Why I Stopped Selling SEO Services and You Should, Too [Moz Blog]

Hello all – Apologies for the gap in posts.  I have been simultaneously under the weather and swamped with new projects.  Not a problem that I will ever complain about.  While I work to catch up, I still want share some great content with you.  Today’s find is from the Moz Blog.  If you haven’t discovered them yet, keep reading and follow the link to see what you have been missing.

It’s no longer just about optimizing your website for Google. It’s about optimizing your presence across the web. SEO has tentacles that extend well beyond your website, so it’s important that you begin to think of search holistically, taking into account all of the areas that can be optimized.

Source: Why I Stopped Selling SEO Services and You Should, Too

Practical Advice for Dealing with Workplace Stress (Finally!)

workplace stress

Earlier this month HBR.org posted an article entitled Helping a Coworker Who’s Stressed Out. I printed it out (cause I’m old school like that) and ended up highlighting and making notes in almost every paragraph. THANK YOU Liane Davey for writing practical advice for something we all deal with each day! In today’s post I’m going to add my thoughts to some of her key points, but I encourage you to read her full article – it is worth your time.

According to Davey’s post, stress in the workplace is a “significant issue” for almost 50% of people in office jobs. And the truth of the matter is, no matter how many yoga classes you take or how carefully you plan your relaxing morning commute, stress can be contagious. If the person sitting next to you is seconds away from having a breakdown, there is a good chance that some of that will affect you. Why? Davey explains that our brains are essentially wired to pick up on the emotional states of those around us. Being cognizant of which stress is “yours” and which stress might be coming from others can be very useful.

Davey recommends a three-step approach for helping a stressed out coworker, and then three steps for addressing that person’s specific stressor. Let’s start with her approach:

  1. Reduce isolation by listening and being empathetic. Ask your coworker how things are going and then listen to their answer! This sounds so obvious, but Davey makes a great point that if you don’t start here, all of your other efforts will come across as judgmental or condescending. The conversation will start to help your coworker right away. First, it will help them to voice their concerns out loud to someone who cares about them – that active listening will help them to feel more cared for and supported. Second, they will become more aware of their own emotional state. They might not have realized the stressed vibes they were giving off and just having a conversation might spur them to take action, calm down, and develop a plan.
  1. Help your coworker to identify the root cause of the stress. Just saying, “I’m stressed about this project” is not enough. What is it about the project that is stressful? Do you have to complete too much work too quickly? Are you unsure of how to successfully complete the project? Or is there an interpersonal conflict between teammates? There could be other stressors, but as you can see, each root cause requires a very different solution.
  1. Suggest tactics for minimizing the impact of the stressor (I’d call this “make a plan”). Davey recommends a three step process for making a plan: help your coworker frame the situation more constructively; break it into manageable chunks; and then visualize next steps. I love everything about this approach. I don’t know about you, but if one more person suggests meditation as a one-size-fits-all solution to all forms of workplace stress, I might have to punch them right off of their floor cushion. Mindful practices are great, but if a project is stressing you out then you need to figure out what is causing that stress and then make a plan for dealing with it. Otherwise the stress will keep coming back again and again.

Davey then takes us through some possible tactics for addressing common root stressors.

Too much to do. I have found that when I lead teams of people who have multiple projects on their plate, this is a common issue that we have to manage. First, I start by asking for a quick run down of everything on their plate. This accomplishes two things – it forces the other person to be organized enough to know everything on their place, and it gives me a chance to identify specific areas where I might be able to help. Then comes the magic word – Prioritize. Make a list, people! You can only work on one thing at a time. That means you have to know what that one thing should be. You can also only delegate tasks that you identify in advance. Where can someone help you out? So often, just the process of cleaning up your to-do list, prioritizing top tasks, and figuring out where you can get help, will lift a lot of weight from your coworker’s shoulders.

Uncertainty about how to succeed. This is usually my #1 stressor, and I’ve noticed it in a few of my colleagues as well. I know how to organize and prioritize, but if I can’t figure out how to make a boss, client, or other person of authority happy I will pretty much make myself sick. When helping a coworker with this issue, Davey recommends encouraging them to think back to past projects that were similar, if not exactly the same, then outlining the steps required to complete the project. She also recommends making a list of people who might have experience or expertise that would help. I like both approaches because they are concrete, they use the resources that you already have, and they encourage you to get help in advance, rather than charging ahead and making yourself more of a stress ball.

Interpersonal conflict. For many people this is the toughest stressor because it is the one you may have the least control over. Davey reminds us to keep some distance from the issue. Your goal is to help your coworker to reframe the situation so that it isn’t as stressful and to identify the next steps, if necessary. I like that she points out that too often we take things personally when they are not, and an independent third party can help us to clarify those situations.

Above all, actively listening to your stressed out coworker goes a long way. As does grabbing them a snack when you make the afternoon Starbucks run. And sending them a funny video at the end of the day. We are all in it together. By helping a coworker with his or her stress, you will be helping to improve your own life as well.

Starting Strong with StartingPoint Realty [Interview]

Full disclosure: Ryan Gable helped my husband and I to buy our first home last year. His crystal clear niche marketing strategy is a big part of why we selected StartingPoint Realty over others in the marketplace. We figured if he was smart enough to target his potential clients with such clarity, then he was probably smart enough to help us find our dream home. We were right.

The one thing that this profile does not emphasis enough is Ryan’s people skills. There are many testimonials on the StartingPoint Realty website, but this one sums it up the best:

“Ryan is really a psychotherapist who doubles as a Realtor – kind of like a super hero.”

So true. His entire company’s enthusiasm is infectious.

Introducing Ryan Gable

Ryan Gable is the Managing Broker and CEO of StartingPoint Realty. After beginning his career in sales and sales management, Ryan launched his company in 2004… with zero real estate experience. Since that time, he has grown StartingPoint Realty into a successful venture with multiple offices – defining and owning the “first-time buyer” niche in the Chicago area.


What do you do?

StartingPoint Realty is a unique firm in the real estate agency industry because we primarily deal with the first time homebuyer market. Our mission and passion is to educate and inspire those who contact us looking for help with buying their first home. In 2014, 95% of our transactions involved a first time homebuyer – that percentage is the highest in the country. We have 15 agents and we operate two offices; Schaumburg, IL and Roscoe Village in Chicago, IL. Our Chicago office is actually set up as a homebuyer resource center with information, collateral, and available staff to assist and inform potential homebuyers. Not all of those who receive information from us utilize us as an agent, but it’s not about the commission with us, it’s about making a positive impact in the first time homebuyer journey.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

When I started the company 11 years ago, I was on my own with no real estate experience. I had this crazy idea to focus solely on first time homebuyers. Many thought I was nuts. But I’m proud of the agents that we’ve brought on board to work at StartingPoint Realty. When you start a company with a niche that’s never been been done before, you’re operating on faith. I am most proud of the talented people who are dedicated to serving the purpose of our company.

How do you stay on top of things day-to-day?

Real estate is a constant wave. It’s up or down, rarely steady. We do have an office assistant and we utilize a Virtual Assistance / Marketing company (realsupportinc.com) and they are great. RealSupport helps us with marketing, administrative, social media – I pay them on an as needed basis so when we’re busy, we lean on them quite a bit. When it’s slower, we can pull back. This works better for us as opposed to operating and maintaining a full in-house staff. We also utilize a robust CRM system that helps us keep track of past, current, and future clients. When used on a daily basis, this system truly helps our agents generate more business and operate more efficiently.

How do you keep your eye on the big picture?

Written goals, objectives, tactics and time blocking. We started utilizing time blocking this year and the impact has been huge. As agents, we get so bogged down with client work between March and August, you have to make time to look at your overall strategy for the year. For me, it’s in the next 36 months. I time block one hour a week specifically to look at our long-term strategy. I am a visual person, so if I start to focus on a big goal, I usually get there. But I need to focus on it every week, not once a quarter.

On your worst day in the office, how do you put things in perspective?

First, I put on some Van Morrison. Astral Weeks is a great record to get my mind off of anything. A whole different landscape will surround me in a matter of seconds. Then I read our testimonials. We have quite a few on Yelp and archived on our website. The reviews are heartfelt messages and when I go back and read a few, I’m reminded of our mission and commitment to this group of people.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone starting out in your career path, what would it be?

For those starting a company (or working independently), there are three key steps that are so important and yet so cliché: find your passion, identify the need, and then commit to the work. I always keep it simple because I don’t see these three elements enough in the marketplace, except from the top performers.

I have a lot of friends and colleagues that quit their job and they talk about finding another job or starting a small business. I always ask, ‘what are you passionate about?’ or ‘what would you do if making money was not the main concern?’ and I’m always surprised by the answer of ‘I don’t know.’ In the real world, you need to make money…but start with your passion and your skill set.

Then you need to understand that working on your own is 110% hustle and that means 12 hour days, sometimes 7 days a week. At least in the beginning. I read a quote that the small business owner works 70 hours a week so they can avoid the 40-hour, 9-5 downtown job. There’s some accuracy in that statement, but I find a lot of people THINK they work 70 hours a week when they go into business for themselves, but they really don’t. Sometimes not even close and that’s why they fail. Hold yourself accountable and if you won’t, find someone who will (a coach, colleague, etc.).

What is your best networking tip or trick?

Very simple: Do it and commit to doing it once a month. There are so many fancy networking tactics, but most don’t commit to showing up. Show up and be yourself.

How do you stay engaged with your work?

I know the question is ‘How’, but for me the ‘How’ stems from ‘Why do I stay engaged’. I’m engaged with my work because I believe in what my company is doing. We are changing people’s lives and our client’s sense of accomplishment at a closing is priceless. We have the client experience down, it’s now a matter of growing the company and that keeps me engaged everyday.

To learn more about StartingPoint Realty, please visit www.startingpointrealty.com, follow them on Twitter, or find them on Facebook.

Five Steps to Accomplishing Your Goals Before the End of 2015

meeting your goals for 2015

That’s right, I am already starting to think about the end of the year. A little terrifying, isn’t it? Pumpkin Spice Latte’s have just made their triumphant return and I’m already moving past Peppermint Mocha season. But in all seriousness, you know you started the year with some goals in mind, and you also know that it will feel great to accomplish them before 2015 comes to a close. In order to do that, we need to prepare now.

Normally, I would start this list of tips with “revisit your New Year’s Resolutions.” Today I’m not going to. I wrote my New Year’s Resolutions nine months ago. In order to make the most out of the end 2015, we need to address our priorities as they stand now.

  1. Get clear on your top priorities between now and the end of the year. That might mean addressing your new years resolution, or that might be shifting your focus to something entirely different. The important thing is to identify the tasks/goals/achievements that are most important to you right NOW.
  1. Make an “if everything goes perfectly” list of what you would ideally like to accomplish for each priority. This does not need to be elaborate, but it will help you get even more clear about your goals. If you had five extra hours in each day, plenty of sleep, and someone else to do your housework, how would you work on your priorities between now and December 31st?
  1. Then make a “this is real life” list of the tasks you can actually accomplish – because, of course, we don’t have five extra hours in each day or brain capacity to address eight different priorities. Personally, when I get to this stage, I try to stay really conservative to keep myself from listing more than what I can successfully finish. The idea here is to narrow your to-dos down to the most important items that you can realistically finish before the end of the year and feel accomplished. Feel free to have a “B” list of items to work on after you finish your “A” list. But I really encourage you to keep your “A” list short and as feasible as possible.
  1. Look at your calendar and get out your pencil. Go ahead and block off the time you need to work on your goals. For some people, it may be easiest to work backwards from December 31st. For others, it might just mean blocking off a few hours each week where your “day job” won’t get in the way.
  1. Finally, take a few minutes to think about how good it will feel to be DONE. Yes, this is cheesy, but I’m not suggesting that you do a full dream board or anything (unless that is your thing). Just take five minutes to think about how you will feel on January 1st, having accomplished what you set out to accomplish. Maybe you’ll feel like a different person. Maybe you’ll feel more confident. Maybe you’ll feel lighter, as if a weight has been lifted. It is worth taking a few minutes to think about it.

Need some more inspiration? Get the Gloss did a great piece on accomplishing goals that goes beyond the usual tips: 10 Steps for Achieving Life Goal Success Before the End of the Year

Enjoy Pumpkin Spice Latte season because Peppermint Mochas will be upon us all too quickly.

Resources for Improving Your Cold Emailing Skills

cold emailing skills

Among most of the people I know, cold-calling is akin to public speaking — they dread it, they break out into a cold sweat when they have to do it, and while they can get used to it, they never learn to enjoy it.  For me, it is actually worse.  I’d rather speak in public for days vs. calling someone who doesn’t want to hear from me and trying to convince them to chat.  That’s not to say I’m terrible at cold calling. I’m not particularly bad at it and I’ve garnered some good results in the past.  But I don’t like it. At all. If you do like cold calling, then I have tons of respect for you and congratulations… you probably have a career for life if you want it.

I am much more comfortable with cold emailing.  I like the challenge of coming up with a short email that is worth someone’s time to read, writing an informative headline, getting to the point right away, and hopefully making a good impression without an (arguably) more invasive phone call.  That’s why I was fascinated with Emma Snider‘s recent HubSpot post 8 Hacks to Find Anyone’s Email Address.  Her tips are practical and a few of them were new to me, like the Mail Tester email verification tool.

HBR.org also published a great piece earlier this year about how to cold email powerful executives. The author provides several examples of situations where he secured new opportunities just because he wasn’t afraid to send an email to someone he didn’t know personally.  As he points out in the article, having your email ignored is significantly better than being hung up on!

Still need a little more step by step advice? Try this article from Entrepreneur Magazine: 7 Tricks to Write an Effective Cold Email.  The author’s advice is straightforward — be positive, get to the point, stay informal.  All tips that have worked for me in the past.

Have you secured a new opportunity through a cold email?  I’d love to hear your story.  Please contact me at @RachelLColello or share your thoughts in the comments below.

Grown-Ups Deserve Fun Supplies Too

Not surprisingly, I loved back-to-school time as a kid. I loved the change of seasons. I loved starting new classes. And perhaps most of all, I loved getting new school supplies. That is why I am particularly excited to see many “grown-up” magazines touting the value of freshening up your office supplies this fall.

Pens, pencils, and paper still matter. The latest research tells us that there is value in the process of taking notes longhand:

“Students who took notes on laptops tended to transcribe the content verbatim,” Mueller said. Those students took many more notes, but seemed to process what they heard much less. In a test taken a few minutes after completing the lecture, students who had taken notes using longhand performed much better.” – KQED News

Similarly, The Guardian did a rather lengthy article last December debating the value of handwriting vs. typing. It’s author identified several neurologists who question the skills we will lose if we prioritize typing over writing in schools.

So rather than being an afterthought, your office supplies really should matter! Here is some inspiration for pimping out your workspace this fall:

Yoobi   The Yoobi brand has a lot going for it – super cute design, bright colors, and it gives back to our communities. “Yoobi” means “one for you, one for me.” For each item you purchase, the company donates one item to a classroom in the United States. Check out:
Highlight Your World Bundle – possibly the coolest highlighter pack ever, these would make editing and researching so much more fun

Study Kit – I honestly would have used this in graduate school. The world doesn’t use enough index cards these days

CW Pencil Enterprise  CW Pencils is exactly what it sounds like – an online pencil boutique for those of us who like to erase. Personally, I used pencils over pens most of the time, so I’m definitely drawn to their interesting mix of products/eye candy.

Global back-to-school pencil set – contains school pencils selected from around the world (including a school in New Jersey, of all places, which made me laugh)

Cherry Graph Notebook– For the hipster who already has every cool notebook…

Garrett Wade  I discovered Garrett Wade through a Real Simple Magazine article. The company refers to its office supplies as “tools” and they are not joking. Just check out how bad ass their scissors are:

Long paper/fabric scissors

Banker’s scissors

Elegant folding scissors

IPPINKA  IPPINKA was new to me when I started this post, but I love their curated collection of products, selected to meet a very specific set of design principles.

NUboard Whiteboard Notebook – This is easily the coolest thing I have seen in a long time.  Clearly not great for taking notes, but it would be amazing for active brainstorming or really impressive in a 1-on-1 sales presentation.  I could see a small team of marketers mapping out a brand roadmap in a notebook like this.

I would love to hear from you! Please share links to your favorite supplies below…

Tips for Multitasking While Working from Home

multitasking working from home

Over the course of my career, I have spent more time working from home than working in an office. I’m sure that sounds a little crazy to some people, but for me the pros outweigh the cons.

I have heard a wide range of reactions to the fact that I work from home – everything from “Oh good, you won’t need day care” to “I bet you get a ton of house work done, that would be so great” to my favorite: “well, why don’t you just take a nap?”

The truth is, if you work from home full time, yes – you may have some additional flexibility to get a few things accomplished that people who work outside of the home cannot. However, I typically find that I use the time I save not commuting to work additional hours, not to bake cookies. I have also found that certain household tasks tend to be easier to multitask while you are working from home, while others absolutely should not be attempted.

Easier to balance tasks:

Long slow cooking, like in a crock-pot – Taking 15 minutes to throw a soup or pot roast into the crock-pot can be easy to fit into your day where a normal break would be (e.g. lunch, between conference calls, etc.). Try to avoid more than 10-15 minutes of prep work, unless you are positive that your phone won’t ring – you don’t want kitchen noises in the background when you answer it so you’ll either need to call the person right back or stop what you are doing and return to cooking later.

Laundry – Throwing clothes into the washing machine is a task that can be easier to fit in your day than many others. The trick is to be ok with them sitting in the washer or dryer for a few hours if work gets busy. Also, folding will need to wait until you are done with work for the day (see my note below about the dishwasher and trusting your mute button).

Being home for deliveries, repairs, etc. – A no brainer. In my experience, it is perfectly reasonable to schedule calls around a furniture delivery or repairperson visit. That is an understood benefit of working from home, provided you are doing your best not to inconvenience clients or customers.

Quick personal phone calls – While I do not encourage hour long rant sessions with your best girlfriend in the middle of a busy workday, one of the big benefits to working from home is being able to make a doctor’s appointment with complete privacy.

Harder to balance tasks:

Cleaning – You might be great at calling your mother while you clean the bathroom. That doesn’t mean you should multitask when you call a client. Clean or work, one or the other. The only exception to this recommendation is if you are listening in on a conference call where you do not need to actively participate. If you have A LOT of faith in your mute button, you could probably unload the dishwasher. But let me re-emphasis, you need to have a lot of faith in your mute button.

Childcare – This is a sensitive topic for many working parents, so I’m going to mostly leave it alone. Just know that holding down a full time or even part time working from home job while also caring for a child can be difficult to balance and deserves a lot of thought and care. Please think about your job requirements, the age of your child, and other related variables and then decide what is best for your family.

Are there any household tasks that you absolutely avoid when working from home? Pet peeves? Please share your thoughts!