How to Search Your Soul to Get Through a Crisis

Whether you are a corporate executive with a major public-relations problem on your hands, an entrepreneur who made a wrong decision that is now affecting your reputation or a high-profile industry leader who has just been terminated by your employer, you are probably struggling to manage your crisis.

And you will be managing your crisis the wrong way if you don’t first address yourself.

It’s human nature to want to get at the heart of the work at hand, like managing your new message or fixing broken processes. But it is vital to do a bit of soul-searching to figure out how you got there and what’s necessary to change the way you manage and lead going forward.

Consider guiding yourself through the following three steps to allow you to avoid these kinds of crises in the future and be well prepared if one sneaks up again:

Own your sh-t!
In a crisis situation, you might react and look for someone or something to blame. You may be better off finding a mirror. Telling yourself a story to make you feel better will only land you back in trouble again. You must have had some hand in this outcome, and probably a bigger impact than it may seem on the surface. Dig deep. The sooner you own what happened and take responsibility for your part the better for you personally and professionally, and the better for your organization. Truth is, you have no time to waste.

Get over it.
Ignoring the problem won’t make it go away. However, beating yourself up (or harboring ill feelings toward someone else) won’t move you forward. It will keep you stagnant in the present situation, which, if you’re reading this, is likely a mess. So, the question is, why on earth would you want to stay there any longer than necessary? The key is to identify what you can do better going forward. Maybe it’s getting out of the way if you try to control every situation. If you micromanage the people you should be trusting to do the job they were hired for then you’re getting in the way of them doing their jobs. Maybe you have the wrong people in place. If so, address this immediately. This doesn’t mean you must fire a loyal employee. How about reorganizing or reassigning tasks? Maybe you’re completely hands off and your team is looking for direction. If you’re not interested in being hands on, consider firing yourself and finding someone to replace you who is and can. If you’ve just faced termination, now would be a great time to address your shortcomings and work them out before you take on your next venture. There are a whole host of reasons why you might need to look at how you are responsible for this situation. The trick is figuring out why you are and then finding ways to avoid making the same mistake again.

Move on.
My grandmother taught me that we cannot live in the past, so don’t. And she never did. The past is gone. Dead. If you live in the past then you too might as well be dead. Focus instead on the present and the future. Once you decide to make changes, stick to them. Don’t slide back into the old habits that got you here. Also, make sure you get your employees on the same page by clearly laying out why these changes are good for the organization and for them professionally and personally. Have some level of patience if they resist these changes but hold firm and make sure you move forward. The only true failure would be if you didn’t learn from the situation and take action to change what’s clearly not working. 

The author is an Entrepreneur contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.

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How to Revive Your Wardrobe When You’re Busy Running a Company

How to Revive Your Wardrobe When You're Busy Running a Company

When seasons start to change, it’s time to give your work wardrobe an update. But with jackets, boots, and everything in between, this new wardrobe can get expensive fast.

As entrepreneurs, we don’t have time to dig through the sale racks, so we look to the latest technologies to help us build that fall wardrobe. While Hukkster is the ultimate strategic shoppers tool, we’ve uncovered a few more tips and tricks to help you update your fall work wardrobe at a reasonable price.

Give your closet a seasonal clean out.
Every season, we like to do a quick wardrobe clean out. Putting shorts and flip-flops away for the colder months, gives our sweaters and leggings room in the closet. While going through last years fall favorites, don’t be afraid to give a few older items away. (Neighborhood goodwill shops are great!)

We love the app, Threadflip, because it lets you consign the clothes you no longer need and get your hands on gems from someone else’s closet. Not only will this make room for the latest styles, but allow you to pinpoint the items you truly need.

Related: Can Entrepreneurs Really Wear What They Want?

Don’t stash your summer attire.
Just because it’s a new season doesn’t mean you have to say goodbye to your favorite summer pieces. There are plenty of items that you can seamlessly transition from summer to fall. For example, we love pairing a floral dress with our favorite fall booties and a leather jacket. Can’t get enough Chambray? Pair your shirt with a fall skirt or classic pair of chinos. Need style inspiration? We turn to our friends at Who What Wear and Pose for great outfit ideas all season long. Check out some of our favorite fall essentials that will help you effortlessly transition your wardrobe.

Buy the essentials, wait on the rest.
There are certain pieces that are absolute must-haves for fall, but others are definitely must-hukks. For your essential work pieces, go ahead and buy some now. Ladies, don’t wait to purchase those basic black pants or the perfect button down.

Related: Online Lifestyle Retailers Are Turning Into Magazines

Guys, invest in a classic pair of chinos and chukka’s, they’ll easily become your wardrobe staples. If you’ll be wearing an item daily, it’s worth buying now, even at full price. Higher priced items, like coats and sweaters that last more than one season, are worth waiting for. Use Hukkster to track that perfect fall sweater, fall coat or pair of boots. They’ll definitely be on sale before the temperature drops.

Wear it to work. 
A sturdy, roomy bag is an entrepreneur essential. There are so many styles to choose from, but since you’ll probably be sporting this bag all season, you’ll want to make sure to get one that you love. Make sure to choose a tote that will carry all your everyday items and go with the majority of your wardrobe. Ladies, whether you go for a color block tote, a simple solid, or decide to take a walk on the patterned wild side, you can score a gorgeous tote at high, middle, and low price points.

Related: 5 Essential Ingredients to Doing What You Love For a Living 

For the glam girl, mywardrobe.com has some fabulous options. Looking for something unique? Check out original designs at etsy.com. Gents, it’s time to decide between a comfortable side bag or classic backpack. Either way, leave the briefcase with your grandpa.

Any other fast fashion tips you’d add? Let us know with a comment below. 

Katie Finnegan and Erica Bell are the co-founders of hukkster, an online shopping tool that helps you track products on sites you love, get notified when those products go on sale and gives you the ability to buy when the price and time are right.

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Are You Still Playing Russian Roulette with Google?

Image of gun with one bullet in chamber

Yep, here we are once again … on the back side of another huge Google algorithm change wondering how it will impact SEO.

Every online publisher and her brother has since rushed to spill ink on the topic because we all want to know: how can we please Google?

Not like souless robotic spammers, of course. But like people who sincerely believe they deserve to rank highly (even if that becomes a less meaningful metric by the day). Because, well, think about it …

If we all knew the ins-and-outs of how Google ranks content, and if we knew which factors they use and the exact weight each carries in ranking, then all we’d have to do is just tick off our check list, publish the post, and bask in the light of steady traffic pouring in from our high rankings!

Life would be sublime. But it just doesn’t work that way.

Let me explain …

The simple truth about Google

Google shares very little about their algorithms. And we think that’s unfair.

But is it really? No.

Our obsession about the mechanics of Google search reveals something dark about ourselves: we are lazy and selfish.

We want to do the minimum amount of work for the maximum gain. This is why we love cheat sheets and check lists. (I’ve included a check list in this post, by the way, because I am human after all).

However, the funny bit about our endless quest to know how Google ranks pages is that the truth has always been right in front of us: do the hard work of knowing your customer inside and out, establish your authority, and deliver the high-quality content they need.

So here’s the deal: in the end, Hummingbird isn’t about you and me, the content creators. Hummingbird is all about the consumer

What is Google trying to do?

Imagine that you’ve encountered a machine. Nothing but a large, floating metal cube. You ask it, “Tell me about Da Vinci.”

“Why?” says the machine.

You blink. “Did you just ask me ‘why’?”

“Yes,” the machine says.

“Okay. Because we are traveling to Venice in the Fa — ”

“And you want know what famous sites to visit?”

” … eh. Yeah. Exactly.”

“And so you probably want to know about other painters from Venice as well, right?”

“Yeah, yeah. Right.”

“And would you care to know about famous musicians from Venice, too?”

“Eh, yeah, that would be great, too.”

“One moment please …”

That, my friends, is Google Search. In the year 2049. It is a prediction that might not be far off if the release of Google Hummingbird is any indication of where search is going.

Okay, so what exactly is Hummingbird?

Hummingbird is Google’s latest change to Search. Notice I said change, not update.

Hummingbird is unlike Panda and Penguin. With Hummingbird, Google has begun to completely overhaul search as we know it. Google removed the old engine and inserted a brand new one.

Fortunately it baked in components of past updates like Caffeine, Penguin, Panda, and 200 other ranking factors (including PageRank).

So what makes Hummingbird so special?

It’s supposed to be faster and more precise (hence the name “Hummingbird”) than the old search algorithm. But ultimately what it’s trying to do is make conversational search perfect.

In essence, it’s not about the words you use when searching … it’s all about the meaning of those words.

And why is Hummingbird so important?

Hummingbird claims to focus on user content versus individual search words. In the past Search looked at, for example, “playing roulette” as a string of fifteen characters in a particular order that resemble the words “playing roulette.”

From that position Google had to interpret your meaning, which can be sort of like dealing with a toddler.

“Milk,” the toddler says. He squeezes his tiny little fists.

“Oh, does baby want some milk?”

He shakes his head no.

“Baby spill milk?”

He shakes his head no.

“Baby want to milk goat?”

Baby bobs his head up and down like a maniac. “Milk! Milk!”

It takes one smart parent to ask the right question. And it will take one smart machine to do the same.

In this new breed of search engine, Hummingbird promises to look at your search queries as conversations. It will analyze your search queries from the past in hopes of uncovering what you mean when you search “how do I milk a goat” or “teach me how to play roulette and win.”

How things used to be …

Long ago search was gamed by people who threw up brief but keyword-dense articles to rank highly for particular phrases, because that was the way Google was set up.

For example, when you searched for “playing roulette,” Google thumbed through its index looking for articles that fit that profile and then delivered those pages — with the most keyword-dense, linked-to (but not necessarily quality) articles on top.

If you’ve been around the Internet a while, you’ve probably experienced just how painful reading such articles can be (as you keep stumbling over the very wooden phrase “playing roulette” throughout the 200-word article Google sent you to).

Quality wasn’t important. Only quantity. Quantity of keywords and quantity of links pointing to that page.

Panda and Penguin vaporized those sites. If you think that’s hyperbole, look at what happened to some of the most successful content farms after Panda.

Then authorship markup and Google+ introduced another important element to quality content: visible, authoritative online writers.

Why? Google understood that it’s probably pretty important to get a page from a recognized authority in roulette rather than some punk kid in Bosnia-Herzegovina who wants to capitalize on selling generic Viagra to casino players. But more on that in a minute.

… and how things will be now under Hummingbird

What Google is gunning for with Hummingbird is conversational search.

In a perfect world Google would love to be able to discover your intention when you type the words “playing roulette” into their rectangular little search box. Are you doing research on ways to kill yourself? Or do you mean the casino game?

In the past Google would’ve leaned towards the casino game since the suicidal variety was usually modified by the word “Russian.” And so they would have served up articles on casino roulette.

But what if you did want to know how to kill yourself (because you were a journalist covering a recent suicide) — and didn’t realize “Russian” should’ve been included. The spate of casino articles might have confused you.

That guessing game got a little better with Search Plus Your World (S+YW). By looking at your search history and location (if it was enabled), Google could make better guesses.

If your search history contained numerous sites on gambling and none on suicide then Google is going to consider the words “playing roulette” as entertainment. But if they find “suicide prevention” and “historical suicides in Sydney” in your history, then it might think you are interested in the fatal game of chance.

This guessing game on context is what is supposed to be improved with Hummingbird.

One way Hummingbird does this is by predicting that a search for “playing roulette” on a mobile device located in Reno should render up nearby casinos while the same search on a desktop is interpreted as a signal that you are looking for tutorials on the casino game (especially since you have a history of visiting roulette game sites).

We are getting closer and closer to “the metal cube” knowing (and anticipating) your intentions.

In other words, Hummingbird is getting closer to the the heart of semantic search: search results based upon meaning and context, not words.

David Amerland, author of Semantic Search, states it this way:

The best way to think of semantic search is like a search light that picks up all the different data nodes of the Web and follows them around creating a picture of how they link up, who they belong to, who created them, what else they created, who they are, who they were, and what they do. At its most basic level semantic search applies meaning to the connections between the different data nodes of the Web in ways that allow a clearer understanding of them than we have ever had to date.

If you’ve been paying attention you’ve noticed what’s going on …

We are getting further and further away from the unnatural keyword phrases (“milking goats”) and closer to the more natural intent of why we are searching in the first place (“how do I milk a goat without getting any in my eye?”).

Additional advances before Hummingbird

Another step in the right direction was the release of Google’s Authorship markup and Google+.

The combination of these two features allowed users to create an online profile that connected you to all of your online content (blog posts, podcasts, and so on) with a host of benefits:

  • Higher visibility in search
  • Higher clickthrough rates on your links in search results
  • Higher page views
  • Defense against plagiarism
  • Establishment of topical authority

In essence, these two developments elevated the role of the online writer.

Next came the Knowledge Graph — a Google project designed to make connections between the facts of the online world.

The Knowledge Graph allows you to discover that not only is da Vinci from Venice, but he’s the brains behind the Mona Lisa. You would also learn that he was a Renaissance painter. And then, because of Knowledge Graph, you could learn about more Renaissance painters, expanding your knowledge as you go down the rabbit hole.

Google is simply trying to intuit the direction of the conversation and kill the traditional sense of search ranking (Am I number one on the first page of results?), to boot.

Should Hummingbird impact your content strategy?

You are probably wondering how this impacts your content strategy, right? Well, it depends.

If you are lazy and selfish, then Hummingbird is a catastrophic blow to your strategy. As was Penguin. Panda. And so on. It’s surprising you are still at it. (Hey, playing Russian roulette doesn’t hurt you either … until it does.)

However, if you’re a hard-working and selfless content creator, then your strategy probably won’t change that much.

Instead of ranking for keywords, your goal is to build topical authority around a page and a site, and drive traffic to that page and site so that Google can deliver curated, validated, and verified pages.

It’s about building brand authority, which is why who you are matters as much as what you create.

But how do you do that? Well, to be frank, it’s back to the basics (and here’s that handy checklist I warned you about):

  • Create high-quality, useful content (including in-depth articles) to deliver meaningful value to your audience, which you can measure by how much time a visitor spends on your pages and site and what they share across the social web.
  • Create a website that provides top-notch online experience in terms of design, speed, and navigation.
  • Create a sterling, exciting reputation that people talk about in the press, on blogs, and on the social web.
  • Create thoughtful, original content that attracts and holds attention and encourages people to share across the social web.
  • Engage with your audience through comments, guest posting, and social web interaction.
  • Establish and protect a credible, transparent, and likeable identity that proves you are an authority.
  • Connect all of your online content through authorship markup.
  • Set and guide the online conversation with challenging, consistent content.

Here’s what Hummingbird boils down to: stop chasing algorithms.

Instead, hunt down your ideal customer and get to know them inside and out. What’s their problem they are trying to solve? And why?

Once you can answer those questions, then you need to create the solution: create and deliver the content they are desperately seeking.

But it has to be the best content if you want it to draw attention and traffic and spread across the web — and ultimately rank.

See, Google can’t deliver high quality content unless it’s online. Google is not a content creator. It is a content organizer. And content that is presented in the best way possible will win.

And by the way, this doesn’t eliminate keyword research. It simply modifies how you approach that research.

The bottom line …

We are a long way from a floating metal cube with the brain of an inquisitive human … although Google is getting there, and hoping to get there sooner rather than later.

But it doesn’t really matter if you’re an authoritative content marketer.

If your M.O. has always been to create high-quality content that people find useful, share, comment on, and link to, then you fall comfortably into the hands of changes like Hummingbird … which is a good thing. You are on a relentless quest to deliver meaningful value to the consumer, like Google.

So, keep it up all you hard-working and selfless content marketers … and just keep on building your authority with insanely useful content.

About the author

Demian Farnworth

Demian Farnworth is a Senior Writer for Copyblogger Media. Follow him on Twitter or Google+.

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15 Copy Editing Tips That Can Transform Your Content into Persuasive and Shareable Works of Art

Image of star being carved out of stone

What’s special about the compelling content you retweet, Like, bookmark, and email to your friends?

Those articles serve the audience, not the content creator.

Creative work that instantly captivates and holds an audience’s attention influences their lives.

Transcribing the thoughts in your head won’t always serve a purpose. You must construct helpful and manageable instructions for your audience — the reader will do something differently in her daily routine after learning about the information you share on a specific topic.

That’s easier said than done.

You obviously want to establish your website as an authoritative publication in your niche, but in order to cross that threshold you need to critically examine your cornerstone content.

Strengthening your ability to create content that spreads includes improving your editing skills. Editors transform basic text into powerful stories (in all media) that persuade people to take action.

Once you’ve written a draft, you’re still not ready to hit “publish” just yet. Here are 15 copy editing tips that help turn your articles, landing pages, webinars, and podcasts into shareable works of art.

Copy Editing Stage 1: Pre-revision rituals

  1. Walk away. Realistically evaluate your post’s urgency. Unless you must meet a strict deadline, take a break for at least a day after you’ve completed your post. New ways to modify your writing will become evident after you’ve created some distance from your initial creation.
  2. Release attachment. Forget that you wrote the content and consciously assume an Editor Mindset that’s free from your Writer Ego. As an editor, you have no problem evaluating and deleting to produce a more coherent and complete post. Proactive editing shouldn’t be devastating.
  3. Create a new document. Prepare to save everything you remove because writing consistent posts for your blog is a fluid process. Content that’s excessive or irrelevant for a certain post shouldn’t go to waste. Use those ideas as a springboard for your next article.
  4. Indulge a bad habit. Perform one fast, superficial reading to gratify the impulse to skim your text. Each subsequent reading should be a meticulous review of the text.
  5. Self-evaluate. As you lightly read your post, write side notes without changing the draft. If you didn’t communicate your intentions accurately, use these notes as an opportunity to record leftover ideas you thought you included but actually didn’t. You’ll use the notes in Stage 2.

Copy Editing Stage 2: Comprehensive cutting and pasting

  1. Summarize your goal. Write your straightforward aim in about 25 words, and then edit your summary until you have a succinct headline that includes the “Four U’s” of copywriting: ultra-specific, unique, useful, and urgent. Writers often assume that readers will quickly understand their main point even though they haven’t explicitly stated it.
  2. Avoid overwhelm. Weak sections may appear in final versions of blog posts if you don’t edit enough because reviewing the entire post in one sitting overwhelms you. For example, I edited this post in five different sessions. Begin with your favorite part to generate editing momentum.
  3. Pamper your audience. Ask yourself, “How does this information help my reader?” after each sentence. Each paragraph should satisfy an element of CMKR — provide Comfort, be Memorable, share Knowledge, or list Resources.
  4. Consider alternatives. Incorporate notes you made during Pre-Revision as you reorganize or combine sentences, shorten or lengthen paragraphs, or change the order of the text. If you often repeat a word, keep it in the most appropriate place, and replace it with synonyms in other instances.
  5. Eliminate questions. Use the “Fifth U” that pertains to editing the body of your copy: unmistakable. You never want your reader to guess or have the thought, “I don’t really follow. Is he trying to say ___?” If a reader strains to comprehend your message, she won’t have any motivation to share your writing with others.

Copy Editing Stage 3: Razor-sharp proofreading

  1. Don’t rush. Your content needs to be solid before you proofread. You’ll notice errors more easily when you’re not still rewriting and rearranging portions of your blog post. If you begin proofreading but find yourself copy editing too much, continue with Stage 2 until you’re ready for Stage 3.
  2. Be curious. Read slowly, as if each word is foreign to you. It’s time to scrutinize each word to make sure it’s the perfect fit for that sentence. A slow proofreading practice also helps you catch real-word typos, such as “my” instead of “may,” “through” instead of “thorough,” “most” instead of “post,” or “to” instead of “too.”
  3. Get mechanical. Proper writing mechanics ensure that your blog post is effortlessly comprehensible. A few grammar, spelling, or punctuation mistakes won’t necessarily ruin your reputation, but they may ruin great ideas by making them confusing.
  4. Value consistency. Create a style guide for your blog post that lists all proper names, terms, and phrases. Professional, polished writing doesn’t have inconsistencies such as varied capitalization or punctuation when referring to the same word. For example, if “Walmart” is the correct spelling, you should never also write “Wal-Mart,” “WalMart,” or “Wal-mart” within the same post.
  5. Categorize your progress. Stop proofreading a section of your text once you know it’s flawless and focus on weaker areas. Highlight the text in green if it’s completely proofread, yellow if it’s partially finished, and red if it still needs a good amount of your attention. When all the text is green, read your post one more time out loud. You should be able to read it without making any changes.

Adaptation is essential to effective communication

Editing improves your writing because language that impacts readers doesn’t always materialize immediately. Your concepts become more persuasive when you manipulate and craft your original words.

During in-person communication, you can rephrase your verbal speech if you observe a puzzled or clueless look on someone’s face. With writing, you don’t get the luxury of such feedback until after you’ve published. At that point, you don’t get another chance to explain yourself; a reader will simply stop reading.

How do your copy editing techniques differ from your writing practices?

Share your favorite revision tips in the comments below!

About the Author: Stefanie Flaxman is the creator of Revision Fairy. Get more from @RevisionFairy on Twitter and Google+.

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