Sisterly Advice for New Bloggers

A couple of weeks ago my family and I all received an email from my brother, informing the family that he had decided to start a blog. I was overjoyed to welcome him to the blogosphere and was glad that, as an already talented writer, he decided to try his hand at a new medium.

Then, the other day, I received another email from my brother, this time asking me how exactly to get his blog ‘out there.’ And there you have it, the age-old question (or at least digital age-old question): Now that you’ve decided to write about something, how do you get people to read it?

The following is the email I sent him in reply:

Dear —-,

The bad news: There is no easy, one-step magic trick to getting a blog
“out there.”
The good news: Your problem is exactly the sort of work that I’m
looking for a career in, so I’d be happy to try my hand at helping you out.

Basically, what you’re asking about is Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
People make careers out of driving traffic to websites, but alas you
are not a multi-million dollar corporation and I am but a mere novice
in the ways of SEO. Still, I’ll do my best to give you some quick and
easy tips, especially ones that I have followed with my own blog.

Now, keep in mind, my blog is no best-seller. It took me months to
get the limited readership that I have. Yes, sad but true, the basic rule of thumb is
that increasing traffic will take time– perhaps not months, but time
nonetheless.

First off, I hate to admit it to you, but don’t forget that in all
actuality, your blog’s premise isn’t unique (Sorry. Harsh. I know.) In
fact, you would be hard put to find any topic to write a blog on that
would be unique nowadays. It is the content, rather, that
sets a blog apart.

So let’s get down to the nitty-gritty and I’ll give you some basic SEO
techniques:

1) Link your social media: I noticed you have already used Facebook to
publicize your blog, now go a step further. I suggest making a unique
Twitter account for your blog. You can then feature your tweets right
on your website. Also, you’ll be reaching a completely different
audience.  I also have a Tumblr, which you might want to look
into. There are also YouTube accounts, Stumbled Upon, Flickr, Digg,
MySpace, even LinkedIn. Whatever your feel will work best for you. And
then– connect!

2) Search Phrases: Use unique and specific tags for your posts. When
you just label something as ‘video games’ or ‘books,’ imagine the
number of search results that show up before your own. Be specific and
feel free to be liberal with the amount of tags you have. Also, the
words on the site itself all are put into some crazy mathematical
equation that determines your sequence in search results. I’ve found
that people have been driven to my site even by the words used in
images that I post. You can figure these things out by looking at your
WordPress stats. So be creative and feel free to be wordy.

3) Keep your content fresh, relevant, and user-friendly: Seems simple
enough, true, but just keep it in mind. Make sure that when a person
stumbles upon you after searching, they are getting exactly what they
are searching for. As far as keeping content fresh– you seem to be
doing that well. One thing I will point out is the ‘user-friendly’
aspect. Try not to let your posts get too looooong. While for some blog
readers, that’s not a problem, for others is a major deterrent. It’s
overwhelming to scroll down the length of a page and see that the post
you are (or were) about to read is much lengthier than you had
expected. I understand you’re not used to writing for this specific
format, but just keep in mind that it is a different format. Just like
you wouldn’t write a novel like a lab report, or vice versa, you don’t
write a blog post like a novel. I highly suggest looking at one of my
posts for further instructions on this front
(https://tessarickart.wordpress.com/2011/02/22/10-tips-of-blogging-tip-taking-blogger/).

4) Reciprocate: I know that you said you’ve been scouring the
blogosphere and to that I say: carry on. Also, comment back when you
do get comments. Visit other blogs and comment. If you see posts that
relate back to your own, comment and suggest that they take a look at
one of your posts (see my stealthy use of this tactic above).

I hope some of these ideas help. Like I said before, it’s not an
overnight process. It takes work and time. Just don’t become
discouraged. Stick to it.


Your fellow blogger,
Tessa

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Collecting Quotes

I recently realized that it has been a while since I last posted a quote. I decided it was about time to add a new one. But first, I want to explain something: When I do post quotes, they are more than just space fillers or a way for me to compensate for not having written an actual post in a while. I can say this because, honestly, when I first started blogging, those were the exact reasons why I did post quotes. Now, however, I’ve come to enjoy simply sharing these quotations.

Since I was about 12, I’ve collected quotes. From books, from family, from things I’ve heard in TV or on the radio. My room is littered with little notebooks filled with these collections. Needless to say, I have a wide variety to choose from. But more than that, when I share a quote from my collection, I regard it as personal. I am sharing part of what makes me who I am, in hopes of finding other people who will take equal inspiration/humour/hope/knowledge away from these words.

Today, the quote I’m sharing seems all to relevant to my current situation. As I look for jobs in the real world, I need to remember that the “risk” or staying still is just as “painful” as moving on. Please enjoy and feel free to share some of your favorite quotes with me. I’m always looking to add to my collection!

 

 

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

-Anais Nin

The Philosophical Lessons of a Jigsaw Puzzle

I don’t mean to unnecessarily philosophical, but my recent puzzle-ing escapades have led me to some introspective meditation.

You see, it all began after doing the same-old 100 piece puzzles at work with the kids, I’ve realized that one can only do so many ‘My Little Pony’ and ‘Pixar Cars’ puzzles before one’s sanity is put to the ultimate test. However, I was not completely put off by the activity and actually went out and invested in my own 1,000 piece puzzle. It’s a real artsy affair: a painting of a waterside town at sunset (it was either that or a snowy village). I’ve been working away on it, slowly but surely (emphasis on the slowly), and I’ve come to realize that my biggest fault is that I will look at a piece and convince myself that it belongs in a specific spot. I am so sure that this 1/1000 of a puzzle is a part of the boardwalk, and yet I can’t quite make it fit anywhere. Frustration ensues, followed by begrudging acceptance that I made a mistake, and  finally I find myself able to look at it from a different point of view. This isn’t a piece of the boardwalk; it’s clearly part of the roof on the fish shop!

After struggling with many similar instances of stubbornness, I finally came to accept that what I at first assume is not always accurate. I’ve learned to keep an open mind and look at things from multiple perspectives. Sure, at first glance this one piece may seem like a bit of the ocean, but in actuality it’s a fold in a woman’s dress. By having a rigid mentality, I’m unable to see this, making the puzzle about 20 times harder.

So here are the philosophical lessons I have learned during my puzzle experience:

  1. Keep an open mind– whether it’s about a puzzle piece or a person. It’s important to not get stuck on one thing, but to realize that there are any number of possibilities and solutions.
  2. View each situation from multiple perspectives. So what if you didn’t get into the college of your dreams, view it as an opportunity to explore rather than an impediment to your future. It is important to view each and every situation (or puzzle piece) in multiple ways.
  3. Don’t assume, or at least accept that assumptions are prone to inaccuracy.

And finally

4. Puzzles are hard.

Recommendation Letter Recruitment

Nowadays, most job applications are submitted online. In many cases, they allow for you to attach ‘any extra materials’ that you think might be of importance. I’ve translated this to mean: include recommendation letters or perish into nonexistence due to  conformity. Recommendation  letters, though more of a staple, are certainly a necessary step in helping applicants stand out in a crowd.

In preparation for the submission of my job applications, I’ve been in correspondence with a couple of professors in hopes of their writing me recommendation letters. The last time I went through this process was in high school, when I mustered up the nerve to ask my teachers for college recommendation letters. I ended up getting a pretty by-the-book, fill-in-the-blank, generic recommendation from one of my favorite teachers (talk about a disappointment), and what I can only imagine was a glowing recommendation from my (overly?) complimentary guidance counselor (I never got to see that one, which is a shame because I’m always good for an ego boost).

But that was then, and this is now– a whole new ballpark. I’m asking these individuals to assist me in finding my way in the real world. I’ve received pretty positive responses so far, at least from one professor, who, despite not being within my major, I did a lot of work with, including an independent study (within my minor). It’s been wonderful getting back in touch with her, but I almost feel guilty asking her to write this letter. It occurred to me: think of all the letters she must have to write? What a pain!

Well, my other professor has found a way around such tedious tasks, and has actually told me to write my own recommendation letter. She’ll read it, approve or disapprove, hopefully edit it a bit, and then sign it. Now, I’m not one of those people who is their own biggest fan (see above mentioned comment about ego boost), so writing that letter was probably more of a trial than it would have been for her to have composed it. When constructing your own endorsement, you feel that you owe it to yourself to be a bit modest. But, at the same time, not overly modest (it is, after all, suppose to recommend you for the job…hence the name). It’s also hard for a person to see their own strengths, and equally difficult to identify one’s own weaknesses. I haven’t heard back from the professor yet, but I hope she takes some liberty and revises my muddled thoughts. It is, after all, difficult task to write a perfectly balanced review of oneself.

I like to think of these recommendation letters as an addition to my own cover letter. They highlight my strengths, passions, and past projects in a way that a resume just cannot. But this time, instead of singing my own praises via cover letters, a much more impartial audience is asked to solo.

Lessons Learned: Gotham Inc.

Remember this post? Where I gushed on and on about how neat it was that Denny’s was doing a web series for their social media campaign? I mentioned that DumbDumb, a group started by actors Jason Bateman and Will Arnett, was responsible for the videos. Apparently, however, I failed to dig further and discover the true group responsible for bringing this hilarity to the web.

Then, yesterday, I attended a guest lecturer at our school–an alumni who has made quite a name for himself in the marketing and advertising industry. His name was Peter McGuinness and his company is Gotham Inc., an integrated marketing company. The presentation was spectacular and thought-provoking, and while it’s hard to pinpoint a favorite part, I was especially interested when McGuinness started talking about Gotham’s own work. Lo and behold, they were the masterminds behind the Denny’s campaign.

McGuinness and his group were given the daunting task of completely revitalizing a great American brand that had lost its heat. Focusing on the idea of “openness,” the group enlisted social media, marketing and advertising. The success was evident and the media were enthralled.

For my part, I was bit starstruck when I found out they had been responsible for the “Always Open” videos that I love so much. It took all my willpower to resist shouting out: “I blogged about that!” I managed to resist making a fool out of myself, while taking away a few valuable lessons in the process. Here are some of those lessons:

  • Evolution and innovation are continuous
  • Social media is more than a fad. It is pervasive and powerful– and here to stay.
  • Brands have become democratized: The consumers are in control and companies must work to “earn” their time.
  • The foundation of a successful brand/consumer relationship is reciprocity.
  • When executing a campaign, truth is more important than ever.
  • It’s important to remain curious, personally and professionally. Broaden your perspective and horizon.
  • And finally, when applying to jobs “package yourself in a unique and compelling way.”

While I never got to ask the most burning question on my mind (Is your company’s name a reference to Batman?), the event was certainly valuable. In the end, it got me all the more excited to enter the career world!

The Pixar Lesson

I recently watched the documentary The Pixar Story and I wanted to take a quick post to reflect on the films, the company, and the inspiring story behind it all.

Starting out as a rag-tag team of animators, scientists, and just plain creative minds, the Pixar team (though not originally known as such) were trailblazing an area of animation that most of their peers, and superiors, wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot-pole. Having grown up in the world of technology, my generation often forgets that most computer advancements are still relatively new. Even now, the field of computer animation is continuously growing and discovering new ways of doing things. When Pixar first came into creation, CGI films were practically unheard of; now, you can’t meet a kid (or adult) who hasn’t seen (AND ENJOYED) one of Pixar’s CGI masterpieces.

While there are plenty of big names currently and previously associated with the company, some of the most influential contributors to Pixar’s initial success include Steve Jobs, George Lucas, and the incomparable John Lasseter.

After releasing their first feature film in 1995,  the studio continues to create some of the world’s favorite family films. So what was that initial film that sparked such success? Toy Story. Massively entertaining for both parents and children, Pixar managed to find the perfect recipe after a number of rewrites and reworkings. Now, Toy Story is a classic that few haven’t seen.

Defying the odds, sticking with a company that originally seemed to be nothing more than a money pit– the creative talents behind Pixar have alway been so dedicated to their jobs. When asked to produce the Toy Story 2 movie in conjunction with their then partner Disney, Pixar found themselves in a bit of a crisis as they faced deadlines they weren’t sure they could make. What’s more, they soon, though not soon enough, realized that the original storyline they were working with was…well…bad. And so Pixar started over, from scratch, despite the insistence of Disney executives that the story was “good enough.” Good enough, however, wasn’t good enough for the dedicated artisans at this amazing studio.

The Pixar Story documentary not only told the interesting history of the company, but reminded me of the role each of those films has played in my own childhood. I can still remember watching all those films– Toy Story, A Bugs Life, Finding Nemo— for the first time. While I didn’t truly appreciate their genius when I was younger, they never failed to amuse me. Even now, with each rewatch, as I pick up on the subtle adult humor and painstakingly intricate detail put into the animation, I can’t help but smile and laugh.

In the end, the real lesson that can be taken away from The Pixar Story is intrinsically tied to their parent company Disney’s own mantra:

“All our dreams can come true,
if we have the courage to pursue them.”

-Walt Disney