A Rare Disease That Sounds Like It Belongs in Harry Potter: Pemphigus Vulgaris

It started last year (2017), when I was extremely fatigued for months and couldn’t shake the exhaustion. I slept at night as usual, but had a hard time getting up in the morning. The exhaustion, pain and swelling were always present, and no matter what I tried, the discomfort would not subside.

I went to my primary doctor, who sloughed off my symptoms as being tied to inflammation associated with Fibromyalgia. The doctor told me to take calcium and turmeric and sent me on my way. By December, my gums were very inflamed and my tongue was burning. I went to my primary and again was told that it was from the Fibromyalgia. This time, the doctor gave me thyroid medication for a thyroid condition I didn’t have.

Between January and February, my tongue burning came and went and I had canker sores — or so I thought. The canker sores never fully disappeared. I tried to solve the issues using acupuncture, Chinese herbs and vitamin drips. Unfortunately, the natural route was not working. If anything, it was getting worse. Three different doctors misdiagnosed me again — this time with oral thrush — and I spent a lot of time and money on medications I never needed. I went to six different doctors, three of whom said they didn’t have a clue what I had. With no help or guidance, they gave me Prednisone and sent me on my way.

Continue reading “A Rare Disease That Sounds Like It Belongs in Harry Potter: Pemphigus Vulgaris”

How to Launch, Grow, and Monetize a Website

How to Launch, Grow, and Monetize a Website

Thinking about launching a website? It can be intimidating when you’re first starting out. But throughout my time as an entrepreneur, I’ve come up with a set process for ideation, testing, promoting and monetizing. First, a little about me. Over the past 20-some years, I have launched multiple online businesses. Some I consider successes, while others have been failures. I’ve always been interested in education, so I launched my first business in that industry at age 18. I provided a private tutoring service that offered students in-home sessions.

While it was successful, I quickly grew out of it and moved on to other interests. In the early 2000s, I decided to up my game and move into digital marketing. I had the educational and content side down, but digital marketing has a lot of moving parts, and it took a little more effort to learn. I spent hours at Barnes & Noble reading about the Internet and online marketing. Reading about it wasn’t enough, though; I needed to tap into shared knowledge.

Continue reading “How to Launch, Grow, and Monetize a Website”

Advice from social media and SEO expert Lisa Weinberger

Originally published on TechRepublic. Interview by Nicole Nash.

During a very busy travel year, training internal teams and speaking at conferences, this interview was completed on a 6-hour plane ride.

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If you want to integrate SEO into your social media strategy, read this interview to learn one expert’s approach. She also reveals her favorite analytics, SEO, and social media tools.

Continue reading “Advice from social media and SEO expert Lisa Weinberger”

Breaking Down Silos: How to Help Your Team Win at SEO

Originally published on Conductor’s blog

Being in the SEO industry for 20 years as a consultant and a director — most recently, the Director of SEO, Content and Social Media for Vitacost.com – I see the same problem at every company I work at: a severe lack of communication between departments.

When educating an organization on integrated marketing and the importance of SEO in every decision, these are the management tactics I’ve found to be the most useful in pushing that message across.

But first: do your homework!

Observe what is and isn’t working within your organization

We have all heard about the “silos” which occur within organizations, or lack of communication between departments. Often this doesn’t happen consciously – it’s simply a product of monotonous everyday tasks.

As an outsider looking in, or as a newbie to a company, I like to observe and learn the current processes and procedures of how teams work together for the first few weeks. There is a lot of listening, taking notes, and reviewing similar complaints from various stakeholders within departments.

Ask yourself: are all departments communicating the right things?

What I typically find is that everyone wants the organization to succeed and everyone is passionate about his or her contribution to the company; no doubt, that’s a great environment to be a part of.

But when it comes to communication between departments, complaints are often similar. The departments are communicating, just not about the right things. They aren’t talking about what is necessary to move forward and reach goals.

4 Tactics That Have Been Phenomenally Successful For Breaking Down Silos

1. Set up bi-weekly meetings to make sure everyone knows what’s happening.

At Vitacost.com, I first observed a disconnect between merchandising, onsite promotions, the blog content team, and the social media team. Through discussion, we discovered that no one knew about the hefty amount of social media promotion is done or the contests being executed. These contests occur weekly and monthly with specific vendors, and the social media and content teams were the only ones aware of it.

We started a bi-weekly meeting as well as check-in emails to make sure all parties were aware of the scheduled social promotions. After that discussion, everyone was open to communicating and working together that within a week — communication vastly improved. It was quite amazing to see the change happen so quickly.

2. Incorporate other departments’ needs into your editorial calendar.

The same occurred between the content team and the merchandising department. As we all know, content can make a huge impact on users wanting to stay on the site, especially if promoted to gain more engagement. Within a week after sharing my observation and suggestion of incorporating merchandising needs with the editorial calendar, both departments’ initiatives were fully integrated.

Team building occurred across the organization and I received many comments about improved communication. Now, these departments actually enjoy working together.

3. Inform with educational materials and “Lunch & Learns.”

For those who have ever heard me speak, you’ll notice I have a distinct accent (unless you’re from the Northeast!). I’ve learned from my years of teaching that getting people to listen and understand the importance of the words being spoken takes patience.

Building an environment that understands why SEO should be part of the overall discussions takes time. After all, SEO touches many pillars.

The first step in this process is to educate. I always get a few copies of Vanessa Fox’s book “Marketing in the Age of Google” and pass it out for the organization to read. Then, I hold training sessions and Q&As; we call these “Lunch and Learns.”

4. Create an SEO best practice guide.

We typically create guidelines for SEO best practices within the first 3 months. That way, the teams are all following the same approach. These guidelines have helped tremendously. During training, team building occurs across different departments without force.

Pave the way for the next generation of SEOs

In the past, I have mentored many digital marketing novices into becoming full-fledged SEOs. Not all have become solely focused on SEO, but they possess the knowledge within their domain to be a voice and an expert in SEO. Whether they are leading social media, web development, content strategy, or paid search campaigns, they are able to use SEO as their platform for success.

As a director, my approach and goal are to pass on expert knowledge to my teams so they can take it in, expand their careers, and keep progressing in the industry. The first generation of SEOs have paved the way — I can’t wait to see what the next generation has in store next for us.

How to Use Google Voice Search for SEO

how-use-google-voice-search-seo

When Google updates their homepage, switches how the search results are shown, or adds a stronger focus on voice search, as an SEO, I am never quite sure how it will affect my sites. Sometimes there is no change in our analytics, other times there is a slight bump and then there is doubling traffic month over month consistently for five months.

Some may know, I launched a personal finance website for the cannabis community a few years ago with my business partner. Through many phases, we settled on MarijuanaRates.com which is a free search comparison tool for consumers with analysis completed and delivered through editorial.

With cannabis not being federally regulated, banking can pose a challenge though each legalized state has come a long way with new merchant companies for the cannabis industry, to enable their service to be used in transactions; making it a bit safer for cannabis employees. Having a mainly cash business is a problem and hasn’t been fully solved, but there are many smart, determined individuals in the industry working hard to solve the dangers of this process. Also due to the federal laws, no paid search is allowed which means all our traffic is through organic rankings and outreach.

Voice Search Results

It was a Friday night in March, while I was discussing with my husband about how our traffic jumped up and couldn’t pinpoint the exact channel since it kept showing direct. He decided to “ask Google” about the prices of coffeemakers. Yes, we tend to have multiple topic conversations as we needed to buy a new one…. Google “gave” the answer about the Black & Decker coffeemaker price and visualize the lightbulb above my head turning on.

I screamed, “Ask Google How much is an ounce of Sour Diesel?” and BAM, Google’s answer to us, “According to MarijuanaRates.com…”

sour-diesel-google-answer-box

 

I screamed again (not that I couldn’t ask Google myself), “How much is an ounce of OG Kush?” Again! “According to MarijuanaRates.com…”og-kush-google-answer-box

This went on for easily an hour, asking all different questions and I screamed with excitement. Our daughter thought something was wrong as I explained to her, No, it’s just mommy and daddy’s business doing something amazing!

blue-dream-google-answer-box

We knew we had captured the Google Answer boxes months prior for much of our editorial pieces, but didn’t realize that when voice search began increasing, it also meant we were the site who gave the answer to the searcher’s query verbally! Not only in Google but all voice search in Siri, Bing and Alexa (yup we checked!).

In the past few months of monitoring our captured answer boxes, we have seen a few changes:

  1. Our featured image has been shown, then not shown, then shown again.
  2. Recently, Google is showing images from other sites but using our data and information for the answer.
  3. Originally the answer box was showing our charts aka rate tables for the answer and have switched to grabbing the actually written editorial as the answer. Not the rich snippet.
  4. Depending on the day, time of day, week, location; sometimes we hold the top ranking but Google doesn’t show the answer box.
  5. Sometimes the answer box will pull information from a different amount blog posting and then fix itself.

How do we use Google voice search in our SEO strategy? Continue to analyze what our community searches for and answer their queries through continued data acquisition, content creation and outreach. By working our cannabis business, where the main source of traffic has to be organically driven, taking the experience and knowledge and applying it has been the greatest gift to us.

We are grateful for the many users and visitors to MarijuanRates.com. With 20k+ sessions, 18k+ users and over 105k+ page views since March, we continue to grow as the cannabis community welcomed us and we continue to build more consumer friendly tools to help with their budgeting needs. We wanted to share from March to present day, we have a great community, who spends time on our site and visits many pages, getting their questions answered and we couldn’t be happier with the results.

If you are a business interested in advertising on MarijuanaRates.com, please contact us and we can discuss our packages.

 

The 3 C’s of Social Media

3 C's of Social Media

Abide by the “3 Cs” when it comes to social media.

Conversation, Community, and Curation are the “3 Cs” of social media. Everything is based from the main “C” which stands for Content development with a purpose. Since the cannabis industry cannot pay for digital media, all MarijuanaRates.com traffic comes through organic marketing. A lot of our traffic and brand recognition is due to the 3 C’s.

Conversation

Think before you speak is a saying heard many times from educators to their students. The same rule applies for online conversations. Don’t post or send a message without reading through what you are writing. Consider your audience and PLEASE don’t use the word “should.”  Pose questions and gather input. Thank your responders and just be genuine. Fakeness can be seen quickly through words and online conversations.

  • Create your own platform to speak to your target audience. For example, if you want to discuss personal finance for cannabis, now you can here. Before I created a sub-reddit, I participated and still participate in other sub-reddits but felt it was time to launch our own.
  • Comment on posts and genuinely show interest in points made by blogger and comment as early as possible on the post; provide some insight or offer another angle.
  • Pose questions and find specific problems, tasks or goals associated with our audience. Pose them as questions on influencer’s social media post or blog.
  • Share your content within a comment or in response on a Facebook or Instagram post, offer a link to content that answers someone else’s concern.
  • Respond to existing conversations and jump into a comment thread on a blog, reply to a Twitter conversation, LinkedIn postings or just Like or Heart some good sentiments.

Community

Besides the typical social media networks, look for niche sites or forums. Reddit has grown into a great place to connect to individuals and companies who want to discuss specific topics. A connection in my network made this suggestion for MarijuanaRates.com and it has been one of the greatest suggestions. We have been accepted into a few of the marijuana forums and everyone is willing to help us with our editorial.

  • Leverage influencers and followers to create events, Tweet chats, Facebook Live events, Instagram stories, AMAs, and Google Hang-Outs.
    • Coordinate with in-house experts and selected influencers.
    • Leverage influencers with greater footprint than you.
    • Format with specific questions that can be used in articles or videos afterward.
    • Record the event.
  • Use email newsletter distribution to internal contacts and your network.
    • Once you have 50-100 relationships, consider offering a newsletter.
  • Attend events and conferences to reinforce relationships.
    • Create a reason and strategy for this information that provides value.
    • Shake hands, get a coffee, and interact.
  • Use prize driven contests and hashtag creation.
    • Leverage “sweepers” to gain attention to your topic.

Content Curation

  • Read and research authority websites, blogs, publications, associations for high-quality content. Post or tweet with a point from the content. Possibly use a question to create engagement. Use:
    • Partner content
    • Influencer content
    • Industry associations
  • Share this content on proper networks, based on topic and target audience.
  • Change message “marketing copy” to connect with your audience.
  • Curate from past contributors to create notifications to current followers. This keeps your activity always current and relevant.
What else can you add that begins with a “C” when managing social media?

Build your support system and patience

Build support system and patience

Be patient and open minded

Not every business will succeed nor will grow in the direction you want it to. Be patient and ask questions. There are more resources today available to you than there was in the early 2000’s when I started PearlyWrites.com. People are open to sharing and willing to have conversations to where there are even networks and forums specialized on self learning a craft. Free courses are always popping up!

When I presented at SEO industry conferences representing an employer, the feedback from my session floored me!

All anyone wanted was real, truthful information that they can take and try on their own.

As some say, my delivery is direct, quick and full of details that many can’t keep up with. But all this experience helped me build up confidence toward being open to trying new things, being patient with my businesses and showed success can be achieved in a variety of situations.

To gain more access to individuals you would like to be mentored by: Use your manners.

If someone helps you solve a problem or is willing to mentor you, use your manners and thank them. There is no need to purchase a gift but a simple “thank you” message, handwritten card or phone call goes a long way.

If you’re considering starting your own business, here’s how to leverage your experience and jump-start your next venture:

Build a support system.

It’s not unlike an entrepreneur to think they can succeed on their own. The reality is that we all need a support system — whether it is a partner, a spouse, a business partner, family, or friends. It can be one, two or three individuals whom you trust and have your best interest in mind.

Fortunately, my spouse has been my support from the early days of when I launched the tutoring service. My sisters are extremely supportive, my two childhood friends and my mentee turned friend and now business partner, Mitch Strohm. Mitch and I connected in 2005 and neither one of us ever saw a future of launching a business together.

Throughout the years, Mitch was my mentee and has grown into a strong digital marketer. So naturally when my husband offered the idea of personal finance for cannabis, I discussed it with Mitch and our LLC, Natural Media, was born! Our first business under the company is MarijuanaRates.com, the financial side of cannabis.  

Marketing roadmap

The idea has been decided, the roadmap is being followed and the business is being built. Now what?

  • Do you launch the business and start marketing right away?
  • Which marketing channels do you use?
  • SEO, Paid Media, Outreach, Email?
  • But wait, I need a list. Do I purchase a lead list?

Marketing Roadmap Questions

Take a deep breath and cheer that your business idea has launched. Enjoy the moment. Being worrisome will not help your marketing efforts so stop it. Cluttering your mind will just make things worse and bring you back to the first step.

If you’ve launched a website for your product, let a few people in your network know.

  • Ask them to test the site by clicking or trying to “break” it, and ask them to document their findings to send to you.
  • Once you receive the feedback, fix items that you can afford — the most crucial first.
  • Then review your website and choose one or two items on your site that you want to promote.

Ready to take the next steps in launching your web business?

Need help?

Be open to learning new things

Be open to learning new things

One tip to remember, even if you have launched a web business before, there are always new things to learn. Whether its a new social media network, content management platform or analytics software, be open to learning new things.

Places to learn for free:

  • Forums like Reddit to read, interact and learn
  • Subscribe to newsletters from authority journals
  • Take advantage of free webinars
  • Some established businesses host local events to share their experiences

Be open to learning

If you have some money, you could pay for help but someone like me where website management, SEO and marketing is my craft, I spend a few hours a day reviewing the site maintenance, the analytics & making adjustments to our marketing campaigns. As a business owner, learning how to set up and review the analytics is a must because as you start monetizing, your partners will be asking for metrics to measure success.

For example, on MarijuanaRates.com, one monetization path we use is a crowdfunding campaign. After a lot of research, we found a platform perfect for creatives and launched our first campaign this week! Without being open to learning new things, we would have stuck to the traditional approaches which can be challenging in an industry not accepted by the Federal government.

Don’t assume you know everything about your craft.

Using the title of “expert” or “guru” is lovely, but why do you need to tell people? Shouldn’t your work or past experience speak for itself?

Even as a 20 year veteran in the digital marketing industry, I continue to research and learn.

You don’t have to attend school or classes, but you can stay up-to-date with the latest developments in your industry by building a network you can tap into for knowledge and new insights about your industry.

Continuing Education

In SEO, the base of the algorithm hasn’t changed in many years. It comes down to answering users queries with real, researched information. User intent has always been at the forefront of the Google algorithm. But when the first large algorithm update occurred, the online marketing community shook — it came to be known as the Google Slap. Since then Google has created a zoo of algorithmic updates to bring quality websites and information to the top of the organic search rankings.

For many in the SEO industry, when they saw their site lose 50 percent of their traffic, the fury and frenzy began. People were asking if Google was being fair. Even some sites who followed the “rules” got penalized. Reconsideration requests were sent and some of the sites who didn’t get put back into Google search had to readjust their marketing tactics.

During these times, it’s very useful to tap into your network and learn from others. Don’t assume you know everything. Unless you are the programmers who create the Google algorithm, you never know if your site will get dinged in search index rankings.

A good book to read is “Marketing in the Age of Google” by Vanessa Fox. It’s a great resource in understanding how to work within Google’s rules toward being successful with your web business.

Which techniques do you use to keep learning?

Set your own deadlines

Set your own deadlines to succeed

Although you have plenty of motivation to being your own boss, it takes self-discipline and accountability to complete actual tasks and projects. Since many web businesses begin with a self-employed individual or partnership, setting up a project management system, to keep your growing business on track, is suggested.

Incorporate seamless project management into your strategy.

Not every business needs to start with all the fancy software and tools. Many software companies offer a free or low cost option to allow for management of projects. Do your best to eliminate back-and-forth emails with contractors who are being used for ongoing tasks or projects.

project management

Some management tools to look into include:

  • Trello – A project management tool to help keep projects moving along and inform a team of the  different stages. This also helps cut down on emails.
  • Basecamp – Another project management tool.
  • Slack – Communication is a must when building a team!
  • GSuite (Google Apps – Drive, Hangouts, Voice) – All of these tools are free or affordable for a budding entrepreneur. With my present business, MarijuanaRates.com, we use Google Apps since there are two of us with lots of ideas and daily communication.
  • Sprout Social – Yes, I know. Sprout Social could be pushing the budget a bit. But they give a nice package for their cost. Having worked in corporate settings, getting to use the big, bad, expensive social media tools, Sprout is a favorite of mine when it comes to management of social media campaigns.
  • Mail Chimp – As you are growing your list of contacts, and want to email them all about an update, Mail Chimp offers you an affordable way to touch base as well as remind your network to consider you for services.
  • Buzzstream –  A contact relationship management system designed for social media and email interactions.

Look into building your site on WordPress as it is easy for a new business owner to learn, create and manage.

* Very important: If you can’t complete a task or project, you will never make money.

 

Full article appeared in The Altucher Report.

Choose a name which reflects your business offering

The next step in your path toward self-employment, choose a name which reflects your business offering.

Begin branding from day 1.

  • Search available domain names,
  • Research social media handles,
  • Check Trademark office, and
  • Any other places you plan to use your company name. 

branding name

When launching PearlyWrites, the name fit what my company offered which was content creation. As I expanded as an SEO professional, PearlyWrites doesn’t reflect all my service offerings. Although I continue as PearlyWrites, I have created other businesses where the names are set for future offerings.

With my business partner Mitch Strohm, we launched Natural Media, LLC. Under this company, we run a business called MarijuanaRates.com. The idea came while brainstorming with my husband. We have many years of personal finance digital marketing experience between us as consultants, working with Bankrate.com, CreditCards.com and a few finance start-ups but we didn’t want to be competing with companies we helped rank.

We looked at different industries which lacked personal finance related businesses and personal finance for cannabis began.

Since we launched MarijuanaRates.com, the business has expanded from the original idea of a blog. We added a free cannabis pricing consumer search comparison tool with more product on the way! Some of these products will have their own product name and the names will reflect it’s offering. You won’t always get lucky with business names being available as domains but there are always creative spelling options!

What are your favorite business names?

 

Full article appeared in The Altucher Report.