Technology

5 Tech Products I Use To Make My Consulting Calls Run Smoothly


As a business consultant in the wedding industry, I often work with big-box retailers to fine-tune their bridal registry experience or with hotels to revamp their outdated wedding sales programming. Some of my favorite challenges to tackle, though, are the short-term projects that I get to work on with wedding pros via phone or in-person consulting. Small creative businesses are the backbone of the wedding industry and I love seeing people change the course of their business relatively quickly through focused strategy.

Over the years (and through a lot of trial and error), I've created a system that's allowed me to streamline both the behind-the-scenes and client experience of these consulting calls. While the process for ongoing projects looks a little different, here are five technology products that have made my phone consulting process run much more smoothly:
 

1. Calendly

Calendly is hands down the best program for scheduling calls and meetings. No more emailing back and forth, meaning you can say goodbye to the, “Oh wait, never mind, that time is no longer available, what about Tuesday instead?” email chains that slowly drive each of us crazy.

It has both free and paid plans and is super customizable, allowing you to opt for a different availability schedule each day. This lets me take things like random school breaks or half-days into account as I plan out my month. I've embedded mine on a dedicated page on my site so that I can include more info along with it. 
 

2. UberConference

I switched to using UberConference for all my consulting calls and it is one of the best tech decisions I’ve made. I upgraded to a dedicated area code and phone number that I got to choose, but there are also free options. 

UberConference works similarly to several conference call products and includes a screensharing option. It also allows my international clients to connect to the call online via their earbuds or computer's mic and speakers so that they don't have to incur expensive long distance phone bills. 

The aspect that won my loyalty, though, was the quality and reliability of its recording feature. Since I record consulting calls for clients to keep and listen back to later on, I need it to work every time, without fail. In the past I’ve dealt with the nightmare of services and apps not working the way they should: recording with subpar audio quality, or recording and then not playing back, or not turning on at all when they were supposed to. With UberConference I never have to think about this. It just works. Automatically. Every time.


3. Squarespace

I have admittedly not always been the biggest fan of Squarespace, but giving credit where it is due: they saw where they needed to improve and improved – a practice I think we all try to incorporate in our own lives and companies.

I view the annual fee (also payable as a monthly fee) as paying for ongoing tech support. Whenever Apple, Google, Samsung, or some obscure company I've never heard of releases a new phone with new sizing ratios, or new standards are introduced in responsive design, Squarespace's engineers automatically implement the changes. This means that my site works on every device, anywhere in the world, all the time.

Their sites are also designed with digital behavioral psychology in mind, meaning they don't just look pretty, they are set up based on how people actually navigate the web. They may not be the ideal solution for everyone, but one of my priorities is not having to worry about the above issues, ever.

One of Squarespace's features is the ability to create password protected sections. I use these to create a Splendid Dashboard for each phone consulting client. This is where the recordings of each call are housed so they can access them forever, as well as other client-specific documents and information. It also has info on upcoming consulting sessions, etc. 
 

4. Dropbox

Each client gets their own folder in Dropbox and everything is stored in the cloud via their Smart Sync feature. I keep everything about a client in their Dropbox file: my notes and research, PDFs and files they share with me, photos, videos, etc. Pretty standard practice for most of us these days, but as someone who has previously lost hours and hours worth of work because of hard drive crashes, it's well worth the monthly fee. 


5. TurboScan Pro

I'm old school in that I still take notes by hand, always in cursive. Whether on legal pads, in notebooks, or in the margins of my Day Designer, whenever an idea hits, I prefer to get it out of my head and onto actual paper. I also often take notes during my calls by hand.

Part of my workflow checklist for consulting calls includes using TurboScan Pro to immediately digitize my notes afterwards. It literally takes less than a minute to scan my notes, name the file, and export as a PDF to the client's folder in Dropbox. Everything is readable online and I never have to worry about not having access to certain notes when I'm out of town because they're in a filing cabinet in my office back home. 

I don't remember what the free version offers, but I paid $5.99 to upgrade to the pro version and use it daily. The app currently has around 132k reviews with a 4.9 star rating, so clearly I'm not the only one who loves it.
 

I'm not someone who loves to use a million complicated tech tools to accomplish a task. The five products above may seem pretty basic, but in my opinion, what actually gets used is what works best, and for me, the less bells and whistles, the better.

Style Me Pretty and Your SEO (and Why You'll Probably Be Fine)

Over the past few days, there’s been a lot of confusion around what happens to a wedding professional’s SEO once Style Me Pretty’s content is taken offline.* In response, there's been a lot of well-intentioned, yet inaccurate, advice on SEO being doled out. 

The idea that any link to you on Style Me Pretty counts as a backlink to your site that Google uses to improve your SEO is an incorrect understanding of how it works.

As a very simplified explanation, there are two kinds of links: “do-follow” and “no-follow."

  • Do-follow links tell Google to give your site SEO credit
  • No-follow links tell Google NOT to give SEO credit for that particular link**

No-follow links exist to both cut down on spam and to reward organic, earned content by limiting the ability to purchase links on highly-ranked sites.

Among the links that Google wants counted as no-follow include links appearing in sponsored posts, links in ad graphics or banners, links in advertising directories (aka vendor directories), links for reviews or endorsements where products or services were received for free, etc. You can read more here, but basically, if money or products/services changed hands, those links need to be coded as no-follow.

What’s usually more motivating to site owners when it comes to following these rules is that if links that Google determines should be no-follow are instead coded as do-follow, they will penalize the site that the link appears on.
 

So what does this mean if Style Me Pretty linked to me?

1. If you are linked within the paragraphs of the story describing the featured wedding or styled shoot, that link is a do-follow link and potentially helps your SEO. These links are allowed to be do-follow because they are what Google views as “editorially placed” links – the site's editors vouching for you in an unpaid submission. 

2. Links that are listed at the bottom of a post in the Little Black Book as well as the “additional vendor credits” sections are no-follow links.

3. Links that are listed on the Little Black Book pages are no-follow links because it is a paid vendor directory. 

4. Links that were in advertising graphics are no-follow links.

By doing it this way, Style Me Pretty ensured that they stayed within Google’s rules for linking and kept their site from being penalized.


Okay, but is my SEO affected?

If the ONLY place you have been published is on Style Me Pretty and you have been published there often, you will likely see your SEO negatively affected. This is because you did not do enough to diversify where you get published and which sites link to you editorially.

If you have been published a lot by Style Me Pretty and were linked within the paragraphs of the features, but you’ve also been published elsewhere just as frequently, your SEO might be negatively affected, but it’s unlikely to knock you to a lower page on Google.

If you fall into either of the top two examples, but you kept updating your own blog consistently over the years, you will be fine.

If the majority (or all) of your links on Style Me Pretty were in the Little Black Book directory or listed in the “additional credits section” at the bottom of a post, but not in the post itself, your SEO will not be affected, as it was never helped in the first place.


I was published there often, how do I get my SEO back up?

There are many ways to improve your SEO, and I’m not going to get into all of them here, but one of the fastest ways to improve it is to keep your own blog updated a minimum of three times a week, with at least 400-600 words per post. 

Your blog needs to be hosted on your own site (ex: thinksplendid.com/blog) – not Medium, not LinkedIn, not Facebook, not Tumblr, and not a newsletter that you own but only send out via email.

At first glance, this seems overwhelming, but 400 words is a few paragraphs, and honestly most wedding industry Instagram captions are that long (captions on IG, by the way, do nothing for your SEO). 

Every word in a blog post counts as a keyword on your site, which is why – while newsletters are great and having an email list is important – hiding the content in a newsletter while not publishing it online doesn’t help you SEO-wise. 

In addition, the benefits of blogging work like compound interest — you will see some benefit almost immediately, but you’ll see even better, and seemingly disproportionate, benefits over a longer period of time. This is why the people who have continued to blog even when everyone else decided it was too tedious or listened to the “gurus” who announced that it was dead have no need to worry right now, no matter where else they’ve been published.

You can certainly re-submit your Style Me Pretty features to other sites with a strong PageRank, but I would recommend that for now you re-publish them* on your own blog in order to get Google to recognize that you have content worth indexing.

Think about your online marketing this way: your website, blog, and newsletter are the house you own. Your social media and any other sites you leverage for publicity are the house you rent. While you want to spend some time, money, and effort making the house you rent an enjoyable and welcoming place, it should never be more than the amount of time, money, and effort you spend building equity in the house you own. 

There are no shortcuts to building a sustainable business and while changes in technology have opened some doors (such as the ability to get your brand in front of more people for less money), they still require that we work smarter and harder


*There is currently an effort to save Style Me Pretty. If this happens, your links will live on and you won't need to re-publish your features on your own site nor re-submit them elsewhere.

**There have been some reports over the past six months that Google is now rewarding no-follow links with SEO credit, but a Google rep at SXSW last month said no changes have been made and that no-follow still works the way it always did.