Maximizing SEO for Small Businesses

If you own a small business (or run a small business), you are probably aware of the challenges that search engine optimization (SEO) present. Those challenges are most likely different from SEO challenges that mid and large size companies experience. You need to maximize SEO for your small business effectively.

Learning how to customize
There are a few truths here and you would do well not to ignore them considering that you want your small business not only to get by but also to really make a solid contribution in the workforce. Just like social media, SEO (as a concept and as a business strategy) is here to stay. That means that you must optimize your content for the search engines (that is, if you have any hope of succeeding).

Your rankings on the search engines are critical to your brand’s success. If you don’t embrace SEO, the next guy (or girl) will step up immediately and do whatever you were unwilling to do. His or her business will thank you for having given him or her the opportunity. It is that simple. You need to make sure that your brand and your business is always visible so that other people are well aware of what you are doing and how you can help them to solve their problem(s).

Local SEO
If your business happens to have branches in different locations or if you are only in one location, you still need to customize your SEO to those locations. That customization may be slightly different in each place so you should embrace it now so that you are prepared for what you need to do later. If you have more than one location, you will need a page for each location. You will want to share the following information:

The contact information of your business(es) (business name, address, phone number, Email address)
A list and the products and services that you offer
Direction to your brick-and-mortar business(es)
Your hours of operation
Contact form so that the other person has a way of connecting with you
Social buttons so that the other person can go to the next step with your brand
Descriptions of your offerings (and meta-tags). It is important to keep in mind that each description must be unique. Otherwise, you may be penalized for having duplicate content.
Interactive (properly functioning) pages. That means that when the other person wants to reach out to you, he or she is able to do so.
Clear, concise, and compelling content.
An easy way for the other person to navigate through the pages.
Effective keywords and key phrases so that the other person can find you easily.
Make sure that other people can find you locally (optimize properly)
Although there is no doubt that your website is really important for your brand and for your business, there are other places where your prospective customers hang out and where they will be more inclined to find you. Try LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.
You should also register your business(es) with a local listing site. There is a really good chance that if you list your business there, people will find you because that is one type of site where they will naturally go when they need what you happen to be offering. Once you have decided to put your information on a local listing site, you will want to include the following:

The URL of your business’ website.
Your business hours.
Prices to go with your products and/or services.
A full list of the products and/or services that you offer.
Your credentials (after all, the other person will need to consider you credible so that he or she eventually buys what you are selling).
Photos of what you are selling.
An important thing to remember (if you have multiple locations) is that your content should be consistent across all locations. That even holds true from a grammatical perspective. There is nothing worse than inconsistency (well, second worst. The worst thing to find in content is typos). A lack of consistency shows a lack of attention to detail, which translates to your not caring about your business and about other people. That is probably not true but it is a perception that other people will get and it will stick with them, unfortunately. Oh, and inconsistency will also negatively affect your search engine ranking.
Customize a content strategy for your local business(es)
Your local business(es) will be so much more personal to your customers than one that can reach people universally online. Although connecting people in any way possible is crucial, there is something so much more meaningful about connecting with the other person face to face. Your content must reflect that personal connection in many different ways. You will want to start by:

Clearly defining exactly who your “perfect” customer is: It is important to do this before you work on your strategy. You will need to have a deep understanding of who that person is and what he or she will want and need. Only then will you be able to effectively customize your strategy.

Figure out exactly what your positioning should be: This may seem challenging in the beginning. Establishing your positioning means that you will have to find your niche. The more specialized you become, the more narrow your target audience will be. However, that also means that you will have less competition, which, of course, is a really good thing. One of your main points of focus will be getting other people to view you as an expert and as a thought leader (and, eventually, an influencer). You want the other person to think of you first when he or she needs what you are offering.

Customize your message: Your entire presence (landing pages, website, and all content that discusses your offerings) should be customized to the point where the other person feels as though you are speaking only to him or her. Again, make sure that the content is consistent across the board.

Share content on a regular basis: Sharing valuable content on a regular basis is what will allow you the opportunity to establish a relationship with the other person. The more you publish your content, the deeper and closer your relationship will become with the other person.

Promote your brand: You are probably well aware of the fact that once you have laid the foundation, the work has just begun. You certainly cannot afford to sit back and wait for something to happen because it won’t. You didn’t make all that effort just to have it gather dust in the corner. You need to tell people about your brand and you need to get out there and shake hands and kiss babies.
Conclusion
Optimizing content for a small business is very different than optimizing for a larger business. If you don’t have SEO, nobody will visit you. You need also to make sure that your mindset is right and that the efforts that you make are going to pay off for your business. Another important thing to remember is to make sure that your offerings are placed in the most appropriate categories. You should never think that SEO is SEO in every situation. Your efforts need to be customized and tweaked to fit the situation.
Michael Cohn is the founder and Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of CompuKol Communications. He has over 25 years of experience in IT and web technologies. Mr. Cohn spent a significant amount of time at a major telecommunications company, where his main focus was on initiating and leading synergy efforts across all business units by dramatically improving efficiency, online collaboration, and the company’s Intranet capabilities, which accelerated gains in business productivity. He also reduced company travel and travel costs by introducing and implementing various collaboration technologies.

His expertise includes business analysis; project management; management of global cross-matrix teams; systems engineering and analysis, architecture, prototyping and integration; technology evaluation and assessment; systems development; performance evaluation; and management of off-shore development.

Mr. Cohn earned a Master’s degree in project management from George Washington University in Washington, DC; and a Master’s degree in computer science and a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering from Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, NJ.

Importance of Professional SEO Consultation

In recent years our dependency on the internet has increased ten folds. With internet as a platform, advertising and marketing has also increased exponentially. People nowadays use search engines for the minutest of suggestions and to find multiple options. This gives businesses a platform to advertise and come before the general public and grow their clientele. According to surveys websites that turn up as the top five search results see a lot more traffic than the ones that appear later. This is where SEO services are needed.

Ranking up on search engines is a result of either paid advertisement or search engine optimisation. SEO consultation services will help increase your reach without paid advertisements and will help you with organic traffic. Organic traffic is the traffic that comes to your website because of your reputation, content and authority. The better and well-managed your site is, more is the inflow of traffic.

E-commerce SEO consultants will help you build your website’s authority and will help you make the search engines believe that your website is valuable to the internet and is something that people are willing to see and explore. The best SEO consultant will mainly focus on organic traffic, as ninety four percent of organic search results get clicks compared to six percent of paid advertisement. While large firms tell their clients to use Ad words or other PPC advertising methods, this is not the best SEO guidance, because SEO mainly deals in getting your website free organic traffic.

While there are a lot of SEO consultation services out there, one must have a clear idea how to choose the best SEO consultant because SEO can help you and your business to grow multiple times if used properly.

Firstly your SEO consultant must have a clear idea on how to choose the correct keywords for your website because keywords play an important role in SEO and the correct keywords can draw huge traffic to your website. Many SEO firms provide you with content and others work on the already existing content. So, you must know beforehand if your consultant will help you with the content or not.

Your consultant must have an eye on your competitor sites and must analyse which companies are performing well and why.

The best consultants do not provide you with a quick fix because SEO is not a one time thing. Your E-commerce SEO consultant should not just add meta tags without adjusting the content and adding external inbound links as search engines like Google do not care about meta tags.

Last but not the least your consultant must not use hidden links or texts to boost the keyword density or link relevancy because doing this might result search engines marking your site as spam.

Why SEO Is A Must In Modern Age Websites

SEO affects every web page and when you have an internet business, you’ll need SEO for the site.

SEO stands for ‘search engine optimization’. An internet site’s SEO assists you to determine precisely how well it’s going to rank on Google and also the other the search engines. Quite simply, how high through to the outcomes page the hyperlink to your site will show for a particular search phrase.

Does Search Engine Optimization Really Matter For The Site?

The key reason why SE Optimization is crucial for the site is the fact that effective SEO outcomes into increased traffic, that may convert into increased sales, more e-mail list subscribers, more advertisements clicked, etc.

SEO has a larger importance for smaller sites because they probably do not have just as much of a budget to cover advertising. Traffic from the search engines is totally free.

2 SEO Forms

There are two main sub-divisions or regions of SEO. They are on-page SEO and off-page SEO. Both help make it rank better on the search engines. But apart from that, they have been fairly different. You will need a combination of both on-page and off-page SEO to create your site rank good.

What Exactly Is On-Page SEO?

On-page SEO pertains to the actions you take in your web site to optimize it for SEO. This consists of:

Content: All of the written content that you publish in your website which includes the keywords that people will make use of to find that content will improve your on-page SEO. The keywords indicate to the search engines that exactly what your content is all about, that will then improve your position within the rankings.

URLs: once you consist of a keyword in your URL, it optimizes your site’s on-page SEO.

Images: Images in your site have things called alt-text, that is not noticeable to your site viewers. You can add keywords within the alt-text that’ll be picked up because of the search-engines.

Site optimization: your site hosting and design is important to your SEO. Make sure your site is mobile friendly plus it has a fast loading speed.

Off-Page SEO

This requires a variety of steps that may improve your web site’s ranking without altering anything on the website itself. It is called link building and it is a technique of creating links off their sites back into your site.

Backlinks are an indication of the worthiness for the content in your site. The important thing aspect is to find links back from quantity sites. Also sharing links to your site from social networking will improve your web site’s results because social networking links are seen as backlinks because of the search engines.

10 Reasons Why Believing in a Christian God Is Good for You

NO WORRIES It’s good to know we can hand all our cares and anxieties to God. 1 Peter 5 6-7 says, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” It’s a great relief to know that God is always there to take care of business, so we don’t have to worry.
SEE BENEATH THE SKIN If we believe in God we don’t need to be concerned about how we look. There is no need to worry about our outward appearance because as 1 Samuel 16.7 tells us: “… the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” If we see others as God sees them, in other words by what’s in their heart, we become better, happier people.
NO NEED TO GOSSIP Social media offers plenty of opportunity for slander and criticism. James gives good advice on this (4:11-12): “Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you-who are you to judge your neighbour?” In other words we are in no position to criticize.
HAVE FAITH When we believe in God, we have faith, and faith brings salvation; see Ephesians 2:8-9: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast.” What does this really mean? It means trusting in God is a gift so we don’t have to work for it. And faith is its own reward, releasing us from all futile desires and endeavours and sorting out what really matters, the elimination of wicked thoughts.
STAY HEALTHY WITHOUT HAVING TO DIET When we believe in God we don’t have to worry about what we eat. Exodus 23.25 says, “Worship the Lord your God, and his blessing will be on your food and water.”
BE STRONG WHEN YOUR HEART IS BROKEN Read Psalm 147.3 which says, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Trying to get over the loss of a loved one through bereavement or separation is one of the hardest trials we have to endure. The journey is a lot easier when God is with us.
YOU CAN STAY IN GOOD PHYSICAL SHAPE ALWAYS Exodus 15.26 “For I am the God who heals you.” As Christians we expect good health through prayer and meditation. The only way to see if it works is to try it.
YOU NEVER HAVE TO ASK “WHY AM I HERE?” Pointless existential questions disappear when we believe in God. His purpose for our life becomes manifest and fruitful. Psalm 57:2 says, “I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me.” The deal is this: if we make all our choices with God in mind, He will fulfil his purpose through us. No more vexing over meaningless days as every day and everything we do has meaning in God’s eyes.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT DYING Ecclesiastes 12.7 says about death “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.” This is such a comforting thought, to know that we are eternal spirits, that our appointed time on earth is temporary and our future will be spent in everlasting glory.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO WASTE TIME WONDERING WHERE THE UNIVERSE CAME FROM “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1) This is all we need to know about the origins of our environment. And of course, God made us too.What is there not to like?

Is My Pain From Tight Muscles Or Could It Be From Something Else

During the past 35 years of my chiropractic practice, I have been asked many times “Is my neck and back pain from tight muscles or could it be something else?” This article will discuss muscular pain, and other sources of discomfort and how relief of neck and back pain can be achieved.

Recently a patient in her early 30s came to my office with a complaint of chronic lower back pain. Her job required her to perform rigorous physical activities of installing flooring and carpeting. She told me that her discomfort was interfering with her ability to perform her work duties. She was afraid that she would have to discontinue that line of work and take another vocation because of her condition.

When I asked her what she had done previously to help with the problem, she told me she had seen orthopedic specialists who gave her steroid medication and muscle relaxers. She had also seen physical therapists who gave her stretching exercises. She noted these measures gave her some temporary relief but didn’t completely resolve her pain.

When I examined her, we found that she definitely had muscle spasms of her low back. However, her examination revealed a more significant deeper problem. Her muscles were tight and in spasm because they were trying to protect deeper spinal joint misalignments.

I told her that the body will always work to protect an injured area. In her case, her muscles were chronically tight and in spasm because they were doing what they are supposed to do to keep her condition from worsening.

Let’s take a moment to explain the difference between muscular pain and pain from other sources. If we over-use our muscles, they can be sore and go into some degree of spasm; it might be mild, or it could be severe. Typically, this muscle discomfort eases over the course of several days as the body heals itself. This is a completely normal type of healing.

However, if the source of the condition is from a deeper problem, such as a misalignment of spinal joints, superficial muscular pain will be continuous and become chronic. If this is the case treatment of the muscles will only result in temporary, minimal pain relief at best. To correct the problem, we must address the deeper source of pain. Pain relief can only occur if we solve what’s causing the problem.

In my patient’s case, treatment consisted of utilizing gentle, chiropractic spinal adjustments to correct the misalignment of the spinal bones of her back. After her first treatment she immediately felt the muscular spasm relax and loosen. She said: “Wow, I feel looser already!” It took some more treatments of safe, chiropractic adjustments to fully correct the deeper alignment problem so that she could perform her job free of pain.

Chiropractors are specialist healthcare providers, when it comes to relieving spinal neck pain and pain of the lower spine. Chiropractors are trained to diagnose and treat physical, mechanical alignment problems of spine pain. Most patients who go to chiropractors find that having chiropractic treatment is a safe, pleasant experience because it relieves tightness and spasm of the muscles by correcting the deeper spinal misalignment.

Remember, sore muscles should normally heal after a few days of rest. If, however, chronic muscular tightness, stiffness or spasm persists, it is most likely due to a deeper spinal misalignment problem. In this case, it is prudent to seek gentle, safe chiropractic care for muscle pain relief.

SEO Services in Digital Marketing

SEO is complex small business SEO doesn’t make it any smaller than big business SEO. You can do the bare minimum but if you don’t do all the tactics, you’re wasting your efforts. SEO requires ongoing work and is not sufficient to do it only once. There are one-time optimizations with no maintenance but SEO is an ongoing work in progress. It comprises:

1. Publishing new content regularly

2. Renewing existing pages frequently

3. Adding new links to new pages and going back to old pages

4. Adding new links to new pages and going back to old pages

5. Promoting content via channels such as social media and email

Often many times small business owners have plenty on their plate with their day-to-day activities. With the assistance of an SEO services company your site can create traffic and leads for you while you can focus on your customers. A professional SEO service provider has the best tools and the knowledge to leverage your business.

You may be at a point where you are thinking of hiring an SEO services company for your business. However, you are wondering what they do. In this segment, we will take a closer look, have a clear picture and become aware of the terms used in conversations with an SEO service provider.

On-page SEO

The efforts that an SEO services company does focuses on ‘crawlability’ and usability of your website pages. They will optimize your sections of the website that the public sees and that are read by the search engines. This comprises:

1. Content: They will make your content relevant to the keywords you are ranking for.

2. Structure: They will arrange your linking hierarchy and make search engines easily crawl.

3. Meta Data: They guarantee your page has title tags, image tags, headers, meta descriptions that have targeted keywords.

4. Experience: They will identify how engaging your page is and provide feedback for improvement from a user experience perspective.

Off-page SEO

This involved your website’s backend essentials. They will help you with:

1. Site Performance: This encompasses website responsiveness, load speed, and image size functionable on all devices.

2. Domain Authority: They will make sure you are on the good side with Google terms.

3. Backlinks: They will help you construct links to your site from other reliable websites.

Advantages of Using a Website SEO Service

Website SEO services are mandatory to enhance the ranking and visibility of the website to your targeted customers and can benefit your business. Let’s see a few benefits:

Increased Traffic

SEO Services use specialized and tested SEO optimization techniques to increase website traffic, which directly affects business profit. An SEO expert performs the audits and makes essential changes to the website that are crucial for your online business success. This means you can pay close attention to other aspects of your business, such as your product/service offer and customers.

Return on investment

When you spend on SEO services to rank your website you bring more visitors, the conversion rate will increase automatically, and you can make money most effectively.

Guaranteed Success

The expert teams have years of experience with on-page and off-page optimization of the website content. The service providers know how to achieve outstanding results quickly, and they use analytical data to ensure that efforts are going in the right way to increase your sales.

5 Of the Hottest Digital Marketing Jobs

In case you’re hoping to change into or fabricate a vocation in the circle of digital marketing, you’re doubtlessly glancing at the perfect spot. This is on the grounds that there are a huge load of various professions in this field, every one of which is very changed as far as required ranges of abilities just as inclination and regular capacities.

Regardless of whether you veer towards business and the board, tech or the innovative finish of the range, there will consistently be advanced positions accessible. Here’s a breakdown of a portion of the regions that are required to be popular and have a strong compensation direction in the coming years.

1. Content Managers and Strategists

Content administration is actually a focal part for any organization or digital marketing group as it addresses practically all degrees of marketing – and it incorporates considerably more than simply composing and online media movement.

Content administrators need to comprehend not just how to make SEO-accommodating substance starting from the earliest stage, yet how to coordinate, store, and oversee it too. They need to see how it takes care of various subsets of the marketing plan. They additionally need to have a grip on the most proficient method to create and share the colossal assortment of content that is out there.

2. Virtual Reality Developers and Editors

This is a significant innovative work however it’s so new and intriguing and there’s a lot of space for the individuals who are in the domain of imaginative – tech. In the event that you are somebody with a foundation that consolidates innovation and imagination, on the off chance that you are into illustrations or even embellishments, virtual reality may be an incredible field for you.

Individuals come into virtual reality from the video expressions or in the event that they are knowledgeable in different innovative programming suites. You may wind up with a chief sort job or begin as a partner, analyzer or editorial manager.

3. Search Engine optimization/SEM Specialists

Search engine optimization and SEM are significant for strong digital marketing campaigns and to this end, any individual who can show a strong specialized information and join it with digital marketing aptitude, particularly in the administrative finish of the range, will be the most elevated worker in this field.

Search engine optimization and SEM are hard to represent considerable authority in, to some extent since search engine algorithms are continually fluctuating. Organizations should keep awake to-date to have a reliably high ROI and the greater the business is, the more unpredictable this can be. Moreover, online business locales and those that rely exceptionally upon web traffic for benefits will be especially subject to a solid SEO/SEM system.

4. UX Designer

Client Experience (UX) designers are answerable for the end-to-end development of websites and digital marketing applications. They may or may not have a profound specialized foundation or they might be better knowledgeable on the design end of the range.

UX designers are centered around understanding the site from an entire marketing experience, and to that end they need to understand crowds just as they have inside and out information on the services or products a given customer offers.

5. Email Marketing Specialist

Email marketing is an illustration of a particular zone of content optimization and marketing. Individuals accountable for email marketing are normally incredibly knowledgeable in marketing just as editing and copywriting.

Email keeps on being perhaps the most grounded method of substance out there. To do this well you should have the option to compose powerfully. You’ll likewise be responsible for campaigns, dispatches, and PR exercises dependent on broad information bases of user information and different records.

Google Analytics Mistakes To Not Do

Mistake #1: Using Outdated Tracking Code

When you create a new site design and don’t update your tracking code (especially if you’ve switched from Google Analytics to Google Tag Manager), you risk it being outdated. Always make sure you’re using the most up-to-date version of your tracking code as a precaution against these types of errors. The traffic will usually display inflated figures, but unless you look deeper, you won’t know where the duplicated traffic is coming from. Even then, it’s difficult to pinpoint. To find it, we’ll need to use a Google Chrome plugin. Make sure you’re not using any duplicate tracking codes by using the Google Tag Assistant Chrome extension. When you have several instances of the same tracking code enabled, this will appear as a red tag inside the extension.

Mistake #2: Ignoring Signs of Scraping

One potential cause of inflated data in your GA account is scraping. If your site was scraped but the Google Analytics tracking code was not removed, you might be getting traffic from a duplicate site in your GA. Investigate and inspect these domains for scraped content if you find a lot of traffic in Google Analytics data from one of these sites. This should immediately stand out to you. If you see a lot of your own content on the new site, double-check to make sure your tracking code wasn’t transferred over as well.

Mistake #3: Not Switching http:// to https:// in Your GA Admin Panel

If you’re migrating your website, make sure your admin panel is migrated from http:// to https:// as well. If you want to ensure that your traffic data is accurately tracked, you must get this right. You risk forgetting to include any of your reporting data in your Google Analytics monitoring if you don’t.

Mistake #4: Ignoring Spam/Bot Traffic

Spam and bot traffic are also issues you should be aware of. You may be affecting the accuracy of your Google Analytics monitoring if you neglect the possible effects of spam and bot traffic. When it comes to spam and bot traffic, this can result in traffic performance over-inflation and, as a result, inaccuracies in your data reporting. This occurs because spam and bot traffic are not regarded as reliable sources of traffic. If you believe your search traffic is growing but you base your decision on spam and bot traffic, you might be in for a world of disappointment. This is why it’s crucial to make sure that any SEO strategy decisions are focused on actual users and traffic, not spam or bots.

Mistake #5: Not Assessing Sampled Traffic vs. Unsampled Traffic

This could be an error in your data monitoring decision-making if your Google Analytics account relies on sampled traffic.

What is sampled traffic?

Unsampled and sampled modes are available in Google Analytics. Unsampled data processing means that Google Analytics is tracking all possible Google traffic and is not using sampled data processing.

Default reports are not subject to sampling. The following general sampling thresholds apply to ad hoc queries of your data:

Analytics Standard: 500k sessions at the property level for the date range you are using

Analytics 360: 100M sessions at the view level for the date range you are using

When you create a default report in Google Analytics, however, this data is not subject to the sampling listed above.

When you’re reporting, make sure you’re not relying on sampled data. And, if you’re relying on this information, you’re aware of the implications of the sampled data.

Mistake #6: Ignoring the Hostname in URLs

Google Analytics does not include the hostname in the URL by default. When dealing with several subdomains, this can be difficult because you never know where the traffic is coming from. Always make sure that you know 100% where the traffic is coming from. At least you will know 100% at all times what’s going on with the hostname in your URLs. Your local SEO company can help you do this and more seamlessly for you.

Develop Your Road Map to Success

One of the mechanisms the mind uses to sort through the enormous amounts of data that flow in daily, and keep it manageable is called “preparatory set.” It helps your brain to focus on items deemed important. You can “program” that mechanism by writing down the things you want to accomplish and making them clear. Once programmed, it directs your attention to certain events and occurrences. To illustrate: when you decide you want a certain car you see them everywhere, you notice each one on the freeway, you see every ad or commercial. Preparatory set works that way. Once you program it with your goals (visualizing in addition to writing is most effective) you will automatically be more aware of certain events, opportunities and people who can be helpful. You’ll also be more clear about what you want, and this will sneak into your conversation and your general attitude, where others can pick up on it. It’s not really magic, unless you believe as I do, that the mind is a miracle in itself.

For example, to make it easy to include easy exercise in your life, write down your goal (I will walk an extra half hour a day) and picture yourself walking and enjoying it: perhaps you picture parking a few blocks away (where it’s cheaper) and walk the rest of the way, or get off the bus or subway one stop early, or walk to that nearby restaurant for lunch, or take the stairs instead of the elevator when you can, or take a sandwich to a nearby park, or take the dog for a bit longer walk than usual before and after work. If you picture yourself walking and enjoying it, you’ll soon find that you’re noticing new and different ways you can walk more without stressing about it.

As soon as you have a goal, you can actually make a “road map” for yourself.

Creating a visual representation of what you want to achieve can do several things: First, the process of creating it will force you to be more specific and clear about what you want. Second, taking the time and energy to create it is a powerful signal to yourself that you are serious about accomplishing it. It sets an intention. Third, if you keep it where you can see it, it will be a powerful reminder of your intentions for your own life.

Your visual road map consists of two parts: 1) a picture of your destination, and 2) your map of how to get there.

Road Map Exercise 1: Picturing Your Destination

This is a visual representation of your ideal life, and you will use it for the next several years to remind and motivate yourself, so treat it as the important project it is. When you look at your finished picture, you should be able to see each of your goals clearly represented.

Preparation

1. Collect the materials necessary to make a collage you can write on: a large piece of paper and colored markers, pens, paints, pastels or other art materials; several magazines full of pictures and advertisements that you can cut out, paste or a glue stick, and several photos of you and others in your life. If you enjoy drawing, you may want to dispense with the magazine pictures and draw your own. If you’re a computer whiz, computer art may be the way you do this. You can also add solid objects, pieces of cloth or jewelry, tokens and keepsakes that are meaningful to you. Keep in mind that colorful, graphic pictures are powerful subconscious stimulants, and the point of this exercise is to help to focus your subconscious on your goals and dreams.

2. Divide your paper into sections representing your personal life, your business or career, your family life, your friends and your free time.

3. Title each section, and think about what, if you designed your own life, you would want to create in that section.

4. Begin with the personal life section, and think about what activities represent the private, personal part of your life-including the images that symbolize you. Begin with a picture of you as you are, or as you would like to be (in a graduation gown, wedding clothing, thinner, successful, you can paste a small picture of your head or face on a magazine picture if you wish). Are there hobbies or talents that are important to you? What kinds of images make you feel good about yourself? What symbols would you use to represent yourself? What do you want to use to represent your physical health? Your happiness? Your determination? Choose one or two images to represent the various ways you identify yourself: Hobbies, spirituality, relaxing, exercising, working, parenting, having fun.

5. Now, look for pictures of concrete items or goals that would complete the personal section of your road map, such as the following: Your home, car, clothing, travel, pets, personal growth goals and any other significant factors representing your personal life.

6. Arrange these pictures in the personal section of your collage in a way that suits you, or draw representations of the items that are important to you. Be sure your chosen picture of yourself is front and center of this personal section. Arrange and rearrange and adjust your collection of pictures until the final result pleases you.

7. Now complete the other sections of your results picture in a similar fashion. Each section will probably include some elements repeated from the personal section because you will personally be involved in each category. Use an image of your idealized self prominently in each section; either create a different version of your idealized self for each section, or use black-and-white or color photocopies of your original in each section.

When you have arranged your picture, stand back and take a look to see if it reflects your ideal life. If not, play with it some more. If it is, paste things down or save, and place the collage where you can look at it often. This picture only needs to represent your future as you presently think it should be; you can alter your picture, add to it or make a new one as your goals grow and change.

Road Map Exercise 2: Making Your Road Map

Once you put the necessary time and energy into picturing your destination, you’ll find that by focusing on specifics and details you have clarified your picture. Most people who have done this process in workshops and classes report that they feel very motivated, much clearer and energized by their vision. Take that energy and use it now to create your road map; a plan of action to get you to your destination.

1. Use a separate piece of paper or artboard, and entitle the left side of the roadmap “Where I am Now.” Place sufficient symbols, words or numbers to indicate where you are now in all the areas outlined on your destination picture.

2. Entitle the right side of the paper or artboard “My Destination” and arrange similar symbols, words or numbers to indicate where you will be when you reach your goals.

3. Divide the space in between into columns, and in those columns, develop the steps you’ll need to accomplish to get from where you are now to your destination. For example: In the work area, the steps might be 1) graduate from school, 2) do a job search 3) develop career skills, experience and expertise, and 4) move up in your career. (Each of these steps can be broken down into smaller steps, as you approach that segment of the Roadmap and need to accomplish specific goals).

Use Your Roadmap Daily

After completing your destination picture and road map, use them daily to remain focused on your goals and maintain your motivation. Keep them where you can review them frequently, and change and update them as needed. You’ll find that having a clear picture of your goals and aspirations in front of you will make it much easier to reach them.

All your decisions from now on can be made in relationship to your road map. If you consider each of your subsequent decisions according to whether it will get you closer to your goal or not, your choices will become clearer and more direct.

Using your destination picture and road map to set your priorities and to keep you focused will help you keep all the important areas of your life balanced and will help shape your future. Knowing where you want to go and how to get there will minimize your tendencies to worry, and reduce your indecisiveness and confusion.

Circles of Closeness: Friendship and Intimacy

There are different levels of closeness in friendships. Some people become friends because circumstances bring them together. Perhaps you worked with someone and ate lunch together fairly often, but when one of you left the job, the friendship didn’t survive. Or you were quite friendly with a neighbor who moved away, and your contact ended.

You probably know what’s like to get together with a close friend who you haven’t seen for a long time. It’s as though you were never apart. Your connection is based on many shared experiences, values, and feelings, and it remains strong. Circumstantial friendships don’t provide the same type of bond, but that doesn’t mean they’re not valuable.

It’s likely that when you enter a new environment, you will meet people you enjoy, but don’t feel a deep connection to. These friendships are like pleasant conveniences, where both parties benefit by the contact, but neither has the interest to pursue the friendship further. The relationship may feel vaguely uncomfortable or wrong, as if there is something “false” about it.

You may enjoy having lunch with colleagues at work, chatting with them about work problems and gossip, and you may even meet some of them before class to exercise. But when you change jobs, most of those friendships are replaced by connections with colleagues in the new office.

There is no need to feel guilty if one or more of your friendships feels circumstantial. It is very helpful for both of you to have one another at this moment; you can enjoy whatever you share and move on when it’s over. Most likely your friend has similar benign feelings of friendship toward you, and the parting is not more than mildly sad for either of you. Don’t deprive yourself of this pleasant contact because it doesn’t meet some expectation, and don’t try to force it to be more than it is. There’s no reason to back away from a temporary, congenial connection.

Circles of Friends

Every friendship is different, and you deserve to have a full spectrum of friends in your life. You can picture your friendships as a series of concentric circles, one inside the other. At the outermost circle are the people you like but haven’t gotten to know well: folks you’ve met at work, church, or other groups; friends of friends and other pleasant acquaintances. Some of these people will never be closer to you than they are now. Some of them, however, become closer to you and move into the next circle. These are people you see fairly often and like quite a bit. They may be circumstantial friends who are meaningful to you at the time, but who don’t stay around. Or they may be members of a group you spend time with, but not special friends of yours. If you’re particularly fond of a casual friend, it’s worth your while to make an effort to get closer. Let an acquaintance know you’d like to have more personal contact by inviting him or her to coffee after a meeting or to a party at your house.

Perhaps your relationship will move into the third circle: developing friends. You’ll both take the opportunity to know each other better and learn whether you have much in common. With some effort, and some luck, the friendship may eventually move into the fourth circle: close friends. It usually takes some time for a relationship to develop this far, but when it does, you both will share a long-term connection.

Nothing enriches life like friendships. You probably remember the old adage, “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, and the other gold.” As your life develops, you learn how true this is. With plenty of friends around, you can make sure that you get your full measure of delight, support, and companionship.

Different Strokes

We all have different categories of people in our lives. There are family members, friends, co-workers, colleagues, and acquaintances. And within each of these categories, there are levels of closeness. In your family, for example, you may feel closer and more comfortable with one sister or cousin than you are with another. Or, in your circle of friends, some may be much more reliable and warm than others. Even in business, some colleagues may be true friends, while others are more distant. The differences in these relationships determine how much distance or closeness will work in them. Knowing how to differentiate between levels of friendhips will make a big difference.

Circles of Closeness

To create a mental picture of how the various kinds of intimacy exist in your life, you can imagine your relationships as organized into a series of concentric circles, with you in the center of all of them.

The center circle: Intimacy: The people you consider most important to you, who are your closest friends and family, fill the center circle, the smallest one. The circle is small because relatively few people meet the requirements to get into the “inner circle.” It is reserved for those who are special: your closest friends, your spouse or partner, and your family.

The second circle: Warm friendship: The circle just outside that one, the second circle, is for warm friends and family members whom you like, but perhaps do not know well enough to trust completely, or who have some characteristics that make being closer impossible. This can be true for people you like a lot, but who are far away, or who can’t be trusted to keep commitments or to respond when you need them.

Third circle: Friendly connections: This circle is for people you know and like, but don’t yet know well enough to consider them warm friends. These people may be friends of your friends or family members, or other people you like and enjoy spending time with, but with whom you have not yet made an individual connection. Some of these acquaintances may very well move on into your second circle after some time and experience, others may drift away.

Fourth circle: Circumstantial friends: These people may be neighbors, co-workers, other parents in your child’s pre-school, or people who are fun to talk to while you work out at the gym, but aren’t much closer in your personal life. These people are friendly and convenient for doing certain things together (for example, a co-worker with whom you have lunch) but if the circumstances change (you change jobs or move away), the friendships don’t last. Once in a while, a circumstantial friend becomes a personal friend, and moves into the third circle, or even closer.

Fifth circle: Acquaintances: This final circle is for people you’ve recently met and haven’t had a chance to screen for more intimate circles, or friends of friends, or other people you hardly know, but consider friendly. You may get to know some of these people better as time goes on.

Being Selective

Each of these circles calls for a different level of privacy. If you have carefully considered who to allow into the innermost circle, for example, it will contain the people with whom you are the most comfortable being intimate. These are the people with whom you share your personal thoughts, your secrets, your sexuality and your living space (just how close you get depends on your personal preferences, and on how considerate and caring they are).

With each successive circle, the level of intimacy and sharing of your private self diminishes. A new work colleague in the outermost circle, for example, will probably know only general information about you, and very little about your personal life.