business & technology for wedding and lifestyle pros

The Midas Whale


Several seasons ago, there was a duo on the Voice by the name of Midas Whale. Legend has it, one member of the duo asked the other if he wanted to form a band, and he replied “Might as well”, and thus the name was born. From then on, in the office, each decision we made because we “might as well” was referred to as a Midas Whale.

The Midas Whale

Photo: © Dreams by the Sea / Etsy

Over time, I’ve come to the realization that though he may originally appear cute and harmless, the Midas Whale is a dangerous predator. It’s so easy to follow the Midas Whale that the best alternative may be left by the wayside.

Perhaps:

  • You’re going down the path of least resistance.
  • You might not truly want to take the route, but you can’t think of a reason not to.
  • Your first choice wasn’t available, so this is the next best thing.
  • Other people are doing it, so you think you should as well.

Before following the Midas Whale, ask yourself:

  • Is there another course of action with a higher potential upside?
  • Am I doing this because it’s easy, or because it’s best?
  • What do my instincts say about the choice?
  • Am I swimming with the current (pardon the pun) or simply being carried along?

Have you followed a Midas Whale? How did you feel about your decision?

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So You’re Ready To Blog…


You’ve read my previous post about deciding whether you’re ready to start a blog and the green light has appeared.  Now what?

Steps to Take Before Starting a Blog

Step One: Name Your Blog

(If you are a vendor with an existing company name (and you plan to add a blog with your existing company name on your site) move on along to Step 2.)

It sounds quite obvious but naming your blog is not as easy as it sounds.  After brainstorming blog names, you will first need to verify in the US Trademark Database (TESS) that your chosen name is not taken.  You will also want to verify with Whois that the .com of your chosen name is available for purchase.

Step Two: Branding

I cannot stress enough how important cohesive visual branding is to your new blog.  This includes color schemes, fonts, and most importantly your blog logo and header.  You want your blog to be a reflection of you, your company, and your content.

Think of brands you use on an everyday basis.  What makes you choose Tide vs. Cheer?  Coca-Cola vs. Pepsi?  A generic granola bar may taste almost exactly like Quaker, but how likely are you to choose generic?  What makes you lean towards brands that you trust?  It isn’t always taste, usefulness or tradition – in some cases it’s as simple as the overall appearance and packaging of the product on the shelf.

The web is the same.  You may have the best content in the world but if your blog/site is poorly designed and difficult to navigate, you’re not going to generate the readership you want.  So when you’re branding, as difficult as it may be, you’re in Field of Dreams land.  “If you build it (and have excellent content, and market yourself, and make sure you SEO your site properly, all of which we’ll discuss soon!), they will come”.

Step Three: Sketch Your Layout

In Photoshop, Powerpoint, or with stick figures (my preferred method), begin sketching out your blog’s look and feel.  Do you want a 2-column or 3-column layout?  How do you want your front page to appear?  Do you want to immediately display excerpts or full-text posts?  What information do you want to display in your sidebar?  What information do you want included in your posts’ headers?  Their footers?  What navigation elements are essential?

This is a daunting task but before any technology is implemented you need to have a vision!  Review as many blogs as possible for elements you want to incorporate into your preliminary design.  This is also the time to work with your graphic designer on any special illustrations for your site, or to gather the best photos of your work to display.

Now that you have a good idea of the look and feel of your new blog, it’s time to get technical!  Next up: a series of posts on Building Your WordPress Blog!

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Using Images In Blog Posts


Some of the most common questions people encounter as they begin blogging revolve around images: how to credit them, what the copyright regulations are, and general, proper blog image etiquette.

Using Images in Blog Posts

Images and the Fair Use Doctrine

First up, the legalities: images are copyright to the photographer. Unless you are the photographer, you have received permission from the photographer, or they have licensed their work for creative commons, you are using any images you post under the US government’s doctrine of “fair use”.

You should read this short page for the complete information about fair use but to paraphrase, there are four factors at play:

  1. The purpose and character of the use (commercial? non-profit?)
  2. The nature of the work itself
  3. The amount used of the work as a whole
  4. The effect of your use upon the market value of the work
Blogging Etiquette

As you can see on the copyright office’s page, the entire fair use area is gray. Here are a few things that are absolutes:

  • Getting approval from the owner means you are in the clear to use the image.
  • A creative commons license (which many bloggers who take their own photos provide in the terms and conditions of their site) means you are clear to use the image.
  • If the owner of an image asks you to take it down, take it down.  Period.
  • You should ALWAYS credit the owner/photographer.  Even if you have permission.  Even if it’s creative commons.  Unless it’s your image, or a stock image that does not require crediting (aka “attribution”), this rule should be followed 100% of the time. For example, the image above is a no attribution required stock image.
  • Pinterest is never the source of an image.  I repeat – your image credit should never be to Pinterest.  There is a photographer/blogger behind that pin who brought the amazing content to light.
Tips for Bloggers

If you are a blogger yourself, it is a great idea to have a policies or terms page on your site, telling your readers whether or not they are free to use the photos (and content) that you have posted and in what manner.

When you post images that you do not own, I think it bears repeating that you should always credit the photographer.  If you found the image on a blog other than the photographer’s, you should also credit the source of the information and any sources that they have named. It doesn’t cost anything to be nice and give credit where credit is due!

Bloggers and photographers, do you have tips to share on image etiquette or guidelines for usage?

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What The Bachelor Teaches Us About Business


Let’s face it, a lot of us are fans of horrible reality TV, including The Bachelor.  But we if dive in a little closer, we can see that we can actually learn something from the “journey”…

Business-Lessons-from-The-Bachelor

Photo: © ABC

Lesson 1: Not everyone is your soul mate

The Bachelor has 25 amazing women to choose from. Of course, his connection will be stronger with some than with others.

So how does this translate?

  • Not every client is your client.
  • Not every potential sponsor is right for you.
  • Not every guest blogger fits your aesthetic.
  • Not every blog/website/magazine/etc is a good fit for your advertising needs.

It took me a long time to come to terms with this. It’s hard to feel comfortable with saying no! But in the long run, it’s in your best interest to know your business or your blog well enough to make an informed decision about who you should work with and where best to spend your time and money.

Lesson 2: The popular choice isn’t always the right choice

Remember Bachelor Jake? Polls showed that most viewers wanted him to choose Tenley, but he followed his heart instead and proposed to Vienna.

There will inevitably be a time where you have to choose a path for your business. Perhaps it’s a price increase, a geographic move, or a new product you want to introduce. Your decisions won’t always be popular among the masses, and that’s OK. If you have evaluated and determined your course of action – stick to your gut and believe in yourself, because what’s right in everyone else’s eyes isn’t always the right choice for you.

Lesson 3: Sometimes you just have to let go

Megan left Chris’s season of The Bachelor when she knew the “spark” wasn’t there.

One of the most difficult problems faced in business is when to let go – of an idea, of an employee, of a product line, etc. There is no right answer. It’s of course different in each situation, but the key is learning to recognize when it’s time to cut the cord, and when you make the decision, confront the problem directly, make an action plan, and follow through.

Lesson 4: First impressions are important

On episode 1 of Ben’s season of The Bachelor, the all-important initial first-impression rose went to Lindzi, who was also one of the final two ladies.

We all know the old saying “you never get a second chance to make a first impression”. It’s cliche, but it’s true. Most first impressions are now made online, when someone is researching service providers or reading past reviews of products. Potential customers or clients may find your Twitter feed, personal blog, Facebook page, and of course your website.

  • How do you present yourself online?
  • How does your website/blog reflect on your business?
  • Is the branding consistent with your intended message?
  • Is what they see representative of what they get?

Lesson 5: It’s OK to admit you were wrong

Even if you aren’t a fan of The Bachelor, you may remember the absolutely wild After the Final Rose where Jason broke up with the winner, Melissa, only to ask Molly to date him again.  Jason and Molly have now been married for 5 years and have a daughter, while Melissa married a former boyfriend and has two children.

It’s inevitable that we will all make bad decisions.  Handling success is easy, but handling failure and accepting our bad outcomes is so much more important, in life and in business.  It’s OK to make bad calls, to admit you were wrong, and to try, try again.

Of course, there are many other life lessons we can learn from The Bachelor, most of which are quite obvious to non-reality-TV contestants!  What have you learned from watching The Bachelor?

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Google Analytics Advanced Segments


I’m sure most if not all of you know about the awesome tool that is Google Analytics.  It’s free, there are multiple wonderful plugins to integrate it with WordPress (I use Yoast’s plugin), and when used correctly, you can track all kinds of interactions with your website.

Google Analytics Advanced Segments

One of the easy features to implement is the Advanced Segment feature.  Advanced Segments require no updates to the Analytics code on your site, only a little bit of configuration within Google Analytics.  I use Advanced Segments for a variety of things, but one important use is to track how readers from a specific referring source interact with your website.

Creating an Advanced Segment

Let’s say I want to see how readers from Pinterest interact with my website. First, log in to Google Analytics and access your website profile. Click on Add Segment.

Google Analytics Advanced Segment Tutorial

Click the red New Segment button and give your segment a name. We’ll call ours “Pinterest Visits”. Select Traffic Sources. In the Source field, leave the condition as “contains” and in the value field type pinterest.com. Click save.

Tutorial on Google Analytics Advanced Segments

Now, navigate back to your Google Analytics dashboard. Click on the Add Segment button again. Search for pinterest, find your recently added segment, and click apply.

Using Advanced Segments

Your Dashboard will now show you how “All Sessions” and “Pinterest Visits” stack up to each other!

Analyzing Data with Advanced Segments

Now to take it even further, let’s say you sell a product and have a checkout page on your site.  If people successfully check out, they are taken to a “thank you” page.  That thank you page represents your sales conversion page.  With Advanced Segments you can now see how many visitors from Pinterest are converting into sales.

Navigate to Behavior » Site Content » All Pages.  In the search field, type /thank-you/ (or the slug of your order success page) and click the magnifying glass. Voila! Data showing you how many sales conversations you received from Pinterest visitors.

Of course, this is also useful for other page views, such as how many visitors are viewing your contact page, and other referring sources, such as external advertising you might purchase. Coming soon, we will talk about Google Analytics Event Tracking and how to combine Event Tracking with Advanced Segments, which is where the real fun comes in!

So have I inspired you to try out Advanced Segments?  How will you apply them to your site analytics?

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