Who Wants a Review or Two? I Do, I Do (Yes-sir-ree-Dooooo)!

No question.  This is the era of reviews.  We need them and we certainly want them.  (Because this blog revolves around writing/blogging, that’ll be the focus but, truly, the basics here could hold true for any business.)

I’ve had a couple of good ones for the first Triple Investigation Agency ebook, The Connecticut Corpse Caper.  My goal was to get several for it, as well as the subsequent mis-adventures of my P.I. trio.  Shame on me.  I’ve not actively/avidly pursued this (due to circumstances not quite in my control), but I will—that, my friends, is a wholehearted, determined, steadfast, unwavering promise.

I touched upon Google Reviews several days ago, but there are numerous online review websites—some are free, some not (know what you’re getting into before you commit).  Strive for independent reviews; they tend to be truthful.

Feel free to ask followers for reviews and check to see if it’s okay to post them online.  Also, take a look at blogs and sites that offer free ones.  Be aware, though, many reviewers (if not most) are inundated with requests.  It could prove tricky getting someone to agree to provide one, but persistence and perseverance do bring rewards.

Don’t pay for reviews, tempting as it may be (in earlier days, when none the wiser, I certainly considered it).  Many would view this as unethical . . . and really . . . how much faith could you put into something you shelled out money (or bartered) for?

Never generate fake reviews.  You don’t want to sully your reputation.  As an FYI: they’re also illegal and [often] pretty easy to recognize by readers; a great one amid oodles of so-so ones is going to stand out like the idiomatic sore thumb.  If most folks are anything like me—doing that due-diligence thang—they’ll scrutinize a number of reviews to get the broader picture.

Recognize (accept) that you might receive negative reviews.  People have different tastes and what one person may have found “amazing”, another may find “mediocre”.  Hopefully, those that aren’t as keen, will state so in a professional manner.


Less positive reviews needn’t be a bad thing, though.  Use the assessment to your advantage.  What’s being said?  How can you use that information to boost or better your writing or blog, service or product?

And if a review does lean toward the negative, don’t be contentious and write a seething response; respect the reviewer’s right to state how he/she feels.  If an erroneous statement or interpretation has been made, provide an [impartial] explanation or clarification.  Above all, if the review isn’t what you were expecting, don’t let it upset you.  Learn from it and move on.

Don’t hesitate to respond to reviews.  Reviewers will appreciate that (we all like to be acknowledged).  And who knows how the “relationship” will play out over time (I’ve made a few wonderful blogging buddies over the last year)?

To get you started—and to circle back to the first post re reviews—check out this YouTube vid re Google Reviews.

Here’s to an abundance of encouraging ones.

The Baring of a Blogger’s Soul (Sorta). . . or . . . A Blogger’s Lament


Feeling a need to share and not impart info so much.

It’s been almost a year since this blog was born.  The dreams, the plans—my goodness.  They’re still dreams and plans!  <LOL>  In all fairness, though, kudos to me for being able to post regularly, not just on A Writer’s Grab-Bag, but on the Triple Threat Investigation Agency Facebook page.  It’s a commitment that I’m, well, committed to.

I’m feeling rather stagnant, however.  While excuses are never a good thing, they’re often valid: in this case, a full-time job (that frequently runs into six/seven days) and caregiving for Mom.  That leaves limited time to read or do much else.


Yes, I’ve given thought to having someone else handle (a lot of) the technical-promotional components.  That costs $$$, of which there is none to spare.  Dreams being what they are, though, there’s always hope re winning that big lottery pot.

Having done some due diligence—which I always advocate, having been burned a few times—I came across several sites/folks that appeared very promising.  Further due diligence, which included checking reviews from both personal and professional perspectives, revealed that they weren’t so promising after all.  One quick example: a woman had signed up to experience a successful book launch and ended up with a bill for several thousand dollars; needless to say, hers was not a happy ending.

I’m kind of feeling a need to scream at the top of my lungs (to let it all out) and/or smack my head into a brick wall (to knock free the frustration).

I imagine all writers and bloggers have similar moments—this quirky form of writer’s block, which I’ll call blogger’s stagnation.  We know what to do, but for one reason or another, it’s simply not doable.

It’s a question of time and timing, and keeping the faith above all.  You know, when I’m feeling a little peculiar like this, there’s no better solace than listening to an awesome, inspiring song that sounds as fresh today as it did back when . . .

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You Want to do a Review . . . about WHO?

Your Inbox must be much like mine—full of luscious-sounding deals on how to attract a <bleep> load of traffic to your blog or site, promote yourself, and/or get high-quality press mentions (to name but a few, of course).

Bien sûr!  Yes indeedy-do, I want to accomplish all.  Dilemma: I don’t have the time [truly] to do, much less succeed, at even 25% of those things, at least not right now.  There’s one more reason: $$$.  Ain’t got none.  <LOL>  This, too, could [God willing] change some day.

Anyway, a Google email caught my eye: how to use the “about.me” page to do the work for you re generating leads and promoting myself.  Sounds awesome.  All you need do is upgrade to “Pro”.   Yes indeedy-do, as soon as a little extra $ finds its way into the ol’ bank account, sign me up!

After perusing that, a plethora of additional information found its way into an already jam-packed must-read (and eventually, definitely do) folder.  Again, something in the stack stood out: getting Google reviews.  How did I not know about that?!  Or maybe I did, and it simply didn’t register?  <LOL>

It’s fairly simple to request people to do Google reviews—just Google!—and follow these steps (I’ll paraphrase):

  • Search for your name / business name in Google.
  • Click on the “Write a Review” button and then click on “Write Google Review”.
  • A Google Review box pops up.
  • Copy the URL in the address bar.
  • Shorten the Google Review URL.
  • Send it to your clients/followers to get Google reviews.

How much simpler can it get?  Love it (because we know how technically challenged I can be)!

So, as I’m considering the contest to run end of March, I’m also letting ideas take shape re acquiring those Google reviews (like really, WHO doesn’t want some?).

Next post: looking at ways to generate those reviews, short of begging.


What to Write About When You Don’t Know What to Write About

. . . other bloggers’ and writers’ blogs, that’s what!

It’s Linda taking over for The Boss today; she’s still under the weather.  Rey’s off on an audition for a commercial.  My BFF can’t quite leave the actress in her behind—or is that the ham?  <LOL>

The Boss has no doubt mentioned how much she wants to have an awesome, successful blog.  Maybe, one day, she will; timing and time truly are everything.  My belief is if the heart’s in the right place, and the determination’s there, anything’s doable.

That got me to thinking that maybe I’d touch upon successful writing blogs—based upon what I’ve seen in my research travels and what I’ve discussed with fellow bloggers.

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Here are three worth checking out (to start):

Joanna Penn’s someone The Boss and a number of her blogging colleagues follow.  The Creative Penn is laden with informative, instructive posts and podcasts.  Joanna’s a NY Times bestselling author, so she knows what she’s talking about.  And when she talks, you want to absorb every detail.  Charming and compelling, the woman is an absolute pleasure to listen to.  She provides loads of valuable guidelines and recommendations for aspiring writers, so check her out . . . then subscribe for regular email updates!

Daily Writing Tips is chockablock full of, yes, tips—from grammar to punctuation to creative writing.  Like, who knew there were coordinate and noncoordinate adjectives?  If you need help with writing basics, are unsure about word meanings and differentiations (as I apparently am), this is the site to visit.  You’ll even find quizzes, which are always fun; who doesn’t like a challenge or two?

I can’t not mention an old favorite, one many of us grew up with in its physical, tangible form: Writer’s Digest.  The site is full of beneficial resources—such as agent listings and story coaching, among [many] other edifying topics—webinars, contests and competitions . . . and, of course, tons of articles to assist a writer in cultivating his or her talent.

A short and sweet post today, but hopefully useful.  As The Boss has often stated, you never need go it alone: countless sites offer valuable and practical advice, provide trends and news, and help set you on that path to success.  You simply need to . . . yes, you’ve got it . . . do your due diligence.

Happy writing!

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Category Cherry-Picking (by Rey)

The Boss is down with a bad cough-cold (it ain’t pretty, let me tell ya) and asked one of us to write the Wednesday post.  JJ and Linda claimed I’d done such a good job in past, they volunteered me to do it.  Whatever.  I’ll just look at it this way: when ya got it, ya got it.

Given what she’s been recently posting about, I opted for “categories” to stay in the theme and scheme of things.  (See, I’m not just a pretty face.)

Like tags, you use categories to help organize your blog content so viewers/followers can locate similar posts.  Consider them a Table of Contents.  While it’s recommended that tags be 80 characters or less, categories should be 25 or less.

Firstly, you want categories to be obvious and clear, right?  People use them to find more of your stuff on the same subject.  Just like when you’re choosing your tags and keywords, be selective.  For example, if you have a private-investigation site, you wouldn’t want simple or vague categories such as: Cases, Issues, Consulting, or Investigations.  To better guide viewers (also known as potential clients), you’d go for something like: Successful Industrial Surveillance Cases, Custody Issues, Security Consulting, Insurance Fraud Investigations, and Corporate Investigations.  Differentiate.  Clarify.  Home Security Consulting versus Corporate Security Consulting.  Make it easy for someone to right away visit the right page or post.  . . . Right?  You got it.

Secondly, make sure category headings are understandable and are compromised of keywords.  When people search for something, they use keywords to do so.  And remember that the right keywords lead to increased blog/site traffic.

Thirdly, keep those category titles similar in set-up.  Are you going to use all or no caps, formal or informal wording?  Will you use strictly verbs or all nouns?  Every part of your blog should look professional and be consistent.

Fourthly, you don’t want a whack of them.  Like recipes in an elephant-sized cookbook, if there are too many categories, your viewer might develop eye strain . . . never mind become impatient.  Ten should be about the limit.

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Over time, you’ll probably find that some blog categories have become redundant or ineffective.  Make sure to revisit them now and again, because what you planned in the blog’s beginning may not be where you’re at a year later.  For example, you may find you only have a small handful of posts in one category.  Or you have one where all or most of your posts are lodged; this may be because the category title is way too vague.  Do some “spring cleaning”.  Change vague category headings and delete invalid ones.

Lastly, you know that you can link to your categories and tags from your pages and posts, don’t you?  This simplifies navigation for your viewers, for one thing, but it can also hold or pique their interest so that they want to see more.

This is my “Snippet of Advice” re categories.  I could dig up some technical stuff, but anything more intensive or involved would go over my P.I. – actress head.  But you can bet dollars to donuts I’m going to do some serious research, because I’m finding that learning is really kind of fun.

And the next time The Boss asks one of us to write a post, I’ll be the one who volunteers me.


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What’s in a [Key]Word?

A lot.

Keywords are, essentially, the words and phrases you type into a search engine such as Google (Bing, Yahoo, etc.) when you’re looking for something; truly, they can be anything.  They’re also the words and phrases people type into said search engine when they’re looking for something—such as your blog/site, product, or service.


Use keywords to boost traffic to your blog/site via search engines . . . to make your site more visible to folks looking for keywords related to whatever you may be offering.  How do you do this?  Quite simply, by applying SEO (Search Engine Optimization) techniques in your blog layout and writing.  Think: target.

My favorite phrase?  You got it: do your due diligence.  In this case, research keywords and decide which will best drive traffic to your awesome blog.  Take into account the ultimate goal(s) when selecting them.


Keyword searches help you verify—and understand—what your viewers/followers (potential customers) are seeking.  Among other things, consider how:

  • much traffic a particular phrase gets
  • competitive it is for ranking (i.e. how many others are attempting to be found by that word/phrase)
  • appropriate it is to you / your business.

A blog post with a relevant keyword phrase in the title tag will rank higher for searches because it serves as a strategic signal for search engines.  As such, it will prove more pertinent and, thus, increase click-through or click.  This is, for all intents and purposes, the action of clicking on a link to get from Point A to Point B (often defined as an instant response to an ad).

Optimize each post.  It’s been recommended that you use one keyword per post (too many and you become submerged in Ocean Blog-Posts).  Make it a dynamic one!

It’s not as difficult or overwhelming as it sounds.  Give thought to your blog/site.  What’s your niche?  Keep in mind the categories and posts: what words best describe them?  List them and then enter them into various search engines to find out how significant they are (i.e. how high the search volume is).  Look for phrasing options.  Honor—and apply—what you find.

There are countless free tools, like Google Adwords Keyword Planner, to assist you with finding pertinent keywords/phrases.  And page-grader tools will help you determine if your blog content is truly effective.  There are lots (!) of sites and programs that will facilitate your learning and development as a [successful] blogger.  It merely takes time and commitment, as anything worth becoming skilled at does.  You can do it and you never need go it alone.

Here’s my “keyword” for the day and week: perseverance.  What’s yours?

Winner Winner, Chicken Dinner

Never had a reason to say that until now . . . and now that I have, that’s [thankfully] behind me, so let’s move on to the last of the running-a-contest posts.

Having decided to run a contest, we’ve determined the:

  • rationale (our goal)
  • target
  • prize(s)
  • frequency, and
  • type.


Whether running a random-winner or most-votes-collected contest, we need to decide how to select the winner(s).  If you’re running a sweepstakes, where money or a prize is awarded to the contestee, you’ll want to ensure the contest is fair.  Give thought to using a random-selection tool site like Rafflecopter, Wishpond, Random Picker or Random.org, to name a few.  (They’re relatively easy to utilize, which I love.)

Basically, you collect entries on your contest entry page and when the contest has ended, click the “Select Winner Randomly” or “Generate Winner” button (or whatever the case may be, given the tool).  Hurrah, one contestee is quickly selected—at random.

If you’re going with a vote-type contest, you’ll be happy to know that most contest apps have built-in voting buttons and counters, which automates the retrieval of entries with the most votes.

I understand there are two great free tools for running Facebook contests, so if FB is your happy place, have at it (we like things that are simple and straightforward).

Edgerank Checker offers a tool that exports “Likes & Comments” from Facebook contest posts.  The site and product is called “Contest Capture” and is reputed to be “simple to use”.  Woodbox’s app is comparable to “Contest Capture”, but takes it one step farther—you have three options for choosing your winner.

Here are some quick but important points:

Ensure you craft an upbeat [awesome] “congratulations, you won!” email announcement.  Avoid the cookie-cutter approach and make it personal, especially if you have more than one winner.  And do check with him/her/them to see if it’s okay to publicize names (if this is your intention).

Make certain your winner has a good five to seven days to respond to the great news.  If there’s no response, select a new winner . . . and make sure you inform the original winner of this.

One thing you always want to include, regardless of which winner-selection tool or method you choose: a “Right to Disqualify” caveat.  This is vital, in the event you need to disqualify an inappropriate or fraudulent entry.


I’m going to give some [serious] thought to my own upcoming contest and draft a plan.  Good luck to me . . . and you . . . and here’s to garnering some winning results.

We Have a Winner!

Last post, the focus was running a blog contest—this post, ideas for a contest.  Given our remarkable if not impressive imaginations, the sky’s truly the limit (a valid statement worth repeating).

To restate, my intent: have a nothing-fancy, e-book giveaway at the end of March.  Yeah, kind of obvious.  That’s okay, because this suits my goal for the interim . . . but down the road, who knows what thrilling/sensational contests may transpire?  (I’ll keep you posted, literally.)

So, over to you.  You’re contemplating having a contest, but aren’t yet sure what to do to compel folks to follow you or buy from you and—most importantly—stick with you.

There are two basic types of contests:

  1. Entrants provide an email address to enter: this is a random-draw contest.  When the deadline arrives, you indiscriminately select a winner.
  2. Entrants submit “something” to compete for the prize: this is a best-entry contest.  These can be quite fun, but should be fairly straightforward; too time-consuming or intensive, and people won’t enter.

Let’s consider a few concepts:

  • best / most fun / silliest selfie, photo, or vid (perhaps with a caption or slogan relevant to your site’s theme or product/service)
  • social media notions that inspire potential entrants to share photos or vids that highlight your site, product or service
  • promotional post or composition about why your site is so awesome
  • fun / first-rate reasons why folks should follow your site, buy your product, invest in your service (and so forth)
  • compelling “why I should win” pieces of writing
  • thought-provoking quiz or trivia questions (perhaps about your site, product or service)
  • regular product and/or service giveaways (you determine how often and how much).


Depending on what you’re selling or blogging/writing about, you might want to run a specialized contest: most adorable pet or baby pics, stunning travel or holiday photos, yummy dessert/dish recipes, inventive or inspired drawings or designs.  You might even go for something like “The 500th Follower Wins”.  Again, imagination is boundless.  Have at it.

Decide how often you want to run a contest, too—once annually, twice, thrice?  It’s up to you.  But don’t do one [or many] simply for the sake of it: make sure you identify why you’re having a contest.  What’s the ultimate aim?  Determine your prize(s).  Decide how you’ll choose your winner(s)—we’ll look at this in a subsequent post.  Organize all pertinent components accordingly, because you don’t want any [flabbergasting] surprises.

To reiterate an essential point, keep it all simple and sweet—always.


And the Winner Is . . . ?

Anyone who focuses on a goal and sets it in motion is a winner, that’s who.  The outcome doesn’t have to be successful: the important thing is that you gave it a shot.

One of my goals in the next two months is to run a contest.  The plan: give away the three books in the Triple Threat Investigation Agency in both e-version and hopefully hardcover—“hopefully” because my formatter/designer is still MIA (hmm, wonder if that’s a sign).

This got me to thinking about contests and all that’s involved—and hey, what a great topic for a post!

Why run a contest?  To attract new visitors/followers and boost traffic to your blog or site would be key reasons.  To promote your business would be another.  Whatever the reason, for the contest to be a “winner”, the prize(s) should be pertinent to your site.  You want to attract contestants—followers—that are sure to [want to] stick with you over the long haul.


Given A Writer’s Grab-Bag is about writing and blogging (and the private eyes from The Triple Threat Investigation Agency), it’s a natural to have an e-book giveaway.  For you, it could be something completely different.  In fact, there’s nothing that says you have to give away something strictly dedicated to the focus or topic of your blog, but something relevant would make sense.

If you’d like to run a contest, consider what would work best for you.  Give some thought to what you’re hoping to accomplish and set an objective.  For me, I’d like to attract more followers—I’d be [very] happy with 50 new ones.  And if I could sell a few e-books in the process, all the better.

You know, he more I think and type about it, the more I realize this might be two- or three-part post.

Running a Contest = Giving [something] Away

Running a Contest = What Type of Contest Should be Run

Running a Contest = How to Select the Winner(s)

<LOL>  Just when you think something’s fairly straightforward, it isn’t.  Good ol’ Mr. Murphy’s Law hits you smack-dab between the eyes.

Let’s look at some options as to what you might like to give away.

Books: yeah, I’ve got them on my brain, but maybe you’d like to offer books/e-books you’ve written . . . or provide ones related to your blog’s theme.

Gift Cards/Certificates: who doesn’t love them (I do, I do)?  You can also offer the electronic (e) version.

Your Skills: while I don’t generally focus on my editing experience on this blog, if I were so inclined, I could offer free editing services for a select number of contest entrants.  What might you offer?

Ca$h: who doesn’t love cash (I do, I do)?  If you can afford it—and it doesn’t have to be a lot, by any means—give some away.

Products / Services from Another Company or Blogger: contact a blog or site that’s piqued your interest and/or is in line with yours.  See if they might consider serving as a sponsor and/or providing you with a freebie to give away.  In turn, perhaps you’d post a review or run a promotion for them.

How to announce the contest?  Have a page (which is stationary) and not a post (which is always moving as a new one is posted).  That said, however, also post about the contestPlace a link in your sidebar (or header).  Share the contest—in simple, straightforward terms—on social media.

Lastly, when all is said and done, and the contest has ended, think of a way to cheer up the non-winners.  Email them singularly maybe.  Offer something to entice them to remain followers, like a guest post perhaps (imagination truly has no bounds).

Speaking of winning, I have a lottery ticket to check . . . so I’ll leave you with the notion of running a contest.  Next post: a look at different types of contest ideas.

Here’s to a winning day, my friends.