The Parenting Junkie is here to talk on how to get your high needs baby to sleep. This will be helpful if you want to know how to get colicky baby to sleep. First things first, how to get high need baby to nap comes before how to get your baby to sleep through the night. Because sleep begets sleep let’s start with how to get your baby to nap especially if you don’t know how to get baby to sleep in crib. This goes for parents who are wondering how to get baby to sleep alone. As a Peaceful Parenting advocate Avital believes we can take a gentle sleep training approach while even learning how to sleep train a newborn. In this video, you’ll be encouraged by the wisdom of Magda Gerber RIE along with my best sleep tips for high need baby. If you have a high need baby sleep you are in the right place. If you are trying to find the answer to the cry it out method how long is too long question, keep listening. If you’re newborn won’t sleep, there’s a plot twist to this story so stay tuned if you think tongue tie affecting sleep is possible or if you think you have a tongue tied newborn.

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Permission to Teach Your Baby to Sleep (
The Minimalist Newborn Essentials You Don’t Need (
Create a YES Space for your Baby (
Babies – What You ‘Need’ (
Baby-Led Weaning (
Pacifiers (


Uumu Baby Carrier
Baby Sleep Mask (
Snuggle Me Organics Bed (
Stroller (
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You Know We Have a Special Needs Child, But Here are 10 Things We Might Not Have Told You

You Know We Have a Special Needs Child, But Here are 10 Things We Might Not Have Told You

Hannah is the reason for Health, Home, & Happiness. If I had two typically developing children, I wouldn’t have done the whole GAPS journey, wouldn’t have so much to share with you on the internet, and most likely would be in a different line of work.  She has special needs, she had autism but it was healed with GAPS, but she still has a global delay diagnosis and we’re still trying alternative treatments to heal her body as much as possible.

Further reading: What is the GAPS Diet?

I love that I have the internet available to share what I have learned with all of you. Today I’m going to talk about some things that outsiders might not realize about families that have a special needs child in them. Of course, this is all true for me, but won’t be true for all families.

It’s hard to know what you don’t know

Before I had a child with special needs, there was so much about special needs families that I didn’t understand. And I know there is still tons I don’t understand- I have avoided the whole medically fragile/multiple hospital visits route, and I know I have readers there.  I have some readers with multiple children with special needs, some with higher functioning children, some with lower. We all love our kids though, and we all have different strengths and challenges.

Today I present 10 things that many special needs families often don’t talk about, but do often feel.  It’s a given that we love our children, and you’ll hear us talk about that and the rewarding parts of raising them, but this is some of the hard stuff:

We don’t have anything extra

1.  Parents of special needs children don’t come with any extra energy or more patience or understanding than anyone else.  It feels dismissive to us when people say to us, ‘God will only give you what you can handle, He must have known you could handle it.’ Yes, we’re handling it, and we understand that you can’t imagine yourself in our shoes, but it doesn’t mean that it’s any easier for us than it would be for you.

Emotional Exhaustion

2.  Sometimes the emotional enormity of it is more exhausting than the physical aspect of having a special needs child. For children that need to be carried and lifted more, our muscles build up strength (I have some killer arms, since I still carry my low tone 47 lb 6-year-old fairly often when she gets tired), but emotionally every developmental change, school placement, choosing alternative treatments, supervising and making medical decisions are just as exhausting this year as they were last year.

Navigating Services

3.  The services that are available for children with special needs are difficult to navigate and often expensive.  Before I had a SNC (special needs child) I assumed that if you had a SNC you just went and signed up for services, and someone told you exactly what to do, what you qualified for, and always acted in your child’s best interest.  In some places that is true, but in most cases the parents have to really network with other parents to see what’s available, apply and re-apply for a correct diagnosis because the standard testing may or may not accurately reflect the child’s actual needs, and fight through red tape to get the child to be placed in the appropriate setting. And then do it all over again in 6-12 months when their developmental needs or school placement changes.

For expenses- there is so much out there, but it costs so much more than stuff aimed at typically developing children! Horse therapy- $60/session, a visit to the naturopath $200, speech therapy $48 twice a week…

Further reading: Simple Budgeting to Reduce Stress

Paperwork and Phone Calls

4.  Paperwork and phone calls.  Tons and tons of it, from everyone that even looks at our child, and many people who don’t even see our SNC, 10 pages of paperwork is often requested, they look at it for 5 minutes, and then realize we’re not the right fit.

I keep an Excel document with the names, addresses, faxes, and phone numbers for everyone who currently and in the past has worked with my daughter and print it out before we see anyone.  I call it her resume.

Phone calls are hard, just like your children, our kids also act up while we’re on the phone. But as parents of SNC we’ve learned that it’s better to spend half an hour on the phone and make sure the specialist is actually something we need to go to before we drag the kids out for half the day for an appointment.

Family Priorities

5.  Our priorities change based on the entire family unit.  Sometimes we are focusing on limiting screen time, sometimes we’re focused on a special diet, sometimes we’re focused on a behavior issue, sometimes it’s academic, sometimes it’s just maintaining the progress we’ve made so far because the family is going through some other transition like moving or having a new baby.

It’s impossible for both the child and the parent to focus 100% on everything at once, so it may look like we’re changing our mind and jumping around a lot.  Or we might be changing our mind and jumping around a lot. I promise, though, we’re not doing this for fun or because we’re bored- we’re trying to find what works best for our family.

Further reading: 101 Family Friendly Summer Activities

We need Self Care Too

6.  We soon realize that we can’t give our kids 100% of us 100% of the time.  Because parenting a SNC is so intense, we eventually realize that we have to take ‘me time’ to avoid burnout. I had the idea that as a parent I could keep pushing myself and eventually I’d get used to it.

It took me 5 years, but eventually I learned that I have to take some time out and take a break from completely giving everything for my child.  I come back refreshed, and much better able to a good job as a parent.  It’s a good mental break too, to be somewhere where you’re not just known as a mom of a child with special needs.

Continue reading: Self Care for Moms


7.  It’s super hard to find qualified childcare for our kids!  And we often need more of it than parents of typically developing children, since our kids require more of our attention when we are watching them and might not do well on standard errands.

I’ve been fortunate to find amazing nannies to help me out part time, but because my child takes so much attention, I have to pay quite a bit more since the babysitter can’t take other children alongside mine, and she needs a higher wage than the high school girl down the street that could watch my typically-developing children just fine.

The person providing childcare has to be experienced with special needs, on top of things, and has to have a personality that meshes with our child’s.

Parenting Advice

8.  Our children’s behavior issues are not from poor parenting.  Yes, consistency usually helps, but the way these children’s brains are wired and the sensory issues they deal with make them not respond to regular parenting techniques the way a typically developing child would.

I’ve personally found that other parents have more grace with me when I put a medic alert bracelet on my daughter, it kind of gives them the heads up that she’s a SNC and I tend to avoid most of the glares at the playground for age-inappropriate meltdowns.

We still have to go buy groceries, go to the bank, and get our car fixed just like everyone else – and sometimes plans can’t work around our children’s sensory issues, so they may be fussing in the store.  It’s just how it is, there isn’t always an option to ‘do it when someone else is watching her’.

Further reading: Are Sensory Issues Causing Your Child’s Meltdowns? 

Not Easily Offended

9.  It doesn’t offend us if you ask us about special needs at all. Unless we’re newly diagnosed or still trying to figure it out ourselves, in that case it might be overwhelming. But to a family who has been ‘doing the special needs thing’ for a while, we’re happy to talk to you and help in any way we can.

Many moms come up to me and want to ask if their toddler is showing signs of autism, or other special needs, and I’m always happy to talk about it with them (they’re usually not, and of course I’m not a medical professional but I’ve been around enough SNC that I’m fairly accurate on what’s developmentally appropriate and what’s not).

We want the best for them

10.  We want the best for our child, no matter the circumstances.  That’s why we work so hard, it isn’t because we’re ashamed, it isn’t because we’re trying to change something that can’t change, or that we’re in denial, it’s because we want to make sure we’re doing everything possible for our child to reach their fullest potential.

Further Reading:

10 tips to help you interact with our (special needs) family.
You Know My Child Has Special Needs… Preteen Edition
Special Needs Mamas, You Need Self Care
It’s a Sensory Issue (that’s why they’re melting down!)



The post You Know We Have a Special Needs Child, But Here are 10 Things We Might Not Have Told You appeared first on Health, Home, & Happiness.

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Minimalism with kids (am I a real minimalist? House tour!)


The Parenting Junkie is no stranger to a life of minimalism with kids. Having a home with minimalism with kids toys can be a reality for everyone. This minimalism with kids house tour can be applied even to those seeking minimalism with older kids. It can be tricky to have a minimalist kids room with new toys always being bought. The great thing about minimalism with children is that they will grow up to appreciate your simplicity parenting. Minimalist parenting makes you come up with some awesome toy storage ideas. The rise of the minimalism mom is a beautiful thing. The tips for minimalism shown in this minimalist family home tour video will blow you away.

Get the Full-Color Childhood Design Guide: how to transform your home into a play-inducing haven here:

Raising Entrepreneurials (
Minimalism & Toys (
Toys to Get Rid Of (
Day in My Life (
How We Montessori (
The Play Zones Kids Need (
Big Room Declutter (

Book Rec’s from this video:
The Opposite of Spoiled (
Now Say This, Turgeon (
Unconditional Parenting, Kohn (
The Conscious Parent, Tsabary (
Parenting From The Inside Out, Siegel (

Products Seen in this Video:
Toy Storage Units/bins, Play Kitchen, Sensory Table, etc – IKEA!
Okay to Wake Clock (
Magnesium Spray (
Doll (


*Links provided may or may not be affiliate links. This makes no buying difference to you, but it does help support The Parenting Junkie with a small commission. You are not required to use these links.


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The Minimalist Newborn (The Essentials You DON’T Need)


The Parenting Junkie has embraced the minimalist newborn. What are minimalist newborn essentials, you may ask. Let’s consider the minimalist newborn wardrobe and minimalist newborn must haves. Does a minimalist newborn diaper bag necessary? What does a minimalist newborn clothes selection look like? This video is all about Avital’s take on the minimalist newborn list and the minimalist newborn baby essentials might not be so essential after all. Be sure to download the Minimalist Baby Essentials List in the link below for your minimalist baby. The great thing about minimalist baby essentials is how it spills over and naturally creates a minimalist baby nursery. This is not a minimalist baby haul today – so be prepared to be mind blown at the things you thought you needed, but perhaps DON’T need.

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Minimalism with Kids HOUSE TOUR (
How to Buy Less – Minimalism Hack (
Create a YES Space for your Baby (
Minimalism & Toys (
Babies – What you Need (
Baby-Led Weaning (

Angelcare Baby Bath Support (
Diaper Bag Backpack (
Uumu Baby Carrier
Snuggle Me Organics Bed (
Wooden Gym Stand – Etsy
Elimination Communication Potty – Andrea Olsen
Cloth Diapers (
Stroller (
Portable Crib (


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How to Win Some Local Customers Back from Amazon this Holiday Season

Posted by MiriamEllis

Your local business may not be able to beat Amazon at the volume of their own game of convenient shipping this holiday season, but don’t assume it’s a game you can’t at least get into!

This small revelation took me by surprise last month while I was shopping for a birthday gift for my brother. Like many Americans, I’m feeling growing qualms about the economic and societal impacts of putting my own perceived convenience at the top of a list of larger concerns like ensuring fair business practices, humane working conditions, and sustainable communities.

So, when I found myself on the periphery of an author talk at the local independent bookstore and the book happened to be one I thought my brother would enjoy, I asked myself a new question:

“I wonder if this shop would ship?”

There was no signage indicating such a service, but I asked anyway, and was delighted to discover that they do. Minutes later, the friendly staff was wrapping up a signed copy of the volume in nice paper and popping a card in at no extra charge. Shipping wasn’t free, but I walked away feeling a new kind of happiness in wishing my sibling a “Happy Birthday” this year.

And that single transaction not only opened my eyes to the fact that I don’t have to remain habituated to gift shopping at Amazon or similar online giants for remote loved ones, but it also inspired this article.

Let’s talk about this now, while your local business, large or small, still has time to make plans for the holidays. Let’s examine this opportunity together, with a small study, a checklist, and some inspiration for seasonal success.

What do people buy most at the holidays and who’s shipping?

According to Statista, the categories in the following chart are the most heavily shopped during the holiday season. I selected a large town in California with a population of 60,000+, and phoned every business in these categories that was ranking in the top 10 of Google’s Local Finder view. This comprised both branded chains and independently-owned businesses. I asked each business if I came in and purchased items whether they could ship them to a friend.


% Offer Shipping




Some employees weren’t sure. Outlets of larger store brands couldn’t ship. Some offered shipping only if you were a member of their loyalty program. Small independents consistently offered shipping. Larger brands promoted shopping online.



Larger stores all stressed going online. The few smaller stores said they could ship, but made it clear that it was an unusual request.

Games/Toys/Dolls etc.


Large stores promote online shopping. One said they would ship some items but not all. Independents did not ship.



USPS prohibits shipping alcohol. I surveyed grocery, gourmet, and candy stores. None of the grocery stores shipped and only two candy stores did.



Only two bookstores in this town, both independent. One gladly ships. The other had never considered it.



Chains require online shopping. Independents more open to shipping but some didn’t offer it.



With a few exceptions, cosmetic and fitness-related stores either had no shipping service or had either limited or full online shopping.

Takeaways from the study
Most of the chains promote online shopping vs. shopping in their stores, which didn’t surprise me, but which strikes me as opportunity being left on the table.
I was pleasantly surprised by the number of independent clothing and jewelry stores that gladly offered to ship gift purchases.
I was concerned by how many employees initially didn’t know whether or not their employer offered shipping, indicating a lack of adequate training.
Finally, I’ll add that I’ve physically visited at least 85% of these businesses in the past few years and have never been told by any staff member about their shipping services, nor have I seen any in-store signage promoting such an offer.

My overarching takeaway from the experiment is that, though all of us are now steeped in the idea that consumers love the convenience of shipping, a dominant percentage of physical businesses are still operating as though this realization hasn’t fully hit in… or that it can be safely ignored.

To put it another way, if Amazon has taken some of your customers, why not take a page from their playbook and get shipping?

The nitty-gritty of brick-and-mortar shipping

62% of consumers say the reason they’d shop offline is because they want to see, touch, and try out items. – RetailDive

There’s no time like the holidays to experiment with a new campaign. I sat down with a staff member at the bookstore where I bought my brother’s gift and asked her some questions about how they manage shipping. From that conversation, and from some additional research, I came away with the following checklist for implementing a shipping offer at your brick-and-mortar locations:

✔ Determine whether your business category is one that lends itself to holiday gift shopping.

✔ Train core or holiday temp staff to package and ship gifts.

✔ Craft compelling messaging surrounding your shipping offer, perhaps promoting pride in the local community vs. pride in Amazon. Don’t leave it to customers to shop online on autopilot — help them realize there’s a choice.

✔ Cover your store and website with messaging highlighting this offering, at least two months in advance of the holidays.

✔ In October, run an in-store campaign in which cashiers verbally communicate your holiday shipping service to every customer.

✔ Sweeten the offer with a dedication of X% of sales to a most popular local cause/organization/institution.

✔ Promote your shipping service via your social accounts.

✔ Make an effort to earn a mention of your shipping service in local print and radio news.

✔ Set clear dates for when the last purchases can be made to reach their destinations in time for the holidays.

✔ Coordinate with the USPS, FedEx, or UPS to have them pick up packages from your location daily.

✔ Determine the finances of your shipping charges. You may need to experiment with whether free shipping would put too big of a hole in your pocket, or whether it’s necessary to compete with online giants at the holidays.

✔ Track the success of this campaign to discover ROI.

Not every business is a holiday shopping destination, and online shopping may simply have become too dominant in some categories to overcome the Amazon habit. But, if you determine you’ve got an opportunity here, designate 2018 as a year to experiment with shipping with a view towards making refinements in the new year.

You may discover that your customers so appreciate the lightbulb moment of being able to support local businesses when they want something mailed that shipping is a service you’ll want to instate year-round. And not just for gifts… consumers are already signaling at full strength that they like having merchandise shipped to themselves!

Adding the lagniappe: Something extra

For the past couple of years, economists have reported that Americans are spending more on restaurants than on groceries. I see a combination of a desire for experiences and convenience in that, don’t you? It has been joked that someone needs to invent food that takes pictures of itself for social sharing! What can you do to capitalize on this desire for ease and experience in your business?

Cards, carols, and customs are wreathed in the “joy” part of the holidays, but how often do customers genuinely feel the enjoyment when they are shopping these days? True, a run to the store for a box of cereal may not require aesthetic satisfaction, but shouldn’t we be able to expect some pleasure in our purchasing experiences, especially when we are buying gifts that are meant to spread goodwill?

When my great-grandmother got tired from shopping at the Emporium in San Francisco, one of the superabundant sales clerks would direct her to the soft surroundings of the ladies’ lounge to refresh her weary feet on an automatic massager. She could lunch at a variety of nicely appointed in-store restaurants at varied prices. Money was often tight, but she could browse happily in the “bargain basement”. There were holiday roof rides for the kiddies, and holiday window displays beckoning passersby to stop and gaze in wonder. Great-grandmother, an immigrant from Ireland, got quite a bit of enjoyment out of the few dollars in her purse.

It may be that those lavish days of yore are long gone, taking the pleasure of shopping with them, and that we’re doomed to meager choosing between impersonal online shopping or impersonal offline warehouses … but I don’t think so.

The old Emporium was huge, with multiple floors and hundreds of employees … but it wasn’t a “big box store”.

There’s still opportunity for larger brands to differentiate themselves from their warehouse-lookalike competitors. Who says retail has to look like a fast food chain or a mobile phone store?

And as for small, independent businesses? I can’t open my Twitter feed nowadays without encountering a new and encouraging story about the rise of localism and local entrepreneurialism.

It’s a good time to revive the ethos of the lagniappe — the Louisiana custom of giving patrons a little something extra with their purchase, something that will make it worth it to get off the computer and head into town for a fun, seasonal experience. Yesterday’s extra cookie that made up the baker’s dozen could be today’s enjoyable atmosphere, truly expert salesperson, chair to sit down in when weary, free cup of spiced cider on a wintry day… or the highly desirable service of free shipping. Chalk up the knowledge of this need as one great thing Amazon has gifted you.

In 2017, our household chose to buy as many holiday presents as possible from Main Street for our nearby family and friends. We actually enjoyed the experience. In 2018, we plan to see how far our town can take us in terms of shipping gifts to loved ones we won’t have a chance to see. Will your business be ready to serve our newfound need?

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

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Family Camping Etiquette at Campgrounds

Toddler in tent

This is a continuation of our Down and Dirty Guide to Family Tent Camping!

Among first-time campers, it’s tempting to think this is a time to be free and let the kids finally run wild, taking some relaxation for yourself. This can be inconsiderate of others, it’s important to teach children to be respectful. 

Here are some guidelines so that you’re able to enjoy the great outdoors, and everyone else can too. 

Campsite Etiquette

Campsites are a shared space, and a great place to help children learn to read a new situation and behave in a way that is appropriate, fun, and still considerate of others. 

Just as we teach kids to stay on the trail to prevent erosion, not pick the last wild flower so everyone can enjoy, and absolutely not litter, noise pollution is also important to avoid.

Children who are in tune with others can simply be encouraged to observe what other people are doing, think about why they may be doing it that way, and ask if they aren’t sure of something.

For children with black-and-white thinking, you may need to have specific ‘camping rules’.  This can also be called scripting. This is helpful for spectrum-y kids and preschoolers.  This might be a little advanced for most toddlers, which other campers nearly always are very forgiving of. 

For example, if the children have learned that yelling and ‘outside voices’ are appropriate for the playground, new rules may be that we need to use walkie-talkies to talk to each other in normal talking voices, or only use inside voices at all time because our voices carry across the lake.  You can make this into a game, or just matter-of-fact spell out the rules. 

In general, this is acceptable:

Laughing, giggling, talking- just try not to crowd where other campers are reading or doing another quiet activity.
Big groups being a little louder. (tip: when reserving a campsite, look to make sure it’s not near  group campsite if you would like quiet 🙂 )
A little more noise during a game, especially if you include other campers.
Toddlers squealing with delight, or periodic fussing/shrieking.
Babies and toddlers crying/fussing/protesting for 10ish minutes as they go down for a nap/to sleep.
Occasional laughing and raising voices around a campfire.
Kids doing ‘happy yells/screams’ when catching a fish, falling into the lake, win at Uno etc.
Dogs that bark excitedly as they wait for you to throw a stick, during daytime hours.
Asking your campsite neighbors if they have a spare of whatever you forgot (I forgot everything for lighting a fire last time! Friendly neighbors gave me a healthy supply of strike-anywhere matches).

In general, this is not acceptable:

Shouting from raft to raft across a lake to other people, unless it’s a small campground and all the camper kids are out there and involved in the middle of the afternoon. Camping can really bond people together, especially if you go the same dates and to the same place year to year.
Rowdy/noisy games before 9 am or after 7 pm.
Dogs that bark at every squirrel, passer by, or creaking branch.
Making noise or throwing rocks where people are fishing.
Electronics (the radio, a tablet that can be heard from another campsite).  We typically don’t go outside and sleep on the ground to hear the top 40 radio station 😉 This may change if you’re in a popular ‘party spot’. 
Bright lanterns that will shine through someone else’s tent when you’re on the way to the bathroom or ruin their night vision if they are out without a flashlight.  Use a small flashlight and point it at the ground.
Driving fast so that dust kicks up on the roads where people are walking – drive slow not only to avoid hitting wildlife, but also to avoid creating your own personal dust storm.

Campsite Rule Enforcement

Children who do not follow the noise rules for me usually sit in the car with me until there is a better understanding (car on and AC on if it’s hot) The car buffers the sound in case this interruption causes an increase in noise 😉 For children who have a hard time with impulse control, starting with day trips and trail/fishing etiquette a few hours at a time can help.

For some kids, a movie in the car or tent on a tablet (I know, probably not the camping trip you had in mind… but working up to being media free is okay!) is a needed break once a day. Just make sure you’re the one who is in charge of the movie (I’m going to put on Dory for you after lunch and you can lay in the back of the car with the windows open for a break), or you may end up with whiney kids who just want to sit in the car and watch movies the whole time. 

The children are not in charge, it is too much responsibility to ask most preschoolers or toddlers to self-regulate electronics.

Some scripts:

When we are camping, we use quiet voices because we do not want to disturb others that are reading/fishing/etc.

When we are on a trail, we use quiet voices so we can hear all the birds chirping and sounds of nature. People enjoy these sounds, and we want them to be able to hear them.  Can you hear a bird? The wind in the trees? 

When we are on a boat, we are careful not to drop things against the bottom, since it spooks the fish and the people fishing can’t catch them.

When we are near people who are fishing, we do not throw rocks in the water. We look for a place away from people who are fishing to throw rocks, or we wait until the middle of the day when fishing isn’t good anyway.

Do you see how thin the tent is? Our voices go right through it and into the next tent! So it is important to be so so quiet and whisper to me at night if you have something to say.

In general, campers are forgiving if  they see you are trying to teach your children to be respectful. Children with obvious disabilities, babies, and toddlers are afforded quite a bit of grace.  Parents are expected to steer rock-throwing toddlers away from fishing spots, and out of other campsites, though.

Assume good intentions with others is key

You also get to enjoy your space. Again, it is a shared space, and it’s unreasonable to think that you will have the same solitude as if you were in the middle of the forest on your own. But it’s also okay to politely request someone keeps their noise down.  Using ‘sandwich statements’ of a positive – negative – positive, along with I statements can go a long way.  Again, campers are generally great people who may get carried away, especially when alcohol is involved.

Asking a group to keep it quiet after 10, someone to keep their kids from running right through your campsite, or a group to stop swearing is completely appropriate and okay to request.

Also, moving or ignoring as much as possible is the way to be a good camping neighbor as well.

Usually there will be a camp host, where you can bring any major concerns (huge parties, crazy campfires that are about to burn down the entire place, etc).

The post Family Camping Etiquette at Campgrounds appeared first on Health, Home, & Happiness.

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Better Than Basics: Custom-Tailoring Your SEO Approach

Posted by Laura.Lippay

Just like people, websites come in all shapes and sizes. They’re different ages, with different backgrounds, histories, motivations, and resources at hand. So when it comes to approaching SEO for a site, one-size-fits-all best practices are typically not the most effective way to go about it (also, you’re better than that).

An analogy might be if you were a fitness coach. You have three clients. One is a 105lb high school kid who wants to beef up a little. One is a 65-year-old librarian who wants better heart health. One is a heavyweight lumberjack who’s working to be the world’s top springboard chopper. Would you consider giving each of them the same diet and workout routine? Probably not. You’re probably going to:

Learn all you can about their current diet, health, and fitness situations.Come up with the best approach and the best tactics for each situation.Test your way into it and optimize, as you learn what works and what doesn’t.

In SEO, consider how your priorities might be different if you saw similar symptoms — let’s say problems ranking anything on the first page — for:

New sites vs existing sitesNew content vs older contentEnterprise vs small bizLocal vs globalType of market — for example, a news site, e-commerce site, photo pinning, or a parenting community

A new site might need more sweat equity or have previous domain spam issues, while an older site might have years of technical mess to clean up. New content may need the right promotional touch while old content might just simply be stale. The approach for enterprise is often, at its core, about getting different parts of the organization to work together on things they don’t normally do, while the approach for small biz is usually more scrappy and entrepreneurial.

With the lack of trust in SEO today, people want to know if you can actually help them and how. Getting to know the client or project intimately and proposing custom solutions shows that you took the time to get to know the details and can suggest an effective way forward. And let’s not forget that your SEO game plan isn’t just important for the success of the client — it’s important for building your own successes, trust, and reputation in this niche industry.

How to customize an approach for a proposalDo: Listen first

Begin by asking questions. Learn as much as you can about the situation at hand, the history, the competition, resources, budget, timeline, etc. Maybe even sleep on it and ask more questions before you provide a proposal for your approach.

Consider the fitness trainer analogy again. Now that you’ve asked questions, you know that the high school kid is already at the gym on a regular basis and is overeating junk food in his attempt to beef up. The librarian has been on a low-salt paleo diet since her heart attack a few years ago, and knows she knows she needs to exercise but refuses to set foot in a gym. The lumberjack is simply a couch potato.

Now that you know more, you can really tailor a proposed approach that might appeal to your potential client and allow you and the client to see how you might reach some initial successes.

Do: Understand business priorities.

What will fly? What won’t fly? What can we push for and what’s off the table? Even if you feel strongly about particular tactics, if you can’t shape your work within a client’s business priorities you may have no client at all.

Real-world example:

Site A wanted to see how well they could rank against their biggest content-heavy SERP competitors like Wikipedia but wanted to keep a sleek, content-light experience. Big-brand SEO vendors working for Site A pushed general, content-heavy SEO best practices. Because Site A wanted solutions that fit into their current workload along with a sleek, content-light experience, they pushed back.

The vendors couldn’t keep the client because they weren’t willing to get into the clients workload groove and go beyond general best practices. They didn’t listen to and work within the client’s specific business objectives.

Site A hired internal SEO resources and tested into an amount of content that they were comfortable with, in sync with technical optimization and promotional SEO tactics, and saw rankings slowly improve. Wikipedia and the other content-heavy sites are still sometimes outranking Site A, but Site A is now a stronger page one competitor, driving more traffic and leads, and can make the decision from here whether it’s worth it to continue to stay content-light or ramp up even more to get top 3 rankings more often.

The vendors weren’t necessarily incorrect in suggesting going content-heavy for the purpose of competitive ranking, but they weren’t willing to find the middle ground to test into light content first, and they lost a big brand client. At its current state, Site A could ramp up content even more, but gobs of text doesn’t fit the sleek brand image and it’s not proven that it would be worth the engineering maintenance costs for that particular site — a very practical, “not everything in SEO is most important all the time” approach.

Do: Find the momentum

It’s easiest to inject SEO where there’s already momentum into a business running full-speed ahead. Are there any opportunities to latch onto an effort that’s just getting underway? This may be more important than your typical best practice priorities.

Real-world example:

Brand X had 12–20 properties (websites) at any given time, but their small SEO team could only manage about 3 at a time. Therefore the SEO team had to occasionally assess which properties they would be working with. Properties were chosen based on:

Which ones have the biggest need or opportunities?Which ones have resources that they’re willing to dedicate?Which ones are company priorities?

#2 was important. Without it, the idea that one of the properties might have the biggest search traffic opportunity didn’t matter if they had no resources to dedicate to implement the SEO team’s recommendations.

Similarly, in the first example above, the vendors weren’t able to go with the client’s workflow and lost the client. Make sure you’re able to identify which wheels are moving that you can take advantage of now, in order to get things done. There may be some tactics that will have higher impact, but if the client isn’t ready or willing to do them right now, you’re pushing a boulder uphill.

Do: Understand the competitive landscape

What is this site up against? What is the realistic chance they can compete? Knowing what the competitive landscape looks like, how will that influence your approach?

Real-world example:

Site B has a section of pages competing against old, strong, well-known, content-heavy, link-rich sites. Since it’s a new site section, almost everything needs to be done for Site B — technical optimization, building content, promotion, and generating links. However, the nature of this competitive landscape shows us that being first to publish might be important here. Site B’s competitors oftentimes have content out weeks if not months before the actual content brand owner (Site B). How? By staying on top of Site B’s press releases. The competitors created landing pages immediately after Site B put out a press release, while Site B didn’t have a landing page until the product actually launched. Once this was realized, being first to publish became an important factor. And because Site B is an enterprise site, and changing that process takes time internally, other technical and content optimization for the page templates happened concurrently, so that there was at least the minimal technical optimization and content on these pages by the time the process for first-publishing was shaped.

Site B is now generating product landing pages at the time of press release, with links to the landing pages in those press releases that are picked up by news outlets, giving Site B the first page and the first links, and this is generating more links than their top competitor in the first 7 days 80% of the time.

Site B didn’t audit the site and suggest tactics by simply checking off a list of technical optimizations prioritized by an SEO tool or ranking factors, but instead took a more calculated approach based on what’s happening in the competitive landscape, combined with the top prioritized technical and content optimizations. Optimizing the site itself without understanding the competitive landscape in this case would be leaving the competitors, who also have optimized sites with a lot of content, a leg up because they were cited (linked to) and picked up by Google first.

Do: Ask what has worked and hasn’t worked before

Asking this question can be very informative and help to drill down on areas that might be a more effective use of time. If the site has been around for a while, and especially if they already have an SEO working with them, try to find out what they’ve already done that has worked and that hasn’t worked to give you clues on what approaches might be successful or not..

General example:

Site C has hundreds, sometimes thousands of internal cross-links on their pages, very little unique text content, and doesn’t see as much movement for cross-linking projects as they do when adding unique text.

Site D knows from previous testing that generating more keyword-rich content on their landing pages hasn’t been as effective as implementing better cross-linking, especially since there is very little cross-linking now.

Therefore each of these sites should be prioritizing text and cross-linking tactics differently. Be sure to ask the client or potential client about previous tests or ranking successes and failures in order to learn what tactics may be more relevant for this site before you suggest and prioritize your own.

Do: Make sure you have data

Ask the client what they’re using to monitor performance. If they do not have the basics, suggest setting it up or fold that into your proposal as a first step. Define what data essentials you need to analyze the site by asking the client about their goals, walking through how to measure those goals with them, and then determining the tools and analytics setup you need. Those essentials might be something like:

Webmaster tools set up. I like to have at least Google and Bing, so I can compare across search engines to help determine if a spike or a drop is happening in both search engines, which might indicate that the cause is from something happening with the site, or in just one search engine, which might indicate that the cause is algo-related.Organic search engine traffic. At the very least, you should be able to see organic search traffic by page type (ex: service pages versus product pages). At best, you can also filter by things like URL structure, country, date, referrers/source and be able to run regex queries for granularity.User testing & focus groups. Optional, but useful if it’s available & can help prioritization. Has the site gathered any insights from users that could be helpful in deciding on and prioritizing SEO tactics? For example, focus groups on one site showed us that people were more likely to convert if they could see a certain type of content that wouldn’t have necessarily been a priority for SEO otherwise. If they’re more likely to convert, they’re less likely to bounce back to search results, so adding that previously lower-priority content could have double advantages for the site: higher conversions and lower bounce rate back to SERPs.Don’t: Make empty promises.

Put simply, please, SEOs, do not blanket promise anything. Hopeful promises leads to SEOs being called snake oil salesmen. This is a real problem for all of us, and you can help turn it around.

Clients and managers will try to squeeze you until you break and give them a number or a promised rank. Don’t do it. This is like a new judoka asking the coach to promise they’ll make it to the Olympics if they sign up for the program. The level of success depends on what the judoka puts into it, what her competition looks like, what is her tenacity for courage, endurance, competition, resistance… You promise, she signs up, says “Oh, this takes work so I’m only going to come to practice on Saturdays,” and everybody loses.

Goals are great. Promises are trouble. Good contracts are imperative.

Here are some examples:

We will get you to page 1. No matter how successful you may have been in the past, every site, competitive landscape, and team behind the site is a different challenge. A promise of #1 rankings may be a selling point to get clients, but can you live up to it? What will happen to your reputation of not? This industry is small enough that word gets around when people are not doing right by their clients.Rehashing vague stats. I recently watched a well-known agency tell a room full of SEOs: “The search result will provide in-line answers for 47% of your customer queries”. Obviously this isn’t going to be true for every SEO in the room, since different types of queries have different SERPS, and the SERP UI constantly changes, but how many of the people in that room went back to their companies and their clients and told them that? What happens to those SEOs if that doesn’t prove true?We will increase traffic by n%. Remember, hopeful promises can lead to being called snake oil salesmen. If you can avoid performance promises, especially in the proposal process, by all means please do. Set well-informed goals rather than high-risk promises, and be conservative when you can. It always looks better to over-perform than to not reach a goal.You will definitely see improvement. Honestly, I wouldn’t even promise this unless you would *for real* bet your life on it. You may see plenty of opportunities for optimization but you can’t be sure they’ll implement anything, they’ll implement things correctly, implementations will not get overwritten, competitors won’t step it up or new ones rise, or that the optimization opportunities you see will even work on this site.Don’t: Use the same proposal for every situation at hand.

If your proposal is so vague that it might actually seem to apply to any site, then you really should consider taking a deeper look at each situation at hand before you propose.

Would you want your doctor to prescribe the same thing for your (not yet known) pregnancy as the next person’s (not yet known) fungal blood infection, when you both just came in complaining of fatigue?

Do: Cover yourself in your contract

As a side note for consultants, this is a clause I include in my contract with clients for protection against being sued if clients aren’t happy with their results. It’s especially helpful for stubborn clients who don’t want to do the work and expect you to perform magic. Feel free to use it:

“Consultant makes no warranty, express, implied or statutory, with respect to the services provided hereunder, including without limitation any implied warranty of reliability, usefulness, merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, noninfringement, or those arising from the course of performance, dealing, usage or trade. By signing this agreement, you acknowledge that Consultant neither owns nor governs the actions of any search engine or the Customer’s full implementations of recommendations provided by Consultant. You also acknowledge that due to non-responsibility over full implementations, fluctuations in the relative competitiveness of some search terms, recurring changes in search engine algorithms and other competitive factors, it is impossible to guarantee number one rankings or consistent top ten rankings, or any other specific search engines rankings, traffic or performance.”Go get ’em!

The way you approach a new SEO client or project is critical to setting yourself up for success. And I believe we can all learn from each other’s experiences. Have you thought outside the SEO standards box to find success with any of your clients or projects? Please share in the comments!

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