Straightforward. Enigmatic. Outstanding.

Are three words that I would use to describe my good friend Jennifer Banks. Search Engine Optimization also happens to be what Jen does for a living at Epiar, THE search engine marketing experts in Edmonton. And she is really, really good at it!

Last week I had the pleasure of hearing her present to a group of Bossy Mama entrepreneurs and teach us as much as she could about SEO in just under two hours. Not an easy task and yet, many of us left that room with so much information and tasks to do that I am sure there were a lot of late nights for some this past week.

Now I am no expert in this at all, and in reality, I am actually a very recent (6 months) convert to the powers of SEO. And this is all because I had the pleasure of meeting, and having drinks with Jen at another Bossy Mama Networking event.  Yes, I actually told her that I thought that SEO was just a bunch of bull!!

Little did I know that the lack of SEO on my own website was hurting me. Jen schooled me very quickly in this with the help of some very cool and FREE tools that anyone can use to figure out some simple things about keywords, and how people really use search engines.

And here is the REALLY BIG LESSON that I learned from Jen about SEO and what I think everyone with a website/blog/Facebook page/twitter account needs to know.

Do not assume that you know what people are using to search for whatever it is that you are selling/peddling/writing about.  Because chances are YOU ARE WRONG!!

The best tool to use to figure this out is the Google Keyword Tool. This is a free tool that anyone can use. You simply enter your search term or phrase and your country/location and poof! up pops all kinds of useful info for you.  Including if what you think people are "Googling" and looking for is actually what they are looking for! (And in my case, I was very wrong, and yes, I have since fixed this!!)

Another really cool free tool that Jen told us about is UberSuggest. This keyword suggestion tool is really neat. It takes your base term and extracts Google suggestions for it. And if you hit 'expand' it will list all suggestions associated with your base term and list them alphabetically. Ubersuggest is an awesome tool, especially for bloggers looking for new post topics and questions that people are actually searching for.

The other sweet tool that we learned about is the SEOMOZ's Open Site Explorer Link Popularity & Backlink Analysis Tool. In geek speak this tool tells you all about your "link juice".  It shows you who is linking to you and you can also use it to scope out your competition too and see where they are getting their link juice from!  Go here to learn more about what you can do with all this spiffy new information.

There was so much that Jen taught us that night and it really is hard to put it all in one post. My advice is this, A) follow her on Twitter, B) read her Techmommy blog and C) call up Epiar, book a consultation and ask about their SEO for Small Businesses pack.

And then settle in with a glass (or two) of wine and your laptop and get to work optimizing the shit out of your site (and know that this may take a while, but will be so worth it)!!

Cheers all,

Natasha~

Intervention

It is 10 PM and I have 2 hours to get this post published! This post is about Natural Urban Dad. More specifically about the two of us. And Social Media. And how it all fits together. Sort of. I tend to throw myself into everything I do whole-heartedly. Social Media is no exception. I love connecting with my followers and those I follow both on Facebook and on Twitter. I have met some amazing people through these sites and have some great relationships with these folks both online and in real life.

Here is the problem. My relationship with my one TRUE fan is suffering. And it all came to a head this past weekend.

We have not had the most fabulous 2011 so far. I have been laid up twice since January with injury or surgery and our household routine was basically thrown out the window because of this. And not to mention that recovering from two consecutive leg injuries does not make it easy to be uhm....sexy.... with your husband, so there is that too.

I have also made a big effort updating my website and my blog this year (what else was I supposed to do when I was all laid up!!) and that takes time (especially the damn SEO part)!

So, here is what a typical day has looked like for a while around here.

Mama gets woken up at 6 AM every day by a toddler looking for a boob wakes up.

Make breakfast for the kids, get everyone dressed, check email/Facebook/Twitter while kids are eating.

Forget to eat MY breakfast.

Take C to school.

Come home or head to Cafe O'Play for 1.5 hours so L can play and I can blog/update SEO/add website content.

Pick up C from school.

Home for lunch and some playtime.

Naptime for the kids (yes, they both still nap)!!

Back ONLINE to check Twitter/Facebook and answer messages and emails.

Kids get up, more playtime.

Get dinner ready.

Natural Urban Dad comes home and kids attack him and then go crazy for an hour!! (Does this happen to everyone's kids at this witching hour?)

Cajole and bribe 4 year old and 2 year old to Eat Dinner.

Bathtime and bedtime routine.

Kids try to stay up and find every excuse possible not to go to sleep.

Natural Urban Dad walks the dog.

I grab my computer and engage and check in with my Facebook and Twitter community for chats and the rush hour(s) of online traffic.

Or we watch TV and I have my iPhone beside me to stay 'connected' to everyone online so I don't 'miss' anything.

Natural Urban Dad goes to bed.

I do not, for at least another hour. I work and write and tweet and I like to watch Jon Stewart on The Daily Show at midnight.

And then I go to bed.

AND....repeat.

So, as you can clearly see, I need to do better here. I need to realize who and what my priorities are and be present for my family and for my husband FIRST.

Here is part of the problem as I see it. Natural Urban Dad does not GET social media. Yes, he has a Facebook account, but he checks it maybe once a month. He does not get that what I am doing on Twitter and on Facebook is working, he hears me laughing at a tweet or watching a YouTube video that someone posted and to him it looks like I am just having fun (with everyone else but him).

Social Media is about making connections, building relationships and growing your brand. It truly is networking gold for small business owners, especially those not afraid to JUMP right in!

But here it is...

You need to use it RIGHT! I personally need to start setting limits for myself and sticking to them. You can read a whole slew of other great tips here for managing your time online. Natural Urban Dad and I had a big LONG intervention talk about all of this the other night and we have some new grown-up rules that we are going to be applying around here (dedicated US time every night, a strict bedtime together and a ban on anyone being online during family time).

I leave you now with this video. It is bloody hilarious and hit a little too close to home for me this week.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HQ8AUBn-4DY]

And it is now bedtime, so I bid you all a very good night.

Now, after you read this of course....turn of your computer/iPad/iPhone/BB and GO to bed and hug your spouse/partner/kid/dog!

XO,

Natasha~

Throw Down!!

I have been dared to do something. And not just a regular dare...a TRIPLE DOG DARE. The kind you just can't say no to.

It even says so in Wikipedia:

The infamous Triple-dog-dare is infamous for the sole reason that you cannot back down from it--without exception! An issued triple-dog-dare has no counteraction and must be implemented and/or carried out.

So, of course I am going to do it. I can't NOT do it, that would just, well, make me a pussy. Right?

So what is the dare you ask?

.

.

.

.

.

The lovely and sassy Jen Banks (you might know her as @JenBanksYEG on the Tweeter) had triple dog dared me to write 30 blog posts in 30 days.

Before I get into that, here are a few things you need to know.

I do not believe in consequences. I believe that EVERYTHING happens for a reason. Every event in you life, every step you take, every choice you make and every person you meet. All of these things happen because they are supposed to happen.

I don't remember when Jen started following me on Twitter or when I started following her, but that happened. And then we met IRL (in real life) at, of all things, a Twitter event. I was there with the also awesome Tanis Miller (AKA The Redneck Mommy). The three of us ended up sitting together and tweeted sillyness very serious and meaningful information throughout the event.

And then we went out for drinks afterwards and we started talking about what we each DO (you know for a living and all). Jen is in SEO (search engine optimization for all you non-techies out there). I own an online store and (at that time) knew nothing very little about SEO. She decided to make my website her pet project. I said sure (actually it was more like yes, please, pretty, pretty please)!!

I can honestly say that the major changes you have seen in the look of the blog and the natural urban mamas website have been directly because of what I have learned and am still learning from Jen. So? Was it a coincidence that we met? I think not.

I think what has drawn me to her as a person (and as a friend) is that she PUSHES me. She makes me want to reach for more, to be a better e-commerce business owner, a smarter one, and she has this crazy uncanny ability to connect people. And now she is pushing me again to be a better blogger.

We all need these kind of people in our lives. The ones who push us to do more, to step out of our boxes and do better, to be MORE. And I for one don't want to let her, or you, or myself down. This is one challenge/dare that I am determined to DO!

So get ready for 30 days straight of my ramblings. I have no idea what these posts will all be about. Some will be long, some will be short and sweet, some will be Wordless (pictures), some with be funny, some maybe not so much. This is a journey for me, one I hope you will come along on with me and enjoy!

On the one hand I want to say 'Damn you Jen', you can't just throw down like that! But the other hand is saying Damn Jen--I can DO THIS.

So....here we go.....

(and 1 post down!)

Natasha~