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How to Launch A Successful Podcast

In December 2015 when my business partner suggested we launch a podcast I wasn't convinced. I was certainly familiar with podcasts but had never loyally followed or listened to one.

My initial response was a common one for me, “that sounds like a lot of work.” I'm always skeptical of new initiatives that don't have a clear ROI and podcasting was in that category.

A few months later I attended a series of presentations at the Traffic and Conversion Summit about launching a podcast successfully and I came home from that event ready to move forward.

Soon after we launched The Concealed Carry Podcast which quickly grew to be a top 2-3 podcast in our industry and as of today our “podcast network” consist of 4 podcasts.

What follows is the answer to the common question I receive “how do I launch a successful podcast?”

Finding Your Place in An Ever-Expanding Podcast Library

In 2016 when we launched our first podcast about 25% of the US adult population had ever listened to a podcast. Now in 2020 that number has about doubled.

Podcasts are effectively on-demand radio shows and as broadcast radio loses ground every year podcasting takes up that lost volume and more.

As such the podcast realm which was already plenty heavy is growing ever more saturated with new content and shows. Standing out and winning in this growing competitive platform is very challenging.

While not as difficult as starting a successful YouTube channel today, the risk of becoming just one more podcast that doesn't bring anything unique to the audience is your top concern.

Start by researching the other shows in your category. Take notes about how their shows are formatted, to whom they appeal, and what unique value they bring to the listener.

Consider what you are going to do differently.

What unique value will you bring to the audience?

What unique perspective can you bring to the category that nobody else can?

Choosing A Host & Platform

A lot of the questions I get are relating to hosting and technology. At its core a podcast is a RSS feed that is formatted properly for podcast marketplaces to read.

Don't fret, I'm going to break it down. Lets start with some vocabulary.

Podcast marketplace: A website or app that catalogs a large number of podcasts and makes it easy for consumers to subscribe to and listen to those podcasts. iTunes is the original and as of this writing the most dominant podcast marketplace. Google Play Music is also a growing marketplace. Spotify, Tune-In, I Heart Radio, and now even Audible falls into this category.

Podcast host: A service (often costs money) where the actual audio files are stored (hosted). When a listener tunes into one of your podcast shows they will stream or download the episode from the host's server. There are hosts out there that tailor to the podcast market and are purpose-built. Blubrry, Libsyn, and Soundcloud come to mind. That said you can use any website hosting service to host your podcast but you may experience performance issues when you use a service not purpose-built for podcasts. The host is also going to be the place where you are going to get all your reporting and statistics.

Podcast website: The website you build to support and be the face of your podcast. That website may or may not be related to hosting in conjunction with the Podcast Host. For example, if you use Blubrry as your host, you can build a website using WordPress and then connect the two via Blubrry's “Powerpress plugin.” Libsyn also will work with WordPress or you can just host your website directly on their platform.

Podcast Feed: The RSS feed URL that is properly formatted to be read and indexed by podcast marketplaces. This URL will be generated and will live with your Podcast host.

I strongly encourage you to work with a podcast purpose-built host. I use Blubrry exclusively because they have the best WordPress integration in my opinion and WordPress is my platform of choice for building and maintaining a website. I also think their reporting interface is very good. Depending on the frequency of publishing your show you will pay $20 to $100 a month.

I manage the podcast and publish episodes via the website using the Blubrry Powerpress plugin but the actual audio files are hosted on Blubrry's server.

Titles, Headlines, and Categories

Like most business ventures, naming your podcast is going to be a mission critical step. Don't take it lightly.

Just as important is an understanding that the title of each show episode is a critical headline. Episode titles determine if the listener is going to engage and listen much like an email subject line determines if the recipient is going to open the email and read it.

Be deliberate and thoughtful when you write your episode titles.

When you launch your podcast and add it to catalogs like iTunes you will have to select a category and often a sub-category. There are 2 reasons why choosing the right category will matter for you.

First, potential listeners may browse a category in search of new podcasts they want to listen to. You want to be found in the place they are most likely to search when looking for your content.

Second, some categories have more podcasts and competition than others. If you have 2 different categories that both seem equally accurate and appropriate, but one has less competition you might choose that one in order to maximize your odds of ranking higher in your category.

The Launch Plan – The first 4 weeks are critical

Launching a podcast correctly will have a strong impact on your ongoing success. Many Podcast Marketplaces have a category for new and popular podcasts and getting a lot of downloads quickly may put you in a position where the marketplace will highlight your show and get you a lot more views and attention.

This effectively builds a cycle of growth. Getting downloads brings more listeners that get you more downloads that get you more listeners.

So in the first few weeks of your launch your goal is to drive as many listens and reviews/ratings as possible.

Strategy 1: Make the First 5-10 Episodes Your Best

Spend a lot of time thinking through your first 5-10 episodes. Ask people for their input and make sure the titles/headlines are amazing.

This will naturally increase loyalty early on and drive larger audiences.

Strategy 2: Publish A Lot of Episodes All At Once

Your ongoing publishing plan may be to publish a new episode once a week but in the first two weeks publish 3-10 of them. This helps you maximize the number of downloads you can get from your initial audience in the first few weeks.

Strategy 3: Make A Launch Team

Reach out to influencers, blogs, and friends and ask them to join your launch team. Effectively you are asking them to set aside some energy in the first 2 weeks of your launch to help you promote your new podcast.

Prepare assets for them to help them promote your show. Images for social media, press releases they can reference, and anything else you think would be helpful.

One way to encourage an influencer with a large audience is to invite them to record one of these early episodes with you. This gives them an incentive to promote your show and gives you greater credibility.

Promotional Plan – How Will You Drive Listeners

First read my post “How To Get A Large And Engaged Loyal Audience

Here are some additional thoughts specific to Podcasts:

Strategy 1: Offer to be a guest on other podcasts in your industry

If you want to reach people who already consume podcasts there is no better place than on other podcasts.

It can be a tough sale to convince a competing podcast to have you on as a guest for obvious reasons (note the word “Competing). You will have to have a unique, attention-catching method of asking AND you will have to bring something valuable to the relationship. Something that causes them to NEED you as much as you need them.

Strategy 2: Invite Guests Who Have An Audience You Want to Reach

Your industry has influencers. People with large email lists, Instagram followings, blog readers, etc. When you invite these people on your show not only does that add to your credibility but it also gives them a good reason to share your show with their audience.

Strategy 3: Attend Industry Trade Shows

Your industry has events where you can shake hands with hundreds to thousands of consumers and or businesses. Go to those events and network. If finances allow get a booth and record episodes right there at the show.

Formatting and the Publishing Schedule

Formatting is the word we use in broadcast to refer to the process of determining how your show is going to be laid out. What content you are going to have.

While some successful podcasts have no format, they just consist of the host(s) talking for some length of time; MOST successful podcasts follow a specific format. Perhaps they always start with the sponsor message or an introduction. Perhaps they discuss current events followed by listener questions.

Whatever it may be, listeners like consistency. Think of your favorite news broadcast, late night TV show, or radio show. The consistency of segments and layout creates loyalty and tribe. You want both.

Also in thinking about consistency, the most successful podcasts create what is effectively an appointment with their listeners. How often you publish and what day you publish is far less important than picking a schedule and staying true to it.

Production Value

There are few things that will turn OFF your audience faster than poor production value. In the case of an audio podcast, I'm talking about audio quality.

Invest in quality microphones and recording equipment. If recording remotely with guests and other hosts experiment with various tools to reduce audio variance and quality loss due to bandwidth.

Ask guests to participate from quiet locations with quality internet. Ask them to wear headphones to minimize audio feedback. Trust me, audio quality matters a lot!

Securing and Pitching Sponsors

Let me first say that if your only or primary motivation for starting a podcast is to secure paying sponsors just stop now. Unless you have a built-in library of salespeople and advertisers you already work with you don't have what is necessary to be successful out of the gate.

A podcast is a great way to support a passion or to support an existing business plan, model, or product. The amount of energy and time that will have to be invested to get a large enough audience to be able to make decent money from sponsorships is VERY high.

With that in mind here are some ideas that will help you with sponsors.

Pricing

The industry standard way to price podcast advertising is on a CPM (Cost per thousand impressions). This is similar to most other forms of online advertising in which the advertiser is paying based on the ACTUAL reach of their message.

In the case of a podcast there are two ways this can be done. You can calculate the number of downloads after a certain amount of time has passed and bill the advertiser based on those actual numbers or you can bill the advertiser in advance based on a minimum guaranteed reach in a certain number of days based on your past history.

For example is I know my average episode is downloaded 11-12 thousand times within 30 days of being published then I might sell my podcast episode sponsorships based on 10K downloads minimum.

The CPM rate varies significantly by podcast but ranges between $20 and $100. That variance is going to be justified by the uniqueness or value of the average listener and the loyalty to the show if the average listener.

CPM is cost per thousand. You can find CPM calculators online to help you figure out the numbers.

Pitching Assets

It is common place for savvy and larger advertisers and agencies to request a media kit. A media kit is a file (PDF is most common) that highlights the various aspects of the show and it's audience. It often contains advertising rates and options as well.

Reach out to other podcasts in your industry and request their media kit to reference as examples.

Over Deliver

Whatever you do be sure to over deliver for your advertiser. Do everything in your power to make sure their message is received by the audience. Be a user and consumer of their products so you can naturally refer to them in context outside of sponsor messages.

Conclusion

If you think a podcast may be a great way to reach and grow your audience you might be right. Investigate existing podcasts in your market and do something to be different.

Invest in quality gear and work to product a high quality podcast.

Figure out a business plan that isn't dependent on finding paid advertisers unless you already have the experience and access to salespeople and paying advertisers in your industry

Build a launch plan that will maximize your odds of success.

If you have other questions about launching or operating a podcast let me know!

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How and Why To Buy Domains That Are Not Available

In 2016 I was attending the Traffic and Conversion Summit event where I heard a presentation from Perry Belcher about some of his best tips to acquiring good domain names.

Since then I've been on a personal journey to acquire quality domain names. I've found some tricks that work for me and some that I learned from Perry that have proven fruitful as well.

First, WHY Go To The Effort?

I imagine it goes without saying that your website's domain name is arguably more important than your company name and where possible they should be one and the same.

In today's climate your domain name will become your brand even if you don't want it to. Despite this I often talk to businesses and friends who tell me they can't name their business X because the domain name isn't available.

When you decide to launch a new business or project don't restrict yourself to domains that are available or you are effectively restricting yourself to crappy business names. All the good ones are probably taken unless you are launching a local business with no plans to expand and can include the city or state name in your domain.

For Sale By Individual Or Broker?

When I identify a domain that I would like to own that isn't available I follow these steps:

  • See if the domain is being used for an active website or if it is just parked.

If the domain is in use then I'm going to spend some time looking through the website to determine some important things.

First, how recently it has been updated and how much traffic it may be getting? Websites that get a lot of traffic or have been updated recently are going to be more expensive or difficult to convince the owner to part with.

Second, is the content on the website relevant to my business? Likely search engines have already crawled the website and if I completely redo the website to a topic that is different that is going to slow down my ability to rank well for target search terms on that website. This is worth considering.

If the domain is parked or otherwise not in use that is likely a good sign as the owner is more likely to be willing to part with it. Often the parked page will have information about the domain being for sale and how to contact the broker and make an offer.

Here is a domain I'm interested in. Going to the site loads this “parked page” that tells me it is for sale. The broker is Uniregistry which I really like but sadly they want $16,000 and to me it isn't worth more than about $1,500. Sometimes it just doesn't work out.

If there is information about contacting a broker to make an offer to buy the domain this is generally a sign that the domain is going to be on the more expensive end of the spectrum.

In my ideal scenario the domain isn't in use and doesn't have any information about it being available for sale.

Use WHOIS Tool to Find the Owner

All domains have a registered owner. There are a number of lookup tools online to help you discover who the owner is. My preferred tool is the GoDaddy WHOIS lookup tool and you can find it here.

Put your target domain in that search box and presto… you may get lucky. You are lucky if you see the name and address of a real human along with an email address and sometimes a phone number.

If that is the case you now have contact info and even if they had a broker listed to contact you can bypass the broker and contact the domain owner directly.

SADLY, you aren't always lucky as domain registrars do allow the domain owner to use privacy registration to replace their personal contact info with the information for the registrar. When this happens you don't have any way to directly contact the domain owner without working through a broker or buying service.

This is the WHOIS results for the domain jacobspaulsen.com. I have domain privacy on all my domains and so you get results that don't show my email, address, or information

If You Can Directly Contact The Owner

Here is a script I use a lot:

SUBJECT LINE: Would you consider selling it?

Some noteworthy things about my script:

  • I think it is very important to include your personal cell number and letting them know they can text you. This communicates you are a real normal single human and that you are serious about buying the domain and that this is very unlikely to be a scam
  • I don't include my full name as my name is fairly easy to Google search and find out who I am, what I do, and to make some assumptions about how much money I may have
  • I do not include an initial offer or bid. Right now my only goal is to solicit a response. Negotiation can take place after they respond
  • I don't say why I want the domain or what I intend to do with it. It isn't any of their business and again I don't want to turn them off before I even have a chance to begin the conversation

In addition to an email I will often try to find the person on Facebook and send them a message there as well. Script might look something like:

If You Have to Use A Domain Broker

Don't despair if you have to use a domain broker. I especially like the team and service at Uniregistry.com and have acquired several domains via a broker. But understand the broker is going to keep a fee and the seller must be fairly serious about monetizing their domain assets or they wouldn't have hired a broker to begin with. You should expect to pay a lot more.

Making Your First Offer

When I'm dealing directly with the seller I generally start really low. For example if I would be willing to pay $1000 I might make my first offer $250.

When dealing with a broker I'm going to leave less room for myself. If willing to pay $10,000 I might offer $5000 in my initial offer.

Should You Use Escrow

There are a number of different Escrow services you can use which effectively will take your payment and hold it in an account giving the seller confidence they can transfer the domain without fear they won't get paid. Once the domain is transfered to your satisfaction you notify the Escrow account to release the funds. Thus you are both protected in the transaction.

I prefer to use escrow.com for this service but understand that escrow services come with fees. I rarely use them and so far I've never been scammed or otherwise dissatisfied with a transaction. Use your best judgement.

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The Dumbest Mistakes When Returning A Product To An Online Vendor

My eCommerce business has now shipped over 100,000 orders since late 2015. We have a return rate of about 2.5% which means we've probably processed about 2500 returns and I personally received and processed every single one of them. For the most part, it is a simple and routine part of my workload but there are some patterns I see from our customers that DRIVE ME NUTS.

The returns from the last several days that I will be processing today

Below are some of those patterns distilled into some suggestions and advice that I wish my customers would read… but alas it would probably be a little rude to include the below in each package that goes out the door.

Um, You Just Returned The Thing You Said You Want

Yeah, this happens all the time. Someone ships something back to us claiming we shipped them the wrong one. Sometimes they want a refund and other times they would like an exchange. I open up the package, read the note, look at the product and say to myself “you just shipped me the thing you said you want.”

Before you ship back a product triple check that it isn't the right thing. Maybe the packaging looks a little different than what you saw online, maybe you are looking at the product wrong and falsely identifying it, or perhaps you just don't actually know how to use/recognize the thing you just bought.

Instead of jumping to conclusions contact customer service and ask clarifying questions. Include pictures of what they shipped you and ask if this is the correct product. Trust me its frustrating for the business and embarrassing and frustrating for you to find out you screwed up. When I call you on the phone and say, “if you wanted an X I can just ship you back the thing you just returned,” you are going to feel foolish.

Uh, You Shipped Your Return To The Wrong Place or Didn't Include The Thing We Need to Refund You

The big key here is ASK for return instructions and then follow those instructions.

For example, a lot of modern online retailers drop ship products from various different locations or manufacturers. The origin address on the package that you receive may NOT be the correct address to send the return. This is a common issue for us. We include a card inside every package that tells the customer to NOT return the package to the address on the label and we still get about 12 returns a month to that address.

Even more frustrating is when people don't include any identifying information in the package. Something shows up and when I open it I just find the product. No order number, customer name or information, or anything else that would be helpful. Sometimes I can find an order that has the same return address but this is more problematic when people take things to a UPS store or small shipping service retailer that will put their own address on the return label instead of the home address of the customer.

At very least if you do nothing else just include a piece of paper with a name, address, email address, and phone number. Then if we can't find your order at least we can call you and ask you for more information.

You Just Super Overpaid To Ship This Back to Me

Ok, this is no skin off my back but it still hurts a little when I see that my customer just overpaid to ship back a product. If the customer is paying for return shipping then that will leave a bigger sting than it needs to and if they are using a prepaid label provided by the company and they use the wrong packaging then the business may have to pay for the difference in postage when it arrives.

The most common issue is the use of flat-rate packaging. USPS flat rate boxes are generally the best deal in postage when you are shipping something that is heavy. The Flat Rate box is the same postage no matter the weight so putting a lightweight, small product in a box and filling it up with newspaper is almost guaranteed to cost you more than you need to pay.

Take a cue from the vendor. However they shipped it to you, that is probably the cheapest way to ship it back to them.

Here Is An Idea; Call Us Before You Call Your Credit Card Company

This is the worst. I get a notification from the merchant company (the guys that help us accept credit cards) notifying us that a customer has just disputed the credit card charge. I contact the customer to ask why they disputed the charge and they respond with, “It wasn't what I wanted” or “I want to return it.”

Disputing credit card charges when you did, in fact, authorize the charge is dishonest and painful for everyone involved. You may have to get a new credit card which is an inconvenience to you. On our end, we are charged a fee for every dispute and we have to put together a packet of evidence to prove we, in fact, did get a payment from YOU and we did in fact ship you a product.

Now if you have gone the rounds with a retailer and they are treating you like crap and not willing to enforce the return/refund policy they claim to have in place then sure, go ahead and call your card company. But if you need customer service, like wanting to return the product for a refund, call/email or otherwise contact the company before you go to the effort of disputing the charge on your card.

With a lot of card companies once you dispute it I cannot refund you even if I want to. It puts the transaction in a category of untouchable and if I can show them that the charge came from you and I shipped the product to your billing address you may never see that money back. Just contact us and tell us what you need.

Well, Did You Read Our Return Policy During Checkout?

I feel like a jerk when we get contacted by someone asking us to do something completely outside of our policy and I have to say no. We generally will go outside of the policy to make customers happy but sometimes we get requests that we cannot honor for one reason or another and if the customer had just read the policy before checking out they would have known about those restrictions.

When you buy something online that costs more than you think about 5 minutes of your time is worth; READ THE RETURN POLICY. I know this is a pain and nobody does it but before you drop $100 don't you think it is worth reading a policy that you can read in under 5 minutes?

Next Time Don't Throw Away The Paperwork & Packaging

A lot of companies have a policy that you can't return something if it shows clear signs of wear and use. One of the best ways to demonstrate that you didn't use it at all or very much is to carefully put it back in the original packaging the best you can. Not only does this at very least suggest minimum use but the company may appreciate that they don't have to spend money on more packaging to be able to repackage and resell the product you've returned.

When something arrives in the mail you don't know what all you may need in order to return it. Keep the packing slip (which has your order number on it) and all the product packaging at least until you are 100% confident you won't be returning it.

Actually, We Would Love For You To Review Us

There is a tendency among customers who have a positive return experience to think they are doing the company a favor by not writing an online review. Afterall we don't want potential customers to see that you didn't like the product enough to keep it right? WRONG.

Customers sometimes do not purchase a product because they are concerned about the potential work involved in returning it if they don't like it. If you have a positive experience in the return and refund of your order then write a positive review. Tell people the product wasn't for you but you were very happy with how easy it was to contact the business and get the return done. This will help customers who have reservations about a potential return to feeling comfortable enough to buy.

Keep The Tracking Number

When you ship that return package KEEP the receipt that has the tracking number on it. You never know what might happen. The package might be lost by the Post Office or you might have accidentally forgotten to include the return paperwork.

That tracking number is the only other proof you have that you returned the product to the vendor. Don't throw it out until the refund posts to your credit card.

Oh, and while not deserving of a full section of this article please also:

  • Do not write your credit card number on the return paperwork
  • Return the correct product to the correct company
  • Type and print the return letter/request if your handwriting sucks
  • If you smoke or someone in your home smokes try spraying the product with Fabreeze before you package it up and hope we'll refund you
  • If you have pets try a lint roller on the product so as to remove all the hair before you send it back for a refund
  • Avoid using packaging that isn't recyclable. When I open returns I have two piles… one for packaging that I can put in our recycle bin and one for packaging that will go in the garbage. If it isn't fragile, don't use a bubble mailer.

Hopefully, you found that advice helpful… and next time we are hanging out together ask me for my best return stories. I got some doozies that you wouldn't believe.

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What You Need To Know About Image Copyright Violations – Lawsuits – Angry Letters

Before you ask, yes I own the rights to use this stock image

 

So you have a website and you just got an email or letter in the mail telling you that some fancy sounding law firm is going to take you to court unless you pay a settlement fee for the illegal use of some copyrighted image on your website.

What The CRAP Is This All About And What Are You Supposed To Do???

Why This Is Happening and Is It Legit?

Yeah, its real and it is happening to you. You found some image online and you put it on your website without the permission or necessary license. You probably did some Google Image search and found the perfect thing for your blog post and now you are paying the price for putting it on your site ignorant of the laws that govern image use and copyright.

There are big law firms that do nothing more than work with image services like Getty Images and make a fortune finding people like you and taking you to court. The vast majority of internet publishers (site owners like you) will pay the settlement cost before you deal with court and they know it. You know you can't win the court case because you did in fact violate the copyright so you figure why fight it right?

What Are Your Options?

Do Not Ignore It. This problem is not going to go away and you don't need the legal trouble that will come if you fully ignore it.

If the price is high enough, consider hiring an attorney. If the law firm is asking for ten thousand dollars or more you may want to hire an attorney. You may be surprised by the things that the attorney can do to help you. The attorney can help call their bluff in the threat to take you to court. Does the plaintiff really want to come to your state and make an appearance in court? Your attorney can likely force those kinds of terms and that will likely drop the settlement price and at least save you some money.

That said most of the time the cost of the settlement is too low to justify hiring an attorney. You should probably just pay it and make the problem go away. You can and should always try to negotiate the price. Talk about how you don't have that kind of money but may be able to scrape together 50% of that in cash if they you can come to an arrangement. Use your own language and don't be dishonest as that will only hurt you later should you end up in court.

When you agree to make payment make sure that you get something in writing that makes clear that the payment you are making is considered a full payment and that they agree to not pursue any additional legal actions.

As a final thought in this section, be sure to trace down how you found the image. If you happened to get the image from a website that claimed it was license free and public domain then you may be able to counter-sue that website to recover the damages you incurred having used the image in good faith.

How Do You Prevent This From Happening In the Future?

STOP using images that you don't have the rights to use. When you do a Google Image Search for example you can use the Usage Rights Tool to filter the results by images that are labeled for reuse though be warned that this still may lead you to images that have licensing requirements. For example an image may be labeled for reuse BUT require that you give the image owner credit in someway.

ALWAYS follow the image to it's source website and check that website's terms and conditions. If unsure, use a contact form to ask permission.

Here is a Google Image Search for me… apparently there is an artist somewhere that shares my name?

 

If you are going to have need for a lot of stock images you can always just pay a subscription to Adobe, iStock Photos, Getty Images, or any other service that gives you access to stock images at a subscription rate.

There are a handful of websites out there that provide a decent selection of public domain images you can use. Most of them make their money however by constantly asking you to consider subscribing to their paid service. Despite that they can be helpful… here are some I have bookmarked:

http://www.freeimages.com

https://pixabay.com/

http://www.freestockphotos.biz/

https://pixnio.com/

And don't forget Wikipedia as all images on that site are automatically public domain!

Happy hunting… and please share in the comments below any experiences you have had with this and how it turned out for you.

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Top Hacks For Hiring Amazing Employees

I currently have 12 employees. I have had to hire a total of 18 employees in this current business and many many more in past ventures and jobs.

I used to dread the process. Trying to get applicants and then trying to guess who is the right person based on resumes… No wonder research suggests that odds of finding a good employee are about 50/50 no matter the hiring process or amount of resources dedicated to finding the right applicant.

Truth is, everything has changed for me. I love hiring new people now because I've found the formula that works for me. If you follow the below steps you will save a ton of time and stress while greatly maximizing the chances of finding good people.

Indeed.com Is Magic

Trick number one, use indeed.com. Over the last 5 years Indeed has grown very fast and has overtaken the monster.coms' that previously dominated the space for decades.

Indeed allows employers to post jobs for free. When the platform was still growing I felt that the free listing generally served my purposes. Depending on the job you are hiring for and the pool of potential applicants in your target area you might be fine with the free option.

However, I found that if I sponsor my listing for about $20 a day and let that run for 3 days and then turn off the paid promotional aspect of it the momentum continues and I can get about 5-6 applicants a day for 10-12 days in a row with an investment of only $60.

Be sure to download the Indeed mobile app that makes it easy for employers to peruse job applicants.

Lastly indeed will optionally auto-notify rejected applicants that they didn't get the job. Awesome!

Job Title Is Everything

The number one thing I'm looking for is someone who really wants to work for me. Not just someone who really wants a job but that truly would rather work for me than anywhere else. So the job posting process is designed to filter out anyone else.

The first step to doing that is to use a job title that says exactly what you actually want… not what society thinks should go on the new employee's business card.

Recently I hired for a customer service rep. The job title used:

“Firearm Enthusiast and Relationship Professional”

Before that my last hire was a mobile app developer. Job title used:

“Firearm Enthusiast and Mobile Developer Extraordinaire”

Yes I start all my job postings with Firearm Enthusiast because I want people who are excited to work for me and will be happy to be part of our company's mission. Why beat around that bush?

Have Something Super Valuable to Offer

If you want to hire really awesome people you have to offer an opportunity that really good people would consider.

If your pay sucks, your benefits are not existent, and the work environment is not inviting you cannot get good applicants.

We try to pay more than any other company would. We allow most employees to work from home. We don't regulate vacation days or time off. It may not be like working for Google but about half of our employees have taken pay cuts to work for us because of the value of the opportunity.

Ask/Require Cover Letter
Resumes are, in my opinion, not very good at telling me what I actually need to know. Do they really want to work here?

Sure the resume will tell me if they are qualified and if they have experience but it won't give me any sense for their level of desire.

That is why I request a cover letter. You can request the cover letter at the very top of your job description and certainly, that will help applicants know you are requesting one. However, don't despair if you don't see a lot of cover letters.

Platforms like Indeed are designed to make it as easy as possible for people to apply for your job from a mobile phone.

So, after I review a resume if I think the applicant appears qualified and I'm interested I send them a message (via Indeed) requesting a “cover letter” detailing their passion for my industry. I use a saved templated response that looks like this:

Dear Applicant, thank you for applying for our job. A resume is a horrible way to gauge your desire to work for our company and your passion for our industry. To be considered for our position I kindly request that you send me back a message explaining why you want to work in the Firearm industry, and detailing your passion for the second amendment and self-defense. Thank you!

With that in place, if the person doesn't reply to my request I reject their application. Those who do reply with a cover letter get considered.

Do Short Phone Interviews To Narrow Down the Group

If you have followed the above process you are going to have a decent number of good applicants. Do not interview them all!

Instead, call the top 10 or so and conduct 5-minute phone interviews. This should make it easy to get it down to a final shortlist of 5 or less than you can interview.

Ask Them To Ask Questions

My favorite interview question? “What questions do you have for me about the company or opportunity?”

I don't have a simple or magical explanation as to why this works but it does. I always get great insight into the individual when I let them air all questions they have.

Good luck with your next hire!

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How to Approach WordPress Updates

wordpress-589121_1280Software developers love to update software. Once an initial set of code has been released the developer either needs a new project and/or sets out to make improvements.

In the online world updates are valuable as they serve two key purposes.

First, updates bring new features. Version 1 of anything is rarely very good and never as good as version 2. Who doesn't want stuff to be more awesome?

Second, updates are made to close potential security gaps. Developers are in a constant game of chess with hackers in which the hacker attempts to find vulnerabilities in the code and the developer tries to close those vulnerabilities before too much damage can be done.

With that said there is huge danger because updating WordPress plugins occasionally can cause havoc if a combination of plugins has a compatibility issue they didn't have previously. Version 2 of your theme along with Version 1 of Plugin A and Version 3.2 of Plugin B may live in harmony together but updating any of them might disrupt the harmony. When this happens the site owner seeks to find a 3rd party solution to force harmony or has to replace the offending plugin with a competing piece of software that is more compatible.

To minimize this issues and to make the troubleshooting as painless as possible follow these recommendations when running WordPress updates.

Update 1 plugin at a time… generally 1 per day. If daily sounds extreme you could do it more often or less often but the key is to allow enough time to go by to be able to determine if any issue has arisen. The more traffic your site gets the more likely you are to be alerted by site visitors quickly when an issue arises. If you only update a single plugin at a time solving or at very least identifying the culprit is much easier.

Keep a change log for the site. Every time you update a plugin or install something new put that in your internal change log. This history of changes will also help you identify where to troubleshoot first.

Update plugins later in the evening when traffic volume is lower. After you run an update do some basic testing of the site yourself. Should the update cause an immediate error you have the maximum amount of time to address it before high traffic returns.

If you have high levels of risk or liability if the site does experience issues you should setup a dev version of your site on a different server or host. Run all updates on the dev install first to monitor and test for any issues before making the changes live on your actual website.

Cheers,

Jacob

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The Online Content Creation Formula For Success

top blogging strategyToday I had a quick conversation with a member of our team that is going to start contributing content to our website. I was explaining our general internal process for producing awesome content on our sites and it occurred to me I've never published an article on my own site about how to write awesome articles.

First the Disclaimer: The site you are on right now… jacobspaulsen.com is where I rant and share about my life of marketing and personal development. Don't hold me accountable to doing all the stuff I preach on this site. The lessons I share here are things I apply on my businesses and the websites where I actually generate revenue… not here on my hobby/journal site.

Here is our process start to finish:

  1. Identify a topic worth producing content around
  2. Use Google and the Google Adwords Keyword tool to determine the top search phrases for that content topic. For example if I want to write an article about how to select the best toilet paper at the grocery store I might find out that the top related search phrase is actually: “Best Rated Toilet Paper.” The top search phrase should be a massive consideration in your articles headline.
  3. Finalize the article's headline considering both the top search phrase as well as what would actually be enticing to readers. It needs to have shock value or create significant curiosity to the relevant audience.
  4. Find the following three competitors:
    1. The #1 ranked content piece for your target search phrase
    2. The #1 top quality (based on your own opinion) article on the topic
    3. The #1 top quality or most popular YouTube video on the topic
  5. Ask yourself how are you going to improve on the three competitors outlined above. What can you add or better explain to make it better?
  6. Formulate an outline for your own content by first just listing out key points that you want to make. This generally just looks like a list of bullet points at first.
  7. Organize your list of key points into the best chronological order so as to help the reader flow through the content is such a way that is logical, emotional, or brings them to the conclusion you are trying to recommend.
  8. Ask one other person who is also very familiar with the topic to look at your outline and point out anything you have missed.
  9. Turn the key points into section headers and repeat step 3 for each section header to make sure those section titles keep the reader reading.
  10. Fill in the content for each section
  11. Review the content and work on gathering or creating the best supporting images or videos to accompany the content. You probably need more than you think.
  12. Have another person read through your final draft.

There is our full process that we try (try is a keyword here) to follow. When we do, it always leads to a source of strong and ongoing traffic.

Cheers,

Jacob

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Three WordPress SEO Tricks You Are Likely Neglecting

You have a WordPress based website and you pride yourself on knowing the SEO basics but are you forgetting to do a few simple things that could make a big difference?

1: Category descriptions. Visit the Categories sub-menu under the Posts menu. Does it look like this?

category desctiptions seo

Its time to add descriptions for each category. Each category has it's own stand alone page called the category archive. Like any other page, you ideally want to have META title, description, and keyword tags on that page. You can find that page here www.yourdomain.com/category/categoryslug. Adding the description for these categories in WordPress will translate to the Description Meta tag on the archive page. Depending on your theme the description may also display at the top of the page.

2: Page specific Meta Tags. It isn't uncommon for me to sit down in a SEO consultation with someone who tells me they have worked long and hard to write awesome META tags for their website. I go deeper into an internal page and BAM… no meta tags at all. Are you so focused on the home page you forgot to write tags for all the internal pages and posts?

3: Bold, Underline, Italics. Another sometimes down played technique of SEO is to use Bold, Underline, and Italics to emphasize certain keywords on your website. Some SEO experts disagree on how effective this is but I've never heard anyone suggest it would hurt. Don't go over board but on each page/post be sure to emphasize at least one keyword you want the search engines to notice.

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How To Make Your Blog Post Good Enough for Wikipedia

In a previous blog post I wrote about the process, value, and best practices of becoming a Wikipedia contributor. Today's post is focused on best practices to write blog posts that are most likely to be referenced in Wikipedia pages. When an editor or contributor adds content or changes content to Wikipedia they are encouraged to give a reference for the information to ensure it's credibility. You want to be that source.

wikipedia for marketers

The value of a link to your website from Wikipedia is very high. The page score and domain authority of Wikipedia is very high and search engines and users trust it as a non-bias source of content. In many ways this is the coveted inbound link of the internet. Instead of trying to game the system and start adding your links to Wikipedia pages (which is against their policy) you might go to the harder effort, but far more valuable process of just creating awesome content that is likely to get Wikipedia love.

What Type of Content Do Wikipedia Authors and Contributors Look For

Tutorials

Tutorials about how to do something go hand in hand with Wikipedia content.

Histories and Timelines

A good article about the history of something is going to make it super easy for a Wikipedia author to get all the relevant dates and facts they need.

Breaking News

Being the first person to update or publish a new Wikipedia page about something breaking is a coveted position to be in. If you can feed them the facts they will reward you with a reference link.

Insider Accounts

Wikipedia content is based on fact, research, and credible sources. If you have the insider scoop on something or someone you may find a Wikipedia contributor grateful for your contribution.

In Depth and Detailed Reports

Posts that start with “Everything You Need to Know About” tend to provide great insights about key events, companies, services, and other topics. Compile all the best information about a topic and publish it as a detailed report.

What Are Common Attributes Of Good Wikipedia References

Non-Biased Editorial

If you drop any clues, hints, or outright clear statements about your feelings on the subject you call all your content into question. For Wikipedia targeted content think like a news journalist whose job it is to give the facts.

Recency

Old content is no longer trusted or relevant. When you write make sure you include dates to clarify the recency of the information. Also if you have an awesome piece of content that is starting to date itself publish a new and updated piece of content to tell everyone what has changed and what hasn't.

First Party Accounts or Sourced Data

Opinions aren't facts. When you write, clarify if the data is first person (you were directly a witness of the facts) or give your source for the facts you are posting.

Unique and Hard to Find Information

Perhaps it goes without saying but if you are the only one who published the information then what choice would a Wikipedia contributor have but to link back to your content as a reference.

Optimized for Search

If a Wikipedia author or contributor is looking for a piece of information or a source for information they already have your piece of content had better be easy to find in search engines. Without a strong search strategy your Wikipedia game plan becomes really empty.

In summary I do think that Wikipedia Loved content is hard work. It isn't likely to be that blog post that you quickly penned on Saturday afternoon. Identify the opportunities you have to go a little further into the content to produce quality instead of quantity and before you know it you will see Wikipedia on your traffic reports!

 

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Becoming a Wikipedia Editor and Contributor

Anyone can contribute to the content on Wikipedia. Marketers have a particular interest in the site since a relevant backlink to one's site from Wikipedia can be very valuable. Naturally then it would make sense for any web marketer to become familiar with Wikipedia and where possible try to leverage it (within the Wikipdia guidelines) as a tool to drive awareness and traffic.

wikipedia for marketers

Relevant Wikipedia Guidelines:

As an author or editor it is prohibited to use Wikipedia to promote yourself, your website, or your organization. These are all considered conflicts of interest and are to be avoided.

Be neutral. This is not a place to get on your soap box. It is a play to play the role of non-bias editorial, confirmed, relevant, and valuable informational writer.

While I do not endorse trying to game the system or break the rules I do think you should consider the following:

Setup an Actual Profile

Anyone without a user account can make anonymous edits to Wikipedia pages but those edits are poorly trusted and impossible to followup on or track as the contributor. Setup an actual user account and work hard to build your reputation by following the below tips.

The More You Contribute The More You Are Trusted By Others

If you are a very active member of Wikipedia it shows in your profile. Editors and contributors are very weary of a new user who starts adding links to an external website. Red flag right? On the other hand if you truly work to benefit the website, content, and community everything you do is likely to be taken in good faith.

Legitimately Try to Add Value

If you focus on how you can create more value for others and less on how Wikipedia can create value for you, in the long run the relationship will be very strong and mutually beneficial. Don't look to articles where you would like to have a link back and work hard to find a way to incorporate it. Instead ask yourself if you have content that can truly add to the readers experience and knowledge. If so add it and do it in a way that will add value to the reader.

Take it Slow – Learn The System

Wikipedia is a unique community with it's own coding language, guidelines, and policies. Don't rush in and start making tons of changes, edits, and additions. It won't help you or the readers. Take it slow. Look for small edits you can make to truly improve content in areas where you have expertise or resources. Get familiar with and comfortable with the processes.

Document What You Do

Every time you make an edit to a page you will have the change to explain your changes and add any other relevant change notes to the “talk” page for other editors and contributors to see what you did and why you did it. If you are really adding value to readers you should have no reason not to be transparent and clear about the edits you have made. It will help your reputation and will also make it easier for you to track past contributions you have made.

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