Atlantic Draft

Website Content Audits: Do I Need One?

Nina Cudney

The answer for the majority of us is, YES.

Now, don't go hyperventilating about the word 'audit' - it's not the audit that many of us fear. The word audit, in this case, is referring to a voluntary (not "required") review of your current website that can truly only result in improvement. Not so bad, right?

Being a strategy-minded person, I love tackling website audits - it keeps my creative juices flowing! I look at website content audits as a way to problem solve and fine tune your reputation and brand. I like to use the same philosophy that I once used as a Career Placement Director when dealing with graduates seeking employment...

If you are getting interviews, your resume is doing its job. If you're not getting the job, then your interviewing needs work. 

The same rationale can be applied to your website. If you are getting traffic to your website, but not converting, then your website needs improvement. Think about a time (or hundreds of times) when you went to a website for a product or service, and within milliseconds you had closed out and searched for a new one. Do you remember why? Perhaps some of the following reasons will trigger your memory...

1) Aesthetics: Humans, by nature, are very visual. Is your site modern and aesthetically pleasing? This goes for font type, colors, overcrowded screens, etc.

2) Spelling and Grammar: Look, nobody is perfect. We all mispell misspell words at times and we can't all be grammar Queens/Kings (wait...are those supposed to be capitalized?). However, keep in mind that this can, and usually is, something that can be a deterrent for a potential customer. So, aside from using the traditional spellcheck, it's always helpful to have one or two people review the content. Do I think this is a valid reason to close out of a website? Of course not - but the reality is, your brand is being judged the moment someone is taken to your website. 

3) Updated Information: This is particularly important if your site has a blog. When is the last time you published an article? Ideally, try not to go longer than one month for a blog update. Again, we all get busy and sometimes we do not view our blog as an income producing aspect of our site, so it falls to the bottom of the priority list. (FYI - A blog actually is an income producing aspect of your site - indirectly.). Update the "About Us" section if you have new staff, new location(s), new services, etc. If you are in an industry where important information changes fairly regularly, this will be even more important to stay on top of.

4) "Dead" or "Misrouted" Links: This can be extremely frustrating as a potential customer. Make sure that every link on your site takes you not only to a working page but to the intended page. This can be a real let down for the reader. Imagine this: Someone lands on your site because it is so amazingly optimized. The reader is impressed with your content, can relate to it, and thinks your site is modern and up to date. They see a link to a video of your services and click on it...and nothing happens. They are taken to a video that they are unable to play. Or worse, they are taken to the "About Us" section by accident. Not only is this insanely deflating for the reader, but they most likely will not take the time to call you and let you know, nor will they ask you how to actually view the video. They will click off your site and move onto the next. 

These are just a few of the more common reasons people "click and ditch" your site. Granted, you cannot please everyone all the time, nor can you appeal to every single person who clicks on your site. However, if you can try to tackle these up front, you're more likely to get the "click and stay" folks.

Onward!

A Mindset Resolution...

Content for the MindNina Cudney

When you're all thinking about your resolutions - please remember to...

Live life every day as if it's your last.

Love so hard it hurts.

Don't be afraid to be afraid - but do not allow fear to stop you from living.

Don't give in to all of the negativity - this world is actually an incredible place with extraordinary people. We hear about the awful things because they are NOT common.

Take care of your health. It's truly ALL we have.

Go easy on yourself, your partner and your kids. 9 times out of 10, we pick the wrong battles.

Don't just dare to dream, dare to DO.

Don't judge or "hate" on others - unfortunately, it says more about us than it does about them.

Give back. It doesn't have to be with money - kindness is free and goes a lot further.

Find something that makes you laugh and make it a non-negotiable part of your daily life. The chemical reaction in the brain can be life saving. 

Last, but not least - don't hesitate to ask for help. You have NO IDEA how many "strangers" out there are waiting with open arms and ears.

So much love it hurts,

Me.

Who's Reading Your Content?

Content for BusinessNina Cudney
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Imagine your audience was filled with 8th graders.

I remember a mentor of mine telling me that and it stuck with me to this day. Unless you are writing to appeal to other professionals on the same academic level as you are, you may want to take your content down a notch. 

I have reviewed many forms of content. As a teacher, I had to read the literature and then make sure I was able to capture the minds of 10th graders for 42 minutes. Clearly, I had to make it a bit more entertaining than a classic textbook and I certainly was not going to spit out stats and expect the crowd to roar with excitement. When it comes to content, one word comes to mind...FLEXIBLE. Although I am not asking you to do a round-off back handspring (although that would have totally grabbed the attention of my former students), I am asking you to really pay attention to exactly WHO your audience is. An example, shall we?

You are an attorney - A Harvard Law school graduate to be exact. You have your own practice and your own website to draw traffic. Now, if you were to write your own content, chances are you would write it as if you were...oh I don't know...a Harvard Law school graduate? Here's where things can get messy. Now, unless you have a contract with Harvard Law school that gives you exclusivity with all legal matters pertaining to Harvard Law grads - you will be writing to people like me...clearly not a Harvard Law grad (much to my father's dismay). 

There will be circumstances, however, where you may be targeting an audience that is more of an academic crowd and you will need to adjust the content accordingly. For example, you own a start-up that targets Dentists (pretend you sell dental chairs). You are not a Dentist. As a matter of fact, the only clinical knowledge you have is how to properly put a band-aid on your 3-year-old. Your website or marketing material will have to be adjusted to the level of your audience. 

The easiest way to do this is to have someone take a look at your website and do a review. Having an outsider look at your site as if they were your target audience is a great way to get a feel if you are on the right track or not. 

Take some time to think about who your audience is. Then, ask yourself if you are writing to them or someone else. Remember that your audience will not always be clones of you - although that would be much easier, right?

Letting Go of Vulnerability: Designing Your Life

Content for the MindNina Cudney

For many, the acceptable way to live our lives is to work for someone else until we retire...if we are able to retire. We operate on the assumption that if something seems too good to be true, then steer clear. 

Brene Brown described it best in one of her Ted Talks. Picture this: You and your family are at the airport getting ready for a trip of a lifetime to Disney. You have all been dreaming about this vacation for years! With Mickey ears and shorts and T-shirts, you board the plane. The pilot comes on over the speakers and tells you it's time for take-off. The engine starts up and the plane begins to move. What happens next is classic for so many of us...

The thoughts of Mickey and Minnie disappear into the abyss and to the forefront comes visions of the plane crashing. Why does this happen? It's simple. As Brene so eloquently puts it - humans have an intolerance to vulnerability. We live in a world of "what if..." and it hinders so many of us from living an extraordinary life. How do I know this? Because I was guilty of this...and sometimes I still am. 

As a writer and a lifestyle coach, I speak to so many people on a daily basis about life and all of the twists and turns along the way.  If I had a penny for every time I heard someone say that they "...wish they could just..."
That sentence usually ends with something like:

"...work from home..."
"...make more money..."
"...be a better parent..."
"...lose weight..."
"...do what I love and get paid for it..."

What I find fascinating is the moment when I turn it around and say, "...why can't you...?" I get similar responses every time. 

"Nina, seriously?"
"I don't even know where to start."
"I don't have the time."
"Are you crazy?"
"People would think I'm nuts!"

See, we set ourselves up for defeat before we even enter the battle - we worry that we might lose. 

"And you ask, What if I fall?
Oh but my darling,
What if you fly?”
-Erin Hanson-

So many of us are intimidated by the effort that goes into designing our own life. What we're forgetting is that putting effort into a passion rarely feels like "work". Take me for example...

I have been an "employee" for over 20 years. The mindset never felt right and I always felt as though I was meant for something bigger and more fulfilling. TWENTY YEARS! Talk about living in a world of "what if..."! I would find myself tapping into my passions of coaching others to a more fulfilling life, writing for others whenever I could and even just writing for myself...simply to clear my mind. 

Then everything changed. Over the past year, I have been alongside a cousin of mine who has been through a horrific cancer diagnosis and treatment process. She is young - the same age as I am. She has two young children - same ages as mine. I have been forced to face my own mortality and figure out what my purpose is - and then make it happen. Has it been scary? Sure - anything worth fighting for usually is. Have I faced doubters and skeptics? Of course. When you truly grasp the reason that you - uniquely you - were put on this Earth, the path is nowhere near as daunting as you would expect. Being forced to look at how truly short life is, I knew I had to take action - and fast. 

I took what wasn't working for me in my life, started on the journey to "fix" those things and then began to assist others to do the same. I wanted to write for the sole purpose of connecting with other people to inspire them and be a cheerleader in a world filled with wrecking balls. Have I put forth the effort to make this happen? Without a doubt. Has it felt like "work"? Never. Not for one minute. When I coach others to improve their physical and financial well-being, I feel alive and energized. When I write and find out that my words touched someone on an emotional level, I feel fulfilled and complete. 

Please take my word for it - borrow my belief if you don't have it yet yourself. Life is short. Live with passion, purpose and LIVE OUT LOUD!

Much love...

4 Ways to Feel "Unstuck" in your Job

Nina Cudney

First and foremost, there are some basics truths that many of us just have to accept.

You will rarely, if ever, love everything about your job. It could be something as simple as your office not having a window and it drives you nuts. You wish you could stroll into work at 9:30 am and avoid the cost of "before care" for your child. You get my drift. 

You will always work for someone in one way or another. Yes, even if you work for yourself. You still have clients and there will always be an element of answering to someone else whether we like it or not. The level at which we have to answer to someone may differ, but the principle is the same. We don't live in a bubble and if you are going to earn money, it's usually because you are providing a good or service to others.  

Moving on - 

If you have experienced a toxic workplace, you may be familiar with that visceral reaction on Sunday evenings. You know what I'm talking about? When you truly believe that if you just stay awake all night, Monday won't actually come - you will be stuck on Sunday forever? Many of us have been there. Not fun. It's as if your weekend ends on Saturday because your entire Sunday is consumed with the feeling of dread for Monday to come around. 

Being miserable at your job doesn't have to be an acceptable norm. You find yourself complaining about your job to your friends and family and it literally starts to take over who you are as a person. I may be going out on a limb here, but do any of these sound familiar to you?

 "It's just a job. Why do you let it get to you? No one loves their job."
"You're lucky to have a job! You have security, health insurance, paid time off..."
"Why can't you just leave your job at work? When you walk out of those doors, just forget about it!"

You then have an internal battle with yourself and start questioning if they are right.
        "Why can't I just...
                    accept that most people don't love their job?
                   be grateful that I have a job when so many are unemployed?
                   be able to leave work at work and not bring it home with me?"

Any of this resonating with you? Well, if it is - you are not alone. I can't begin to tell you how many people I have worked with that go through this day in and day out. They feel stuck due to financial obligations that most of us have. We continue to go through the motions, collect a paycheck and hope that one day we will win the lotto. 

I HAVE GREAT NEWS! 

You. Are. Not. Stuck. You may have to be ok with making a few sacrifices, but you are never...ever...ever...stuck. Check out a few out of the box ideas:

1.   "Job share". If there are parts of your job that you do love and want to continue doing, store those in the back of your mind. Then, look for other part time jobs that perhaps fulfill another passion of yours. For example, you are a Human Resources professional. Although you enjoy talent management and training, you despise conflict resolution. Perhaps you can create a proposal for a part-time (or even a Consultant position for yourself) as a corporate trainer for your current employer. Then, work on finding one or two other employers to do the same. You are not pigeonholed into finding one employer to pay you a full salary. If insurance is a concern for you, then that has to be taken into consideration when deciding how many hours to work for one employer. Will your employer always go for the idea? Not necessarily, but it's an option! 

2.   Be HONEST. I know this may seem crazy and perhaps it is - but I am a firm believer in taking control of your own happiness and direction (after about 20 years of not quite "getting it"). Schedule a meeting with your manager. Express that although you like your job (it's your manager - I'd hold off on telling them you hate your job), you believe that your talents can be used in other areas of the company. I have done this before - and successfully so. Take the Human Resources example above. You can simply say that you have noticed specific roles as an HR professional that you excel at and would like to delve a bit deeper. Remember: Stay solution-focused. Your manager does NOT want more problems to "fix" or more employees to try to appease. Go in with a solution that has the potential to help both you and your employer. If you can find a way to save them money - even better!

3.   Take care of YOU. Perhaps one of the toughest concepts to grasp for most humans is the idea of self-care. We have been conditioned to believe that if we focus on taking care of ourselves, we may come across as selfish. What is self-care, you ask? Truthfully, it means something different to everyone. It may mean getting a massage, going on a hike (alone!), volunteering, working out, going to a movie or even just simply taking a nap!

4.   Consulting. Yes, this is a riskier option to take into consideration. If you have been dubbed the professional "Job Hopper", you may want to look in the mirror. Is it the job or is it you? Maybe you are just a better fit for a career that provides more flexibility and creativity - more influential power and more independence. There are millions of people who are very comfortable with the 9-5 scene. They feel more comfortable and secure with a steady paycheck and are able to separate work from their personal life. However, if that is not you - you may want to think about Consulting. Everyone's financial situation is different and this is not a one size fits all solution. Some may have the financial freedom to leave their job immediately and take their time building a Consulting business. Others may have to take it very slowly and build up their clientele while working at their current job. Either way, it's worth exploring if you have a skill that you can build a business on. Now wait - before you say something crazy like, "I don't have a skill I can build a business on" - think again. Start with your hobbies first. Do some research. Believe it or not, there are Consultants to help you with this process. Life Coaches, Career Consultants, Business or Entrepreneur Coaches are all great resources to begin with. 

Take a deep breath. That "stuck" feeling you have? Yeah...it's not real. You're actually not stuck in your job - you're just temporarily stuck on thinking you are. 

Why I never wanted to be called a "Boss"...

Professional DevleopmentNina Cudney

Boss. The word itself means, "a person who exercises control or authority; specifically, one who directs or supervises workers". Now, I'm not saying the word is used incorrectly or shouldn't be used. I am simply saying that I, personally, never wanted anyone that I worked with to call me their boss. I was not some know-it-all dictator, I did not believe I had all the answers and I certainly was not looking for a battle of the egos. Here's why...

Humans, by nature, do not like to be controlled. As a matter of fact, I am a firm believer that when you try to control employees too much, you begin to lose the creativity and authenticity of the team that you have. What develops is an "us vs. them" mentality and you start to run into some serious rebellious behavior - yes, even with adults. There is a fine line between structure and control if you ask me. Now, I'm not saying to give everyone free reign and have some free for all. That won't work either. Additionally,  I am not saying that your job as a leader is to get your team to "like" you. You will never be a respected leader if that is your main mission. When I was the Dean at a local post-secondary technical school, I was told by a colleague, "If you don't have haters, you're not doing your job right." I will never forget that. I have used that MANY times when talking to friends who are in leadership positions. Does it feel good to hear coworkers talk about you in a negative way? Of course not. However, as a LEADER, you are responsible for rising above the ground floor drama and getting things done. How do you do this? A few lessons that I have picked up along the way...

1) RECOGNITION. Take time - every. single. day. to recognize your team. It can be a two-second email that tells an employee that you appreciate them adapting to the recent changes in the company because you know how hard change can be. You are human too - don't be afraid to let them know that. 

2) FOLLOW YOUR OWN RULES. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen leaders expect of their team what they will not do themselves. A cardinal sin, to be honest. A TRUE leader trains new LEADERS. How can you expect them to rise to the occasion when you are not willing to? You never want to be caught in a situation where your team is always doing the dirty work and your sleeves are never rolled up. 

3) "I DON'T KNOW". Most humans respond to connecting with other HUMANS. HUMANS don't know everything. So, why are you pretending to? A team member comes to you and asks you what the new compliance policy is for the marketing department. You have no clue. It's changed five times since last week! You simply say, "Ya know, it's changed five times since last week and I want to make sure that I give you the right answer. Can I get back to you tomorrow?" The true leaders-in-training will see that as a sign of self-respect and confidence. The "less than stellar" employees will use it as a way to satisfy their own insecurities about their work ethic (or lack thereof) and performance. As a leader, you should know "more about most topics" - not "more about every topic". Know that and be OK with it.

4) HAVE FUN. It is important to maintain your credibility in a leadership position - no argument there. However, every now and then engage in something that shows your team that you are not some stiff who reads company policy all day. Have a holiday party. Have staff appreciation week where something is done every day for one week to show that you recognize their efforts and importance. Be a part of the office birthday parties now and then. Buy some treats for a meeting just because! This goes a LONG way when done with a genuine sense of camaraderie. 

5) DON'T FORGET ABOUT YOU! Look, being a leader is tough work. You will have people pulling at you from all ends. Stress levels increase as you go up the chain (usually) and you are a target for those employees who have an "issue" with authority. This is the reality. Job coaches are an amazing resource when faced with a challenging team. Network with other leaders in your industry to share "war stories" and see how they handle similar situations. Join LinkedIn groups that pertain to your industry and make connections! Take time off - yes, USE YOUR VACATION TIME. The world will survive without you for a few days and coming back rested and ready to rock will help both you AND your team.

Being a leader is a tough responsibility and one that requires personal development along the way. Yes, you will have to develop thicker skin than most but it will help you in your personal life as well. We're all on the same journey in this life - just different cars and different road maps. 

 

Dream job and resume don't match? Never fear!

Professional DevleopmentNina Cudney
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We've all been there, right? We see a job that looks amazing and we immediately scroll by it. According to our resume, we aren't even CLOSE to being qualified. Let me ease your mind. On "paper", I should either be a Counselor or a Health Education Teacher. Surprise! I am neither. Now, don't get me wrong - I did have jobs that matched my resume. However, as time goes on, our experiences and interests may lead us on a different path. Let me explain...

Scenario #1: You were a CPA at a large accounting firm. While rockin' it in the "numbers world", you realize that you are also the "go to" person when a new hire has questions about the software program that your company uses. You not only love the technology aspect of your job, but you are actually pretty darn good at teaching others. You're asked by your manager to help out when the training department is short staffed. You happily oblige. See? Now, you are gaining experience and credibility in something other than what your resume says you "should be" doing. After ten years on the job, you begin to collect some pretty solid testimonials on your ability to train others on new software programs.

Again, your resume says absolutely nothing about a degree is technology, HR or anything related to corporate training - yet you are good at it...really good. Now, you have what I like to call the "in between the lines" experience and skills that the corporate training field is looking for. You change up your resume a bit to hone in on the specific tasks that you carried out in terms of training others on new software programs and BOOM - an entirely new world opens up to you.

The key to moving into a field that does not match your resume is being able to gain the experience in that field while at your current position. Don't be afraid to offer up your services to help out. You never know where it will lead!

 

A brief note on challenges...

Content for the MindNina Cudney
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You will have moments in life - some longer than others - when you feel like you can't seem to move forward. Moments when you question whether where you are is where you will always be. Pay attention to those moments and the way you talk to yourself. Are you being supportive of yourself or are you adding to the feeling of defeat that we all feel sometimes?

Challenges are what change us - don't run from them. Find comfort in the fact that you are inevitably going to come out the other side with new found strength and perspective. Strength and perspective are necessary to get through our next challenge.

Be kind to yourself in your weakest moments. That's when you need YOU the most.

Challenge accepted.

Have a business? Have a blog.

Content for BusinessNina Cudney
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Clearly, social media is taking over the world by storm - and for good reason! It's one of the fastest, easiest, most affordable ways to market your business. Now, I know what you're thinking...

"I'm a/an (insert profession here) - what does blogging have to do with my business and what on EARTH would I write about? I do NOT have time for this."

Blogging has everything to do with your business and I will explain why below. As far as time and knowing what to write about - that's where content lovers (like me) come into play (more on that another time). 

People live online. We shop for clothes, pets, healthcare providers, insurance, houses, and even spouses on the internet! Long gone are the days of the yellow pages. So, back to answering the question, "What does blogging have to do with my business?" 

It's Psychology 101, folks. Most people invest with their heart first and THEN attempt to get their head to agree. It doesn't matter if your company is a lumber yard or a medical office. People want to FEEL first, think later. They actually want to feel a connection with the person they are doing business with. I've actually spent more money on carpeting simply because the salesperson was funny, understanding and called me by my first name. Think about that!

A quick and easy way to figure out if you are connecting with your audience is this: Have a friend (who will actually be honest with you) visit your website and browse around for a bit. Ask them to come up with 5 adjectives that describe your brand, either as an individual or your company as a whole. If you are comfortable with their list of descriptors, you are on the right track! If not, try adding a blog to your site. If you have a blog and are still not seeing traffic, you may want to rework your content.

Well? What are you waiting for? Go grab that friend and tell them to check out your website!