Each year I am approached by companies wanting me to try their products & services and ultimately share them with all of you. Some have been great additions to my business others have left me disappointed and flummoxed. I thought I would share with you the best & the worst from the past year!
To begin with, I’m going to break it down into 4 categories.
Running your business
As you know (if you have a blog) there is always so much that needs to be done in a short amount of time so anything that I can find that will:
Improve My Skills
is a Godsend to me. Now, I want to share them with you!
I have my own hosting that I provide through Flywheel (owned by WPEngine) which runs $20 a month. We provide fast, secure hosting, free SSL’s, and amazing support. I only have three spots available.
For someone just starting out or on a tight budget I use **Bluehost. I have to say that I have set up hundreds of sites on Bluehost and not once have I ever had a problem. Once upon a time, Bluehost was considered the bottom of the barrel in terms of hosting, but a few years ago they turned it around and I have to say that I’ve been very impressed with how hard they have worked to improve every aspect of their service.
I have always been a Genesis girl and **Studio Press is the place to get the best themes. A few months ago I had the opportunity to work with **Divi by Elegant themes and I have to say that I absolutely love it! It’s so versatile and easy to use and saves me tons of time. There are so many things included that you hardly need any plugins at all!
Listen I know that those sneaky plugins get you where it hurts. I’m sure you have seen the notices in your dashboard ‘get this pro version’, ‘buy this’, ‘do that’. Nine times out of 10 you don’t need it. There are free plugins for just about anything. My go-to plugins are:
Hubspot created a blog post with 60 free online courses that you can take to improve your skills. If you don’t follow Hubspot’s blog you really should. There is always so much valuable information.
Would you like to learn more about Facebook ads? Here’s a great post by Insane Growth that explains it all.
Social media is the bane of my existence, but it’s also a necessary evil. I build websites and create content with business tips for bloggers, entrepreneurs & small businesses. I get asked to try a lot of different social media scheduling tool and here is my honest opinion.
**#1 For me is Sendible.com. I run three different websites and manage several clients’ social media accounts. Scheduling blog posts and monitoring keywords that I set up, even monitoring my competitor’s social media accounts. If you run multiple blogs or social media accounts
Sendible is the best.
Most places make you pay per account so for three sites I would have to have three different accounts. I would only be able to pick up one RSS feed unless I had three different accounts.
Sendible is different. I have a set number of services I can set up and it doesn’t matter how many RSS feeds you pick up and auto-posts new pieces. You can schedule them to repeat however many times it’s all completely up to you. I post to five different FB pages for various people and with Sendible I can do it automatically saving myself lots of time.
I know I’m not taking full advantage of the features but what I am using I love. BUT I don’t like them for Instagram. I tried it I really did, but it was just too confusing and I wasting to much time trying to figure it out.
A few years ago I bought a lifetime membership for Grum.co for only $39 and I love it for scheduling Instagram posts. That’s all it does Instagram, but it’s so easy to use. Unfortunately, they are no longer taking on new customers. If I didn’t have this I would make the time for Tailwind, but this one is just to easy and it’s a lifetime purchase.
I love Co-schedule I really do, but because of the limitations of only having one site on one account, I just can’t justify that expense when I have other options. It offers a boatload of features and it’s easy to use.
There is really no “free” service for scheduling your content. You can use “Publicize” inside your WordPress site and it will automatically post to FB, Twitter, & LinkedIn.
I know that Buffer offers a free version but I’m not sure of its limitations. I’ve always found it too confusing to use.
If you’re going to spend money this is one of the places where I say if you can pay for it then get it. A good social media scheduler can save you loads of time while helping you build your tribe.
In today’s 24/7, 100mph world if you’re not marketing through email then you’re leaving a lot of money on the table. You should absolutely be sending a welcome email sequence & sending out an RSS to your subscribers.
A few months ago, I was singing the praises of **Engagebay and I learned a very valuable lesson. Sometimes quick decisions can be the wrong decisions. It can send beautiful emails, there are tools for marketing, sales or service. I feel as if it is an excellent platform, but it just didn’t fit my needs. The main problem was the RSS emails. There just wasn’t enough flexibility and I actually sent out a few crazy emails before I gave up.
If you’re running a small business then I cannot recommend Engagebay enough. It’s beautiful, easy to use and handles so many tasks. It’s also affordable. Here is a link to their Youtube channel which has a lot of info about its features. It’s a great platform I just tend to have a problem with change I guess.
So, I’m back at MailChimp and that’s where I’m staying! I know my way around, it’s easy to use (most of the time) and it’s cheap. They have changed things and unless you have a paid account you are limited in what you can do. Such as only having one audience(list), limitations on automation, etc. I pay for The Blogging 911 account and use the free version for Wanding Web Designer & The Diary of an Alzheimer’s Caregiver my other two sites. The paid version runs me $9.63 a month.
Have you seen my the MAILCHIMP EXPLAINED ebook in the 911 Resource Library? It’s just one of the many free resources inside.
I’ve worked with ConvertKit before and it is easy to use. I didn’t like the design limitations and figure if I’m going to spend $30 a month it needs to have a lot more.
Running your Business
There are several tools that I use every single day to run my business. Some are free (well most are free) but they are still necessary. Tools such as:
17Hats – is an all-around scheduling tool, lead capture forms, templates such as contracts or estimates. It runs $39 a month for all of its features and there are many. I personally only use the free version because I use the templates & lead capture forms (those project inquiry forms you see around here).
Acuity Scheduling – If you need an easy way for people to schedule appointments I highly recommend Acuity. Their free version has always been more than enough for me.
Asana – This is my project management tool and it keeps me on track when I’m building out a new site, managing other projects or even just things I need to do. There is both a free and paid version and I’ve always found the free version more than enough for my needs.
Canva – There is a free version of Canva that works very well. I use Canva almost every single day and I love it for it’s easy to use dashboard, to the free and paid elements like stock photos, icons, frames, colors, and fonts. For this, I splurge and get the paid version so that I can store my own logos, my fonts (up to 25) and my brand colors for $12.95.
Google Drive – Also free. I use it to store all of my clients’ assets. I like how easy it is and it works great with Gmail which is another great free tool. I do use the paid version of this and it runs $6 a month and I have tons of storage and it’s easy to use.
One Drive – This is part of my Microsoft subscription which is about $7 a month. This is where I keep all of my assets. (Such as stock images, templates, or other graphics).
Dropbox – This is where I store all of the backups for my clients & my own personal websites. This costs around $10 but they’ve added a bunch of new features.
Screencast-o-matic – This another thing I purchased from Sumo. It was a lifetime subscription for only $39 and I use it whenever I need to make tutorials or other videos where I share my screen. It’s something I purchased on APPSUMO.
APPSUMO – is a great place to find great deals on products or services to run your business! They always have freebies or lifetime deals that will save you tons of time and money.
Know some great tools that I might not know about? Let me know in the comments below.
**Means that it is an affiliate link if you purchase a service, with the (**) beside it, means that I will earn a small commission that will in no way affect your cost.
We should be used to it by now, every few months Facebook & Instagram find other ways for them to make more money and that has our reach shrinking faster than a $3 shirt from Walmart. They can’t stop a Russian from interfering in our election process but they can sure as hell drop your page likes like a hot potato fresh out of the oven!
Listen, FB knows it, we know it, hell even the kids down the street know it. Even with all of the turmoil, they cause somehow they are still the best marketing game in town. Even with the changes, they are making and there are many it’s still easier and more cost-efficient to run FB ads over any other kind of ad. It just is. There are 2.27 billion (That’s a Billion with a capital ‘B’) and 75% of us log in every single day!
So what are these big changes you ask? Well, let me count the ways…
The desktop FB feed is getting a total overhaul. There will be an algorithms update sometime in the Fall of 2019.
Organic Targeting improves your ability to increase your organic reach on FB pages.
Comments & shares will become more valuable and a heart will be worth more than a like.
Organic reach will depend on relevancy and quality.
The more engagement=the more reach.
On FB mobile feeds you will only allow 3 lines of text & smaller image sizes.
On Instagram, likes and video counts are going away. Lower interactions and the new social proof is catching one’s interest.
Removing low-quality posts, the explorer feature or low-quality hashtags.
Comments will become more important.
So what can you do, the small business owner, that will keep your business in the green & keep you from seeing red when you’re FB or Instagram reach grows smaller and smaller.
Don’t waste money boosting posts.
Have a sales funnel in place.
You have to do seven things:
Acknowledge pain point.
Encourage immediate attention with a great value offer (39% of users will interact with what they see as a good value.
Maker yourself relevant– Build that know & trust factor.
Capture as little information as possible (Name & email).
Nurture your future clients.
Your email list is your most IMPORTANT ASSET!
Close the sale.
Follow through and up with.
So what’s the takeaway from all of this information? You can’t beat it and you should probably join them because let’s face it FB ain’t going away any time soon.
*This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase their services I will earn a small commission that will in no way affect your pricing.
Most of you probably already know that when you are trying to promote your business you will likely need more than one tool to schedule content. I use a combination of free and paid tools to get my message in front of the right people.
Today, that just got a little easier with Tailwind. If you haven’t heard of Tailwind or think it’s just not for me you should take another look. Tailwind specializes in only two platforms: Instagram & Pinterest which just happen to be my favorite of all of them.
Tailwind saves so much time by allowing you to schedule in bulk. It automatically optimizes your Pinterest and Instagram schedules based on when your audience is most engaged. Saving you both time & money. Not only is it a remarkable scheduling tool it also has some awesome analytics because let’s face it, you also need to know what’s working and what isn’t.
Tailwind for Instagram automatically suggests the best hashtag for your posts! This is so helpful because if you’re on Instagram you know exactly how important hashtags are. If that wasn’t terrific all on its own they’ve recently gone one step further. You can now put those hashtags in the first comment right inside of Tailwind! What?!?
Here’s how it works:
Hop over to your Tailwind account and upload your post, drop in your caption and then type the # symbol to get predictive hashtag suggestions.
Click to choose or add frequently used hashtags from your list.
Check the box to move those comments from your caption to your 1st comment.
Click “add to queue” to automatically schedule your post for the best time.
This is like scheduling on steroids! If you post to Instagram often you know how hard it is to come up with relevant hashtags. Do you find yourself making them up as you go along because you just don’t know what they are? Now, you don’t have to know Tailwind has this info built right in. It simply doesn’t get much better than this!
Pinterest & Instagram are quickly becoming the standout platforms for 2019. Loss of trust in Facebook and frustration at not being put in front of your tribe has people leaving in droves. Where are they going? Instagram & Pinterest!
Schedule like a pro with Tailwind! Want to give it a try? HERE YOU GO!
When it comes to the future of e-commerce, nothing is set in stone. Its hard to believe, what with the rise of online shopping, that many e-commerce businesses are still in the early stages of development and are yet to fully find their feet in such a busy marketplace. Others are adopting eCommerce to the fullest and offering all sorts of benefits such as same day shipping and delivery of subscription boxes to their customers. Here’s a great post The 51 Best Subscription Boxes from ThrifyCrates.com
It is for this reason that many retailers may find the predictions for trends to come in the e-commerce industry pretty futuristic, such as drone delivery or payments made with digital currencies. As a smaller business, if you can’t compete with some of the market giants out there like Amazon, you should instead focus on the things that are more achievable in the short term.
Ecommerce customer service automation is now almost commonplace with online retailers. People are used to heading online and having a chatbot pop up in the corner of the screen asking if you need any assistance.
In general, online retailers will be paying particular attention to the customer service element of their businesses, as currently this is what has been lacking from online shopping. Many people still prefer shopping in brick and mortar stores as they have constant access to a member of staff to help them with their purchasing decisions.
To encourage people to head online, this should also be achievable digitally, without the need for businesses to hire many members of staff to handle queries. Already in 2017, AI has been able to handle 45% of customer questions using live chat, and as this technology continues to develop, this number is set to grow.
Technological developments will also be the cause of more trends, such as the use of cryptocurrencies, most commonly the Bitcoin. Although digital currencies have been around for a while now, it is only more recently that they have started to be considered as a payment method for online stores. It is looking likely that this will become more commonplace in the years to come.
For more information of future trends to look out for, take a look at the infographic below which was created by industry experts.
Launched two years back, in August 2016, Instagram Stories have undoubtedly garnered a lot of attraction. Today, they have more than 300 million daily active users.
However, if you are a new entrant, and haven’t used Instagram Stories yet, here is a deeper insight on how they work:
They work with everything – pictures, videos, GIFs – either from your computer or smartphone camera – Instagram Stories can accommodate them all
They allow you to edit your photos and videos with amazing stickers and funky drawings
You can choose to arrange your photos and videos in the preferred order
You can have a look at the basic analytics of the Story and see the number of views it received, the people who viewed it and so on
Instagram Stories disappear after 24 hours; however, within those 24 hours, your Story is visible on the top of your followers’ feed
All thanks to the amazing features of Instagram Stories, more and more businesses are trying their hands into this segment to engage their audiences.
From showing a sneak peek behind the scenes to the community, to release the teaser of their newly launched products and services, Instagram Stories let the brands experiment and play on the go.
This is perhaps why around 50% of the businesses on Instagram have already tried Instagram Story! Generally, brands post Stories to promote their products, provide an inside look, conduct a live event, get feedback on their products, simply start a conversation or to conduct contests.
That said, Instagram Stories have actually proven to be useful and this is perhaps why even large brands and businesses are eager to experiment with them. From Ticket.com to McDonald’s Malaysia, Michael Kors, Twitter, Maybelline New York, NASA, Airbnb and various other big names are using Instagram Stories to enhance their reach.
Curious on how big brands are using Instagram Stories? Have a look at the infographic below to find out all the relevant details, important data, and hidden insights!
Fall is fast approaching and for me, that always signals, fresh starts and new beginnings more than the New Year ever could. I guess it’s all the time preparing for new school years that it just seems like the time to put your best foot forward and get to work.
You clean up from Summer fun and get ready for folders and binders, shoes & clothes. I still love opening up a new notebook and imagining the stories and ideas among the lines and white space. New stories to tell, old ones to share, and limitless possibilities for the future.
It’s also time to take stock of how you’ve spent the last year and where you want to improve in the coming new year. As you’re doing that, it’s also a terrific time to figure out how you want your website to grow as well. A great way to do this is by checking your stats & making a plan.
You have a few golden nuggets buried deep in the bowels of your WordPress site that haven’t seen the light of day since Elvis was alive. Okay, maybe not THAT long, but you get my meaning. Maybe you wrote them when you first started out or you’ve figured out another way that the information can be presented or maybe you can solve a different problem altogether.
Well, I’m going to show you how to make those golden nuggets shine with the promise of new life! The first thing you’re going to do is go to your plugin tab on your dashboard and hit “Add new” in the search bar type in “Revisionize” make sure that it is compatible with the theme you are currently running and hit install. You’ll be prompted to activate and then you’re set to go!
After you have installed the plugin you want to go to JetPak back on your dashboard. Go to “Site Stats”. Scroll halfway down and to the right, you will see “top posts & pages” click on summaries and then “all time”. This will give you a list of every post that has been published along with the page views for each individual post.
If you don’t have JetPack or even if you do, you probably have Google Analytics. To check your highest ranking posts there you sign in to your GA account (it’s the same credentials as your Gmail account). Scroll down the page until you see: What pages do your users visit? Here you can check your most popular posts.
First, go to your top ten posts and make a note of them. When you’ve done that then scroll to the bottom of the list and see which posts were the least performing. They are the ones that you want to work on first. Go into each post and update any changes that have occurred. Things like:
technology that has changed
a recipe that could be made healthier
an image that is old and dated
tips that could be added to
Once you have the post ready hit updateand then right above the publish button you will now see a button that saysrevisionize. You’re going to want to click on that. Now, you can either publish it or schedule it for a date in the future. It’s like a brand new post now.
The way revisionize works is that it automatically creates a 301 redirect so that anytime someone clicks on an old link it will automatically take them to the new post. So, if say you had a pin on Pinterest for the original post and someone clicks on it, they will end up right on your brand new post!
I love this plugin and it’s made a huge difference in my page views on my older site TDAC. I did this with the 10 posts that have the least page views. I also went to the top ten and made any changes that I could. Freshened them up.
After, I’ve done that I use my social media scheduling tool SENDIBLE and TAILWIND APP to schedule all of my social media posts for three months at a time. I let the scheduling tool pick the best times and WAH-LAH I am done!
* This post contains affiliate links. I will save a small amount off of my monthly CoSchedule fees if you purchase from the link above.