many of them on Boston’s South Shore. That 150 miles equates to walking the distance from my home to Brattleboro, VT — a spot I love to visit. So, even if I can only visit there in my mind when I achieve my 150 miles, I’ll have to have a smoked turkey sandwich and pretend I’m at The Top of the Hill Grill.

I’m finishing up this post and publishing it on Saturday, August 7. To support my Jimmy Fund Walk team, I’m holding a drawing for anyone who makes a donation to my team and correctly guesses how many miles I will have walked by Labor Day. Will it be 150? Will it be way more? E-mail, text, or direct message me and let me know your guess after you make your donation. Whoever’s guess is the closest to the # of miles I walk before September 6 will win a $50 gift card to Legal Seafood. If there’s a tie, each winner will receive a $25 gift card. http://danafarber.jimmyfund.org/site/TR?px=1010193&pg=personal&fr_id=1660

Thanks to those who support the Mission Possible Team and those who support me or join me related to my joy of walking. Walk on, and always reach out if you want to do a walk ‘n talk in my neck of the woods!

P.S. If you enjoy walking and missed Part II of my walking blog post series, take a stroll thru it!

Acceptance of Circumstances, competitive advantage, Enjoying What You Do, Importance of taking break, keeping a balance, making time for things you value, Objectives Setting, Passion, warriors, fighters, doing good, giving back, paying it forward

Why I’ve Always Walked – Part II: No Excuses

I promised blog readers and myself that I would write a follow-up post to my original “Why I’ve Always” Walked” blog post, and based on my passion for walking, additional follow-ups to Parts I and II are likely to come. But, for now, we’ll stick to Part II and its focus, “no excuses.”

Gail Snow Moraski Back From a Winter Walk in Her Puffer Jacket

Wanting to keep up with my daily walks in late 2020 and early 2021, despite anticipated dips in New England temperatures, I made sure in Mid-October-2020 that I eliminated as many deterrents to walking daily as I could in advance of November – February colder weather. There’s been a lot of social media conversation around the “best or favorite item you purchased in 2020.” And while, a few furniture purchases for my breezeway to allow for outdoor visits with friends and the family were strong contenders, for me, the award for best purchase was and is my Tommy Hilfiger Faux-Fur-Trim Hooded Maxi Puffer Coat! Thank you Tommy and thank you Macy’s! Yeah, it cost me $157.50 since I purchased it prior to late-season sales (something I normally wait for when it comes to coat purchases), but to-date, it has been worth every penny I spent on it and then some. And, there’s still a lot of South Shore of Boston winter weather ahead of me!

I specifically sought out a coat that would keep me toasty warm while walking in all kinds of Northeast winter weather — winds, rain, snow, temperatures in the teens — without causing me to sweat too much or to feel too weighed-down. This coat is light-weight, keeps me super-warm, and it’s not made of Down, and therefore, doesn’t make me feel all clammy while walking in it. And, I love the fact that I can wear a lightweight sweater vs. a really thick one under it, since the coat itself is so warm. This prevents my movements from feeling/being restricted, and I don’t feel like a walking sausage when I walk!

I also invested in these boots from Toms because the sneaker-bottom works well for me and my ongoing right hip issue, and I don’t want concerns about keeping my feet warm, or having shoes that are comfortable to walk in, to get in the way of my walking either! They’re super warm and I always love the fact that a Toms brand purchase means someone who really needs one, will get a free pair of shoes.

Be Proactive About Preventing Obstacles and Eliminating Excuses

Yeah, that was likely more than you wanted and needed to know about my walking-related purchases. As a new year gets underway, I really just wanted to remind readers that when you take an offensive, proactive approach to health & wellness goals, or to other non-health objectives, you’ll increase your chance of success. I didn’t want any excuses to get in the way of my getting the exercise and sunlight I need to keep my mind and body healthy — particularly during our pandemic when it’s so important to one’s sanity to get outside and get a change-of-scenery.

“Luck Is What Happens When Preparation Meets Opportunity”

I’ve always liked the expression “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” My ever-green blog post “While You Wait, Educate” speaks to this same premise. Maybe I’m stretching it a bit when associating buying a warm coat and warm boots with opportunity. But, hey, when friends have reached out to walk on a cold day, I’ve been ready for that opportunity to socialize, or when I run into neighbors while out walking, I have the opportunity to catch up a bit (socially distanced, of course!) because I’m warmly and appropriately dressed and don’t have to rush back inside/home.

With the start of a new year, I’d love to hear from my readers what preparations you’re putting in place to seize opportunities or to prevent obstacles from getting in your way of achieving an important personal or professional goal. So, please do share!

Acceptance of Circumstances, community involvement, Enjoying What You Do, Importance of taking break, keeping a balance, Making Connections, making time for things you value, Objectives Setting, relationship building, warriors, fighters, doing good, giving back, paying it forward

A Life Constant: Why I’ve Always Walked

Walking has always played a huge role in my life. During my early childhood years, when I lived in a very rural area, my five siblings and I walked everywhere — a long, uphill trek to a small candy store, in the many wooded areas of the very country-ish-at-the-time town of Burlington, Connecticut, and around and near two different ponds for swimming to which we had access.

Moving with my family at age 9 to a less rural part of Connecticut (Bristol) didn’t put a damper on my interest in and ability to walk great distances. Just the opposite. My twin, Audrey, and I had sizable walks to school, particularly related to our junior high school, which was a forty-minute walk from our home. As part of that long daily walk, we’d stop by the houses of friends along the way, so that they could join us on the “walking bus” to school. And on the way home from junior high and even elementary school, we’d take routes home that made the trip longer, but that afforded us the opportunity to purchase favorite snacks. In addition, I regularly walked to Bristol’s downtown area to shop, take advantage of the city’s great library, and accomplish other errands.

As you would expect, during college days at UCONN, I continued to walk a great deal. UCONN has a very large campus, so often class location required walking long distances, but UCONN also has a beautiful pond area for walking, known as Mirror Lake — an area to which I was often pulled. I attended the Universite of Rouen in France my senior year and logged a crazy large number of shoe- and sneaker-leather miles abroad, partly due to the fact that the home of the family with which I lived was a significant distance from the Universite, and partly due to the fact that I had the opportunity to spend blocks of time in Paris and other beautiful parts of Europe. Walking is such a great way to get to know a new city or area.

Fast forward to my first apartment post-graduation in Quincy MA (where I didn’t own a car) and to my 15 years of living in Brookline MA (where most of the time I didn’t own a car). I ran many of my errands on foot, but also regularly enjoyed non-errand-related amblings all over Quincy, Brookline and Boston. I often walked numerous stops past the closest MBTA (subway) stop to my employer/job or my home, just to get my mileage and my time in nature to clear my head in.

When I was a child and in my early 20’s, reasons for walking probably tipped more to it being the means to end — a way to get to where I needed and/or to run an errand. As I got older, walking began to take on a different role in my life for the following opportunities it afforded:

2019 Jimmy Fund Walk With Lifetime Friends

Particularly during our pandemic, many of my days have been “two-walk” days, and there’s even been some “three-walk” ones — either because of the need to emotionally manage daily work and personal demands and/or the tough news we’re constantly bombarded with. Or, to have the chance to visit and spend time with friends and family. Of course, walking looks a little bit different these days because of needs to social distance and wear masks.

Since our dating days, my husband, Jay, and I have always enjoyed nature and vacation walks together, but up until recently, I’ve been the primary “neighborhood” walker in the family, but now’s he’s joining me, or walking by himself, having recognized some of the benefits of walking that I’ve shared above.

This only scrapes the surface of why I am and have always been so passionate about walking. I’d love to hear why you walk, so please do share!

Acceptance of Circumstances, community involvement, keeping up with trends, LinkedIn, Making Connections, Making Connections and Introductions, making time for things you value, Networking, relationship building, sales, staying current, target audiences, warriors, fighters, doing good, giving back, paying it forward

How to Pivot Your Business Toward Relationship-Building in the Time of COVID-19

By Guest Blogger, Bethany Clarke

Running a business these days is no joke. The global pandemic has put many small businesses into a tailspin. No one’s seen anything like this before and everyone’s talking about “pivoting,” but what does that actually mean? What does a pivot look like for you? 

You’re great at running and marketing your business. You’ve got the branding, social media, and your new client funnel down to a science. You’re turning a profit and you can’t believe how far you’ve come since the first days of starting out, but this COVID-19 deal is uncharted territory.

You’re not alone. Sales for many businesses have dropped this month due to the distraction provided by the pandemic, but particularly, due to its associated social distancing practices. Yes, the latter are a matter of national health, but man, are they a pain for conducting in-person sales activities. And, our current world scenario has made all forms of sales and outreach activities far more difficult and far less effective, whether they be in-person, phone, or e-communications ones. That’s why we recommend that your pivot be one that includes relationship building.

What’s the deal with relationships? They will be what sustains you through this crisis and after it is over. By reaching out to potential clients now, you can be certain that you’ll be one of the first people they come to once the crisis has receded. You can establish yourself as a credible, helpful and friendly resource in your field, and even a “thought leader.”

How to make the pivot toward relationship building?

  1. Establish connections online by devoting a half hour to posting and being present on your social media each day. That’s enough time to reply to comments on your posts or to comment on others’ posts. Always make an effort to do this, especially on Facebook and Instagram since that’s part of the algorithm that drives your posts to the top of people’s feeds. 
  1. Direct message followers who are your dream clients. Now’s the time to reach out and say “hello” and offer to help or provide information they might find particularly beneficial at this point in time. Most people have more free time lately and are craving connections. If you’re making a practice of extending your olive branch now in a very genuine/authentic and heart-felt way, you’ll be remembered by people for helping make this hard time a little easier for them.
  1. Reach out to people who operate in fields adjacent to yours and who serve the same vertical (target audiences) you’d like to do work for. For instance, if you’re a copywriter, you could connect with someone who does graphic design. In the future, when you meet a client who needs a website re-done, you can provide your client with the copy they need, and then refer them to your colleague who will design their fancy new logo or design their new website. If you help nonprofits with marketing, but there are other firms that don’t compete with you that offer bookkeeping services for nonprofits, then why not try to be referral sources for each other? These referrals can go both ways. People in your identical spaces could be competitors but what if you shifted that perspective? What if you turned them into collaborators or work referral sources? Developing a “referral circle” is an excellent way to broaden and strengthen your network and increase your customer base.

Aside from all the business benefits that come along with establishing and maintaining relationships, having these positive, collaborative, helpful relationships just feels really good right now. In this time of isolation, it’s human and healthy to crave connection with others. Making the pivot toward relationship building in your business will not only make your business stronger, but it may help make you healthier and happier as well.

Acceptance of Circumstances, brand promise, competitive advantage, keeping up with trends, lead generation, sales, staying current, target audiences, website

The Website-Horse Connection

As I continue to talk and work with clients and prospective clients related to driving target-audience traffic to their website, via a variety of digital marketing activities, I’m regularly reminded of a phrase spoken by the leader of a webinar I attended last year — “your website should be your work horse.” Whether you spell it as one word or two, as shown below, the phrase “work horse” indicates someone or something that consistently, and endlessly, accomplishes a difficult task.

workhorse definition

Now, for the second horse reference — “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” Technical SEO, paid search ads, and social media posts & ads are all effective means of driving traffic to your website, but if your website isn’t your work horse, or doesn’t cause a horse to drink, all the other digital marketing tactics in the world won’t help your organization generate more leads and sales. In almost all instances, an organization would serve itself better, from a lead- and sales-generation standpoint, if it invested time and energy to support its website being its workhorse — prior to investing in and launching other traditional or digital marketing activities to increase website traffic.

In many cases, your website will provide the first and only impression an individual or organization has of your organization. Your website should reflect that:

  • you pay attention to detail
  • you care about your organization’s reputation and image
  • you care about accuracy
  • you strive to make your visitors’ life easier and you don’t want to waste their time
  • your clients and customers can expect great things from your products and services because, well, you’re a top-notch, well-pulled-together organization
  • you are relevant and current
  • you are able to make — and do take — the time to ensure your website’s information is current and links and any interactive tools on your site function properly

horse

THINKSTOCK IMAGE

Steps to make sure your website is your work horse, and that will ultimately contribute to your being the “dark horse” in your industry or niche:

  1. Make sure there are no misspellings/typos on your site and your writing adheres to good grammar principles. It’s easy enough to spellcheck and grammar-check content/copy in MS Word or other software before you load it to your site.
  2. Check your site regularly for broken links, particularly links that point to another organization’s website, since these external sites may remove or move content to which you’ve pointed.
  3. Don’t be penny-wise and pound-foolish. I won’t name any names of content management solutions (CMS) or free or inexpensive website creation tools or hosts. You tend to get what you pay for, and sites using cheap or free tools often end up looking cheap too — particularly when they allow for a website that is small and hard to read and not sized to work well on your desktop or laptop computer.
  4. Related to bullet #3 above, be sure to launch your site on a CMS that allows your website to be “responsive”, i.e., respond to the device which accesses it, whether it be a mobile phone, tablet, or desktop or laptop computer.
  5. Be consistent with where and how you use fonts and colors throughout your site. For example, use the same font and color for page headlines throughout your site.
  6. Make sure your site has a “cohesive” feel and certain pages don’t look like they belong on a different planet than other pages.
  7. Make sure your site is secure. Any website should be an https:// site vs. https:// site. Horses can sense danger, and nothing is going to cause a horse to bolt faster in this day and age of identity and privacy theft, than an indication from their browser that your site is “insecure.”
  8. Forego any kind of over-the-top dynamic video, photo, and graphic displays that are going to cause your site to load too slowly. Horses want to keep moving forward. Any kind of roadblock could cause them to take an undesired detour.
  9. Pay attention to current website trends, and when your existing site strays too far from those trends, update your site’s look and feel, so it feels fresh and relevant. Likely, you’ll need to do this at least once every five years.
  10. Include user-friendly navigation that calls out in clear language the topics that visitors would expect and want to find on a site that offers the types of products and services you offer. Related to this, create and include content & interactive tools that will ensure that visitors can accomplish what they want and need to do on your site. This should ultimately lead to sales and lead generation for your organization.
  11. In keeping with bullet #10 above, use clear “call-to-action” buttons (that link to appropriate page of your site) throughout your site that pertain to tasks your target audience(s) will wish and expect to accomplish when visiting your site, such as “subscribe to our e-newsletter” or “schedule a complimentary discussion.”
  12. Make sure any text is properly aligned and there are no extra spaces between words or inappropriate spaces between paragraphs or large blocks of text.
  13. Remove outdated documents and content, such as pdfs with information that is no longer accurate or relevant/timely.
  14. Delete events that have long since passed from your events calendar.
  15. This is Marketing/Branding 101 – but be consistent as to how you refer to your organization throughout the site and with logo use.
  16. Don’t make your site a dumping ground. Less usually is more. On any one particular page, don’t include so many call-outs and links to pdfs or other pages of your site, or so many graphics and images, that it’s impossible for your visitor to know where to focus.

As is obvious from the above, while well worth the effort, making sure your website is your work horse and, therefore, will lead the horse to drink is not for the work-shy. If the tips above, have you saying “hold your horses!”, we’re always ready to “saddle up” and get you moving in the right direction quickly!