Posts made in November, 2014


Ask Penny

Penny Shima Glanz is a computer scientist with a passion for information management and how we interact with technology. She started PennyWise Consulting, LLC to help solo and small businesses figure out how to make the most of their technology needs and budgets. When not wrangling technology she can be found knitting, snuggling with her cats and reading, or out on a muddy trail run at sunrise.    

Today’s Question: Should I add a category or tag to my blog post?

Penny’s Answer: First let me explain how categories and tags work in general: Let’s say you decided you want to bake a batch of chocolate chip cookies. Your shopping list has eggs, flour, and milk. When you walk into the store, looking to pick up the ingredients, you don’t walk to aisle F for flour, but go to the baking aisle. You are going to the aisle based on a category, not the name. Categories are generally broad in scope, in that baking aisle not only can you get flour, but also sugar, spices, and chocolate chips.

Thanks to Twitter and Instagram, the term #hashtag is something you likely recognize, heck it’s even in the OED! If you leave out the actual hash sign, then you are left with the tag as it is most commonly used in blog posts today. Tags are generally more specific than categories; returning to my cookie analogy, cookies and chocolate chip cookies could be a tags with baking as the category.

Categories and tags become sign posts within the website and help to organize it. These signs are most helpful for navigation, guiding site visitors deeper into the site, and also for search engine optimization. For navigation, it’s easy to provide a link to all the posts that have be assigned that term, for example, all my Ask Penny posts are tagged. Search engine optimization is a very complex (and often controversial) topic. Simply, with SEO you are trying to help the search engines figure out what the important topics and parts are of your site are and to display them when someone enters relevant search terms.

Organized content helps everyone, but keep it simple and logical for your site visitors! Consistency is key for whatever categories and tags you choose to keep things organized. If you have a group of posts, for example, that are for cookies, then that should be the word you use. Cookie, cookies, chocolate chip cookies, and gluten-free chocolate chip cookies are all similar but different. How finely grained your categories and tags are depends on your site and what’s important to you. The categories and tags for a personal blog and a business blog, while covering similar topics, will likely be very different. When developing the site, this is something that needs to be thought about, though remember it can evolve over time. It’s important to design your site primarily for your visitors’ experience; a well designed site will not need to stress over SEO.

If you would like to learn more about SEO, Google developed an approachable Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide and there is a brief introductory article from torque. For more about tags and categories, it is important to view documentation for your particular website, such asWordPress Categories vs. Tags and Blogger labels.

 

Thanks so much for your insights, Penny! Have you got a tech question? Leave it in the comments and you might find the answer in Penny’s next post!

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Happy Mail: Subscription Boxes

Happy Mail: Subscription Boxes


Posted By on Nov 10, 2014

Happy Mail - Subscription Boxes

When is the last time you did something just for YOU? So many creative biz owners out there are juggling so many things – making, listing, selling, shipping, marketing, blogging, spouses, kids, pets, home, LIFE! – that it gets to feel like there just aren’t any extra minutes in the week for things like self-care or a “mental health day” or a five-minute break to brew some tea and breathe deeply.

I definitely know you you feel – not only do I work for a variety of awesome clients (which means juggling a separate To Do list for each one of them), but I also home-school three kids and take care of a household and a menagerie of pets. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my time wearing all of these hats, it’s that if I don’t stop to take care of myself once in a while, I will eventually crash and burn. The old saying is true, at least around here – If Mama ain’t happy, nobody’s happy.

So one thing I’ve done for myself is to purchase a subscription box! One quick sign-up process later and I’m all set to get a fun little surprise in the mail, just for me. And I don’t have to worry about scheduling it in, because it’s just going to show up in my mailbox, like a little reminder to take a few minutes for myself that day and do something fun (namely, opening the package and playing with the goodies inside)!

There are a ton of options available, and I’m just barely going to skim the surface here, but these are a few of my favorites:

Subscription Box Options – Health & Beauty

1. Ipsy – This is the box I subscribe to now. For ten bucks a month (that includes shipping), I get an adorable little bag filled with sample-sized beauty products. Here’s a photo of my first month, just so you can get an idea:


It’s a total-package experience for me to open the hot-pink bubble mailer that Ipsy uses to send their products, and to take the time not only to open a package full of fun goodies but then to play around with the beauty products, something that feels indulgent and feminine and just plain fun.

2. Julep – This beauty company’s signature product is their 4-free nail polish, which is free of four major harsh chemicals that typical polishes contain. Their Maven program is a subscription service that lets you customize the contents of your box every month and choose add-on products for a special price. They also have a “secret store” just for subscribers that has special savings on a variety of products. The base subscription price is just under $20 a month, and you get a pretty good package for that price. Full disclosure – I used to be a Julep Maven but I stopped my subscription because I felt the polishes were more chip-prone than the others in my makeup bin. But I think if you have a good solid top coat you should be okay, and getting the boxes every month was definitely fun. (PS – Are you into nail art? We’ve got a board for that!)

3. Birch Box – I don’t have any personal experience with this one, but it’s the same basic concept as the Ipsy box. You get a box filled with beauty/makeup/hair care/nail samples and you get special discount codes if you want to purchase those samples in full-size form. I’ve got a few friends who have a Birch Box subscription and they love it! As a bonus, they have separate boxes for men and for women, for an equal-opportunity fun mail experience. You can subscribe for $10 a month, so honestly I might start doing this one in addition to my Ipsy box, or I might change it up between the two mid-year.

Subscription Boxes – Arts & Crafts

1. Maker Mail – This collaboration from the makers of the Oh My! Handmade Community. Rather than being an ongoing subscription, this is a limited-edition project where you get three months of goodies delivered directly to you from the makers of the OMHG community. Choose from a paper option – which includes a flat mailer full of paper goods like party supplies and notecards – or a gift option, including handmade goodies of any variety.

2. Whimseybox – This $15/month subscription gets you a box filled with arts & crafts supplies along with instructions for how to DIY-up some fun. There’s a good variety of products included so each month is a fun-filled crafty adventure for you or a creative friend.

3. Green Kid Crafts – This box is for your kids, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get in on the fun! For just under $20 a month, you and your kiddos get three or more projects that are eco-friendly and packed with fun. From bird houses to ornaments to tie dye, these projects are sure to please your crafty kids.

Subscription Boxes – Food & Drink

1. Graze – These boxes are packed with small, snackable packages of food that tastes good and is good for you. Common ingredients include nuts, dried fruit, granola, and more. You can choose a low-calorie box option if you’re watching your weight, or go for full flavor and full calories in the regular box (which is still full of natural ingredients).

2. Love with Food – For ten bucks a month you can give yourself a treat and do some good in the world, too, with the Love with Food subscription boxes. When you subscribe, you get a box full of all-natural or organic snacks and the company donates a meal to a hungry child.

3. Tea Sparrow – If you’re a fan of daily tea time, this box is for you. Every month you get 4 different types of tea, for a total of 30+ cups. Share with your friends, save them for gifting, or savor each sip all for yourself.

Subscription Boxes – Other

1. Nerd Block – Finally, a box just for the nerds! These boxes come in a variety of types (Horror Block, Monster Block, and even Nerd Block Jr), and every month has a different nerdy theme. The company fills the boxes with a T-shirt (you choose the size), action figures, collectibles, stickers, and more – all to fill your geek-lovin’ heart with joy.

2. Dollar Shave Club – Buy only the type and number of razor blades you need, and get a free handle to go with them! For just a dollar (or slightly more, if you upgrade) a month, get a great shave with a clean blade, every time. Specifically formulated for men, but I’m guessing it’d work just as well for shaving your legs …

3. Bark Box – The Bark Box is for man’s best friend! A box full of natural treats, chews, toys, and more – just for the puppy love of your life.
Did we miss YOUR favorite subscription box? Tell us about it in the comments below!

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