"Helping people who help people"

Posts tagged ‘blogs’

Are blogs a sign of self-absorbtion?

I’ve been pondering this question a lot ever since talking to a person-who-shall-remain-nameless, but whom I deeply respect.  This person, let’s call her Angie, feels that for the most part Facebook status updates and blogs demonstrate that someone really does think they must be “all that.”  I run into therapist after therapist, including the one I’m MARRIED TO, who feels they have nothing to say and would never want a blog.  Part of it is that sense of a blogger being all-important, or worthy of someones time.  I take a different view.

To explain my blog journey, I’ll go back 4.5 years.  I had a blog 5 years ago but had no idea what to say.  My life wasn’t very exciting.  Wake up.  Go to work.  Do stuff nobody cares about (HR analyst and payroll testing.)  Come home.  Meet husband after he was done with work.  Eat dinner.  Watch TV or play on the computer.  Go to bed.  Seriously, what on earth would I possibly have to say on a blog?

But then my baby came.  It was exactly 4 weeks post-birth and he had found his fist to suck on.  It was one of those amazingly GLORIOUS moments as a parent.  A sign your baby is growing, learning, and developementally doing well.  I also feel tremendous (hormone-induced) saddness that he’s so tiny he needs oral comfort and that his fist sucking was partly self-soothing and not just entertainment.  But even in my rollercoaster of emotions, I recognized how unbelievably silly the entire thing was to the vast majority of people I knew.  It was definitely an incident not worthy of emailing everyone about.  I had been warned about the moms who think every photo they take is amazing and they fill up the inboxes of all their friends and coworkers who really would be happy with one photo every 6 months or so.  Or maybe less.

The delicate dance of knowing that moment was really important to me, and pretty mindless to others put me in a quandry, until I remembered I had that blog!  Wow, now I had a place I could post pictures, write about all my emotions, my life, my baby.  And best yet, I would just have to give my family and friends ONE email with a link to the blog and then THEY could chose to read it or not!  I was not “throwing myself in their faces.”  I was letting them pull the information, if and when they wanted it.  What an awesome solution for a new mom.  I did have to explain the concept of a blog to a lot of the baby boomer relatives, but once they got it, they thoroughly enjoyed reliving their past lives as moms of new babies.  I got to hear cool stories from relatives about their experiences that I would never otherwise get, halfway across the country, rarely seeing them in person, and certaintly not in constant email contact.

One of my favorite blogs was “STAY IN….STAY OUT!” when there was a heated battle going on to keep my then almost 2 year old son in his clothes, while desperately to get my daughter OUT of my womb as my due date approached.  We had to literally tape his footed PJ’s with the ends of the tape on his back.  Otherwise we’d find him buck naked, wet, poopy, a total mess.  And then I was desperate to get my girl out of me, in total misery being pregnant. (I vomited all 9 months with both kids and let me tell you, it is very painful at the end.)

My blog posts would have the effect of making my friends and family howl with laughter, empathize, or just feel more connected to what was going on.  I even got a call once from my father in law wondering if we were OK because I hadn’t blogged in a long time!  In a blog I am able to say things I might not say on the phone, in person or by email.  There is an immediacy to a blog post where even if you read the post 2 years later, you get wrapped up into the moment the blog was being written.  I have no baby books but I have my blog.  People who know me say I blog like I talk, so they really do feel like they’re keeping up with me.

I will end here and continue in another post about blogging as a therapist or educator.  I first wanted to let some of you see a side of blogging you may not have exposure to.

A mental health blog

This is a very powerful blog by someone suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder.  It demonstrates not just the pain and hell these folks go through, but the way the internet connect people and let us talk to each other, let people with special diagnosis talk to each other.

It makes me ponder whether therapists should find more blogs like this, link to them, use them to help their clients or the “passerbys” as I like to call those folks who will never become clients but who still deserve help, information, education, resources.  It’s part of my personal mission to help all of you see your website as more than a sales page for your services, books, classes.  There are powerful stories out there waiting for a broader audience.  Clients helping other clients is extremely powerful stuff.

I am adding another “Category” for my blog, called Mental Health by Real Sufferers.  If and when I find more blogs or websites, I will pass them along.  If you know of any, let me know.

Another website template option

WordPress.  This blog is in WordPress.  Lots of websites are in WordPress and you’d never even know.  Mine at the very bottom says “powered by WordPress” as do many.  But this company was founded on what is called “open source” technology, meaning anyone with the interest and tech abilities can get in there and not only do anything they want, but distribute their work for free, or money.

I like WordPress for two reasons.  One, you can find templates that offer what is called a “header”, the links at the top of every page, usually filled with “About”, “Contact”, etc.  I am a fan of those and really dislike this template right now for that reason (it’s red..apologies if you’re reading this blog and it’s not red, it just means I’ve found a better template).  The second reason I like WordPress is how easy it is to make “Categories” to help your reader.  Notice the categories to your right and how nice it is to “see” what I talk about on this blog and be able to just jump to a category that interests you.  I am wildly NOT organized in real life, but for some reason I crave  and do get really organized with computer files and on line stuff.  (Perhaps it fits my analytical side more than the real-life cleaning which also involves the actual work of moving things? 😉  )

So why should this matter to you?

WordPress gives you the option to get a very nice looking, FREE website.  The best ones don’t even seem to be a blog.  It’s what they call “static” information, which is to say there aren’t dates on it and you aren’t constantly updating it they way you would a blog.

I am very excited because I just got more “hosting space” last night, which is a techie way of saying I have the space on the Internet to build another website.  This one is going to be public and private, professional and personal.  And, it’s going to be my name.  Yes, I spent two full days pondering everything I teach in my “website names” CD.  Website names should be taken very seriously, very strategic, thinking through both your marketing plan on line and offline, and with a sense of self-awareness about who you are today and who you might want to be in the future (say, you love eating disorder work today but can see yourself moving in a new direction.)  This would help inform what domain name you bought, or would help you understand your marketing work today on line will be very pinpointed and have to “start over” if you get a new website for a new interest later.  The Domain CD is designed for EVERYONE!  I’ve made every single mistake I teach you about, and it’s all about helping you ask questions you’ve never thought about before.  I’m even more excited about it having gone through my own two days of figuring out a new domain and using everything I’ve learned to feel confident and strategic about my choice!

I was up waaaay too late last night finding really awesome websites that are 1) free, 2) unique and funky.  I never thought I could put those descriptors together because on normal websites you’re pretty much stuck with templates designed by 18-25 year old geeky computer science folks who love the challenge of building stuff but either don’t have the skills to do it for money, or who aren’t actually designing for people like you and me, but doing more “generic” website templates because it’s fun.  These folks, I hate to stereotype, generally aren’t working with real people in the real world.  If they were, they would not be giving away hours of their time for free, because they’d be too busy doing work for money!  You’ll also find that people who aren’t designers (as most of these folks aren’t), have the almost identical website over and over.  They aren’t artists but crunchy folks doing things behind the scenes that make them excited, but don’t matter to you and I if the look is pretty medicore.

I will blog about my new website when I get it up!  I’m very excited.  “ThomasConsultation.com” is a very boring website name and doesn’t make me “love it” when I write bios for public articles, nor does it give one central home for people to see all the things I’m up to.  I’ll keep that website as my “website marketing for therapists and educators”, along with this blog.  But I will have more passion, interest, and abilities to do more with that website, because I will have the proper “home” to put everything.  Having a home for everything, being organized, you’d be surprised how powerful it is.  That’s why I have an entire training on the topic!  Website organization.

What to Know About Websites

Hello blog readers.  I apologize in advance for being self promoting, but every ONCE in a while I will discuss what I SELL and why I spend so much time doing this blog, website, and why I spent hundreds of hours developing my trainings.

There is a lot to know about a website.  This isn’t even the “techie stuff” for which webmasters go to school, buy expensive software programs, and get ongoing education on various computer programs.  Those folks can be busy, full time, forever doing that stuff.

No, I’m talking about the you and me’s of the world.  The average folks trying to make a living and give back.  Whether you’ve got a website now, and ESPECIALLY if you don’t yet have a website, my trainings will walk you through stuff nobody told me, or they told me way too late, or I learned through agonizing, time and money draining ways.  It’s not rocket science stuff.  It’s some small things and a few big things that add up to “Elizabeth is a website guru.”  I’m not a guru, really, but I seem to have picked up a ton along the way.  And anything I learn, I filter through my own experiences, my life, my gut, and my “systems orientation” that I grew up with having a marriage and family therapist father.  Everything I learn, without trying, I start chewing on how it can be translated to different personality types, or how it can impact therapists, or educators, or ME.

My entire bundle of trainings is something I would have died to have four years ago.  It would have prevented so much wasted money, so much wasted time and effort.  My domain CD involves a lot more than just ‘find a name.’  There is a lot of mythology about domain names out there, and there are some really important, long term things to consider with your name.  And the great news for most of you is you are not heavily marketing and it is NOT TOO LATE to redo your website name!  It’s never too late, but this training will walk you through things to consider in a name, and the important steps to take if you DO CHANGE your name.

Then we move into my marketing your domain name.  This is one of the three pillars of “search engine optimization”.  Ignoring that fancy phrase, it’s just plain IMPORTANT that you don’t have an idle website.  Put it to use, get it out there.  But how? Where? Why?  Did you know you can see where your competitors advertise??  Did you know there are really cool, unique ways to advertise that you probably don’t know about now?  This CD is going to open your eyes.

Next is the dual-team of website content and website organization.  Content is all about why it’s important, how to generate NEW ideas, how to research things you want to write about, how to study your competition, and how to get you inspired to write.  But all that writing is for naught if you don’t organize your website well.  It would be like having your fanciest furniture and art inside the guest bathroom, downstairs in your unused basement.  Nobody is going to see it and nobody will even want to go down there to see it.  The opposite problem is like walking into a house and you have not a bare space of floor or wall.  There is art, furniture, plants, and pets EVERYWHERE.  You get instantly panicked, having no idea where to look and no idea where to step.  Some websites are like that and they always make me gasp.

It’s been a few weeks and I’m STILL getting fabulous, unsolicited emails from people who heard my workshop on website traffic at the annual Smart Marriages conference.  I’m still glowing from how fun it was and the great feedback.  It really keeps me going even more strongly on this blog.  I have a message.  It isn’t unique, except that it’s delivered by ME, and I’m unique.  I have a unique story, background, and passion that I try to infect people with.  Websites don’t have to be scary or boring.  I promise!

The entire CD bundle, organized into bite sized “chapters” for you to listen to over and over, is just $250!  If  you have done any research, you’ll find 1) nobody is doing what I’m doing.  Even if they offer you free stuff, it’s highly confusing, technical, and doesn’t actually teach you anything.  More often it freaks you out so you hire the report-giver!  2) you can pay people to do stuff, but then you have no idea what they did, why they did it, or how to ever translate that to your next website, or blog, or even how to help a colleague.

Listen to the free introduction to search engine optimization, and consider buying the CD trainings here or even the one hour personalized website review.

Blogging smartly

I feel bad when therapists or marriage educators hear they are supposed to blog but really don’t KNOW WHY for sure.  Yeah, blogging is cool, it’s where the young people are, it’s what search engines like.  For some, it’s actually going away, losing its appeal as everyone and their dog is blogging and on twitter.  (Yes, Martha Stewarts dogs use Twitter.)  With freedom of speech comes a lot of nonsense and bad crap that lessens the quality of the web. 

Let me clarify something real fast about blogs.  A blog IS A WEBSITE.  Every “post” you make is making a NEW WEB PAGE.  As I train people who to do keyword research and “write smart”, a blog is just another way to write smart.  A blog is just more likely to be returned to for updates because it can be perceived as more “living and breathing.” 

But keep in mind your audience.  If you see a client for therapy, they may have no interest in sticking around to read a blog.  In fact they may think it’s odd to have a blog.  Or they may just not want to know that much about you.  Who knows. 

In a well “optimized” website, Google reads all the new content because you know how to write, where to write, and all the little tricks.  Google will generally read all my new articles within a couple days, so while a blog can also be that fast, at least with a website it is all well organized and not one long stream of consciousness.  My site The First Dance  let’s people enter and not feel like they’re missing out when they see the blog dates back 3 years.  The moment of panic that can set in, wondering if you really have to go back to the beginning of the blog to “get” the latest posts…

Anyway, Google and other search engines do like blogs, but you don’t HAVE to blog if you don’t want to.  Remember, a blog is literally just a website.  You can go ahead and build your website well, and then try to get OTHER blogs to link to your website to reep the “search engine power” of blogs.

Story of this blog

I just wanted to express my own surprise and wisdom gleamed from my recent experience with this new blog.

I’ve had my website, www.ThomasConsultation.com for over a year.  While the domain name isn’t zippy, it is STABLE.  As I continue to grow, learn, and change what I offer, it stays generic.  But my website has been neglected and is not very thrilling.  It isn’t marketing friendly because the name is too generic.  It doesn’t excite me to update content (though I did a few months ago with some good articles worth reading!)  The only audience I had was people who know I exist.  And I don’t know THAT many people!

So the beginning of my story starts with  a massive surgery three months ago.  It was so big it left my always-active brain dead for 2.5 full weeks. I wasn’t even that brain dead with newborns!  I sat in front of the television and did nothing else (physical restrictions as well as no interest in anything.)   Finally my father joked that I must be feeling better when my conversations moved from the latest ache and next doctor follow up visit to more exciting things like marketing, therapy, the world.   I had several more weeks of full on restrictions, which got me a little bit buggier since my mind was more active but my body was still wiped.

Then, a few days before I was going to be “released” to living my life again, I got VERY, VERY STRESSED OUT.  I had two websites that I had neglected.  I had consulting gigs that had gone  badly and more people wanting my services.  Having gone from no worries, no stress, to that level of reality within seconds was my eye opener.  I could not sustain that life again.  I’m a stay at home mom for one month out of each quarter while my husband does a corporate job AND therapy at night.  The other two months he’s around so I can work (but he still does therapy at night.)  My time can not be spread that much.

I just had too much on my plate and it was not worth it.  Sometimes making money is a bad thing.  And the reality was the money wasn’t “fun” for me.  I was stuck dealing with crappy websites built by designers who had no idea about search engines.  I was updating content for people which is time consuming and took me away from the stuff I wanted to do.  I was stressed. I wasn’t feeling like people knew as much as they could to do more for themselves.

And then I had the lightbulb moment.  What if, instead of consulting with people, I refocused back to EDUCATING them!  What if I used my own life story as a “do it yourself”er to help OTHERS do this web stuff themselves.  What if I used my limited time to empower as many people as possible to build amazing websites, to attract and help more people?  It’s like the ultimate “help the helper” pyramid scheme!  The more you know, the more you can share with your colleagues, and the more the web will better reflect your unique passions, experiences, and contributions to this world.

But to do this, I had to recognize there is competition out there.  And I am a zero-budget expert, known only in two circles, and do NOT WANT TO BUILD A FULL TIME CONSULTING GIG!  Wow.  Could I really continue being the website guru on my two main sites and help others? 

Short answer is YES.  I have an extremely unique, fun brand.  You will not find anyone else who both works directly on their own websites, with proven results, and who can teach for teaching sake.  I know what I’m talking about because I EXPERIENCE It myself.  I don’t just “know of others” who have had something go awry or go well.  I have countless stories, aha moments, stories of massive mistakes, of things I still beat myself up for doing (or not doing), and I am with you on your journey.  This blog is new.  If I get ONE visitor a day I’m excited (8 and I’m jumping with joy!)  On The First Dance website, if I get less than 300 people a day I’m very disappointed.  Two extremes and I get the joy and frustration from both!  I am also not married to one thing, like Google Adwords.  Nor will I EVER send you to places I think are crappy (Godaddy free website templates, as one example.)  And I run the three types of websites that you may run: a therapy website (my husbands MN couples Counseling website), a marriage therapy directory (you may be listed on one or more), and a marriage advice website (The First Dance.) 

Sometimes I stop and listen to my own teachings.  (You know, the cobblers children have no shoes.)  And guess what?  When I take the time to do what I tell others to do, it works!  I spent 8 hours back in May on search engine stuff, writing, reorganizing, etc.  And for that work I was seeing 100 new visitors A DAY (I still have a huge range because it’s busy wedding season so when the fall picks up my web traffic will pick up even more.)  And you may be wondering how do I know it was that work and not something else?  Because I did keyword research and the pages people “entered” on my website were articles I had specifically written for search engine traffic!

But back to this blog and the point of this rambling. 🙂

Notice how I got reinspired, re-focused, and re-thought my brand?  I am a lot less stressed and a lot more enthused.  And it was finally time to get a website that had great website traffic potential, to “organically” find new clients beyond the two sources I currently have.  The phrase “psychotherapy private practice” gets very decent traffic every month, so voila!  The .com version is already taken.  So I chose a WordPress blog.  And what a blessing.  Now I feel like I can share those small thoughts that don’t fit on a website.  I feel like I’m growing an audience because unlike a website, a blog is something you bookmark and return to.  I now have a “home” for my thoughts, experiences, and advice.  And I have a place to “launch” my CD trainings which are being made this Thursday night by a professional sound friend.  I’m psyched.

A Blog vs a Website

I tend to “jump in” to things without doing a ton of research.  I guess I’m an experiential learner?  So the following is what I personally experience in the “having a blog” versus “having a website” dilemma.

A website does not require constant updating and website content  does not generally have dates on them (like the article posted date.)  A website is something you can come back to whenever you have more time and interest in writing more.  Or maybe you just tweak it twice a year to add any new information.  Many visitors may stumble upon your site, look around, and leave.  For good.  For this type of visitor, they get what they want and call you or they don’t get what they want and leave.

A blog on the other hand lives and breathes on being UPDATED.  There is no more turn off on a blog than to see the last updated post was 2+ months ago, or longer.  It makes the reader wonder if there is still “life” on the blog and maybe the blog isn’t worth returning to if it takes that long to see new content.  The blog may feel more alive to a visitor and something visitors may easily  add to their list of blogs they read.  (If they’re more techie they have one page they go to and it “feeds” all the new blog entries so they don’t even have to go to your blog.)   Blogs often  result in return visitors.  But a blog reader may never go to your “regular” website to sign up for therapy or your class.  They may ignore that little area on the side that explains who you are and what you offer.  And if you try to say in every blog entry that you’re a therapist, or they should buy something, it may just be a turnoff.  So repeat visitors are great, but you may writing for “free”, if that matters.  Or, you may be writing and someone finds your blog so amazing they tell their friends!  Those friends convert to clients. 

For most therapists, a website is tough enough.  Finding time to write, or being inspired on exactly WHAT to write may make a blog seem beyond threatening.  And it may just not be your thing! That is just fine. 

Here’s where I struggle in the web vs blog thing because I have both.  Blogs may get repeat visitors and search engines LOVE blogs.  But, blog entries may or may not result in reading any other blog posts.  And people move on, without getting to know you more.  A website, however, can continue to grow just like the blog might, still attract new people through search engines, and have all the “call to action” tidbits around the content.  A website also gives you some flexibilty in how to organize the content.  Blogs are always posted by date you entered, and some offer “tags” or “categories” that, if someone clicks on a tag, will pull up all the posts you “tagged” with that word.  But that’s fairly clumsy for many therapists who don’t quite know what “tag” they would put on the content, or whose content would all be labeled the same way….  and as an experiential learner I rarely know ahead of time what my “tags” or “categories” will be.  So in this post I am adding “blogs” and “writing content” as two tags but may return later to rearrange those tags or add more.

So what have I mostly been doing lately?  If I have something short to say, I may just blog about it.  If I want to write more, I create a new article for my website, then in the blog entry I will use the same article title, have that link TO the article itself, and then I’ll talk about writing the article in a more casual way.  This might be how fun it was to write, or how the topic is so important to so many people, or maybe I will share some personal stories that I wouldn’t share in the article…. this becomes the teaser and the link FROM the blog TO the website.  It fits both the blog reader who wants to see updated content, but it helps bring traffic back to my website, where arguably I’m better able to “sell” whatever I am selling – be it therapy, books, etc.

In a nutshell, with a lot of things missing, like my wanting to actually “tsk tsk” anyone who thinks a website could be written once and left alone… this is a super general conversation of a blog versus a website.  In a future post I will talk about the idea of making your entire website just a blog (ooh, confusing!)  And I should add that I’m in flux with my Thomasconsultation.com website and this blog.  That site may stay more static, or may go away completely some day, or I might continue to write articles on that site and blog about them here.

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