Monday, August 31, 2015

Road to 10,000: Weekly Blog Goals & Updates, Week 7

Road to 10,000:  Weekly Blog Goals & Updates | How to increase your website and social media traffic and followers | Sarah Smirks | Keywords:  social media, Instagram, Twitter, Google Analytics, sticky posts, website traffic

Hello, my lovely, lovely ladies.  This series has been such a great way for me to set goals and feel the need to meet them.  People read this series.  And, it's pretty embarrassing when I don't meet my  goals (eek), so I work pretty hard to reach them and try new techniques.  You get to reap the benefits because I tell you what works and what didn't.  You're welcome ;).

And onto the goals...

Blog Goals from Last Week

Instagram:  1,000 Followers
Status:  Rocked it.

Oh, let me tell you how hard I rocked it.  I reached 1,171 followers (as of Sunday).  How did I do it?  1)  Chose strategic pictures to upload to my account that I know my audience would respond to.  They all go with my vintage-y vibe.  2)  I created a spreadsheet of hashtags to use for Instagram and Twitter for different audiences I'm trying to reach.  I developed this list by looking at my audience and what hashtags they use and respond to.  I also checked out Pinterest and found a few articles that list viral hashtags and day of the week hashtags.  You can find those epic Instagram articles here.  3)  I posted 1-2 times a day.  Not too much, not too little.  4)  I liked and commented on other people's IGs 5)  I joined a Twitter chat and ended up meeting some cool chicks.  We followed each other on IG.

Road to 10,000:  Blog Goals & Updates - learn how to grow your Instagram following quickly with these five steps.  | Sarah Smirks | Keywords:  social media, instagram, followers

Sessions:  90/weekday
Status:  Rocked it.

My goal was to get to 450 sessions this week.  I got to 791 sessions!  I averaged 158 sessions/weekday.  SCORE.  The reason my traffic jumped so much this week was because I wrote a popular post on the 5 IG resources that helped me grow my followers by 500 in 2 weeks.  It's been big and has been a huge driver of traffic to my site.  Funny thing is, I wrote it on a whim.  I thought, hey, why not put together the resources that have helped me so much?  Well, that worked out in my favor.  I am now putting together a mini e-course on Instagram growth to go along with this blog post.  So, I'm excited about that!

Let's take a closer look at my stats...

I had 1,294 page views, so each reader usually moved on to one other post or a landing page.  I had a 70% bounce rate, which is pretty common for a blog.

Road to 10,000:  Blog Goals & Updates | Google analytics reports showing my traffic for the week and how I met my blogging goals | Sarah Smirks

As for acquisition, my biggest driver was Pinterest, which I'm excited about.  Pinterest is one of the few traffic drivers that will still bring in traffic on older posts.  Direct was next (people who go straight to my website).  Third, was Twitter.  Check it out below.

Road to 10,000:  Blog Goals & Updates | Google analytics reports showing my traffic for the week and how I met my blogging goals | Sarah Smirks

My most popular posts were:

Blog Goals This Week

Sessions:  1,000/week

I plan on meeting this goal by making Pinterest-worthy photos for each post.  I will use Board Booster to keep my momentum going on Pinterest.  I will aim to grow my following on Pinterest (see next goal).  Lastly, I will try to write 5 posts again.

Pinterest:  300/followers

I plan on growing my Pinterest following (which is currently at 185) by adding more boards that appeal to my audience and posting frequently using Board Booster.  Pinterest recently made a change to their algorithm.  They now favor people who post frequently, and at different times of the day, so Board Booster will do it for me.  I add my pins in one full binge sesh and then Board Booster will distribute it throughout the day.  I plan on writing a post about the almighty awesome-ness of Board Booster this week.  I also plan on following the followers of my competitors.  If they like them, they should like me!

Who doesn't love to binge?  I love to binge Pinterest, binge Netflix, and binge pizza.  How about you binge read blog posts?  Subscribe to get Sarah Smirks posts in your inbox once a week!

Twitter:  2,500/followers

I am currently at 2,363 followers.  I think I shouldn't have an issue getting to 2,500 (I say that now... haha).  I plan on following people that would be my ideal audience and joining Twitter chats.  Last week I joined #NectarChat from The Nectar Collective.  This week, I will try out #ElleChat by Elle & Company.  I also finished writing my e-book this weekend!  It's called Twitter Strategy:  How I Increased my (Engaged!) Followers 4,000% in 4 months.  I should be ready to release next week and I'm excited to share.  You can sign up to be the first to get it (free) here.

Road to 10,000:  Weekly Blog Goals & Updates | How to increase your Twitter followers easily and write amazing content | Sarah Smirks

I'd love to hear your goals and strategies.  What are your goals this week?  

Friday, August 28, 2015

5 Articles to be a Periscope Star

Periscope resources to help you not only navigate the social media platform, Pericope, but be the best at it | Sarah Smirks | Keywords:  social media, Periscope, video, live streaming advice

Periscope is LIVE and intimidating.  But, it is beginning to be a necessity for bloggers and small businesses.  You can connect to your audience on a whole new level.  I believe that it will be an integral part of growing loyalty amongst your followers.  I started Pericoping (I'm at mama_marketer) a month ago, and it is addictive!  You feed off the energy of your audience and it's a lot of fun.  I can see if becoming a part of my branding e-course that I'm currently developing (announcement coming soon!)

This is a great article for the newbie.  Like so new you haven't downloaded it yet.  It gives all of the basics on Periscope, which are kind of necessary since it is so new.

If Alaia Williams' article was the 101, this is the MA.  This articles gives all the hot tips that most people don't know.

This was the first article I read about Periscope.  It explains WHY you should join Periscope.  Before I read this article, I thought, "No, definitely not.  I will not join ANOTHER social media platform."  And then I read this and joined about five seconds later.  She makes good points.

This article has GENIUS tips that I haven't heard anywhere else.  Did you know one of the most successful 'Scopers has never shown his face?  How about a little tip like, add your URL to your bio?  Check it out.  Like, yesterday.  

This one has some great basic tips to have a successful broadcast.  When you're live it's easy to get thrown off by little things like your phone dying or falling over while you're talking.  This gives some tips so those things don't happen.

BONUS:  I guest posted on Take Action WAHM about getting started on Periscope.  I go into the best ways to build your following and conduct a stellar first Periscope.  Click here to check it out.

Check me out on Twitter for the best Tweets that ever did Tweet.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

How to Filter Bots & Spam from Google Analytics | Video Tutorial

How to filter bots and spam from Google Analytics with two simple tricks | Sarah Smirks | Keywords:  search, website traffic, spam referrals

What is worse than looking at your Google Analytics and seeing a HUGE bounce rate and rando referral links?  I'm going to show you how to clean up your Google Analytics with this simple filter trick so you have a version that is pristine.  No joke.  All you will see is real traffic.

Now, this might make you sad.  My filtered version is over 400 less visitors a month, but, at least I know that the traffic I am seeing is real.

Why do you need a filtered version?  Now, you will be able to truly analyze your traffic.  Where are they coming from?  What source brings you the most traffic?  What pages are getting the most engaged viewers?  This will allow you to adjust your content strategy going forward.


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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Be More Productive by Doing This One Thing

Be a ruthless, cutting machine.

Like, for real.

Be more productive by cutting out the non-important things in your life to focus on your dream | Sarah Smirks

In order to be more productive in your life, cutting out things that aren’t a priority anymore is necessary to rock out the things that are important.  I was talking to a MomBoss chick the other day about priorities.  She was telling me how her full time job, blog, and side biz on top of her family responsibilities were getting overwhelming.  Who can blame her for being overwhelmed?  That is a lot of hats to wear.  My advice, figure out what is most important, and cut out the rest.  So, naturally, her family no longer lives with her (hehe, just joking!).  She told me her full time job felt more like a chore than her blog and side biz.  I said, get your side biz and blog to a point where you can financially cut out that full time job.  Sounds easy enough, I know.  The thing is, when you have a dream AND a family to take care of, you have to hustle for a while.  You need to wake up at 4am to post blogs before going to work at 6:30am and then come home to care for your family just to start over again.  It won’t always be that way, but it will be for a little while.  Until you get to the point you can cut out the non-passion item, just know, there is a tribe that totally understands what you’re going through.  Am I right, mompreneurs?

In the meantime, cut out the non-essential items that you can.  Ask yourself a few questions:

1.       Does this task bring you closer to your dream?

2.       Does this task create a long-term impact on your life?

3.       Is this task the most valuable way to spend your time?

Be more productive by cutting out the non-important things in your life to focus on your dream | Sarah Smirks

It may seem counterintuitive, but in order to focus on my career in marketing, I had to make cuts.  I was teaching classes at night after work and taking on freelance projects in addition to my full time job in marketing and my blog and business.  Although, I was making very good money teaching and freelancing, it didn’t check the boxes for me.  Did it bring me closer to my dream?  No.  I wasn’t teaching courses about marketing, which is what I really want to do.  Did it have a long-term impact on my life?  No, it was a way to pay for vacations.  Was it a valuable way to spend my time?  Certainly at the time, but it didn’t bring me closer to my dream.  Above all three questions - that is my benchmark.

What is your dream?  What can you cut in order to make that dream happen?

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

8 Basic SEO Tricks That You Should Already Be Doing by Paola Mendez of South Florida Bloggers

8 Basic SEO Tricks that You Should Already Be Doing | Sarah Smirks | Southern Florida Bloggers | Keywords:  SEO, marketing tricks, getting found on Google, organic search

Hello! My name is Paola Mendez and I started a blogger community for bloggers to support each other called: South Florida Bloggers. I share blogging tips & blogger opportunities with the community via our blog. Any blogger can benefit from these insights whether they are in the South Florida area or not. If you live in South Florida feel free to join us for our monthly meet ups. 

Alright, so you have a website and it’s not showing up on the first 10 pages of Google search results. What gives? Well, it could be that you just launched your website. Don’t expect Google to throw you into the first page search results before keeping an eye on you for at least six months to make sure you’re legit and not a weirdo spammer. So if your website is a newborn on the internet just give it time.
If you’ve been around for at least six months you might not be doing some of the search engine optimization basics. Don’t worry, implement all of the techniques listed below and you should see improvements in your search results.

So what is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?

SEO boils down to regular improvements and practices that cause a website to improve its rankings in search engine search results. Rand Fishkin defines SEO as “The practice of increasing the quantity and quality of the traffic that you earn through the organic results in search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing.”
coral-gables-love-search-resultsI will be using the website Coral Gables Love as an example for this article. It was published in March 2015 and is the first result when searching: “Coral Gables Love”. It was a frustrating six months trying to earn the top spot because a local restaurant in the area, Love is Blind, was taking the top spots with big review sites. Nonetheless, search results reward those who wait patiently and publish new content consistently. So let’s get started!

1. Write Quality Content

The biggest and most important practice in search engine optimization is to write for humans instead of search engines. The main reason being that search engines continue to change their formulas to give relevant search results. If you write your content to please the robots you will get burned when the algorithm changes again. On the other hand, humans use search engines to answer questions. They are trying to find specific information. If you give them the answer they are looking for you will be ranked higher in the search results. In other words, you must provide value. So whenever you start to write a blog post have a specific goal in mind – a specific question you are trying to answer. For an in depth review of what exactly is high quality content check out Neil Patel’s article: How Long Should Each Blog Post Be: A Data Driven Answer.
Creating compelling and useful content will likely influence your website more than any of the other factors discussed here. – Official Google SEOStarter Guide

2. Create Accurate Titles Using the <title> Tag

The title is important because it tells both humans and search engines what the topic of the page is. Also, the title is usually shown on the search results – it’s the top blue link on each search result. Make each page’s title unique and accurate. If you are using the same title across all the pages on your site – don’t. Using vague page titles such as “Page 1″ makes it harder for search engines to figure out what your website is about.
I use WordPress for my site and use the Yoast SEO Plugin to take care of the meta tags SEO problem on my site. It’s free and allows you to add the title and description to each page and post. It also provides a nifty search result snippet preview. The preview makes it easier to see what the search engine users will see when making the decision whether to click on your website or not.
The title for your homepage can list the name of your website/business and could include other bits of important information like the physical location of the business or maybe a few of its main
focuses or offerings (3). – Official Google SEO Starter Guide

3. Take Advantage of the “Description” Meta Tag

The description meta tag is the second most important tag to use. Search engines usually use this tag to add a short snippet of the page on the search results as a summary of what the page is about. Now that you know how search engines use it – really own it! Write accurate and informative descriptions for each of your pages that will catch users’ attention and will make them want to click on your search result. Just as the title tag, each description should be unique to each page. This helps search engines AND humans differentiate between different pages in your site.

4. Use Easy To Read URLs

Avoid using cryptic URLs that are hard to read. Instead use URLS that incorporate relevant keywords to your page’s topic. Using words in the url ( helps users decide whether the page will answer their question. However, urls with strange parameters ( do not provide any useful information about the page making it less likely to be shared or clicked by users. Check out this article for 15 SEOBest Practices for Structuring URLs.

5. Make Your Site Mobile Friendly

In April 2015, Google started penalizing websites that were not mobile friendly during mobile searches. This event was given the catchy name of Mobilegeddon. With mobile searches surpassing desktop searches it’s no wonder Google wants to show the best search results for mobile devices. So what does it mean to have a mobile friendly website? It means your website will resize to fit the device appropriately without having to scroll awkwardly to see the content. This is known as responsive design. Another major component of mobile friendliness is navigation. Does you site have a mobile navigation button that is easy to click with a thumb? Take Google’s course on how to make your site mobile friendly. You can also test if your site is mobile friendly taking Google’s Mobile Friendly Test.

6. Make Non-text Assets Search Engine Friendly

Make you non-text content readable by search engines. To do this, add alt tags to images describing what the image represents. The alt tag is used to show alternative text for broken images or for visually impaired users using a screen reader. Also, name your image files using relevant keywords instead of gibberish assigned by the camera. Using the filename: googles-mobile-friendly-test.gif is better than using the file name: IMG5934.JPG.
<img src=”” alt=”google mobile friendly test results” />

7. Use Informative Anchor Text

Anchor text is the clickable text users see when there is a link on a website. When using links use informative words instead of place holders like “click here”. Anchor text should describe the content of the page it links to.
Think about anchor text for internal links too. You may usually think about linking in terms of pointing to outside websites, but paying more attention to the anchor text used for internal links can help users and Google navigate your site better. – Official Google SEO Starter Guide

8. Update Your Site Consistently

Search engines are constantly looking for new content to update their search results. Websites that update frequently with quality content will be given a better reputation than websites that updated infrequently. Be sure not to update your site frequently with filler or garbage content. Search engines can detect worthless content and will penalize you instead of giving your site more authority.

Search Engine Optimization Recommended Reading

Monday, August 24, 2015

Road to 10,000: Weekly Goals & Updates, Week 6

Road to 10,000:  Weekly Blog Goals and Updates | Sarah Smirks | Keywords:  social media, building your social media following, building your blog traffic, growing your Instagram followers

Hello, hello!  I cannot believe I am on week 6 of this series.  As I was researching this post, I read through my first week.  O.M.G.  I have come a far way.  My goal was to get to 20 Bloglovin followers (I was at 9), and now I have over 7 times that!  Setting goals has really helped me grow because I push hard to make (or come close) to my goals each week.  It has been a fun ride so far.  Let's go over last week's goals.

Catch up:  Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 5

Blog Goals from Last Week

Instagram:  1,000 followers
Status:  #Fail

I hustled.  I hustled really hard, but I only hit 950 this week.  No cigar.  I still grew by over 50 in one week.  To do that, I used some awesome hashtags that were posted in Venus Trapped in Mars (you can see that article and four others that helped me grow my IG account here.).  I also went on what we call our SGPT (Self Guided Photography Tours).  We traveled around Evanston and spent a day in the country taking photos for my Instagram account.  I also upgraded my Hootsuite account to premium because they now allow you to schedule your Instagram posts(!!).

Road to 10,000:  Weekly Blog Goals and Updates | Sarah Smirks | Keywords:  social media, building your social media following, building your blog traffic, growing your Instagram followers

Sessions:  60/weekday
Status: Rocked it.

I did it!  Last week, I couldn't meet my goal to hit 60, this week I exceeded it.  I averaged 76 sessions/day!  I only reached 57.4 last week.  What a difference - 18.6 more people a day.  The big difference is that I am getting a lot more traffic from Pinterest.  And, I have to thank Boardbooster - a Pinterest scheduling software - for that.  Pinterest recently changed its algorithm.  It now takes into consideration when you post.  I don't know about you, but I'm a binge pinner.  With Boardbooster, I still can be, but it will publish my pins throughout the day instead of all at once.  AND, it will loop my pins.  So, if you have a bad ass post that you wrote and pinned early in your blog life, and then you built a following, it will repin those pins and delete the old ones.

Road to 10,000:  Weekly Blog Goals and Updates | Sarah Smirks | Keywords:  social media, building your social media following, building your blog traffic, growing your Instagram followers
This week^^

Road to 10,000:  Weekly Blog Goals and Updates | Sarah Smirks | Keywords:  social media, building your social media following, building your blog traffic, growing your Instagram followers
Last Week ^^

I went from 6 referrals from Pinterest to 94 (123 if you count the weekend) in one week.  What?!

Blog Goals This Week

I am writing 4 posts for this week on some hot marketing and social media topics and guest posting on Take Action WAHM.  I am hoping to finish up my Twitter e-book this week too and send copies to my waitlist.

Instagram:  1,000 - It's going to happen!  I am going to hit 1,000 this week.  I will aim to do that by engaging with my followers, following interesting accounts, and posting gorgeous photos.

Sessions:  90/weekday - is this goal a little lofty?  Eh, maybe.  I'm going to try though.  I will work on creating different photos for each social media platform to make my accounts more visually appealing and comment on every blog post that I find interesting.  All of this is of course in addition to writing 4 stellar posts and guest blogging. 

Wish me luck!!


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Friday, August 21, 2015

5 Articles on Instagram Branding that Helped Me Grow by 500 followers in 2 Weeks

Grow your Instagram followers by branding your Instagram account.  Five of the best articles around on building a great Instagram presence by Sarah Smirks

If you've been following along on this journey-o-mine, you know that I re-branded a few months ago.  I chose to move away from lifestyle blogging and focus on what I am best at - marketing.  I read articles about it, go to conferences, listen to podcasts, watch tutorials, and actually work in the marketing field 60 hours a week.  It's what I know.  When I made the decision to focus on that, it was a no-brainer.  I have content coming out of the wazoo.

Pre-rebranding, I did not focus on social at all (funny, because I do it for work all the time).  I was writing my blog for me and my friends and family, so what did social matter?  However, now, I have a whole new audience.  I need the word to spread.  So, I began working on my social strategy.  Twitter was first.  My strategy worked so well, I'm writing a free e-book on it (you can get on the wait list for the free Twitter e-book here).  Next was Instagram, which is a work in progress.  The articles below gave me the guidance to help with my re-brand.  Pre-rebrand, I had 270 followers.  As of today, I am about three weeks into the branding of my IG account, and I am at 937.  Not too shabby for three weeks.

Tweet: 5 articles that will growth hack your Instagram followers - must read! #socialmedia #blogging

1)  Instagram Hashtags that Will Triple Your Likes by Venus trapped in Mars

I reference this article every time I schedule an IG post.  She's not joking.  When I use her hashtag suggestions, I really do get more likes.  I double, sometimes triple my normal likes using these hashtags.

2)  Finding Your Instagram Voice by Love Plus Color

This was the original article I used as reference when planning my re-brand.  It's genius.  She mentions to scroll down on her IG account if you want to see the exact moment she re-branded.  I checked it out, and you can totally see it.  I've shared her article before, and she's an absolute sweetheart.  She always thanks me for sharing.

3)  Finding You Insta(gram) Groove Through Branding by Carmen of Shugar Love Blog

I am not bias, but this was a guest post done for my blog by Carmen of Shugar Love Blog.  She goes into great detail on the process she went through when she re-branded her Instagram.  She gives some great nuggets of advice.

4)  What's Your Instagram Strategy? by Little Farm Media

This was another article I used early on to help with my branding strategy.  In fact, I'm taking her e-course that starts August 31 on social.  She's damn good at it!  This is a three part series on Instagram branding.  Be sure to check our 2 and 3 for the whole sha-bang.

5)  Instagram for Business:  12 Answers to the Biggest Questions by Buffer

This article literally has the answer to every question you could possibly have.  Want to run a contest?  They have an answer.  Want to upload pictures to Instagram from your computer?  They have an answer.

I hope you find these articles as helpful as I did.

Bonus Articles:

Bonus 1:  How to Use Instagram to Research Your Ideal Audience

Want to build your presence on Instagram?  Want to gain more followers?  Okay, we'll help.  Since you asked nicely.

Pre-register for our mini e-course - Instagram Growth Hacking for only $9!  It won't stay that low for too long, so jump on that ;)

Click here to pre-register for our mini e-course:  Instagram Growth Hacking

Thursday, August 20, 2015

7 Tips to Rock Out Bloglovin: The Advanced Guide

A few weeks back, I wrote the Newbie's Guide to Bloglovin.  Today, I'm going to go into more depth on Bloglovin and how to increase your followers.  Bloglovin had a challenge this month to increase your followers, so the floodgates have opened on the best ways to utilize this awesome blog feed.  Here are 7 ways to increase your Bloglovin followers.

Grow your Bloglovin followers by saving blog posts, using great images, write fun titles, & more | Sarah Smirks

1)  Save blog posts on Bloglovin.  When people look at your profile, the default is to look at your saved posts - not your posts.  So, save your posts and save a select number of like-minded posts that fit with your brand.

2)  Make it easy to follow you.  Put links and buttons to your bloglovin account in several places on your site, so it can easily be found.  I put a link to my Bloglovin account in my signature, side bar, and with my social follow buttons.  Since making this change, I increased my followers by 1,444% in 2 months.  Would it be hypocritical for me NOT to put my link in right here?

3)  Write great headlines.  Readers have to judge your posts fast on Bloglovin.  Choose a great title that will make them want to click.

4)  Choose an informative first image.  The first image in your post will be the one that is pulled into the feed.  Choose one that will make people want to click.  Make it both beautiful and informative.

5)  Choose the right time of day to post.  Look at Google Analytics to see where your readers live and what time they are on your site.  Post around that time of day.  The Bloglovin feed will automatically pull your post in right when it publishes.  My peak time is between 9am-1pm, so that's when I should be publishing my posts to get the most bang for my buck.

Use Google Analytics to Determine Your Best Time to Post | Sarah Smirks
6)  Take your blog category into consideration.  Did you know you have a ranking?  The ranking determines how often you blog is chosen as a recommended blog.  Take a look at the category you chose, and see if it still fits.  Maybe there is a more niche category that has less competition.  Go to Blog Analytics, at the top you will find your rank for your category.  I recently changed from lifestyle (I ranked six thousand and something) to design and now I'm 313.  Not impressive, but way better.

Bloglovin Category Rank | Sarah Smirks

7)  Be an active reader/commenter on Bloglovin.  I make an effort to comment on every post I read.  I always leave my link.  Now, all of my referral traffic comes from people visiting my blog from comments I left on other blogs.  I'm not doing it for that purpose, but it's an added bonus!

Do you have any Bloglovin tips?  Share them in the comments!

Additional Resources:
The Blog Market
Elle & Company

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Finding Your Insta(gram) Groove Through Branding by Carmen of ShuGar Love blog

Hi, folks!  I just wanted to give you a quick intro to this guest post by Carmen of ShuGar Love blog.  I met her through my Mom Boss Network - the momtrepreneur business tribe I host on Facebook (join here!).  I was in the middle of researching my own rebranding when I took notice of her Instagram account.  She mentions this below, but you can see clearly where her rebranding began, and I think it tells an awesome story.  She gave me advice and it was priceless.  I begged her to write a guest post for my Sarah Smirks crew to teach YOU how to rebrand your IG.  She's under the radar right now, but she'll blow up soon.  Follow her here!

Hello Followers of Sarah! My name is Carmen, but online I’m playfully known as Mrs. ShuGar. It’s a nickname my hubs and I use that combines both of our last names. We pronounce it as “sugar.” I blog about the heart and all there is to love in my little corner of the internet at ShuGar Love

5 steps to rebrand your instagram and gain more followers | Sarah Smirks | ShuGar Love Blog

I recently met sweet Sarah as part of the rad mommy boss network she runs on Facebook called “The Momtrepreneur Business Tribe.” It’s such an inspiring and supportive space for all mommy bosses! When Sarah asked me to share how I branded my instagram, I jumped at that chance! I am crazy about instagram and feel so honored to share with you how I have transformed my feed to make it more a reflection of my ShuGar Love brand. All it takes is these five easy steps to find your instaspiration and (re)brand your feed to make it a true visual representation of your business.

5 steps to rebrand your instagram and gain more followers | Sarah Smirks | ShuGar Love Blog

Find Your Instaspiration

Before you can even begin to determine how to visually share your brand on Instagram, you have to first feel inspired or how I like to refer to it as searching for your instaspiration. Use the search features on Instagram to research brands that are similar to yours.

Are you a fashion blogger? Then, use hashtags like “#fblogger” or “#fashionista” to find others like yourself. Who inspires you to get lost in their feed? Why do want to follow this person or company? You are not doing this because you are going to replicate their style; quite the contrary, the purpose of this research is to discover who you are. 

Eventually, after you search and then search some more, you will begin to see similarities among similar brands and ultimately you will hopefully begin to gain a better understanding of how you are different than the rest. By researching your instaspiration, your individuality will emerge in the process. Would you like to see who inspired me to rebrand my feed? Let me show you! 

First, I wanted to find other mommy instagrammers because motherhood has redefined who I am as a person and as a blogger. It didn’t matter if we didn’t have similar businesses; I just wanted to see how other mommies portray themselves online. 

5 steps to rebrand your instagram and gain more followers | Sarah Smirks | ShuGar Love Blog

I discovered I love both (1) @bevcooks and (2) @hellowonderful_co because they share pictures of their babies in such an artistic and unique way. The composition of their photos with their families makes me smile. 

I then searched for instabrands that have my same aesthetic; I searched for similarities in color, interests, subjects being shot, and photo composition by using the hashtags #livecolorfully and #abmlifeiscolorful. It’s kind of funny that I gravitated to both (3) @gubbagumma and (4) ohshinypaperco since they are both paper goods businesses. I have absolutely nothing to do with stationery or party supplies, but I do love bright and color-filled photos.

5 steps to rebrand your instagram and gain more followers | Sarah Smirks | ShuGar Love Blog

And, finally, I looked for instaspiration with brands that showed cohesiveness in their feed. Say what you may say? I wanted to see how certain instagrammers are able to tell their stories through their photos in a way that becomes so apparent by the themes of their feeds. 

I found that (5) @specs_and_the_city and (6) @vanessa_byrne are so successful at staying true to their aesthetics. 

5 steps to rebrand your instagram and gain more followers | Sarah Smirks | ShuGar Love Blog

I can tell in a second who they are just by seeing their first few photos at the very top of their feeds. I knew I wanted others to do the same when they would see my @shugarloveblog

Close Your Eyes and Pick 3 words which describe your brand

Do it now! Don’t hesitate and immediately write down the first 3 words that popped in your head. These words should then come to life in your instagram photos. The photos need to do the talking for you!

5 steps to rebrand your instagram and gain more followers | Sarah Smirks | ShuGar Love Blog

Since I am a lifestyle blogger who blogs all about the heart, my three words are love, color, and whimsy. By looking at my blog, I want my followers to see that my instagram is an extension of ShuGar Love; they need to feel connected. Your followers should see your feed and recognize “you” in each photo.

Develop your instafocus

Now that you have picked the words which define you, you need to take the steps to create your instafocus by deciding on colors, composition, and tone. These three elements will transform your feed to embody your brand. Your followers will come to know your photos even before they see your handle. Cohesiveness is key in maintaining your instafocus. 

5 steps to rebrand your instagram and gain more followers | Sarah Smirks | ShuGar Love Blog

My instagram became much more thematic when I took time to evaluate my instafocus. I also took a fab workshop by Designlovefest all about social media that helped in this endeavor. Bri’s photos are so dreamy and she is the social media queen! You can probably find the exact picture that shows my rebranding! I want my photos to exude love, brightness, and passion. As a result, I photograph lots of bold color, I implement the rule of thirds in photography, and I always share my heart in my photos. 

You may be wondering how rigid should you be in representing your brand. There may be times when you want to deviate from your theme and share something completely out of the blue. Is that okay? Sure it is! You call the shots. However, I will preface this with saying you do not want to do this too frequently because then your feed will look disjointed. 

Invest time in editing each photo to remain consistent with your brand

Posting a beautiful photo on instagram takes time; you should invest in each snapshot. More specifically, Designlovefest highly recommends you take multiple shots and I couldn’t agree more. You never know what shot is best until you see them side by side. 

Edit, edit, and then edit your photos! It makes a ginormous difference! Just see below.

These days there are so many photo editing apps out there you won’t have any problem in finding one. My go-to is Vsco Cam, but I heard great things about Afterlight as well. Whatever you decide to do, make sure you try to use as much natural lighting as possible because flash and harsh sunlight can kill your pics. I’d also highly recommend you invest in some great photo backdrops, a variety of props, and some soft lighting. Years ago, I would have also said a high quality camera, but phones these days are on point.

5 steps to rebrand your instagram and gain more followers | Sarah Smirks | ShuGar Love Blog

Be consistent, be picky, be organic, and be true to what your brand is.

Be all these things and at all times. Instagramming is so much fun!  I like to consider my photos eye candy for my followers. If you see below in four of my fave photos, you can notice a consistent story told via the colors, composition, and tone. I want my feed to tell a love story to my followers; they reveal my heart. They all come together to tell you I am ShuGar Love

5 steps to rebrand your instagram and gain more followers | Sarah Smirks | ShuGar Love Blog

Don’t get too worried about what people will think about your photos; don’t overthink it. Maintain the organic process of finding inspiration in your day-to-day that can help represent your brand. Be selective in what you share so that you are still cohesive. You know you best, but your new followers probably do not know you best. Your loyal followers know you really well so you also want to maintain your brand for their sakes because that’s why they love you.

In the end, find instalove when (re)branding your instagram feed because you want to enjoy this process. It will show in your photos. Instagram is such a great medium to give your brand a story. 

I hope this was helpful and you now feel instaspired to brand yourself on instagram. Thank you, Sarah, for this wonderful opportunity to share with your readers! I encourage you all to give me a shout out on instagram so that I can see all your pretty feeds.  You can count on me to give you some instaloving!

Do you enjoy Instagram? Why? What instabrands are your faves? Why do they inspire you?

Want to build your presence on Instagram?  Want to gain more followers?  Okay, we'll help.  Since you asked nicely.

Pre-register for our mini e-course - Instagram Growth Hacking for only $9!  It won't stay that low for too long, so jump on that ;)

Click here to pre-resister for our mini e-course:  Instagram Growth Hacking

Monday, August 17, 2015

Road to 10,000: Weekly Goals & Updates, Week 5

Instagram, Facebook, Bloglovin, Twitter, & website traffic growth strategy by Sarah Smirks.

Alright folks, it's Monday!  How did that happen?  Last week was absolutely crazy and I suspect this week will be as well.  I'm working on my monthly newsletter and my free e-book on how I grew my Twitter following 4,000% in 4 months (you can sign up for the Twitter e-book wait list here) on top of my FT job as a marketing director.  I need a nap just thinking about it....

Last week, I kept my goals modest, knowing the week would be hectic.  Here is how it went.

Blog Goals from Last Week  

Bloglovin:  150 followers
Status:  #Fail

I actually didn't end up focusing on this at all.  I intended to write a Bloglovin post about some new blogger resources I have learned about since my previous post on Bloglovin.  However, I had a lot of content to get out last week, and the post got bumped to this week.  I now have 137 followers on Bloglovin, which is great growth.  I knew 150 was going to be difficult, so I'm satisfied with 137, considering I didn't follow through with any of my campaigns toward growth.

Instagram, Facebook, Bloglovin, Twitter, & website traffic growth strategy by Sarah Smirks.

Twitter:  2,050
Status:  Rocked it.

I rocked this goal so hard, in fact, I reached over 100 over my goal.  As of this moment, I hit 2,159 (if you want to join my amazing Twitter followers, click here!).  My strategy?  Share great content consistently and follow your ideal buyers.  If you're doing your content strategy right, they will want to follow you back.  Sign up for my Twitter e-book if you want to learn my complete strategy.

Instagram, Facebook, Bloglovin, Twitter, & website traffic growth strategy by Sarah Smirks.

Sessions/Weekday:  60
Status:  #Fail

Ugh.  I reached 57.4 sessions/weekday.  If my goals were a math problem and I were allowed to round, I'd make it.  According to Google Analytics, my biggest traffic source was Facebook, followed by Twitter, and then Bloglovin.  

I was surprised to see a decent amount of traffic coming in from other blogs.  My commenting is paying off!  I only read posts that I genuinely want to read, but I make sure to comment on every one that I read.  I'm pleasantly surprised that one of my favorite blogs actually brought a decent amount of traffic to my site - Spruce Rd.  Jamie, the writer, has amazing posts on blogging and social media.

Instagram, Facebook, Bloglovin, Twitter, & website traffic growth strategy by Sarah Smirks.

Goals for This Week

Instagram:  I want to hit 1k this week on Instagram.  To do this, I will post every day, use viral hashtags, and maintain my brand.

Sessions/Weekday:  60, my God.  One of these weeks I will hit 60.  I have an amazing guest post scheduled this week by ShuGar Love.  I also have my newsletter going out this week, and I am working on my Twitter e-book, so this should drive some extra traffic to the blog this week.  I'm going to work on making "sticky" posts with more backlinks and resources to keep my readers happily browsing more pages on my blog and coming back.  Right now, I am averaging 38.7% return traffic, which I think is pretty good.  If that continues and my new visitors continue to grow, I should begin to grow faster than I have been.

What are you working on this week?  Is there a medium you are focusing on growing?  Share with me! 

Friday, August 14, 2015

Small Business Spotlight: Parra Quilting

Custom quilts, bags, shirts, & headbands at Parra Quilts | Spotlight on Small Business by Sarah Smirks

I want you to meet Nicole Lester, the owner of Parra Quilting.  She is one of those people who people are just drawn to.  I've only online-met her, but as soon as I did, I knew that she was one of the good ones.  I'm lucky to meet amazing women through my FB group Mom Boss (here's the link to our secret club house), and she was one of them.

She made my son an absolutely beautiful vintage-inspired airplane wall hanging for his room and creates the coolest custom pieces I have seen.  From baby headbands to quilts, Nicole puts her certain cool quirk in every piece.

Custom quilts, T-shirts, headbands at Parra Quilting

Get to know her a little better with an interview I gave her.  

1) What motivated you to start your own business?

To make a long story short, my grandma, Mimi, whom passed away this year, instilled the love of sewing in me when I was in middle school. While I did not keep up with it consistently, at first, I picked up quilting in college when I decided to make my bridesmaids individual quilts as their gifts. When my mentor, for student teaching, saw my work, she was actually the one who motivated me to begin a blog about my sewing projects. 

Quilts, baby clothes, headbands from Parra Quilting

2)  How did you get started?

My art form is not writing so the blog did not go over well, but over time I started to take little "jobs" here and there for people, such as T-shirt quilts, tote bags, and baby quilts. This was over the course of two years from 2010-2012. We moved to Chicago in 2012, where I was pregnant with my first child, so I did not continue teaching. I needed something to keep me occupied, as well as earn some extra income. I really started to reach out to friends and family about T-shirt quilts and tote bags. By the time I moved to Ohio in 2013, I was so sad to have left  the life that we had begun to create in Chicago that I needed something to keep my mind off of the sadness. That's when I created my Facebook business page, Parra Quilting, and posted on some local buy/sell/trade sites. I went from 160 "likes" to 600! It was incredible to see the response that I got in such a short amount of time, and it really helped me believe in myself and in my art form, that I had a skill people were willing to support!  

3)  Why did you choose the product that you did?

Every product I create always starts out as something that interests me. At first, it was regular quilts, and then it was tote bags. Close family and family friends knew that I was able to sew, and when one family friend asked me to make a T-shirt quilt, I said I would be more than happy to try. Once I did, more people began to inquire about them, and it spiraled from there. T-shirt quilts turned into regular quilts, which then motivated me to explore different options and really step outside of my comfort zone. That's where the baby products, burp cloths, bibs, car seat covers, comfort blankets, began. I loved making all of these items! When I found out I was having a girl, I decided to purchase an embroidery machine so that I could make her monthly onesies, as well as cute shirts for both of my kiddos to wear to holiday school parties/events/birthdays, and that's where the embroidery obsession began. I also went to the store to pick up some items to create headbands when I found out I was having a girl. I never imagined how much I would love making those until I went to have her newborn pictures taken and the photographer, who is now a wonderful friend and someone I work closely with in promoting both of our businesses, told me that I really should consider selling my headbands. I added those to the lists, along with some tutus. And, the other wonderful art work my kids inspired me to make was the elephant wall hanging. It wasn't until Sarah approached me about making a smaller version, did I consider really stepping outside the box and scaling the idea down and free handing the airplane. Now, I make it a priority to try something new every couple of months to expand my product list; my most recent being customized, embroidered pillowcases. 

4)  When did you start your business?

I technically started my business back in 2010 when I made my first T-shirt quilt as a paying job, but I recently became a LLC this year, 2015, and it was such an exciting step in this journey. It really solidified all the hard work that I have put into this business, and something that I never dreamed would be my reality. 

Quilts, baby clothes, headbands from Parra Quilting

5)  What has been your biggest struggle as a business owner?

My biggest struggle as a business owner is the competition, in an already very flooded market, that I experience. While my style is very different from most, especially in relation to T-shirt quilt designs, the market is extremely flooded with the baby products. Trying to stand out and take a different perspective on these items has been the biggest struggle, but also a wonderful creative outlet for me. It has truly allowed me to think outside the box and try new and different ways to create some of these products. 

6)  What was your biggest success in your business?

My biggest success was definitely when I made the leap of faith to post about my business on several local buy/trade/sell sites in Ohio. Once I did that, I received so many followers on my Facebook business page that I almost did not know if I had the time to make everything that was being asked of me to make. I really buckled down with my organizational and time management skills so that I could successfully complete what was asked of me without compromising any of the quality. I take a lot of pride in my work and am always making sure that I give a product to customers that will last and that I'm 100% confident in. If I am not happy with the product, myself, I would never give it to a customer. I think my dedication to making high quality products, by taking my time and using the best materials out there, have really helped aide in my success.

Quilts, baby clothes, headbands from Parra Quilting

7)  What is your favorite social media where people will find you most?

I really enjoy my Facebook business page! I have had a lot of success through word of mouth, creating posts with incentives for people to share my page on their personal pages, and boosting my posts. 

8)  What is your favorite part about owning your own business?

I love the freedom it gives to me to explore my creative side. As a mom of two, I some times feel like I get lost in always worrying about others, which I love to do. My kids, my husband, my family, is my life, but I also like knowing that while I am providing a stable environment for my children and seeing all of their "firsts," I am also bettering myself and setting an example on how to pursue your dreams and work hard for something you believe in. My business allows me to have another identity as a business woman in conjunction with being a stay-at-home/work-at-home mom. 

9)  Who motivates you to keep going on those hard days?

My husband, parents and sister are great motivators in my business. I also have wonderful, supportive friends who are either supporting me by purchasing my products or always helping to spread the word of my business to their family and friends. Knowing that I have so many people who believe in me is always in the back of my mind and motives me on those hard days. I also have a dedication board to my grandma, Mimi, in my sewing area. Every day that I work, I always occasionally stop to look up at that and remember the first moments that she taught me how to sew. I also like to think that on most days she is sitting right next to me, makings sure I'm ironing out my seams ;). 

Follow this chick on social to see her super cute items:


Nicole has been nice enough to offer her custom pieces at 15% off for Sarah Smirks readers.  If you found her here, just mention Sarah Smirks at check out for the discount.  How awesome is that?  Offer ends October 15, so get your holiday shopping in :)

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