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082: Why Strategy Makes the Difference with Cassie Howard

Released Tuesday, 21st April 2015
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Why Strategy Makes the Difference
Do you ever feel like that hobby blog of yours... the one you've had for years - the one that's never really taken off like you planned - will never become the business you're dreaming of? Cassie Howard chats with us on the podcast today to dispel that myth. It's absolutely possible to turn that hobby blog into a business with a plan and a strategy.

Hear Cassie's story, learn her favorite books and tools for getting ahead, and get to work turning that hobby into a business. You can do it!

On the Podcast
01:29 - From Online Diary to Frugal Living Guide03:07 - How to Monetize a Blog05:14 - More Traffic or More Products (which one matters most?)07:02 - 2 Strategies to Grow your Traffic07:55- SEO Tips for Mom Bloggers11:41 - How to Find and Keep Great Staff12:42 - A Timeline for Blog Growth14:08 - A Typical Day for a Full-time Blogger16:04 - Helping Moms do Work they Love20:52 - 4 Great Resources to Keep your Biz Going Strong22:07 - The One Thing Cassie is Most Proud of22:55 - 3 Books that will Change your Business24:06 - A Funny Mom Moment aka Mornings are Rough!

Press Play on the Podcast Player Below to Hear Cassie's Interview
From Online Diary to Frugal Living Guide
Cassie started her blog in 2007 when it was just she and her husband. It was more of an online diary where she would write about what she did that day.... "boring stuff" as Cassie says. Having grown up in a very frugal family, Cassie was into couponing and saving money. As she began to blog about couponing and how she was able to save 50-90% off of retail prices, her readers wanted to know how she did it.

Her site, MrsJanuary.com morphed from a personal diary into a complete focus on frugal living. Cassie's site is one of the top frugal living sites for Canadians.

How to Monetize a Blog
Cassie's blog was just a hobby for many years. Although she was helping many Canadians to live more frugally, she didn't have a strategy for turning her blog into a business. She made a couple hundred bucks a month on her site, but for all of the hours she put into it, that low income wasn't worth it.

When Cassie decided it was time to get serious about her blog, the first thing she did was look at other sites in her niche to see how they were monetizing. From there, Cassie tried similar strategies on MrsJanuary.com

What strategies did Cassie try?

  • Ad networks

  • E-books

  • Private ads

  • Affiliate sales

After trying things out, Cassie got rid of what didn't work or what felt too salesy and kept what was workingto bring in more income while letting her stay true to her vision for the site.

What income strategies worked?

Ebooks, private services for her readers such as coupon classes and coaching, and sidebar ads are monetization strategies that have worked well for Cassie.

After Cassie tested different strategies and homed in on what was working, she immersed herself in learning everything she could about those monetization strategies, to truly make the most of them.

In a few years' worth of effort, Cassie grew her site from a few hudred dollars a month in income to 10-15,000 dollars a month of income... and that number continues to grow.

More Traffic or More Products ?
For MrsJanuary.com, traffic has played the largest role in increasing her income. Obviously, more visitors allow for higher ad rates, and more potential customers for her products.

However, Cassie says that creating and selling her own products has played a huge role in her business as well. She gets to control the price and the marketing efforts she puts into place for those products, and you don't get that level of control with something like sponsored posts.

Which Products did Cassie Add?

  • 1 on 1 couponing classes.

  • E-books

  • An online course that teaches moms how to create an online business through blogging

In growing her blog and business, Cassie had to keep her target audience in mind. Her blog readers are frugal-minded, so she knew they wouldn't spend a lot of money on a fancy product. She's kept things simple for them, but has since branched out with CassieHoward.com to offer higher-end products and services to women who are looking for that.

2 Strategies to Grow your Traffic
Cassie has used two key strategies to grow her blog traffic, and therefore, earn more money online.

  1. SEO. Cassie admits that it took her a long time to learn how to do SEO for her blog properly but once she did, she saw a dramatic increase in traffic. Learn more about SEO for your blog.

  2. Pinterest. Once Cassie dug into Pinterest, she found that she could drive far more traffic from this site compared to search engines, so her focus has switched a bit to ensure she makes the most of this site. Grab a comprehensive list of the best Pinterest tips on the web.  Pinterest takes strategy and practice to do well.

SEO Tips for Mom Bloggers
Cassie shared 4 great tips for improving your On-Site SEO for your blog.

  1. Image Name. Many people forget that the name they give their image is super important. That image name is what will help you to get found in Google Image Search, so you should name that image whatever your target keyword phrase is. In addition, that image name shows up on your blog as well - it's hidden behind html code, but it's what website crawlers see rather than the image itself.

  2. Blog Post Title. Give your blog post the same exact title as that long-tail keyword phrase you're trying to target.

  3. Content. Be sure to sprinkle your target keyword phrase 1-3 times throughout your post. Make it sound natural, and use related keywords as well so the language is not stiff and robotic.

  4. Long-Tail Keyword Phrases. When you're creating content, it's much easier to rank higher in search engine results if you focus on long-tail keyword phrases.

What is a Long-Tail Keyword Phrase?This simply means using multiple keywords as your target phrase versus just one word. For example, don't focus on "coupons" focus instead on "canadian couponing tips" Using specific keyword phrases means you'll face less competition, rank higher more easily, and you'll get specific, targeted traffic to your site

How to Find and Keep Great Staff
Cassie admits that she didn't start out hiring the right way. She put out a call on her website announcing that they were hiring. Now, though, Cassie recommends going through a site such as Elance.com. You can find people there with a wide range of expertise who can help you at reasonable prices.

(Cassie's tips on hiring are quite different from Tiffany Romero's.  Thoughts?)

A Timeline for Blog Growth

  • 2007-2011. No strategy. Cassie blogged consistently about couponing and saving money, but there was no intention with turning her sit into a business.

  • 2011-2012. The Learning and Implementation Phase. Something clicked with Cassie, and she decided she had to turn her site into a business. This year, she learned everything she could about monetizing her site and began trying out new strategies.

  • 2012-2013. Real Income! Cassie made about $30,000 from her site this year.

  • 2013-2014. A Booming Business. Cassie made six figures with her blog this year, and her income continues to grow every month.

Cassie encourages other women saying, "it doesn't have to take a million years to grow a blog, you can do it in just a few years if you focus and have a clear strategy in place."

A Typical Day for a Full-time Blogger
Cassie starts her days at 4:30 AM. She loves to have at least two hours without the kids up to just enjoy the quiet and having zero distractions. Cassie also does her best work early in the morning. She's most focused and efficient at this time.

She writes her to-do-list the night before so she can dive right in when she wakes up. Cassie usually starts with email. (Yes, she knows that goes against typical advice on productivity, but hey, the most important part of productivity is doing whatever makes you most productive.) Cassie checks to see if there's anything from her team that she needs to address.

Then Cassie moves on to writing blog posts. Finally she does marketing for her new site, CassieHoward.com. By 6:30 AM, Cassie has two hours of "mom mode". She's getting her kids ready for school, feeding breakfast, and cleaning things up.

Once the kids are off to school and daycare, Cassie does calls with clients, interacts with her team for MrsJanuary.com, and does more social media marketing.

Cassie generally ends her day at 3:00 when she goes to pick her son up from school. From there, it's 100% family time until 4:30 the next morning.

Helping Moms do Work they Love
In 2015, Cassie created a new website to help stay-at-home moms learn how to create successful blogs. She has a 4-month program that teaches them how to build a blog from the ground up or how to grow their current blog so they can make at least $30,000 a year

Cassie believes that if women put in the effort and use the strategies she gives them, there's no reason they can't make money with their blogs. She's so passionate about helping other moms live the lives they want, stay home with their kids, and do work that they love.

Cassie has enjoyed the success that comes along with having a big blog, both the financial aspects and the freedome she has, and she wants other moms to enjoy that success too.

4 Great Resources to Keep your Biz Going Strong

  1. Skype. Cassie uses this on a regular basis for client calls. (and for chatting with podcasters, of course!)

  2. Canva.com

  3. Picmonkey.com Both of these sites are fabulous for photo editing, and they help Cassie to create beautiful, Pinterest-friendly images.

  4. Graphic Designer. Cassie uses a guy named Greg from 99Designs.com She's found that having a close relationship with your graphic designer will really go a long way towards marketing your brand and yourself effectively. (We agree! KatySarah, and Hadassah have all been key in helping us to grow our business.)

The One Thing Cassie is Most Proud of
Cassie is most proud of the group coaching program she started this year. It was a random idea, but when Cassie asked her audience what they thought, they loved it!

Cassie has assembled a small group of women who connect on a regular basis. They help each other to brainstorm ideas for building their businesses, and they are just all around, a great group of women.

3 Books that will Change your Business

  1.  The Science of Getting Rich. Cassie admits that it's a corny title, and at first glance, the advice sounds way too good to be true but when she put the principles from the book into play, it made a difference in her life and business . (Note - these are affiliate links)

  2. The 40-hour Workweek. Cassie found this Tim Ferriss classic helpful for reducing her to-do list and focusing only on what matters most.

  3. Onward by Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks. This book outlines how Howard Schultz brought back the culture and brand of Starbucks, and Cassie says that it's helped her to build an amazing team for her business.

A Funny Mom Moment
You'll be cracking up when you hear what Cassie's sassy daughter said to her the morning of the podcast!

Stay in Touch with Cassie!
For couponing and frugal living tips: MrsJanuary.comFor coaching: CassieHoward.com
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From The Podcast

Brilliant Business Moms with Beth Anne Schwamberger

Beth Anne from brilliantbusinessmoms.com interviews mom entrepreneurs who are succeeding in online business. Mom bloggers, Etsy shop owners, Shopify store owners, designers, authors, and course creators are just a few of the creatively brilliant moms featured here. This podcast is all about practical advice from work-at-home moms who are getting things done in the margins - just like you! We're not about big names or fancy accolades here, but instead celebrating big and little wins from mompreneurs who make the most of their day to grow their business at a pace that works for them. We're all about designing online businesses that work around our lives instead of running our lives. Brilliantbusinessmoms.com features tutorial videos to help you grow your business including topics on growing your email list, Facebook marketing, SEO for your Etsy shop or blog, affiliate marketing, building website traffic through Pinterest, outsourcing, organizing your research, and marketing your first online product. Beth Anne won't leave you in the dark with general platitudes like, "don't give up" (you shouldn't). She'll will walk you through all of the practical steps needed to truly be successful in the online business world. As she learns and grows her own online business, she'll share each success and failure with you so that you can learn right along with her. Whether you're brand new to online business, an old pro, or just beginning to think about earning an income online, the Brilliant Business Moms podcast has got you covered!
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