Finding Morgan

How I Plan My Blog Posts + A Printable Worksheet

blogging, productivityMorgan Taber13 Comments

I love to blog, but like almost everything in my life, if I don't prioritize it doesn't get done or takes much longer than necessary. I don't think I have a short attention span, it's just... "Oh, look a squirrel..." When I plan in advance and stay organized, I always get more quality work done.  


1. Research and organize. I am an Evernote junkie and I've also recently started using OneNote. I create a folder or section for each blog post and I save all of my digital brainstorming and notes in one (or sometimes both) of these apps. 

2. The most important part of a post is usually the result or the answer to a problem. I come up with a defined end result for my readers before any other part of the article.

3. Do the worst first. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy every part of blogging, but creating graphics is the most time consuming and stressful part of the process for me. I brainstorm on what type of graphic I am going to use, pick out my design or stock photo and then create it using PicMonkey or Canva. I usually create one graphic for my blog and one for each social media network that I am going to share my post on. Once the "hard part" is done, I feel like a weight has been lifted off of my shoulders.

4. Now on to the best part: writing! I like to write in the evenings. I am NOT a morning person and I just feel more creative at night. I like to play some music, sit somewhere comfortable, pour myself a drink of tea or wine and just write. I have been using a Spotify playlist called Deep Focus while I am working and it has definitely made me feel more motivated. On days when I am struggling to write Write or Die has been a real motivator. It really puts the "prod" in productivity. 

 

5. I take advantage of motivation and sit down and write multiple posts on those days where I feel like I can accomplish anything. This gives me wiggle room for the days where I feel like stepping out of bed may as well be a triathlon. 

6. Plan the title of the post. I usually do this after my post is written. This helps me decide on which keywords to use and to make sure it's SEO optimized. Google AdWords Keyword Planner and CoSchedule Headline Analyzer are fantastic tools for planning your titles.

7. Quadruple check and then check it again. Mistakes happen, but I try to avoid glaringly obvious errors as much as possible. Grammarly has a free grammar and spellcheck tool that absolutely rocks. Hemmingway is another good one. On the flip side, as an imperfect perfectionist, I sometimes agonize over things to the point of never getting them done. If you find yourseld doing this: remind yourself that nothing is irreversible, mistakes can be a learning expereince and they are never the end of the world or your blogging career. Done is better than perfect.

Bad grammar makes me [sic].
— Author Unknown

8. You've spent all of this time and effort. Your post is awesome. Your graphics are on point and your title rocks. Time to share it with the world. I like to map out where I will be sharing my post, how often and when. I usually share my posts using scheduling tools like Buffer and BoardBooster. But I still also use a good old spreadsheet with fields for each social media network, each of my blog posts, dates and times. It sounds tedious and it is, but it really helps me to determine which days and times work best for each platform. It also allows me to see which social media platforms are doing well and which aren't worth my time (I'm looking at you, Facebook).

Schedule those posts!

Schedule those posts!

 

9. Once the post ready to go, I schedule it. A quick peek at Google Analytics should tell you when your blog has the most traffic. For me, it's in the morning. As you all now know, mornings are not my friend. I talked about scheduling a little bit earlier in this post, but I am telling you: there is no better feeling than knowing your post is being published while you are still lying in bed.

 

PRO TIP: Here are 2 simple formulas for finding your peak traffic days and times using Google Analytics. Just ensure that Google Analytics is installed on your blog and that you are signed in. Clicking below will automatically add these formulas to your Google Analytics reports.

Find your highest traffic day of the week by clicking HERE

Find your highest traffic time of day by clicking HERE

To determine the which number aligns with which day use this super secret code:

0=Sunday 1=Monday 2=Tuesday 3=Wednesday 4=Thursday 5=Friday 6=Saturday


A good plan is like a road map: it shows the final destination and usually the best way to get there.
— H. Stanely Judd



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My Favorite Tips for Getting Things Done

tips, productivityMorgan TaberComment

Getting things done in a timely and organized fashion is something that does not come naturally to me. I do love making lists, but sticking to them is something I struggle with. Between blogging, freelancing, working full-time and having a family I've been working hard to turn myself into a more productive person. These are some of the things that I've done to get on the road to being one of those people that say "Let me check my calendar" rather than the person that misplaced their calendar completely. 


1. Prioritize your goals. I always had a huge list of goals that I wanted to accomplish with no timeframe and no priorities. Having tons of things to do with no game plan really just ends up leaving me feeling stressed and then I get very little done. I sat down and ranked everything from very important to not at all important and short term and long term. I ended up removing a few things from the list that I realized weren't really important to me anymore.

If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.
— Mark Twain

2. Keep a list of your goals. Actually writing out my goals and then seeing them in front of me is much more motivating and less confusing than having them all jumbled in my head.

Check out this goal setting printable worksheet to help you start prioritizing. I originally made it to help me get my blogging goals in check, but it can be used for business and personal goals as well.

3. One task or goal can usually be broken down in a few smaller chunks. Mini-goals help me feel accomplished and productive because they are easier to meet and feel less overwhelmed. 

4. Try out different time management methods. I have found the Pomodoro technique works well for me. I set a timer for 25 minutes and work on a project for that entire 25 minutes. Once the 25 minutes is up, I take a short break. The break gives me something to look forward to and keeps me from mindlessly working away and burning out. I use FocusBooster for my Mac. If you check the app store for your device there are tons of other awesome apps out there for Mac, Windows, Android and iOS as well.

There are tons of other time management methods out there besides Pomodoro. Lifehacker has great information about different methods. Here is a fantastic article about Pomodoro and another about Kaizen

5. Don't let email rule your day. Rather than checking your email 9,522,967 times throughout the  day, set aside specific times to check it. I started slowly weening myself off of the email obsession starting with 5 times a day and now I try to keep it down to 3. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule (like when you are awaiting an urgent email), but it's a start. All of those minutes and seconds spent checking email really do add up. 

6. Try to keep outgoing emails to just 4-5 sentences. Doing so has not only saved me time, but it has also helped me learn how to make my words more meaningful. 

 

Since I started becoming mindful of how I spend my time I have become much less anxious and get more done in less time.  I don't have feelings of impending doom if I don't complete something, I just move on.

 

These 4 books about productivity and getting things done have totally changed my life:

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen 

Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time by Brian Tracy

Do the Work: Overcome Resistance and Get Out of Your Own Way by Steven Pressfield

Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind by Jocelyn K. Glei

Do you have any tips or tricks that increase your productivity? I'd love to hear them!

 

* This post contains affiliate links


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Simple + Powerful SEO Tips To Increase Your Blog Traffic

bloggingMorgan Taber2 Comments

When I first started blogging SEO seemed like such a daunting task. And, to be honest, it was at first. I had no clue what I was doing and I over-planned and overthought my SEO strategy. There are a few plugins to help with SEO, but these are some of my favorite non-plugin, can be used on any type of blog SEO tips for giving your awesome content the attention it deserves!



1. Content is King


Out of all of the things  you can do to improve your site's SEO, the most important SEO tip isn't a tip at all, it's content. Providing well-written, quality content is by far the most valuable and proven way to draw traffic to  your site. If I Google "How to care for turtles" and the first search result is poorly written fluff, I am going to try another site. Sure ranking higher in Google is important, but content is what keeps your readers coming back for more.

A word on content from Google:

Provide high-quality content on your pages, especially your homepage. This is the single most important thing to do. If your pages contain useful information, their content will attract many visitors and entice webmasters to link to your site. In creating a helpful, information-rich site, write pages that clearly and accurately describe your topic. Think about the words users would type to find your pages and include those words in your site.

 

2. Speaking of Google

Google has so many helpful tools to help you get optimized. The first thing you should do is submit your site to Google HERE. Doing so optimizes your content for Google search and helps your visibility.

 

3. Webmaster Tools

Webmaster Tools is a free service that helps you maintain your site's presence in Google search results. It's not required to show up in Google search results, but it's a super useful tool that I recommend highly. Google even offers a free "Intro to Webmaster Academy" that can really help you get a better understanding of increasing your web presence. 

 

4. The Key(word) to My Heart

Google Keyword Planner is an amazing free tool that is a great way to find out which keywords would work best for your article. You'll need an AdWords account which is free to set up and Google Keyword Planner is free to use. You can use it to check how often a single keyword or long-tail keyword is searched on Google and also find data for related terms. That is some invaluable information right there!

Another great free tool for headlines is CoSchedule's Headline Analyzer. I use it hand in hand with the Google Keyword Planner. After I pick my keyword or keywords, I come up with a few relevant titles and pop them into the Headline Analyzer which gives you an analysis of the overall structure, grammar, and readability of your headline. 

 

5. Be Our Guest

Guest posting is not only a great way to form relationships with other bloggers, it's also a way to help your SEO. Generally when you guest post, the site your article is published on will link back to your blog. These links help improve your SEO. This brings me back to the golden rule: Content. Create content that people will want to share to organically improving your SEO.

 

6. Stay Organized

Use proper header tags, use bulleted or numbered lists when applicable, and make sure everything is organized in a way that makes sense. Keep writing great content with logical keywords throughout (without being spammy, of course!) and you will continue to improve your SEO.

 

7. A Graphic is Worth a Thousand Words

When you are adding graphics or photos to your post be sure to rename them something relevant rather than PIC123 or DSC-001 as well as adding an ALT tag. HERE is a quick explanation of ALT tags from Google. 


Have you found any methods for improving your SEO that work for you? Did you make a change that made a big difference? Or a change that you thought would make a big difference, but didn't (I've been there)? Let me know!

Blogging Tools I Am Willing to Pay for

bloggingMorgan Taber1 Comment

I am a huge fan of blogging on a budget, but there are a few tools other than the obvious (web-hosting, domain name etc.) that I completely willing to part with my hard earned cash for-- with a smile. Like most bloggers, I've made a few purchases that I regretted, but these tools were worth every penny and in some way, shape, or form helped grow and improve my blog. 

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BoardBooster is a Pinterest scheduling tool that is worth its weight in gold. Much like Buffer, it has saved me an endless amount of time while still keeping me on top of social media. Unlike Buffer, it only does the one social media platform. But, it does it well. Really well. BoardBooster is going to need its own post soon, it's that good.

BOARDBOOSTER

BoardBooster is a Pinterest scheduling tool that is worth its weight in gold. Much like Buffer, it has saved me an endless amount of time while still keeping me on top of social media. Unlike Buffer, it only does the one social media platform. But, it does it well. Really well. BoardBooster is going to need its own post soon, it's that good.

 

SCRIVENER

Scrivener is pretty much the coolest writing tool ever. It's basically like your own cork-board/mind dump/binder for blog posts, eBooks and whatever else you are writing. 

 

EVERNOTE

 I don't think a day goes by that I don't use Evernote and the free version is the bomb. The premium version has a few additional features that rock, including the ability to turn notes into presentations, which is worth the yearly fee on its own if you ever host webinars or tutorials.

 

DOLLAR PHOTO CLUB

There are tons of places around the web to get free stock photos, but sometimes the selection gets a little "old" or I start seeing a lot of other bloggers using the same photos. Many of the paid stock photo sites are a little rich for my blood. Queue Dollar Photo Club, a sister site of Fotolia (another great, albeit pricier place to get stock photos). DFC has some beautiful stock photos, just be careful because if you are anything like me it is easy to get overwhelmed. Oh hello 2 AM, I am still perusing stock photos.

 

GOOGLE DRIVE

I personally use Google Drive for my cloud storage because it integrates so well with all of the other Google-made applications I use, but I know that some people prefer other services like Dropbox or Amazon S3. I'm a little bit of a pack rat, so paying for the extra storage space is well worth the peace of mind for me.

 

SCREENFLOW

ScreenFlow is a screen recording program that is super user-friendly and simple to use. It took a lot of the headache and nervousness out of filming tutorials for me.

 

SPOTIFY

OK, so this technically has nothing to do with blogging or business but hear me out. Spotify is my catharsis while I'm writing and the ads just mess with my blogging mojo. Plus, the Deep Focus playlist is completely true to its name. I find that I work 23.6% more efficiently when I'm listening to music. True story.


Do you have tools or resources that you can't live without? Please share! I am always on the lookout for awesome new tools!


How to Use Buffer for Your Blog

blogging, social mediaMorgan Taber1 Comment

So, today I want to talk about a tool that I absolutely adore: Buffer. I can't even tell you how much it has changed my blogging life. Have you ever felt that there isn't enough time in a day? Between blogging, family, working full-time, I know I do. At times, I felt like I just couldn't keep up, especially with social media. I LOVE sharing on social media, but I had no idea how to find the time for it and stay consistent. Buffer is basically a magical time-saving fairy godmother that will save you loads of time so you can focus on creating and writing.

First things first, head over to Buffer's website and sign up for an account. If you click on the awesome plan at the bottom you can choose if you want a paid account ($10 per month) or a free account. I use a free account and I have no complaints. I however, don't use it with Pinterest, which is a paid only feature.

 

Start connecting your social media accounts. Again, Pinterest is a paid feature. You can connect one profile for each of the other social media networks with a free account.

Once you have all of your accounts connected, head over to the Schedule tab. From here you can make sure your timezone is correct in the Schedule Timezone field. You can also schedule your posts to be sent out.

From the Settings tab, you can choose to have your links shortened as well as which link shortening service you prefer. This feature is super awesome because as soon as you paste a link into the Content field it is automatically shortened. Space is super valuable, especially when it comes to Twitter, so I do shorten all of my links.

Now to start adding some content. Click on the content tab and then the Queue sub-tab. In the What do you want to share? field you can post your status. Choose one or more social networks you want to share the post to by clicking the circles. Click Add to Queue once you are ready to schedule.

This is your Queue. You can have up to 10 posts per social media account. There is nothing better than knowing you are sharing awesome content while you sleep!

Another really cool feature under the Content tab is Suggestions. It is an awesome content curation tool and helps keep your Buffer topped up with interesting content. Just click add next to the post you are interested in and it will automatically add it to your queue.

Screen Shot 2015-06-24 at 7.52.56 PM.png

Now for my favorite part: browser extensions! Head on over to Buffer's extension site from the browser of your choice (I use Chrome, but you can use whatever you'd like) and install that extension.

At the top of your browser you'll see the Buffer logo. When you're surfing the web and see something you like click on that logo. A window will pop up that is very similar to the field where you add to your queue on the Buffer website. It will prepopulate with a description and the website address. Just click on the social media platform or platforms you want to share to and Add to Queue. Simple!

That's the gist of it! Pretty simple, right?


TIPS

Set a time every day to schedule social media. I like doing it right after I get my kids to bed.

Don't forget to "manually" use social media! Your readers will appreciate all of the content you are sharing, but they also want to see "live" you!

Buffer has an app for iOS as well as Android

You can add your blog's RSS feed to your Buffer account. Under the Content tab select Feeds and add the URL to your feed. This will update with all of your latest posts making it super simple to add them to your queue.

The Analytics tab keeps track of how many times a post was liked, shared, retweeted etc. If you hover over a specific post in the Analytics tab it will give you the option to rebuffer.

Don't be afraid to share a post multiple times. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that you should be spammy; but I know that I'm not constantly checking my social media streams and would hate to miss a killer post of someone I follow.

Be sure to share more than your own posts. I love when bloggers I follow are dedicated to sharing awesome, useful content and not just constantly self-promoting.


Do you use a content scheduling tool? How has it changed your business?