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The Checklist Manifesto Summary

Checklist Manifesto Summary Header

Checklists are for everyone

What do Johns Hopkins surgeons, anonymous big-time investors and World War II pilots have in common? This isn’t the set up for a terrible joke but a demonstration of how widespread an often-overlooked tool is – they all use checklists to avoid disaster.

For surgeons, disaster is a lethal infection caused by straying from proper precaution. For pilots, it’s crashing a plane that was deemed far too complicated to fly – the Boeing B-17. For investors, checklists avoid what is sometimes known as ‘cocaine brain’; the drive to make snap decisions on high-risk investments that often result in huge losses.

For more information on a similar process, see Warren Buffet’s Investment Checklist. It details the steps taken by the man known as the world’s greatest investor prior to parting with massive sums of money.

The Checklist Manifesto, written by writer/surgeon Atul Gawande, is proof that checklists really work (whether anyone wants to admit that or not). Check out the the Checklist Manifesto Review I wrote for more details.

In his words, if another solution that could be even a fraction as effective would be a new drug or piece of technology it would be backed by billions of dollars, sponsored by the state and be the only thing the worldwide medical journals talk about. A case he cites is the development of robots to perform tricky laparoscopic surgery. It was widely backed and implemented in many hospitals around the US to the great excitement of the medical community.

Positive results? Next to none.

Robotic Surgery

Checklists, however, are deceptively simple. The Checklist Manifesto is the tale of how Gawande took an idea first popularized by pilots into the operating theater and then out into the hospitals of the world, with the help of the World Health Organization. Not only does the book document his own research, but implementations of similar strategies, from hugely complex construction projects to Walmart’s innovative yet highly organized approach when dealing with Hurricane Katrina.

Providing a solution to human error

One of the main problems with checklists is that some feel they are above them, unable to make silly mistakes in routine procedures and not subject to human error. Gawande references a 1970s essay by Samuel Gorovitz and Alasdair MacIntyre that boils down all situations to find the only two reasons for human dilemma:

“The first is ignorance – we may err because science has given us only a partial understanding of the world and how it works. There are skyscrapers we do not yet know how to build, snowstorms we cannot predict, heart attacks we still haven’t learned how to stop. The second type of failure the philosophers call ineptitude – because in these instances the knowledge exists, yet we fail to apply it correctly. This is the skyscraper that is built wrong and collapses, the snowstorm whose signs the meteorologist just plain missed, the stab wound from a weapon the doctors forgot to ask about.”

In practical terms, ignorance can be corrected by answering the question “what do I do?” and ineptitude with “how do I do it?”. Checklists can solve both of these issues. They are great teaching tools that can be used to convey information simply, such as our Podcast Publishing Checklist, as well as highly practical, no-frills documents such as the B-17 checklist, one of the most famous of all time.

B17 Pilot's Checklist

An example that’s likely more useful to our world comes from one of the stand-out passages in the book where Gawande meets with three high-powered directors who meet to make venture capital investments in companies that have a slim chance to make a huge breakthrough. Since these investments are usually nothing short of gambling against terrible odds, this exclusive group of investors  implement one very simple tool – a checklist.

For them, this checklist is worth millions. That’s how much it has probably saved them by helping to avoid bad investments. This quote explains how Mohnish Pabrai, managing partner in Pabrai Investment Funds in Irvine, California, has taken the idea from medicine and aviation to use checklists in his work.

“Pabrai made a list of mistakes he’d seen—ones [Warren] Buffett and other investors had made as well as his own. It soon contained dozens of different mistakes, he said. Then, to help him guard against them, he devised a matching list of checks—about seventy in all.

One, for example, came from a Berkshire Hathaway mistake he’d studied involving the company’s purchase in early 2000 of Cort Furniture, a Virginia-based rental furniture business. Over the previous ten years, Cort’s business and profits had climbed impressively. Charles Munger, Buffett’s longtime investment partner, believed Cort was riding a fundamental shift in the American economy.

The business environment had become more and more volatile and companies therefore needed to grow and shrink more rapidly than ever before. As a result, they were increasingly apt to lease office space rather than buy it—and, Munger noticed, to lease the furniture, too. Cort was in a perfect position to benefit.

Everything else about the company was measuring up—it had solid financials, great management, and so on. So Munger bought. But buying was an error. He had missed the fact that the three previous years of earnings had been driven entirely by the dot-com boom of the late nineties. Cort was leasing furniture to hundreds of start-up companies that suddenly stopped paying their bills and evaporated when the boom collapsed.”

Are checklists for egomaniacs?

This cautionary tale shows what happens when a formal procedure isn’t in place when it really should be. The fact that the human brain is not so great can be proven by the amount of productivity tools, to-do lists, products like this, this and – when was the last time you forgot your baby in the car? – this.

These are tools for the simplest things! Brain surgery, alongside rocket science, has the anecdotal title as being among the most complex and difficult tasks in the history of the world.

What makes people think they don’t need tools for remembering the proper procedure? The thing is, people in these professions likely have genius-level IQs. This can result in what is known as intellectual arrogance, the features of which are:

  • They have a “my way or the highway” attitude since only their views are supposedly the right way to think.
  • They regard themselves as experts in a particular field or subject.
  • They refuse to see the big picture or another viewpoint, especially of those they consider “ignorant”.
  • They like explaining, theorizing and dictating; basically they like hearing the sound of their own voice.
  • Their mood can become very nasty if their ideas and views are contradicted.
  • They regard any question as an insult or a doubt on their intelligence.
  • They are not above creating proof and arguments to defend their theories vehemently.
  • They are very confident in their own knowledge and do not want to learn anything new.
  • Sometimes they can come across as very wannabe and attention-seeking.
  • They can get very smug and snobby, especially if they are actually right about something.
  • They pretend to be very broad-minded but actually are very narrow-minded as they feel they know everything and in the right way.

(Source)

Friedrich Nietzsche
A man who fits the above description nicely.

 

Does this sound like the sort of person who would be open to the idea of being told what to do by a checklist?

That was the main problem Gawande ran into with the first large-scale implementation of checklists into hospitals worldwide. He notes how that the egotistical nature of surgeons plus the fact that checklists had to be read out by a subordinate created a large amount of friction among colleagues. He intended the checklists to promote teamwork in the same way we created our app to promote and streamline collaboration.

One of the first stages of the process was a friendly introduction to help everyone get on and work as efficiently as possible, knowing each others names and duties; you’d be surprised at the amount of surgeries performed by teams who have never met prior to the operation and leave the theater none the wiser as to each other’s names or positions. It was basically through the process of long trials and repeated exposure that Gawande managed to create success for his checklists.

After a while, people started to see results that were undeniable – checklists worked!

“More than 250 staff members—surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses, and others—filled out an anonymous survey after three months of using the checklist. In the beginning, most had been skeptical. But by the end, 80 percent reported that the checklist was easy to use, did not take a long time to complete, and had improved the safety of care. And 78 percent actually observed the checklist to have prevented an error in the operating room. Nonetheless, some skepticism persisted.

After all, 20 percent did not find it easy to use, thought it took too long, and felt it had not improved the safety of care.Then we asked the staff one more question. “If you were having an operation,” we asked, “would you want the checklist to be used?”A full 93 percent said yes.”

The Checklist ‘Eureka!’ Moment

The penultimate chapter of the book ends on a powerful note, summing up the unlikely turn of events that led to widespread checklist usage in the aviation industry. Nothing sums up the point of the book more effectively:

“We are all plagued by failures—by missed subtleties, overlooked knowledge, and outright errors. For the most part, we have imagined that little can be done beyond working harder and harder to catch the problems and clean up after them. We are not in the habit of thinking the way the army pilots did as they looked upon their shiny new Model 299 bomber—a machine so complex no one was sure human beings could fly it.

They too could have decided just to “try harder” or to dismiss a crash as the failings of a “weak” pilot. Instead they chose to accept their fallibilities. They recognized the simplicity and power of using a checklist.”

If you enjoyed reading the Checklist Manifesto, take a look at our checklist software built on the book’s great ideas. If you haven’t read it yet, you can buy the book on Amazon here. If you have, let me know your thoughts in the comments. I’d love to hear your opinion!

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Blogging Marketing

How to Build Connections with Influencers to Get Links, Shares, and Exposure

influencer-marketing

Making connections with influencers isn’t just for fashion blogs and trendy Instagram accounts.

You’ll need a ‘way in’ no matter who you are or where you’re going.

Whether you’re looking to write for big publications, get a boost to your social shares, improve your SEO, or just get on the radar of a blogger with a big following, you’re going to need to start somewhere.

In this post, I’m going to go through the process I used to write for TechCrunch, get guest blogging slots, and build relationships with social media personalities. It all boils down to a repeatable process with just a few points, and takes very little time or effort.

Let’s get into it…

A few steps before you get started

We’re all blinded by what we already know,

An easy way to find influencers is to use Buzzsumo’s Twitter influencer search. By typing in a keyword relevant to your niche, you can find editors, bloggers, and broadcasters that you can leverage to get more exposure. Alternatively, you can find publications in your niche and then find who’s responsible for content submissions and editing there.

Since this is a social-focused technique, the next step is to follow the influencer on Twitter and add them to a Twitter list.

Now, add their RSS feed to your feed reader so you can keep up to date with what they’re writing:

image1

Now you’re set to get on with the rest of the process.

Retweet two of the influencer’s articles

image3

The first part of the interactions after getting started is to retweet two articles. This should be done over time, either with Buffer to Buffer the retweet, or manually by checking back.

To stand out, you can even add a comment inside the retweet, like above. The more you say to start a conversation, the better the outcome will eventually be, and the faster you’ll get to a comfortable stage where you can reach out personally and offer help / make an ask.

Leave two comments on their blog posts

The comments section is an excellent place to interact with bloggers. It’s their home turf, and every blogger loves getting comments and responding to them because it means their work is being read and they’re not just writing into the void. Even if they get a lot of comments already, more can’t ever hurt. Especially if you say something more worthwhile than other people.

Make sure you:

  • Add value to the post (explain how you’ve tried similar methods, or share some of your own experience)
  • Encourage a response (by asking a follow-up question)
  • Say thanks!
  • Sound like a real person

Here’s an example of a great blog comment made for relationship building:

image2

Overall, a thoughtful, conversation-starting response is the most important thing.

Since you’re subscribed via RSS, you can easily keep to date with what’s being posted and just take a little time in the mornings to read it on your phone and comment.

Share two of their articles on different platforms

I don’t often get my work shared on LinkedIn, but when I do it’s usually by someone who’s got an active following there and I remember the occasion because my Twitter feed is flooded, but my LinkedIn notifications update only rarely.

The people who interact with me on LinkedIn stand out, and that’s a tactic you can try too.

Like before I mentioned how you can Buffer retweets so they don’t go out all at once, you can do the same thing with social shares across multiple platforms. Buffer connects to Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn.

image8

The influencer could be grateful you’re sharing their content on a platform where they don’t have as much presence.

Send a personal email with an offer and a request

Do you know the most important factor that goes into an influencer deciding whether or not they’ll open your emails?

The name of the sender is the most important factor to 64% of respondents, so if they recognize your name as ‘the person who I had a great conversation on Twitter with’, they’re way more likely to feel obliged to open and respond to your email.

When Alex from Groove tried to build an ‘inner circle’ of influencers to help promote his content, he found that a good way to get shares and exposure was to ask for the influencers’ opinion on the draft of a blog post in an email like this one:

image7

Alternatively, if you’re reaching out to a journalist, you might want to try an email like this one:

image4

Dmitry from JustReachOut.io has compiled a list of 26 cold email templates, which he says he’s used each one of to take his career to the next level at some point, and for requesting an interview with an influencer, he suggests using this one:

image5

Your next steps…

To make it simple, I’ve compiled an SOP you can run to do influencer outreach here. Make sure you’ve compiled a list of 10-15 influencers, and that you run one checklist for each influencer and work through the list.

Using that method, you’ll find you get more followers on social media, more shares, better placement for guest posts, and more backlinks.

And it all starts with a little work on social media, so I’d say the reward is fair for the work put in!

Have you tried any similar methods or checklists? Let me know in the comments.

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Blogging

SEO for Freelancers: 4 Key Tips to Attract Clients on Autopilot

freelancer-header

When you’re looking for freelancing opportunities online, you’re entering a massive competitive marketplace.

Whether you’re a designer, a writer, or a developer, you already have the skills — now you just need the customers.

There are a lot of mistakes freelancers make, but in this post we’ll run you through a series of marketing techniques and processes to help customers find your expertise.

In short, you need to understand what your customers are looking for, optimize your site, and drive people toward your product.

Let’s look at how this can be done through 4 particular sections:

  • How to optimize keywords
  • How to structure pages
  • How to generate backlinks
  • How to exploit long tail keywords

 

How do keywords help me?

The first step you as a freelancer might take is understanding that your website is not going to be the focal point of a network the size of the New York Times.

According to SimilarWeb, the New York Times had 346m visits in December 2016 and just over half a billion the month prior.

I hate to break it to you, but you’re not going to beat that.

The way you can break into a position of prominence and make more money is to find a relatively untapped part of the network and target that spot. You can think about what services you are offering and what your competitors are offering. Can you make yourself a little different? Can you describe yourself in different ways? Simply ranking high on Google helps your prospective clients trust you more.

We at Process Street use Ahrefs as our keyword research tool, however you can also check out this video to see how you can select and optimize your keywords with Google’s Keyword Planner, or read a comparison of Moz vs. Ahrefs.

The key to great keyword research is in ABC: Always Be Comparing…

As part of your workflow, you want to gather as many potential keywords relevant to your business as possible. Hundreds. Then you want to use one of the above tools to provide you with as much data as possible on all these different terms.

If you need some assistance in coming up with all these keywords, you can use Google’s search suggestions, synonyms from Thesaurus.com, or other keyword finders like keywordtool.io or KeywordShitter.

When you have all your keywords and their data, you need to know how to analyze them. Our rule of thumb is to filter by volume and then pull out all the keywords which seem to have low keyword difficulty scores.

This data shows you where the weak points in the existing networks are. Your keywords are the tools you will use to exploit them.

  • Find keywords with high volume and low keyword difficulty to target.
  • Use Ahrefs or Google Keyword Explorer to gather this data.
  • Follow a clear keyword research process to get best results every time.

 

What’s involved in optimizing my website?

According to the Freelancing in America 2016 study from the Freelancer Union, there are 55 million freelancers operating in the United States alone. And these freelancers are doing well; according to the same study, freelancers contributed $1 trillion to the US economy in 2016.

What does this tell us?

Well, lots of things. But one of them is that there are lots of competitors’ websites out there, so you better have a really good one!

However, it’s not all about having the prettiest website on the internet. You want to build that strong point in your network, but your best tool for that isn’t HTML5 – and it’s not just keywords either…

A 2016 report from Ahrefs showed that the power of keywords alone has been reduced by Google’s algorithm changes. Using optimized keywords is still a vitally important part of improving your on-page SEO, but other factors in how you structure your content and site play a large part.

According to Ahrefs, you should:

  • Ensure that the load time of your pages is minimal,
  • That you have entered meta tags for your title and description within your <head> tags,
  • That your content is broken up clearly into sections with <h1> and <h2> tags,
  • That these subtitles target your keyword or its related keywords,
  • That you’re updating your pages and adding new content,
  • and, that you’re using https on your domain to provide visitors with security.

 
However, most of all, the #1 factor, the decider of who ranks on Google… the mighty backlink.

How can I generate backlinks?

The holistic answer to tackling not just backlinks, but the other factors mentioned above, is to introduce a content marketing strategy.

If you’re regularly putting out blog posts which are relevant to the niche in the market you’re angling for, then you’ll start to build your reputation. You’ll be creating new web pages regularly and structuring those pages so that Google can read them easily and see your value.

Moreover, if you’re producing quality content then you’re able to easily generate backlinks. The first step is to properly promote your content. This way, you’ll already have links back to your domain from social networks and content aggregators. In doing so, you’ll drive traffic and those visitors may even pass the link on.

At this point, you’ve built your reputation in two ways: in the eyes of Google and in the eyes of your audience.

To build on this, you can start guest posting and have others guest post on your blog. If you have a reputable blog, others will want to take advantage of that and publish their work on your site. This gives you more content and also results in the original author promoting content attached to your domain.

Win win!

Before you know it, you’ll be guest posting on other blogs and driving even more backlinks your way.

  • Begin a content marketing campaign.
  • Write content for your blog and promote it across the internet.
  • Write content for other people’s blogs and link back to yours.
  • Have others write content for your blog and promote it.
  • Link to your previous work in future blog posts on your site and on others.

 

How can I target specific customer searches?

Now that you’ve got a comprehensive list of the different keywords you want to be able to target, you can begin to structure your website to better address those needs.

The first thing to remember is that your favored keywords only enter you into a particular category. If you know exactly what your target customers are googling, you can construct “long tail keywords”.

These are different long phrases which you will want to use across all of your content.

However, a great way to begin to exploit them is to construct specialized landing pages specifically targeted at reaching those terms. This gives you a specific representation of your product or service which you might want to send someone to from an article or email campaign. Practically, for SEO purposes, this gives a specific facade to your company which is engineered for certain oft-googled phrases.

You can use a service like LeadPages.net to create multiple landing pages and optimize the pages through A/B testing. With the ability to make a large number of landing pages comes the ability to target your company in different ways all at the same time.

These landing pages can focus on specific long tail keywords, specific geographical areas, and different segments of the market – budget, mid-range, premium. Each of these sites is more likely to show up in Google for their specific niche than an all purpose home page.

  • Use a tool like LeadPages.net to make multiple landing pages.
  • Focus each landing page on a different niche service by targeting long tail keywords.

 

Implement these SEO techniques today!

Through these tips and following a content marketing strategy, you’ll drive up your traffic and rocket your SEO in the process. You’ll be a freelance superstar in no time.

A single website on the internet is often described as being a needle in a haystack. But that’s not the case. This needle can choose where in the haystack they want to be located.

Put yourself on the outside of the haystack at head height and your odds of being found are significantly higher.

Particularly, when you realize how many people are staring at that haystack looking for you!

Categories
Blogging

How to Generate an Infinite Supply of Ideas for Your Blog

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Writer’s block is a terrible thing. You know that you need new content to fill up your calendar and keep your audience engaged, but you can sit at your desk for hours, resulting in nothing but tearing your own hair out in frustration.

The good news is that even the best writers get writer’s block. The bad news is that you’ll never solve it by forcing the issue – it’s the equivalent to repeatedly slamming your head against a brick wall instead of just using the door.

After hitting that wall many times, I decided to do something about it, resulting in the following system that I (and the rest of my team) now use to generate great ideas for content month-in-month-out.

First, understand your enemy

Writer’s block is caused by one (or both) of the following:

  • Lack of inspiration (your mental cup is empty)
  • Outside sources (stress from physical illness, bereavement, the end of a relationship, etc)

Outside sources are largely beyond your control, and so shouldn’t be worried about too much. Not only that, but it’s also the lesser of our two factors – even a calm mind will struggle to generate ideas if there’s nothing to draw from.

So the problem we’re left with is one of resources. Think of your mind as a furnace, with knowledge as coal and ideas as your flame. With nothing to fuel your fire it will (at best) produce mediocre results, but with a stockpile of knowledge you can fan the flames and produce something truly spectacular.

Still, if lack of knowledge is the issue then how the hell do you go about it? There’s almost so many ways that it’s difficult to start, and all seemingly use up valuable time which you just don’t have in your 9-5 life.

Don’t worry – I was in the same situation, and I’ll tell you exactly what worked (and still works) for me.

Listen to podcasts

By far the easiest way to top up your mind while keeping your current schedule is to listen to business podcasts when you’re otherwise stuck with naught but dead air.

For example, all of the following are great opportunities to fit in an episode or two of a podcast without spending any extra time to do so:

  • While exercising (daily workouts are also brilliant for productivity in general)
  • During the daily commute (be careful if driving while listening)
  • Toilet breaks
  • While cooking
  • When traveling (airport queues? That’s a good 3 podcast episodes right there)

Essentially, any time where you’re not listening to anything or require a lot of focus on other tasks (such as researching/writing a blog post) you can make more productive by listening to podcasts. I honestly can’t count the number of ideas I’ve gained from just listening to an episode while walking around the shops every couple of days!

As for recommendations of which podcasts to listen to, that would depend on your purpose, type of content, and niche. However, these are a good place to start:

Use an RSS feed

So, you’re taking in information through podcasts – that’s great, but it’s not enough. You need to be keeping up to date in your niche in order to know which ideas are best to follow up on sooner rather than later.

This is where your RSS feed comes in.

If you’re anything like me, then you’ve probably subscribed to a next-to-uncountable number of blogs’ email list in an attempt to keep up to date. The problem with this is that people (myself included) are sooner or later going to slip up, especially if a distraction is available.

A distraction such as, I don’t know, the rest of your inbox?

RSS feeds, meanwhile, collect all of the posts published by the blogs you subscribe to and put them all in one place, ready for you to blast through whenever you have the time. My team, for example, tends to check their feeds in the mornings and evenings, noting down their ideas as they go.

There are obviously many ways of setting up / tracking your RSS feed, but as Drew Hendricks recently pointed out, Feedly is an incredible app for doing just that.

By attaching your RSS feed to a mobile app, showing stats such as the number of upvotes / shares, highlighting the most popular posts, and generally making it easy to read several posts in rapid succession, Feedly is our app of choice.

Record ideas ASAP

The amount of ideas you generate is completely irrelevant if you have no way of recording them when inspiration strike. I can tell you from experience that unless you record your ideas as soon as possible you’ll forget them, and if you forget them they will very rarely surface again.

So, how do you make it easy for yourself to jot down ideas the moment that magic lightning hits? Well, there are a couple of ways:

For note-taking apps you can use pretty much anything, but I’d recommend either Evernote or Do Note (by IFTTT). Evernote is a strong contender from how easy it is to create a note, and the flexibility in terms of integrating with other apps, but Do Note is the ultimate in simplicity.

Integrating your apps essentially means that any notes you make will be detected, categorized, then pushed automatically into another program. This pairs up nicely with recording your ideas in an app like Trello or Airtable.

For example, you could use Zapier to integrate Evernote with Trello. Then, when a new note is created in Evernote with the tag “idea”, Zapier could be told to push a link to that note into a new Trello card in your “Ideas” column.

It may sound like a massive undertaking, but everything I’ve talked about in this post can be achieved in your “dead time” – I’ve even found that having a podcast episode at the beginning and end of work is a great way to firmly stamp out your work/life balance, and ease into each side as needed.

How do you generate your own ideas? Have you tried anything I’ve talked about? I’d love to hear from your in the comments below!

Categories
Blogging Business Technology

Ultimate Youtube Video Ranking Guide

How to Rank YouTube Videos

I’ve been using videos to market our startup Process Street for the last few months and have been getting some great results with video bringing in a steady flow of views, leads and customers.

Now, you might already be aware that video is an important marketing tool in today’s online world — that’s why products like PowToon exist — but the way I use video might be a little different. See, I’m not using video in a traditional sense of putting it on my website and using it to convert customers or explain ideas (although I do that too), I’m using these videos as pieces of content to rank in Google to bring in organic search traffic.

Why Video is Awesome

Creating videos in this way is similar to creating blog posts or landing pages for SEO, but with some important benefits.

Firstly, YouTube videos rank well in Google. Like really well. Since YouTube is owned by Google, and is already an extremely high authority site, chances are that a piece of content you put on YouTube will rank higher than your own site, especially if your site is new and doesn’t have much authority.

Posting content on YouTube also lets your content be discovered when people search YouTube, which is the second biggest search engine in the world, bigger than both Bing and Yahoo. Moreover, optimizing your videos to rank in Google automatically optimizes them to rank in YouTube too, bringing an additional traffic stream you otherwise wouldn’t’ve had.

But what is really great about ranking in Google search is that it’s search traffic, the best kind of traffic for a product like mine, which is solving a very specific pain point for businesses. This kind of traffic brings us customers from huge enterprises which I otherwise would have had a hard time identifying and marketing to.

How I Rank YouTube Videos

In this post I will explain the process I use to optimize and rank my videos in Google. Here are a few examples of terms my videos are ranking for in Google:

Standard Operating Procedure Software (Google Search|Video Link)
sop software

Business Systemization (Google Search|Video Link)
business systemization

Sharepoint DMS alternative (Google Search|Video Link)
sharepoint alternative

The amazing thing about ranking videos for these kinds of keywords is that, even though they might not have a ton of traffic, they are VERY targeted visitors, people searching for that exact kind of product.

I am not going to talk about how to make a video in this post. If you want to learn more about creating videos, I recently wrote a post on how to create a startup explainer video plus PowToon has a number of great tutorials on their blog.

In this post I will show you how to optimize your videos and get them ranking for your target keywords.

On Page Optimization

YouTube Onpage Optimization

The first thing you should do before uploading your video is prepare you keywords, title and description.

Keyword Research

When ranking YouTube videos it’s good practice to target multiple long tail keywords in the video. This will bring in more traffic as you rank for multiple terms with just one video.

For example, this video I did on checklist software is ranking for Checklist Software, Checklist Software Tool and Checklist Template Software.

checklist software

You should find a keyword to target based on the content of your video. This is pretty easy: type a few variations into the AdWords Keyword Planner tool and find the one that ranks the highest. There are a few tricks you can do to find keywords that have low competition, but for the sake of this guide I am going to a assume you already know what keyword you want to rank for before you created the video.

For our example, lets use “Tree Removal Miami”

Tree Removal Miami

Once you have your primary keyword, it’s time to get to work building a list of secondary keywords and constructing a title and description for your video.

Below is a video I made for a friend teaching him the process of keyword research and constructing the title and description. In the video I walk through two example keywords “Tree Removal Miami” and “Electrician Miami”. The video is an over the shoulder of me doing it, and runs about 30 minutes if you need a detailed explanation.

(Spreadsheet from Video)

Build Keyword List

Take your primary keyword and put it into the AdWords tool, then pick 3-6 other keywords that have the highest search traffic and are related to your product. You can also use Uber Suggest to find the most common searched for terms after your keyword.

This is the keyword list I came up with for Tree Removal Miami

tree removal miami
tree removal cost miami
tree removal service miami
tree stump removal miami
palm tree removal miami
tree removal services miami
emergency tree removal miami
tree removal company miami
tree removal miami FL
tree removal cost miami FL
tree removal service miami FL
tree stump removal miami FL
palm tree removal miami FL
tree removal services miami FL
emergency tree removal miami FL
tree removal company miami FL

Video Title

Use the keyword list to construct the title. Weave in as many of the keywords as you can with the title still making sense and not looking like spam.

Tree Removal Service Miami FL | 555-555-5555 | Low Cost Emergency Tree Stump Removal Company

Video Description

The description should include ALL your keywords, woven into legible paragraphs that again don’t look like spam.

Tree Removal Service Miami FL | 555-555-5555

Low Cost Emergency Tree Stump Removal Company in Miami FL. Get lowest cost services on your emergency tree removal.

We guarantee the lowest tree removal cost in all of florida for tree stump removal. Contact us today for a free quote from the most reliable tree removal company in Miami FL.

Video Tags

For the video tags, just copy and paste in your keyword list. Easy.

Advanced Optimization

There are also a couple of advanced optimization techniques that I hear good things about. They are:

  • Transcript (adding a written transcript to your video can help the search engines crawl the video and give you higher rankings)
  • Annotations (again adding more text to the video helps with search)

I haven’t tested these myself yet but so far I have been able to get to the first page of Google for a number of terms just using the methods above of optimizing the Title, Description and Tags then doing the off page optimization steps outlined below.

Off Page Optimization – Backlinks

youtube backlinking mindmap

Now your video is uploaded and optimized, it’s time to start ranking it. Ranking a YouTube video is pretty similar to ranking any website where the main ranking determinant is the number of backlinks you have pointing towards that video. YouTube has another factor however and that is the number of websites that have actually embedded the video, making it slightly different to creating backlinks for traditional websites.

Here is a list of YouTube ranking factors in order of importance:

  1. Embeds
  2. Links with Anchor Text
  3. Links without Anchor Text
  4. Social Signals

Below are the strategies I use to rank my videos on YouTube. Keep in mind that these are not all the strategies that exist, and that there are many ways to get backlinks and embeds.

Submit to Social Media Properties

  • Share on personal Google+ and company
  • Share on company Facebook page, like it, share it
  • Share it on twitter company account
  • Retweet on your own account

Submit to Onlywire

Onlywire is a service that lets you manage over 30 web 2.0 properties from one control panel. It’s awesome to get a quick backlink shot of 20-30 links to any post or video you publish. Submitting your video to Onlywire won’t move the needle much but it takes just a second to do and the more links the better. I use Onlywire quite a bit as I use it to build links to every Web 2.0 post, guest post, video, forum post, profile, etc. that I create. This is a really easy way to get a quick link boost.

Plus you can pay someone on Fiverr to set it all up for just $5, an effective, cheap and automated way to do social bookmarking submissions.

I talk about submitting to Onlywire a lot in the rest of this post. This is not a necessity though, merely a shortcut. There are other social tools to help you manage various social networks, or you can simply submit to them manually for free. However, Onlywire is the easiest tool I have found, and it’s what I use in my business.

Post on Site

Create a blog post or landing page on your website. A general rule for a landing page is that it should have 300-500 words of unique content. The keyword should be included in the title and the body. The keyword should be linked to the YouTube video, the video should be embedded onto the page and you should also link out to an authority site. To beef up the page further, add the keyword into an h1 tag and as the alt text of an image.

This formula should be followed when posting anywhere, including your site, other blogs you own, or Web 2.0 sites.

Here is a quick checklist:

  • 300-500 words unique content
  • Keyword in title
  • Keyword in body
  • Keyword anchor text linked to video
  • Embed video
  • Authority link
  • H1 tag with keyword
  • Image with keyword in alt text

Once you have published your post to your site, don’t forget to promote it. Submit it to social bookmarking sites, Onlywire and across the web. If you are looking for more places to promote your content, try this checklist.

Post on Blog Network

Create a blog post on a personal blog or other site you own. If you don’t own any other web properties, now might be a good time to create a blog. Having a second web property such as a blog is a great way to get additional exposure and backlinks for your videos.

I have a few older blogs that are still around and have some decent authority so I use them to write posts and embed my videos in, like this one I did on standard operating procedure software.

Once you have published your post to your blog using the same format as above, submit it to Onlywire.

Submit to Profiles

Company profiles and business directories are another great way to get embeds for your video. Depending on your niche you can embed your video onto your LinkedIn page, Angel List profile, or Yelp listing.

These are great quick ways to not only get backlinks to your videos but also to generally increase your branding as a company.

Remember to submit your profile pages to Onlywire to get some secondary link juice.

Guest Post

Write related guest posts for other sites and find meaningful ways to link or embed your videos into the guest post. This is one of the most powerful ways to get links to your videos. In fact, I am doing it right now with this post. Another example of a guest post where I embed and link to a number of my videos is this post I did for the Startup Chile blog.

Remember to promote your guest posts too! Submit them to social bookmarking sites and Onlywire.

If you want to learn more about guest posting, try these guides:
Advanced Guest Posting
10 Resources to Make You The Best Guest Blogger Ever

Create a Post on Your Web 2.0 Properties

Another great way to get embeds, links and views for your videos is to publish them on your Web 2.0 sites like the ones listed below. Use the same format as when submitting to your blog or website.

There are a lot of different Web 2.0 sites available, and it can take a bunch of time and resources to post on all of them, so I have broken them down into Tier 1 and Tier 2 sites. Start with the Tier 1 and, if you have the time, keep posting onto the Tier 2 sites.

Tier 1

WordPress.com
Blogger.com
Tumblr.com
Medium.com

Tier 2

LiveJournal.com
Soup.io
Webs.com
Doomby.com
Hpage.com
Sosblogs.com
Blog.com
SnapPages.com
Jigsy.com
Beep.com
Tripod.lycos.com
Ucoz.com
Jimdo.com
Bravesites.com
Newsvine.com
Storify.com
Over-blog.com

Whether you are posting on Tier 1 or Tier 2, every time you create a new post, make sure to submit it to Onlywire.

Keep on Linking

As you continue to write content, do presentations, post on forums, etc., remember to keep linking back to your videos when you can. The more links you can get back to your videos the better they will rank over time, so keep on plugging them wherever you can.

If you do the linking optimization tips above and actively work on generating links and embeds to your YouTube videos, they will rank in Google and bring in a targeted, free flow of traffic.

Tell us about your YouTube ranking experiences in the comments below!

Categories
Blogging Business Technology

How to Make a Video for your Website on a Budget

How to Startup Explainer Video

If you’re building a startup of any kind, chances are you’ll need an explainer video.

Explainer videos are short 1-3 minute videos that help spread your message and teach people what your product and company is all about. A startup video can help explain difficult to understand concepts and, if you’re lucky, can go viral and give you a bunch of traction — as was the case with Dropbox.

 

In this post, I will break down how I created our explainer video (above) for less than $300, and how you can make your own for even cheaper.

There is a huge benefit to being in control of your own explainer video. The first and obvious benefit is cost. Doing it yourself is much cheaper than hiring a professional firm like Revolution Productions which can charge between $500-$20,000 for a video. Not that these companies don’t have their place — a great explainer video can significantly boost your conversions and sales. But be careful investing that kind of money into your video before you have product market fit and some traction.

Another reason is, as a new startup, the chances that your company, product or idea will be exactly the same in 6 or 12 months are pretty small. If you’re doing product demos in your explainer video, it is likely you will have updated the look and feel of your product. For example, maybe you’ve added extra features you want to show off, or you’ve discovered a new lucrative market to go after. Whatever the case, startups iterate quickly and pivot often. Paying $5,000 every time you launch a new feature or target a different market can get expensive quickly. But, if you control the video yourself, you can easily swap out new screen captures or slot in new features, allowing your videos to grow with your startup.

Ninja Tip: Upload your explainer videos to YouTube and title them with keywords you are targeting for your business. Don’t call the video “Product Name Explainer Video”. Here you can see the first explainer video I made (which I actually did at the same time as my Startup Chile video), is ranking on the first page in Google for its term “business systemization”. Since your explainer video will get lots of views from the homepage of your website and will be embedded around the web (in your Angel List profile, for example) it should rank relatively high in Google and YouTube search results and will continue to bring in leads even after you stop using that version of the video on your homepage.

Double Ninja Tip: Add an annotation to your video telling people they are looking at an “old version of the product” and linking to your homepage. This will significantly increase click throughs to your site and will give you some grace if your early videos are lower quality.

With that being said, let me get into the details of how I made our explainer video.

1. Script

The script of your explainer video is easily the most important part. Even if you’re paying an experienced company to make your video, you will still want to write the script, or at least be heavily involved in its design, since nobody knows your product and market better than you.

The two most common types of scripts in the startup world are “the user story” script and the “problem and solution” script.

The user, or “Meet Bob”, story takes a viewer through the journey of a user like this video from Med Climate:

A “problem, solution” video is similar to the one I did for Process Street. State the problem your customers are facing then show how your product can solve that problem.

Here is another problem-solution video by Zen Cash.

 

In both cases, you’re first stating the problem, then the solution derived by your product. The rest of the script will depend on your product, but focusing on the benefits and uses of your product rather than the features is a good rule of thumb.

If you’re really creative and super pro, you can do something new and exciting like the Dollar Shave Club video below, but careful with these: if executed poorly they can look amateur. If you’re not a video pro, it’s best to keep it simple.

 

Neil Patel at Quicksprout wrote a great article on how to write a script for your explainer video, check it out here. If you want some inspiration, check out Startup Videos, they have 100+ pages of videos you can browse through.

2. Audio

Audio is the second most important element after the script. A great video can be ruined by poor audio. For the Process Street video, I recorded the audio myself. I mostly did this because I had recently purchased a new microphone to make various videos and was itching to use it. If you’re interested, the microphone I bought was the Yeti Blu — I got it from Techworld in Santiago for about $180 USD but they go for about $100 on Amazon.

If you don’t want to spend that kind of money on a microphone just to do one 2 minute video, you can easily pay someone on Elance to record it for you. The quality will be better and it will be MUCH cheaper. For $20-50 you can get a 2 minute video recorded. Just post a job looking for voice talent and you will get a bunch of applications from real professionals who have done commercials for Fortune 500 brands. They will submit their ‘demo reels’ from which you can decide on the type of voice you want.

For most people, paying a specialist is the way to go. I think the audio quality on my video is the major weak point. While it’s still pretty good (I’d give it an 8 out of 10) it’s not AS good as professional voice over done in a studio. One benefit of doing it myself is that it is easier to make changes when needed so it really depends on your situation and what you want.

3. Video Storyboard

The storyboard is a series of images that make up the scenes in your video. Here is where you’ll decide what visuals you want to match with the audio track you produced in the above step. This will differ depending on how you decide to create your video: animations, real humans, slides and screencasts are the most common elements in an explainer video.

Check out the below video to see how Pixar storyboards entire animated movies:
http://www.youtube.com/embed/7LKPVAIcDXYwidth=”550″ height=”420″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen=”allowfullscreen”>
 

For the Process Street video, I broke it down into two elements, animations and screencasts. I then decided which screencasts I wanted for which parts of the script. For inspiration on animations, I turned to VideoMakerFX. I basically browsed through their templates looking at kinetic words and clips that I thought would fit into my script.

4. Animations

Animations in startup explainer videos are very popular these days. For the Process Street video I used VideoMakerFX, a great tool that makes it simple to create cool-looking animations. It has hundreds of pre-designed animations targeted at explainer videos that you can easily customize the look of, changing the text, colors, backgrounds and animations.

VideoMakerFX costs $97 which is relatively cheap compared to paying for a professional video. It lets you create as many videos as you want, and you can even use it for other videos, like this one I did on how to create a blog.

There are a number of other tools that do animations as well. The powerhouse is Adobe After Effects, an expensive, complex tool targeted at professionals.  You can make the process less painful by using pre-made templates, but there is still a decent learning curve. Other tools to check out include PowToonGoAnimate and Wideo.

If you really want to go ghetto you can use Powerpoint and record your screen (see screencasts below) as you go through the slides, or better yet, use SlideBean (also a Startup Chile company) to add a bit of animation to the slides.

5. Screencasts

A screencast video is basically a video recording of your computer screen. Screencasts a great way to show off your product, they speak a thousand words when trying to convey features in the short time-frame of your explainer video. I make a lot of screencast videos, they are great for demo and marketing videos.

I use Camtasia to record my screen generally on a PC, but TechsSmith also offers a free product called Jing which lets you record up to 5 minutes of video. This is more than enough for a 2 min explainer video. A quick search and you will find a bunch of other free tools for screen recording on both Windows and Mac.

For your screencasts, record the actions you want based on how you designed your script. Typically showing off various features of your product as the audio track explains it. You can speed up the video and add effects such as tilts and zooms pretty easily in most editing software. I recommend doing this, as a little bit of movement makes things look professional and hold the viewers interest.

6. Music Track

To polish off your video you will want to pick a music track to play in the background. A background music track will keep people entertained and give your video a consistent, less choppy feel.

Pick something with a tempo and theme that matches your video and product. Don’t pick some overly fast happy music if you are selling a serious B2B product, and don’t pick a dull slow track if you have a cool, fun consumer product.

There are plenty of options when choosing a music track, if you want to go the free route, take a look at some of these: FreeSound, Audio Archive, iBeat, Artist Server and more than 30 others.

If you want something more specific, the guys over at Envato have you covered again with their premium audio library Audio Jungle that has a ton of cool tracks you can buy for around $10 each. VideoMakerFX also includes a small library of audio tracks you can use for free once you own the product. That’s actually where I found the track for our video.

7. Putting it all together

To edit everything I used Adobe Premiere, part of the Adobe Creative Cloud. I already pay for Adobe so this was the obvious choice. I have also edited videos in the past using Camtaisa — it’s quicker for screencasts and the interface is easy to use.

Otherwise, Windows Movie Maker and iMovie will both get the job done. All you need is basic scene arrangement, clip speed control and transitions. There are probably a bunch of apps on the iPad that can do this too, but I haven’t tested any of them.

Don’t get scared by the editing part. Some of these programs can seem confusing, but really it’s quite simple.

First, record your audio and import it into your editing tool. Next, add your screencast segments in the correct positions making sure to match up audio to the time of the clip (you will probably need to speed up your screencast clips to do this effectively). Then, fill in the gaps with animations or slides until you fill out the whole audio script.

Once the animations match up to the audio you’ll want to do a few quality control runs before you continue further (with transitions, music, etc).

Watch the video 2-3 times and look for things like thin lines around the edge, image quality and brightness consistency. If you are using different audio tracks (like a video intro for example) make sure your audio volume is level across the whole video.

If you get stuck on any of these parts, there are plenty of YouTube tutorials teaching you the different controls in most video editing programs.

Call to Action

Next, you should add a call to action to the end of your video. This should be fairly long, somewhere between 15-45 seconds. If you watch through my explainer video above until the end, you’ll see that I prompt the viewer to enter their email. This is important for two reasons. First, it tells the viewer what to do next, increasing conversions. Second, it stops the YouTube suggested videos from popping up and distracting your viewer with what is probably one of your competitors videos. Actually lots of people don’t use YouTube to host their explainer videos for this reason and instead opt for a service like Wistia or Vimeo. Personally, I like to host my video on YouTube until it is ranking for my target keyword, then either release a new video or switch it to Wistia.

Once you’re happy with the core structure of the video, add your final zooms, tilts and transitions.

Finish up by adding in your audio track, reducing the volume and fading in and out at the beginning and the end.

Final Thoughts

And there you have it, a completed explainer video! If you calculate all the expenses above you might come to something like this:

Total: $627

But since I already own Camtasia and Adobe Creative suite, my cost was $279. And remember, I can use the microphone and software to create other videos so really the cost is even lower over time.

You can do this cheaper however, by using a combination like:

Total: $143.99

I hope this post was helpful.

If you use any of the above to create an explainer video for your startup I would love to see it. You can leave a comment or reach me on Twitter or Google+. If you want to see more posts like this, subscribe to the Process Street Blog.

This post originally appeared as a guest post on the Startup Chile blog.