Who’s Your Bannerman?

You Are Worth Loyalty – So Who’s Your Bannerman?

Your Bannerman carries your standard into battle, is devoted to you, and is loyal to your cause. Photo from moddb.com.

Your Bannerman carries your standard into battle, is devoted to you, and is loyal to your cause. Photo from moddb.com.

At a certain point in your Tribe-formation, you begin to get loyalty.

People actually begin to identify with you; with your message and your vision.

Spontaneously, they offer their support. They carry your standard into battle.

Not because you’re paying them, or because you’ve signed some Joint Venture Partnership (JVP) agreement.

Rather, these people find themselves in alignment with your leadership.

Using a very medieval (or Game of Thrones) term, these people are your bannermen.

This may actually come as a surprise.


Emerging from the Wilderness

You know that song, Keep Your Eyes on That Prize:

The only thing I did was wrong,
Was staying in the Wilderness too long.

Read more: Bruce Springsteen – Eyes On The Prize Lyrics | MetroLyrics

You may have – for a long time – been so much of a Wanderer; so much so that you believed yourself to live completely on the outskirts of society.

But – as the song goes in The Lord of the Rings:

All That Is Gold ...

All That Is Gold … , read by Sir Christopher Lee, who played Saruman in the movie trilogy, The Lord of the Rings.

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost …

(From The Fellowship of the Ring, Book 1 of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, by J.R. Tolkien. For details, see The LoR Wiki, All that is gold does not glitter.

As you emerge from Wandering, start forming your Tribe, and become a strong leader, people form around you – not just passively, but actively.

Some of these people become allies.

Some become your Bannermen.


Side Note: Your Wanderer Stage Is Essential

In the process of becoming a true leader, your Wanderer stage is essential. It’s where you separate yourself from cultural norms, go into the wilds, and figure out for yourself who you are, what you’re doing, and what you stand for.

Carol Pearson, in her significant and groundbreaking work, The Hero Within, was the first to point out the importance your Wanderer stage.

At a certain point, though, like Aragorn (Strider) in The Lord of the Rings, you emerge from Wandering, become a Warrior, and claim your kingdom.

During this time, you begin to accrue both loyal followers and allies.

In particular, some of those loyal followers are bannermen.


Recognize that You Have Attained Sun Tzu’s Moral Influence

Sun Tzu

Sun Tzu, 544-496 BCE; Chinese general and military strategist, author of “The Art of War.”

When you have what Sun Tzu described as moral influence, you are ready to lead.

How do you know that you have moral influence?

Sometimes, pure sheer tenacity.

Staying with your goal, your vision, long enough – through enough adversity and hardship.

Refining and cultivating and sharing your vision.

For what may seem to be a hugely long time.



So Who Is Your Bannerman?

He or she does these kinds of things for you – spontaneously, of their own free will, and without being asked:

  1. Introduces you to their own Tribe – with a glowing recommendation,
  2. Consistently Likes your Facebook post – not so much because they “like” that particular post, but because they want to advocate what you are doing,
  3. Mentions you in their blog, provides an unsolicited weblink to your site – again, without a pre-arrangement for mutual benefit or compensation.

Sometimes, you’re a bannerman for someone else.

A Bannerman Example

Over Winter Solstice, I wrote my first Twelve Lessons of Solstice, aimed to help people fall in love with themselves, and open to deep personal transformation.

Out of these Twelve Lessons – each a separate email and associated web page – I quoted from one of my colleague’s books, and gave a link to her website – not just once, but four different times. (This was for Alicja Jones’ forthcoming Own Your Power.)

Specifically – I mentioned, quoted from, and linked to her book four times – and scarcely mentioned my own.

That’s loyalty. That’s being a Bannerman.

Another Bannerman Example

A couple of months ago, I was reaching out to friends who had friends, encouraging them to Opt-In with one of my lists.

One of these not only forwarded my invitation to her group – about ten of her most trusted and cherished friends, her inner circle – she wrote a glowing recommendation for me. Really talked me up, in a way that was surprising and very wonderful – and totally unexpected.

This Christmas, she purchased a couple of copies of my book to give to her friends as a Christmas present, and took some wonderful seasonal photos of me.

She is definitely one of my Bannermen. (Or Bannerwoman, as the gender-specific case may be.)


You Have a Right – and a Duty – to Assess Loyalty

We sometimes tend to give strongly of ourselves.

At times, we need to look closely at who is giving back.

This morning, we woke up to a total of eight inches of snow that fell over the last 24 hours.

I live in a Household with several other adults.

I spent 2 1/2 hours yesterday shoveling and blowing snow. I’d gotten over my desire to simply hibernate (until March), and gotten out there. By the time that I’d done pure, simple snow shoveling for over an hour, the endorphins from good exercise kicked in.

Still, I was tired and grumpy when I stopped last evening.

The reason? Of the others in the Household, one person spent one hour shoveling snow with me. Promised to do more the next day (this morning; now this afternoon). So far, that person has stayed in her room.

Another adult – who again promised to spend most of this day shoveling – is now out there. He is redeemed.

This morning, I spent an additional 3 1/2 hours shoveling and blowing snow. I’m tired, sore, and aching.

The job is still far from done, and I’ll be out there again tomorrow.

The one person in the Household who has been most supportive is out getting treatment for Stage 4 cancer. When she returns (with her dedicated friend who’s getting her to the doctors – her own Bannerman), she’ll bring me hot food.

The others? (OK, one of them is now shoveling as I write. Just as an update.)

Go figure.

It’s easy to be loyal and supportive when the weather’s warm and sunny, and it’s picnic time.

Look at how people respond to you during crisis or crunch time to tell who’s really on your side.

And yes, it is okay to make the judgment call.

And it’s okay to remember.

Love and forgiveness are wonderful things.

But – we really are forming Tribes here. And this is not just because it’s fun, or a fantasy role-playing game.

The world is changing, loyalties are real; Tribes are real.

Ultimately, Tribes are about survival.

And loyalty counts.

Game On!

Kicking Off the New Year – Determining Goals, Time-Allotments, and Priorities


Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins

The toughest thing – for an entrepreneur or author – is figuring out priorities.

Sometimes we have a list of things that need to be done – this week, this month, this year. The challenge is in finding the starting point.

Sometimes, we have a related challenge. This happens when we’ve been in information-gathering mode; when we’ve found various online teachers. They all have good things to offer. This related challenge is: each of these new teachers/gurus/coaches is saying that what they’re teaching is the most important thing.

And our gut tells us that each of them is right.

However, something has to be most right for us at a given moment.

It’s figuring this out that is tough.

I wrote about this as one of the earliest Mourning Dove Press blogposts – Three Biggest Challenges for Authors/Entrepreneurs.

One of these “biggest challenges”? It was figuring our direction – when every direction seems to be true north.

The Three Crucial Questions

When we’re in this spot – many directions in which we could (and ultimately should) go – and trying to figure out our next steps, answering just three questions will help us sort out our priorities:

  1. What is our necessary baseline platform,
  2. What depends on what, and
  3. What has the longest lead time for getting useful results?

Tribe-Building: The Necessary Platform

Like some of you, I’m already an author.

Like many – if not most – of you, I’m an entrepreneur. In fact, a serial entrepreneur – this is my third major start-up.

After publishing my book (Unveiling: The Inner Journey) two and a half years ago, I did what I thought was the right marketing.

But truth was – I understood only part of the engine.

The result? I had a lot of go-nowhere activities; little one-off efforts that didn’t dovetail back into the big picture.

Much of what I did was both useful and necessary.

However, because my priorities were off – because I was missing the core element for Tribe-building – I lost more than a year’s worth of effort.

Not a complete loss – because now that my Tribe-building central core is strong, I can go back and reclaim some of those efforts; bring them back to strengthen the solid core.

You can do the same.

But there’s no strengthening the core if the core isn’t there to begin with, right?

Painful Actions to Remedy a Discordant Situation

Last year (2013), I had to take down the different online business elements that did not work, and build a new structure that did.

This involved three steps:

  1. Learning what to do,
  2. Learning how to do what needed doing, and
  3. Doing it.

Enroute, because I have a life-long habit of teaching that which I need to learn, I started the MDP blog series – that which you’re reading right now.

I was also supremely fortunate to find a client who needed me to do for her that which I was doing for myself.

You know the rule for teaching something to someone (even yourself), right?

  1. Learn the subject,
  2. Put into practice what you’ve just learned, and
  3. Teach it to someone else.

Hence, this blog.

Hence, you’re profiting from my – not so much mistakes, but mis-directions, and lost time.

The best possible result?

You’ll still have to work, and I do mean work (real hard). But then – your efforts will all dovetail nicely. And, one effort will lead to success with another, which will lead to more success, … In short, success will build on itself .

Your Essential Tribe-Building Platform Is …

I talk with a lot of people who say something like Oh, I need to build a website, or I need to update my website.


The basic platform is not your website. (That’s so early 2000’s.)

Your basic Tribe-building Platform is a combination of five crucial elements:

  1. Website – yes, you still need one,
  2. Tribe-management system – it lets you keep track of your Tribe and communicate with Tribe members easily,
  3. First benefits – some people call these an “ethical bribe,” or reason why people should give you their email address (join your Tribe) in the first place,
  4. First Tribe-building connections, which are the steps you take with someone immediately after they join your Tribe – teaching them how you can and will help them, and
  5. Loaves and fishes – the regular care and feeding of your Tribe.

Which brings me to Premise #1:

Until your basic Tribe-building Platform is in place, you have no other or stronger priority. This is your Number One Priority.

Getting your Tribe-Building Platform up and running smoothly is a matter of at least a few months. Possibly a whole year.

However, getting your Tribe-building Platform into operation is the first task that answers all three of the crucial questions posited earlier.


  1. Your Tribe-building Platform is your necessary baseline platform,
  2. Everything else that you do will hook into your basic Platform or bring more members to your Tribe, and
  3. Tribe-building is the one activity that has longest lead-time, and must be started early.

With this in mind, you have a framework for making all priority and time-allotment decisions.

For example:

  1. Networking events – if your platform is not clear and solid, and if you have no reason for people to join your Tribe, then meeting people and getting their business cards will give you only secondary, not primary, benefits,
  2. Giving talks – a great idea, once the talks become a means for inviting people to join your Tribe (by showing them how much valuable information you give, of course), and
  3. YouTubes, Facebook, other social media – great adjuncts to your Tribe-building platform, but if they don’t ultimately bring your people to the Platform, and invite them to join your Tribe, you’re doing divergent activities. What you really want is convergent.
You want convergent actions - where everything comes together.

You want convergent actions – where everything comes together.

What you really want is convergent activities.

Convergent means actions that get people to join your Tribe, and then to strengthen their bond with you and your Tribe.

Joining your Tribe happens when someone takes the first step: they Opt-In to (join) your Tribe through using an Opt-In form on your website, where they give you their name and email address, or at least their email address. This is where the relationship starts.

Ultimately, your Tribe members will realize the transformational value that being part of your Tribe brings to their lives. They’ll want more of what you offer. That’s when you start transacting – because they’ll want to buy what you offer.

Loaves and fishes: feeding your tribe (your Opt-In group) means giving them regular useful content.

Loaves and fishes: feeding your tribe (your Opt-In group) means regularly giving them content that meets their needs.

But your primary objective needs to be teaching your Tribe and giving them transformational tools and insights. They’ll buy in order to get more powerful and effective versions of what you offer for free. (That’s the Loaves and Fishes strategy.)

Doesn’t matter if they give you their business card. Doesn’t matter if you have them in your private database or in any of your distribution lists.

Doesn’t matter how much you email each other, or talk on the phone.

Doesn’t matter if you’re Facebook Friends-for-Life. Doesn’t matter if they even introduce you to their nearest-and-dearest.

They join your Tribe when they Opt-In to at least one of your lists, using an Opt-In form that you’ve put on your website, and you’ve responded by giving them the First Benefit. (This could be a report, a list of useful tools, a first email back with a promise of monthly emails – whatever it is that you promised them when they joined.)

This starts the relationship.

Going Behind the Green Curtain in Oz – Next Steps for Tribe-Builders

Going behind the Green Curtain in the classic movie, The Wizard of Oz.

Going behind the Green Curtain in the classic movie, The Wizard of Oz.

We’re going behind the green curtain, and I’ll show you what I’ve learned and deciphered about the magic controls that any Wizard uses to generate big effects.

In the next few months, we’ll deal with the real and practical issues of Tribe-building, from the ground up.

Topics that we’ll address will include:

  • Resources – I’m going to introduce you to the people whom I listen to and whose webinars/videos I watch (avidly) – my most-trusted group of advisors, my personal best-of-the-best,
  • Tribe transition strategies – how do you bring the people whom you already know into your Tribe? What works over time? and finally –
  • Tribe-growing strategies – what works best; what works when. I’ll be sharing the inside secrets of what I’ve learned, what I’ve done, and what works best. And yes; real data, real numbers, real graphs.

Join me!

And hey, if you haven’t already – join my Tribe! Go to the Home Page for Mourning Dove Press, and there – big as can be – a big, ole’ Opt-In Form. Do the right thing. See you on the other side.


Extra Incentive

I’m going to be teaching workshops on the practical, tangible specifics – how to build your Tribe-building Platform.

These will be hands-on, very small group sessions.

You’re going to do the work yourself. But I’ll be there to coach you on every single step.

Plus (because I grew up with a college professor father, and have taught in several universities), you’ll get homework.

That’s right. For-real homework – which you’ll need to complete before you can take the next class.

And you’ll want to take the next class – because it will help you get to the next level of your own Tribe-building.

Now, I know – not all of you can get to McLean, VA for once-a-month Saturday classes. But I’ll be sending out class notes to people who are members of my Tribe.

No fee. But just by becoming a member, you’ll get extra info that I’m not putting into this blog series – just giving my Tribe members a heads-up on where to find it.

  • What to do first – and second, and third – I’ll take the mystery out, and make it clear, practical, and simple,
  • Step-by-step – online resources to back up class studies, or to help you out if you can’t be in class, and
  • Example completed assignments – with comments and corrections – yes, you remember from college days – the answers to the questions are in the back of the book. Well, Tribe members – and Tribe members only – get the crib sheets. The worked-out exercises. You can see what I’ve done, and what I’m doing now, and see how it impacts my growing Tribe.

As best-selling author and life coach Tony Robbins says, when you want to master a new skill or craft:

… find someone who has achieved the results you want and copy what they do and you’ll achieve the same results.

So join me. And join my Tribe! Go to the Home Page for Mourning Dove Press. See you there!


The Most Difficult Transition (And How to Do It Right)

Going from Level 2 to Level 3: The Most Difficult Transition a Thought-Leader Will Face

MDP - Levels_2013-12-17

First, a little word.

What’s Level 2? And what’s Level 3?

And why have Levels at all?

For three simple reasons:

  1. Understanding levels gives you a handle on where you are – and where you are
    – each level is a different stage of author/entrepreneur maturity. Each one requires certain actions and accomplishments. Missing any crucial task means that getting to the next level is much more difficult – and perhaps not possible at all.
  2. Reduce stress – each level has its own success signs – distinct to that level. If you know what makes for success for where you are right now, then you can focus on the results that make sense – and focusing with clear targets reduces stress.
  3. Clear understanding of next-step priorities and tasks – has different priorities and different tasks. (Coming soon: a priorities-and-tasks checklist that will let you move confidently to the next level.)

To find your level, you’ll use a simple mathematical formula (which I’ll be revealing to my Opt-In group in early 2014. If you haven’t Opted-In, please do so now – the form is in the sidebar to your immediate right.)

A Quick Levels Shortcut

Level 2 is when you’ve sold about 100 – 200 books, and have 100 – 200 people who have Opted-In with you. (Note: This is not the number of people in your database. And it’s not the number of your Facebook Friends. To be counted towards your Level, people have to Opt-In with you – a gesture of trust, a willingness to hear from you on a regular basis.)

Level 3 is when you’ve sold about 1,000 – 2,000 books, and have about 1,000 – 2,000 people who have Opted-In with you.

For emerging authors/entrepreneurs, getting from Level 2 to Level 3 is the most difficult challenge that there is.

The reason?

At Level 2, you’re still working within your personal Circle of Influence (CoI). Most people – those who are reasonably social and well-connected – can comfortably reach out to a few hundred people. These include family, friends, and professional, church, social, and civic affiliations. This group includes your Facebook Friends, and anyone on your Christmas list. (Since I’m writing this blog just a week before Christmas, many of you are dialed in right now to your Christmas list.)

Going from Level 2 to Level 3 means extending your Circle of Influence by an order of magnitude.

Most people who do this are – essentially – outreach-professionals. They are pastors, politicians, entertainers, and others for whom a larger CoI is essential.

Unless these people have mastered the skills that you’re going to learn and master, these “professional outreachers” will also struggle getting their word out.

In short, the strategies that a local pastor or politician uses to reach a few thousand people will not be the long-term strategies that get you to where you want. Similarly, the strategies that an author uses to reach a few thousand people will again not be the strategies that you want.

You may need to incorporate some elements of what these people do into your own overarching strategy – but you’ll have a clear difference.

Instead of working with just those people whom you can regularly connect, your goal – in becoming a Level 3 author/entrepreneur – is to extend your outreach to people whom you don’t know; people whom you may never meet in person. Or, if you do meet them in person, it may be a one-time event.

More than extending your outreach – your goal has to be to transform these people into loyal, devoted, enthusiastic, and sometimes even evangelistic members of your own Tribe.

Getting from Here to There: Requirements for Success

For you to succeed, it is essential that you cultivate an extraordinary range of skills – ranging from technical to psychological, from writing to strategy. This skill-set is both overarching and minutia-intensive.

But the skill-set alone will not be enough. You need strategy. Further, this strategy needs to dovetail with where you are now, and where you are going to be in your next stage.

For many authors and knowledge-based entrepreneurs, the challenge lies in going beyond our CoI.

Starting in 2014, these blogposts – and most importantly, the material that I’ll share via emails and special, dedicated web pages with my own Tribe – will focus on three key transitional strategies:

  1. The Art of War – Sun Tzu’s classic, applied to building your empire in the world of knowledge and ideas,
  2. Specific Tribe-Building Strategies – because your success correlates directly with how you grown, nurture, and feed your Tribe, and
  3. Transforming Yourself – so that you are ready, in every way, to take on the responsibility of caring for what will be your growing, flourishing, and increasingly more prosperous Tribe. (Think of this as Leadership Bootcamp.)

Remember, your success is their success. And likewise.

To your own health, happiness, and prosperity – and we’ll connect again in 2014.


Alianna J. Maren, Ph.D.
Founder, Mourning Dove Press

P.S. One of the earliest topics for 2014: Micro-Tribes – how to identify and work with specific small tribes that you’re bringing into your fold. Specific steps, strategies, case studies – even data! The juiciest details will be revealed only to my own Tribe members, so please sign up now (Opt-In form in the sidebar on the right) – you’ll get a follow-up email from me shortly to welcome you in, and you’ll get the detailed coaching (for my Tribe members only) starting in 2014!

Forming Your Tribe: First Steps

Once You Have Some Blog Readership: How to Start Building Your Tribe

Spreading the word - once you get people reading your blog, what's your next step?

Spreading the word – once you get people reading your blog, what’s your next step?

Once you have your blog going, and have even a little readership established, what’s your next big step?

It’s to start building your tribe.

A Bit of Backstory


Mourning Dove Press came into being because I had a book to publish.

I knew I was going to self-publish. This was because I wanted to keep creative control. Also, I figured that I would use profits on my self-published book to do more and better marketing; there would be overall more marketing dollars from direct profits than I would have from royalties with a traditional publishing house.

This made sense at the time, and still does.

It particularly made sense when I factored in the growing readership of digital/downloaded books versus the more traditional trade paper books. (About 70% of the books in the personal growth/self-help genre are now digital downloads.)

What I didn’t know was how hard it would be to build a platform; to connect with people, to build that long-term relationship.

In fact, when I was just starting, I didn’t even know that building that long-term relationship was the whole objective.

Personal Backstory

I’d grown up as an academic; intellectually gifted but a little – shall we say – socially awkward. And very much an introvert.

Even when I shifted to full-time entrepreneurship, my role was always to be the “genius in the back room.” I’d come up with the creative concepts, but someone else (usually the company president) would do all the marketing – and would hold all the relationships.

I had a naïve (and wholly unrealistic and completely unfounded) notion that I could publish a book, put a little effort into juicing the marketing engine, and then the book would trundle itself into being a best-seller; providing me with a secure (and even growing) income while I put attention into my next genius-creative project.


Oh, I was so wrong.

So very, very wrong.

And I spent about a year figuring out how wrong I was.

Three Necessary Stages

After getting it that I really didn’t get it, and then learning how to get it, I needed a year just to rebuild my entire business approach. This was a three-stage process after spending about two to three months at Stage Zero, or the research-and-decision-making stage.

The three business-building stages were:

  • Stage One: Basic (Re-)Build – Taking down the old website, building a new one that incorporated the blog, porting the old blog posts, and starting the arduous (and not terribly fun) process of blog clean-up,; all this took about four months (for three different but related websites, and then also for this one as well).
  • Stage Two: Basic Blog Build-Up – Reaching my (somewhat confused and fragmented) existing tribe with a new blogging approach – and getting back to blogging consistently; I gave this two months of just very steady, diligent blogging – and not even trying to get people to come to the blog until I had a bit of track record re-established. Regular (and intensive) blogging on each of three different blogs each week. About a day’s worth of solid work for almost each and every blogpost, so three days each week went just into blogging. Total time: about two months just focused on blogging, along with updating older blogs and continuing the website rebuild/transition.
  • Stage Three: Reaching Out and Tribe-(Re-)Building – Once I’d demonstrated steadiness and consistency – and made it clear (through multiple related blog posts) what the theme / blog topics were about, it was time to invite people in. I eased off on blogging, and focused on reaching out to people; asking them to join one or more of my Opt-In lists. I’m in this stage now, have been in it for the past two months, and will be in it for some time to come.

So it’s not so much about blogging anymore. It’s about growing my tribes, and – of course – the care and feeding of my tribes.

Knowing When to Switch Focus

I switched my focus from blogging to building my Opt-In lists when I had sufficient readership showing up on my website/blogsite to show that there was, indeed, some interest.

I’d already switched focus on two of my major blogsites.

The two blogsites where I write the most (and which serve as Case Studies for this blog) are:

  • The Unveiling Journey – archetypes, archetype integration, and life-journeys – further developing ideas first proposed in my book, Unveiling: The Inner Journey, and
  • The Alay’nya Studio – body awareness, dance, movement, raw foods (and occasionally, comfort foods), and emotional processing/release work. Also, the Fountain of Youth – how to cultivate, circulate, and use intrinsic (ch’i) energy. This is like the “laboratory notebook” corollary to the Unveiling blog, which is more like lecture notes that expand on a text. Lecture and lab, where life itself gives you the feedback.

These blogs have already kicked in with substantial readership growth over the past few months.

My next step? Doing for you (the readers of this blog) what I’ve done for my other tribes.

The reason that I know the time is right?

See the figure below.

Webstats for the Mourning Dove Press blog - August through mid-November, 2013.

Webstats for the Mourning Dove Press blog – August through mid-November, 2013.

Making Sense of the Data

The figure above shows my for-real blog readership for this blog, taken from Google Analytics. The timeframe is from August 1 (of this year, 2013) through yesterday, November 19. The stats are given on a weekly basis.

You can see that at the beginning – late July and early August – readership was very small. For the second week in August, the total readership was only about ten people, over the entire week.

I kept blogging. (This was my intensive blogging phase.) You can see each blog date with the red diamond on the chart.

Slowly, readership began to rise.

Specifically (see the middle of October), people were finding my site even when I hadn’t published a blog in a week or more. See where the weekly readership is holding steady in mid-October? No blog-writing during that time; at least not for this site. (I was busy doing blogging and working Opt-In lists for my other two top sites, see the links given earlier in this post.)

Then, when I published a new post (October 23), readership spiked.

That was a very good sign.

It meant that I had a little traction.

It’s taken me a month to get back to this site and write a new blog. My attention has been on writing for my other two blogs, and reaching out to the readership base there; building the Opt-ins. (And oh yes, the Opt-Ins have been doubling every month for the sites that I’m actively working – that’s a fabulous rate – takes a whole lot of work, but is so exciting.)

But notice – on the figure above – even after the initial readership spike with the last blogpost, there’s still some follow-up reading. People are finding their way here, and I haven’t been doing anything to encourage it.

No Facebook posting. No sending out the email blasts to my existing (and/or reforming) tribes.

This is all organic, people-coming-here-of-their-own-free-will search-enabled traffic. (Plus perhaps some RSS feeds.)

Thank God for search engines. Thank God for the power of intralinking, and tags, categories, and other little blog-readership-boosting devices. (See my previous posts in this series.)

So my next step?

It’s to do for you (the reader of this blog, right now), what I’ve done for the readers of the other blogs.

Give you an easy-to-find Opt-In form.

(It’s there now. In the sidebar, to the right. See it? Right at the top? Wasn’t there a few minutes ago. I put that in right after writing this post just now.)

Why Growing Your Tribe Is So Important

Building your tribe - the most important thing you can do. Photo: Rachel Doherty. Sourced from: Jeff Goins.

Building your tribe – the most important thing you can do. Photo: Rachel Doherty. Sourced from: Jeff Goins.

When Opt-Ins increase, revenue increases.

And yes, this depends on what you have to offer: a book, an online course, a coaching program, workshops, whatever. You have to have some product or service to sell.

But industry wisdom is: your revenue is in direct proportion to the size of your tribe. Your tribe grows, and (if you’re doing things right), your revenue grows.

But for your tribe to grow, you have to do one critical thing.

Sisterly Advice: Four Simple Words

Four simple words from my sister Ann Marie summed it up: Be there. Be visible.

Four simple words from my sister Ann Marie summed it up: Be there. Be visible.

I was talking about what I’ve been learning with my sister, Ann Marie.

Annie has just had a summer where there were children in-house. Her eldest son. Her grandchildren. (All of them.) A somewhat step-sibling to the grandchildren.

In other words, a full house of kids. Talk about tribe? She had one!

She was living the life that my mother, who had five of us children, had lived while we were young.

I talked with Annie about learning how important it was to feed my tribe.

She said, in the context of having five children to care for all summer, that it wasn’t that a person had to do all kinds of things for them. It wasn’t a matter of constantly engaging, entertaining, or monitoring them.

Instead, the secret was in four simple words.

According to my sister Ann Marie, the secret for tribe management is:

Be present. Be visible.

That’s it.

Not everything that you do or say has to be words of gold.

Just as not every meal has to be carefully-planned and made from scratch. Sometimes, the kids get peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches. (Hey, don’t we all remember PB&J? Guess what I just had for breakfast, while writing this post? Yup. It’s faster and easier than cooking. And right now, the focus is on writing this post for you.)

But even though not every meal has to be fancy, there still needs to be a meal. Five kids, every day around noon, each needing to be fed. Sometimes PB&J. Sometimes something more elaborate. But every day, same time, they need to be fed.

That’s why I call it the loaves and fishes strategy.

What Opting In Really Means

When someone “opts-in” with me, that’s a huge gesture of trust. Intimacy, even. It’s a Martin Buber I-Thou moment; not so much a connection, but a willingness to have a connection.

When someone opts-in, it’s more than saying, Yes, I’ll take your regular emails, and occasionally even read them.

It’s more like saying, Yes, I acknowledge that you’re a thought-leader, and I’m allowing you to influence my thoughts.

In essence, they’re calling you a Master Teacher. (For more on this – very important topic – see: Who’s Your Yoda?.)

That’s why it’s sometimes so difficult to get our nearest-and-dearest to opt-in with us. It’s not that they don’t love us.

They do.

They may also respect us, and agree that we sometimes have words of wisdom.

But there’s a world of difference between acknowledging that someone whom you know has helpful insights – and that you may even call this person up for a little “help-me-out” conversation occasionally – and acknowledging that this person is not only A teacher, but is YOUR personal teacher.

Opting-in with someone shifts the relational dynamics.

Opting-in means acknowledging someone as a Hierophant – a transformational teacher. (For some background, go to Dealing with Betrayal at the Deepest Level – all about the Hierophant’s own transformational journey – and check out the links at the end of that blog post.)

A whole ‘nuther realm.

And a huge gesture of trust.

So when you get those Opt-Ins, be careful, okay? Treat your people with respect.

They’ve opted-in. They can opt-out at any time, just as easily. Maybe even more so. (I’m saying this because I “fired” someone yesterday; someone whose list I’d joined on the recommendation of someone else – this person was simply way-overusing the privilege of my email address. And I sent this person a detailed note as to why I was opting-out. Needless to say, this person was not pleased.)

Some More Good Words

Seth Godin has been called the godfather of tribe-building. Check him out at: Seth Godin’s website.

Also, Jeff Goins writes a damn fine blog, and much of it is relevant to those of us in the early stages of tribe-building. I particularly recommend his post: How to Build a Killer Tribe.

My favorite suggestion?

This is hard work, no kidding. It’s very focused work. It’s constantly building and refining your own skill set and your own message.

So you have to be disciplined, self-motivated, and develop a whole lot of skill-sets. Time, attention to detail, and consistency are all great virtues.

But most of all?

Have fun with it.


As Ron Sieh, one of my former T’ai Ch’i Chuan teachers used to say:

Relax. Be “cas”. Hang out with it.

And most of all, have fun.

To your own health, wealth, and overall well-being

Alianna J. Maren, Ph.D. (For more, see my personal website at: Alianna Maren’s website.

Post Script

After all of this, it would be simply rude to close out this conversation without giving you an opportunity to Opt-In with me, right?

The form’s in the sidebar, to the right. Way up at the top of this post. Do the Opt-In thing. You’ll get an email heads-up as for each new blog post, plus special offers from time-to-time. And thank you.

Doubling Your Readership Base: A “Power Tip”

Doubling Your Readership Base: A Power Tip That Gets You Long-Term Results

Our marketing goal is doubling - both readership and Opt-Ins. (Photo of a Doubling Dial from a backgammon game.)

Our marketing goal is doubling – both readership and Opt-Ins. (Photo of a Doubling Dial from a backgammon game.)

Over the last month (shockingly, it has been that long), I’ve been putting into practice the advice that I gave in last month’s blog, Creating the Elephant for Others to Eat (One Bite at a Time), subtitled: Creating Your Next Big Project (And Staying Sane, and Having a Life, While Doing So).

The result? I’ve been doubling my blog readership – in each of my three primary blogs – at a rate of about one doubling per every two months.

Not only that, I’ve been doubling my Opt-Ins at about the same rate.

Loaves and Fishes: Feeding Your Tribe

Loaves and fishes: feeding your tribe (your Opt-In group) means giving them regular useful content.

Loaves and fishes: feeding your tribe (your Opt-In group) means regularly giving them content that meets their needs.

If you are an emerging thought-leader, then you’re starting to build a tribe.

Your tribe consists of those people who are following you, with some degree of closeness.

Every single person in your tribe wants to be fed.

The three types of people in your tribe are:

  • Loyal disciples: These are people who are your advocates; they’re your evangelists. They’ll read or watch everything that you put out. They’ll forward your emails to their friends. They buy your books, take your workshops, listen to your TED(TM) talks on the way to work. Outside of your own advisers, these are the closest of your inner support circle.
  • Official Tribe Members: These people have taken the big step of giving you their name and email address on one of your Opt-In forms, which you host on your website. (I’ll put in an Opt-In form in the right-hand sidebar shortly, and will update this blog to reflect that. Until then, see the Opt-In form in the very first post I wrote for this blog: Surviving the Valley of Death. Giving you a name and email address is a huge gesture of trust and intimacy. It means that these people want to hear from you.
  • Lurkers: Only a fraction of those who come to your website will Opt-In. The majority will scan and move on. A good number, though, will take an intermediary step. They’ll put you on their automatic feed (RSS), or keep checking your blog. They won’t come forward and identify themselves with you, but they’re there. These people also want to be fed.

This brings me to the “loaves and fishes” strategy. You feed your tribe by writing blogs – or producing content (YouTube vids, Podcasts, etc.) – that is helpful to your people; material that meets their needs.

Just like Jesus did with his disciples, you give your loaves and fishes away for free.

It’s like providing free food samples at an upscale grocery store. If you taste the cheese and like it, you’ll buy some.

Similarly, you feed your tribe. Regular content keeps them fed.

If You’re Leading a Tribe, then You’re a Hierophant

The best marketers are actually thought-leaders; really, they are Hierophants. I introduced the Hierophant notion in last month’s blog, Creating the Elephant for Others to Eat (One Bite at a Time). (That blog has lots of links to relevant posts that will help build out the Hierophant concept.)

Mr. Miyagi, from the Karate Kid, is a Hierophant.

Mr. Miyagi, from the Karate Kid, is a Hierophant.

Essentially, a Hierophant is a transformational teacher; a guru or guide of the highest order.

A Hierophant is compelled to teach. Marketing – creating a revenue stream – these are all good results of the teaching process. However, the Hierophant starts with the intention of teaching and transforming lives; the money and social influence are by-products.

Example Hierophants include Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi (from Star Wars) and Mr. Miyagi (from the Karate Kid).

One of the most effective ways that a Hierophant can teach is by producing web-based content; blogs, YouTube vids, and other easily-accessed material.

Revenue Relates to Opt-Ins, Opt-Ins Relate to Readership, the Goal is Doubling

If you’re aware of current wisdom in the internet-based marketing arena, you know that business revenue correlates directly with Opt-Ins. The actual amount will depend exactly on what you have to offer as revenue-producing services and products, but the notion makes sense:

Exponential growth gives you massive results over time.

Exponential growth gives you massive results over time.

The more people in your tribe (your Opt-In groups), the more people who will likely pay attention to your offers.

In the last blog, I introduced intralinking as a power tip for building your readership. In this post, I’ll give an intralinking example. In subsequent posts, I’ll let you know how well its worked at increasing readership (and consequently, Opt-Ins).

Intralinking: One Way to Influence Your Doubling Rate

Intralinking means that you use links inside your blog post to link to other posts, from within the same blog. I’ve done that several times in this post.

For a really great example, see the post that I wrote yesterday for The Unveiling Journey. In Six-Year Anniversary for The Unveiling Journey Blog Series: Six Top Blog Posts Over Past Six Years, I linked to the most popular blogs on that site, from a six-year history of blog posting.

Three ways in which this helps grow readership:

  1. Evergreen blogs become stronger: The selected blog posts (those to which I intralinked in this recent Unveiling blog post) have been getting ongoing readership, months and even years after initial posting. That means that they have the most valuable content for readers. Giving readers the “top value” (and even my recommendation as to where they should start) is giving them extra-special loaves and fishes; it puts the highest-value content in one post, and saves them time. This increases trust, which increases following.
  2. Increase likelihood of back links from other sources: Certain readers will want to put backlinks in their own websites and blogs to the best content for their own tribes. Obviously, no one can point to all of your blogs. But the occasional high-value blog post (one with lots of really good intralinks) will get more attention from those who put out summary blogs with backlinks. (An example? I’m linking to it here! Once again, the link is: Six-Year Anniversary for The Unveiling Journey Blog Series: Six Top Blog Posts Over Past Six Years.)
  3. Intralinking invites readers to keep on reading: If a reader comes in and feels that they’re on a roll with your posts, they’ll continue for a while. Intralinking lets them follow your thoughts throughout your blog and creates a stronger internal “mesh” within your blog series. That way, no one post is stand-alone; each becomes part of a cohesive and attractive whole.

Creating the Elephant for Others to Eat (One Bite at a Time)

Creating Your Next Big Project (And Staying Sane, and Having a Life, While Doing So)

There’s no question. Writing a book – should you ever do this – will take a big hunka outta your life.

When you write a book, you're creating the elephant - others will eat it!

When you write a book, you’re creating the elephant – others will eat it!

This is why many people balk.

During book-writing, you are switching gears from immediate-income-producing actions (coaching, working with clients of any sort, speaking, etc.) to the relative isolation of being tight-focused on your book production.

Nothing will make that really easy.

There are some things that you can do, though, that will make it bearable.

This is why I’m spending so much time writing to you about your writing your blog.

Creating the Elephant for Others to Absorb (One Little Bit at a Time)

Your book will be the product that others will eat: they will consume, they will digest your book. This means that other people will decide that what you have to offer is so good that they will take the time and energy to intake your book (or your video series, your TED podcasts, your whatever).

Before your elephant of ideas can inspire your tribe, you need to feed it carefully over time.

Before your elephant of ideas can inspire your tribe, you need to feed your elephant carefully over time.

So let’s change our analogy. (Out of respect for elephants, and for people.)

People will not actually eat your elephant.

However, over time, they will absorb your elephant’s wisdom.

(There now, that’s a much cooler analogy, isn’t it?)

But before they can do that, you need to create the elephant.

That’s why I recommend blogging your way to your next book.

This Week’s Power Tip: Intralink to Pull Your Ideas Together (And Guide Your People to Connected Thoughts)

Here’s an illustration from my own work.

Two years ago, I published my second book. This publication came twenty years after publishing my first. Instead of continuing in the direction of the technical material of the first, I struck out in an entirely different direction.

Your Next Creative Endeavor Requires Incubation, Rough Creation, and Refinement

My second book was Unveiling: The Inner Journey. (And of course, it is available from Amazon, trade paper or Kindle.)

Of the twenty years that it took to create the next book, there were three major stages. If you take on a similar task, you’ll experience the same:

  • Incubation – Letting the essence of your next creation emerge from your subconscious; realizing that you really are called to do the next big thing,
  • Roughing It Out – Doing the research, creating first rough drafts, building and reworking the core organization – and (if needed) gaining new skills or finding a new way to write, talk, or communicate with others, and then
  • Refinement – Moving from raw and rough to refined, polished, ready for publication – a stage that takes more time, energy, perseverance, and dedication than we ever want to contemplate.

Here’s a brief outline of my own timetable:

Incubation: It took me four years to catch my breath, and realize that I had a new book emerging inside me. Four years before I even realized that I wanted to write this new book.

Initial Creation: Then, it took me fourteen years to get a very raw rough draft into shape. (We’ll discuss that some other time.)

Refinement: After that, it took me 2 1/2 years to go from rough to polished to published. This was 2 1/2 years from the time that I said to myself, sitting down with all my assembled rough, “I can get this book out. There’s enough here. I’m ready.”

Even When You’re Putting Final Touches on Things, New Insights Keep Coming

Now, even though I had my rough, and was going into full-fledged edit-and-revise mode – I still kept getting new insights. (This is why blogging will come in handy for you.) Because I was focused on just getting a single product out the door, these new insights kept working their way into my book. (That’s why it took 2 1/2 years to get from rough to product, instead of my originally-projected two-to-three months.)

Making the Transition: Putting Insights into Blogs First, then Assembly into Book Later

During my revise-and-edit stage, one of the insights that I had dealt with archetypes.

I got enough material together, and organized well-enough, to get some really good new stuff into Unveiling.

However, the insights didn’t stop.

So, I began capturing them in my blog.

Regular Blogging Helps You Bring Your Ideas to Maturity

One of the most challenging concepts that I evolved had to do with the notion of a Hierophant. A Hierophant, as I found, is a transformational guide. He or she is more than a teacher. A teacher conveys known material, and measures success by the student’s absorption of this material.

Mr. Miyagi, from the Karate Kid, is a Hierophant.

Mr. Miyagi, from the Karate Kid, is a Hierophant.

A Hierophant, in contrast, deals with transforming the student – bringing that student from one state to another.

Example Hierophants include Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi (from Star Wars) and Mr. Miyagi (from the Karate Kid).

Over time, and in about a half-dozen blogs, I fleshed out the Hierophant concept.

Today’s Secret Weapon: Use Intralinking to Connect Your Dots

It took me months to develop enough to be clear and coherent on one new topic: the Hierophant archetype.

In a recent blog, I introduced a new archetype (Hathor, the goddess of love, sensuality, pleasure and romance). However, I brought in the Hierophant archetype in support of this new one.

At the end of the blog, I intralinked to (created links to my previous blog posts) all my previous Hierophant blogs.

Below, I show you how this looked. (The material below is taken from The Magical Turning Point – And What It Means to You (from the regular blog for Unveiling: The Inner Journey.)

Related Posts: HierophantHathor’s Protector

You can see from the above example (six intralinks or links to other blog posts, taken from a different blog) that I culled out six different blogposts on the Hierophant concept. They range in posting date from last week (the most recent) to about this time, two years ago. (They’re listed chronologically; most recent first.)

That’s two years of developing a single concept over time.

You can see the evolution of thought.

The first blog post is the one at the bottom of the listing – The Hero’s Quest and the Hierophant – Part 1. It reads almost as a teaser; I don’t really divulge anything about the Hierophant concept itself. However, I do set a lot of context – and this is important when introducing a new idea. This was approximately two years ago today; September 22nd, 2011. (Today is September 25, 2013).

A week later, in the next blogpost (Who – and What – Is a Hierophant?), I introduced a first definition – a first pulling out of the Hierophant concept in a useful way. If you read this one, you’ll see that I was still sort of groping towards definition-by-examples.

In the next two blogposts (Are Hierophants Really That Important? (McDonald’s Thinks So!) and The Hierophant as Guru/Guide (also deals with Hierophant/Hathor Connection)), you’ll see that I was getting clearer – the whole Hierophant notion took on more crispness, as I found more examples through reading books and talking with people.

These early blogs were a lot like my approach to writing my first book, when I wrote a set of “annotated bibliography” columns for a highly specialized computer science journal. They were expostulation. I was developing and framing a new idea, and using the blog to flesh it out for myself. Readers benefited – but at this stage, I was still really writing more for myself than for them.

Then, I began to look at the connection between the Hierophant and other archetypes. That started a whole exploration. Once again, I was back to early-stage expostulating. (For this, see two blogs – Hathor or Hierophant – Who’s On Top? and a blog that followed shortly therafter, Our Hierophant: Mentor, Protector, and Guide for Our Love-Goddess Hathor.) These were written a little over two years ago; March of 2012.

By now, I was getting some solid content – material that could be used to generate a rough and raw draft for a new book. (See my blog in this series from two weeks ago; How to Write Your Book by Writing Your Blog.)

Finally, I began to get some real crispness – not only about the Hierophant notion, but also how this archetype “played with others.” (Specifically, how this archetype interacted with the Hathor-goddess archetype; see The Magical Turning Point and What It Means for You.)

In this last blog, you’ll see that my concepts are clearer – they are more well-defined, their relations with others are clearer. My writing style is less going through my personal journey, and more authoritative.

In short, it took a two-year timeframe to clearly bring out and define one concept.

Yes, there are other concepts and works that I’ve brought out in the same timeframe.

What you’re seeing here, though, is the time that it takes to bring your ideas to maturity.

Translating: From My Experience to Your Writing (and Your Idea-Generation)

Your first blogs on a subject will be exploratory. You may just be sensing that something is ready to emerge, and setting context. Think of yourself as an artist, working with oil paints. Your first step will be rough pen-and-pencil or charcoal drafts, or quick sketches. Then, you’ll prep the canvas.

Then, your next few blogs on that subject will give it tentative rough shape. In “artist’s terms,” you’re blocking out the main figures.

After that, your work focuses on connecting your concepts to one another. How do they support? How do they interconnect? How do they, taken together, build a larger whole?

If you were an artist, this would be the time in which you’d work on connecting visual flow; making sure that colors, patterns, or motifs in one area connect to another.

Finally, you come to the finishing work.

As a writer, though, what you’ve brought forth in your blogs is simply the core element of your ideas and concepts. Taking them into book form, or making them ready for broader dissemination, is an entirely new stage.

The point is: by using your blog, you’ve generated, fleshed out, and developed your new and significant intellectual contributions. You know what you know.

This is a good place.

To your health, wealth, and well-being –


How to Write Your Book (by Writing Your Blog)

Writing Your Book – A Blog at a Time

Two days ago, I was scheduled to meet with a client. She wasn’t able to make the meeting, but someone else – from the next booth over – was interested in what I was doing.

Write a book. It's not easy, but it is doable.

Memo to self: write a book. It’s not easy, but it is doable.

We struck up a conversation. She was interested in writing; potentially in writing her first book.

Here in this blog today, I’ll give you the same advice that I gave her: Blog your way to your (next) book!

There are three good reasons that blogging – careful, intelligent, focused blogging – will help you generate solid raw material for your next book:

  • You generate content on a regular basis. Self-evident. Some content is useful. Some is not. Still, you’re generating a writer’s slush-pile from which you can draw when you put together your “collected works” in a compendium.
  • You start establishing yourself as an authority – well before you’ve established yourself as an authority. One of the biggest reasons that we’re advised to write a book is that a published book establishes us as an “authority.” However, “authoritiy” is incremental. Writing a credible blog series is a good step in that direction.
  • You generate readership. A “loyal following.” A TRIBE. Oh-so-important. Probably the strongest reason for getting your work out there incrementally. Most writers find that the actual tasks of writing, editing, proofing, and getting their book finally published are huge – and still pale into insignificance when faced with the marketing challenge. Writing is the molehill. Marketing is the mountain. You have to have done both to know the difference.

But first:

How NOT to Write Your First (Next) Book

There are some (so-called) “advice experts” who will give you a plan to write a book in 90 days. I’ve even heard of one (go ahead; check out the link in the caption on the first image, in the previous section – above and to the right) who will “teach” you to write a book in ten hours. (This means: You’ll spend ten hours getting other people to write chapters for you, slap a cover on it, and call it a book. Humpf!)

Something seems too easy? It probably is.

Something seems too easy? It probably is.

A book in hours? Even a book in 90 days?


My advice? Up your bull**** detection factor.

If it seems too easy, it is.

And someone’s trying to pull the wool over your eyes.

A Book Is Not a Term Paper (At Least, It Shouldn’t Be)

Remember when you had to write a college term paper? Suppose that you had to get one done in 90 days. Suppose – even – that you were being diligent, disciplined, and hard-working. (Or better yet, your professor made you do the project in steps, with outlines and drafts to be submitted at intervals.)

Your very best efforts – and we’re assuming that your an A student here, and that you’ve done as much research as you possibly could – would result in a pretty decent term paper.

So here’s the kicker: When – if ever – did a term paper (a 90-day wonder) ever make someone an authority in their field?

Never, right?

Let’s be clear here. A ninety-day wonder will have – at best – the quality of a pretty good term paper. It will not have the same quality and substance as a book on which the author has labored for years.

All the research in the 90-day effort, and even contributed essays, won’t count for the personal experience and depth of knowledge on which you’ll draw and put into your real book.

A quality effort will take time, perseverance, dedication, and an enormous tolerance for both long hours at the computer and social isolation.

So What Really Is a Book, Anyway?

In this day of rapid self-publishing, with absolutely no filters on what is produced, what is our honest-to-God definition of a book?

A book is something with an ISBN number.

A book is something with an ISBN number.

Let’s make it easy for ourselves:

A book is something with an ISBN number on it. Preferably, it is available through Amazon.

That means, the “barrier for success” in producing a book is pretty damn low. It means that just about anyone can produce a book.

And the scary thing is, just about anyone does.

What that means is: writing and publishing a book no longer carries the cachet that it did, even a few years ago.

What It Really Takes to Get a Book Out

Writing a book takes discipline, perseverance, and time.

Writing a book takes discipline, perseverance, and time.

I’ve written two books. The first, written over twenty years ago, was purely technical. At that time, the Handbook of Neural Computer Applications was first comprehensive book on the newly-emerging neural networks computing arena.

The book was about 500 pages long.

Half of that book was original text that I wrote, and half was edited chapters.

The contributed chapters ranged in quality from fantastic to awful. Some I treated as though they issued from the Holy Grail; they really were that good. Some were pretty decent; I gave them a thorough editing pass, but they didn’t really require much work. A few — well, hours and hours of work went into making them semi-acceptable.

Rule #1: Whether the material comes from yourself or from others, it will take time and careful attention to create, edit, and proof.

Corollary to Rule #1: Just because you ask someone else to contribute a chapter, your work is not made that much easier.

Even if you can get others to contribute material for your book – ranging from essays to full-length chapters – You still have to:

  • Negotiate the agreement. Be clear about what you want, and your timeframe.
  • Lean on your contributor until the work comes in. Most people who are good are also over-committed. They will agree to write for you in good faith. They also have a lot of other stuff on their plates. Guess what comes first? Learn to nag, nicely!
  • Edit and proof the work. The quality that comes in can vary. It’s up to you to make it professional and consistent. This takes more diligence and time. It possibly also takes tact, as you present revised versions back to the original author. (Remember, they’re going to have their name attached. They get final right-of-approval.)

The same – the very same – goes for asking “guest bloggers” to write a blog post for your series.

Conclusion: Nothing is as easy as it looks. There are no shortcuts to a quality product.

So, If You’re Still Serious about Writing a Book …

If I’ve managed to scare you off, good!

Producing a quality product takes time.

Every single stage takes absolutely far more time than you could imagine.

And then, comes the marketing.

If you’re still with me, then let’s talk our way through one path that has some likelihood for making your life just a little bit easier.

When I wrote my first book (the Handbook of Neural Computing Applications), I signed up first to write a regular column for a brand-new neural network computing journal. I was thrilled to get the inclusion; they were thrilled to have me.

I used the column to develop and present annotated bibliographies, organized by neural-network-type. (And, in fact, I invented the definitions for the various “types” – which I later used as a guiding structure in my book.)

Being a technical book, having a bibliography for each section was very important.

My annotated bibliography columns became first chapter drafts for the book.

They didn’t make things that much easier. But they made the project doable.

And that’s what you’re after. You’re after anything that will make the book-writing-and-publication-project doable.

Because you want more than something with an ISBN number slapped on it.

You want something that will be positively reviewed. Something that even your strongest competitors will have to admit, Damn, that’s good! Wish I’d written it!

Once your book is out there, it’s out there. It represents you.

Anyone can read. Anyone can comment. Anyone can write a review on Amazon.

If your product (your book) is good, it will still be an enormous effort to get those positive reviews.

But if it’s bad?

Let’s just not go there, shall we?

Instead, start organizing your thoughts and ideas with your blog. You don’t need to publish your blog in a major journal. (Opportunities to share your blog may come later, if you’re good.)

Your strengths will emerge over time.

It will become obvious – to you and to others – which of your blog posts are the best. Which are the most worthy of cultivation and future attention. (If you need to, ask. But you’ll know.)

Then, when you’re finally ready to settle down and make the big push – you’ll have a slush pile on which you can draw.

Which is a whole lot easier than starting from scratch.

To your own success – Alianna

Position Yourself for the Long-Term: Fine-Tuning Your Blog Categories

Establish Yourself as the Pre-Eminent Authority – Use Well-Crafted Categories to Make Your Blog Ultra-Searchable

Why Are We Doing This? (Long-Term Peace-of-Mind and Prosperity)

This is the second blog on the subject of carefully crafting blog categories and tags. (Third, actually.)

Position yourself for the long term.

Position yourself for the long term.

There’s no rah-rah with this. The subject matter is rather dry, and the work involved – in doing this right – is a fair chunk of time.

So why invest the effort, you may ask?

It’s all in how you want to position yourself for the future.

There are lots of coaches, counselors, and marketing gurus out there – and for the moment, I’m going to divide these coaches into roughly two camps. There are the rah-rah folks. They do give great advice; don’t get me wrong here. But one blog post could be about the power of focus. Another about clearly setting goals. Any one is as good as the next, and you are probably not too likely to go digging through their archives. If you get and read any of their posts in a given week, great. If not – there will be another, just as good, next week.

These are all good folks; they play a good role.

But I’m trusting – for purposes of our work together today – that you’d rather be in the other camp. This is the camp of the knowledge experts.

Remember, we’re talking about establishing you as King of the Hill in your particular area of expertise. This whole blog series (and Mourning Dove Press itself) is dedicated being a Kingmaker; to helping you get to the top of your game.

Our focus is strategic.

One of our primary goals is to help you develop that strong, secure knowledge base that will firmly establish you as a leader in your field.

This means that the content that you produce will be valuable. You’re writing – as I am right now – the equivalent of college lesson plans. People will come back to you again and again, because they’ll regard you as the authoritative source. And when they have a question about a topic, they’ll search first within your blog series – because they trust your content.

Imagine that.

Imagine that when people have a question in their minds – about something for which they know that you’re the expert – they go first to your blog, and check on your categories and tags. They read your blogs first. THEN – maybe – they do the Google search.

That would be pretty amazing, right?

For this to take place, your blog has to be very content-searchable.

Three Primary Tactics for Increasing Blog Topic Findability

There are three primary tactics that will make what you write more findable by others:

  1. Categories and subcategories – Logical, hierarchical organization of major topics and themes,
  2. Tag Cloud – Swirly, overall-impression, gestalt insight into people, places, things, and events that keep showing up in your blogs, together with topical threads that are like supporting actors, and
  3. Direct internal links (intralinks) to related blogs – You purposefully insert links – both within the blog post text and at the bottom of the blog – inviting the reader to follow a line of thought to other blog posts that you’ve pre-selected for them.

In this blog post, we’re focusing on the first issue – working carefully, diligently, and meticulously with categories and sub-categories. This will be your foremost and primary strategy to make what you write findable – for years to come – by people who will visit your blog.

A Case Study – Categories for a Hundred-Posts Blog

We’re using another blog as a Case Study, to illustrate the process of category conversion and refinement.

The blog associated with Unveiling: The Inner Journey is the Case Study material for this lesson on blog categories and subcategories.

The blog associated with Unveiling: The Inner Journey is the Case Study material for this lesson on blog categories and subcategories.

The starting situation resulted from importing a Google Blogger blog series into WordPress. This blog series is an ongoing outreach based on a book (Unveiling: The Inner Journey) published in 2011. The blog – and the rest of the book’s web material – are now all at The Unveiling Journey.

The material used for today’s blog post lesson is taken from yesterday’s work on the other blog; that posting is When Your Inner Green Man Breaks from Cover.

If you are looking at that particular blog post some time substantially after this post is being written (on Wednesday, Sept. 4th, 2013), then you could see a real difference in the categories and tags on the blog versus those that are shown here as screen shots.

The reason?

Blog categories and sub-categories are something that I (as blog author) can change over time; I can add new categories, move categories around (make them subs or parents), even rename them. This can make the actual category names – and the organization of sub-categories – change over time.

Also, as I associate more blog posts with certain categories (this is the time-consuming part), you’ll see more posts after each category listed in the Categories sidebar widget.

Finally, as I add more tags and refine the existing ones, the nature of the Tag Cloud will change.

Thus, today’s lesson is a snapshot in time – you can go to The Unveiling Journey and see the ongoing blog, but expect a few differences.

Today’s Lesson: Starting Sub-Category Creation and Refinement

This blog post will review the work done in the previous post, and take the next steps:

  1. Create useful sub-categories,
  2. Do a first pass on category consolidation, and create new parent categories as needed – so that certain existing categories can become sub-categories under a broader topic, and
  3. Attach new category (and sometimes sub-category) associations for each blog post – a time-consuming task that was started for this illustration, but which will take weeks – maybe months – to complete.

Starting Position: Categories Reduced in Number, but Still a “Flat Hierarchy”

In the previous blog post, Make It Easy for Others, we started the (rather arduous) process of category refinement.

Initially, I’d imported a series of blog posts from Google Blogger. There were 94 blog posts, and a total of 135 categories – because the import mechanism made every Blogger “label” into a “category.”

Categories in transition

Categories in transition: the set of categories from the previous figure has been cut down by 2/3, resulting in a smaller, more manageable set.

Using the WordPress Categories to Tags Converter plug-in, I quickly moved 90 of those so-called “categories” to “tags.” (You can see a portion of the resulting new categories listing on the right; this figure was also shown in the previous blog post.)

This left me with 45 categories; still way too many.

In addition, while I intrinsically understood that there was a logical hierarchy in my categories, they were not yet evident in the category listing. This was something I’d have to create.

The next tasks were three-fold:

  1. Create appropriate sub-categories, and put them under the right parent-categories,
  2. Make sure each blog has both the right parent categories and sub-categories – this requires detailed checking, because often it will be the new parent category that has to be noted for each blog, and
  3. Combine redundant categories, eliminate unnecessary categories – a first pass at what will be a fairly time-consuming process.

This blog post concentrates mostly on Steps (1) and (2).

Step 1: Creating Sub-Categories

I created two major new categories, and changed a number of existing categories into sub-categories, under one or another of these two new major categories. The following figures show each.

The first major new category was “Archetype.” This was a simple decision; I knew that the blog content was about several different archetypes, and this was one of the most searchable topics.

Step 1A: Be Smart about Category Names

Hint: Choose category names that will show up at the top of the category listings – especially for high-value categories (those that you intend to be most searched). I made sure that the category label was Archetype, not Archetypes – this ensured that it was first in alphabetical order.

Also, I discovered that WordPress 2012 Theme allows us to show hierarchies with categories.

Step 1B: Show Category Hierarchies in the Category Widget – Make It Easy for Readers to Discern Sub-Categories Under Main Category Headings

The figure below shows how to cause the WordPress 2012 theme to show category hierarchies. This walk-through is for the case where you have a single sidebar, where you host all your various widgets for your blog.

First, while in the blog editor, select Appearance from the left-hand column. Under Appearance, select Widgets. This will bring up a screen of widget options. (You can see a partial screenshot of this in the figure below.) You can drag-and-drop widgets into the right hand sidebar; that will make them show up in the sidebar in blog posts and pages.

The Categories widget is already (typically) included in your sidebar’s standard settings. Click on Main Sidebar to see the options for your main pages.

You can make category hierarchies appear by selecting 'Show hierarchy' in the Categories tab in your sidebar; use Appearance => Widgets to find this.

You can make category hierarchies appear by selecting ‘Show hierarchy’ in the Categories tab in your sidebar; use Appearance => Widgets to find this; click on the Main Sidebar option on the RH Sidebar.

Click on the Categories widget to see your selection options, as shown in the figure above.

Select (check) the Show hierarchy option under the Category widget in the sidebar listing.

Save the result. (Save button at lower right; see figure above.)

Step 1C: Start Creating Sub-Categories

The first category/sub-category step was obvious. I knew that many blog posts were about one or another of the various Core Power Archetypes discussed in the blog series; these were archetypes such as Amazon, Magician, Hierophant. It was important that people be able to see all the major archetypes at a glance.

One already-existing category was Archetype. (How convenient!)

First set of sub-categories: Various specific archetypes are made sub-category to the new Archetype parent-level category.

First set of sub-categories: Various specific archetypes are made sub-category to the new Archetype parent-level category.

I decided to make this the new parent for all the specific archetypes. Using the Categories Editor, I identified each of my existing archetypes (Amazon, etc.) as being a “sub” to the new “parent.” In this way, I transitioned twelve categories from being independent parent-level categories to subs under the main Archetype parent.

Since my goal is to reduce the number of parent-level categories to no more than seven (if possible), this was a pretty good first step.

As a side-benefit, since Archetype was a pre-existing category, and the blogs that dealt with any specific archetype (Amazon, Magician, etc.) were already pre-labeled with Archetype as well as the specific (and now sub) archetype, I didn’t have to associate the new Archetype parent category with the various blog posts. You can see that Archetype, as a parent category, has 31 blogs associated with it. Each specific archetype has a fewer number of associated posts; this makes sense. The parent category should always include each of the posts that are assigned to a sub-category.

Step 1C Continued: Make More Parent/Sub-Category Groupings

The first parent/sub-category group was obvious; I knew what I’d do before I started.

Once this first step was done, I took a look at the remaining categories. There were several that related to archetypes – but to sets of archetypes, or to interactions between them, or to other factors involving one or more of the different archetypes identified in the previous category. An example was Core Power Archetypes, which had 17 associated posts.

Thus, a new parent was in order. I created Archetypes-Overview, and made several of the existing categories to be subs to this new parent. You can see this in the figure below.

This figure is based on a screenshot taken while in the Categories Editor for the blog; the previous figures were taken from the “front view,” the blog as it appears when a reader normally accesses it.

This figure shows the category name, and the sub-categories under it – together with the SLUG (the label used for the category by WordPress), and the number of posts that are assigned to that category or sub-category.

Refined Categories and Sub-Categories: Collect Related Topics

Refined Categories and Sub-Categories: collect related topics

Some order is beginning to appear: five pre-existing categories have now been made subs to the new Archetype-Overview parent category. However, because this is a new parent, it didn’t have any subs associated with it.

I began reading through the blogs – specifically, I clicked on the right-most Number for each of the sub-categories; that brought me to a listing of the blogs for that particular sub. Then, I read each blog. I associated the new parent Archetype-Overview with it, and also checked to make sure that other related categories – or sub-categories – were also associated. The figure above shows the result after I’d associated just two blogs with the new parent.

I also created a new sub-category; Archetypes-Masculine & Feminine. You can see that I’ve assigned one blog to it in this figure.

Step 2: Annotating Blog Posts with Right Categories & Sub-Categories

The figure below shows the result after I’d read five more blogs.

The number of blogs associated with the parent Archetype-Overview is now seven. While doing this, I realized that some of these blog posts needed to associate with other sub-categories as well; you can see that (in comparison with the last figure in the previous section), the number of Archetypes-Masculine & Feminine has risen from 1 to 6. (Not surprising; this was a new sub-category.)

Blog Posts are being added to the new parent category(ies) to which they now belong.

Blog Posts are being added to the new parent category(ies) to which they now belong.

Process Summary

You can see, from the figure on the right, that I’m making some progress – the number of blogs identified with the Archetype-Overview category is steadily increasing.

To do this, I look at each and every blog that has one of the sub-categories for Archetype-Overview attached to it. Does it have the parent category listed as well?

Of course it doesn’t, because I just created Archetype-Overview as a new parent, and made all the related categories be subs to that parent. That means that every blog carrying one of the sub-categories has to be manually associated to the parent as well.

Do This Yourself, or Hire It Out?

Admittedly, what I’m showing here is a time-consuming and tedious task.

You could possibly write out a detailed “Process Description” for this step, and have an administrative assistant do this task for you.

Right now, though, there’s some benefit in doing this myself. I’m looking over all my material – roughly grouped by topic (using the new sub-categories as a topical guide). It’s giving me an overview of what I have; what I’ve written when, and how my thinking has evolved.

I see some blogs that actually need to be moved out of this particular blog series and into another one. I see which blogs are most essential; they capture my best thinking on a topic.

You are the owner of your own blog content. If you’re conducting a major blog review-and-revision, then reading through your own material is a good step. You can note which blogs contain your most significant information. (You can also install a plug-in to track which are most popular over time; but since you can direct people’s attention, I wouldn’t rely on that exclusively.)

You can see where you began a topical thread, and might want to schedule it in for your Editorial Calendar (assuming that you have one; if not, this is a good time to create such a calendar – more on that in a different blog).

In short, doing this yourself, hiring someone to do it for you, or splitting the workload is a very personal decision. It has a lot to do with what kinds of content you have, and how carefully you want to personally control how your content is labeled and made findable to others.

Step 3: Blog Intra-Linking

We’ve done a lot in this blog, and so we’ll close with just one very small step that you can take – if you plan to be very diligent about directing your reader’s attention.

I’d written – at the beginning of this blog – that this was second in a series.

I was wrong. This is actually the third blog post in a series on categories, sub-categories, and tags. This particular post is by far the most technical and detailed. However, the two preceding posts give valuable context and motivation. They also discuss the role of the Tag Cloud, which I’ve not mentioned at all in this post.

Use Intra-Linking to Direct Readers to Related Posts

How to get readers to check out your related blogs? Simple. Point them right to it. I’m going to do this below. You’ll see my signature, and then – a Related Posts section.

Try this yourself.

It’s just one more thing; it takes additional time and energy, but it’s sort of like tucking in the threads after doing needlework – it gives your blog a finished sense. It also lets people know that you’re dealing with a theme; they will respect you as creating a body of work – not a simple one-off piece.

I’m going to put the Related Posts here – and some day in the future, I’ll go to the blogs identified in this particular Related Posts – and update them with their own Relateds.

Time-consuming, yes. But it’s the detail work that counts.

To your own success –


Related Posts

Make It Easy for Others (So They Come to You More Often)

The Power of Categories – The Best Way to Increase Your Blog’s Searchability

Are the people who are coming to your blog simply getting lost in the woods?

Are the people who are coming to your blog simply getting lost in the woods?

Have you ever had the experience of people coming to your blog, and then leaving after reading just one post?

Is there a chance that even though you’ve written extensively on a topic, the right audience is not learning that you are the world’s most authoritative expert?

Are the people who read your blog simply getting lost in the woods – without a clear sense of direction?

This may have to do with the backbone that you’ve set up for your blog series: the way in which you use categories and tags.

Blog Categories and Tags: The Backbone Structure for Your Blog Series

In the last blogpost, Dominate the Blogosphere: Use Categories and Tags to Establish Authority, I introduced a new topic with you: How you can make your blog more useful – and more findable/searchable – and more interesting – when you are smart about using blog categories and tags.

A blog without categories and tags is chaotic

A blog without categories and tags is chaotic; it’s like trying to find a book when they’re all in a jumbled pile.

Very simply put: If you don’t make smart use of categories and tags, your blog is in chaos. There may be “hidden gems,” but no one can find them.

The “old saw” amongst bloggers is: Content is King, and Relevance is Queen.

I’ll add to that by saying: Findability is the Wizard.



Using categories and tags introduces structure and order into your blog; it makes your blog content findable.

Using categories and tags introduces structure and order into your blog; it makes your blog content findable.

When you do some simple and straightforward things that make your blogs findable searchable, then you become the Great Seer: you discover the mysteries of the universe and then help others use these insights in a practical and helpful manner.

They way in which you do this is to use categories and tags in a smart, well-structured manner.

Blog Categories in Transition: Before and After Pictures

Blog categories - partial listing - taken from recently imported Google Blogger blog series. There are over 100 categories for this blog series, drawn from Blogger labels.

Blog categories – partial listing – taken from recently imported Google Blogger blog series. There are over 100 categories for this blog series, drawn from Blogger labels.

In the previous blog post, Dominate the Blogosphere, I showed a picture of a blog series that I’d just imported into a new WordPress site from its original home in Google Blogger. An extract from that image is to the right. This is how the categories in this blog looked at the beginning of today’s work.

In this blog series (the one whose categories are on the right), I write a lot about archetypes. However, looking at the categories – as shown in the listing on the right – it would be hard for a first-time reader to figure out that archetypes were a persistent and dominant theme.

The “archetypes” in this blog series (shown on the right) are also a rather complex theme – there are many sub-topics under these archetypes. Many of them are topics for multiple blogs; I want the blog series to be easily searchable for them.

As I re-organize this blog’s categories, one step will be to use both parent and child categories.

Before I can do that, though, I need to clean the clutter. There are about 135 “categories” in this listing. These are really the old “labels” from the Google Blogger – and so are not really categories at all.

Before I can design my new category sets, I need to clean out all those little topics that I will probably never mention again. Also, names of people, places, and things are not – and never will be – “categories.” Categories are broad topics, and proper nouns (the names of anything) are specifics.

Category or Tag? A Quick Rule-of-Thumb

A quick rule of thumb helps us with our first-pass decisions:

  • Categories are broad – general-purpose topics; things that comprise overarching “themes,” and
  • Tags are for specifics – names of people, places, and things, as well as for details and things mentioned-in-passing.

Step 1 – Cleaning Out the Clutter

Re-building the categories a lot like cleaning out a closet or a garage. The first step is to clean out the clutter.
In the case of the blog series illustrated to the right, this means moving a lot of things from categories to tags. Specifically, these will include:

  1. All book titles,
  2. All names for persons and organizations, and
  3. All names of things and events.

To do this, I’ve used a “category-to-tag” tool available in the Import section of WordPress. I didn’t know about this tool the first time that I did a Google Blogger-to-WordPress Blog several months ago, and this chore took hours. (Maybe even days.)

Just now – by going to the Import section under the “Tools” Menu, I found the Category-to-Tag plugin link; installed the plugin, and used it right away.

The result? I had started with about 135 “categories.” (These were the original labels that I used in the Google Blogger.) Within a few minutes, I moved 90 of those “categories” over into being “tags.”

Whew! What a difference. I’m now down to “only” 45 categories; still way too many. But this – at least – is manageable. Over the next week, I’ll be going through and thinking about what goes where. What is a “parent,” and what is a “child.” How to organize and name these things so that they’re findable – both by myself and others.

Here’s the result of this first pass.

Step 1, Part 1: The First Pass in Cleaning Out the Categories

Categories in transition

Categories in transition: the set of categories from the previous figure has been cut down by 2/3, resulting in a smaller, more manageable set.

An extract from the newly-revised categories is (once again) on the right.

You can immediately see several key differences:

  1. The book titles, personal names, and names of things and events have all been moved out,
  2. The remaining categories are all “topical” in nature – not all of them will survive as categories, but now they’re easier to consider.

The number of times that a category has been used (the number in parenthesis to the right of each category) is a good indicator for future decision-making: Is this a one-time thing, or will I be writing about it a lot in the future?

Just glancing at the list brings up a small conundrum – and an example of the kind of problem that we have to solve when designing categories and sub-categories (parent and child categories). I’ll walk you through how I’m solving this in the next blogpost.

Step 1, Part 2: Moving Those Excess Categories into a Tag Cloud

The Tag Cloud for the Unveiling blog site now contains the 90 categories that have been re-assigned as tags.

The Tag Cloud for the Unveiling blog site now contains the 90 categories that have been re-assigned as tags.

For now, though, one other figure is helpful. We finally have a Tag Cloud, which I’ve labeled “Hot Topics,” available right under the category listing. I show an extract of this to the left.

Just because something is not a “general” search topic – either a parent or a child category – does not mean that it’s not useful.

In fact, by moving all those excess labels into a Tag Cloud, we have an entirely different way of peering into a blog’s content.

Categories and Tags: Left-Brain and Right-Brain Ways of Peering Into Blog Content

It’s that whole “left-brain/right-brain” notion once again.

Blog categories serve your left brain; blog tags serve your right brain.

The keft-brain/right-brain distinction applied to blogging: blog categories serve your left brain; blog tags serve your right brain.

  • Categories are a “left-brain” type of organization – they’re hierarchically organized (parent and child), and they hold the major themes that you decide – upfront – that will be important in your blog.
  • Tags are a “right-brain” type of organization – the various specifics that come up as you write towards your general themes.

I particularly like blog tags because they give you the “Aha!” moments – as in, I didn’t realize that I was writing about that topic, or mentioning that book, quite so often.

Tags a good way for you (and others) to see what you’re about; tags are the little things that consistently work their way into your thoughts and your writing.

Step 2: Designing the Parent and Child Categories (A Thought-Exercise)

The “parent” and “child” distinction does show up in the category listings. However, it’s smart to design how and where they show up – so you can guide your reader’s attention. This means that you have to design the parent and child categories yourself, and then use some smart linguistic tricks to give your readers a clue.

It’s worth taking a pen and pad of paper, and noodling this around for a while.

What We’ll Do in the Next Blog Post

If you have a Google Blogger account, and are transitioning to a WordPress-based blog-plus-web combination, you’ll be doing an exercise much like I’m doing now. This is the same exercise that I did several months ago, when I migrated my first Blogger account over to WordPress, and then took on a client, for whom I’ve been moving a Xanga-based blog to WordPress. In each case, categories have needed careful and thoughtful attention – not just to their organization, but to their names.

In the next blog post, I’ll take you “behind the scenes” – I’ll take you through my thought-process as I re-organize this blog’s categories, and build a new tag set as well. At the end, you’ll see how easy the new categories will make it to find what’s needed.

Finding Our Way Out of the Forest

Creating good blog categories and tags is like giving your readers a clear path through the forest; they can navigate to what really interests them.

Creating good blog categories and tags is like giving your readers a clear path through the forest; they can navigate to what really interests them.

Categories are like well-marked trails and pathways – they help us to navigate our way through the woods!

Until next time –

To your own health, wealth, and wisdom –



P.S. Do you want to follow my process as it evolves? The blog series that I’m using for this exercise is for my book, Unveiling: The Inner Journey. The book was published about two years ago, and I developed the blog series before publication – so there are now over 100 blog posts, most developing the thoughts that I originally expressed in the book. Have a look at The Unveiling Journey, which is the new home for both the Unveiling blog and its associated website; both still in progress.

Revisit that blog every week or so – not just to see the new blog content, but to observe how the blog category-and-tag reorganization project is coming along.

It’s a lot like checking out how your neighbors are remodeling their old Victorian home – always interesting to look into someone else’s renovation project!

P.P.S. Don’t have a book, but think you might want to?

Start getting your content onto paper (actually, into digital files) by blogging.

Can you see how I’m doing that with the Unveiling blogs? Have a look at that blog series to see how I’m developing new insights about psychological archetypes. Once I have sufficient material, I’ll cull them into a manuscript, and edit and revise – and there will be a new book!

Or, just stay closer to home. Look through this blog series. Do you see the theme on Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, applied to internet marketing? That’s another book-in-the-making. Do you see that this blog post, and the previous, address how to use categories and tags to give structure to a blog series? Another book. Maybe a short one, maybe a chapter in a longer one, but this is more unique content.

Do what I’m doing. Use your blogs to get your content onto paper (into a file). This is useful because it helps you to start writing for others, not just yourself. Then, putting the material into a book becomes a much more manageable task.

Best wishes and good luck! – Alianna

Dominate the Blogosphere: Use Categories and Tags to Establish Authority

Getting Respect: Using Your Blog to Establish Your Expertise

If you’re like me, you spend hours every week on your blogs.

Influence - that's why we write blogs!

Influence – that’s why we write blogs!

In fact, you may know that your blogs are the heart and soul of your outreach. This means that one of your top goals is to make your blogs among the most attractive, most well-read, and most authoritative in your field. You “feed your flock” through your blogs; presenting your finest wisdom, and carefully cultivating your ideas over time.

But are all the right people finding you?

Have you set up your blog so that someone who is searching on a topic will find you? Do you have confidence that someone searching on your area of expertise will select your blog as one of the resources that they’ll check out first?

If you’re like most people (and like me – up to a year ago), your honest answer would be, “I’m not sure.”

Become Known as the Leading Expert in Your Field by Making Your Blog Findable, Searchable, Linkable, and Valuable – Smart Ways to Use Blog Tags and Categories

A year ago, I had several blogs, and several websites. They had grown organically over time; from simple structures into unorganized chaos.

I realized that the best of my material was “lost in the noise” – noise of my own making!

I had to take a step back – a very big step.

I made the tough business decision to pull way back, disassemble what I had built, and re-assemble – this time with a clean, clear, solid structure and foundation that would make my most important material stand out, make the supporting material clearly in support role, and everything easily findable to a casual reader.

It was like renovating an old Victorian home; one that had grown haphazardly over time.

The result?

My blogs (and there are still several, including this one) are now well-structured; well-organized. The material is “findable.”

More than “findable,” if someone is searching for a topic in my blog, they can now easily get all of the relevant blogs, and from there, be gently and quietly led to other related posts.

Instead of presenting people with an impenetrable, overgrown forest, I take them gently by the hand, guiding them on well-defined paths, and pointing out the interesting sights and vistas.

A huge difference, an immense amount of hard work, and a battle well-fought.

But did I say that I’d transitioned all my blogs?

Ahem. A slight overstatement.

I’m still in the middle.

Blog “Makeover”

Since we all love “before and after” makeover stories, I’m going to take you “behind the scenes” into two blogs; one near the end of its transition, and one at the beginning.

I’m going to open up my playbook – one built not only in the practical “hard knocks” school of blogging, but also on decades of research into how our human minds store and organize knowledge, and on the secrets behind some of the top algorithms (computer programs) that are actually useful to individual bloggers today.

No fancy software needed. This is mostly pen and paper, and potentially some Google Analytics.

The best part? You can use these “secrets” to transform your own blog-world.

It will take time – lots of time. This is not an overnight effort, although you can start in one day and make considerable progress by nightfall.

A Tale of Two Blogs

To illustrate the transition, I’ll share with you a tale of two blogs: one that has undergone the transition, and one that has not yet gone from “chaos” to “order.”

First, the “chaotic blog.”

Chaotic Blog: Way Too Many Categories

A blog with too many categories; hard to find topics of interest.

A blog with too many categories; hard to find topics of interest.

The figure above is a screenshot taken August 14, 2013 of the Home Page from www.theunveilingjourney.com.

Note the listing of categories on the right. Only a partial listing is viewable in this screenshot; you’re seeing categories from A-D. Obviously, many more would be visible if you could scroll down the page.

How easy would it be to find something in this blog series? Pretty tough, right?

The reason is that the Category list puts all the levels of detail at the same level of searchability. In this short section, you see book titles (at the top of the list, inside double quotes), the names of several people (both real and fictional), and some categories that might be “broad topics.” (Archetypes and archetype dominance are both possibilities, at first glance.)

Looking at this list, it’s nearly impossible to determine what this blog is really about. Is it about books? After all, several book titles are given, along with the topical category “book reviews.” There are some authors mentioned, such as Christine Feehan and several others.

Or is it about movies? (There’s mention of Clarice Starling.) There are historical figures: Aspasia, Beethoven. There are currently-living figures; Dingwall Fleary is a well-known local orchestral conductor.

Or is it about topics such as “archetypes,” “archetype dominance,” and “core power archetypes”?

From the categories list – as it stands right now – there is no way to tell.

That means that someone finding this blog as a result of a random search would not know which other topics were dominant, or what the blog focus and direction was.

Even though there are over 100 blog posts in this series, the random categorization makes this series much too like an overstuffed closet.

To find out how to do better – to create categories that let the reader know what is topically dominant, and help them find what they want, let’s examine the figure in the section below.

Well-Ordered Blog: Limited, Well-Chosen Categories

Below, we see a screenshot from a blog that is much more ordered. Whether using Google or some other search engine to find a topic here, or visually scanning this blog for topics, it is much easier to find material by topics.

Blog with well-organized, two-tiered categories - less than two dozen categories help users find relevant material 'at a glance.'

Blog with well-organized, two-tiered categories – less than two dozen categories help users find relevant material ‘at a glance.’

The blog shown in the screen capture above has about two dozen categories. Not only is the number of categories significantly reduced, but as you inspect the category listings, it is clear that there is a two-tier category structure.

WordPress (which is the framework for both of these blogs) lets you identify parent and child (or sub) categories. However, that doesn’t influence how the categories show up in the category list!

You have to be smarter; you have to be more clever than WordPress.

You can see how this is done in the category listing above.

How to Be Smart When You Name Your Categories: A Lesson from the Playbook

A “Top-Tier” category is A Resource. In fact, it is such an important category that instead of labeling it the more obvious Resources, I (being the blog author) made it A Resource instead. That put it at the top of the reading sequence.

The reason for this? I (as author) am seeking to be known as a top Resource repository. I have several sub-categories underneath it. It’s important enough to me – and (I suspect) important enough to readers – to make it the most “front and center” category for this blog.

Underneath it are the various kinds of resources. As with all categories (regardless of level), they’re listed in alphabetical order. So to keep them visually-associated with A Resource, I named them so that they would naturally fall next in line. The names for these blog sub-categories are A Resource Article-Link, A Resource Book, etc. Pretty obvious.

Clearly, one of the important topics in this blog series is Resources. Someone who is searching for resources in this area-of-interest could find blogposts devoted to different kinds of resources; books, articles (with good links), DVDs, etc. This is a blog organization that now makes sense.

So what happened to all of the other terms? The “Christine Feehans” of this blog world?

They’re still there – but they’ve been moved to a realm of much lower visibility.

Instead of being blog categories, they are now blog tags – a much less dramatic notation.

Categories are a way of saying, “This blog is about [this category topic].” Tags are a way of adding little notations, as in, “Oh yes, we also mention such-and-such in passing.”

Categories group and identify major themes. Tags identify nice-to-knows.

With a simple widget, you can easily create a Tag Cloud.

Playbook Tip #2: Use Tag Clouds to Provide a Secondary “Swirl of Interest” About Blog Topics

The figure below shows a second screenshot from the same blog – and same blog post – as the one used above to illustrate the “well-ordered blog.”

A Tag Cloud (here renamed 'Hot Topics') gathers up all the 'little things' that you say in passing.

A Tag Cloud (here renamed ‘Hot Topics’) gathers up all the ‘little things’ that you say in passing.

Tag Clouds tell the reader about the totality of your blog in a much more “swirly” sort of way. If the Categories are Left-brain, then the Tag Cloud is right-brain. The left-brain Categories are carefully chosen, well-ordered and structured, and have names precisely devised to make them readable in a certain order. In contrast, the right-brain Tag Cloud, an amorphous swirl of topics and names, gives your reader a “gestalt overview” – a gut sense – of what the whole blog series is about.

As an example: the Category Set for this blog series makes a big deal about providing access to resources; to the extent of making A Resource the first category. In contrast, when we look at the Tag Cloud, we’ll find that a specific book (my own, of course) is dominant: Unveiling: The Inner Journey. This book is not listed as a category, because there are other books mentioned throughout the series as well. But the overall emphasis becomes clear when we look at the Tag Cloud.

If you look near the bottom of the previous figure, showing Categories, you’ll see a category near the bottom: Teachers, Healers, Coaches, and Guides. That’s a fine general category.

If you look at the Tag Cloud in the figure just above, you’ll see a couple of names pop out. Anahid Sofian is one (see the big bold letters). Eva Cernik (slightly smaller letters) is another. You’ll also note that the phrase Master Teacher shows up fairly well. Clearly, this blog series has a lot to say about Master Teachers – and (for those in the know), Anahid Sofian is one of the most respected (as well as being one of my own Master Teachers), and she shows up strongly. Eva Cernik, a protégé of Mdm. Sofian and a Master Teacher in her own right (as well as being another of my own Master Teachers) shows up well – although less strongly than the person whom we would both regard as one of our primary teachers.

So what do we get from studying this example?

A quick recap:

Smart Use of Blog Categories

Overall, use categories to establish broad, general themes – to identify your blog’s topical focus:

  1. Limit the number of categories as much as possible; some blog strategists suggest that 7 – 10 should be the max,
  2. Create sub-categories as appropriate; again, try to consolidate and limit the number,
  3. Carefully refine category wording, to put the most important categories at the top of the list, and carefully strategize how to name sub-categories, so they appear near their “parent” category.

Smart Use of Tags

Use tags to identify specifics, and use a Tag Cloud to present an “swirly-eyeful” of your blog’s overall content.

  1. Use tags for people, organizations, places, events, and things,
  2. Use tags also to fill out phrases or terms that are vital to some of your main themes, and
  3. Trust that as you write on important topics over time, and categorize/tag your blog entries faithfully, the dominant tags (topical themes) will rise in visibility.

Taken together, tags and categories help you reach your reader, and communicate the overall blog content while still delivering specific blogs in response to the reader’s search.

Want the full Playbook?

Sign up using the Opt-In form to the right.

I’ll be divulging the full Playbook in a series of emails.

This is pretty important stuff, so I’d like to share this with you via email, rather than just posting it on the blog. I’ve got some pretty awesome material coming up – based on years of formal research as a scientist in knowledge discovery, followed by the more reality-grounded “school of hard knocks” in learning to do effective blogging – and then making these blogs findable.

I’ll connect with you soon, via email, as soon as I get your Opt-In!

Learn how to connect your clients to your content – join me now!

We respect your email privacy

Powered by AWeber Autoresponder

To your own success –