Podcasting The Surprisingly Effective Content You Can Create For Your Business An Interview With Colin Gray
Podcasting The Surprisingly Effective Content You Can Create For Your Business
An Interview With Colin Gray

There’s one type of content that you should be creating that will deliver better results, sales and conversions than your blog alone. Podcasts. Or that’s what this week’s guest claims. 

Colin Gray started podcasting when he was teaching at Edinburgh Napier University. The series he recorded as a course for lecturers back then formed the first series of his first public podcast many years later.

Now Colin, The Podcast Blog produces four podcasts and has an academy, teaching others how to start, build and grow their podcasts.

I asked Colin to join me on the Blogcentric podcast and share some of his wisdom.

He tells us:

  • How to get started with almost no equipment
  • How to save time creating podcasts
  • What’s so great about podcasting
  • How to get listeners

Listen To The Interview



Highlights

Tell me a bit about the Podcast Host

The Podcast Host is a site I started in 2011 to share what I was learning about podcasting at the time. I’d got into podcasting because I was teaching it at University.  I’m really proud of the resource it’s become. It offers support for everything about equipment right up to monetising, promoting and making your podcast successful.

You have four podcasts. You must spend most of your time writing?

I suppose it’s a hazard of the job, being a podcast teacher. We run our podcasts as seasons which makes life a lot easier.

Right now I’m in the middle of a ‘Podcraft’ season, we just finished up recording the first season of ‘The Numbers Game‘ which is on a break now.

UK Business Start Up‘ is a once a year season because it’s really heavily produced. ‘Mountain Bikes Apart‘ is just something I like talking about.

We do it in an as an efficient way as possible.

Now you’re going to have to share those efficient ways with me

Seasons is the first tip. We save a lot of time by planning out a season at a time.

We’re on season eight of Podcraft and it’s a listener question series. We started by collecting together ten-twelve questions, we put them in a planning document and spend about an hour coming up with outline bullet point answers to those questions. Then we batch record three or four episodes at a time.

I and my co-host Matthew sit down for two or three hours in the first week of the month. We go through the plan, we record for an hour or and that gives us four episodes. We edit them in a batch too which saves time. That process gives us content for an entire month.

We can do four episodes of Podcraft in less than a day, maybe four or five hours in total.

Do you think having a co-host helps the discipline of batching?

Having a co-host does help in a number of ways.

It helps you stay regular. For the mountain biking show I’ve got a co-host who’s based down south (Colin is based in Scotland), he’s racing a lot and out of the country a lot so we have to arrange our recording sessions really far in advance. We have a date in the diary every two weeks to record two episodes.

There have definitely been times when I’ve come into the office and seen that appointment in the diary and I’ve thought, there’s so much to do, if only I could move it, but I can’t. I go ahead with it. Having that person that’s always relying on you and having the schedule ahead of time always helps you stay committed.

I find that for solo shows I tend to plan more, I map out the episode and go into more detail.  When I’m with a co-host it’s just like having a chat. It’s a lot more dynamic.

What should we look for in a co-host?

It’s a commitment. You have to find someone who is in it for the long term, who will be reliable and will show up every week and that you’re going to get on with.

The best podcasts are the ones where the hosts have chemistry.

What was your first podcast?

My first podcast was a precursor to Podcraft.

I ran a course on podcasting for two weeks for lecturers at Napier University. The lecturers would sign up and for a two week (ten day course). Each day they’d get an episode that would tell them something about podcasting, something about how it could be used in teaching and over the duration of the course it would show them how to get their first episode started.

It was ten episodes on its own with that purpose in mind. I ran that course three or four times and I refined it each time. That was what got me into teaching podcasting and that formed the first series of Podcraft.

It was that that got me into podcast seasons. When you think about it a season is just a course. You choose a subject you want to teach, you break it down into episodes and then you deliver it as a sequence of lessons that tie into each other.

If someone wants to start a podcast, what are the basics that they need?

The best thing about podcasting is that it’s so easy to get started, you need virtually nothing.

People always worry about microphones. The great thing is you can get good quality audio from your smartphone.

Pick up your phone and look at the apps. Almost certainly you’ll have a voice recorder app. Open that app up and put the phone up to your ear as if you are making a phone call. Speak into that voice recorder and that will be really good quality audio.

To record a solo episode that’s all you need to do. Pull out your phone, hold it up to your ear and just talk through your script for ten minutes. It’s a great way to start.

What’s the benefit of podcasting?

One of the biggest struggles business owners have is standing out, being found, being discovered. Podcasting is great for that because it showcases your personality. It’s engagement, it’s connection, it helps you connect one-to-one with your listeners and that builds trust.

You’ll get found more because you’ll appear on search engines like iTunes, Stitcher, Tune in Radio. Once they find you they’ll subscribe to your show, they’ll listen to episodes, they’ll get to know your personality.

Listeners will either connect with you or they won’t. If they don’t like you that’s great, your qualifying them, they’re not the kind of people you want to work with anyway. If they do like you because of the personality, the transparency, the honesty, that’s what builds that trust.

The thing that really accelerates that trust is attention. You could argue that YouTube does the same thing. YouTube shows your personality too.

The problem with YouTube is attention. You’re lucky if you get three or four minutes of attention before people switch to something else. With podcasting it’s a side medium, it’s something you do in your wasted time. People listen for hours at a time.

They’re mowing the lawn, driving the car, on the bus. They want entertainment because they are doing a rote task. You get their attention for longer. Get that attention and you get the trust that it can build. Suddenly you have this medium where your audience becoming absolute raving fans. These are the people who will buy what you do and they’ll rave about it to the rest of the world.

Is there any trick to getting your podcast out there and getting more downloads?

Don’t be disappointed with download numbers if they’re not in the tens of thousands. The power of podcasting is that because it is such an engaging medium you get really good conversions.

For example, looking at our numbers. Our website gets around two and a half thousand visitors a day. Podcraft gets around one thousand listeners per episode, so that’s way less than the website.

However when people visit the website they come in, read an article and then jump out again. They’re just there to get something.  A few of those people will be fans of the site and keep coming back.

With a podcast, because of the nature of it, because people are coming back, subscribing, getting episodes week in, week out, they’re getting to know you. They’re not getting that through the website.

We get far more actions and conversions from the one thousand podcast listeners than all the people who visit our website.

Even if you have two or three hundred downloads you could get half of that audience to buy your product because they know and trust you so much.

There’s no secret sauce to growing your listeners. I’ll tell you the same things as everyone else.

  • Be regular, put your show out every single week.
  • Do what you say you are going to do. If you say you are going to do a series of twelve and you’re going to do it weekly then deliver on that.
  • Make good content, make the effort. If you do an interview and you think it sucks, don’t put it out. Have pride in what you are putting out there and know that every single thing you are doing is the best it can be.
  • Do interview swaps. Get on other people’s shows and get them on your shows so you’re swapping audiences.
  • Competitions have worked really well for us in the past. Ask people to leave you an honest review (Don’t say five-star because you can’t incentivise five-star reviews) and pick a winner from the reviews left in the last week and give them a prize. It’s a good way of building an audience because you get the reviews, which pushes you up the rankings. If you share the competition around it gets you a bit of extra hype as well.

What’s the best way to do show notes? A blog post, a transcription or just links and highlights?

I listen to a lot of podcasts but I rarely look at the show notes but it’s still  a good thing to do for your listeners. I know I sometimes go to show notes to look up resources mentioned in an episode.

For me, show notes are about the search. Tt’s putting the content out there in a way that people can find it.

For Podcraft the latest episode we did was answering a question about finding your voice. That is a question people are also typing into Google.

If we had really bare show notes they will never show up in search results because it doesn’t have any weighty content. If I do a transcription (or a blog post) I’m going to be mentioning the keyword ‘how to find your voice’ in the text. Suddenly Google realises what that content is about and delivers it to people in search results.

Getting found and getting people onto your podcast is one of the primary purposes of show notes for me.

The secondary purpose of show notes for your existing customer is that they can revisit stuff several months down the line.

For example, we’ve been revamping a lot of our old content recently and Pat Flynn did an episode about that on Smart Passive Income. It was a long time ago but I’ve referenced his show notes a number of times. I don’t want to go back and listen again but I want to skim through the pertinent points.

I think writing a proper blog post that covers the same topic, gives all the same points, teaches the same thing, that is designed to be read is a more effective way of doing show notes.

What player do you recommend with your site?

  • On The Podcast Host we just use Blubrry PowerPress.
  • The Soundcloud player is pretty sexy even if their podcast hosting isn’t ideal in many ways.
  • Simple Podcast Press is a really nice player with lots of options. It looks good and you can add things like an email capture, social follows and more.

Finally, what microphone are you using right now? You sound great.

  • I’m currently using the Shure SM28
  • Plugged into my Yamaha MG10 mixer
  • Going into our Zoom H5 recorder
  • Recording via Skype on a Mac mini

Find Colin online

Colin is a podcaster, a writer and a speaker, and teaches new media skills at ThePodcastHost.com. He and his team run a network of shows, from Podcraft to Mountain Bikes Apart, and teach how to Podcast inside their Academy‘s courses and live support.  Outside work, you can usually find him on the nearest mountain biking trail, or vainly attempting to wrangle his kids on an ill-fated camping trip.


Challenge

This week’s challenge is to follow Colin’s advice:

Pull out your smartphone, find the voice recorder, hold it up to your ear and record a short solo podcast.

Share your results with me below

 

Improve your blog. Follow my weekly blogging challenges as I try to create a better blog. Subscribe on iTunes or Subscribe on Stitcher

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Podcasting The Surprisingly Effective Content You Can Create For Your Business - An Interview With Colin Gray
Podcasting The Surprisingly Effective Content You Can Create For Your Business – An Interview With Colin Gray

 

 

The Lazy Marketers Guide To Keyword Research
The Lazy Marketers Guide To Keyword Research

How can you get more people to read your blog posts? Almost every day I see that question pop up in a blogging group or on Twitter and it’s a hard one to answer.

It used to be easier. When I started blogging there wasn’t that much competition out there. I lucked out and a few posts ranked on Google driving a huge chunk of traffic to my site. Those posts and a few others still rank well (I may have updated them over time) and as a result, it’s search that drives the most traffic to my site. Facebook, Twitter and other social channels are a long way behind.

Yet I’m lazy about SEO and I know I’m not alone. It’s silly really, a bit of time spent doing simple things like researching keywords could be just what you need to get those blog readers.



Keyword research?

According to Webcertain

“A Keyword is a word or phrase – typically a phrase of two or three words – which has been identified as one which potential customers use when they are searching the internet.”

As you can see from the quote Keywords can be more than one word long. In fact, they are going to have to be more than one word long in today’s age of Content Shock.

In the early days of internet marketing, it may have been possible to rank on page one for the term ‘Cats’ but it’s going to be harder now.

I just searched ‘Cats’ on Google and got 851 million results. It’s going to be hard to rank on page 1 for that search term.

Even if you did you’d need to think about the searchers intent. Were they searching ‘Cats’ because they wanted to avail of your cat-related product or service or were they the internet marketer like me who wanted to see how many results they’d get?

According to MOZ simple terms like ‘Cats’ or in their example ‘Shoes’ account for

“…less than 30% of the searches performed on the web. The remaining 70% lie in what’s called the “long tail” of search”

So we need to be more cunning with our keywords, we need to both anticipate what our audience will be searching for and ensure that there isn’t too much competition for those keywords.

Find the right keywords, optimise your blog posts for them and you will start to see more readers come to your site from search. More importantly, if you get your keywords right you’ll attract the right readers, the people who will become your customers and advocates in the future.

Finding keywords

Now we know why we want to use keywords we need to think about how we can find the right ones for our site.

Keyword Planner

Googles own Keyword Planner used to be the go-to tool for marketers but things have changed. In 2016 Google started withholding information about search volume from us. This is key information. When we are targeting a keyword we need to know how many people are actually searching for it. The number of searches is the search volume. Without knowing that we’re SEOing in the dark.

If you want to see that keyword volume data on Keyword planner you have to run an AdWords campaign. For many of us that will be beyond our budget.

I’ve been using a cool tool as an alternative.

Keywords Everywhere

This is a browser extension that works with Chrome and Firefox. It shows you search volumes for anything you search on Google.

See search volume on each search you make with Keywords Everywhere
See search volume on each search you make with Keywords Everywhere

If you scroll to the bottom of a search results page you’ll get the same data for related searches.

View search volumes for related searches at the bottom of each search results page
View search volumes for related searches at the bottom of each search results page

Even better, it adds a column to Keyword Planner with search volumes.

Restore Google Keyword Planner search volume with Keywords Everywhere
Restore Google Keyword Planner search volume with Keywords Everywhere

It’s almost perfect, you can filter results by region but this is limited. There’s no option to limit searches to Ireland we have to make do with UK results.

Spyfu

Keyword planner and keywords everywhere are useful tools for finding data on keywords but how do we discover those long tail keywords we talked about earlier?

One way is to find out what keywords your competitors are ranking for. If they have a lower DA (domain authority) than you there’s a good chance you could beat them in search results.

DA is a score calculated by MOZ that estimates how likely you are to appear in search rankings. The higher your score the better.

Spyfu can help you identify your competitors and find the keywords they rank for.

Start with your own site, add your URL to Spyfu. The data it gives you is fascinating. It shows you what you rank for, the history of your rankings for that keyword and it gives you a list of competitors.

Spyfu shows you data about the keywords you and your competitors rank for
Spyfu shows you data about the keywords you and your competitors rank for

I found the section on posts that have either dropped off the first page or that are almost ranking on search engines the most interesting. It’s worth making a list of these to add to your update schedule. Just a little bit of work could push them up onto page 1.

Spyfu gives you a list of competitors but you should also add your own to the list. Because I rank well for posts relating to Facebook competitions Spyfu gave me competitors who also ranked well for those terms. I am also interested in ranking for blog-related topics. To do this I’ll need to find competitors in this field too.

Once you have the list you can investigate each one using Spyfu. You’ll see exactly the same data for them as you did for your own site.

Jot down a list of keywords from these competitors that you can target.

Kparser

This is a magic tool, enter a single keyword and it will suggest a tonne of keyword suggestions. You’ll have to upgrade to get search volumes or other data but it’s reasonably inexpensive. If you are on a budget you could buy a months worth of access and max out on keyword research.

Even without the search volumes you’ll find longer tail keywords here that you won’t find elsewhere.

What should you do with the keywords?

If you play with these three tools long enough you’ll find yourself with a long list of keywords. At the very least you should have found inspiration for a few blog posts. But if you want a chance of ranking you’re going to have to build your post around the keywords.

The first thing to note is that you can create a group of keywords to target within one post. You may be targeting one core keyword but you can add related search terms.

I did a search for ‘Cats’ on Kparser and identified a number of keywords related to meowing that could be combined into an interesting post. If you want to rank for ‘Cat meowing’ using these related keywords will help and you’ll also get the benefit of ranking for the longer tail keywords too.

These are the keywords I identified on just page one of the search results:

  • Cats meowing at each other
  • Cats meowing for food
  • Cats meowing angry
  • Cats meowing talking
Kparser gives you lots or related and long tail keywords
Kparser gives you lots or related and long tail keywords

The perfect post to encompass these keywords would be ‘What does my cat’s meowing mean?’

When you write the post ensure you use each of those terms in the post and if you are a WordPress user the Yoast plugin will help you ensure you are using your core keyword ‘cat meowing’ enough.

If you have a cat related blog, go write it, tell me if you see any results.

How long does it take to rank for keywords?

According to a study from ahrefs, it can take between 61 to 182 days to rank but only 5.7% of new pages will rank within the first year. So SEO and keyword research isn’t a quick fix, it’s something that will mature over time.

The lazy marketer

I am the lazy marketer.

I know I avoid keywords, sometimes because I’m lazy and at other times because the post I want to write, that I know my audience will want to read isn’t SEO friendly.

The second reason is valid, but it’s also an excuse. It’s easy to abandon keyword research completely. I do need to be spending more time working on my SEO and more specifically my keywords.

Are you the same? Let’s commit to a less lazy approach in the future.

Challenge

Are you up for a challenge? Here’s how to put the info above into action.

  • Use the three free tools above to identify keywords that you could rank on search engines for.
  • Find related terms for those keywords
  • Construct a blog post based on those keywords.
  • Wait!

Let me know how you get on.

 

Improve your blog. Follow my weekly blogging challenges as I try to create a better blog. Subscribe on iTunes or Subscribe on Stitcher

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The Lazy Marketers Guide To Keyword Research
The Lazy Marketers Guide To Keyword Research
Unlocking The Mysteries Of PR With Janet Murray
Unlocking The Mysteries Of PR With Janet Murray

What is PR? How can we use our blogs and social media to get us PR? How do you pitch ideas to journalists?

PR is one of those terms that can seem mysterious and weird to those of us who are used to marketing our businesses online. It seems big, alien and intimidating. The idea of talking to journalists is often a scary one.

Janet Murray is a PR expert who simplifies the whole thing. I’ve been reading her book ‘Your Press Release Is Breaking My Heart’ and it’s wonderful. I feel like I know exactly what I should be doing now.

And because Janet makes it sound so easy I asked her to join me on the podcast and share some of her pearls of wisdom. I learned loads and I’m sure you will too.

Listen to the full Interview with PR expert Janet Murray:



Highlights

Janet is a PR expert who’s never worked in PR. Her background is in journalism she’s been writing for national newspapers for the last 16 years. She’s also made lots of appearances on radio and TV.

Early in her career, she noticed that she was getting terrible pitches and press releases from people. Some of these were being sent by PR agencies. Small business owners were paying PR companies to send them.

Janet decided she could help. She started running masterclasses. She’d get people from PR companies and large organisations to come along and teach them how to pitch to journalists.

These masterclasses turned into bigger conferences. She was also doing consultancy work. That’s when she started her blog, answering the questions her customers had, in the hope of getting more consultancy contracts.

She found she liked the content marketing and helping small business owners so she pivoted her business to work more with them.

Her job is to help small businesses owners to tell their stories in the media.

There’s a membership community
A book (affiliate link)
A podcast
A blog

Is it better to do PR yourself than hire a PR agency?

There’s a lot of value in doing it yourself to start with. As a small business owner, the first step is to get your head around what PR actually means.

When you do it yourself to start off with, you understand what’s involved. Who you want to get in front of and why. This helps you make a more qualified decision about outsourcing.

The other thing is many journalists don’t like doing business with PR companies. They’d much rather be talking to you.

What is PR?

The first thing I noticed when I started working with small business owners was that they were trying to get into the national newspapers but they weren’t actually creating regular content on their own sites. They weren’t blogging, they weren’t using email marketing. This meant that the impact of any press they got was minimised.

That’s why I say that PR is anything you are doing to promote your business to generate leads and sales.

That’s generally four things:

  1. Creating content on your website
  2. Email marketing
  3. Social media
  4. Press

The bit I specialise in is dealing with journalists.

How can I take a really interesting piece of content I have and pitch it to a journalist?

The first thing to say it not to start with the content you are already creating.

Start with the publications you want to get featured in. Don’t start with the story that you want to tell. The story that most business owners want to tell is ‘My business is amazing’. The bottom line is that journalists just aren’t interested in that kind of thing.

Each editor for a publication will have an audience and a fixed idea of the type of content they want to run for that audience.

Ask yourself what you want to get out of the press coverage you get. It will usually come back to more sales. Then you need to ask, who do I need to get in front of to make this happen? What do these people read, watch and listen to? It’s these publications you should be aiming for.

“It’s all very well to show your mum you are featured in Marie Claire but it might not have any impact on your business”

In the beginning there are some simple things you can do to get press coverage that don’t involve pitching to journalists.

1. Follow the #journorequests hashtag of Twitter

This is journalists looking for help with stories.

Sometimes with these you need to think creatively. It may be hard to relate it directly to your business but think of it like a relationship you are building with a journalist. If you help them out with this story when you do have a story to share you’ve kicked the door open.

2. Sign up to media inquiry services

These send you emails with requests from journalists looking for help with stories.

Here are a few:

ResponseSource

Gorkana

Journolink

Acemedia

Pressloft

Do you have to be a journalist to put a request out on those channels or can you do it as a blogger?

Yes, you can use them as a blogger. Sometimes the people who subscribe to them complain a bit that they get too many requests from bloggers. If you are doing that you need to show the values of your blog, so share any stats you’ve got about how many people visit your website etc.

How would you define an awful pitch?

It seems like an obvious thing but most people don’t’ read the publication that they’re pitching to. And I don’t just mean read.

I get my clients to do a ‘flat plan’. I get them to dissect the publication and write down what they see on every single page. When you do that you start to see patterns. You start to see things like ‘they have an interview with a business owner every Friday on the back page’. You’ll start to see opportunities.

The second thing is the email subject header. That is really important. I did a couple of weeks cover at the Guardian recently and I just got so many emails. I couldn’t open them all. So you look at the subject line and make a decision about whether you want to open it.

A common mistake I see is people trying to be mysterious. Label up your email so start it with ‘Story idea’ or ‘Pitch’ and then be very clear about what is in the email.

For example, if you were having a surfing fashion event you may be tempted to write a clever headline like ‘local business surfing the wave of fashion’ a busy journalist would have no idea what you were talking about.

Instead be clear so something like ‘local shop has surfing fashion show’ would work better.

Get your story into the first line of the email. Lots of people will start with three of four paragraphs about themselves. Remember the journalist isn’t interested in you, they’re interested in the story and if it’s right for their audience.

Don’t bother with a press release unless you have an amazing story that you think all the press will be interested in. A short email is absolutely fine.

What makes a good story?

I recommend to people that they put their story to the Facebook test. Try sharing your stories on your personal Facebook page first, what sort of reaction does it get? This can be the sign of whether a story idea is good or not.

Sometimes it’s the interest stories, the stories around the edge of your business that will spark the best reactions and the best stories.

Here’s Janet’s article about wearing the same clothes every day that sparked conversation in my Facebook group.

I’ve got a handout that I get my clients to work through. It’s a Venn diagram. In the middle, it’s got your business and round the edge of it, it’s got all kinds of things that intersect with your business, things like relationships, family, friends, work.

I’ve had coverage about the ‘she shed’ that I work from in the back of my garden, about miscarriage. Look for the stories that you might chat to your friends about. I appreciate that can be a bit uncomfortable that’s why I suggest starting with the small stuff, building relationships with journalists and then move on to this stuff.

Do you have a system for drawing the line about how personal you get and how much you reveal?

It all depends on what is comfortable for you. With the miscarriage stuff, I’ve done a few pieces. I feel like in sharing that content I’m helping other people.

If you are just doing it for the press that’s when you are going to make mistakes. If you’re helping other people you are doing OK. If you do get any flack you can normally handle it.

Is there something that we should be doing to make our blogs and our websites more PR friendly?

It’s less about your website and more about Twitter and your social media profiles. Journalists are actively looking on Twitter for people like you and me to talk to and they’re looking for experts.

Taking Boris as an example. Boris who owns an interior design shop selling couches, chairs, rugs etc.

If there is a story doing the rounds about say Princess Kate spending a lot on interior design. Everyone is talking about interior design all of a sudden. Journalists will be active on Twitter looking for people to talk to for that story.

Have your Twitter profile optimised so it’s very clear what you do. Make sure you’re regularly sharing content on that topic so there’s no question that you are an expert and also having a phone number on there so they can get hold of you at any hour of the day or night.

If the journalist or researcher is wanting to book someone for radio or TV then ideally they want to see a bit of film of you talking to check you’re alright.

I see a lot of small business owners wasting a lot of time and money on press packs. All you need is a Dropbox with some high-res images in and a couple of biographies.

Find Janet online:

Website: janetmurray.co.uk

Twitter: @jan_murray

Instagram: @janmurrayuk

Facebook group: Soulful PR Facebook Community

 

Improve your blog. Follow my weekly blogging challenges as I try to create a better blog. Subscribe on iTunes or Subscribe on Stitcher

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Unlocking The Mysteries Of PR With Janet Murray
Unlocking The Mysteries Of PR With Janet Murray
Getting Your Geek On About Measurement Will Inspire You To Blog Better
Getting Your Geek On About Measurement Will Inspire You To Blog Better

Creating content takes time. Sometimes it takes a lot of time. How do you know that time isn’t wasted? You gotta measure.

Today we’re going to talk about blog measurement. Measurement has been a journey for me. When I first started blogging all I looked at were the numbers. How many people visited my site, what posts did they look at?

As a marketing beginner this is common and in some ways seeing my stats rise from week to week kept me going. It wasn’t long before I wanted to know more.

When I launched Spiderworking I went all in with Google Analytics. It’s a vast tool and there are parts of it I still don’t understand fully but it’s helped me learn about my audience and if I’m hitting the mark with my content.

Listen below to find out how to measure blogging success



Blog measurement and the ‘Circle Of Trust’

I’m going to talk you through the metrics you need to measure for your blog at each stage of the ‘Circle Of Trust.

If you missed my previous post on ‘The Circle Of Trust’ you may wonder what I’m talking about. It’s the basis of a content plan that ensures you are nurturing your audience at each stage of the customer journey.

The five stages of the ‘Circle of Trust’ are:

Tune In
Relate
Uptake
Sell
Tell Others

Build a content plan based on The Circle Of T.R.U.S.T
Build a content plan based on The Circle Of T.R.U.S.T

For each stage of the circle there are different metrics you can measure to know if you are being successful.

Tune In

Tune in content brings new people to your business. You’re creating posts that will attract them. It doesn’t have to be content strictly related to your business. We’re creating targeted content that will appeal to your ideal audience.

It’s about audience building

But it’s not just the size of the audience, it’s the relevance of that audience. Do they fit into your target market?

Metrics to measure include:

  • Relevant people reached
  • Audience growth

You also need to note:

  • Top posts for reach

Using Google Analytics you can see who is visiting your site. It’s always a relief for me to discover that most people come to my blog from the US, UK and Ireland. That’s my target audience.

To find this information click the ‘Audience’ tab on your Analytics dashboard. Here you will find data about your site visitors.

  • Where do they live?
  • How old are they?
  • Are they male or female?
  • What are they interested in?
  • What browser do they use when visiting your site?
  • What mobile devices do they use?
Find out more about your readers in the Google Analytics dashboard
Find out more about your readers in the Google Analytics dashboard

This is fascinating data and you can get lost in time combing through it.

For more information you can add a ‘secondary dimension’ to your report. This breaks down the visitor information further.

Click the ‘secondary dimension’ menu at the top of the report page and select a category to add.

Adding a secondary dimension to your data
Adding a secondary dimension to your data

For example. I looked at my users per location and then added a secondary dimension for ‘In market segment’ which tells me a little bit more about the types of products these people are likely to buy.

I can see that a lot of visitors come from the UK and are interested in hotels and travel. I have a similar audience in Ireland.

Top posts for reach

If we want to attract new people to our blog it’s important that our content is getting shared.

BuzzSumo is a fabulous tool for defining the content on your site with the most shares.

Just go to the site. Sign up for a free account and plugin your website address. It finds the posts with the most overall shares.

Use BuzzSumo to find your top shared content
Use BuzzSumo to find your top shared content

Now you have identified your top Tune In content analyse it. Is it the right sort of content to attract new people to your site/ Is there content similar to it that you could create?

Relate

Tune in content doesn’t have to be about your business, it can be about topics that interest your audience. Relate content is more specifically about you and your industry. It’s not sales content but it’s content that educates your audience a little more.

Metrics include:

  • Relevant audience growth
  • Relevant engagement growth

You’ll also want to note

  • Top posts for engagement

Just like in the Tune In phase, we need to keep an eye on our audience. Particularly the people who visit our ‘Relate’ posts.

For many years I had a popular post that ranked well on Google, it was a Relate style post answering a common issue my clients had. Unfortunately, the info was soon out of date. Although it got massive traction most of the traffic came from people outside my target market.

Look closely at your posts that fall into the Relate category. Are they attracting a good chunk of your target market? If not, can you edit and rewrite those posts so they have more appeal?

If they do work you should reshare them regularly knowing they’ll start to nurture your audience. As well as sharing them on social media look at the places where you have an existing audience. Your Facebook group, your email list. Could you add them to an email nurture sequence?

Relevant engagement growth

It’s all very well people visiting your blog but are people engaging as a result? Engagement means someone is paying attention. An engagement could be a like or comment on social media, a comment on your blog, someone phoning or emailing you as a result of reading, it’s always lovely when this happens.

Facebook Insights

Facebook is particularly good and giving you information about your engagement.

In Insights you can see demographic information about the people who engage with your posts. You’ll find this in the ‘People’ tab under ‘Engaged’.

Find out more about your engaged audience in Google Analytics
Find out more about your engaged audience in Google Analytics

You can also download a CSV of your Facebook insights at post level.

Download Facebook Insights to filter your data
Download Facebook Insights to filter your data

I like to highlight my own blog post shares from the spreadsheet so I can focus on the engagement on just these posts.

Highlight your own blog posts in the report so you can analyse them
Highlight your own blog posts in the report so you can analyse them

Using this information you can discover which posts get the most traction on Facebook and try and work out why. Is it the image? The headline? The text you wrote to accompany the post?

Tracking social visitors in Google Analytics

When people click your links on social media what do they do? Are they valuable readers? To find out access the ‘Social’ tab on your Analytics dashboard, under ‘Aquisition’.

Now select ‘Network referrals’ to see the traffic you are getting from each network

Add a secondary dimension relating to your users and you’ll have some idea of how many of these are relevant

Which social networks are driving the most relevant traffic?
Which social networks are driving the most relevant traffic?

Uptake

This is one of the easier sections to measure. Uptake is when someone makes a small commitment to you. They might download a freebie (like my blog post checklist), sign up to your mailing list, make an enquiry through your site.

Metrics include:

  • Email subscribers
  • Enquiry forms filled
  • Traffic to key website pages
  • eBook/lead incentive downloads

Also note:

  • Top posts for driving traffic to your sign up forms.

The easiest way to measure these activities via Google Analytics is to set up a goal.

To set up a goal you will need a unique thank you page for each goal.

For example, if you have a downloadable freebie you should set up a thank you page that people are sent to once they’ve requested the download.

Grab the link to this thank you page, you’ll need that to set up the goal.

Now in Google Analytics click the ‘Admin’ wheel at the bottom left-hand side of the page.

Select goals and create a new goal

Set up goals in Google Analytics
Set up goals in Google Analytics

It’s when you get to ‘Goal details’ that you add your thank you page link as the ‘Destination’. You can also add other pages in the step towards reaching the goal.

For example, I want people to reach the landing page for my download before they go to the thank you page. This creates a funnel within Google Analytics.

Set up a goal for each type of enquiry form, download or email subscribe you have. You’ll then be able to view these goals within Google Analytics. There will be goal results columns at the end of each page you access.

You can also get more info on your goals in the ‘Conversions’ menu. This shows completed goals and tracks the path visitors took to reach them.

I really like the funnel visualisation view. if you set up multiple steps in your goal creation it will show you how many followed that path.

This is great for measuring the success of Uptake posts. If you wrote about your lead incentive or offered it as a content upgrade you will see how many people downloaded as a result of that post.

In the example below you can see that in the past day 1 person signed up for the download, one left without signing up and one arrived at the thank you page direct (that means they filled in the form on my pop up).

View the funnel view of your goal
View the funnel view of your goal

This is great for measuring the success of Uptake posts. If you wrote about your lead incentive or offered it as a content upgrade you will see how many people downloaded as a result of that post.

 

It’s handy to see how people arrived at your thank you page so you can see which methods are working best and which content is driving readers to subscribe.

Sell

This is the stage where people actually buy from you, you need to make content here as helpful to someone who is about to click the buy button as possible.

Metrics to measure:

  • Number of sales
  • Revenue per sale

Also note:

  • Top posts for driving sales

Just like the Uptake stage, this can be measured by setting goals in Google Analytics. You can assign a monetary amount to each goal so you can easily analyse the return on investment.

If you are an eCommerce business you can integrate your commerce platform with analytics for reporting.

It’s also a good idea to create tracking codes when you share to social media. This will help you identify which posts and ads on which social channels are delivering the most revenue. (This is also useful for the Uptake phase).

Tracking code is a little bit of text that you add to the end of your links when you share them that makes them unique. So you can have multiple versions of the same link pointing to the same page. Each one can be identified in Google Analytics by the code at the end of it.

If you search for URL Builder you’ll find tracking code generators. I use the ‘Google Analytics URL Builder’ plugin for Chrome which streamlines the process.

I’m not going to go into too much detail here as I’ve written about it before.

When you add tracking to your links you will reveal more data. Instead of just seeing a mass of traffic from Facebook, you’ll be able to identify which links you shared on what pages, groups or ads are driving that Facebook traffic.

You’ll find information from your tracking links in the Campaigns section of your Google Analytics dashboard.

Campaigns in Google analytics and how it links to goals
Campaigns in Google analytics and how it links to goals

Tell others

This is the phase where you encourage customers and the advocates you’ve grown to share your content. The type of content that fits here is case studies, user generated content, reviews.

Metrics include:

  • Shares of key blog posts
  • Reviews

Once again you can use BuzzSumo to find your shared content. You can also track the shares of your key ‘Tell Others’ content manually using your sharing widget.

Make a note of the Tell All content that is performing the best and look at how you can replicate it.

Your Challenge

Now you understand the metrics you need to measure you need to create a measurement plan.

I have a geeky spreadsheet that I complete once a week, on a Tuesday, first thing. This helps me measure trends in my metrics and improve what I’m creating as a result.

It’s important that you set yourself a date for regular measurement. This should be at least once a month but I’d advise you do it more frequently.

I use Excel spreadsheets for this but you could use an alternative. Google sheets may be a better option if you are working as part of a team.

Add each metric you want to measure as a column heading and don’t forget to add the date that you collect the data.

Measuring your blog content this way is motivating. You can identify what’s working and what’s not and you’ll find yourself writing with the end result in mind. My blog has come on leaps and bounds since I started my measurement plan and it always gives me food for thought.

 

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Getting Your Geek On About Measurement Will Inspire You To Blog Better
Getting Your Geek On About Measurement Will Inspire You To Blog Better
6 Things I Learned About Blogging From Ann Handley
6 Things I Learned About Blogging From Ann Handley

This time last year I didn’t know who Ann Handley was.

Really!

What do you mean you don’t either?

In fairness, my friends may have been mentioning her name for a while but it took time to sink in.

I met her at Social Media Marketing World, I bought her book and now I’m a fan.

6 Things I learned from Ann Handley



As a blogger I’m always looking to hone my writing skills and that’s exactly what Ann has helped me with, both through her book and through her conference presentation.

I thought this podcast would be a good way to share some of her wisdom with you. So here goes:

1. Come up with 5 ideas a day

I jotted this down on my things to do list at Social Media Marketing World but even as I did I knew it would be a tough one.

Have I done it? I’m not there yet, but I will get there. I’ve had an ideas diary since I interviewed Eamonn O’Brien back in episode 3. All I needed to do was jack up my idea productivity.

Luckily, I don’t have to pull those ideas from anywhere. Ann recommends lots of places to look.

My current favourite is to search Google for a specific search term followed by the word ‘research’ or ‘study’. It only takes a minute or so and you’ll get a bundle of ideas.

See below for the search results for ‘small business marketing study’.

Search for a phrase including the word 'Study' or 'Research'
Search for a phrase including the word ‘Study’ or ‘Research’

It’s also important to give yourself some blank space. With so many distractions it’s hard to find a few spare minutes but find them and you’ll be surprised what will happen.

Where do you gather those ideas?

You may have noticed I’m a bit of a Mark Schaefer fan, but I found myself cringing reading one of his posts recently. It turns out that his process for collating ideas is to start a new draft post in WordPress, for every idea.

Oh my, the idea of it, all that clutter on my blog!

This just goes to show that different methods work for different people. The WordPress system works for Mark, I prefer tools like Evernote and most recently Trello.

What really matters is that you have a single space to collect your ideas. If you do and if you expand on the idea as much as you can when you have it you’ll never be short of blog content.

2. Write The Ugly Frist draft

I’m a re-drafter. I’ve re-written and redesigned this post over and over again and I’m only on point two. I’m trying, really trying to get into the Ugly Frist Draft but it’s harder than I thought.

Ann’s Ugly First Draft means throwing your words onto the page, don’t correct spelling errors, don’t redraft as you write. Just get it out of your system. The editing will come later. (See point 5).

3. Keep asking ‘So What’

The first idea you have about something is the same first idea everyone will have about it. You’re going to need to try harder if you want to get your message out.

Ann’s advice is to keep asking “So What”

Below is a passage from her book ‘Everybody Writes’ outlining the process of how you get from the features of your product to the benefits.

The 'So What' method
The ‘So What’ method

This is one piece of advice I’ve managed to put into action already. I’ve been putting my clients through their paces asking them… “So what”

4. Don’t get all fancy with your words

George Orwell wanted his books to be accessible to everyone. So he used simple language. He used simple words but when you read them you don’t feel like he’s talking down to you, his words just make the text and the ideas easier to grasp.

Ann advocates for the same. There are lots of tools that will give you a reading level score. Hemingway is one I use frequently. But one that Ann mentioned in her Social Media Marketing World talk was Upgoer Five.

It challenges you to write using only the ten hundred most used words in the English language. (Note it says ten hundred not a thousand – thousand isn’t one of the allowed words).

I cut and pasted my first draft of this post into it. Let’s just say I’ve got some work to do.

Upgoer five challenges you to write using just the 10 hundred most popular words in the English language
Upgoer five challenges you to write using just the 10 hundred most popular words in the English language

5. Edit

I’ve been a premature publisher too many times. You really should give yourself time between your draft and your editing.

Even an hour away from your words will help.

Ann recommends three edits:

  1. Chainsaw – This is the first pass. Ask yourself if each paragraph deserves to be there.
  2. Surgical – You’ve sliced paragraphs out of your text. The next job is to get more intricate. Study each word, each sentence. Do they all belong, do they need to be there? If not cut them away.
  3. Voice – Does it fit your brand voice? Does it sound like it’s unmistakably you?

According to Ann’s SMMW speech, your voice should be:

Recognisable, communicate who you are, why you do what you do and what you are like to deal with.

6. ‘Scuse me while I kiss this guy’

Nothing to do with blogging but… am I the only one who didn’t know that the real lyrics to Purple Haze were ‘Scuse me while I kiss the sky’?

Your Challenge

Don’t take my word for it. I highly recommend you pick up a copy of Ann’s book ‘Everybody Writes’ (affiliate link). You’ll find far more than six amazing tips there.

 

Improve your blog. Follow my weekly blogging challenges as I try to create a better blog. Subscribe on iTunes or Subscribe on Stitcher

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6 Things I've learned from Ann Handley
6 Things I’ve learned from Ann Handley
Transform Your Readers Into Enthusiastic Customers Using The Circle Of Trust Content Plan
Transform Your Readers Into Enthusiastic Customers Using The Circle Of Trust Content Plan

Do your readers trust you? Do they trust you enough to buy from you? How can you build and nurture that trust? The ‘Circle of Trust Content Plan’ is designed specifically to help you do just that.

When I started my first business I made the mistake many new business owners made. I launched my business and expected people to buy from me. Immediately.

I did get a couple of sales early on, from supportive friends, but it was going to take a whole lot more work to get the business ticking over.

I needed to sell to people beyond my circle of friends if I was going to be successful.

My blog was an early addition to my marketing armoury but even then I didn’t get it right straight away. I plugged away at creating content but I wasn’t always creating the right content for the right people. The content that would attract them, nurture them and convince them to buy.

I was blogging without a real purpose, without a plan, I wasn’t thinking about how I could use my content to build trust.

Sound familiar?

Our friends buy from us because they know us and trust us to deliver. We need to replicate that in our blog audience.

That’s where the Circle of Trust Content Plan comes in

The ‘Circle Of Trust Content Plan’ will help you build trust with your readers. We’re going to look at each stage of the circle and the type of content you can create.

Listen below to find out more



I look at a lot of business blogs and there are two big mistakes that I encounter time and time again.

  1. Businesses talk about themselves and promote too much, so much so that readers aren’t interested in visiting their site.
  2. They only offer soft content, it attracts readers but they don’t become leads or customers. They don’t learn about your business.

If we’re going to be successful we need to balance content that attracts new readers and encourages them to buy.

To do this we need to build a content plan based on trust. I call it ‘The Circle Of Trust Content Plan’.

The circle of trust consists of five phases that our customers pass through:

Tune in
Relate
Uptake
Sell
Tell others

Build a content plan based on The Circle Of T.R.U.S.T
Build a content plan based on The Circle Of T.R.U.S.T

Each phase requires content.

Tune In

Get your ideal audience to 'Tune In'
Get your ideal audience to ‘Tune In’

This is all about attracting new people to your business. Your goal is to reach as many people within your target market as possible.

There are a few ways you can approach this.

1. Write about broader topics

If you’ve created a customer persona you’ll have a good idea of the things that your ideal customer is interested in. They may not be directly related to your business but if they share a common interest you can tap into that with your ‘Tune in’ content.

For example a local bar might write about local news, feature local celebrity interviews or talk about remote working.

They will attract a local audience and an audience of people that need to find somewhere to work whilst they are in town.

Read more on creating customer personas here.

2. Go all in on SEO

Search for keywords not just related to your business but the topics you know your customer is interested in. Identify the top topics and write thorough posts about them. You’ll find lots of keyword tips in my interview with Ray from FreshBananas.

3. Approach guest bloggers

Asking people to write guest posts for you will expand your audience beyond your usual bubble. Guest bloggers will add knowledge to your site and share your content with their own audiences.

Read more about creating a guest post strategy here.

4. Newsjacking

What’s hot in the news at the moment? What are the top topics being discussed in your industry? Can you find an angle and write about it?

It doesn’t always have to be a news story. Our local bar could create a cocktail for the finale of the current series of Dr. Who called ‘The Sonic Screwdriver’ (if they knew this would interest potential customers). Then share the recipe and a short video on the blog showing readers how they came up with the idea and how to make it.

5. Shareable content

It’s not easy to come up with shareable content. There’s an art to it. Writing an expert round-up post or an ‘ultimate guide’ can help if you pick the right topic.

Roundup posts work well. If you pick the right contributors they’ll share your post giving you a reach way beyond your regular audience.

My roundup post for International Women’s day featured the morning routines of 17 successful women and is still one of the top shared posts of 2017 on my blog.

Find out more about writing expert roundup posts here.

Relate

Get your readers to relate to you
Get your readers to relate to you

Now people have discovered you and tuned in, the next stage of building trust is getting them to relate to you. Your Tune in content was all about attracting an audience based on their interests.

Your relate content is more specifically about your business and industry. It’s still not sales content but it has more relevance to you.

Here are some content types that you can use in your relate content.

1. Tutorials

Share processes and step by step guides to help your customers with the specific problems they have. Our local bar could share tips on organising a work night out, how to pair beer with food or the official rules of darts (or other bar games they have).

2. People

People are the heart of your business and it’s people that make your audience trust you.

When someone walks into your premises, gives you a call, drops you an email or starts a messenger chat they’ll feel more comfortable if they’ve seen your face.

Can you feature interviews with staff or encourage them to write posts/record vlogs and podcasts for you?

You should also use your own stories to help the audience relate to you. I started this post with a story about my first business did it help you relate to me?

3. Reviews

This works particularly well if you have a commerce business. What products do you stock? Can you review them or will you ask others to do it for you? Honest reviews that talk about the good and bad will help you build trust with your customers.

Mick’s Garage do this particularly well.

If you don’t have a commerce business look at products that are related to your business and industry that you could review. Maybe there’s a new book out that your customers will be interested in. Is there a TV show on relating to what you do?

4. Industry news

What’s happening right now in your industry? Can you write a weekly or monthly update about the things your customers really need to know and how it relates to them? Are there specific topics that you want to cover in more detail?

Sometimes this won’t be breaking news, it could be seasonal. For example, every Christmas my posts about Facebook competitions get a boost. I reshare them every year.

Uptake

Get readers to uptake a freebie offer
Get readers to uptake a freebie offer

We’ve begun to build trust with our audience. Instead of getting them to take the leap to buying straight away we can get them to make a smaller initial commitment.

This could be asking them to hand over their email address or phone number so you can stay in touch. Or you can encourage them to visit key web-pages so you can retarget them with social ads.

We need to incentivise this with our content. Here are some ideas:

1. Content upgrades

Do you have a download that compliments your blog post? This could be a simple printable version of the post, a checklist or an eBook.

Our local bar could have a party planning checklist, a downloadable cocktail recipe eBook or even better a voucher to taste some of the beers they have reviewed in-house.

Read more about how my lead magnet performs here.

2. Cornerstone content

Look at each type of customer or each product range or service you want to sell and create an epic piece of content (or series of content) around it.

Make sure you have your Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and search pixels installed so you can retarget visitors to those pages with ads.

You’ll know that the people who visit those pages are interested in specific aspects of your business making it a more relevant audience to sell to.

3. Competitions

If you are reviewing a product consider running a competition on the blog post as part of the review. Your aim should be to get an email address or phone number as part of the entry process so you can stay in touch and sell to them later on.

Sell

Help your readers through the buying process with your content
Help your readers through the buying process with your content

Actual sales won’t happen on your blog but you need to have supporting information that will encourage the sale. You need to make sure that your reader has every piece of information they need in order to buy from you.

This is where Marcus Sheridan’s ‘They ask, we answer’ content kicks in.

1. Answer all the questions

The frequently asked questions page on a website is often lacking. It’s hard to answer every question your customer could possibly have on just one page.

Instead, write in-depth content that answers everything your reader could possibly need to know before buying. This should include price, the process your customers need to go through and any other common questions you are asked.

Keep a note of every question you get asked by readers, customers and other people you meet and write a post about each. You can link to these from your FAQ page or create a ‘Learning centre’ on your site that features them.

2. Call to actions

Write about your product and service in an honest way. It’s just as important to point out the downsides of your offering as the upsides. For example, you may be the best but you’re probably not the cheapest. Perfection comes at a price after all. Be clear about this and your customer will trust you.

Read more about Calls To Action here.

Tell others

Help your happy customers and advocates spread the word
Help your happy customers and advocates spread the word

The final phase of our Circle of Trust Content Plan is the one that completes the cycle. Once a customer has done business with your, or even if they haven’t but you’ve helped them in some way they’ll want to share their experiences.

The beauty of Tell others content is that it feeds new people into the circle, if you can get your customers sharing you’ll be reaching their friends and connections.

There are two key ways you can encourage this:

1. Case studies/Testimonials

The testimonials page on a website tends to look stuffy and dull. You can make them more believable by adding nice images and video but you can’t beat a good case study.

Case studies allow you to dive deeper into a testimonial. To tell a story that shows exactly how a customer benefited from your business.

Start with the problem they had, talk through the process of solving it and quote results. Include photos (and video if possible) of your customers. This will help your audience understand more about how you can help them and the story format will make for a good read. Far better than those stuffy testimonial pages.

2. User Generated Content

Are your customers active online? Can you inspire them to share photos, videos, tweets about their experiences with you.

One of my favourite restaurants in Dublin offers prizes for the best food photos shared online with their hashtag.

If you run a campaign like this you can choose your favourites and create a blog post with them. This works particularly well with Instagram as the visual nature makes it more attractive.

One note, write some good terms and conditions that make it clear how you are planning to use the user generated content.

3. Shareable content

There’s a local restaurant in Athy that I love. The food is amazing and although they don’t blog I’m always looking for opportunities to share my love of the restaurant with my social connections. Yes, I take photos each time I’m there and share it widely but I’d love some more meaty content from them that I could pass on to friends.

A blog post about their story, how they set up the restaurant. Articles about their suppliers and how they choose their ingredients, all of this would help me promote their business without getting too heavy handed with the sales.

What’s next?

Of course, some content will fit into more than one category but by consciously thinking about the phases of the circle you’ll ensure that you have a more focused content schedule.

There’s no time like the present. Sit down and brainstorm content ideas for each phase and start planning your content.

If you find yourself going off track remember my story. People don’t just find you and buy from you. They need to trust you before they commit themselves to you and your product.

Balance your content using the Circle of Trust and you’ll gain the trust of your customers and continue to attract new audiences.

 

Are you tired of people telling you that you should be doing video online? You've seen the stats, video works but how can you create it quickly and cheaply? Come to my Go Do Video Workshop in London: Learn how to boost your online visibility with video content

“go

Transform Your Readers Into Enthusiastic Customers Using The Circle Of Trust Content Plan
Transform Your Readers Into Enthusiastic Customers Using The Circle Of Trust Content Plan
Talking To Robots - How I'm Using Facebook Messenger Bots To Grow My Blog
Talking To Robots – How I’m Using Facebook Messenger Bots To Grow My Blog

Facebook messenger chatbots aren’t just the hot new thing, they’re a great way to promote your blog and build stronger connections with your audience. 

Listen and find out how I’ve been messing with Facebook messenger bots



There’s something about Facebook chatbots that excite me. I remember my first one. Pegg, the Sage chatbot that assists businesses with their bookkeeping. You tell it what you spent money on and it will keep a record of it for you.

The Pegg chatbot connects to Sage One and keeps a record of expenses
The Pegg chatbot connects to Sage One and keeps a record of expenses

It turned out Pegg was a gateway bot, before I knew it I was out there looking for more to subscribe to. It wasn’t long before Hi Poncho joined Pegg. He’s a cheeky cat that tells me the weather forecast twice a day.

Twice daily weather reports with a sense of humour from the Poncho messenger bot
Twice daily weather reports with a sense of humour from the Poncho messenger bot

Then there’s the more serious Wall Street Journal, sending me their latest headlines once a day.

Why the Wall Street Journal? Because they had a chatbot! Soon other media outlets joined in.

Headlines from the Wall Street Journal straight to Facebook Messenger
Headlines from the Wall Street Journal straight to Facebook Messenger

Then I started on fashion… Tommy Hilfiger is choosing outfits for me.

OK, I might have a problem…

But they are addictive.

Since I first said hi to Pegg I’ve been wanting a bot of my own. instead of relying exclusively on email, could I use a bot to update subscribers by Facebook message?

The answer is yes and the process was a lot easier than I imagined and that’s what we’re going to look at in this post.

Chatbots?

If you got this far and are still wondering what I’m talking about, a Facebook messenger chatbot is an automated system that will respond to messages on Facebook for you.

For example, if you get a lot of enquiries about your products and services you probably find yourself answering the same questions over and over again.

Instead of typing the answer every single time you can get a chatbot to do it for you.

You can set it up to ask a series of questions that qualifies respondents and points them in the right direction.

That’s what the Tommy Hilfiger one does. It asked me questions and came up with a selection of outfit choices as a response.

The Hilfiger messenger bot asks a series of questions and diverts your enquiry accordingly
The Hilfiger messenger bot asks a series of questions and diverts your enquiry accordingly

But chatbots don’t have to be for big business.

A hotel could use it to point customers to the right package or deal, an online grocery could suggest recipes, a cinema could assist you in buying tickets.

In fact, there’s a great chatbot that recommends Netflix movies for you. Check out ‘AndChill

Pick the right Netflix movies with And Chill
Pick the right Netflix movies with And Chill

Any business could use them to deal with frequently asked questions from customers.

As bloggers we can build a list of people who want to receive our posts by messenger, we can direct people to our lead incentive or suggest specific posts to them depending on their enquiries.

There’s huge potential in Facebook messenger bots. Let’s look at how to create them.

Before you start

What do you want your bot to do?

  • Send people to the correct page on your website?
  • Answer Frequently asked questions?
  • Send blog updates?
  • Encourage people to subscribe to your email list?
  • Find the best product for your customers?

Manychat

My first attempt was to send my blog updates out by Facebook messenger with the goal of driving repeat visits to my site.

I’m using Manychat. It’s free to get started and well priced if you decide to upgrade.

The first step is to connect it to your page, you’ll need to give it the usual permissions.

Next set up a welcome message. It took me a few goes to get this right.

Remember as a business you need to be open to chat to customers about enquiries, it can’t just be about getting subscribers to your blog.

Manychat has a default message so I customised that. Although this is an automated message I wanted it to sound like me so I’m currently testing:

The Spiderworking chatbot welcome message
The Spiderworking chatbot welcome message

 

 

If you click the ‘Yes Subscribe Me’  button you get tagged as ‘blog subscribers’ I send blog updates by messenger just to the people who are tagged. That means I’m not spamming people with my messages. I got opt in.

If you do subscribe you’ll get a follow-up message from me:

Follow up messenger to messenger subscribers.
Follow up messenger to messenger subscribers.

Setting up an RSS

The RSS feed on your blog is a special link that pings services like Manychat to tell them that there is a new post. To find out if you have a feed on your site try typing in your website domain followed by /feed.

For example, my site would be www.spiderworking.com/feed (I’ve also set up a Feedburner feed but I won’t bore you with that detail for now read more about RSS here).

In the ‘Engage/Autoposting’ section of ManyChat you can enter your RSS and set up sharing to your subscribers from it.

Add your RSS feed as a channel to ManyChat
Add your RSS feed as a channel to ManyChat

To be honest, I was underwhelmed by the RSS function, it didn’t send an image and it was unclear where to click.

In a most unbot like way I’ve decided to personalise these messages instead of automating it. This means I can add other calls to action and inspire engagement too.

3 updates a week may be too much so, just like my weekly snacks email I’m going to start next week with a weekly digest instead.

Beyond blog updates

Once you’ve set up your bot on ManyChat you’ve started building a list of subscribers. These are people you can message again whenever you want to.

There are rules:

  • You can’t send promotional messages to anyone who hasn’t messaged you in the last 24 hours.
  • You can send non-promotional broadcasts, this could include your blog digest or latest post
  • You can send a promotional follow-up message 24 hours after your initial promotional message

You can see why these rules are in place. Facebook don’t want Messenger to be a hive of spammers. They want people to enjoy getting helpful messages from businesses.

Read more on the Facebook developers site 

Sequences

Although getting new readers will be great I want more from y bot. Here are some of the ideas I’m pursuing.

Ask a qualifying question when someone gets in touch to see what they are interested in and send them a series of posts related to that interest.

Encourage people to message me so I can send them to my lead incentive or service page.

Oh and this one is really cool, if I upgrade ManyChat I can respond to people who leave a comment on a Facebook post.

For Example: I can create and organic post about my Blog Post Publishing Checklist. If you leave a comment using the word ‘Checklist’ it will trigger ManyChat to message you with a link to the download page.  I totally stole this idea from Molly Pitman of Digital Marketer who did a webinar for the Social Media Society.

Promoting your Facebook messenger bot

You get it, bots are great but if people don’t know about your bot all that effort will be wasted.

Here are a few things I’m trying for promoting mine:

Organic Facebook post

Underneath your status update box on Facebook that there are a number of ‘Suggested posts’ from Facebook.

Use the ‘Get messages’ one (if you can’t see it try clicking ‘see more’).

Set up an organic post to promote your messenger bot
Set up an organic post to promote your messenger bot

This will open up a post that has ‘Send message’ as a call to action. Customise this post with an image and text encouraging people to click the button.

Customise your post to encourage people to click
Customise your post to encourage people to click

Facebook ads

Run Facebook ads with the objective of getting people to start a chatbot conversation (or just boost the organic post).

To do this use the Traffic objective and add Messenger as your destination at the ad creation section.

Choose the traffic objective when setting up ads that encourage people to message you
Choose the traffic objective when setting up ads that encourage people to message you

 

Choose messenger as your destination at the ad creation phase.
Choose messenger as your destination at the ad creation phase.

Add a call to action to your site

ManyChat give you add buttons, pop-ups and more that you can add to your site to promote your chatbot.

Or you can just link people to your messenger account. Your personal link will be https://m.me/nameofyourpage

For example mine is https://m.me/spiderworking

Click and see what happens

Fringe benefits

Something unexpected happened when I set up my bot. Since I launched it Facebook has replaced my woeful response rate from ‘Responds in a few days’ to ‘Very responsive’.

It’s a vanity stat for me but one I’m delighted with.

What’s next

I’m moving up to the paid version of ManyChat so will be playing with lots more features. I hope you’ll join me.

If you want to set up a Facebook messenger bot of your own get started at manychat.com. Let me know how you get on.

Oh and if you want help setting up your own Chatbot give me a shout.

 

Are you tired of people telling you that you should be doing video online? You've seen the stats, video works but how can you create it quickly and cheaply? Come to my Go Do Video Workshop in London: Learn how to boost your online visibility with video content

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Talking To Robots - How I'm Using Facebook Messenger Bots To Grow My Blog
Talking To Robots – How I’m Using Facebook Messenger Bots To Grow My Blog
How To Make Your Job Easier Every Time - 3 Productivity Keys
How To Make Your Job Easier Every Time – 3 Productivity Keys

A long time ago in a place not so far away, just when I was beginning to set up my first business I was a temp. I was sent to different offices each week to complete admin work, answer the phone and various other office related duties. One week I was sent to a very busy supermarket chain to work in the buying department.

On my arrival I was handed a big book. It was the manual of how to do the job written by a past employee. It was full of tutorials and checklists.

Whoever had put that manual together had ensured that anyone taking over would be able to carry on their job to the letter. It helped me be more productive from the moment I arrived.

It made my job easy. It was my bible.

I’ve not always been the most organised business owner, but now, as those of you who have been listening to this series of podcasts will know, things are changing.

I’m not ready to write a whole bible yet but there are plenty of repetitive tasks in my working week that would benefit from a checklist or system. This week I took a step the first step.

Listen to my diary and find out how to be more productive with your recurring and business tasks



The story so far

This is the last in a series of podcasts on productivity and time management.

My goal is to get ahead with my blog content by one month.

  • In week one I made a plan
  • In week two I created a timesheet so I could measure exactly how I was spending my time and how long tasks really took
  • In week three I looked at how to apportion tasks into a recurring weekly schedule

In this, the last instalment I’m going to look at how creating checklists and systems could speed up repetitive tasks. I’ve also been investigating some of the tools you can use to help you implement a structured task list.

Recurring tasks

Be more productive - Streamline your recurring tasks
Streamline your recurring tasks

Last week I identified the recurring tasks that I needed to complete each week. Each one can be broken into sub-tasks. By dissecting them like this I can ensure that they get done properly each time, I can save time by taking the thinking out of it.

Checklists, forms, worksheets. All of these things can simplify what I need to do and make tasks quicker and easier to complete.

Start with a list. What tasks do you have to do each and every week?

Last week when I was creating my weekly recurring schedule I identified recurring time slots for tasks that I needed to repeat each week.

There was time for:

  • Planning
  • Social media updates
  • Measurement
  • Training and course preparation
  • Creating my video post
  • Creating my podcast
  • My Facebook Live Show
  • Accounts
  • Ad Reporting
  • Email marketing
  • Learning

Not all of these recurring tasks can be systemised. In fact I think it’s a good idea to leave some of your time looser. For example. I’m not going to create a checklist for planning. That’s a loose time-slot that will be filled differently each week. The same goes for learning. Some week’s I’ll do webinars, others I’ll read.

The recurring tasks that I can systemise are:

  • Social media updates
  • Measurement
  • Creating video blog post
  • Creating podcast
  • Accounts
  • Ad Reporting
  • Email marketing

On top of this, I have work tasks that need systems:

  • When a new client gets in touch I need to have a process for responding
  • When I take on a new client I need a process for ensuring I have everything I need to complete work
  • I’d like a process for more efficiently creating and updating courses

The recurring tasks can be dealt with quite easily. All I need is a checklist.

The business tasks are slightly harder and although I’ve started work on these this week it’s going to take me longer to complete.

Time to plan

Find time to plan your processes
Find time to plan your processes

Up until now my productivity drive has saved me time. I haven’t been ploughing time into my plan just streamlining what I do. Last week I spent an hour creating my recurring calendar but that’s it.

This week was different. It’s taken time and I need to put more time into it. I don’t want to scare you off I just want you to be aware that you’re going to need to put aside half a day to get this sorted.

The up-side is that once you’ve systemised your work you’ll waste less time every day and eliminate the stress you feel when tasks get on top of you.

Checklists

Create checklists to be more productive with your time
Create checklists to be more productive with your time

By now you should have a list of recurring tasks that you need to complete each week. You should also have narrowed these down to the ones that can be systemised. The next step is to start pulling them apart. Think clearly about how you approach each task. What are the individual elements that make it up?

It’s not always as easy as you think. I started compiling a list of tasks for my video posts, it started quite simply with:

  • Record video
  • Edit video
  • Write post
  • Publish post
  • Promote post

But then each of those tasks has subtasks of its own. My finished checklist is:

  • Write 3 x titles
  • Create images
  • Decide on the one thing I want people to learn
  • Write post
  • Set up social sharing
  • Complete the Yoast section of the past
  • Record video
  • Edit video
  • Create video thumbnail
  • Upload to YouTube
  • Edit captions
  • Embed video in post
  • Publish post
  • Create pretty link for video
  • Add cards to video
  • Download .srt caption file from YouTube
  • Share on Pinterest and Google+
  • Upload video to Facebook
  • Upload .srt file
  • Add custom thumbnail

Not only did I pull apart the task I was also able to work out the order in which I completed it. It should save me time with next week’s post and ensure I don’t forget anything.

Work tasks

Systemise your business tasks
Systemise your business tasks

This is much harder. More than a checklist is required. Instead, I need to set up a series of emails, forms and worksheets (for want of a better name) that will ensure I’m dealing with client work efficiently and to a high standard.

If like me you have different strings to your business bow you will need a lot of these.

Start by identifying the different types of clients you have. For me it’s:

  • Facebook advertising clients
  • Consulting clients
  • Group training clients
  • One to one training clients
  • I’m also expanding to offer more online products so I’ll need to create systems for these too.

The easiest way to create a system is to walk through the process you go through with a client from first enquiry to completing work.

It could be:

  • First contact made (usually by email)
  • Respond by email to get more detail
  • Schedule call
  • Send quotation
  • Send contract of work
  • Send email with requirements
  • Complete first draft of work
  • Get approval
  • Complete work
  • Send invoice

That’s a simplified system, the area ‘complete work’ alone will need to be broken down further.

Now you know the process you can start creating the elements that will make it easier.

  • Can you create draft emails for each section of the work?
  • Do you have a standard quotation and contract templates?
  • How do you send draft work to clients?
  • What worksheets do you need?
  • What is your invoice procedure?

I recently implemented a system for my Facebook ad clients, it’s not 100% finished but it’s already streamlined the process.

  • I have an enquiry form
  • Tutorials for clients so they can complete my requests
  • Template quotation forms and contracts
  • A Facebook advertising planning spreadsheet
  • A filing system for proofs

I’m working on the draft emails for each stage of the process too.

Knowing it works well for this part of my business I’ve started rolling it out to the other areas.

Tools

Use tools to boost your productivity
Use tools to boost your productivity

So far all the productivity work I’ve done has been on paper or on a whiteboard. Now it’s time to embrace some tools.

To get some recommendations I went to my Small Business Bloggers Facebook group. There were lots of suggestions but the two I chose to test were:

Both promised to be able to handle my recurring tasks and had a checklist like format.

Trello

Organise your tasks onto a board
Organise your tasks onto a board

I’d used Trello before to manage projects. It’s very visual. You create boards and tasks within that board. You can attach checklists, files, labels and due dates to each task.

Luckily I found this comprehensive post from Ellen And Company Design it helped me to understand the potential of the tool.

It didn’t take me long to get hooked.

Features

  • Create re-usable checklists within each task
  • Add team members
  • Attach files to each task
  • Set due dates
  • Duplicate tasks
  • Synced web and mobile app

The killer feature for me is the ‘Power-ups’. These are add-ons that enhance your boards. For bloggers, the Calendar power-up that turns your task list into a calendar is a must.

Power-up your Trello board to create a content calendar
Power-up your Trello board to create a content calendar

Wunderlist

When I first tried this tool on the mobile app I was underwhelmed. I couldn’t see how it would help with recurring tasks.

It’s much easier to set up on desktop, once I’d got a handle on it I kinda liked it.

Wunderlist helps you manage your todo list and recurring tasks
Wunderlist helps you manage your todo list and recurring tasks

Wunderlist lets you create a series of to-do lists. Just like Trello, you can break each list into individual tasks. For example, I created a list for my video blog and added each task as a sub-task within that list.

You can create folders, which act like the boards on Trello and add multiple lists to the folder. Each list can be one off or recurring.

Toggl

As you’ll have heard in the podcast Toggl was recommended to me by Laura Kenny as a tool for measuring time spent on tasks. I started using it immediately and it’s already a keeper.

Set your projects, hit the play button and it will record the amount of time spent on tasks. Great for blogging and also great for businesses that charge by the hour.

Features

  • Create recurring tasks
  • Create checklists within lists
  • Set due dates
  • Synced web and mobile app

Although after some digging I liked the way Wunderlist worked it was no competition. Trello won the day.

Summary

Using checklists, worksheets and templates you can make your working life more efficient. It will make completing tasks and projects easier and it will help you do them well every time. Tools like Trello can help you organise your schedule better as well as your business.

Your task:

  • Make a list of recurring tasks in your schedule
  • Make a list of work tasks
  • Break down your tasks into checklists
  • Walk through your work processes and look for areas that you can systemise with template emails, checklists and worksheets.

What about that goal?

I’ve put in a lot of work, I’ve become more efficient but am I ever going to make my goal?

I’m still suffering from laryngitis which has put me behind schedule as far as the rich (video and podcast) elements are concerned but I’m ahead with my writing. 6 days ahead.

It’s slow progress but yes, I anticipate I can make my goal within the next month.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this series. I may not be talking about productivity for the next few weeks but I’d still like to hear about your productivity tips, wins and fails so do leave me a comment below.

 

Are you tired of people telling you that you should be doing video online? You've seen the stats, video works but how can you create it quickly and cheaply? Come to my Go Do Video Workshop in London: Learn how to boost your online visibility with video content

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Could Checklists, Templates and Worksheets Be The Answer To Your Productivity Dreams?
Could Checklists, Templates and Worksheets Be The Answer To Your Productivity Dreams?
How I Became A YoYo Productivity Dieter (And How I Fixed It)
How I Became A YoYo Productivity Dieter (And How I Fixed It)

Trying to be productive is like being on a diet. You’ll be trundling along for a while making progress and then you slip.

So here I am again, the night before my podcast is to go live and I’m writing. What went wrong and what did I achieve? Listen to find out.



The story so far…

If you’ve been following this series you’ll know I set myself the goal of getting a month ahead with my blog content. I was tired of the last minute rush, I wanted time to write better and to edit.

And I made progress. I started last week by conducting a time audit. I wanted to see how long tasks actually took in comparison to the time I thought they would take.

It was a great task in itself. I got a lot of work done just by knowing the timer was ticking. I got 1.5 days ahead with my content, a small but encouraging start.

My task this week was to put that data to work. I was inspired by Darren Rowse (yes again). Back in episode 40 of the Problogger podcast  he shared his productivity tips. He talked about his weekly schedule. In it he assigned time slots for his weekly tasks.

Now that I knew how long stuff actually took I intended to do the same.

If you joined me in auditing your time you can follow my process. If you didn’t there’s no reason why you can’t join in now.

How to create a recurring weekly schedule

Step 1. Analyse your data

I started by scrutinising the time-sheets I had completed. There were seven in all (it seems I have problems counting a working week of five days).

To do this I created an excel spreadsheet.

The headers for each column:

  • Day of the week
  • Task
  • Category (type of work)
  • Time spent

I colour coded the sheet by day of the week.

Now I had the data in a worksheet I could start to answer some questions.

Question 1: How long do I work each day

As you will know if you work for yourself, the length of time we work each day can be an issue. At the beginning we work every hour we can sacrificing sleep, relationships, pretty much everything in our lives for getting our project off the ground.

Once our business has started to grow we need to take a reality check, however much we love our job we need to have time away from it.

To calculate the time spent working each day I calculated the sum of time spent on business related tasks over the seven days and I divided it by seven.

The answer, 10 hours a day. That’s 10 hours productive work a day which isn’t bad.

Your task

Find out how many hours you are actively working each week and day

Question 2. What was I spending my time on?

When I started this process I identified some key areas that I needed to assign weekly time to:

  • Client work
  • Marketing
  • Sales
  • Learning
  • Admin

I’ve decided to add in one more category to my weekly schedule and that’s business planning, something I spend very little time on at the moment.

Looking at my spreadsheet I was able to see how many hours a week I spent on each of these categories and what percentage of my week this represented.

I like a good pie chart so here it is.

how do i spend my time
I spend most of my time on client work (unsurprisingly)

I guess I’m not really doing sales!

So unsurprisingly client work was the category I spent the most time on. Marketing came second.

Your task

Don’t be tied to my categories. You might want to get even more granular and compare how long you spend on social media compared to blogging.

Make a list of the categories you want to add to your week

Question 3: How long do specific tasks take?

I can now stop fooling myself about how long it takes me to do big tasks like podcasting, video making or blogging. I have my data.

Scarily, according to my timsheets a podcast takes me approximately four hours to record, write and upload. A video takes slightly longer and that’s without procrastination.

Now I know this I can allocate time more realistically in future and I’m able to decide if the results I get are worth the time expense.

Your task

Make a list of these time hungry, recurring tasks and calculate the time it takes to complete them.

Step 2. Mapping out the week

This was the bit I’d been aiming for. Darren had persuaded me when I listened to his podcast that a weekly schedule would reduce stress and I’d get *everything* done. At this stage I hadn’t actually looked at his schedule but I had the idea, I’d listened to that podcast more than once.

It turns out Darren uses a Google calendar (something I might use next week).

I chose a whiteboard and some coloured dry wipe markers (you’ll be familiar with these if you watch my Facebook Live).

I like the whiteboard because when I mess it up I can erase and start again.

I drew out the working week on the whiteboard and used a purple marker to allocate recurring tasks to days. Some of this was easy. I already do weekly social media updates on a Monday morning. Every Friday I do the Facebook Live, Tuesday mornings are stat days.

It was harder to map out other tasks. I needed to allocate five hours a day to client work. Some weeks there may be more some less but I realised that a lot of the work I did was prep work. If I’m smart I can pre-load client work by reviewing the courses I run and I can get ahead with the Facebook campaigns I run.

I also need to schedule eight hours a week for blogging/podcasting/video content. At the moment I’ve allocated two half days a week but I can see myself breaking this down into sections later on.

I’ve given myself two hours for learning on a Friday as well as an hour for my favourite thing (sarcasm) bookkeeping.

I think it’s important when you’re completing your weekly schedule to try and leave some flexibility. Like a diet when you try to be too regimented you’ll eventually find it too hard to keep.

So far so good. Now all I need to do is test it, does this weekly plan work.

Your task

You don’t have to use a whiteboard. You can use pen and paper, Google calendar like Darren Rowse, or something else.

Look at the chunks of time you need to allocate in the week and find a recurring time you can schedule it for.

So what went wrong?

Why am I sitting here on a Wednesday evening writing? Why haven’t I recorded the podcast that is due out in the morning?

The answer? We had a bank holiday and I didn’t allow for it.

I remember when I started working for myself I ignored bank holidays, I ignored weekends but now I look forward to them just like everyone else. Time out of the office, with friends and family, recharges my batteries. It means that when Monday morning comes I don’t’ get the blues, instead I’m dying to get back to work again.

But if you’re going to be productive you have to allow for bank holidays. You need to plan around them. I didn’t. Squeezing five days of work into four has put me behind schedule again.

I also lost my voice. I attempted to record my audio diary but the squeaks and coughs would make you want to switch off. Today I have most of my voice back. Tomorrow I will record.

What now?

I’m not going to let this setback get me down. I’m still a day, well less than a day ahead and by this time next week I’m aiming to be three days ahead.

Next week in the final part of this series on making better use of your time I’ll be looking at how you can put systems in place to improve your productivity. I’ll also be trialling two tools recommended by the Small Business Bloggers Facebook group. Wunderlist and Trello.

 

Improve your blog. Follow my weekly blogging challenges as I try to create a better blog. Subscribe on iTunes or Subscribe on Stitcher

“Improve

 

How I Became A YoYo Productivity Dieter (And How I Fixed It)
How I Became A YoYo Productivity Dieter (And How I Fixed It)
How To Audit Your Time - My Journey Towards Blogging Productivity Part 2
How To Audit Your Time – My Journey Towards Blogging Productivity Part 2

How long are you spending on digital marketing each week? You can guess or you can know.

This is part two in a series of podcasts and posts on getting ahead with your blog content. Last week I set the challenge. This week I’m measuring time.

How long do we actually spend on digital marketing?

People ask me this question all the time and I tend to fumble the answer. I don’t want to lie but I don’t actually have the statistics.

I think I spend a day a week on content but is that true? If I’m going to get ahead with my content I need to know the answer. I also want to know where on earth all that other time is getting spent.

Find out how I got on this week including my audio diary



Where I am now:

Good routine

Last week my sister in law revealed that she thought I worked in my PJ’s. I was horrified. I’m 12 years into running my own business and I’d say I probably work in my PJ’s maybe four days a year, usually because I’m sick.

No, I like most workers have a daily routine.

I get up at 6am, I shower, dress, have breakfast, read the social media news and I’m sitting at my desk at 7.30am.

I take a lunch break and try and finish work by 7pm

The routine has been crucial for keeping me productive. If you don’t have a daily routine yet, implement one, it’s going to help your productivity no end.

Working space

When I started my first business I had a laptop sized space on a desk. Stuff, cluttery stuff (not mine) surrounded me. I’ve grown over time and now I have a room in my home. I have a big desk that is almost empty. I have space to think and work and more importantly, I can close the door at the end of the day and switch work off.

It’s good for my head and it’s great for my productivity. My office is where I go to work and that’s it. I installed a PlayStation here two years ago but I think I’ve only used it once since I did.

This isn’t a space for non-work related fun.

If you can’t find space in your home look for co-working space elsewhere. You’ll always be more productive if you have an allocated working area.

Break times

It’s so easy to skip lunch. I know office workers who sit at their desks for lunch but I try to get out of my four walls for at least 1/2 an hour a day. Going for a walk, getting a bit of shopping, even eating in a different room will reset my brain. I come up with some of my best ideas over lunch.

It’s easy to think you don’t have time for lunch or a break but your productivity will go up, you’ll procrastinate less if you switch off for even a short time during the working day. If you haven’t tried it yet give it a shot.

The goal

If I want to achieve my goal I need to write one blog post a day for the next 2 weeks.

A series like this is handy, I already made progress. I wrote a chunk of this the week before publication and I’m finishing it two days ahead. It’s not a lot but it’s better than my recent last minute rushing.

To see how I can find time in my week to write content I first need to find out how much time creation is already taking.

Enter, the time sheet

Use the timesheet to audit your time
Use the timesheet to audit your time

How long do tasks actually take?

It seems like this would be an easy question to answer but I know I’ve been getting it wrong. I plan my day every day, I allocate chunks of time to tasks yet I still seem to be behind schedule by lunchtime. The only way that you can actually know how long you are spending doing tasks is by timing them.

I created a timesheet to keep a record of the time spent. I have become a slave to the stopwatch on my phone that keeps a record of the time I’ve spent.

The timesheet I’ve created contains 5 Columns

  • Task: The task at hand
  • Allocated Time: How long I thought it would take
  • Actual Time: How long it really took (timed using the stopwatch on my phone)
  • Distractions: What got in the way of me doing it faster. Include procrastination, unexpected phone calls, interruptions from the cats here
  • Category: At the end of the week I want to know how much time I spent on marketing, work prep, paid work, admin etc. So I’m giving each task a category.

There’s a section for additional tasks completed and how long they take. I added this because some days I’ll have a task from an email to complete that I hadn’t planned or I’d suddenly find some time to do an additional task, it all needs to be measured.

I create a new form every morning and pin it on my wall. The plan is to run this system for a working week so I can assess my time better.

Problems

The first issue that I encountered was that I was rushing. I saw the time as a challenge and was working really hard to get stuff done in that time. It’s great to be hyper-productive like that but just like a crash diet is unsustainable.

It’s not possible to keep going at that pace. It’s the tasks that I think about and spend time on that I do best. I had to take a step back.

The purpose of the timesheet wasn’t for me to work faster, at least not yet, it was to know how long tasks actually took.

Once I slowed down I settled into the system. I’m happy logging my time at a sustainable pace.

If you’re interested in hearing my blow by blow audio diary on working with the time sheet be sure to listen to the podcast above.


If you want to join the challenge download your timesheet here


What I’ve learned so far

It’s early days but I’ve already started being more efficient. When you are working against the clock you begin to understand how important that time is. I’ve created some checklists, the wall behind my desk is beginning to fill up with them. These ensure I don’t have to go back over and over again to edit something I haven’t completed properly.

My wall is filling with checklists
My wall is filling with checklists

Knowing exactly how long tasks are taking means I’m looking for ways to do the tasks more efficiently. I’d already implemented some systems in my routine tasks but I’m looking at adding more.

How far ahead am I after week one?

Let’s not take our eye off the ball. I’m trying to get a month ahead with content. Currently, I’m 1 day ahead. Not a great step forward but I know after I understand my time better and allocate it better I will get there. My goal for next week is to be three days ahead.

What’s next?

My next task is to map out my week realistically. Now I know how long things take I want to find regular timeslots for them in my working week. We’ll discuss that in next week’s episode.

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes here to make sure you don’t miss it.

 

Improve your blog. Follow my weekly blogging challenges as I try to create a better blog. Subscribe on iTunes or Subscribe on Stitcher

“Improve

 

How To Audit Your Time - My Journey Towards Blogging Productivity Part 2
How To Audit Your Time – My Journey Towards Blogging Productivity Part 2