I’m writing this post on a Saturday night after doing 13 straight hours of work, with only one break to inhale a few pieces of peanut butter toast.
It was a beautiful sunny day outside, and I didn’t see any of it.
This is not how I want to run my business.
All hustle, no balance.
It’s taking a toll on me.
Luckily, I am smart enough to realize when I’ve made some pretty awful mistakes and how to fix them. Today I want to get a lil’ personal with you and share my biggest struggles and failures over the past 6 months and how I’m overcoming them to become a better blogger and business owner.
I hope you can learn something from this post. Here goes.
1. No time for fun.
Talk about overscheduled.
Even my husband knows that if it’s not on my Google calendar, it’s not happening.
I’ve lost touch with several friends. Some of them understand, and others don’t. I even feel bad with how little time I’m spending with my dog.
It’s super depressing.
I ended up getting so burnt out, I didn’t want to do anything.
And that was my solution.
I realized that I procrastinate a lot. Not because I dislike my work, I love it, but because I’m too much of a perfectionist and I want “the perfect idea” before I start working.
Well, that just doesn’t exist.
I’ve learned to just start, and edit shit later. I’ve learned to be more productive with my time so that I can get more done in less time.
Ya know what the big magical secret to all that is?
I did something crazy about a month ago. I started an online clothing business.
And it’s actually going really well.
Am I a designer? No.
Am I an Etsy pro? Nope.
Do I even know what DPI is, or what the difference is between CMYK and RGB? Not really.
But if there’s anything I’ve learned over the past year as a serious blogger, it’s that sometimes you just gotta try new stuff and do it. Jump in with both feet. Don’t overplan. Just follow your heart and see where it goes.
Easier said than done, especially when following your heart could cost thousands of dollars in upfront costs.
Not so bueno.
But, I really wanted to do this. So I found a way of getting started that was totally FREE, and in this post, I’ll show you how to do the same thing.
I create t-shirts, iPhone cases, leggings, skirts and other small items, and I don’t have to pay a single cent for inventory or expenses until someone buys one of my products. aka guaranteed profit! Isn’t that amazeballs?!
For example, here are a few examples of my humble creations. 😬
Wanna win an item of your choice from my shop? Just enter the contest at the end of this post! 👇🏼
It’s really easy to start your own biz this way. So let’s jump right in and get started…
Create Your Free Etsy Store
For this post, I’m going to assume you want to sell your stuff on Etsy! It’s a great choice. Etsy is a solid network of handmade sellers, and a trusted shopping destination for millions of people around the world. You can’t go wrong.
When you’re all signed up, click on the You tab to go into your settings. From there, you can choose to open a new shop.
Once you’ve created your shop, you’ll be taken to the Shop Manager area. It’s pretty straightforward, but you’ll want to go into Settings on the left-hand menu to ensure everything is set up.
Here you can set things like your tagline, top image banner and logo. Here’s what my shop looks like with all those things added:
Go through all the Settings fields and make sure everything is filled in. Don’t worry about making it perfect right now. You can always change it later.
Remember: DONE is always better than perfect. ✌🏽
Create Your First T-Shirt
Mmk, switching gears to product creation now. Woo! This is where the magic happens, people.
Already have a good idea for a t-shirt, mug, or other product? Great! If not, just think of a silly saying and follow along with this tutorial. You can always redo these steps when you have a “real” product idea later on.
Not sure if your idea is good or not? Let the market decide! Remember, this is all free so you’re not out any money by testing your ideas.
To create your first product, you’ll need to sign up for Printful.
Printful is a print-on-demand dropshipper, which means they print your designs onto merchandise and ship it from their location to your customers. It’s worldwide, and the products look like they’re coming from you, not Printful. Basically… it’s awesome.
Once you sign up, you’ll be taken to your Dashboard. It’s your order portal.
Creating a product on Printful isn’t like an actual thing you create on there. You create your artwork files in a design program, like Adobe Photoshop, and then upload those files to Printful to store until you’re ready to print them.
I use Photoshop, but you could also use Illustrator, or a free option like Canva.
For this example, we’ll make a simple text-based t-shirt, but you can get as crazy and colourful as you like. If you can draw, go wild! I… can’t draw.
I’m going to make a shirt that says, “I Work So My Dog Can Have Nice Things”.
(It’s true. 🙄)
Printful has a template for everything on their site so you always know how to size it. The t-shirt print area is 10 in x 12 in, so all you need to do is open up a new Photoshop file at 150 DPI sized 10×12. Also make sure you’re using RGB colour.
If you’re using Canva, open up a new file that’s 1500px x 1800px (or larger).
Then add your text to the file. Make sure your background is transparent. This can be done in Canva as well, but I’m using Photoshop in the screenshots below.
It goes beyond just optimizing your posts for a single keyword, although that’s important too. I’ve been studying SEO for over three years now and have a pretty foolproof system for growing organic search traffic easily and quickly for my blog and websites.
Read on to discover my 5 best blog SEO tips you can do today!
#1 Verify Your Blog with Google Search Console
Google Search Console used to be called Webmaster Tools. It’s basically the place where Google verifies your site’s identity, keeps track of changes to your site (i.e. new blog posts), and controls how your site appears in search results.
It’s free and super easy to setup! Once you verify your site, it will stay that way.
I recommend logging into Search Console and checking your stats every month, just to make sure your website is indexing properly and all systems are go.
To verify your site, login to Search Console with a Google account (either a @gmail.com email, or your G Suite account email).
Enter your website URL in the white box. ☝🏼
On the next screen, you’ll see different verification options. The easiest one is to verify with Google Analytics, which you can find on the Alternate Methods tab. If your Google Analytics account is setup with the same @gmail.com email address, it will verify your website right away.
Or, you can download an HTML file and upload it to your site to get verified. You can upload the file via FTP, or through your web hosting company’s CPanel/File Manager area. (Psst, this is where you would login to manage your hosting account – like on Bluehost or Siteground!)
There are lots of tools within Search Console, but the most important area to monitor for your SEO is the Crawl tab.
Click on Crawl Stats to monitor how often Google comes to crawl your site. This is the number of times Google’s algorithm is scanning your content, looking for new changes, and adding those changes to Google.
aka… how your blog shows up in search results! Super important.
More crawls per day = good!
Another key area to check in monthly is the Sitemaps tab under Crawl. Here, you can manually submit a new sitemap to Google. Many WordPress plugins do this automatically, but it’s a good idea to do it manually once in awhile too.
You can see how many pages of your site are indexed here. To add a new sitemap, click on Add/Test Sitemap at the top.
Then, type in “sitemap.xml” into the box and press Submit.
If you want to learn more about Search Console and all it can do for you, I recommend reading this article from Moz.
#2 Use SEO Keywords in the Right Places
It’s not enough to stuff your SEO keyword everywhere you can find a spot anymore. Google is cracking down on “spammy” keyword stuffing practices and shady over-optimization.
I get it. You are passionate about a few, or a lot of, topics and you don’t know which one to focus on for your blog.
It can be hard to narrow down to just a few topics if you’re used to writing about #AllTheThings.
Or, if you haven’t started your blog yet, how on earth are you supposed to pick just a few topics?
My free blog strategy course can turn you into a quality content posting machine, buuuuuut you do need to know what you wanna write about first, right?
Have no fear. Today I’m gonna walk you through how to pick a profitable blog topic that you love writing about.
I wish I did that like five years ago. 🙄
How to Pick a Profitable Blog Topic
Unless you’re a one dimensional cartoon character, you probably have at least a few hobbies and interests. And if you’re like 99% of beginner bloggers out there, you want to write about them ALL.
You’ve read how important it is to choose a niche to monetize your blog, or gain real traction from blogging.
But HOW do you pick one?! GAHHHH.
It can feel impossible but I’m here to tell you it’s not. I used to be just like you!
Long story short, a great way to find your ideal topic is to just start a blog, and start writing. Just DO IT ALREADY. When I started my blog, I wrote about marketing from an agency perspective (since that’s my background) but quickly discovered I liked writing with an entrepreneurial mindset instead.
Meaning, instead of helping the big companies succeed, I want to help YOU succeed.
I’m passionate about SEO for blogging. You could say obsessed. And for good reason: mastering SEO is the ultimate free way to market your business.
Yes, there’s paid search (AdWords), Facebook advertising, networking, lead generation and all that stuff too… but those strategies are made even better with a solid SEO foundation for your blog.
It can be a tough thing to learn if you’re just starting out. I used to think it was just for the pros, or something techy marketing wizard types did to “growth hack” or disrupt or whatever other marketing buzzword is hot right now.
Until I became a techy marketing wizard type. 🌟
Okay, before we get to my awesome lesson (including awkward video walkthrough) showing you how to do SEO keyword research for your blog, I’m gonna tell you my SEO story. Buckle up.
About five years ago, I got a job in an ad agency. It was all very exciting for 25 year old me. They had leather couches, rum hidden in cabinets and worked with huge national brands that I was a fan of. What’s not to love, right?
Well, the truth about the downside of agency life would come crushing down on me years later, but at that moment, things were great. I was the fresh meat, the eager young intern-type ready to learn about the industry and take it by the horns.
I am marketer, hear me roar! Or something.
Why Bloggers Need SEO
I got the job because I wrote well (and hopefully still do in the present tense). But, I had no idea about SEO. I’d heard of it, but again, filed it away in my brain into a folder called Wizard Land: Do Not Attempt.
I had to learn SEO for my new job, and I was nervous. My boss at the time took me under his wing and promised me it was really easy, I’d learn it in no time. The first week of my new job, I eagerly read everything I could find on the internet about how to do SEO keyword research, write for SEO, get higher rankings, get Google to like me, etc.
The articles I found were good, but I was left with a feeling of, “So now what? What do I do with all this information?”
Well, my boss showed me in like an hour how powerful SEO can be. How it can help businesses, how to write for it without sounding like a total tool, and why keywords are only one small part of SEO.
“Whoa, what? There’s more to SEO than keywords?!” you might be asking.
YEAH. There is. It’s a big topic with lots of shady shit in it and some really stellar strategies too.
I wanted to cover just keyword research today because it’s the easiest place to start if you’re new to SEO, and it’s especially important for bloggers.
I’ll show you exactly how to do SEO keyword research below…
If you’re new to living online (welcome to digital life, y’all), Google Analytics might be a bit overwhelming at first.
I promise it’s actually really easy! Once you get the hang of how to find reports for your blog traffic, and how to interpret what they mean, you’ll be golden.
Google Analytics can tell you a LOT about your blog and the audience reading your blog. It’s a super useful tool! I’m a big data nerd, but only when that data can actually make a difference and accomplish something, and that’s exactly what Google Analytics does.
Today I’m gonna walk you through EVERYTHING you need to know about how to use Google Analytics!
Let’s get started.
Step 1: How to Set Up Google Analytics
OK, this is the first step. If you have already enabled Google Analytics on your blog, skip ahead to Step 2.
Do you have a Google Analytics account yet? If not, all you need is a Google account (so a @gmail.com address). If you don’t already have this, click here to setup one now (it’s free of course!).
If you’re on WordPress, here’s how to set up Google Analytics easily on your blog. I’m sure it’s easy for other platforms too, but WordPress is what I know so I’ve included instructions for that below. Please note these instructions are for self-hosted WordPress blogs (wordpress.org!).
Login to WordPress! Then on the left side navigation, go to Plugins –> Add New.
In the “Search plugins…” box on the top right, type in “google analytics” and hit enter. You’ll see a bunch of results like this:
This is an easy way to install Google Analytics – using a plugin. There is a manual way you can go in and add the code too, but I like using a plugin because most of them also show you your stats right in your WordPress Dashboard (so, visible right when you login). It’s super convenient to have all your “blog stuff” in one place, right?
Anyway, obviously there’s quite a few to pick from. The one I personally use is Google Analytics by MonsterInsights.
Click on Install Now for that plugin (my button says Active because I already have it!). Once it’s done installing, that button will change to “Activate” so make sure to press that too, until it says Active, like my screen above.
If you clicked on this link with the burning desire to know how I managed such an amazing feat like doubling my email list in only 14 days, well, you’ve come to the right place. I did it by…
…making you opt-in to secret shit like this.
Okay, hear me out.
We’ve all seen those posts around saying “Grow your list in 30 days”, “Get your first 1000 subscribers now!” and so much more. And you know what? They work, they really do. Creating a free email course WORKS. But where can you find an awesome email course idea, eh?
The method isn’t the problem, it’s the value.
Get ready for some super shocking news: if you combine the methods many of these posts spell out for you with the absolute BEST value you can provide to your audience, then you will be successful.
If you can’t provide any value, everything falls flat.
I know, real groundbreaking shit.
“Provide value. Gee, thanks, Michelle, but how do I do that?” you might ask.
That’s what I’m gonna walk you through today. Not only implementing a quick, easy way to grow your list, but how to provide real, tangible value to your audience, aka provide them what they want!
I doubled my email list in two weeks by creating a free 7-day email course about blog content strategy and planning.This course, to be exact.
Here’s how I created my free email course and marketed it, step by step!
Step 1: The Email Course Idea
Okay, this is the most important step because it’s, uh, kind of the whole thing?
It can be tough to come up with an idea for a free email course, video lesson or other big freebie (otherwise known as a “lead magnet”). I thought about mine for a long time.
The secret to coming up with a good idea? Stick with what you know, and what your readers need help with.
The idea is probably right under your nose.
For me, I love content strategy and writing… which is obviously why I started this blog, to help others with content marketing too. After awhile I realized, oh, I can teach others how to never run out of content ideas, and to effectively plan out a content system so they are never scrambling to get a post done, or wondering what to write about.
Not gonna lie, I have like 147 unfinished drafts laying out in various states of outline, 1st draft, 2nd draft and so on…
But I also have a no-fail system that makes it possible for me to write 2000 word posts in an hour.
So, once I realized that system would be helpful for other bloggers, I decided to create the free email course around that topic.
Still struggling to think of an idea? Download my cheatsheet of 60 amazeballs epic email course ideas for all kinds of blogs right hurr.
Step 2: Plan Out Your Idea
Once I decided on the topic, the first thing I did was create an outline of my free email course. I realized there were 7 things I wanted to teach.
So, it made sense to make it a 7-day email course, duh.
I wrote down the topic of each day (or “chapter”) and then a brief description of what I would cover. Like so:
Day 1: Why content strategy matters and what it can do for you + how to define your audience.
Day 2: What does your audience want?
Day 3: Overall blog content strategy – your categories, topics, pages, offerings.
Day 4: Set up an editorial calendar.
Day 5: Brainstorm and fill out the content planner for actual posts, related to Days 2 and 3.
Day 6: Content time! Homework to create 3 solid, rockstar blog posts.
Day 7: How to measure results and when to tweak your strategy.
Once you’ve got your basic outline down pat, it’s time to decide on a format. It doesn’t have to be an email course.
You could create a video that’s exclusive to your subscribers only, or an in-depth ebook, or so many other formats. Don’t think you need to do an email course just ’cause everyone else is.
Although, it is ridiculously easy to setup and a fun way to deliver value to your readers!
You probably know how important SEO is by now, but if not… well, it’s really important.
As a freelance writer and marketing agency copywriter, I spend a lot of time optimizing content for search engines, and writing about SEO for clients. There are some obvious tricks that everyone knows, like picking a keyword and mentioning it throughout your post. There are also some lesser known blog post SEO tricks out there to increase your rankings.
I’m going to share those secret tips with you today.
A critical thing to keep in mind about SEO is WHERE it fits into your writing process.
Any guesses as to where it should fit in? At the end maybe, when you’re editing your post before publishing it and want to sprinkle in some keyword magic dust?
SEO should be thought of from the very beginning of a blog post’s life. When it’s still nothing but a wee little idea tadpole floating around your brain.
Thinking about SEO from the beginning means that ALL your future actions for that post will be optimized for the Google overlords, increasing your chances of beating the algorithm and ranking high. F yeah!
So, with that in mind, let’s get into my top 10 blog SEO tips!