Beth Hayden |

Why I Deleted 2,354 Names From My Email List (and How I Lived to Tell About It)

On July 23rd of this year, I deleted over 2,000 names from my email list.

It wasn’t an accident. I didn’t get hacked, and it wasn’t a glitch. I did it intentionally.

Why would I do such an insane thing, you ask?

I deleted those contacts because I made a conscious choice to get rid of subscribers who were no longer engaging with my emails, attending my webinars, or buying my products.


How My Accountability Partner Convinced Me to Clean Up My List

Warren Talbot (of is my accountability partner, and he happily kicks my butt every two weeks. He motivates, he cheers, he pushes, he cajoles.

And when we started working together in January of this year, Warren almost immediately asked me when I was going to perform a clean up process on my list of over 6,000 subscribers.

I’ll admit it – I resisted. I whined, I made excuses, and I avoided the question every time he brought it up. I have been in business for 8 years, and I had never cleaned up my list before.

But to Warren’s credit, he kept nudging me to do it anyway.

Eventually, I decided to do it, despite my reservations. I wanted to stop avoiding the issue and pretending it was going to go away.

Why You Should Consider Cleaning Up Your Email List

There are a lot of reasons you might want to do a bit of list maintenance (also called list hygiene or list clean up).

If you’ve been building your list for a while (a year or more) you probably have some subscribers who haven’t opened or clicked on an email from you in months.

It’s possible some of these folks are sending your marketing emails directly into a filtered folder in Gmail or Outlook, or they might be deleting your emails without opening or reading them at all.

Naomi Dunford and Dave Navarro of call this phenomenon “list bloat” and there are a lot of good reasons to try to get rid of it. Read this article by Naomi and Dave if you’d like to see their take on why you should do list maintenance on a regular basis. It’s a great read.

Here are a few reasons you may want to consider cleaning up your list:

1. Inactive subscribers might be costing you money. A lot of popular email service providers (like Constant Contact and AWeber) charge you more when your list exceeds a certain amount of subscribers. If you have people on your list who never open or read your emails, kicking them to the virtual curb may bring down the amount of money you need to give to your ESP each month.

2. List bloat is confusing and frustrating. At the beginning of July, I had over 6,000 people on my email list. Every time I would send out a promotion or a piece of new content, I would be completely flummoxed by the low response rate. I didn’t understand why my open rate hardly ever went past 20%, why hardly anyone clicked on the links in my emails, and why some of my product launches seemed to absolutely flop.

The monologue in my head went something like this:

“If I have 6,000 subscribers, WHY IS NO ONE BUYING??”

By getting rid of inactive subscribers and people who are probably never going to buy from me, I can get a significantly more realistic picture of which subscribers are active members of my community. This also gives me a better idea of who is actually likely to purchase my products and services.

3. Getting rid of “dead weight” subscribers can lower the amount of negative feedback you get. When you’re sending emails only to people who are truly engaged members of your community, the likelihood that someone is going to label your email as spam is significantly lower.

You will also get fewer complaints via email from subscribers who don’t like your emails or want to complain when you send relevant offers. In short – fewer complainers means less energy spent on negative people.

How I Cleaned Up My List, and Why I’m Glad I Did

So after many months of Warren’s nagging gentle nudging, I was finally ready to make the leap and do some long-overdue list reduction.

I use Infusionsoft as my email service provider and my shopping cart, so it was relatively easy to take these steps using their built-in tools. If you use a different ESP, you may need to figure out the simplest way to accomplish these tasks. Check with your ESP’s tech support team for more information.

Get Your Free Case Study: How One Blogger Added 600 New Subscribers to Her List >>

STEP ONE: Get rid of all bad addresses and people who have unsubscribed.

Here are the steps I took to do that with my list:

I ran a report to see all of my “hard bounces,” and deleted all of those subscribers. “Hard bounces” are addresses that have permanent problems. Either the address is no longer valid, or the recipient has blocked my emails, or the domain is bad. After I ran a report in Infusionsoft to find these bad addresses, I deleted all of these from my database.

Delete everyone who opted out of your list. If someone unsubscribed from my list or labeled my email as spam in their email client, I deleted them, too.

Some ESP’s will delete these unsubscribers automatically, so you may not need to do this. Infusionsoft keeps these people in my database and requires me to delete them manually, so that’s what I did in this step.

STEP TWO: Find the people who are actively engaging with my marketing messages.

Now you need to run a few reports to find the people who recently engaged with your messages in some way. I ran reports in Infusionsoft to find everyone who did one of the following in the past six months:

  • Opened an email from me
  • Clicked on a link in one of my emails
  • Purchased a product or coaching package from me
  • Signed up for my list in the last six months using one of my opt-in forms (signed up for a free report, webinar, etc)

All of the people who fit one of the criteria above got tagged as “Engaged” in my email service provider. Infusionsoft’s tagging function made it easy to label these people in bulk — again, check with your ESP about ways to do this with your list.

STEP THREE: Write to everyone else and ask them if they would like to stay on my list.

Once you have deleted all the permanently bad addresses, and labeled all the people are already engaged with you, you have a sub-list of people who are left who don’t fit any of the above criteria. Let’s call those folks the “Leftovers,” for lack of a better term. Now it’s time to get the slightly more painful part. You can either:

    1. Delete all the leftovers right now, or
    2. Take one extra step to write to all the “Leftovers” and ask them if they’d like to stay on your list.

I decided to go with option 2. This is the email I sent to my “Leftovers” group”:

“Hi there!

I’m doing a bit of semi-annual list maintenance, and I’m writing to you to see if you’d like to stay on my list.

Here’s how this works:

1. If you want to be DROPPED from my list, you don’t need to do anything at all. In two days, you’ll be deleted from my database and you’ll never hear from me (via email) again.

2. If you’d like to STAY on my list, all you need to do is click on this link, then click on the green button on that page and fill out a little itty bitty form. If you do that in the next two days, you’ll stay on my list and continue to get my great content, offers for free webinars, and notifications about my upcoming courses.

Here’s the link to stay on this list, one more time.

Questions about this process? Just hit “reply” to this email and let me know what’s going on, and I’ll get back to you right away.

Thanks so much! Cheers, Beth”

In this email, I invited people to stay on the list by clicking over to a landing page and signing up to stay on my list. This is a screenshot of my “Stay on My List” landing page:


I sent this email to my “Leftovers” list (which included about 2,400 people), and about 100 of those people decided to stay on my list by entering their email addresses on this landing page.

That number is pretty low. I’ll admit, I was disappointed. But I’m trying not to take it personally.

I try to remember that I unsubscribe from MANY email lists – I feel like I unsubscribe from at least one newsletter every day – and it doesn’t mean I don’t like the newsletter author, or that I don’t respect what they are doing. I am simply buried in email, just like everyone else.

STEP FOUR: Delete all of the “Leftovers” people who didn’t specifically say they wanted to stay on my list.

After I sent the email above, sending people to my “Stay on My List” landing page, I waited two days, then deleted everyone who hadn’t indicated they wanted to stay a subscriber. That means on list clean-up day, I deleted 2,354 of my subscribers.

Why Deleting Subscribers Is Incredibly Difficult

And I’ll be honest with you – deleting those subscribers from my Infusionsoft database was ROUGH.

To me, the numbers of my email list are a big indicator of how well my business is doing. So the idea that I would voluntarily cut my list from 6,000 down to 4,000, in one fell swoop? I thought it was a little nuts.

I understood the logic, but I still thought it was crazy. But I did it. I deleted those subscribers.

For about 30 minutes after I hit the “delete” key, I felt like I had made a huge mistake. What if I deleted someone who actually wanted to be on my list? What if I lost business? All kinds of worst-case-scenario questions ran through my head.

Then, after about 30 minutes of feeling panicky, I felt a sense of calm come over me. I had a really important revelation: I didn’t delete active subscribers. I deleted people who didn’t open or click on my emails, and were probably NEVER going to buy from me.

The Massive Upside of Cleaning Up Your List

Now that I’ve cleaned up my list and gotten past the negative baggage about it, I actually feel great about the whole process.

I’ve accepted my new subscriber number as my current reality, and it feels just fine.

My open rate has increased, and my unsubscribe rate has gone down. And that feels pretty great.

These days, I don’t think about the fact that I deleted a bunch of subscribers. I just try to take great care of the ones I kept – the active, engaged members of my community.

I try to send my subscribers quality content and relevant offers on a regular basis, and try to build the best possible relationship with every member of my list.

If you’re considering cleaning up your list — and getting rid of your own “list bloat” — I highly encourage you to do it.

It’s a great move for your business, and you’ll feel better about the subscribers that stick around. And that’s the best outcome at all.

Want to know how to get more subscribers to your list? Read this interview with blogger and writer Lacy Boggs, who added 600 new subscribers to her list just by taking ONE brave step!

Click Here to Get Lacy’s Story Instantly! >>>

How Often Should I Publish Posts on My Blog?

One of the most common questions people ask me during speaking engagements and webinars is:

How often do I have to publish blog posts on my site?”

There is often a hidden question within this query, though.

Sometimes I get the feeling people are really asking, “What is the absolute bare minimum I need to do, to create a successful blog?”

That is a slightly tougher question, of course, and one that requires me to ask a lot of follow-up questions about the person’s target audience, their niche, how much time they have to dedicate to marketing, etc. etc..

And just to be clear – there are no “right” answers here. There’s a huge spectrum of what constitutes “right,” “good,” or “ideal” when it comes to blogging.

But as a beginning blogger, or someone who has been blogging for a little while, you still need a number. You want a number to use as a guideline.

So in that spirit, I’ll do my best to answer the question.

How Often Should I Really Be Publishing on My Blog?

I Used to Tell People to Publish a Lot

Six years ago, when I first started coaching people who wanted to create popular blogs, I would give them a really clear, simple answer to this question.

My answer was, “You should blog at least 3 times a week – or more, if you can.”

Back when blogging first become popular, publishing often was a good way of attracting traffic. One of the ways to get the search engines to notice and rank you was to publish a ton of content (even if some of that content wasn’t very high quality).

I told those bloggers – publish a lot on your blog, even if the posts are short.

Fast forward a few years. Around 2010, it was starting to get harder to attract traffic as a beginning blogger.

It was still important to publish content on a regular basis, but publishing 3 or 4 times a week wasn’t the magic bullet it used to be.

So around 2010, I started telling people, “Publish as much as you can without killing yourself. If that’s twice a week, great. If that’s once a month, that’s fine, too.”

My Current Answer to This Big Blogging Question

Today, when people ask me this question, I give a very different answer.

Now I say:

“You should focus on quality, not quantity. Publishing one truly amazing post once a month will get you far better results than publishing crappy posts every day.”

In pretty much every niche, across all industries, what readers really want is high-quality content that answers their questions, teaches them something, or entertains them.

So before you sit down to write a post, I want you to give some thought into coming up with a top-notch idea for a post. Ask yourself:

  • Is this post going to teach my readers something they didn’t know before?
  • Is this an original idea (even if it’s simply a new spin on an old idea)?
  • Is this idea compelling and interesting for my ideal reader?

If it’s not, take some time and brainstorm some new ideas, until you come up with one that is truly high quality.

And don’t publish a post just because you feel like you’re “supposed” to publish something on a particular day. It’s better to publish a post a little bit late (and make it great) than create a low-quality post that you’re rushing to publish.

Taking the attitude of “I was supposed to put up a post today, so I just slapped something together” is a good way to get yourself exiled into Google purgatory.

Always Focus on Quality Over Quantity

Here’s my best advice: Write really good blog posts.

If you publish a great post once a week, that’s great. If you only publish a high-quality post once a month, that’s okay, too.

When you focus on the quality of your quality of your content, the following things will happen:

  • Your search engine rankings will rise
  • You’ll be more likely to rank for the terms you really want to rank for
  • Your readers and subscribers will appreciate your content far more
  • More of your readers will share your content on social media and comment on your posts

That’s my best answer to this difficult blogging question. Next up, I’ll tackle another difficult online marketing query:

How long should my blog posts be?”

For now, I want you to go out there and write the best possible content you can — even if that means giving up your regular three-times-a-week publishing schedule.

I give you permission to focus on creating amazing, attention-getting, praise-worthy content, and to create that content on whatever schedule works for you.

Do that, and everyone wins.

Halfway to My Goal! A Writing Experiment Update

This post is to give you a little update on my August writing experiment, and let you know what lessons I’ve learned so far.

Backstory: For those who are just tuning in, I set a goal to write 30,000 words during the month of August, and I’ve been updating my community as I pursue my goal.

Here’s the update, according to the numbers from today (August 21st, 2015):

  • So far this month, I’ve written 23,072 words.
  • I’ve spent a little under 15 hours writing those words.
  • My average writing speed is 1550 words per hour.

I feel pretty pleased with my progress, and I’m delighted to say that I haven’t missed a single day of writing this month.

I’ve written approximately 1,000 words a day for 21 days straight, and I have no plans to quit any time soon. I feel pretty confident I’ll be able to hit my goal of 30,000 words.

Halfway to the Goal! A Writing Experiment Update

Here’s what I’ve noticed during the first half of this experiment:

1. I definitely write significantly better (and have more fun writing) when I don’t procrastinate. If I wait until 11:00 PM to get my writing done (especially if completing the writing is the only thing standing between me and getting some sleep), it’s certainly not much fun to open my computer and try to crank out a thousand words.

I’ve noticed the quality of the writing suffers when I write late at night, too — probably because I’m just pounding out words in order to get to the goal.

If I write earlier in the day when I’m more energized and inspired, it’s a heck of a lot more fun to write, and I create better quality pieces.

2. I’ve decided it’s okay to occasionally write for fun, instead of always creating blog posts, content for my classes, or writing assignments.

A few days ago, I wrote for 20 minutes on the topic of “Snow,” and I had a great time with it. The essay I ended up writing certainly isn’t literature, and it’s not usable as a blog post, but there are a couple of good lines in it.

I’ve decided to let myself have a few lighter, creative breaks during this month — especially when I’m not in the mood to write and have to give myself a little extra push to start typing.

3. I’m getting faster. I have noticed that the “Words Per Hour” number on my writing log spreadsheet is increasing each day, so I believe all this practice is paying off!

4. I like to write, but during this challenge, sometimes I just have to force myself to get the words done. I made a deal with myself that I would write every day this month – and I am honoring that – but it’s not always fun.There are days when I wish I could do something else with that writing time.

We’re at the tail end of summer break for my kiddo, and there are times when I feel like my work time is at a real premium. Sometimes it feels a little wasteful to use my working time to write one more blog post, when I’ve already got six others in the hopper that need to be edited and published on the site.

5. Which brings me to my next point: I’ve discovered that editing, polishing and publishing a blog post takes a long time. I never realized how much time I spend tweaking and publishing my posts. It’s taking me a long time to go through that whole process for the posts I’ve written during this challenge. Right now, I have a backlog of posts I’ve written this month that need to be edited and published, so I need to build time into my work schedule to do that.

6. Writing every day is incredibly satisfying. I feel like I really accomplish something every day. If I add 1,000 words (or more!) to my writing log each night, I feel satisfied. I love seeing my total number of words creep closer to 30,000, day by day. Even if I don’t do anything with the rest of my day other than put out fires or battle my email inbox, I know at least I’ve completed my words. And that’s pretty great.

Need a Writing Guide? Try the Free Write Fling

A few of you have asked whether I will be doing a 30-day writing challenge for my audience at some point. I’m considering it, but in the meantime, I want to give you a fantastic resource if you’d like to jump into guided writing practice.

Cynthia Morris, a creativity and writing coach, runs a program called the Free Write Fling several times a year, and it’s wonderful. The goal is for everyone in the program to write a little bit every day, and Cynthia sends you daily writing reminders and encouragement during the month of the program.

Cynthia’s next Free Write Fling is happening in October, and you can find out more here.

Want to know what I think so far?

Look for a post from me at the end of this month to wrap up the experiment and give you my final conclusions. But right now, at the midpoint in my experiment, I can say this:

Writing every day is tough. It is satisfying. And it is worth it.

6 Valuable Lessons from Writing a Controversial Blog Post

In early June, I wrote a blog post voicing a strong (and somewhat controversial) opinion about Facebook Pages. The post was called Please, Please Don’t Ask Me to Like Your Facebook Page, and it was probably the most opinionated piece I’ve ever published.

I published it because I wanted to teach you, my faithful reader, that one commonly-accepted way to accrue more Facebook fans might actually backfire on you and cause more harm than good.

I used the post to give you some alternative suggestions for getting more Likes on your Facebook page.

I also had another (smaller) motive. Since I had never written a controversial post before – not on my own site, and not on any of the other industry sites I write for — I was curious to see what would happen if I wrote a mildly inflammatory post.

I wondered how much traffic it might attract, whether the post would get shared, and if I would get angry comments from people who disagreed with me.

6 Lessons from Writing a Controversial Post

I didn’t write the post specifically to experiment, and I didn’t manufacture an opinion on Facebook pages just to write the piece. I simply picked a strong opinion I already had, wrote a useful post about it, then kept a careful eye on the results.

Here’s what I learned from my editorial experiment:

1. I did get some negative comments, and I lived through it.

Out of 24 comments on the post, 2 were critical. I was called angry, petty and mean-spirited. I have to admit, that stung a little.

It helped me to think about the fact that the angry commenters were peeved about the opinion I voiced — not necessarily at me personally. I tried not to feel too hurt by it, particularly because these comments weren’t left by people I personally know.

I’ve also heard from other online marketing experts that it’s actually good when people start to criticize you and your opinions, because it means you’ve reached a certain critical mass with your content. Once you grow to a certain point, they say, some criticism is inevitable.

The good news is that the other 22 comments were all supportive. Those commenters agreed with me, thanked me for bringing up the issue, and said they thought the highly critical comments I received were unreasonable. I

Interestingly, a number of commenters said they had always wondered if that method of asking for Facebook fans was a good idea, and they thanked me for addressing the issue so directly.

Lesson learned: The negative comments hurt a little, but I recovered (with the help of the positive commenters and the rest of my audience) and will live to blog another day!

2. Traffic SOARED on the day I published the controversial post.

I attracted three times more traffic on the day I published this Facebook post than ANY OTHER DAY IN 2015.

That means you can take the top traffic day on my blog for all of the previous days in 2015, then TRIPLE that number, and that’s the traffic I received on the day I published this post.

Lesson learned: Whether we want to admit it or not, controversy sells. You will likely get more traffic if you are willing to express a strong opinion and publish it.

Yes, this is a strategy that can get old quickly. I’m not recommending you publish controversial posts just for the traffic, or that every one of your posts needs to be a rabble-rouser.

But if you’ve got a post you’ve been considering publishing, and you’ve been holding back because you’re afraid of offending people, you may want to take a chance and put it out there.

3. Social media shares also increased for the controversial post.

The Facebook post has been shared over 100 times, which is higher than normal for a post published on my own site.

It’s tough to say whether people shared the post because they agreed with my post, or because they were annoyed by it. Either way, they shared it – so that’s good news for my traffic stats.

Lesson learned: People are more than willing to share controversial posts on social media, so it’s likely you will see more shares when you write a strong opinion piece.

4. Headlines matter.

I didn’t add a truly inflammation headline to this post. I could’ve called the piece, “The #1 Way to Annoy the Crap Out of Your Facebook Friends,” or something similar.

A headline like that would potentially whip people into a frenzy, but I downplayed it a bit and chose a slightly mellower headline. That may have hurt by traffic, but that’s okay. It was a trade off for me.

Lesson learned: You have to decide whether you want to use an inflammatory headline or not. I was willing to try this post without it, to see what kind of results I could get.

Who knows? I might re-publish this post in a couple of years with a different headline, and see if the results are any different.

5. My opt-out rate for that post was no higher than normal.

I send all of my blog posts out to my email list. I use a little teaser emails, which hints at the content of the post and includes a link back to my site.

One of my biggest fears about publishing a controversial post was that I was going to lose a lost of my subscribers.

My list is large enough that I always get some folks who unsubscribe (every time I send out a post). That’s true whether I’m sending out something that is heavily promotional, or if I’m sending new content.

The good news about this controversial post is that my unsubscribe rate was no higher than any of the previous four times I had sent out a newsletter or a new blog post. My fears of a massive exodus from my list were largely unfounded.

Lesson learned: Even I write a controversial post that causes some heated discussion in the comments, I’m not likely to lose a ton of subscribers. This may not be true for EVERY topic, but it was for this Facebook post.

6. Get a friend, colleague or editor to read the post before you publish it.

In the future, when I’m considering publishing something that might be a bit contentious, I will plan on having a friend or colleague read the piece before I hit “publish”.

I wrote and published my controversial post late at night, and sent the email to my list about the post the following morning (very early).

I didn’t have a second pair of eyes to read it and let me know if I had gone too far. In retrospective, that was pretty dumb. It’s always (ALWAYS) a good idea to have someone read your posts, just to make sure you’re coming across the way you intend, and not overdoing it. This is true with any post, but it’s even more crucial with a controversial post.

Leasson learned: If you’re thinking about writing something that’s going to raise some hackles, plan far enough in advance that you can have a friend, colleague, significant other or editor read it before you click that “Publish” button.

Was It Worth It To Write a Controversial Post?

In a nutshell – yes. A million times yes.

If you have a strong opinion and you’re wondering if it’s a good idea to take a chance and publish a controversial post, I think you should give it a shot and see what happens.

Again, I’m not saying you should manufacture controversy or publish something simply to make waves.

But in my (very limited) experience with taking a chance on publishing a post that might piss people off, I think it’s absolutely worth it. I got a HUGE traffic spike on the day I published the post, and that rush of visitors continued for the next 4-5 days. We also generated some fascinating discussion in the comments, and that discussion is now part of the permanent content on my post.

Got a post you’re considering writing? Maybe you’d like to express frustration about something, or you’d like to give your readers some advice that is outside the normal recommendations in your industry.

If you’ve got a controversial idea in mind for your blog, I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

And next time I feel like mouthing of about something on the blog, I’ll let you know how it goes. :)

How a Writing Experiment Is Going to Help Me Take Over the World

For the month of August, I’m taking on a gigantic challenge.

This month, I am going to write 30,000 words.

That might sound a little bit insane to you. It does to me, too.

My mentor, Jon Morrow, is a big fan of intensive writing practice as a way to becoming a faster, more productive writer. He says writing every day will not only lead to better writing and massive content creation, it will actually help you come up with better ideas. Ideas for things like blog posts, podcasts, videos, products, and business ventures.

When I first heard Jon was challenging his students to write 1,000 words every single day – including all holidays and weekends – I thought to myself:

“If I could write 30,000 words every month, I could take over the world.”

How I'm Going to Write 30,000 Words This Month

What could you do with 30,000 words?

Imagine what you could do if you wrote 30,000 words every month.

Want to know what you could create with your 30,000 words? Let me give you some context:

  • My book was 37,000 words when I gave the first draft to my publisher in April 2012. Eventually it got whittled down a bit, to around 33,00 words, but I did actually write 37,000 words for the first draft.
  • Most of the posts I write for my own blog are approximately 1,000 words.
  • When I write posts for Copyblogger, those posts is around 1,500 words.
  • I create free reports and handouts to give away as email subscriber incentives, and each of those documents is 3,000+ words.

That means in one month, if I meet my goal of 30,000 words, I could:

  • Nearly complete another book, or
  • Write 20-30 blog posts, or
  • Create 10 additional incentives to give away on my site.

What Gets Measured, Gets Managed

If I’m going to meet my goal of 30,000 words this August, I have to keep track of exact how much I’m writing and how long it takes me to write every day. So I created a simple Excel spreadsheet to track my progress. Here’s what I’m tracking on this document:

  • How many words I’ve written daily
  • How long it took me to write those words
  • What I wrote during that time period
  • Running totals for the day and for the month
  • How many words I still need to write to reach my 30,000 word goal

Here’s what my spreadsheet looks like right now:

What It Looks Like to Write 30,000 Words in One Month

The rules for my grand writing adventure

Here are some things I’m doing to make sure I meet my goal:

  • I’m trying to write approximately 1,000 words every day. I will either write 1,000 words in one big session, or write my words during several smaller sessions during the day. But I have promised myself that I’m not going to sleep each night until I write 1,000 words.
  • I’m keeping a running list of possible blog post topics. I’ve created a document called, “Post Ideas”, and within that document I have separate columns for things like upcoming guest post opportunities, paid writing gigs (including my writing for Copyblogger), and blog post ideas for my own site. I’m doing this to insure I never run out of stuff to write. If I complete one post in the middle of a writing session, I just fire up a new Word document and start my next post.
  • I’m not counting editing time in my overall word count, unless I’m adding a large and substantial section to a piece I’m editing.
  • If I have to do substantial writing for an email campaign to send to my list – as I often do during webinars or product launches — I am counting those words.
  • I’ve promised myself that if I miss a day or fall short, I will make up for it on the one of the subsequent days.
  • I’m trying really hard not to take a day off, and write no matter what is going on professionally or personally. I don’t know if that will work, especially with my health limitations, but I will let you know in my follow-up posts.
  • I almost always listen to music when I write. It keeps me motivated and gives my brain something to do when I’m writing. Pop music works particularly well for me. It’s like letting myself have a cookie while I’m doing my homework.

Look for more updates as I write myself into a stupor ☺

Later this month, I’ll let you know how the experiment is progressing. Yes, I’m planning on including screenshots of my writing logs – it will keep me accountable!

At the end of this month, I’ll also give you a “lessons learned” post to wrap up the experiment. I’ll also let you know what how much (or little) I accomplished during my heavy-duty writing month, and whether I plan on continuing to write at that volume.

If I’m talking to myself, chewing on pencil erasers or not able to form full sentences by the end of the month, I’ll let you know. If it was a super-productive month and I can’t wait to keep going, I’ll tell you that, too.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear about your own writing practices. How do you stay motivated to write? Do you track how much you’re writing?

If you wrote 30,000 words, do you feel (like me) that you could take over the world?

Tell me your thoughts in the comments below.

How to Motivate Yourself To Do Just About Anything

I was talking to my friend Anne Samoilov the other day. She told me she’s trying to get a finish a webinar presentation, and asked me if I had any tips for getting it done quickly.

“When do you need to have it completed?” I asked.

“Pretty much…yesterday,” she said.

I told her I have a technique that really works well for me, but warned her that it might seem a little extreme.

How to Motivate Yourself to Do Just About AnythingShe seemed game, so I filled her in.

My best method to get things done – especially things that might be tedious, like webinar presentations, blog posts or other content creation – was to set an insane deadline, then make sure it’s too painful for me to do anything except meet that deadline.

If I’m creating a webinar, here’s how that process works for me:

  1. I think of an idea for a webinar.
  2. I create a title and some quick bullet points, then create a simple sign up page for the webinar.
  3. I start promoting the webinar and getting people to sign up for the event. I usually start promoting 5-6 days before a live webinar.
  4. I create the slides, show up for the webinar, and do the presentation.

This technique works astounding well for me, and here’s why:

  • I know I will never create a presentation (and the slides to go with it) if I don’t give myself a short timeline to do it. So I set a date and start promoting the event to my audience and my social networks, thereby holding my feet to the virtual fire.
  • Once people start signing up – once it is guaranteed there will be people who log in for the webinar who will expect me to show up and share my expertise – I have no choice put to create the presentation and prepare for the talk.

This technique has worked for me for guest blog posts, course creation, live speaking events, and all kinds of other huge projects.

I even used this technique to write my book (Pinfluence: The Complete Guide to Marketing Your Business with Pinterest) in just under six weeks. My publisher set that deadline back in 2012, when we were rushing to get the book out the door before any other publisher launched a book on Pinterest marketing.

I met the book deadline, even though it seemed insane at the time. Now I know it’s absolutely possible to do incredible things when I set outrageous goals and don’t give myself any time to screw around, procrastinate, give in to resistance, or give up.

One of my coaches, Pamela Slim, even commented on my ability to keep cranking away on my business, so matter what else was going on. “Beth, you SHIP stuff,” she said — which I took as a huge compliment.

Do I create perfect stuff every time I use this technique? Absolutely not. But as my mentor Jon Morrow says, “Awesomeness is an iterative process.”

I’m a big fan of creating something and getting it out the door, then making it a little bit better with each successive draft. I would rather do that than never create anything at all.

The time this technique crashed and burned

You might be wondering if this technique has ever backfired on me.

In short – yes.

Occasionally, setting insane deadlines and promoting unfinished content has led to the occasional rush job.

During one particular launch, I ended up having to pull an all-nighter to complete a sales page and meet the deadline I set for myself. That one was just poor planning on my part. I just flat-out did not leave myself enough time to complete the project.

I won’t lie to you. Pulling an all-nighter sucked. It’s a lot less fun at 40 years old than it was when I was a 20-year-old college student (and it was never that much fun, even then!)

But I’ve only had this technique bite me in the butt (in a major way) ONCE, in all the time I’ve been using this process. In almost all the other cases, I shipped content and products I never would’ve created otherwise.

One all-nighter for three years of productivity? I’ll take it.

How to try Beth’s “feet-to-the-fire” creation method

So if you’re struggling to create something and you really just need to get it done and shipped, here’s what I recommend:

  • Set a deadline that is far enough out to get the work done.
  • Subtract a few days from that original deadline (or more, if you’ve estimated really conservatively). If you’ve estimated it will take you a month to create a presentation, shave off a week. If you assume it’s going to take you a year to finish a book, set a deadline of eight months.
  • Publicize the product, webinar, presentation or launch you’re creating.
  • Once you’ve got your deadline, put your head down and get started. Work your butt off until the thing is done.
  • Take a rest break, then set another deadline and do it again.

Remember, you must make it PAINFUL for you to miss the deadline or not be prepared. If there’s no consequence, it won’t motivate you to finish.

If you’re hosting a webinar, create a sign-up page for the event and start getting people to sign up. If it’s a book, line up your editor and tell her to start charging you by the day if you miss your deadline.

If you need this approach, try it

Here’s the thing: If you’re a planner and you always leave yourself plenty of time to start and finish projects, you probably don’t need to try this technique.

If you’ve read this post, and any part of you is thinking, “I would never procrastinate on a big project, and I would never feel comfortable promoting something that isn’t finished yet,” this is probably isn’t the right technique for you.

But if you’re like me and you’d never get anything done without a deadline, try this technique to complete a project you’d really like to finish and get out the door.

Wondering which project to choose? If someone asks you about your timeline and asks you when you’d like to get a particular project done, and your answer is “yesterday,” that’s the right one.

So pick a project and give it a try.

You must just be amazed at the magic you can create when you set ridiculous goals – and meet them.

3 Quick and Easy Ways to Do Wildly Useful Blogging Research Using BuzzSumo

3 Quick and Easy Ways to Do Wildly Useful Blogging Research Using BuzzSumo

Want to know the fastest, easiest way to discover the most popular content in your blogging niche? Do you want to find out exactly who is sharing that content online?

You could do research on Twitter or Facebook, but sometimes it’s difficult to figure out exactly what you’re looking for (and if the results you’re getting are actually accurate).

That’s why I recommend using BuzzSumo to do your blogging research.

BuzzSumo is an online tool that can help you with three major things:

  1. Content Research: Search for the most popular content on any particular topic.
  2. Influencer Research: Find out which influencers, popular bloggers and journalists are sharing the most content related to your topic.
  3. Research on your Competition: Discover which of your competitors’ blog posts are gaining traction online.

Here’s a tutorial on how to use BuzzSumo to conduct useful research in these three areas.

Content Research: Looking for most popular content on a topic

Start by going to Type your blog topic into the search bar across the top of the screen, the click the “Go” button.

3 Quick and Easy Ways to Do Blogging Research Using BuzzSumo

I searched for the phrase “email marketing” for this example, but you can also search for a single word.

When you see your page of search results from BuzzSumo, you can also filter those results using the options on the left side of your screen.

3 Quick and Easy Ways to Do Blogging Research Using BuzzSumo

I filtered out everything except Articles and Guest Posts, and got these results for my search term. What BuzzSumo is showing here is a list of the 10 most-shared articles on email marketing (click on the image to see a larger view):

3 Quick and Easy Ways to Do Blogging Research Using BuzzSumo

Here’s how to use this information: You can use this information to identify subjects that have broad appeal, based on how many times they have been shared on social sites.

These topics can help you fill in your editorial calendar, pitch winning ideas for guest posts, get ideas for social media content, and keep on top of trends in your industry.

Influencer Research: Find people who have shared content on your topic.

Once you’ve done your initial search, click the “Influencers” tab to see people who have frequently shared blog post and articles about your topic.


If you want to know more about the kinds of links that influencer has shared, you can dig deeper by clicking the “View Links Shared” button next to each person’s name.

3 Quick and Easy Ways to Do Blogging Research Using BuzzSumo

Here’s how to use this information: One of the best things you can do to promote your blog posts is ask influencers and popular bloggers to share your content for you.

BuzzSumo’s “Influencer” search lets you find influential people who have shared content on your topic (and even gives you the direct links to their blogs and Twitter profiles, too).

To find out more about how to conduct a successful blogger outreach campaign, read this great article on

Competitor Research: Find out which blog posts on your competitors’ sites are most popular

You can also enter a domain name into BuzzSumo’s search box, to do a little (legal) spying on your competition.

When I did a search for “,” I got these results:

3 Quick and Easy Ways to Do Blogging Research Using BuzzSumo

Here’s how to use this information: It’s important to know what your colleagues and competitors are doing (and what content is gaining traction with your target audience).

This information can help you build your editorial calendar, come up with ideas for new products and services, and gain a better understanding of what kinds of content your target audience needs.

Pay special attention to the headlines of these popular blog posts — if you mine this data regularly and intelligently, you can seriously increase your chances of picking blog post headlines that go viral!

You can also run a search on your own site, and find out which of your blog posts have been shared most often. ☺

Adding BuzzSumo to Your Online Marketing Research Toolbox

BuzzSumo is a “freemium” tool, which means you can use some of their services for free, then get access to more options and tools if you pay a monthly fee.

And just to let you know, BuzzSumo will prompt you to create a (free) login and password once you’ve done a few initial searches. When you’ve got your free account set up, you can do as many searches as you want.

BuzzSumo’s data isn’t 100% accurate all the time. When I ran searches for my site, I did notice some discrepancies between BuzzSumo’s social sharing data and the counts I’m seeing on my WordPress social sharing plugin.

What’s important is that you look for overall trends in the data. What kinds of headlines and topics are working well for your audience (and which ones aren’t gaining much traction)? Which influencers are most likely to share the kind of posts you write on your blog?

BuzzSumo can give you loads of helpful information, and it’s absolutely worth taking it for test drive. Try it today, and let me know what kind of helpful information you find for your own online marketing journey!


Please, Please Don’t Ask Me to Like Your Facebook Page.

Please Don't Ask Me to Like Your Facebook Page - Here's Why

Last week, I received four automated email invitations asking me to Like someone’s Page on Facebook. These invitations came straight into my email inbox, and I deleted all of them immediately.

The 200 invitations I got before that? They all got deleted, too.

Want to know how many Pages I have “Liked” because someone sent out an email blast from Facebook, asking me to Like it?


That’s right. I never Like a Facebook Page when someone invites me to do so via an email blast.

It’s not that I don’t use Facebook. I’m on Facebook every day – sometimes multiple times a day.

And it’s not that I don’t Like Pages on Facebook, either. Right now, I follow tons of businesses, authors, bands and public figures and I love getting their updates in my Facebook feed.

So if I’m not Liking Pages when I get invited via email, how and why do I start following them?

Usually, I either:

  • Discover a Page on someone’s blog or website, because I’m already reading their content and want to connect with them via social media
  • Start following a Page because someone else has shared that Page’s content within Facebook. I follow the update or link within Facebook, get to the Page, and Like it.

I follow businesses and individuals on Facebook because I appreciate the content, information and offers on those Pages – not because someone blasted out a huge invitation to thousands of their personal friends and I happened to receive it in the middle of my work day.

So those constant emails I get from people who want more Likes, who send out emails begging for Facebook attention? They get ignored.

In the last few months, I have been invited to Like Pages for sandwich shops, restaurants and bars that are thousands of miles from where I live. I’ve been invited to Like Pages for businesses and causes that are completely irrelevant to my interests. People who are hosting live, in-person events (in other countries!) have asked me to Like their event Pages when there is no possible way I can attend.

These invitations annoy me. Really annoy me.

Want me to be brutally honest?

I’m actually less likely to Like someone’s Page – even if I find it organically and I’m interested in the Page’s content — if they have invited me to Like the Page via automated Facebook email blast.

Is that mean? Maybe. But it’s the truth. And if I feel that way, I can guarantee there are a whole lot of other people who feel exactly the same way.

Facebook makes it stupidly easy to annoy the crap out of your friends and family

When you own or manage a Facebook Page, you get the option to “invite” people to Like your Page.

When you’re on your Page on Facebook, you can just click on the three dots next to the “Share” button to get a dropdown menu that looks like this:


When you click on “Invite Friends”, Facebook lets you select from a list of all your personal Facebook profile friends – the people who are connected to you as an individual – and send them an email invitation asking them to Like your Page.

It looks easy, right? It looks like it would totally work, right? And it’s SO SIMPLE.

But I’m asking you to resist the urge to do this.

You will annoy your friends, you will look desperate, and the number of new Likes you get will be negligible at best.

What You Should Do Instead of Inviting Friends to Like Your Page

If you want to gather some new Likes without bugging your Facebook friends, here are some other options for getting them:

  • Put an update on your (personal) Facebook profile that says, “I’m putting business updates and other content about [YOUR TOPIC] on my Facebook Page. If you’d like to follow me there, click here to connect with me,” and include a link to your Page.
  • Add a link to your Facebook page to the bottom of your blog posts or email broadcasts.
  • Buy Facebook ads (there are specific ad types that help you attract Likes for your Page).

Need more ideas? Read this great article from HubSpot, How to Get More Likes on Your Facebook Page. NOTE: Yes, this article does tell you to send invitations to existing contacts. Ignore that, but use the rest of their advice! :)

Where to Go From Here

What if you’ve already invited all your Facebook contacts to Like your Page? That’s okay. It’s not the end of the world, and I promise you’re not going to social media marketing hell for doing it.

Just know that going forward, there are faster and more effective ways to grow your Facebook presence. There are ways of getting more Likes by using smart (organic) online marketing tactics, or by paying for Facebook advertising.

Just promise me that from this point on, you’ll keep your mitts off that “Invite Friends” button.

On Mothers, Courage, and Defeating Old Stories

On Mothers, Courage, and Defeating Old Stories

It was 1998. I was 23 years old, and I was staring at an airport gate at the Baltimore Washington International Airport. I had my carry-on bag, trashy magazines, and salty snacks. I was ready to travel.

But there was a problem.

A gigantic plane, headed to Boulder, Colorado, was boarding 15 feet from me – and I was too scared to get on it.

Let me back up a little.

How exactly did I end up at this airport, on this particular day, with a ticket to Boulder in my hot little hands?

Post-graduation blues

I graduated from Penn State in December 1997, and spent the first six months after graduation trying to figure out what the hell I was going to do with my life. I continued living in the Penn State area after graduation, and I cobbled together a weird, directionless post-graduation existence.

I started training to be a restaurant manager, and quit after a month. I did administrative work at the Materials Science department at the University, and waitressed at a 1950’s-style diner to pay the rent.

I considered graduate school, but wasn’t sure what I wanted to study or if it would actually help me decide on a career.

During this time, I suffered from massive insomnia, so I became friends with a guy who made doughnuts in the middle of the night at a local bakery. I hung out in the shop at 2 AM, trying to figure things out, while he kneaded and fried the dough.

I was wracked with paralyzing indecision, and smelled of pastries and diner grease all the time.

After a few months, I was exhausted, worn down and sick of myself.

Then an idea for a new direction came from an unexpected source.

A friend of mine (who had graduated from Penn State a few years before) called from Boulder, Colorado. He was attending the University of Colorado as a graduate student in engineering, and wanted to catch up.

I told him I felt stuck and wasn’t sure what my next move should be. I was tired of State College but didn’t want to move back to my hometown, either.

“Well,” he said. “Boulder is pretty great. If you’re not sure what you want to do next, why don’t you figure it out here?”

I hesitated. Move across the country, alone? Really?

But he urged me to think about it. A few weeks later, he even bought me a plane ticket to fly out and visit him, so I scope out his shiny city.

Falling in love with a new plan

I left the doughnut baker and the diner job for a few days, and flew to Boulder. It only took me a few days to fall in love with Colorado and decide I wanted to make the move.

It was nutty. It was impulsive. And it was just crazy enough to work.

At this point it was July 1998, and I knew I needed to:

  • Find a job in Boulder
  • Give away or sell most of my belongings from my State College apartment
  • Buy a plane ticket to Boulder
  • Get on the plane and start my new life

In the meantime, though, I had some family obligations. My older sister was getting married in Pennsylvania in September, and I was the maid of honor. So I had to build my moving itinerary around the wedding date, too.

The plan – unbelievably – actually came together that August. I landed a job at a school in Boulder, sold or gave away most of my stuff, got fitted for my bridesmaid dress, and geared up for the big move.

So on the night of September 12th, the night of my sister’s wedding, everything was ready to go. I would celebrate with my family, then fly to Boulder the next morning.

I smiled for photos and supported my sister that night, and tried not to think about how I was turning my life upside down by moving across the country. I danced and bonded with extended family and pushed aside my uncertainty.

After the wedding, I went home and packed up my last minute stuff. I stayed up all night getting ready to go, and tried to mentally prepare myself to take the biggest leap of my young life.

The gate is open – but I’m paralyzed by cold feet

By 10 AM the next morning, my parents are I were standing at the gate at the airport, and I was a mess.

The gate agent made the announcement for me to board the plane, and mom and dad looked at me expectantly.

And instead of bravely skipping down the hallway to my seat, I stood there in tears, my feet rooted firmly in place. I was freaking out and completely falling apart.

“I can’t do it, Mom.” I choked out. “I’m too scared.”

Thank God for my mom, who has always had an outstanding ability to read people’s emotions and come up with the perfect thing to say or do to help. She recognized my meltdown for what it really was – a symptom of total exhaustion and overwhelm.

And she didn’t give me a way out.

She didn’t say, “No problem, kiddo – let’s just get in the car and drive home, and you can just live with us.”

She didn’t give me permission to give up on my dream and let the fear win.

She simply handed me a tissue, said, “You want to do this, remember?” and reminded me WHY I wanted to get on the plane and go to Boulder. Then she steered me over to the gate, hugged me, took me by the shoulders and pointed me toward the entrance to the walkway.

Her confidence buoyed my spirits and gave me some much-needed perspective. If Mom believed I could do it – and that I was doing the right thing – then I could believe it too.

I took a deep breath, handed my ticket to the gate agent and walked down the bridge to my new life.

So why am I telling you this story?

I’m telling you because this little vignette is a core part of my personal narrative. And it also held me back in my business for a long, long time.

Here’s what I made up about this story:

For many years, I believed that my courage was limited. I believed I could be brave when I was in the planning stages of doing something big, but my bravery was always going to fail me at the last minute.

When the time came to pull the trigger, I thought I would always chicken out.

Because of that conclusion, I avoided taking chances. I said no a lot, and declined opportunities to do high-profile speeches, because I was afraid I would back out at the last minute when my courage inevitably failed.

It took me YEARS to realize that this little airport story – the tale of one exhausted morning in Baltimore when I got cold feet before taking a HUGE step in my life –doesn’t mean I was a coward.

It doesn’t mean I’m not strong or brave. It means that I’m human. And it means I need support and encouragement – just like everyone else.

Because the fact is – I did get on the plane that day. I did move to Boulder. And I’ve been living here quite happily for 16 years.

I’ve been brave and tough at other times over the years, too. Being a single mom takes courage. So does negotiating a huge contract with a big client. So does quitting my corporate job to write a book.

Now when I look over the entire arc of my personal narrative, I can see that I can be brave — even when it’s hard, and even when I’m scared. My conclusion was wrong, and it was interfering with my business decisions.

Here’s why that’s important for you as a business owner –

You probably have a story like this from your past that means something BIG to you. You might have come to a conclusion about what that story means for you as a person, and as a business owner.

And it’s possible your conclusion is completely wrong. Or it was right at the time, but it’s not right anymore.

We all make up interpretations about our past stories. We believe our stories dictate how confident, strong, charming, organized, or financially responsible we are.

And all that stuff we make up can seriously get in our way when we’re trying to run our businesses.

When you think back over your past, are there stories you believe are really, totally, 100% true about who you are and what your skills are? Journal about one of those stories, then write down your old interpretation about what happened (and what it means about who you are).

Then ask yourself – is it possible that interpretation isn’t 100% true? Is it possible that the story doesn’t mean what you think?

Is it possible you’ve changed since then? Do you have more current stories from your life that actually contradict those old conclusions?

Perhaps you’ve actually been charming, financially responsible and intuitive for years, and you haven’t been willing or able to acknowledge it. Or even if the story has been true so far, maybe you’re ready to move past that conclusion and get rid of some bad habits from your past. You might be ready to make that big change.

Journal about those thoughts, and keep pondering these questions over the next few days or weeks.

Our past doesn’t own us

Here’s what you need to remember — your past doesn’t have to continue to dictate who you are and what you can do in this world. Your old stories don’t have to limit what you do and how big you dream.

It may be time to let go of those old legends, or at least shift the stories you tell yourself about those legends.

Sometimes a story is really just that – a story. And you control whether you want to believe that story or not.

It’s completely up to you.

How to Add Pinterest Descriptions to Your Images

Are you using Pinterest to try to drive traffic back to your website or blog?

Then you definitely want your content comes up in the Pinterest search results when pinners are looking for new stuff to pin.

One of the best ways to get found in the Pinterest search results is to include keyword-rich descriptions for all of your Pinterest pins. The description is just the little caption area underneath each pin, where you can add some text about what’s in the picture.

Here’s an example of a pin on Pinterest. The pin description is indicated by the red arrow.

Pinterest Pin with Description Highlighted

Let’s take a look at an example.

If I want to pin an image from Brian Clark’s new blog,, I’ll use my trusty PinIt bookmarklet for my browser.

I’ll choose an image from Brian’s most recent post, How to Transform Yourself (Without Disrupting Your Life). Then, from within the bookmarklet pop-up box, I’ll choose a board on which to pin the image.

Then, I’ll see a box like the one below. I can edit or change the pin description in the area indicated by the red arrow.


Here’s what’s interesting, though – it your visitors use the PinIt bookmarklet to pin images from your site, they are probably not going to bother to edit the description that auto-populates in that area. They’re just going to pick a board, click “Pin It” and move on to the next shiny object they see online.

Here’s why that is important for you –

If you want to get traffic for Pinterest, you must optimize your images for Pinterest, and add pre-populated pin descriptions that are search engine friendly. Since most pinners don’t usually change or add pin descriptions when they pin your images, it’s highly likely the original description will stay with that pin as it gets re-pinned to various boards all over Pinterest. So you want to get it right — right from the start.

And as it turns out, there’s a quick and easy way for you to optimize every image on your site for Pinterest by pre-populating that “description” field.

Here’s a quick little video that describes the process of how to add descriptions to your images when you’re using The process will be really similar on other blogging platforms.

If you want to see a larger version of this video, click here.

This is one of those quick little tips for Pinterest that might come in handy in you’re using Pinterest to drive traffic back to your blog.

I’d love to hear how YOU use Pinterest (personally or professionally)! Tell me in the comments below what you like to do with Pinterest, and feel free to share a link to one of your favorite boards. It can be one of your boards, or someone else’s!