The Lasting Value of Small Improvements

the lasting value of small improvements

Five years. That’s how long it’s been since my inspiring wife Kim started her first Etsy shop. Almost to the day, I think.

She didn’t have any big world-domination plans for that first little shop. She just wanted to line her pockets with a little spending cash before the holiday season which is always on her radar way before it’s on mine. She had recently made a few felt hair clips and successfully sold a couple on eBay so when she discovered Etsy it was an easy decision. Here was a site that seemed designed exactly for what she wanted to do. So she did it.

In the five years since that day, our life has changed dramatically in almost every way. The Etsy shop that was just a little holiday side-project turned out to be the starting line for an entirely new existence for us; the first page of a new chapter in the exciting page-turner book of Kim & Tim (and crew). Who Knew?

So much has happened during the interim that I’m sure we’ll never run out of topics to blog about and I might even have an actual book or two up my sleeve, such is the value of the lessons we’ve learned and the desire we have to share our experience with others on the same path. But this little blog post is only about one tiny part of it all.

The Lasting Value of Small Improvements

One of the more remarkable parts of the past five years is the frequency with which we’ve found ourselves disheartened and frustrated with a lack of progress. Interestingly enough, there have been just as many times when we’ve been beside ourselves with the excitement of what felt like unstoppable forward momentum. I suppose that’s what you might call an emotional roller-coaster ride, and I’ve come to believe that it is a typical and common trait of Internet based entrepreneurship.

I’ve been an entrepreneur my whole life so I can attest to the fact that running a business of any kind has its ups and downs, but an Internet business is the most dramatic of them all. If anyone tells you different, it’s just because they’ve never started an Internet business. The lack of face-to-face interaction is part of the reason. The over-abundance of stories about everyone else who IS making it big is part of the reason. The unpredictable whims of the Web is part of the reason as well.

But there is another reason for the dark depths of the low times… a really big reason.

We don’t place sufficient value on the little things we do each day. Little things are a constant part of selling online and/or blogging.

You know what I’m talking about! These things and so many more happen every day but we frequently fail to recognize how big of an improvement we’ve really made.

These little things are the building blocks of success and every time you knock one of them out you’re that much closer to having the shop/blog/business of your dreams!

If there is one secret to building an online success story it is this: Keep moving and don’t quit!

If there is one secret to not quitting it is to keep a good positive attitude about what you’re doing. And the secret to a good attitude about your work? You guessed it… recognizing the lasting value of small improvements.

So, give yourself the pat on the back you deserve and keep moving!

~ Tim

What to do when blogging and online business hurts

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Selling online involves a surprising amount of interaction with others. Etsy convos, blog posts, emails, forums, tweets, timelines, and pins are all ways we communicate with our customers, friends, and target market online. Sometimes it hurts more than you might expect.

After three plus years of blogging at what certainly couldn’t be called anything less than a “full-time” level, I’m still not 100% used to online interaction.

People are different online.

As an online entrepreneur, you’ve got to have a pretty thick skin. In fact, that’s an understatement. I think you need armor. Alligators, armadillos, rhinoceroses, and porcupines come to mind. I’m talking pretty heavy duty defenses.

Otherwise, you’re going to get hurt.

My defenses aren’t so great so I get bounced around sometimes. So does Kim. What about you? Have you ever felt wounded by a relationship you have online? Either with a single person or with your whole audience?

What’s the best way to deal with it?

You certainly can’t roll up in a ball and hide. If you don’t “put yourself out there” it’s going to be a long road to success online. It’s a pretty long haul as it is, you don’t want to stretch it even further.

No, you have to be out there. You have to do your best to put the real you on the line. You’ve got to run with your ideas, put them in the public eye, pray they do well, and be able to handle it when they don’t. Which is often.

Here’s five ways to deal with the cyber version of a bruised ego or hurt feelings:

  1. Spend some time with real world friends and family. If your family is like ours, they don’t really understand the internet business world, so they usually talk about other things. That can be really good at times!
  2. Back away from blogging or social media for a couple of days or weeks, but come back! (backing away is dangerous. If you don’t set a time limit, it can turn into quitting.)
  3. Remind yourself that people online sometimes forget that you’re a real person, not just a program on the computer. Don’t take it personally.
  4. Remember your vision. Hopefully it’s clear enough that you can concentrate on the big dreams that made you start this whole thing to begin with. Focus on the destination and take another step.
  5. Take a breath . Have a cup of tea (or something stronger). Take a walk outside. One of the biggest challenges of working online is in becoming too wrapped-up in what happens online. There is life out there… go see!

I’m sure you’ve had times that the world of online business has broken through your best defenses. What do you do? What advice do you have for getting back up on that horse?

I’d love to hear in the comments!

Blogging For Etsy Sales — Find Your Focus and Voice

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How focused should my blog be? How do I find my voice?

This is the Etsy Success question we’re considering today. A blog can be a magnificent way to build an audience and maintain long-term contact with your current customers. You can build SEO, build social standing, and improve your overall business (and I dare say life!) with a blog.

So let’s look at two parts of blogging. Focus, and voice.

Focus

The topic of blog focus is an interesting one. The common advice found online says “Focus your blog on your particular niche and stay on task!”, or something along those lines.

While that is true for some people with a large niche, it’s not true for everyone.

It totally depends on the size of your niche market. If you write a blog about interior design, you have a huge market. Almost everyone lives in a building and they have a space they would like to improve. Plenty of potential readers to that blog, and plenty of competition as well.

On the other hand, let’s say you sell “primitive handmade dolls” on Etsy. I don’t know much about prims but I do know that there is a decent size market for these types of products. But does that mean a blog just about primitive dolls is going to be able to establish a large readership? Probably not.

If large readership numbers is the long-term goal for your blog, then you need a larger niche. Maybe a unique spin on the interior design blog that focuses on the “general tastes and commonalities” of people who like to buy primitive dolls.

Just about every micro-niche product has a particular group of people who love those products. The key to winning in blog-building for the seller of those products is creating a blog that appeals to that particular group in a larger way and covers much more than just the product being sold and closely related topics.

By building that type of blog, you can easily and strategically “throw in” a post every once in awhile about a new product of yours. Amazingly, that post about your product is a “perfect fit” for the blog even though the overall blog isn’t about your products specifically.

Info Tid-Bit: Blogs are lots of articles, posts are one article, FYI – to say “I wrote a blog today.”, is incorrect.

Is Big Traffic Critical for Success?

No.

Most online sellers should have a long-term plan that builds toward a high-traffic blog because of the exponential factor of networks and the fact that like building is the new link building. Content that is read by more people will spread more easily and will generally rank higher in search engines due to the social nature of search (now and more so in the future).

However, a small traffic blog that is focused, consistent, and well done will still have a very helpful impact on your business. The readers of a smaller blog are usually already interested in the blogger for one reason or another. They may know you, they may have bought from you in the past, or they may have been referred to you by an existing contact.

This type of traffic converts to sales much better. Learn more about traffic and conversions.

One of the keys to building a great blog is a great blog design, the other is establishing a voice. Which is the second part of the question.

Voice

They were amazed at his teaching, because his message had authority.

Have you ever heard this phrase? It’s from the Bible, Luke 4:32. You don’t have to be a Christian to know that the messages Jesus gave had some pretty impressive sticking power.

Christians read this and often think to ourselves “Well, yeah, I’d say he had some serious authority.” and we pass it by. But did Jesus actually exercise any authority over those people at that time? Not really.

He just taught on something he knew about in great detail. He answered questions. He helped and filled needs when he saw them. His voice carried authority.

The secret to finding your voice as a blogger is four-fold:

  1. You have to know what you’re talking about. If you don’t you can’t establish a voice in that area. If you think you know all there is to know, you’re probably wrong, so never stop learning in the area you want to talk about.
  2. You have to find a need, and then fill it. Your blog should be helpful to the readers. It should teach, inspire, equip, or entertain. The best blogs do all four.
  3. You should try to answer questions. Questions from readers are your friends because what one reader asks out loud, many others are probably thinking.
  4. You should be true to who you really are. I think one of the most common complements I’ve received on my writing is my “easy conversational tone”. I pretty much write exactly the way I talk. (just imagine how exhausting it must be to live with me!) Be yourself in your writing.

Actually, there is one more thing. Persistent Patience. Keep going. Keep writing. No comments, no problem. No readers, no worries. Keep going. Keep writing. You’ll find the voice inside you. If you don’t give up first…

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I hope these points help you build a better blog. A great blog can be so much more than just a selling tool for your business. There is so much more I can say about blogging, so I hope you just keep tuning in every day and taking a quick peek at what I’m talking about to see if it can help you!

Have I put any questions in your mind with this post? I’d love to hear them in the comments. How about any pointers you have on niche blogging or finding your voice?

What are WordPress Themes?

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One of the most important reasons we recommend WordPress as the platform of choice for your website and blog is because someone with no website coding experience at all can make significant changes to the look of the website.

You can change the way the pages are arranged, the way the content on those pages is laid out, and all of the aesthetic features such as fonts, colors, and backgrounds.

The two tools that make those changes possible for beginners are plugins and themes. Today, I’ll touch on the subject of WordPress themes. We’ll save plugins for another day.

WordPress Themes Are Sort of Like Outfits

When I look at a subject like this, aka, a subject that really isn’t all that complex until you try to explain it, I often look for an easier way to visualize what’s happening.

The best visual I’ve found for WordPress themes is to consider WordPress as the core or “body” beneath the clothes. It basically does all the heavy lifting. Without it, the clothes are not very useful, but without the clothes the body looks kind of, well, naked.

The WordPress theme is like an outfit in that it makes WordPress look better, it is an expression of a user’s individual style, and it can provide some nifty conveniences and functionality. Sort of like pockets, zippers, or reversible jackets.

I’m not trying to over-simplify this. It’s really kind of that simple. To go much further would include talking about all sorts of things you don’t really want to know about at the beginner level.

As you get more experienced, you might want to know exactly how the theme works from a coding perspective. You might even want to know how to fully modify a theme to make it an original only to be found at your website, rather than something off-the-rack that you might see someone else wearing happily down the street.

But for know, I hope the analogy of a Theme being the clothes that make WordPress look pretty is helpful.

Free Themes and Premium Themes

Unlike clothes, you can get all the great looking WordPress themes you want totally for free. There are thousands of free, professionally designed, themes that come complete and ready to go.

Here are a few examples of free WordPress themes:

The main disadvantage of free themes is that they usually require some knowledge of WordPress coding to modify and customize and they rarely come with much support, so you’re on your own to figure it out.

See free WordPress themes here.

Premium Themes Are Usually Worth The Cost

There are also premium themes that you have to pay for. I know it’s easy for me to say that something is worth the cost when it’s not my money I’m talking about. What I mean is that the time premium themes save you is often of much greater value than the cost of the theme. Premium themes offer a number of advantages to free themes such as much easier customization, much stronger support and user forums (a huge resource for learning), additional tools and widgets, and regular updates to keep up with latest versions of WordPress.

I would list a bunch of recommended premium themes, but just like with the hosting article the other day, I’ve tried them all and I might as well save you the effort and point you to the current best option.

Genesis Themes from StudioPress

Genesis is a really awesome little bit of software for WordPress. It takes a WordPress blog and adds a set of options and functionality that makes it possible for a total beginner to create very professional looking sites.

Etsypreneur uses Genesis and here are a couple more examples of Genesis in action:

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tiffanyhawk.com

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Altered-Recipes.com

Genesis uses Child themes.

A typical installation of Genesis includes two parts. First, you install the core genesis theme framework, then you install a particular child theme that has the look and functions you like. These work together as one theme and you really never think of it as two.

Unless, of course, you want to totally change the look of your site in which case you can just change the child theme without having to update all your settings.

Here are a few popular Genesis child themes for creative types:

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There are about fifty child themes made by studiopress and hundreds more from outside designers available through various outlets. You can just google “Genesis Child Themes” and you’ll find more than you’ll ever look at.

The combination of Genesis and a Child Theme cost about $80.00 or you can buy the entire collection of child themes for $350. This is a great deal if you think you’ll ever want to consider building sites like this for others because you’re allowed to install the themes on client sites when you purchase that option.

Premium Support

One of the questions I hear most often is “How did you learn this stuff?’

The answer is pretty simple. I saw things on other peoples websites that I wanted, then I tried to figure out what that was called in techno-speak, then I went to the support forums for my premium theme and asked “How do you _____________?”

(actually, I rarely had to ask because someone else already asked the same quesiton and I could just read the answers)

The support forums include code snippets and instructions on exactly where to put them. They teach you how to do everything from A to Z. The genesis support forums are invaluable.

Premium Widgets

One of the most useful elements of Genesis is the selection of custom widgets that come with the theme. These widgets allow you to control custom placement of content from various categories, tags, or social media. They let you create custom page layouts with (relative) ease. i’d go into it more, but it’s really a whole other blog post!

What It Has To Do With Selling On Etsy

A great looking website with a good home/landing page, a good blog, nice integration of your colors, logos, and items from your Etsy shop are all part of building the most professional and creative image possible. Your website is pointed to from all of your social media pages, all of your marketing material, from the blogs of friends both online and off, and from a gazillion other places. The better it looks, the better you look, and the more you’ll ultimately sell on Etsy.

A good WordPress theme is the online equivalent of “dress for success!”

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I hope this information is helpful to you and I’ll answer any questions I can in the comments below.

~Tim

Disclosure: When we purchase a product and find it helpful (such as Genesis) we often look to see if there is an affiliate program. When there is, we sign-up for it because we know we’re going to recommend the service or product anyway, we might as well get a commission. Affiliate commissions is part of how we support Etsypreneur and Everything Etsy, so we appreciate you clicking through our links when you buy these services. It doesn’t cost you a dime extra.

Why Etsy Sellers Should Have Their Own Website

Having your own website is one of the most rewarding and fun parts of building an online business. It provides you with so many opportunities. For example:

  • A chance to create an individual space that is all you!
  • A chance to share your story in depth
  • A chance to tell more about your products and why you love them
  • A place to refer everyone to, without seeming like you’re trying to sell to them
  • A chance to learn something new and create a whole new set of skills
  • A place online that you control completely
  • An opportunity for future growth and expansion
  • A more professional image
  • Improved name and brand recognition

The list of reasons you’ll love having your own website could really continue for hundreds of items.

Fotolia 103588 Subscription L

The real question is “Why wouldn’t you have your own website?”

The only answers I can think of are cost, time, or techno-phobia (fear of the technology).

The cost is very low, the time investment can be spread out over years, and if you’re wanting to work (and make a profit) online, you better get used to technology or do like Kim did and trick someone else into learning it. :-)

You Need Your Own Website!

Your own website, hosted on a paid hosting account (rather than a free account such as blogger.com) offers you a list of advantages so long that I think if I wrote about them all, you wouldn’t finish reading this post till next week.

We set-up our own websites shortly after Kim started selling on Etsy and have learned the whole thing from scratch. It can be a lot to learn, depending on how far you want to go with it. But that’s the point! You can go as far as you want!

You can build a professional blog selling advertising, products, downloads, etc. You might find out, like we did, that the blog becomes as big a part of your business model as your actual store is.

You can extend your own site to have your own selling platform. One day you may become large enough that you would prefer to sell everything from your own site, rather than on Etsy.

You may come up with an idea of a web-based service you can offer your customers via your own site. You might develop an app of some sort.

The point is that when you have your own website, you look more professional now and you open up unlimited options for the future.

No website, or a free hosted website, simply don’t offer that kind of future opportunity.

What About Starting Off With Free Hosting?

Since the cost of having your own domain and website is so low (about $10.00 a month) it’s not worth the effort to build a whole blog at free hosting and then move it later.

There is lots of talk about “how easy” it is to move a site. It’s really not. It’s easy to move content, but not at all easy to move the look of your site, the arrangement of your site, or the content of your sidebars. It’s also not great from an SEO standpoint to move your site.

If you’re looking to build a long-term business online, then there isn’t really an option. I’m not trying to be a know-it-all here. I’m just trying to be someone who has been there and helped lots of others who have been there. Just someone pointing out the easiest and best path to where you want to go.

If you don’t have your own website hosted on a paid hosting account, and you really are serious about building your Etsy business long-term, then you should do exactly what I would do if I was in your shoes right now.

1. I would go to Hostgator.com and sign-up for the Baby Plan.

Again, I’m afraid if I go into all the details behind this advice the post will get crazy long. Here’s the bullet-point version:

  • We’ve tried numerous hosting companies
  • We now run our sites on Hostgator servers
  • Hostgator has awesome customer service – very helpful by phone or email
  • Hostgator has easy upgrades for when you grow
  • Our site uptime is excellent with Hostgator
  • Choose the Baby plan because you might want to add more domains
  • We have about fifty domains
  • When you have an idea, you buy the domain. If the idea sticks, you’re ready to go.
  • If you start a new shop, you buy the domain. If it grows, you’re ready to go.
  • Hostgator has easy month-to-month payment options

2. Once I had the Hosting Account Set-Up, I’d install WordPress.

WordPress is quick and easy to install for the first time. Here is a link to a tutorial Hostgator has put together for doing so on Hostgator servers: How to Install WordPress

3. Then you start learning!

It takes a little bit of effort to learn all of this stuff. Or you can hire people to do it for you. My advice is that if you plan to build your business up over time is to just take your time and learn it yourself.

We make changes every single day on our sites. It would cost a fortune to pay someone to do it all. It takes time to learn, but the knowledge can never be taken away. You’ll always be able to make your own changes and once you learn “how to learn” online, you’ll be able to figure out anything you want to do.

Tomorrow I’ll be talking about WordPress themes which are the framework that helps you give your WordPress site some character and better functionality.

I’m so sorry if this is over-simplified. I’m just offering by best advice without going into pages and pages of detail. I hope you find it helpful.

~ Tim

Disclosure: When we purchase a product and find it helpful (such as Hostgator) we often look to see if there is an affiliate program. When there is, we sign-up for it because we know we’re going to recommend the service or product anyway, we might as well get a commission. Affiliate commissions is part of how we support Etsypreneur and Everything Etsy, so we appreciate you clicking through our links when you buy these services. It doesn’t cost you a dime extra.

Don’t Let Fear of Repetition Sabatoge Your Success

You’re fired up. You’ve carved out some time to sit down and create some really engaging content. You’re going to build that audience. You’re going to increase that follower count.

The social media world is your oyster.

Carpe diem.

Game on!

(insert sound of screeching brakes, maybe a crash as the car hits a brick wall… the wall of writer’s block)

Blank stares at the screen will not help you pay for that trip to the mountains you’re working toward! You know you’ve got to get something out there and it’s not like you don’t have any ideas.

It’s just that every time you think of a great idea to talk about you realize you’ve already talked about that! You don’t want to be repetitive.

Here’s what you need to know about blogging:

Repetition is your friend.

Let’s play a little game. I’ll name a few well known publications. You see if you can think about what they’re talking about.

  • Better Homes & Gardens
  • Coastal Living
  • Cosmo
  • Oprah

You know exactly what they’re talking about! I’d list it, but by the time we get to Cosmo I’d have to put a non-family-friendly rating on the blog, so…

The point is that these publications and the people behind them have made themselves into household names by being repetitive.

Are there really five million ways to redecorate a kitchen?

I know that male/female relationships are pretty complex, but complex enough for 20 plus years of articles that cover completely different ideas?

I don’t think so!

They talk about the same thing. Over, and over, and over again.

And you love them for it! You love them because those ideas and those subjects are what you care about. You know when you read an article called 50 ways to do ________ to _______ in _________, that you probably already get most of it.

But maybe there is one idea in there you can use. And reading about the ones you already know about is fun anyway. It reminds you of what you already thought was important.

It keeps you focused on what you love. What you care about. What makes you tick.

So don’t reinvent the wheel!

Focus your social activity at your favorite channel(s) on a relatively small niche. If you make custom shoes for babies you might have a hard sell building a following to a baby shoes blog.

But a parenting blog? A kids fashion blog? A relationships blog?

Any subject that fits your target market and is large enough that you can reasonably expect to get at least a thousand people a day to your site(s).

And if you don’t like blogs, don’t let that cause you a hang-up. Subsitute whatever…

YouTube, Pinterest, Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter and more are all ways to build a following. Personally I think the smart bet is a blog first and then expand from there to whatever else fits, but you get to decide.

The point is that you need to build a following. In order to do that… be repetitive.

Offer unique angles on your ideas, but stay focused and say them over, and over, and over again.

That’s how you become an expert in your niche.

Repetition is a key to learning.

ImageWe all know this but it’s worth, um, repeating. Giant heaps of study data exist to support the idea that repetition helps us learn.

Duh.

What isn’t quite as well known is the idea of “spaced repetition”. There is an interesting article on Wikipedia about this concept. It even tells you what the optimum spacing is for learning something new.

5 seconds, 25 seconds, 2 minutes, 10 minutes, 1 hour, 5 hours, 1 day, 5 days, 25 days, 4 months, and 2 years.

I don’t know about you, but this kind of strikes a chord with me. It sounds right. You or I should develop an automatic email that delivers a message on this exact timetable.

Exact timetables aside, repetition is key. So next time all you can think of is stuff you’ve already covered, remember this post and cover it again!

Further Reading:

How Your Prospect’s Brain Becomes Your Secret Persuasion Partner at Copyblogger

Spaced Repetition at Wikipedia

(the above links open in a new window, so you can still share your thoughts and experience with repetition in the comments below!)

Let’s talk about it. Do you embrace or avoid repetition? What kind of content would you most like us to repeat frequently here at Etsypreneur?

I’m looking forward to your comments!

- Tim

original photo credit: left-hand on flickr

Checking Your Blog In Multiple Browsers

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Computers can be frustrating.

Have you ever visited a blog only to find it a mess with stuff all over the screen, one thing on top of another, etc., and wonder “why do they leave it like that?”

Chances are, they don’t know!

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve gotten some tweak “just right” only to find out it’s off in another browser.

What’s a Browser?

If you’re wondering, the “browser” is the software you use to view pages on the Internet.

By default, Windows computers use Internet Explorer and Macs use Safari.

But there are two other major players: Google Chrome and Firefox

Each of these four represent a pretty large chunk of people, so it’s worth your time and effort to make sure your website or blog looks good in all four.

Free Downloads

All of the browsers are available for free and you can install them all on your computer no problem. Just be careful not to switch your “default” browser, which you’ll see as an option during installation:

Internet Explorer

Firefox

Google Chrome

Safari

Also Check iPad

If you have access to an iPad you should check it as well. It uses a version of Safari, but things that look right in a desktop Safari sometimes don’t using an iPad.

Usually, it’s all good. But it’s worth it to check if your website or blog might be someone’s first impression.

I’ll do my best with questions in the comments.

Tim

Four Basics of Good Blog Writing

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If you’re new to the world of blogging, this might come as a surprise to you.

The rules of writing structure you were taught in school don’t apply to blogs.

Some people might take exception to such a direct statement. But it’s true.

Four Basics of Good Blog Writing

  1. Paragraphs on blogs are often only one sentence long!
    • This is because of the way people read blogs and online articles as compared to how they read books. (in any format)
    • You “sit down to read” a book.
    • You scan blogs and online news looking for “tid-bits” of information or enjoyment.
    • The ideal paragraph length is between one and four lines on-screen.
    • Long paragraphs often equals lost visitor.  Use at your own risk.
  2. Bold text and Italics are randomly included to accentuate points.
    • Use bold text to highlight a key point in your ultra short paragraph.
    • Bold and italics catch the eye and helps make reading easier and faster.
    • I often alternate between bold and italic to make it look more natural.
  3. Use lots of headings.
    • In traditional writing paragraphs were the way you partitioned off your points.
    • Online, since paragraphs are short, the use of larger one-line “mini-titles” segments off your content. Again making it easier on the reader.
    • Headings can be used to beautify your page by styling them. (different font, different color, full-width lines underneath them, etc.)
  4. No Rules, Just Right!
    • Call it the Outback Steakhouse School of blog writing.
    • You can combine ten words with hyphens.
    • You can put suffixes in parenthesis to look smart(er).
    • You can use [brackets], {curly brackets}, or (real parentheses), interchangeably (much to my personal dismay).
    • Just about whatever else you want to do, you can.

Wait! There are five rules. I almost forgot one.

5. Always… include… a picture.

Oops… six.

6. Use lots of numbered and bullet-point lists. Easy to read quickly.

Ok, now you have all of them.

- Tim & Kim

Like Building is The New Link Building

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Do you care about getting traffic to any page on the Internet? ANY page? It could be your Etsy shop, your blog, your Facebook profile, or your Pinterest boards. Any page.

If so, then this post matters to you.

Link-Building is Dead, Long Live Link Building

“Link building” used to be about getting search traffic. Paradoxically, a link from a low traffic site that would bring very few real visitors could be more valuable than a link that might bring in hundreds of real people directly.

It was all about the way search engine algorithms calculated the “importance” of a page on the Web. Links from “important” pages meant your page was important. Building the SEO “status” of your Etsy shop under those conditions was…a challenge.

But that was yesterday. What matters today?

Links still matter, but for a different reason. Now the reason makes sense to regular folk like you and I. Now, the idea of “link-building” is to simply create lots and lots of pathways that lead to your shop (or blog, or website, or social page).

The idea of link-building is this: bring relevant people to your site.

Note the word “relevant”.

  • If you blog about sewing, a link in an automotive forum is of little value.
  • If you sell jewelry, a link from a gift-related blog post might be on-target.
  • If you want to establish a voice in music, a link from a music related channel on YouTube is relevant. A link from a politics channel isn’t.

Note the word “people”.

It doesn’t matter so much that the linking page is or isn’t relevant. It’s that the people who come through that link aren’t going to like what they find. It’s not their thing.

Why does that matter?

Because Like Building is the New Link Building

In terms of building authority and traffic, likes are about the most important things you can get. After that, comments.

Image

All forms of likes matter:

  • Facebook Likes
  • Facebook Shares
  • Google +1′s (especially good for SEO)
  • Tweets and Retweets
  • Stumbles
  • Linked-In Shares
  • Pinterest Pins
  • Diggs
  • etc., etc., etc.

CImageomments matter:

Comments and legitimate conversation are a clear indication of the real impact of a piece of web-content.

Comments on blogs, entries on forum posts, comments on videos, comments on Pins, comments on Facebook, comments, comments, comments.

They matter.

(But don’t let a lack of them discourage you. They are only part of the equation)

The Growing Relationship of Search and Social

I’ve looked at this subject in-depth and I’ve tried more than once to craft a blog post that covers it all in one shot. It’s really too much for a blog post. I’ll have to hit these ideas one at a time.

Here are a few “bottom-line” takeaways:

  • First, create “likeable” content. This can be beautiful photography in your shop. It can be a great post on your blog. It can be a helpful share in social media.
  • Quality is more important than quantity. Remember, you want likes not just views.
  • Get relevant people to your site.
  • Do that by building lots and lots of links in.
    • Blog comments
    • Forum posts
    • Wiki’s (such as wikipedia)
    • Social Media
    • Photo sharing sites (Flickr, Photobucket)
    • Guest blog posts
    • eBooks
    • Emails (signatures!)
  • Make it easy! – Provide like, share, pin, tweet, stumble, etc. buttons on everything.
  • Ask for it – gently ask for comments, mention sharing, thank people for links to you.

Give A Little, Pay it forward, Good Karma, Golden Rule, etc.

This last point is important and I’m as guilty as anyone. I read tons of blog content and so often I’m in too big of a hurry to leave a comment. Or I’ll read something I want to share and then wonder if I should bother my social circles with it.

When I think about the reality and truth in like building being the new link building and I realize the true value to any online creator of my likes and comments, I realize that not giving them is kind of like not tipping the waiter.

They’re trying to make something happen. They’re giving me something as part of that effort. I can offer a small token of thanks by liking or commenting. In the process I can help them achieve the goal they set out to achieve.

And wait… it helps me too! That blog comment includes a link back to me. Those shares increase my social reach. The relationships I build can be of great value to my goals.

So remember this as you work toward building your online business:

Like building is the new link building. Build likes and help others do the same.

You’ll be glad you did.

-Tim & Kim

Why Self-Hosted WordPress Blogs are Best for Business

Over at EverythingEtsy.com, we recently posted a video showing how to set-up hosting and install WordPress.

Here is that video:


We received a question to the video from an Etsy seller with a Tumblr blog asking why “our way” was better. It’s not really “our way” per se, Kim even has a Tumblr blog herself, but it is better and here’s why.

Why Self-Hosted WordPress Blogs are Best for Business

Anyone (which is almost everyone) who has a Facebook account knows how easy it is for a free service to make changes on you. All of these free services include terms-of-service that pretty much say they can do what they want with the site itself and often give them quite a bit of leeway with your data.

So free services can do what they want, when they want.

From a purely business perspective, this is reason enough. Your business needs an “anchor” online that can’t change without your permission. If you’re going to “do this” it means a really substantial amount of effort on your part. If you hire a designer to make your blog look better, it means money too. (never forget that time is money as well)

(image above from marismith.com post on Facebook Changes)

Pointing Your Brand to Your Online Real Estate

Let’s say, for example that you work hard and build up a following to your blog. This takes many months of effort and you’ll turn around one day and see that you have years into it.

Just like Etsy is doing right now with search ads, all owners of websites are always looking for ways to make money from that property. Their property!

What if they decide they want you to sell your handmade good on their platform rather than on Etsy? What if they ban Etsy items? What if you don’t like the options they offer? Or if they decide to charge a fee for “business use” of the site? If all of your years of established online loyalty is pointed at that location, then you’re kind of stuck.

When you own the domain, and you’re on your own hosting account, you own that real estate. There is no doubt about this. You can turn it on, turn it off, change from WordPress to something else, sell what you want, say what you want, do what you want. It’s your property.

From a business perspective, that’s all the reason you need to have your own domain and your own hosted website. There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. Don’t let the world of free Internet services fool you into thinking their is.

When you’re starting out, it’s hard to imagine the amount of work you’ll put into your site. So you don’t see that as an asset. You have to think ahead and realize that you’re laying the groundwork now to put a valuable asset (the result of all your writing, tweeting, SEO, and relationship building) into the hands of someone else. With no recourse.

The Future of Online Sales is Personal Brands

We are seeing this trend over and over and over. People build a following online and they become a “personality” at a small scale with a group of people. As time goes on and many months pass, the effect of continued effort compounds and that small scale grows.

People who continue to push this over time and do it well, will establish an online brand for themselves, in addition to the brand they build for whatever product they sell.

This personal online brand can be leveraged in innumerable ways. Once you have an audience, you can sell anything that’s truely of value. If you find a product that’s great, you can sell it.

(That’s what we do with affiliate programs such as Bluehost Hosting)

Your life will be better/easier/cheaper/faster for you at that point if you’ve established your own domain. Here are a few things you can do with your own domain on your own hosting that you can’t do with hosted services:

Sub-Domains -

For example, Directory.EverythingEtsy.com, is a sub-domain that we created to offer directory listings to Etsy sellers. It leverages the brand of EverythingEtsy and it couldn’t be done without our own hosting account.

Sub-Directories -

For example, RemodelingGuy.net/Answers is technically a completely seperate blog than RemodelingGuy.net, but (this is really important) it has the SEO pull of the RemodelingGuy.net domain from day one, and when new posts in Answers get some SEO traction, the whole domain benefits.

SEO -

This should be at the top of the list. Every time you write a blog post you’re building some SEO value of that blog. Even if you don’t do a good job of SEO or don’t think about it at all, you’re going to get some search traffic.

If you pay attention to easy SEO steps, you’ll get good search traffic.

That traffic has value and you might want to place ads in very particular places on some of your high-traffic posts down the road. Most bloggers find that they don’t worry as much about the “too many ads” impression on old posts that are getting traffic for particular search terms.

This is a monetization opportunity that you can miss with platforms that limit ads in posts, or your ability to insert certain types of code.

Besides direct monetization, the overall SEO Mojo of your domain has great value for all of your endeavors on that domain, and that value builds over time. The smart move is to own that domain.

Freedom To Change Everything!

Finally, there is the simple fact that you can totally control what apears at your domain.

  • If you get sick of blogging and just want to forward the domain to your Etsy shop, so be it.
  • If WordPress becomes yesterday’s news and you want to switch to a new platform, go for it.
  • If you want to…. whatever, it’s your property.

The bottom line is that if you’re looking at this from a business perspective and you’re going to be at this for the long-haul, then you’re shooting yourself in the foot if you don’t have your own domain.

The price is so low. Bluehost charges like $6.00 per month! It’s just not worth the savings.

If you want to learn more about blogging before taking the plunge, check out our post series on EverythingEtsy.com entitled: B.L.O.G – Blogging Leads to Online Greatness – it’s ten weeks of audio, video, and written posts that cover all the major points of blogging. All for free!

Required Disclosure: We’re affiliates for companies that we use ourselves and recommend highly, such as Bluehost. When you click on our link and then make a purchase, we get a referral fee. That helps pay the bills, so we really appreciate you using these links. – Kim & Tim

The term "Etsy" is a trademark of Etsy, Inc. This site is not affiliated with Etsy, Inc.

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