Friday, April 29, 2005

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The weather isnt cooperating

I keep losing my internet connection this morning due to the weather. We're having thunder storms with a flash flood watch in effect. This evening they are calling for stronger storms with the possibility of straight line winds and damaging hail.

I had a terrific blog post for you this morning, but I lost the entire thing when my connection went down at the very moment I hit the "publish" button. I brought up Keylogger (standard on Windows machines - logs every keystroke), but it only 'remembered' bits and pieces - mainly the first and last paragraph. Ahh well - lost forever!

LOL, now you'll never know why I was called "The Romantic" ;)

Anyway, I went out and brought my plants in (in case you dont remember my last experience with "straight line winds" - it completely demolished my plants!) and have just about given up on getting any computer work done this morning - at least for awhile.

I'm off to do some paperwork... see you guys in a bit!

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Where is my mail?!

I'm really flooded with emails right now. My inbox is jam-packed and running over... and it's a monster to get back under control. But my postal mail is missing altogether, and I'm really starting to miss it!

I think it's been almost two weeks since I've seen a real piece of mail. I go out there every day and peer in the box... and it's empty every time. I finally called the USPS yesterday and said "WHERE IS MY MAIL?" in total desperation. I said, "It's been 10 days" and she said "Yes, but has it been 10 business days?" - Bummer *sigh* No, it had not.

She seemed to think it was still coming and that there was nothing to worry about (yet). Apparently this is a "normal" waiting period for the change of address to take affect. I've *never* in my life had it take this long, though. This is nuts!

Somebody, somewhere, has a BIG stack of envelopes with my name on them. Packages and magazines and letters and checks (did I mention checks??) and coupons & offers and all that good stuff. I love my mail. The empty box day after day (after day after day) is really stressing me out!

By the way, my new mailing address is:

Lynn Terry
202 Park Avenue
McMinnville, TN 37110

It's going to be like Christmas for me when my mail finally does arrive, so if you want to add to the fun, drop me a postcard ;)

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Be Flexible - or Scheduled?

One of the cool things about a home office is that you are in total control of your environment, routine, work habits and schedule - and even your dress code (or lack of one). You can do anything you want whenever you want, and you can even change your mind at the last minute and do it all exactly the opposite.

But I'll be honest with you... that "fly by the seat of your pants" stuff doesnt work for me. I need at least a little bit of structure and routine in my life to keep things moving in the right direction. At the same time, I dont want to over-schedule myself to the point that it's frustrating or high-stress either.

Since my recent move (and major change in lifestyle), well - the first couple of weeks here were spent getting adjusted and unpacked and beginning to get organized... But now I think I'm finally ready to settle into a new routine. I just havent quite gotten around to defining that routine.

On the one hand, I love total flexibility and an open schedule that gives me freedom and also control. But like I said "flying by the seat of my pants" doesnt work for me. I'd like to settle on somewhere in between - a bit of structure and routine, with plenty of breathing room.

I'm thinking perhaps I'll start with a "loose" schedule and go from there. There are a lot of things that I'd like to fit into my days such as: a walk in the morning, reading, hanging out with the kids after school - maybe going to play ping pong or an hour or so at the park, dinner at home (instead of eating out or ordering in most nights)... that kind of stuff.

It would be nice too, to get my work done between certain hours on certain days so that my mind is clear when I am 'off work' and free to do other things.

I feel like I have my whole life in my hands at the moment, like a wad of clay. I'm at a point where I can change old habits, create new ones, and position myself to become the person that I want to be - inside and out.

That's a good place to be, no doubt. Maybe that's what people mean when they say "freedom, flexibility & control" in reference to being your own boss. I think I'll start with the things that are most important to me right now (which in general are: being/staying close with my children, taking my career up a couple of nothces, getting in shape & focusing on my health)... and let everything else work it's way in and find it's place as we go along.

I'll have to put some more thought into it, I suppose. I have the hard part licked - I know what I want and I know where I want to be in 10 years. Now I just have to sit down and map out my action plan, complete with all of my personal preferences and laid out in a way that will make it enjoyable and 'easy' for me while I'm living my life.

So what about you? What's working for you to keep every aspect of your life on track simultaneously? How do you manage to pursue ambitious career goals, raise well-balanced children, keep yourself well-balanced... and still remember to take out the trash on the right day every week?

Sunday, April 24, 2005

A great day with an old friend

I got an unexpected call this morning from an old friend of mine - one I havent seen in almost two years, but have missed very much. Our lives just got busy... mine with Grandmother and hers with a new job and a new man in her life.

Before all of that, we used to spend a lot of time together. If not in person then on the phone. She was a great friend always - the best listener and always supportive and encouraging. Our children are about the same age too, which made it fun for all of us.

We've phoned here and there over the last couple of years but we just hadnt found (or made) the time to get together. When she called this morning I took the opportunity to invite her out for the day, and we made plans to get the kids together and grill out.

It was a great time - the kids were wound up and had a blast, and Shiney and I talked for hours on end. So much to catch up on! We shared pictures and stories... made lunch on the grill and ate outside on paper plates... laughed, talked about old times, you name it.

She's still a great friend :) If you've got one... call 'em up! Life shouldnt get too busy for days like this.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Focus & Planning (the Brain Dump)

The "Brain Dump" is a term coined by John Reese in his well-known 17 page PDF newsletter that was sent out last summer. If you missed it, you can download it here - the Brain Dump details begin on page 5 or 6.

I've always kept task lists and goal sheets, but I really like the format that John uses and have adopted that for my focus & planning sessions. It's important to sit down and evaluate your progress and even to adjust goals and action plans when necessary.

This is a good time for me to do the Brain Dump - which is basically just taking all of your wants, needs, need-to-do's, have-to-do's, and even financial data... and putting it down on paper in front of you (and out of your brain - where it tends to distract you constantly).

The move was a big disruption to my "routine" of course, and it is taking me a bit of time to adjust. I've spent the last few weeks moving out, moving in, unpacking, getting settled, getting caught up on my work, getting my two children adjusted to the move, and getting adjusted myself... all the while with a million and one things going through my mind non-stop.

The biggest sections of my 'Brain Dump' have always been the "Everything You Need To Do" and "All of Your Business Ideas" sections - with the toughest part being the Master To Do List and then prioritizing each task on it. Simply because it was an overwhelming list.

This time... it's worse than ever (*laugh*).

Still, the timing couldnt be better because I really needed that 'direction' right now. Instead of an overwhelming head-full of thoughts and ideas and notions... it's a tangible list that I can look at, and that I can mark things off of, that I can accomplish one item at a time. I can even wad it up and burn it if I want (LOL).

And it replaces every other mini-list that I've toted around or had posted next to my monitor for the last couple of weeks... which is super-nice. It's sort of a major "clutter removal" exercise. Very energizing, very motivating.

I set aside the time to do this today because I wanted to motivate myself to come up with a new routine, to 'get back in my groove' now that I have the free time and the ability to really focus on things again. I have to admit - it's been tough. Not only do I miss my Grandmother... but I feel a bit out of sorts without 'our schedule'. I'm sure it will pass, and I won't deny that I'm more rested and even somewhat relieved now that a bit of time has gone by. Still, it's going to take some time to get totally adjusted to all of the changes... and for now the Brain Dump serves as a great motivator to get things rolling in the right direction.

Since I'm still unpacking the office and getting things organized here, I also took this opportunity to go through all of my filing drawers and get them cleaned out and better organized. That is helping me a great deal in getting all of my to-do's down, and also getting rid of (or archiving) a lot of things that I just dont need anymore... making room for all of the current things that really should have a file - instead of a place in a pile on my desk.

I'm running into old idea sheets, niche lists and files on potential projects that I had completely forgotten about. It's quite fun, actually. As for motivating me, and getting me back in the right mindset... it's definitely doing the trick!

I decided not to rush it today, and am sitting up tonight working late on it instead. It's been a long day here with things to do and the children to tend to and such. While I did make a lot of progress on it (and the unpacking & organization) today already, there's nothing like the peace & quiet of a late night to really sit down and focus with a clear mind ;)

Friday, April 22, 2005

Perfect Timing!

My swing arrived via UPS this evening. I am tickled pink! That's the first time I've ordered from - - but it definitely won't be the last ;)

I was just mowing my lawn when the UPS truck pulled up, too - so the back yard is ready and waiting for the big comfy swing. I'll have to get Albert to help me put it together in the morning... and hopefully it will set up quick so I can enjoy it the rest of the day!

Perfect timing, too, as a group of us at TIID are planning to do (or re-do) our Brain Dump tomorrow (Sat, 4-23). Group accountability is a big motivator, so it was nice there were several of us interested. The Brain Dump is incredibly energizing & motivating, so I'm looking forward to that... and if the weather holds I can head out back, lean back in my new swing and focus on it in total comfort :)

Skype is cool!

It's one of those free pc-to-pc things where you can 'call' each other up and talk with no long distance charges. I tried it out for the first time with Andre (he's in England, I'm in the US)... and it was actually a lot clearer than the phone conversations we've had in the past!

You can download Skype free at: , and of course all you need is a mic & headset and you're good to go.

If you already have it, send me an email and let me know the name to add you under!

A Much Needed Break...

We had a line of storms come through this morning that offered a much needed break after a long week of catching up on work and also working on this house.

Between the hundreds of emails, continuing to unpack and tripping over things that hadnt found their place yet... I was absolutely exhausted by Thursday evening.

This morning I unplugged the office and headed out to the carport to enjoy the storm and work on my plants. I really enjoyed the quiet time, the intense weather and the break from the norm.

I'm feeling very refreshed. But now that the storm has passed, I better grab a bite of lunch and get back to work ;)

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

SEO Website Builder

I ran across SEO Website Builder last week, and it looks like the perfect solution for one of my upcoming site projects. I'm putting together a large 'free content' article database that will be a great spot to grab a large variety of niche content.

Andre gave it a big thumbs up. He also said:

"For example, once you've got the template, and look and feel, just way you want, adding additional product pages and/or article pages is a snap... and all internal page linking, and sitemap inclusion is done automatically."

Teli is putting together template sets designed specifically for SEO Website Builder, so I will keep you posted as to when she will be unveiling these. I'd like to be first in line for one of them, myself... but I may have to 'cut line' to make that happen - she's got quite a few people waiting to get ahold of her SWB-specific designs ;)

Some of the key features about this program that appeal to me are:

- No programming or 'geek stuff'. It looks fairly simple to take a large amount of content and have it all structured for you so that it's easy to navigate and naturally optimized.

- "Built-in SEO guru that actually tells you in plain English how to create your web pages" (this looks interesting!)

- Privacy policies & disclaimers are created automatically

- Site map and article directory are also created automatically

- The program even uploads all of the pages you create, and generates your linking information (for your Link Strategy)!

It also comes with an SEO Training Manual and a private forum and link partner directory (among other features in their "Vault").

I'll give you a full review once I dig in and get my hands dirty. I'm hoping to catch up a bit this week and then sit down and work on this project over the upcoming weekend. Should be fun!

Monday, April 18, 2005

Shopping Online

I use the internet for a lot of things - information, entertainment, communication, work, you name it. And shopping is definitely on that list! ;)

This morning I checked out the site for my local cable company to find remote functions for my digital cable box, a channel guide and to maybe look into the different packages that they offer. Oddly, after 3 trips out here last week (and finally getting cable installed in each of the rooms! grr) not one of them had any channel guides or documentation on them whatsoever - though one of them did finally refer me to the website.

What a waste of good web space! I wasnt able to find *anything* at their site. They did have contact forms & information for local offices and also order forms if you wanted to place a new order or an upgrade - but ZERO info on their services & features. I ended up having to call in to get all of my questions answered, and to get them to mail me the channel guides & remote features (yes, in the snail mail - go figure!).

It seems like common sense to me to include that basic information on their website. Perhaps they overlooked what their customers would be looking for... and developed their site with the sole purpose of making sales. Hmmm...

On the flip side... I made a trip to the local Wal-Mart this weekend. I had found a backyard swing in their Lawn & Garden section that I really liked (and at an incredible price!) and decided to go ahead and get it while I was picking up some indoor plants.

The guy in the back said, "Sorry ma'am, we're all out of those". I was disappointed, but asked when they expected the next shipment. He shrugged and said I could put my name on the waiting list (which he expected was quite long).

So I head up to the register in the outdoor section and the lady seemed somewhat irritated with me. I wanted to get on the waiting list, and also get a price on landscaping timbers (which the guy out back had no clue on either). She let out a deep breath and ripped a piece of notebook paper out of a tablet and handed that to me with a pen: "Write down your info". I did, feeling like it was going to be stuck somewhere never to be seen again the minute I walked away from that register.

I was pretty discouraged. Honestly, I've looked all over town and didnt find anything I liked near as much - and especially not at that price (only 99 bucks!). You just couldnt beat it. I resolved to wait it out and hope they'd call when they got them in stock.

This is one of those swings that is SO comfortable you could just LIVE in it. It doesnt have those metal bars running underneath the seat, either. You can lay it back into a full bed, lift up the left side so that you can sit up long-ways, you can even take it off the swing all together as it has it's own legs... so it's perfect for camping trips! I've jokingly been referring to it as "The Ultimate Office Chair" :)

Still bummed about the fact that I missed my chance to grab one last week... I decided to check out with my fingers crossed. Bam! It was in stock and listed at the same sale price!! 3 quick clicks and she was ordered and on her way ;)

Seacliff 3-Seater Hammock Swing
(bigger pic)

Now that's how it's supposed to work!

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Getting Traffic & Making Sales

Getting traffic to your website is one of the most important aspects to a successful web business. But what you do with that traffic is equally important, and should be given just as much consideration as your traffic generation techniques.

SEO Copywriting

When you are optimizing your web pages to rank well in the major search engines, you should also be sure that you are optimizing for the human eye. The Title of your web page, for example, should be compelling and specifically interesting to your target market - as well as the description of your page that is listed in the search engine results.

For example, the main page of my site is currently ranked #6 on Google for "Learn Internet Marketing" and displays as follows:

Learn Internet Marketing Strategies Free at Self-Starters Weekly Tips!
Join one of the fastest growing online communities to learn internet marketing strategies, grow your business, network with seasoned marketers and peers in ...

Another listing on that same page of results reads:

Marketing - Marketing Strategy - Marketing Plan - Marketing ...
Learn about marketing careers, the stages of developing a marketing plan, how to begin marketing research, create a marketing strategy, and how to market ...

I'm not claiming my listing to be perfect, but you can definitely see the difference between these two examples. Stuffing your Title (or any of your ad or page copy for that matter) with keywords does not read well, and won't capture the searchers attention.

Instead of "keyword stuffing", you want to mix a bit of Copywriting in with your SEO and come up with titles, headers and content that makes sense to your visitors - and that will encourage them to continue reading at your site.

(If you dont know the topic, or if you dont write something halfway educated on it, you are going to offend visitors or send them off to look for a more in-depth or up-to-date site)

I'm of the opinion that ALL of your words are just as important as your chosen keywords.

Aaron Wall, author of the SEO Ebook, says: "The key focus of any web page should be on readability". More snippets from this section of his book:

"Use the keywords in headings and subheadings throughout the page - this heading should capture the person's attention and tell them they are in the right place."

"Think of these headings like you would a heading in a newspaper."

"In addition [to the seo benefits] descriptive sub-headings improve the scanability and usability of your website."

Once you get visitors into your web site, you want to let them know right off the bat that they are in the right place - and even a quick scan of your page will assure them that you have what they are looking for. This is done through the use of well-written headings and sub-headings on your pages.

You should also include a strong call-to-action at the end of your content pages. Once your visitor reads your content... what do you want them to do next? Whatever it is, make it obvious and link to it with compelling text that will encourage them to go to the next page (on your site, or off).

A good rule of thumb is to perform a search using your Primary Keyword Phrase (the main phrase you are optimizing any given page for) and then take a good look at the competing results. Is their information better than yours? More in-depth, or presented in better formatting?

Look and learn - if you can spot how their page is better than yours, you know where to begin on improvements to your own page ;)

The best resource that I know of on the topic of SEO Copywriting is Karon Thackston's Step-by-Step Copywriting Course. You'll also want to pick up a copy of her report titled How to Increase Keyword Saturation Without Destroying the Flow of Your Copy . If you dont feel like you need both, I would recommend getting the second one (focusing on keyword density) as it teaches some very creative ways to include your keyword phrases within your copy without sounding odd or "keyword stuffed" (aka spammy).

One of the things that I learned when I read Karon's material last year, and admittedly didnt know, was that the search engines dont read punctuation within your copy. This means that you can separate your keyword phrases with periods, bullet lists, even new paragraphs. Here's an example, using the keyword phrase "search engine optimization":

Your goal is to rank well in Google's search engine. Optimization consists of...
  • Learn the techniques to rank well in every major search engine
  • Optimization Tip Sheet included for easy reference

In both instances, or even if you start a new paragraph altogether, the search engines still read the three words together as a complete phrase. This may seem obvious, but it's not something most of us automatically think of when writing our copy and trying to fit the same phrase in several different times.

That's just one of the great tips that Karon shares. In addition to her guides & reports, she also offers a free ezine titled Business Essentials that I highly recommend. She has a terrific writing style which makes it very easy to read & understand... and can turn any site owner into an SEO Copywriter ;)

The goal is to rank well... but also to make sales. Traffic is absolutely useless without good copy and the other elements that it takes to convert visitors into buyers.

Two more great resources for you on this same topic:

Finding niches & creating content for them
This is a new topic at the SSWT Forum, and you are welcome to join in with your own tips & suggestions... and to ask additional questions too if you like.

SEO Website Builder
This piece of software caught my attention earlier in the week, and looks to be a great all-in-one program for those of us that build large content sites or affiliate-based sites. I'm just trying my hand at it on a new site I am developing so I will keep you posted as to how that turns out ;)

If you are new to SEO, or unsure about doing it manually across all of your pages & sites, this would be a perfect match for you. It also takes all of the headaches out of site design - no HTML knowledge or SEO skills are needed to use this program for creating websites.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Getting Set Up for Success!

Setting up my home office in this new location is a good time to make some overall changes to my schedule & work habits. Since I will have more quiet time and space in which to work... I want things to run as efficiently as possible so that I can really make some lightning-speed progress towards my goals.

My first step is to re-define my goals, both short term and long term. I am going to sit down and go over my recent "brain dump" (um, when I figure out which box it is in *grin*) and make some revisions to my goal sheets and task lists.

I'm devoting this weekend to finish my unpacking and to get everything in it's place. Which means within reach, in sight, and completely organized - and which probably means a little shopping is in order :) In the meantime I am jotting notes as I think of them in a spiral notebook, and keeping those thoughts separated by topic/project on different pages.

The last few days has been pure chaos - wires running everywhere, cable & phone technicians in and out, furniture & appliance delivery... and the boxes. They're everywhere *sigh*. Still, I'm in very high spirits and looking forward to catching up on my work and really digging in to the projects that have been on the back burner lately.

I'm also making a few changes to my normal routine. I've always found that "change" is the best time to make change. It's not nearly as difficult to change habits & routines when everything is already chaotic and not the norm.

The biggie: No smoking indoors. Should be an obvious one, but I've been a smoker all of my life and lately find myself turning into a chain smoker (ack!). With the move, I decided that I would have a non-smoking home - which is much healthier on the computers, not to mention the people inside ;)

Not smoking in front of the computer means I'm not constantly sipping coffee or pepsi - or munching on snacks, either. Somehow all of that was just a package deal, so now I find myself eating only at meal times, and sipping my pepsi's on the smoke break. Loving it!

Another thing I'm doing is going back to my daily planner and kitchen timer. Before the move these were practically hopeless as I was dealing with constant interruption. I managed, but I'm really looking forward to getting back to my fast-paced thickly-scheduled workstyle ;)

Also on the list is comfy patio furniture. I dont have a "patio" but I do have a gorgeous back yard with the perfect mix of sun and shade, 3 maples and a pine and plenty of privacy... and a laptop that I can tote out there to work on these beautiful spring and early summer days.

Throw in a couple of ivy plants and some wave petunia's and this is quickly becoming home sweet home!

I'll work on getting some pics up as soon as I find the box that the camera batteries are in ;)

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Think You've Got RSS Pegged?

(from Laura Childs of

I've got an incredible free resource for you today... and I can't take credit for any of it.

This is a gift from Rok over at the Marketing Studies website.

Even if you think you've got RSS pegged now, I urge you to at least download and skim it.

And, if the 'RSS puzzle pieces' aren't fitting together for you yet, this book fills in the blanks.

It will answer 'Why'.
It will answer 'What'.
It will answer 'How'.

'Which' only takes us to page 11 of 28 information rich text pages and easy to follow flow charts to help you make sense of RSS.

You can read more about Rok in the pdf but here's what he says about this report...

"Misunderstood by most marketers, overlooked by many end users, it (RSS) has the potential to power the entire internet marketing mix...

"The purpose of this report is to demonstrate just how RSS can help you improve your bottom line and show you how to integrate it within all of your internet marketing and publishing activities."

Let me know if I can help you with any questions you may have about RSS.

Laura Childs

p.s. Download this RSS report here:

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Up & Running Again!

I dont think I've been offline for that long since I got online in the first place. Geez! Anyway, it feels good to be "home" and settled in and to finally be hooked up and ready to get back to work!

I am in love with my new place already. It's very quiet and peaceful here with the children off to school and we have a wonderful back yard and neighborhood for them to enjoy when they are home. I think we're going to be very, very happy here :)

I'm off to catch up on several hundred emails, and make my rounds at the forums. See you there!

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

In Transition

It's been a busy week of packing, cleaning and organizing the move. They are bringing the truck today, so the furniture and big stuff will go... along with the computers and office furniture. I dont have a clue yet where I am going to put things at the new place, or where I am going to want to set up my office. I figure I'll deal with that when it gets there.

Managing the move has kept my mind busy, though I cant deny that I have a lot of mixed feelings about it all. The beginning of one thing is the end of another, and right now I am just in transition somewhere in between.

They are forecasting another line of strong storms, which should come through our area sometime later today... so I should get back to packing and getting things ready to move. I expect to be back to work full time by Monday ;)

Monday, April 04, 2005

My ISP has been down...

There were severe storms on Friday that knocked out my ISP. Not only was the DSL out for more than 48 hours... but we also had very limited telephone service over the weekend.

I had quite a few things planned, including finishing up the work I had to stop on Friday when the storms rolled in, so it looks like I'm going to be playing catch-up (yet again) for the next day or so.

If you're waiting to hear from me on something, no worries - I'll catch up with you by the end of the day ;)