Help Ease Inflammation With Hollyhock

2 months, 22 days ago

Table of Contents

What Is Hollyhock?
Health Benefits of Hollyhock
Hollyhock Uses
How to Grow Hollyhocks
Spring Salad Recipe With Hollyhock Flowers
Harvesting and Storing Hollyhock Seeds
Hollyhock: A Beautiful and Useful Addition to Your Garden
Frequently Asked Questions About Hollyhock

Hollyhock, or Alcea rosea, is an herb known for its vibrant and attention-grabbing flowers, with colors ranging from light pink to dark purple. Aside from its beautiful blooms, hollyhock is also well-known for its medicinal purposes. If you have hollyhock plants growing in your garden or backyard, you’re in luck, because you can use them to help ease a few common conditions naturally and safely. Continue reading to learn more about this plant and how it can help improve your health.

What Is Hollyhock?

The term “hollyhock” is generally used as a collective term for the genus Alcea, which consists of approximately 60 flowering varieties.1 This article will focus on Alcea rosea, which is the most common species of all the Alcea plants.2

Hollyhock was originally from China, where it was eaten as a potherb. It is typically abundant in Europe and Asia, but also thrives in the U.S. and other regions due to its hardy nature. One of the possible reasons this plant is called hollyhock is because the first plants sent to Southern Europe came from the Holy Land.

In earlier times, hollyhock was especially popular among the Spanish, who thought it to be the perfect reflection of God’s love because the plant was extremely enduring.3 Over the years, however, its popularity as a garden plant has waned due to its susceptibility to multiple diseases and pests, especially a fungus gardeners call “rust.”

Rust, or Puccinia malvacearum, usually grows on hollyhock leaves and can cause them to become severely disfigured. While hollyhock rust may cause you to have second thoughts about planting your own hollyhock herbs, there are ways to prevent it from infecting your beloved plants.4

What Are the Health Benefits of Hollyhock?

Hollyhock may be a beautiful addition to anyone’s garden or yard, but its benefits transcend the exquisiteness of its flowers. Aside from its gardening uses, hollyhock is incredibly useful when it comes to your health. Some of the benefits it has are:

• May help ease digestive problems — Throughout history, hollyhock has been lauded for its positive effect on the digestive system. An 1859 medical book notes that hollyhock blossoms were mixed with poplar bark, bayberry, goldenseal and other herbs to promote digestion and “warm the stomach and bowels.”5

• Soothes cold symptoms — Hollyhock was brewed as tea to calm respiratory ailments. Arabians and Costa Ricans were noted to drink sweetened hollyhock tea to ease coughs and sore throat.6

• May relieve inflammation — Brazilians and Chileans use hollyhock leaves as a poultice to alleviate inflammation and tumors. Hollyhock seeds may also be crushed and applied topically to treat abscesses.7

How Is Hollyhock Used?

Aside from being an ornamental plant, you can use hollyhock as a:

• Natural cotton or fabric dye — Hollyhocks have been used to dye cotton for over 200 years. In fact, the oldest documentation of dyeing using hollyhock flowers dates back to the 19th century. Germans first started using hollyhock to add color to wine, but later began using it on fabric as well. Hollyhock flowers in lighter shades produce a yellow to a golden brown hue, while the darker variants produce shades that can be as light as lilac or as dark as deep mauve.8

• Recipe ingredient — Young hollyhock leaves, flowers and the inner portion of hollyhock stems may be eaten raw or added to salads.9

• Tea — Hollyhock flowers and buds may be brewed into a tea for a refreshing beverage.10

Here’s How You Can Grow Hollyhocks

Growing your own hollyhock plants is relatively easy, as long as you make sure they get enough sunlight and moisture. These plants can reach a whopping 9 feet tall, which makes them suitable for growing near walls or fences. They are also especially appealing to both butterflies and hummingbirds. To grow your own hollyhocks, follow this step-by-step guide:11,12

Directions

1. Find a suitable location that is exposed to either full sun or partial shade.

2. Prepare the soil by working compost or aged animal manure into it. This will improve the soil’s ability to hold nutrients and moisture.

3. Sow hollyhock seeds one to two weeks after the last frost. Plant them no more than 1/4 inch deep and maintain spacing of 2 feet between plants.

4. The seeds will germinate within 10 to 14 days. Water the plants regularly.

Note that hollyhocks are very vulnerable to certain pests and fungal diseases, including beetles, sawflies, powdery mildew and rust, with rust being the most damaging. Below are two tips on how to significantly lower your plants’ susceptibility to rust:13

• Employ soaker hoses or drip irrigation. Avoid using overhead watering to limit the moisture on the aerial portion of your hollyhocks.

• Maintain proper space between your plants to promote better air circulation. As mentioned, give them at least 2 feet of breathing space.

Try This Spring Salad Recipe With Hollyhock Flowers

Hollyhock flowers are edible, which makes them ideal additions to salads and side dishes. Hollyhocks are just one of 42 flowers you can eat. Below is a spring salad recipe featuring hollyhocks:14

Spring Salad With Edible Flowers

Ingredients

• 5 ounces baby spring greens

• 1 small sweet onion

• Hollyhock and other edible flowers like geraniums and marigolds

• 1/4 cup dressing of your choice

Procedure

1. Peel and slice onion into paper-thin slices.

2. Put the dressing at the bottom of a large salad bowl.

3. Add the greens and onions to the bowl.

4. Scatter the edible flowers on the top of the greens.

5. Toss the salad just prior to serving.

Here’s How You Can Correctly Harvest and Store Hollyhock Seeds

Hollyhocks are usually categorized as either a perennial or a biennial, with plants only living up to three years. Most hollyhock plants are biennial, but this largely depends on plant care. If you’d like to keep hollyhocks growing in your garden, it might be a good idea to save your hollyhock seeds. Here’s how you can collect the seeds and prepare them for storage:15

How to Store Hollyhock

1. Wait for the flowers to wilt into large brown pods.

2. Snap them off the plant and drop them into a paper bag. Let them sit in the paper bag for a few days to dry out further.

3. After a few days, remove the pods from the bag and break them apart onto paper towels.

4. Break apart the clumps of seeds inside the pods. Remove the chaff from the individual seeds to limit moisture.

5. Arrange the seeds on top of the paper towel and leave them to dry for a few days.

6. Once dry, place the seeds inside an airtight glass container. Store in a cool place, such as your refrigerator or a freezer.

Hollyhock: A Beautiful and Useful Addition to Your Garden

If you grew up with hollyhocks, you probably remember these colorful flowers with fondness. While their vibrant colors may have lifted your mood on gloomy days, you now know they are edible and can boost your health. You might try them to alleviate inflammation and support healthy digestion. Hollyhocks might not be as popular as they once were, but it’s never too late for them to make a comeback.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Hollyhock

Q: Are hollyhocks perennials?

A: The categorization of hollyhocks is more complicated than other plants. Some sources claim hollyhocks are biennial because they bloom in their second year, but another source says hollyhocks are short-lived perennials. The correct categorization, however, is that they are biennial, but their ability to return in future years depends largely on how the plants are cared for, as well as when and where they are planted.16

Q: Are hollyhocks poisonous?

A: Hollyhocks are not poisonous to humans or animals, so you shouldn’t be alarmed if your dog accidentally tears your hollyhocks apart and eats some of the flowers.17

Q: Do hollyhocks bloom all summer?

A: While hollyhock flowers last only a few days before wilting, this plant’s blooming season may last from three weeks to three months during the summer.18

Q: Can you grow hollyhocks in a pot?

A: Hollyhocks may be grown in pots or containers, as long as they get enough sunlight and nutrients. Be sure to use a large pot because hollyhocks need a lot of room to grow.19

Read more: articles.mercola.com

5 ways to embrace autism in the workplace

4 months, 10 days ago

As our society becomes more aware of autism, and the different ways it manifests in different people, we also must become more cognizant of the fact that autism in the workplace could be a reality for many businesses.

And the number of autistic employees in the workforce will likely continue to grow.

In fact, the CDC estimates that about 1 in 59 children has been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to estimates from the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network.

Many prominent companies nationwide are starting to actively recruit people who have autism spectrum disorder. What do these companies know that your company doesn’t about hiring people with ASD?

The following tips provide insight into the unique strengths of autistic workers and may help your company successfully hire employees with autism.

1. Focus on can, not can’t

Hiring someone on the autistic spectrum should be much like hiring anyone to work for your company. Your focus should be on whether the person can do the job, not on their disability.

It’s the same thought process you would use if you interviewed someone with an identifiable or obvious disability (e.g., blind, deaf or wheelchair-bound). Don’t make assumptions and decide the person can or can’t perform some function of the job because of his or her disabilities.

Instead, focus on each person’s abilities.

If the candidate identifies the need for an accommodation, engage in conversation with them to focus on their abilities and let them tell you what’s possible. This engaging conversation is referred to as the “interactive process” and is key to an organization’s defense against allegations of discrimination based on disability or failure to accommodate.

People with ASD exhibit a wide range of behaviors, many mild enough that you may never realize the candidate is diagnosed as autistic. What’s important is that the person meets the essential functions of the job. Each person will have individual abilities to perform certain jobs – with or without a reasonable accommodation.

In some instances, jobs may be ideal for employees who enjoy repetition. Tasks that others might find monotonous, some people may find comforting, including those with ASD.

The benefits of fostering and managing diversity in the workplace are well documented and extend to employees with ASD. It’s a strategy that can open your company up to the creativity and innovative approaches of talented individuals of varied abilities and skills.

2. Consider essential functions

What can business leaders do to accommodate employees at various levels of the autistic spectrum?

In any instance of hiring and managing employees with disabilities, a well-defined job description can help both your managers and your employees understand the essential functions of a job and the standards for those functions. You should always:

Consult with your trusted HR or legal professional.
Engage in the interactive process.
Evaluate the need for accommodating individuals with any form of disability on a case-by-case basis.

The essential functions of each job, and the candidate you are considering for that role, should be individually considered. For instance, it’s probably an essential function that your web developer meet deadlines for launching new apps and microsites.

However, it’s probably not necessary that this person also contribute new ideas and solutions verbally during staff meetings. Allowing them to write their ideas in an email or memo, and share them with the team later, may work just as well.

When considering essential functions, it’s vital you check your own prejudices and preconceptions at the door. Just because someone doesn’t look you in the eye or laugh at your jokes doesn’t mean they can’t be a dedicated, successful team player or perform the essential functions of the job.

Take a good look at the job description and keep an open mind. Is making direct eye contact truly necessary for the person to perform well? If it’s a sales job, maybe so. If it’s an assembly line worker, probably not. For the assembly line worker, an employee who excels in an environment with structure and repetition may be a significant asset.

Don’t let certain personality traits that may be common to the person’s autism affect your ability to determine whether the person can actually do the job.

3. Be open to reasonable accommodations

The words “reasonable accommodations” can often cause discomfort for managers who automatically assume this term requires them to turn their business inside out to adapt to an employee’s needs.

However, accommodating an employee with ASD (or, really, any disability) is probably similar to changes you may already be making for other employees, such as providing standing desks for those with back problems. Common alterations that may be requested by those with ASD include:

Allowing the person to wear noise-reducing headphones (in the case of noise sensitivity)
Swapping desks with a coworker and turning off an overhead light (to help with light sensitivity)
Permitting them to take lunch at exactly 12:15 p.m. each day (to provide needed structure)
Outlining the day’s priorities (to help with time management)
Letting the person work from home (to accommodate the need to hyper-focus)
Providing advance notice of meeting agendas (to help facilitate communication)

As with any employee who requests an accommodation, you should have a discussion with the employee and include your HR team or legal advisor to determine whether the request is practical (and how it will impact other employees and overall productivity). In addition, there may be a need to ask the employee to provide a doctor’s note that articulates the needs of the employee.

Unfortunately, there’s no easy formula to be followed when it comes to reasonable accommodation. What’s considered reasonable is as varied as individuals with autism and the companies where they work. This is true for any person with a disability.

The Job Accommodation Network provides an excellent resource for some typical accommodations.

4. Promote kindness

A key component to building diversity into your company culture is encouraging an environment of respect. This requires that your leadership proactively address any issues between employees, especially those that may be an indicator (or predictor) of workplace bullying.

People with disabilities such as ASD can be perceived as easy targets by bullies, so extra vigilance may be needed to ensure your work environment is friendly and inclusive.

In less extreme forms of exclusion, it may become necessary to remind employees to invite everyone out for team lunches or after-hours company-sponsored events, even if they think the person may be uncomfortable. That way, at least they know they were invited – even if they choose not to participate.

Sensitivity training may also be helpful for your whole team. Such training can help ensure everyone understands how to work most effectively with coworkers who may require accommodations in the workplace. It can also be helpful in demonstrating what it means to treat everyone with professionalism and respect.

For instance, some people with autism have trouble understanding jokes, sarcasm or hyperbole.

Educate your team members on when and how to use them appropriately in the workplace, and remind them to speak in direct, concise and specific terms. Doing so will help autistic employees with this particular symptom, while also helping your employees understand what you require of them.

If you hire a person with ASD, it may be helpful to assign them an office buddy. This person can act as their mentor, quietly offering helpful tips and guidance that help the new employee acclimate and get the support they need to succeed in their job.

The intent of an office buddy should never be to perform some or all of the job for the person with a disability. But instead, it should ensure they have the support to be successful.

5. Make compliance a priority

Accommodating employees with disabilities or special challenges doesn’t have to be a daunting endeavor. A professional employer organization (PEO) can help you navigate the complexities of employer-employee relationships, helping you take the steps needed to remain compliant while enriching your company’s culture and knowledge base.

Want more insight into HR best practices? Sometimes knowing what not to do is as important as knowing what you should do. Learn more by downloading our free e-book: 7 most frequent HR mistakes and how to avoid them.

Read more: insperity.com

Dandelion Tea Helps Improve Your Liver Function, Digestion and More

5 months, 23 days ago

Table of Contents

What Is Dandelion Tea?
9 Health Benefits of Dandelion Tea
Caffeine Content of Roasted Dandelion Root Tea
How to Make a Cup of Fresh Dandelion Tea
Dandelion Tea Recipes
How You Can Store Dandelion Tea
Side Effects of Dandelion Tea
Make Sure That Your Dandelion Tea Comes From Safe and Organic Sources
Dandelion Tea FAQs

Some people think that dandelion is nothing but a pesky weed that can ruin a perfectly groomed garden, while others consider it one of the most useful gifts from nature. While it’s true that dandelion may not always grow in the desired location, this resilient plant actually has plenty of health benefits to offer.

In fact, the earliest mention of dandelion as a medicinal herb dates back to the 10th and 11th centuries in the Middle East.1 It was also used in traditional Chinese medicine to ease liver problems and other health issues.2 From its roots to the flowers, almost all parts of the humble dandelion can be used to make tea, soups, coffee and other concoctions that can give your health a boost.

What Is Dandelion Tea?

Dandelion tea is an herbal tea that’s made from the roots and leaves of dandelion.3 Some people also use its blossoms to make a tea that’s more delicate in flavor.4 Aside from the difference in flavor profile, the nutritional and medicinal value of dandelion tea may also differ depending on the parts that were used to make it.

Dandelion leaf tea is often consumed for its diuretic properties, while tea made from dandelion roots is known for its ability to help stimulate the appetite and relieve liver and gallbladder problems. The flowers and stems of dandelion may also be added into the tea mixture for additional nutrients.5

The flavors and nutritional profile of dandelion tea also depend on the season when the roots or leaves are harvested. Dandelion leaves are usually picked during the spring,6 while the roots are often harvested in autumn or winter, since they’re believed to be sweeter during these seasons.7

Since dandelions are widely available and are extremely simple to grow, you can easily harvest them to make a tea of your own from fresh ingredients. You may also opt to buy tea bags made from dried organic dandelion roots or leaves. Whichever part of dandelion you choose to brew, rest assured that you’ll get plenty of nutrients from a cup of this herbal drink.

9 Remarkable Health Benefits of Dandelion Tea

With all the publicity that dandelion tea has been getting lately, one of the questions that has probably crossed your mind is, “What exactly is dandelion tea good for?” To answer that question, check out the long list of benefits that you can get from dandelion root or leaf tea:

1. Helps soothe digestive problems — Dandelion tea has been used for centuries to help relieve minor digestive problems, such as heartburn and indigestion. It may also help relieve constipation, since it stimulates bowel movement with its diuretic properties.8

2. Helps maintain proper liver function — Dandelion tea is considered a “liver tonic,” since it helps detoxify the liver and improve the flow of bile.9 A recent study also shows that the water-soluble polysaccharides from dandelion root may help protect the liver from hepatic injury.10

3. Helps reduce water retention — Drinking dandelion tea may help reduce bloating, as it can flush out excessive water weight from your body by increasing your urine output. A study conducted in 2009 showed that the first two cups of dandelion tea can cause a significant increase in the frequency of urination within a period of five hours.11

4. Helps improve kidney and gallbladder function — Dandelion tea may help improve the health of your kidneys and reduce your risk of developing gallstones by flushing out toxins, salt and excess water through increased urine production.12

5. Aids in the management of diabetes — Researchers suggest that dandelion root may help normalize blood sugar levels and reduce bad cholesterol, so drinking tea made from its extracts may be beneficial for diabetics.13

6. Helps improve heart health — Dandelion leaves are a great source of potassium, so drinking its extract may provide your body with traces of this essential mineral, which is important for your heart health, as it helps regulate heart rate and blood pressure levels.

7. Helps reduce the risk of cancer — At least one study shows that dandelion root extract may help induce apoptosis in cancer cells without affecting the noncancerous cells in your body.14

8. Helps relieve inflammation — Dandelion tea provides anti-inflammatory properties, which may help alleviate swelling and other health issues related to inflammation.15

9. Helps reduce your risk for obesity — A study published in the Journal of Nutrition Research and Practice found that dandelion may aid weight loss by inhibiting the activity of pancreatic lipase.16

In addition to the benefits mentioned above, drinking roasted dandelion root tea may be beneficial for coffee lovers who are trying to cut down their caffeine intake, as it tastes relatively similar to coffee.17

Caffeine Content of Roasted Dandelion Root Tea

As mentioned above, roasted dandelion root tea is an excellent natural coffee substitute, hence why it’s often called “dandelion coffee.” But the question is, does it have any caffeine content?

While it tastes and looks relatively similar to real coffee, roasted dandelion root tea does not contain caffeine, which is why it’s great for those who are sensitive to this compound.18,19 However, like coffee, it can also provide plenty of antioxidants, plus other valuable vitamins and minerals.

How to Make a Cup of Fresh Dandelion Tea

Looking for an inexpensive substitute to store-bought dandelion root tea bags? Look no further than the dandelions in your organic garden. You can put these plants to good use by making your own cup of tea. Here’s how you can make dandelion tea using its fresh leaves, according to a recipe from Mama’s Homestead:20

Ingredients

Six dandelion leaves
Water

Optional

Slice of lemon or orange
Raw honey, to sweeten

Procedure

Collect around six pieces of young and tender dandelion leaves. Wash them thoroughly under running water, then pat them dry with a paper towel.
Cut the leaves into small pieces then put them in a cup.
Pour boiling water and steep for five to 10 minutes.

You may opt to drink your dandelion tea as is or serve it with a slice of lemon or orange. You may also sweeten it with honey, but make sure that you only add in a small amount to avoid overloading your body with fructose.

Hearty and Comforting Dandelion Tea Recipe That You Should Try

Aside from making a simple cup of dandelion tea, there are other ways to enjoy this herbal drink. Here’s a delicious and comforting chai recipe from The Kitchn that you will surely enjoy sipping on:21

Dandelion and Chicory Chai

Ingredients

1/2 cup filtered water
1 teaspoon coarsely ground roasted dandelion root tea
1 teaspoon coarsely ground chicory root
2 black peppercorns, cracked
2 green cardamom pods, cracked
1 whole clove
1 inch cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
1/2 cup raw, unpasteurized milk
1 tablespoon honey

Procedure

Combine the water, dandelion root, chicory root, peppercorns, cardamom, ginger, clove and cinnamon in a saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, and then simmer for five minutes.
Add the milk and honey, then increase the heat to medium and bring to a boil. Keep the saucepan uncovered.
Remove the mixture from the heat and strain it into a cup. Discard the solid particles, and serve the drink immediately.

The recipe above is not only rich in flavors, but filled with nutrients too. It takes only a few minutes to make, and is great for a single serving. You can easily double the ingredients if you want to make more for your family or friends.

Here’s How You Can Store Dandelion Tea for Later Use

You don’t need to brew your dandelion root or leaf tea all at once after harvest, because you can actually preserve and store these ingredients for a long time, as long as you dry them first.

When drying dandelion roots, make sure that you wash each root thoroughly before chopping them into small pieces. You may use a dehydrator to dry the chopped roots, or you may simply place them outside under the hot sun until they’re all dried out. Once dry, put the roots in an airtight glass jar and store in a dry place, out of direct sunlight.22,23

Preserving dandelion leaves is easier. You just need to wash the leaves thoroughly and pat them dry with a paper towel. Spread the clean leaves on a tray, and then leave them in a warm room or air cupboard to dry. Be sure to turn the leaves occasionally. After they’re all dried up, store them in an airtight glass jar out of direct sunlight.24

Common Side Effects of Dandelion Tea

Dandelion leaf or root tea is considered generally safe to consume. However, it may cause allergic reactions like itching, rashes and runny nose in people who are allergic to ragweed and other related plants, including chamomile, chrysanthemums and marigold.

If you’re taking medications or supplements, make sure that you consult your doctor before drinking dandelion tea, as it may interact with several drugs. This herbal drink is also not recommended for people with kidney problems and gallbladder disorders.25

Make Sure That Your Dandelion Tea Comes From Safe and Organic Sources

Making homemade dandelion tea may be fun and inexpensive, but you have to keep in mind that not all dandelions you see on the ground are beneficial for your health. This hardy weed pops up almost anywhere — from your well-kept backyard to the dirty street gutter.

If you’re planning to harvest it for consumption, make sure that you use plants grown in a clean area that’s free of pesticides, herbicides and other harmful pollutants. As much as possible, avoid those that grow near the roadway, and refrain from brewing the neighborhood dandelions unless you’re absolutely sure that chemicals weren’t sprayed on them.26

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Dandelion Tea

Q: Is dandelion tea safe?

A: Yes, dandelion tea is generally considered safe for most people, as long as it’s consumed in moderate amounts. It’s important to note that dandelion tea may trigger an allergic reaction in people who are sensitive to dandelion and other related plants. To ensure your safety, consult your physician before drinking this herbal tea.27

Q: How do you drink dandelion tea?

A: Dandelion tea is best enjoyed when it’s freshly brewed. You can serve it hot or cold. You may also mix it with other healthy ingredients, such as lemon, cinnamon and honey, for additional flavors and nutrients.28

Q: What does dandelion tea do for the body?

A: Dandelion tea has long been used to help soothe digestive ailments, such as poor appetite, constipation, upset stomach and indigestion. Its diuretic properties also make it useful for reducing water weight and flushing out toxins, salt and excess water from the kidney. Plus, it helps detoxify the liver by increasing the flow of bile.29,30,31

Studies have also shown that dandelion tea may help fight certain types of cancer by killing the cancer cells without affecting the noncancerous ones.32 It may also help regulate blood sugar levels,33 relieve inflammation,34 improve heart health and maintain normal blood pressure levels.35

Q: How do you use dandelion root tea?

A: You can drink dandelion root tea as is or mix it with other herbal preparations to enhance its nutritional value. Roasted dandelion root tea may also be used as a natural substitute for coffee, since they both have the same color and antioxidant properties. The only difference is that dandelion root tea does not contain caffeine.36,37

Q: How often can you drink dandelion tea?

A: You can drink up to three cups of dandelion tea per day.38

Q: Where can you buy dandelion tea?

A: Dandelion tea bags are widely available in groceries and health stores. Store-bought dandelion tea may be a little pricey, though. If you’re looking for an inexpensive alternative, you can make your own homemade dandelion tea using dandelion greens and roots that come from safe and organic sources.


Read more: articles.mercola.com

Branding 101 for Freelance Designers

6 months, 25 days ago

Branding seems like marketing jargon, but it’s actually an extremely important part of freelancing – much more than it’s given credit for. Whether or not you think branding is important or find it ridiculous, the truth is that we live in an era where branding is crucial to a freelancer’s success.

It’s important to see branding as more than just an icon, logo, a visual theme, or a product. A brand is a relational tool and the standard industry definition is that it is the overall identity of the organization, which includes its visual elements, sure, but also its mission, vision, and the core values its members hold.

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“Marketing,” then, in a sense, is how you get that message to an audience, which is, in this case, your client.

Ultimately, branding tells your client what kind of service they’re going to receive. It communicates your process, your style, your work ethic, and so much more. It also helps communicate your strength as a professional.

The personal portfolio of developer Riccardo Zanutta

Your brand isn’t the only thing that’s important to remember, however – you also need to consider the brand that your client has. So not only is it important to communicate your own brand to your client, but it’s equally crucial to understand branding as it pertains to your client, and the message they want to get across.

But what does that mean for individual freelancers? What does it mean to have a personal brand? And how can that help freelancers in pitching to clients, working with them, and helping a client develop and refine their message to enhance the value of your project deliverables?

What Does Branding Mean for Me?
Think about what makes you, well, you

Ask yourself what your personality is, and how it sets you apart from the crowd. Freelancing, as more and more people do it, is becoming extremely competitive and you need to set yourself up as not just a developer or a graphic designer, but one with panache who knows how to communicate your unique style.

Ask yourself how your work process reflects that. Are you a fun worker? Constant communicator? What are your core values?

Check out your competition. What’s on their website? How many items do they have in their portfolio? Think about how you differ from them, yes, but consider what they have and add to it.

The personal portfolio of Cedric Pereira

Considering the above, craft a full bio and brand statement, and a unique selling proposition that specifically demonstrates what makes you unique and why a client should hire you above all else. Inject personality in everything you do. Create awareness of your products and your value.

Provide a roadmap. Use customer mapping or design thinking to consider how to implement your brand into your process so that what you do incorporates who you are, what you stand for, what you offer.

Consider branding as an experience, or a service, and how that will define the relationship between you and your client.

Revise, revise, revise

Think about how what you do is constantly refining your skills and changing your experience levels. Don’t think the brand you came up with when you started is the brand you need to stick to forever.

It’s important to make sure that you’re keeping yourself and your brand updated based on what you’re doing.

Showcase your skills

Develop a unique company name. If the company name is your name, make sure that falls in line with your personal brand.

Develop a website, a portfolio, or a blog (depending on the kind of work you do). If you’re a writer, you need to be able to show the client either your experience as a guest poster, or your own personal writings. You don’t want to sell yourself as a writer without any examples. You don’t want to bill yourself as a graphic designer if you have no designs.

The personal portfolio of Rafael Derolez

Create a timeline for consistent updates to your website. Don’t necessarily upload your entire portfolio at one time if you don’t have consistent and constant portfolio additions. Space it out, and make it look like you’re ensuring constant upkeep.

Figure out your experience. Craft a resume that reflects what you do. Make it a visual one that a client can experience, not just view, especially on a website.

Think about what people see

Manage your visual presence. Get a good looking logo that effectively communicates your brand. Think about how colors, geometric designs, minimalism, and so on can communicate who you are and what you do.

Personal Branding Sketches by Oykun Yilmaz

Your social media can define you

Be cognizant of your social media presence and make sure it reflects what you want people to think about you.

This doesn’t mean you can’t have raunchy tweets or a clear political bent – but you do need to be aware that your clients will see these things, whether or not you list them as your social media profiles.

Remember that everything that is public is completely accessible by everyone. If you have a humorous brand, make sure you’re funny. If you have a design background, make sure your social media profiles are kept looking good.

Get professional and official

Have business cards you can hand out to people who might in conversation mention they could use your services.

Utilize networking, and develop a good elevator speech. Figure out what you want to communicate it, what story you want to tell about yourself, and figure out how you can say it in 30-60 seconds.

Biz Cardz by Greg Christman

What Does Branding Mean for My Client?
Do your research and work on your proposal

If they have a website, and you’re making emails for the client, check out their website ahead of time. In fact, even before crafting a proposal to get hired, make sure that you have suggestions lined up for what you can offer, what you’d improve, what changes you’d make, and what kind of project you’d be making for them.

We also can’t stress this enough: don’t use the same proposal for every client. They’ll be able to see right through you, and no client wants to feel like the freelancer is treating their project like every other project. Clients want to know that you’ve given their specific project specific attention, that you’ve thought about what you can do together, and how you work.

Understand their brand

Ask questions. Better yet, create a Google form for them to fill out that asks them questions like “What is your personal brand?”, “What are your values?”, and “What message do you want to communicate to your audience with whatever you’re developing for them/ who is your audience?”

This communicates your professionalism and shows them you have a standardized approach to completing projects – essentially, it shows them that you’ve done this before and you know what needs to get done and what is required for getting the job done.

Styleguide by Jack’s Design

Communicate constantly

Make sure that at every step of the way you’re effectively communicating with your client to make sure that what you’re making lines up with they want. You don’t want to spend 10 hours on something the client despises. That will waste both your time and your client’s, and nobody likes wasted time.

Read more: 1stwebdesigner.com

Screen House Plans

10 months, 23 days ago

Screen house design
Screen House Plans

Porch interior

The screen house, built as shown in the plans below, is large enough for two families to while away the best of days in. The warm glow, and the fresh scent of cedar, plus the detailed doors and a gorgeous 1×6 cedar board ceiling, make the inside of this screen house as inviting as its outside.

Our porch is built over a hefty foundation of 6×6 preservative-treated pine timbers sunk in a crushed-rock base. Upright timber posts at each corner are notched and lag-bolted to the buried timbers. Each post is also lag-screwed to 2×6 treated joists. The joists hold the posts firmly in place and provide a decay-resistant framework to elevate the cedar decking above ground level. The spectacular open rafter roof is supported by cedar headers bolted to the posts and by stationary doors fastened to the corners. The curved corner brackets not only provide elegant detailing to each corner, but act as reinforced structural bracing (whatever you do, don’t eliminate them).

Making the finely detailed doors is simplified by building a jig to hold the door parts square for accurate and foolproof assembly. The same jig also holds the door securely for stretching the screen, stapling it to the frame and then applying the decorative door moldings.

Time, tools and cost

A project like this requires a fair amount of carpentry experience. If you’ve built a wooden yard shed, a complex deck or an intricate fence, you’ll have the confidence to tackle this project. It’ll also take a huge chunk of time, so plan to take a couple of weeks off work along with a few dedicated weekends (now is the time to call in all those favors from friends you’ve helped over the years).

You’ll need basic carpentry tools for this job, with additional help from a table saw and router. You’ll need a couple of stepladders for this project as well; we recommend a 6-ft. and a 12-ft. You may also want to rent a section of 6-ft. scaffolding to help with the roofing. Figure on spending about $4,000 to $5,000 for materials (see Cutting List in Additional Information, below) and get as much delivered to your home as possible.

Figure A: Overall Details

The total size of the screen house DIY gazebo at the roof is 18 ft. by 15 1/2-ft. A printable, PDF version of this plan is available in Additional Information (below). Note that building codes in some regions require additional seismic and high-wind anchors. Ask your building inspector about local requirements.

Fig. A shows a cutaway details of the screen house plans.

Planning

This is not a small-scale DIY gazebo project. At its longest points (the roof overhang) it measures just over 18 ft. long and 15-1/2 ft. wide. Keep these numbers in mind as you look for a place to nestle your structure. We shoehorned our screen house into the back yard of an average-size city lot and crowding the existing fence and surrounding trees. This nestling effect made it look as if the screen house grew into its surroundings.

Before you do any digging, call local utilities (gas, electrical, phone, cable) to locate any buried lines. Also make some plans to get rid of the extra dirt and sod you’ll dig up. We ended up with about 1-1/2 cu. yds. to haul away.

Figure B: Completed view

Figure B shows the completed DIY gazebo screen house. For a larger view, see Additional Information.

Figure B helps you visualize all the parts in the screen house plan.

The foundation
Screen House Plans

Photo 1: Place the beams

Level the 6×6 treated beams (A) over a trough of gravel. The gravel helps drain excess water and provides a stable bed for the foundation. Spread gravel along each beam, leaving only about 1 in. of the beam exposed.

Screen House Plans

Photo 2: Fasten the corner posts

Fasten the notched upright posts (B) to the outer foundation beams (A) with 1/2-in. x 5-in. galvanized lag screws and washers. Be sure to plumb and brace the posts as you drill a 3/8-in. pilot hole for each lag screw.

Screen House Plans

Photo 3: Install the joists

Install the joists at each end first, then string a line between them. Align the ends of the other joists 3/4 in. from the string (use a spacer block on each end joist as shown). Then tack them in place, mark them and join them with blocks. The joists that butt against the posts must be lag-screwed to the sides of the posts to keep them from racking out of alignment.

Screen House Plans

Photo 4: Nail the decking

Nail the 5/4 x 5-1/2 in. decking (D) to the tops of the joists with 10d finish nails. If your decking feels moist when you’re nailing it, butt the sides tight. If the decking feels dry, leave a 1/16-in. space between the boards for expansion during wet weather.

Once you’ve staked out your perimeter on well-drained level ground (see Fig. C for the foundation dimensions), you’ll need to dig trenches for the 6×6 treated beams (A). (Be sure they’re .60 treated, rated for underground protection. Special-order them if necessary.) Follow the foundation plan in Fig. C for the correct placement. Dig each trench about 10 in. deep and 12 in. wide. Fill each trench with about 5 in. of crushed rock (we used crushed limestone because it packs well).

Now cut the beams to length and lay them in the trench (Photo 1). Level them with each other and make sure the diagonal measurements from the ends of the two outer beams are equal. This ensures that the foundation will have square corners. The beams should sit proud of the surrounding grade about an inch so the joists that lie over them can clear the soil. Once the beams are in place, pour crushed rock around them to lock them into position.

The next phase involves setting the posts (B) onto the beams. First, cut them to length and notch the bottom as shown in Photo 2. Measure in from the ends of the outer beams (A) as shown in Fig. C. Get a helper to hold the notched end of the post perfectly vertical (plumb) on the beam and aligned with the mark. Drill two 3/8-in. pilot holes through the post and into the beam. Now insert your lag screws (1/2 x 5 in.) and washers and tighten them (Photo 2). Repeat this for each post. TIP: If you’re working alone, you can tack each post into position with nails and 2×4 braces.

Now you can lay in the joists as shown in Photo 3 and Fig. C. The joists that connect to the posts must be cut and blocked as shown in Fig. C. You can cut and block each pair of remaining joists, or you can overlap 10-ft. joists on the center beam. Just be sure the joists that butt against the posts are screwed to the posts with 1/2 x 3-1/2 in. lag screws, and all the joists are toenailed with three 16d galvanized nails where they overlap each foundation beam. To finish off the foundation, nail the five-quarter (5/4) decking (D) to the joists with 10d galvanized casing nails.

Figure C: Foundation Plan

The overall size of the base framing for this screen house plan is just under 18 ft. by just over 15 ft. For a larger version, see Additional Information.

Figure C shows the foundation plan for the screen house.

Headers
Screen House Plans

Photo 5: Attach the headers

Screw the inner headers (E1 and E2) flush with the top of the posts. Drill a 1/2-in. deep recess with a 1-1/4 in. spade bit, then a 1/2-in. dia. clearance hole for the lag screws. Be sure to drill a 3/8-in. pilot hole into the post.

The upper headers (E1, E2, E3 and E4) fastened from post to post (Fig. D) are the main support for the roof. The stationary doors that fit later under the lower headers (M1 and M2) help support the roof as well.

When you install the inner headers (E1 and E2), be sure your posts are plumb and that the distance from post to post is identical at the top and bottom of the posts. Lag-screw (1/2 x 3-1/2 in.) the inner headers to the posts as shown in Photo 5, then nail the outer headers over the inner headers with a pair of 10d galvanized nails every 16 in.

Figure D: Roof Framing

Bolt the upper headers to the screen house posts, as shown in this plan. Then add the rafters.

Figure D shows the screen house roof plan.

The rafters
Screen House Plans

Photo 6: Common rafters

Install the common rafters (G1) first. These rafters are all identical and get nailed to the ridge (F) above and to the headers below. Temporarily support the ridge with a long 2×6 nailed to the decking and to the ridge.

Screen House Plans

Photo 7: Compound angles

Cut the compound angles for the hip and jack rafters. Remember that opposite hips and jacks are mirror images of each other.

Screen House Plans

Photo 8: Nail the jack rafters

Nail the jack rafters to the hip rafters (8d galvanized) and to the header below (16d galvanized). Sight all the tails to make sure they’re aligned. Trim slightly if necessary.

Think of these supports as a structural skeleton to hold the roof skin in place. Our roof has three basic types of rafters: common, hip and jack. Pick your lumber for the rafters carefully because they’ll be visible when the project is finished.

The common rafters (Photo 6) are all the same length and have the same miter cut at the top and the same “bird’s-mouth” or notch cut near the bottom. Cut them to the dimensions in Fig. E and nail them to the ridge board (F). Support the ridge board temporarily with a 12-ft. 2×6 toenailed to the decking and to the ridge itself. The top of the ridge should be roughly 123 in. up from the decking (you may need to raise or lower it slightly for a tight fit for the miter cuts on the rafters). Once you like the fit, fasten all the common rafters to the ridge board with 16d galvanized nails. Nail the rafters through the ridge from the back to hide the nailheads.

The four hip rafters (Photo 8) rest over each corner and meet the ends of the ridge board. You’ll notice that the upper miter is a compound cut. This miter angle differs from that of the common rafters (Fig. E), and you’ll notice it has a 45-degree bevel cut on each side along with the miter cut. This allows the hip rafters to fit snugly between the common rafters. The bird’s-mouth notch is also unusual because it sits at an angle to the common rafters. You can leave a bit of extra length at the overhang of each hip rafter and trim it to final length once the other rafters are in place.

The jack rafters (Photo 8 and Fig. E) rest on the header just like the common rafters and have the same degree measurement at the top. However, the edge of the jack rafter has a 45-degree bevel (a cheek cut) so it fits tight against the hip rafter. Toenail each of these cheek cuts to the side of the hip with three 8d galvanized nails. Note that the cheek cuts (Fig. E) on each side of the hip rafter are mirror images of each other.

When you’re finished installing the rafters, nail the subfascia (H1, H2) to the tails of the rafters and install the 2×6 lower headers (M1, M2) directly beneath the upper headers. Also nail (8d galvanized casing) the 5/4 header trim (M3, M4) to finish off the transition between the upper headers and the lower header.

TIP: Before you set the roof boards over the rafters, nail temporary 2×4 braces on two sides of the structure, from the middle of the header diagonally to the bottom of the post. This will minimize any racking during the building process.

Figure E: Rafter Details

Follow the measurements shown here when you cut the hip, common and jack rafters. See Additional Information for a larger version.

Figure E explains the rafter details in the screen house plans.

Roofing
Screen House Plans

Photo 9: Attach the roof boards

Nail the 1×6 cedar roof boards (J) to the tops of the rafters after installing the subfascia (H1 and H2) over the exposed ends of the rafter tails. Leave a 1/8-in. space between the boards and alternate end joints so they don’t all fall on the same rafter. We used a combination of 12-ft. and 8-ft. long boards. Finish opposite sides first, then trim the board ends to length all at once (set your circular saw at a 15-degree bevel).

Screen House Plans

Photo 10: Add a plywood overlay

Install the 5/8-in. CDX plywood over the top of the 1×6 cedar roof boards. Use 10d nails to secure the plywood through the roof boards to the rafters. Leave a 1/8-in. gap between plywood panels to allow for weather changes.

Screen House Plans

Photo 11: Shingle the roof

Install the shingles over 30-lb. roofing felt using 4d galvanized box nails. Overhang the shingles 1 in. beyond the face of the fascia.

Much of the beauty of the interior comes from the 1×6 cedar boards visible between the rafters. These boards alone, however, aren’t enough to give stability to the structure, so they’re backed with 5/8-in. CDX plywood. The plywood also adds enough thickness to keep the shingle nails from poking through the underside of the roof.

First, nail the 1×6 roof boards to the rafters (Photo 9) with 8d nails. Start at the bottom flush with the ends of the rafters and work your way to the top, leaving a 1/8-in. clearance between the boards. Overlay the plywood onto the 1×6 and nail it through the plywood and roof boards into the rafters with 10d nails.

Once the plywood layer is complete, nail the finished fascia (L1, L2) over the subfascia and align it with the bottom edge of the plywood. Next, roll on the 30-lb. roofing felt and overlap each layer by 3 in. Then nail the No. 2 cedar shingles to the roof deck (Photo 11) with 4d galvanized nails (follow the positioning instructions that come with each bundle). The first course of shingles must be double thickness and overhang the fascia (L1, L2) by 1 in.

You’ll need to trim the cedar shingles to conform to the angle above the hip as you lay them. Once you’ve finished shingling, cover the gaps over the hip by ripping 4-in. wide pieces of shingle to create a cap over the hips and ridge.

Figure F: Eave Details

Construct the eaves and roof for the screen house as shown in this cutaway plan detail.

Figure F of the screen house plan shows a cutaway of the eave and roof details.

Making doors
Screen House Plans

Photo 12: Cut the half laps

Rout the laps for the door frame joints using a homemade router jig screwed to a plywood work surface. The door frames are made from 2×4 and 2×6 cedar. The side stiles and top rail are 2×4. The bottom rail is 2×6.

Screen House Plans

Photo 13: Build the doors

Assemble each door using a jig to ensure each frame is square. Apply construction adhesive to the lap joints on each corner, then screw the parts of each lap joint together with five 1-1/4 in. decking screws. Keep the screws at least 1 in. from the edges of the frame because you’ll need to trim the door to size later.

Screen House Plans

Photo 14: Attach the screen

Flip the door over once you’ve assembled the frame. Cut your 30-in. wide screen to length (leave an extra 2 in. on each end for stretching) and staple it to the frame every 2 in. with 1/4-in. staples. It’s best to start at the top and work your way down each side for a tight-fitting screen.

Screen House Plans

Photo 15: Attach the trim

Cut your screen molding and muntin trim to size from 2×6 cedar using a table saw. Attach the screen molding to the door frame using 3d galvanized finish nails.

Making the doors is the most time-consuming part of the project, so we broke it down into manageable tasks. Since you can build them in the garage on a work table, it’s the perfect job for rainy days.

First cut the door stiles (side pieces) and the rails (upper and lower horizontal pieces) to length. Then set up a simple jig (Photo 12) to use with your router to make the half-lap joints on the ends of all the stile and rails. Use a 3/4-in. straight bit. If you have a table saw, you could make the half laps with a dado blade.

The next step is to set up a 3/4-in. thick, 4 x 8-ft. plywood work surface over a pair of sawhorses. Use scrap wood to make blocks (Photo 13) to hold the door parts square.

Before you apply screen to the door frames, flip them over so the screws are on the back and then staple the screen as shown in Photo 14. Once the screen is applied to the doors, you can cut the moldings (see Fig. G) from 2×6 cedar (use a table saw) and nail them to the door frame with small screen molding nails.

Figure G: Door Assembly

Build the door frame first, tack on the screen, and then add the bars and molding.

The screen house plans call for half-lap doors with screens and trim.

Installing the doors
Screen House Plans

Photo 16: Attach the cleats

Install the floor cleats (P1 and P2) even with the outer edges of the posts. Then fasten the cleats to the stationary doors to secure them to the decking.

Screen House Plans

Photo 17: Install the stationary doors

Fit each stationary door, trimming the top or bottom if necessary. Once each stationary door fits snugly from the floor to the header, screw it to the upper doorstop (P3) and the floor cleats (P1 and P2) with 2-in. galvanized screws.

Screen House Plans

Photo 18: Install the operable doors

Attach the freeswinging doors to the stationary doors with self-closing face-mounted hinges. Use three hinges per door and make sure each door has a bit more than 1/8-in. clearance on all sides.

Before you install the doors, nail the cleats to the deck (Photo 16) and the upper doorstop to the inside edge of the lower header. It’s best to use a string line to mark the deck to get the floor cleats positioned in a straight line. To align the doors properly in the opening, find the center of each side and measure each door width (mark it off on the deck) back to the corners.

You may have to trim each door’s height slightly to fit the opening. The stationary doors should fit snugly, and the operable doors need 3/16-in. clearance on the bottom and 1/8-in. on the top. Screw the corner doors to the post (the door edge should cover roughly half the post), the upper doorstop and the lower floor cleat. The longer side has an additional door, which should be positioned tight to the corner door and nailed to the floor cleat and the upper doorstop.

The operable doors (the double doors on the front and back, and the single on the long side) must be shimmed on the bottom and top (Photo 18). This will hold them in place while you screw the self-closing hinges to the adjacent stationary door frame and the swinging door. Remove the shims and make sure the operable doors swing freely. To finish the door system, you’ll need to install the vertical stop (P5, P6, P7) as shown in Fig. A to the back of the doors. This trim runs from the floor cleats to the upper doorstop, covers the gaps between the doors and finishes off the interior.

Finish each exposed post with a cedar 2×4 and a 2×6 (T1 and T2; see Fig. H) that are ripped to width and then cut to length. Be sure the front of the screen house has the wider piece to overlap the longer side post trim.

The corner brackets
Screen House Plans

Photo 19: Corner brackets

Install the eight corner brackets (U2) to the bracket cleats (U1) with 3-in. galvanized screws. The corner brackets are structural as well as decorative. See Fig. H for details.

Cut the bracket supports and the curved corner brackets (U1, U2) as shown in Fig. H. Notice that the top of the bracket support is notched to fit over the header trim. Screw the bracket supports (predrill all these holes) to the corner trim with 3-1/2 in. galvanized screws (use three screws for each bracket). Next, screw the curved corner bracket to each bracket support (two screws on each side) and to the upper jack rafter (four 3-in. screws here).

Now you’re ready to clean up the work site and enjoy the rest of the summer in your beautiful outdoor space.

Figure H: Corner Details

Lay out the corner brackets using the grid diagram, then cut and attach them according to the screen house plan shown here.

Figure H of the screen house plan shows the corner bracket installation details.

Project PDF Files

Click the links below to download the materials and cutting lists as well as the drawings for this project.

Project Drawings and Materials and Cutting Lists

Additional Information

Figure A: Overall Details
Figure B: Completed View
Figure C: Foundation Plan
Figure D: Roof Framing
Figure E: Rafter Details
Figure F: Eave Details
Figure G: Door Assembly
Figure H: Corner Details
Cutting List
Hardware & Miscellaneous

Required Tools for this DIY Gazebo Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY gazebo project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration. 4-in-1 screwdriverAdjustable wrenchAir compressorAir hoseBrad nail gunCaulk gunCircular sawCordless drillFraming squareHammerJigsawLevelMiter sawRouterSafety glassesStepladderTable sawUtility knife You’ll also need a 12-ft. stepladder.

Required Materials for this DIY Gazebo Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here’s a list. See the Cutting List and Hardware List in Additional Information.

Read more: familyhandyman.com

Could Human Evolutionary Changes Be Behind Mental Disorders? – Discover Magazine

11 months, 3 days ago

Schizophrenia, as Julian Jaynes posited, is a vestige of our former manifestation of consciousness. Now relegated to pathology, this phenomenon may illustrate Stanford’s David Kingsley’s latest paper as Charles Choi discovers. Speaking as loud-mouthed laity with access to a prominent fortean website, I reckon it’s not biological evolution driving mental disorders but social, cultural, and technological changes. Again, in my opinion, humans evolved to live a certain way and, in the anthropoforming of Earth, the world is becoming less natural and more alien. With this disconnect, mental illness becomes unmanageable with people stuck in “boxes”, staring at screens, and consuming processed food all day. If the issue lay in evolution, then human evolution is being outpaced by unnatural progress. Being left behind isn’t all bad news according to Chris Less, appreciating the silver lining how a Love Of Patterns, Order May Explain Mad Math Skills And Autism Link. The very same math skills giving rise to our beloved gadgets guiding, and surveilling, our lives. Mind mysteries aren’t just an epiphenomenon of future shock, as Sequoyah Kennedy learns about a Boy Who Had One Sixth of His Brain Removed Shows Normal Cognitive Function And “Above Average” Reading Level. Either the brains is very resilient and flexible, or examples like these emphasize the non-physical natures of our minds. Such musings are better cures for insomnia than a cocktail of Ambien, Xanax, and bonghits than enlightening, unless you’re a slavish devotee of EsoterX. He takes those dry, academic papers, douses them in twelve year old scotch, and burns them, but not before contextualizing them in queer, historical accounts of anomalistics around the globe, sprinkled with ethically-sourced quotes and fair-trade bon mots. Such is the time when T.W. Aylesbury cried out for mommy dearest, neatly encapsulating our Portable Consciousnesses And The Near Death Experience. (CS)

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Read more: blogs.discovermagazine.com

Attention Broke Marketers: 10 Ways To Market Your Website When You Have No Money For Advertising

1 year, 7 days ago

It’s feels like a sad, dark, and hopeless world sometimes, right?

It seems like everyone else around you is moving forward in life, succeeding at online marketing, growing their wealth, travelling the world and living the lives of their dreams.

You on the other hand, are stuck because you don’t have the budget to fund an expensive online marketing business and the advertising costs.

You know what works, you know how to make it work, you know it’ll work if you had some money to get started.

But you can’t take the first step because you don’t have enough money to start.

And without money you can’t start an online business, right?

Well, not really.

Many top affiliate marketers that you follow today had nothing when they started. But they still made it big because they were prepared to learn the tricks of the trade and work hard for their goals.

When Stuart started NicheHacks, he was a minimum wage call center employee with more than $30,000 in debt. He started his online ventures with just $100 in his bank account as he figured he had nothing to lose.

When Pat Flynn started SmartPassiveIncome he was laid off from his corporate job, had next to nothing in his bank, with a family to support.

When Jeremy Shoemaker got into affiliate marketing he was severely overweight, living in a friend’s house, and was more than $50,000 in debt.

But all of them are financially stable and successful affiliate marketers today.

So it can be done.

You can succeed at online marketing even if you have no money.

But how?

To get the answer, keep reading.

 

What You’ll Learn in This Post

The simple way to use paid advertising without spending money
How to create an unlimited supply of quality leads from Facebook
A smart way to create quality content without hiring writers
How to create content that gets links and higher rankings
Using visual content to open floodgates of potential customers from social media

 

Understand the Time, Money and Effort Equation

You can become a successful online marketer even if you’re broke.

But you still have to pay for it (with something else)

When you have money, you can hire people to do the work for you and save yourself from tiring work and invest your time in something else.

But when you’re broke, you have to be prepared to use some good old elbow grease. From niche research and website set up to content creation and marketing, you need to do everything yourself.

It’s a hard grind at the start, but you have no other choice.

This is how 99% of all successful affiliate marketers start.

They’re not millionaires by birth.

But they’re determined to change their lives which is why they spend countless hours in front of their laptops putting in the hard yards.

There’s no secret shortcut or loophole, sorry.

But this, of course, doesn’t mean you have to reinvent the wheel.

You can learn from their experiences, save time, and spend your energy only on the things that actually work and take you closer to your goal of becoming a profitable affiliate marketer.

With this mandatory disclaimer out of the way, here’s how you can kick off your affiliate marketing journey with empty pockets.

 

1. Target Well Defined Problems of a Very Specific Niche

Targeting a very specific niche is important even if you have a huge marketing budget.

But when you’re broke, it’s an absolute necessity because you don’t have the money to experiment. You can’t throw a dozen things on a wall to see what sticks.

You have to be precise because selling is about being precise.

Being precise about the needs of your audience, coming up with precise solutions, and crafting precise messaging to drive action.

So start by choosing a niche to target.

And by niche, I don’t mean a topic.

A niche is a zoomed-in version of a broad topic or industry. It’s basically a question or a need targeted to a very specific person.

For example, health and fitness is not a niche. It’s a broad topic.

Health and fitness tips for middle-aged men is a niche. But you need to go deeper.

Healthy living tips for heart patients over 50 sounds good.

Got the point?

Thankfully for you, we have already researched hundreds of such well-defined niches for you. Our niche research reports have everything from the actual needs of the buyers and their demographics to the best performing products and high traffic keywords.

And they’re free to download!

This alone can save you thousands of dollars and countless hours of research.

 

2. Take Advantage of Free Tools To Get Data and Insights

To be a successful marketer you need to make well-informed decisions.

For that, you need to use the right online tools so that you can get in-depth data and insights into the demands of your audience and how you can fulfill them.

But you don’t have the money to invest in the right tools.

No problem.

There are many free tools that can help you get started.

For example, you can use SEMRush for free (with a daily limit of 10 searches) to analyze your competitors, find their best performing content, and track their top keywords and backlinks.

 

 

Or you could use a more advanced tool like Ahrefs which gives you a 7 day trial for just $7.

BuzzSumo is another free tool (with a daily limit) that can help you find the most popular content of your competitors and track the influencers who’re sharing their content on social media.

SimilarWeb is another tool that gives you awesome insights for free.

For email marketing and setting up autoresponders, you can use MailChimp which is free for marketers with less than 2000 email subscribers.

To create images and graphics, use Canva or Pablo.

And how could you forget Sumo, one of the best free marketing tools on the web.

There are many other marketing tools that you can either access for free or get a trial version with limited features.

Make the most use of them to analyze your competitors, find content ideas, and identify new angles for your marketing strategy.

Before you start your free trials with these tools (especially tools like SEMRush, BuzzSumo, AHREFs etc) plan out what you data you want to get from each so you make full use of your free trials and can get enough data and insights to last you for months.

 

3. Create a Tripwire Sales Funnel To Fund Your Business

Okay, this is where it gets interesting.

To build a sustainable and long-term online business, you need to build an email list.

Yes, even as an affiliate marketer.

Ask Pat Flynn.

He considers not building an email list from day 1 one of his biggest regrets.

To build an email list fast, you need to create a lead magnet and promote it using paid advertising.

A lead magnet doesn’t immediately earn you any money but it allows you to attract leads, build a relationship with your subscribers and send them relevant content and affiliate offers to make money later.

But hang on, you’re broke, aren’t you?

So you can’t just spend money on advertising without making anything back.

You have two options then.

Create a lead magnet and drive organic traffic to it by publishing great content. You should do this all the time, but it’s a slow process and will take months before you have a sizable subscriber base.
The second option is to use a tripwire in addition to a lead magnet. Promote your lead magnet using paid advertising and when someone signs up to your list, pitch them your tripwire offer. This would not only allow you to build your list fast but also help you to fund the whole lead magnet advertising campaign.
Let me explain the second option in more detail because this is what you need.

A tripwire is a low priced item or resource that is designed specifically for two purposes.

To turn subscribers into paying customer because once a subscriber trusts you with his money (no matter how little the amount) he’s much more likely to buy from you again in future.
To fund your advertising campaign.

Here’s an example of a tripwire offer by Russell Brunson

Source: Expert Secrets

 

He’s offering his latest book for free. You just have to pay for shipping which is between $7 to $20 depending on your location.

In reality, though, he’s using this money to fund his campaign.

Here’s a lead magnet offer by GuestBlogging.com

 

 

When a visitor subscribes to this offer, he’s immediately redirected to the tripwire offer which is a database of editor emails of dozens of famous publications that accept guest posts.

Subscribers can buy it for $7.

 

 

Notice the alignment between the lead magnet and the tripwire offer.

But the tripwire also has to be aligned with the core needs of your audience so that you’re able to build a relevant buyer base.

So for example, if you’re promoting fitness equipment as an Amazon affiliate, you could write a small eBook sharing ways to effectively use the equipment you’re promoting to achieve maximum fitness.

This way you’ll be able to build a buyer base quickly without actually spending anything.

AuthorityHacker applied this exact strategy when they launched one of their courses.

Look at their results.

 

Source: AuthorityHacker

 

They tested a tripwire offer on a small audience and acquired 301 email address in 30 days. But these weren’t just subscribers. These were buyers who actually paid for the tripwire to opt-in to their list.

They priced the tripwire at $9 and generated $298.5 from tripwire sales which more than what it cost them to market the campaign on Facebook.

Which means they had to pay NOTHING for advertising.

That’s what you want, right?

Let me just quickly recap this one for you

Create a lead magnet that fulfills one core need of your audience.
Create a low priced tripwire offer that is aligned with your lead magnet and your core product offer. Its main purpose is to cover your advertising costs and build your list.
Promote your lead magnet by setting up a Facebook advertising campaign

There you have it.

Tripwire marketing is an often neglected but a super effective way to build a sizeable audience that’s ready to buy your core product offers.

Once you have a big email list, you can keep on promoting new affiliate offers whenever you want.

If you want to build a complete sales funnel around a tripwire, click here for the step by step process in much more detail.

 

4. Get Links and Traffic By Creating 10x Better Content Than Your Competitors

You don’t have much money to invest in paid traffic acquisition channels.

So you’ll be relying heavily on search engine traffic for your affiliate site.

To get organic search traffic you need links.

Research shows that the more relevant links you have, the higher you’ll rank.

 

Source: CharlesNGO

 

One way to get links is to simply buy them.

But a study by Ahrefs found that the average cost of buying backlinks is $377.

I know you don’t have that sort of money to spend on backlinks.

Which is why your only real option is to create MUCH MORE useful, actionable, and eye-catching content than your competitors.

That’s also the only sustainable way to build links no matter how much money you have.

Once again be prepared to work hard.

Creating above average content take a lot of time and effort.

To give you an idea, Peep Laja of ConversionXL (one of my favorite blogs) routinely takes 15+ hours to create a single blog post.

 

 

But every one of his posts is linked dozens (even hundreds) of times by other high authority sites.

Most of the posts here on NicheHacks took 10-12+ hours to research and publish.

That’s just the way link-worthy content is.

It takes time to create.

So what makes content link worthy?

Here are a few factors.

 

Original Research/Study/Survey

Content based on new/original research that hasn’t been published before attracts links like honey attracts bees. Here’s a good example from Buzzsumo

 

 

Old Data New Layout

There are lots of poorly presented studies, research papers and surveys published on the internet. If you can give them a new layout and present them in an attractive way, you can get links like crazy. Brian Dean did exactly that with his Google Ranking Factors blog post.

 

 

Infographics

Infographics get links like ice-cream sells on a hot sunny morning. Neil Patel used infographics to skyrocket the number of backlinks pointed to his site QuickSprout.

 

 

Interviews and Quotes

An easy way to get links is by interviewing an influencer or a group of influencers in your niche. Whenever someone quotes them, they’ll link back to the original post.

 

 

Case Studies

Who doesn’t like an original, authentic and engaging case study? When written the right way, case studies can get you hundreds of links

 

 

There are so many other things that make content link-worthy

For example.

Data-rich posts
Visually appealing posts
Free tools
Controversial content
Product trials and personal accounts
Ultimate guides
I can keep expanding this list.

But the core factor that makes content link-worthy is its usefulness.

It needs to be so useful that other websites interested in the topic are compelled to link to it.

So go ahead and analyze your competitors’ content.

Identify the posts that you can improve on and then create 10x better content than your competitors.

For example, if a competitor’s article shares 7 tips for doing XYZ, you should publish 27 tips.

If the post has 1 image, use 10 in yours.

If the post has little or no data, use data-references for each of your arguments.

Make it more visually appealing and present it better.

Just improve on it from every angle.

In short, follow Brian Dean’s Skyscraper Technique.

 

5. Grow a Loyal Fanbase Using Facebook Groups

Facebook might be in trouble for privacy related issues, but it’s still the world’s most popular social network and any marketer’s dream platform.

Facebook now has more than 2 billion monthly active users, hundreds of millions of which are active users of different Facebook groups

 

 

With the decline of Facebook Pages in terms of organic reach, Facebook Groups have now become one of the favorite ways for marketers to grow their audience and build engaging communities around their brands.

For broke marketers like you, it’s a real blessing.

Again, it takes time and effort to grow and manage a Facebook Group. If you want to build a high-quality group that’s really useful for all the members, you’ll need to engage them in different discussions, encourage them to participate but at the same time keep an eye on spammers and low-quality content.

The secret to growing a Facebook Group is in understanding why people join groups. Most people join Facebook Groups to get answers or engage with people with similar interests.

So grow your group around problems and needs, not around your blog or affiliate products. As the group admin, you’ll have a great opportunity to position yourself as a niche expert by answering questions and kicking off meaningful discussions.

To get an idea of how high-quality groups operate, visit NicheHacks Facebook Mastermind or any of these Facebook marketing groups.

 

6. Leverage Guest Blogging To Grow Your Audience

Guest blogging is one of my favorite ways to drive traffic, get links and quickly build a solid brand image in any niche.

You know why?

Because I was a broke marketer like you 5 years ago.

I didn’t have money to drive traffic to my blog and capture leads.

So I started guest blogging for some of the top blogs in my niche. I ended up writing for HubSpot, Adweek, MarketingProfs, Problogger, SocialMediaToday, JeffBullas and dozens of other A-list blogs.

The results?

Even 3-4 year old guest posts routinely send me clients every month.

So I know guest blogging works (here’s a detailed guide).

You can easily find blogs for guest blogging in any niche with these search queries

Niche keyword+write for us

Niche keyword+guest blogging

Niche keyword+guest author

Niche keyword+contribute

 

 

Twitter is another great place to find guest blogging opportunities because most guest authors gladly share their guest post on Twitter.

And if a blog has published one guest post, it’s surely open for more.

 

 

But to make guest blogging work for you, you must have clear goals and a clear strategy.

Why do you want to guest blog?

For links/SEO? Traffic? Exposure? Lead generation?

The blogs you choose to write for will depend on your goals.

For example, many of the top blogs no longer offer do-follow backlinks in guest posts.

So if your objective is to get links, writing for Entrepreneur, Inc., Forbes etc. is useless because they’ll tag your links as no-follow.

But if you want to generate leads to your lead magnet and add more subscribers to your funnel, these sites are ideal.

Got my point?

I personally recommend guest blogging for two reasons.

It builds you up as a niche expert very quickly because once people see your name on authority blogs they start respecting you and consider you an expert.
Secondly, it’s a great way to build your email list and grow your audience which ultimately leads to more affiliate sales.
But it’s a painfully slow process to get approved for high traffic blogs because of their standards and long approval queues.

But your choices are already limited.

So make the most of this method.

 

7. Invite Guest Contributors To Your Blog

Hiring quality freelance writers for your site requires money.

But there is a way to get reasonably good content for free.

Simply flip the conventional guest blogging model upside down and start accepting guest posts.

This strategy would work well if your site has been around for some time.

Because the primary motivation for most guest bloggers is to get backlinks.

By allowing them a single do-follow link in their content, you can get them to write 1200-1500 word posts for you free of cost.

But be prepared to receive a LOT of junk and spam content.

Very few guest bloggers are actually prepared to spend hours crafting a good quality article.

To minimize the junk, create detailed guest blogging guidelines for your site.

List everything that you need in an article.

For example, you could set the minimum word count to 1200 words, require at least 1 image, and absolutely no duplicate content. You can even give them topics to write on.

I know many niche blogs that only publish guest posts now because they’ve been in business for a while.

It’s an easy way to have lots of content in no time.

 

8. Repurpose Your Content on Medium, Quora, and Other Relevant Platforms

A week or two after publishing content on your own blog, you can republish it on platforms like Medium, LinkedIn, Quora etc. to reach new audiences.

Medium, in particular, has become a giant content platform where you can find publishers from every niche

 

 

It’s an open platform where you can republish your blog content and drive new visitors to your site.

Quora is another one of my favorite third party content platforms.

Look for relevant discussions and questions on Quora.

Answer them in detail and at the end of your answer share a link to any of your blog posts that have more details.

There are so many other places where you can republish and repurpose your content.

But it’s a strategy that needs consistency to really give you results.

So don’t give up quickly.

 

9. Build Relationships With Influencers in Your Niche

Your network is your net worth.

This is as true on the internet as it is in the real world.

Knowing the right people in your niche can literally skyrocket your growth and save you years of time.

But relationship building is different from the spammy outreach emails people send these days. I receive so many every week that follow the same template. Some of them even don’t bother changing the names

If that’s what you think relationship building is, please don’t do it.

Building your network takes time because it requires genuine interactions between real people.

But it can be accelerated if you follow a well-defined process (here’s a really good post that explains the process)

Let me quickly give you a few pointers

Identify the people you want to connect with
Follow their social profiles
Subscribe to their blogs
Leave detailed and genuine comments on their blog posts (even better, ask a question)
Share their content (don’t forget to tag them)
Interact with them on Twitter by responding to their Tweets, and asking questions about their content.
Feature them in your content and be sure to let them know.
Once you’ve done this for a while, send them an email and tell them you’re the same freak who follows them on social media
Don’t ask for favors in your first few interactions
Just stay in touch

The goal of relationships is not to get a tweet or a comment.

Relationships pay off over time.

Just by staying on their radar, you can use influencers to market your business when you really need them.

It’s not an easy task, but it is doable.

Just look at some of the testimonials Stuart has received

 

 

So invest in building relationships from day 1.

It takes time, but it pays off big time.

 

10. Use Visual Content To Drive More Social Media Traffic

No matter what niche you’re in, social media is always going to among your top traffic sources.

But sharing content on social media isn’t enough.

If you really want to benefit from the ever increasing social media user base, you need to share as much visual content as possible.

You already know about Facebook and Twitter, but don’t underestimate Pinterest.

Pinterest, in my opinion, is the likeliest of all social networks to drive sales for you.

And I have the stats to back my claim.

 

Source: NeilPatel

 

$80 average order value.

That’s insane!

But that’s not all, Pinterest also drives more referral traffic to e-commerce sites than any other social network.

 

Source: Pinterest

 

People simply love buying through Pinterest.

 

Source: Pinterest for Business

 

If you’re into a physical product niche, Pin as many product photos as possible. Most Pinterest users actually use the network to find products.

Give them what they want.

Also, don’t forget Instagram.

These visual social networks can be game changers for your affiliate marketing business.

 

It’s Time To Take Action

If you’re broke today it doesn’t mean you have to stay this way forever.

If you’re ready to take action, there are still plenty of ways you can kick off your marketing journey and earn enough money to invest more in your business to achieve higher grounds.

So stop making excuses and give it a serious shot.

Which of these 10 points will you try next and why? Comment below and tell me….

 

The post Attention Broke Marketers: 10 Ways To Market Your Website When You Have No Money For Advertising appeared first on NicheHacks.

Read more: nichehacks.com

The best polarized sunglasses you can buy

1 year, 21 days ago

The Insider Picks team writes about stuff we think you’ll like. Business Insider has affiliate partnerships, so we get a share of the revenue from your purchase.

clubmasterpolarizedbuyingguide

The Insider Pick:

The best polarized sunglasses for you are going to vary based on the shape of your face and the activities you plan to engage in, but our favorite all-around unisex pick for those of you who plan to do a bit of everything is Ray-Ban’s Clubmasters with an aluminum frame.

While sunscreen and skin care have been a popular topic in light of a recent FDA ruling on ingredient listing requirements, many of us neglect to give our eyes the protection they deserve. Cheaply designed sunglasses that we don’t mind scratching may seem like the way to go when they’re so easy to lose and scratch regardless of cost, but poorly designed sunglasses often leave our retinas exposed to harmful UV rays that can lead to macular degeneration, cataracts, and myriad other troubles down the line.

Then there are more immediate matters for concern, like snow blindness, especially when we’re near water, which is highly reflective in all its physical states. While snow blindness clears after a few days, it will leave you with the unpleasant sensation of having something along the lines of smoldering embers trapped inside your eyes, which is a mild nuisance at very best.

When choosing a pair of sunglasses — no matter how much you want to spend, and whether they’re polarized or not — make certain that the lenses have a UV rating of 400, which indicates that they effectively prevent the maximum wavelength of UV rays (measured in nanometers) from passing through to your own lenses.

Polarized lenses add another level of protection by reducing glare brought on by reflection, or horizontal light. While not always necessary, polarized lenses are generally worth having, even if you go for a cheap pair. The main difference with a cheap pair of polarized shades is that you won’t have the clarity of a high-grain glass or quality resin, which might leave you squinting a lot, and you’ll have a harder time seeing your phone screen while wearing them, which, in our opinion, is worth dropping a few extra dollars for most people.

Here are our top picks for the best polarized sunglasses you can buy:

Best overall: Ray-Ban Clubmasters with aluminum frames
Best for the great outdoors: Maui Jim’s World Cup polarized sunglasses
Best prescription option: Warby Parker prescription sunglasses
Best sustainable: Costa x Bureo’s Pescador sunglasses
Best budget: Gamma Ray’s Polarized Cheaters and Wrap Around Sports 

Read on in the slides below to check out our top picks.The best polarized sunglasses overall
Sunglass Hut

Why you’ll love them: The lightweight but sturdy aluminum frame and thick, scratch- and shatter-resistant metal-rimmed glass lenses keep the timeless Ray-Ban Clubmasters on par with the best.

Thick glass lenses held by an aluminum frame make the Ray-Ban Clubmasters an easy, nearly indestructible choice for people on the move, and while they’re still among the more popular — and arguably tired — designs, they at least give the Aviator and Wayfarer shapes a rest.

I was gifted a pair a couple of years ago, and while it’s safe to say almost every pair of shades I’ve owned before or since has taken on a scratch or two at least, this pair has survived just about everything. I should add that I’m extremely rough on sunglasses. I even managed to sit on this pair — strictly for testing purposes — and unbend it from an unnatural 45-degree angle without creasing, let alone snapping the bridge piece.

I’ve also dropped and kicked them (again, for testing) across fiberglass decks, marble floors, and concrete sidewalks, and they’ve somehow survived it all. These things are just simply not like the others.

Aesthetically, the Clubmasters seem to suit just about every face shape and outfit, no matter how formal or relaxed, and perhaps that’s why they’re so iconic. While they lack the full wraparound protection of sportier options, we don’t assume most of you will be bopping about town in what could reasonably be mistaken for a tinted pair of safety goggles pilfered from your father’s workshop — We certainly won’t be. But we’ll never judge, and if we’re completely out of touch, there’s an option below for you, too.

Pros: Fit for any occasion, sturdy

Cons: A small amount of light passes through the sides, which doesn’t make for the best protection in direct sunlight

Buy the Ray-Ban Clubmasters with aluminum frames from Sunglass Hut for $213
Buy the folding Ray-Ban Clubmasters with acetate frames from Sunglass Hut for $233

The best polarized sunglasses for the great outdoors
Maui Jim

Why you’ll love them: Maui Jim’s World Cup polarized sunglasses are built with high-quality carbonate lens and frames that thoroughly prevent stray light.

While polarized lenses are a given, the best sunglasses for a day at sea are only as good as their frames. And since most of us won’t probably won’t succumb to wearing cataract sunglasses or the like — at least not until our rightful time — Maui Jim’s World Cup shades will better than suffice.

Apart from their renowned lenses, Maui Jim’s World Cups are designed to seal potential gaps where stray light gets in with a design that cups your eyes and offers full wraparound protection. This induces a goggle-like effect that some may find unflattering, but they’re not nearly as loud or clunky as other options, and should be low-profile enough if you find yourself strolling the street after you’ve left the beach.

A similar, more affordable on-the-water option is Native Eyewear’s Sightcaster, which is similar in design and profile, but about half the price. The Sightcasters come with Native’s interchangeable N3 lenses, along with a lifetime warranty, which might be reason enough to choose them over Maui Jim’s World Cups, whether you’re on a budget or not. And, to appease your inner environmentalist, their frames are constructed using a castor oil as opposed to traditional petroleum.

Yet one more good option, which we must highlight for anglers, is Smith’s Guide’s Choice. While they’re probably a little large for the more casual crowd, their larger lenses and frames, along with the rubber nose pad that keeps them from sliding, make these a great pair of polarized glasses for sportier souls.

Pros: Full wraparound sides, Maui Jim’s scratch- and solvent-resistant SuperThin glass lenses, corrosion-resistant hinge springs

Cons: Maybe not styled for some, expensive, a brief 2-year warranty

Buy the Maui Jim World Cup polarized sunglasses from Sunglass Hut for $229
Buy the Native Eyewear Sightcaster polarized sunglasses on Amazon for $108.71

The best sustainable polarized sunglasses
Frames Direct

Why you’ll love them: Detailed but still sleek, Costa x Bureo’s Pescador polarized sunglasses are made from sustainable materials.

Sunglass manufacturer Costa recently teamed up with skateboard company Bureo, which has been producing these sunglasses with frames made entirely from recycled fishing nets. Now that Costa is popping its high-end glass lenses into the glasses, they’re a little pricier, but we think they’re worth it. Plus, you get to help out the environment and a Chilean fishing community through your purchase.

A slightly sportier take on Wayfarers, Costa x Bureo’s Pescadors are tumble-finished for a detailed finish and grip to keep them neatly propped on the bridge of your nose. The lenses are Costa’s patented 580 Lightwave glass, and they offer full 400 nm UV protection while selectively filtering out high energy visible light (blue light) and yellows to cut haze and offer better crispness, which any angler ought to appreciate.

Anglers should also take Maui Jim’s World Cups to scrutinize over light in basically the same way, but these glass lenses are much more scratch resistant, and potentially more durable — We’ll report back on our findings once we’ve had them for a while.

For a less-expensive, similarly eco-friendly and sustainable pair of sunnies, check out Swell Vision’s Women’s or Classic unisex glasses, which are made from bamboo. They’re ultra-lightweight, come with sturdy double-jointed metal hinges that allow for a little play in the temples, and did we mention that they float?

Pros: Sustainably made, high-end lenses, full 400 nm UV protection

Cons: Pricey

Buy the Costa X Bureo Pescador polarized sunglasses for $199.99
Buy the Swell Vision Classic polarized sunglasses for $99.00
Buy the Swell Vision Women’s polarized sunglasses for $99.00

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

See Also:

The best hamster wheels you can buyThe best loungewear you can buyThe best Champagne glasses you can buy

SEE ALSO: The best sunglasses for women

DON’T MISS: The best sunglasses for men


Read more: feedproxy.google.com

Pillar Content: 2 Dos & 2 Don’ts for Marketers [Series]

1 year, 23 days ago

This is part two of a multipart series on pillar content. Get caught up with the first article in this series, Pillar Content: 4 Important Lessons for Beginners.

If you’re a long-time reader, first-time caller to the IMPACT blog — or you have the serious misfortune of running into me at networking events — you know that I’m a little obsessed with pillar content and topic clusters.

(If this is your first experience with yours truly, I welcome you to our program, already in progress. Get caught up.)

As a result, I’ve spent the past few quarters building pillars and topic clusters, and then testing them and refining them, depending on what the data says is — and isn’t — working.

(Psst! This is what I’m going to be talking about at IMPACT Live this year. Get your tickets before prices go up soon!)

While I’m still developing, executing, and tinkering with our pillar content strategy here at IMPACT, I’ve learned so much in just the past couple of months that I have to share at least a little bit of what I’ve found so far with you.

So, without further ado, here are two dos and don’ts to keep you on the right track with your pillar content strategy.

Do #1: Be as Obsessive About Link-Building as You Are About the Content Itself

Full disclosure, as someone who lives and breathes content creation, I used to snub my nose at tasks like keyword research and SEO.

I was basically like the Mariah Carey of marketing creatives.

I would be throwing temper tantrums about voice, radical honesty, and authentic storytelling from my all-white dressing room, all while acting as if those lesser optimization activities were beneath me. 

In my mind, all they did was hinder my ability to focus on my craft. (Vomit.)

Yes, I was insufferable, but those days are behind me, ladies and gentlemen, and pillar content has made that easy.

Here’s why:

In a recent interview I conducted for my upcoming Content Lab podcast, HubSpot Academy content professor Justin Champion said something that really stuck with me.

Creating great content for your pillar does not guarantee amazing results. In fact, someone who isn’t so great with content — but is also a maniacal link-builder — will beat you every single time.

Being successful with pillar content and your topic cluster strategy is dependent upon you embracing two skill sets with equal fervor — creating content and link-building.

Personally, I still refuse to sacrifice the quality of my content for results — not that Justin was implying that I do that, of course.

However, our conversation made me realize how important it was that I step my game up in the area I had previously ignored.

So, I started tending to my topic cluster like a garden.

Wouldn’t you know, the more I took care of it — building out links and purposefully expanding it — the more it flourished. And by flourish, I mean we were ranking within the first three results on the front page for competitive search terms, and our organic traffic and conversions for those topic clusters increased.

So, if you’re strong at content, focus equally on becoming a better link-builder and keyword strategist. 

If, on the other hand, you’re an SEO wiz, come hang out in my ‘hood for awhile, and focus on improving your content skills. You don’t want to be able to attract visitors, only to lose them because you’ve created garbage.

Speaking of which… 

Don’t #1: Create Pillar Content No One Wants to Look at

This may sound naive, but I firmly believe that if you’re a business who is creating content, you should be doing so to help people.

Help them solve their problems.

Help them answer complex questions.

Help them make big decisions.

Help them by shedding light on what they don’t know.

In my mind, the sometimes overwhelming size and scope of pillar content doesn’t exempt us marketers from creating a pillar that’s also absurdly helpful in solving problems, answering questions, etc.

However, a critical part of being helpful through a piece of content (pillar or otherwise) goes beyond the words you choose. You also need to present that helpful content in a way that is visually easy to understand and navigate.

So, when I say you shouldn’t create a pillar no one wants to look at, I mean that literally.

Because, while you can create a piece of pillar content with terrible UX (user experience) and piss-poor navigation that will attract a lot of organic traffic, you’ll also have to say goodbye to any chance of users sticking around, if you go down that path.

The good news is that a lot of the “make it skimmable” principles of organization for short-form content also applies to pillar content:

Break up your content with headings and subheadings.
Use bulleted lists to call attention to important information.
Don’t create a wall of text that no one will want to read.

While there are plenty of beautifully-designed pillars out there, don’t worry. You don’t need to be a design wizard to create something gorgeous.

Not only have I seen a lot of stunning, but very minimalist, pillars floating around on the internet, I also got an interesting piece of feedback once, when we were first starting out with our own pillars.

“The more simple and stripped down a piece of pillar content looks, the more altruistic it seems.”

Meaning, to some, the more you dress something up, the less likely they are to buy that you’re literally giving all of this amazing information away for free, without so much as asking for their email address.

While our pillars seem to perform well with a bit more of a design-y flair, it’s something to keep in mind.

Additionally, based trends and user behavior — monitored through tools like HubSpot reporting and LuckyOrange (a heat-mapping tool we love) — we’ve made tons of changes to our own pillar content UX, including:

Reducing the size of the form and altering the table of contents, because some visitors didn’t realize that the content was fully accessible below the form — they thought it was a standard landing page.
Adding a more visible table of contents that flies out in the sidebar for better navigation on the entire page.

Both of those changes, while seemingly small, have made a huge difference in how visitors interact with our pillar content.

Which brings me to my next point.

Do #2: Adopt a Growth-Driven Mindset with your Clusters & Pillars

One of the things I love about the growth-driven design approach to websites is that it says the day your website launches is the day you really get down to work.

I like to think about our topic clusters and pillar content that way, too.

We hit publish on a minimum viable product (MVP) version of our pillar. Then, as soon as it goes live, we put on our growth-driven content caps and make our way down two parallel paths of continuous improvement.

Path #1: Keeping the Content Fresh

During the outlining phase of creating the initial version of a pillar, I’ll usually make a list at the bottom titled “future content.” In this list, I’ll typically include “nice to have” section expansions and chapters that we don’t need in order to publish a pillar that’s still really helpful and tells a full story.

Once we go live with that first version of the pillar, I’ll circle back to this list and begin work on making those additions.

(Look for new additions to our website redesign guide pillar soon!)

Additionally, I watch our blog like a hawk, keeping an eye out for any new articles that relate to the pillar. When I spot one, I’ll add it to the cluster, ensure the pillar links to the new article, and that the article also links back to the pillar.

Path #2: Obsess About the Data

As I already alluded to, we use tools to monitor the health of our pillars and clusters. Specifically, HubSpot and LuckyOrange.

HubSpot gives me the overall traffic and conversion picture for clusters and pillars, while LuckyOrange gives me insights into how visitors interact with a piece of pillar content.

Using the data we collect from these reporting platforms, I am constantly looking for answers to the following questions under two categories:

Traffic

Am I seeing steady organic traffic for a particular pillar?
Are there any spikes or sharp decreases for a particular cluster or pillar?
Which topic clusters are underperforming and need more work?

User Experience

For a particular pillar, which chapters are the most and least popular?
Is a particular UX feature or function causing issues with visitor interaction?
Has a particular UX change had the desired effect in visitor interaction?

If you are vigilant in monitoring the health of your clusters from a traffic and user experience perspective, you’ll see better results.

And, whatever you do, don’t ignore your data, and don’t make changes based on unvalidated assumptions. Period.

Finally, Don’t #2: Get Overwhelmed; It’s Worth It

The first time I thought about making a pillar, I thought I was going to have a mild panic stroke. It seemed too hard, too big, too scary, too much work, blah blah blah.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a lot of work, and I do get a little freaked out when I’m just starting out with a brand piece of pillar content, from scratch. 

(In fact, I’m spending my afternoon working on a pillar about content style, voice, and tone. I know the end result will be amazing, but I would be lying to you if I didn’t admit that, right now, I’m feeling a bit like a deer in the headlights.)

That said, although our hand was forced toward this architecture by our great Google overlords, I’m glad that they did.

It’s the first time the idea of a content strategy has felt so human and intuitive. It’s how we should have been doing things all along, and not just because it’s a great way to curry favor from search engines.

Most of all, however, when done right, your content will be developed in organized in such a way that genuinely helps people. Yes, I’m a broken record about being helpful, but at IMPACT, we believe that’s the most inbound-y thing you can do.

See you at IMPACT Live!

Read more: impactbnd.com