Great video on blog ranking

by 1st VA on August 22, 2009

From WordCampTV:  Matt Cutts:  Straight from Google – What You Need to Know

I’m still watching but wanted to share it.  Great info!  And presented in a really FUN way.

Courtesy of Nancy Barry-Jansson of Affirming Spirit

Thanks for sharing, Nancy!


Down time for creativity

by 1st VA on August 22, 2009

Okay – so I still have vacation on the brain.  I’ll be leaving on Monday for Cape Cod for the week.  While I’m excited for swimming with the kids in the ocean (I’m a fierce boogie boarder!), hanging out at the indoor/outdoor pools, playing some air hockey at the arcade, and maybe  a little mini-golf – what I’m equally looking forward to is some real DOWN time.  When I’m most quiet and reflective (leaving lap top at home!), is the time that I become the most creative, and get the most exciting business ideas.  THIS, along with awesome family-time, is what I’m excited for next week!  So I look forward to lounging in the sun, reading a few books (bringing business AND ‘fun’ books), and relaxing on the patio.  I’ll be bringing a notebook for any ideas that come to mind.

September is filled with a writing schedule to get my product written by October 1.  While I’d love to get a head-start on this next week, I’m not scheduling it in, so there’s no ‘pressure’.  I may write, I may not write and however it ends up will work for me.  It’s important that I don’t put writing pressure on myself or it won’t work for me – it won’t happen.  If I’m inspired to write – I will.  I can’t ‘force’ creativity or schedule a ‘task’ in during my creative time.

Do you schedule your own down time?  When does creativity flow easiest for you?  I would love to hear what works for you!

Enjoy your week and I’ll be back with pictures and oodles of great ideas!  :-)



My commitment to (really) blog once per week

by 1st VA on August 13, 2009

A few weeks ago or so I made a public commitment to blog once per week and though I guess I have technically been ‘posting’ – I’m usually posting articles that I’ve already written so I think I’m not TRULY meeting my commitment.  So my new commitment is to personally write something NEW once per week (at least!).

Kathy, our Social Media Specialist reminded me how important our websites and blogs are after last week’s twitter and Facebook hacking.

So here I am with my first post which I think will be just an update on what I’m doing personally and professionally, things on the horizon for 1st VA and whatever else comes to mind.

Summer is quickly winding down (sob sob).  It hasn’t felt like summer here much at all.  We’ve had unseasonably cool and rainy weather.  The kids are anxious to get back to school – mostly because I think they’re bored.  But I’m not quite ready for fall and winter.  Then again, with this funky weather, maybe we’ll have a sweltering September – who knows!

We’re planning a trip to Cape Cod for the last week in August!  One of our favorite places that we get to at least once each summer.  Next week it’s school shopping and appointments!

On the business side of things there is a lot going on.  We have two new products in the works (September will be my writing month!).  Our Online in a Month program is going gangbusters!  I’ll be flying out to Las Vegas in November for Ali Brown’s Shine event.  I’m half-way through Melanie Benson Strick’s Fast Track to a 6 & 7 Figure Lifestyle Business Mastermind and getting awesome support from my Fast Track coach Shawn Driscoll!!

Every day I’m grateful for my awesome clients and my awesome team and the fact that I have the flexibility and freedom to run this business the way I want to run it!

I would love to hear what YOU are up to (personally or professionally)!



Let’s meet at SHINE!!

by 1st VA on August 5, 2009

If you haven’t signed up for Ali Brown’s groundbreaking SHINE
Event yet, NOW is the time. Why? Early bird pricing ends today. That’s $500 off the full price registration rates! Today, Wednesday, August 5, is the last day to enjoy these discounts.

I’ll be there! And I want to meet you in person!

Peek at Ali’s new SHINE website, learn more about the event, and
register here!

This dynamic woman is paving a new road for entrepreneurs –
especially women. The important thing to know is that Ali’s
methods work – she’s helped everyone from home-based moms to
millionaires double or triple their revenues by ramping up their

SHINE is not just any seminar where you leave with a notebook
and your head full of ideas, but nothing concrete to implement.
You’ll complete the weekend with your business and income
strategies mapped out and ready to go! Yes, REALLY.

Ali’s SHINE website has all the details. Click here!

REMEMBER, early bird pricing ENDS today, so NOW is the
time to learn more and reserve your seat.

Won’t you join me in November?



Ezine Basics

by 1st VA on July 29, 2009

“Why do I need an ezine?”

Everyone and their brother has an ezine. You probably receive several of them every day. You know you should have one for your own business, but you’re wondering WHY, and if it’s really worth the time and effort. The answer is YES, — it most definitely is!

Building a list of past and previous clients, colleagues and others who are interested in your services, and staying in touch with them on a regular basis, is crucial for the long term positioning as you roll out new offerings, host events, or make news.

So now you know you need an ezine. Now you ask, “Where do I start?”

First: choose a service to publish your ezine. Deciding on a newsletter service may be as simple as just factoring the cost. There are several good services; some offer monthly rates as low as $15/month. Aweber and Constant Contact are two such ezine services, and are widely used. A service such as 1 Shopping Cart can handle other functions as well, such as autoresponders, e-commerce, and more.

Next: decide how often you want to publish it. You need to take a realistic approach as you decide how often you wish to publish, and then stick to that schedule. If you set up an expectation to publish a weekly ezine, and then barely send it out every other week, you’ll lose credibility with your readers. If you know that you just won’t have the time for a weekly ezine, send it bi-weekly. Monthly ezines just aren’t cutting it anymore. They end up far too long and it’s proven that people are more apt to read short weekly ones than long monthly ones. On the flip side, sending e-mail blasts more than once, or perhaps twice a week, unless absolutely necessary (“breaking news”), may annoy your readers and shower you with spam reports.

Now, choose your content. There are three main pieces that are all you really need. 1. A personal opening, 2. A relevant article that provides value to your target market and list, and 3. A special offer, your newest product – whatever it is that you’re selling or want to promote that week.

Simple enough? Don’t get caught in the “where to start” overwhelm. Follow the steps above and within minutes you can be on the way to publishing your ezine.

Donna Toothaker is CEO and founder of 1st VA the highly sought-after online marketing and consulting company. 1st VA specializes in providing online marketing support and services to entrepreneurs and solopreneurs who wish to effectively build or improve their online presence. To discover how 1st VA can help your business – visit


My 10-year-old daughter recently boarded a plane to San Francisco – by herself — to visit her aunt and cousins for a week. From the day we asked her if she would like to go to the day she got on the plane, she talked about it relentlessly – every single day. She was so excited — this was a BIG deal for her. She’d only ever been on a plane twice, and neither time was longer than a few hours. She had also only met her aunt a few times. This was all new territory for her, yet every day I was amazed at how she took control of what she was going to do, and how it was going to go for her.

Her actions during the past two months were great business reminders for me. She inspired me, and I’m very proud of her. Here’s what she accomplished without direction, using her own inner guidance. I am committed to use these reminders every day in my business.

1. Plan. Every day, every week, every year – have a plan. Plan your next day, your next event, your next project. Often times we ‘wing’ it as business owners, and then wonder what happened to our day or our week. Where did the time go? Why didn’t we accomplish what we wanted? My daughter planned from the moment the flight was booked. She had lists of what she wanted to bring. She mapped out what she would need to get beforehand, and was packed weeks in advance.

2. Step out of comfort zones. It’s not easy to do something big and/or something we’ve never done before. But it’s important to do these things in order to grow, personally AND professionally. For a 10-year-old, being away from family is pretty big, and WAY out of the comfort zone. But without taking that step, she would not grow and experience the new, and neither will we if we just stay put!

3. Create intentions. My daughter’s great desire was to get some “wings” – you know, those pins the flight crew give to children on the plane. She was getting some. Period. There wasn’t another option, there was no plan B. She created the intention and she got them. I love this.

4. Do what you love. There’s nothing that will drive you more than if you’re doing something you love. I’m sure that my daughter wouldn’t have made any great effort to go on this trip if it was to go eat broccoli for a week. She loves traveling. She loves babies. She loves new experiences, so she was motivated to do whatever it took to make the trip happen. When you love your work, your products, your services – when you love to help people — then doing whatever it takes to grow your business is a given.

5. Face Your Fear and Do it Anyway. Most times the actual FEAR is worse than doing the thing that we’re fearing. Facing it head on is the only way to get past and move forward. This is what I’m most proud of my daughter for doing. She felt really scared right before boarding the plane. But she walked through the gate and onto the aircraft. She did it! She faced her fears, boarded a flight, and arrived safely at her destination, ready for a whole week of new and enriching experiences. What a lesson for me. Who knew that my daughter’s journey would enrich me, and my business, too?

This week, do something new and different, plan it out, and face your fears. I will, too.

Donna Toothaker is CEO and founder of 1st VA the highly sought-after online marketing and consulting company. 1st VA specializes in providing online marketing support and services to entrepreneurs and solopreneurs who wish to effectively build or improve their online presence. To discover how 1st VA can help your business – visit


Why Just BE-ing Online isn’t Enough

by 1st VA on July 8, 2009

It wasn’t too long ago that small business owners could put up a website, maybe add a blog, submit an article or two to online directories, do a little search engine optimization and they would do fine getting website activity and making sales.  That process just doesn’t work anymore.  You can no longer BE online without being ACTIVE online.  And here’s why – you need to build relationships now, not just show your “brochure” and wait for sales to come to you.  These days, when people are cautious about spending, they want to feel more comfortable about what they are purchasing.  They want to “know, like, and trust” before they’ll purchase a product or service.

Here are three things you can do immediately to start building relationships, become known as the expert in your field,  and create the “know, like, trust” factor.

1. Ezine: Most businesses already have an ezine.  BUT – many are not utilizing it to its fullest potential. If you’re not in front of your readers on a weekly basis at MINIMUM – you’re missing the boat.  Monthly ezines don’t work like they used to.  You MUST stay in front of your audience more regularly.

Your weekly ezine should be brief. A personal introduction, an article of relevance on your area of expertise, an “about you” section and a recommendation are all you need.

You need to show your personal side in your ezine.  People want to know YOU and get a sense of your personality and values.  Often I talk about my family in my ezine because family is my number one value.  People will resonate with that, or they won’t, but the point is, I’m sharing what’s important to me and people want to buy from people with similar values.

2.     Blog regularly: Sure, most business owners have a blog, too.  But it’s important to be blogging regularly.  People won’t subscribe to ezines quite as much anymore due to email overload so it’s important to blog.  Posting three times per week is ideal – but at a minimum you should be posting once per week. There are other benefits such as SEO (search engines LOVE updated content) but for the scope of this article the primary benefit is relationship building.  Blogging is another avenue of building “community.”  Having comments open will allow people to ask questions, and share their own opinions.  Blogging is another way to show your personality.

3.     Social media: This is one tool that is not so regularly utilized yet, but should be.  Every business owner MUST be on Facebook, LinkedIn and twitter. If you’re not – you are missing out in a big way.  Social media marketing is so important for building new relationships.  From these new relationships you’re able to generate activity to your website, create interest in your products, and become known as the expert in your field.  Not only might you generate new business, but you may create some joint venture opportunities.  Social media isn’t what “the kids are doing,” it’s what serious business owners are using now to build important relationships.

Don’t wait for people to find your website – get active online, build new relationships and watch the sales and new opportunities come rolling in.

Donna Toothaker is CEO and founder of 1st VA the highly sought-after online marketing and consulting company. 1st VA specializes in providing online marketing support and services to entrepreneurs and solopreneurs who wish to effectively build or improve their online presence. To discover how 1st VA can help your business – visit


School’s Out!

by 1st VA on July 1, 2009

by Donna Toothaker

Kids:        YEAAAAAAAAH!!!
Me:        NOOOOOOOO!!!

Working at home with kids is always a balancing act.  When school lets out for summer, however, it can feel more like a full-fledged three-ring circus for a couple of months!  If your child isn’t heading for overnight camp, if you can’t cut work hours or take a month off, how do you find the time and space to focus on your work, while avoiding a looped chorus of “Mom, I’m bored?”

Here are a few tips I’ve discovered over the past several summers:

1.    Plan ahead. Block out your daily schedule the night before.  Make it an end-of-workday priority.  Build your home/family activities into your calendar, just as you would any other task/event/appointment.  Although you will rarely find you can stick to your schedule 100%, at least you have a road map to follow.
2.    Take advantage of sleepy mornings. Since you’re not rushing around trying to get your kids out the door for the school bus, you may as well let them sleep in a bit, and use that quiet morning time to get a head start!
3.    Stay mobile.  Maybe it’s time for WiFi if you don’t already have it.  Let the kids play in the yard while you work on your laptop or make calls.
4.    Keep them busy. Even younger kids can earn allowance by helping you get your work done more quickly – stuffing envelopes, sticking stamps…older, computer savvy kids can do simple data entry, filing, or generating simple customer letters (this is a good learning opportunity for them, too!).  For play, you might want to have a few simple, but time consuming, projects up your sleeve to occupy them for an hour or two.
5.    Swap play dates with other parents. If your child has a favorite friend, try to make a point once a week or more to alternate play dates at each others houses, giving you, and the other parent, a little break, and giving your child lots of “friend time!”

6.    Consider childcare. Chances are there is at least one responsible young person in your neighborhood looking for a summer job.  Why not hire him/her to come to your house and play with the kids for a few hours a week?  You’ll be at home in case of emergency, and they won’t be bored!

Whatever you do, make sure to devote some time every day to enjoying these warm summer days with your kid(s).  When in doubt, remember:  work can wait.  Childhood can’t.

Donna Toothaker is CEO and founder of 1st VA the highly sought-after online marketing and consulting company. 1st VA specializes in providing online marketing support and services to entrepreneurs and solopreneurs who wish to effectively build or improve their online presence. To discover how 1st VA can help your business – visit


Fabienne Fredrickson is up to something really cool.  If you remember, this past April I flew out to LA to spend 4 days at her Marketing and Mindset Breakthroughs Workshop and it was AWESOME.  I learned a ton, became clear on my vision and values, changed the direction of my business and now things at 1st VA are rocking like never before – more clients, more business, better systems, more delegation.  The same can happen for your business – check out this new free call she’s promoting.

Do you ever wonder what makes SOME people succeed, wildly
succeed, while others are just scraping by, trying to make
5-figures or barely break 6-figures?

If you really want to know what’s going to get you from where
you are in your business now to a TOTALLY different level,
here’s the secret…

The secret is actually a COMBINATION of several key
techniques (like a combination lock) that, when applied in a
particular order, create phenomenal results in your business
AND in what you make. In fact, these techniques can help you
make more in the next 12 months than you’ve made in the last
12 years COMBINED.

For herself, She’s always interested in looking for more ways
to take charge of her OWN life and her OWN business. That’s
why I was intrigued by Fabienne Fredrickson’s new free
teleclass on Wednesday July 1st, called “What It REALLY Takes
To Be A Winner In Your Solo-Business And Make More Than
You’ve Made In The Next 12 Months Than in The Last 12 Years

Click here to sign up!

And Fabienne is ready to reveal it ALL to you, step-by-step,
without holding anything back, on a FREE Teleseminar
happening Wednesday, July 1st.

Will you join me? I can’t wait to have you with me.

Sign up now!


by Donna Toothaker

As business owners, it is so easy to get lost in the day-to-day details of running the business that we do not invest enough time in growing it. Even if we set aside several hours a week, where do we begin? What areas of our business need improvement? Where can we be more efficient? In what ways are we succeeding?

A coach or mentor can be an invaluable asset to help us focus on priorities, and give us encouragement. I place a huge value on my weekly coaching calls. But what if there was a whole group of other experienced entrepreneurs to give you many new perspectives, support your ideas, point out areas that need improving, and hold you accountable for taking action? This is where a mastermind group comes in.

Simply stated, a mastermind group is a group of people who come together to achieve a common goal. In this case, several entrepreneurs exchange ideas and perspectives to help one another grow their businesses. Here are a few reasons to join one:

1. Why go it alone? Your ideal mastermind group is made up of peers with extensive experience in their individual fields. This peer-to-peer network is a great place to share ideas, get help when you’re stuck, brainstorm solutions, get inspiration, receive support – – and the list goes on. It is a way to share your strengths and benefit from the strength and experience of others.

2. Set goals and be accountable for them. Like a good personal trainer, your Mastermind group will prod you toward achieving your goals, and expect you to put in the effort. If procrastination is one reason your business isn’t growing, having a group to hold you accountable is an excellent way to stay on track!

3. Motivation. Once you’ve set your goals, you need to be motivated to stay on track. A good mastermind group will have homework for you to do so you can keep moving toward your goals with focus and determination.

4. Get in, and stay in, the growth mindset.
Many, if not most, members of mastermind groups make six- or seven- figures. If you are not yet there, joining a group is the first way to make that goal tangible, and possible. What better way to become a big earner, than to learn from them?

There are many ways in which to join a mastermind group. You may join one through a respected colleague, through a live event, or even form your own with peers.

Whichever way you join a group, be sure that you get the most out of it. A group should be structured and focused, accessible after mastermind calls, and be made up of a diverse and well-rounded group of entrepreneurs. Do your research, and joining the right mastermind group can help you grow your business dramatically, in much less time than it would take to do it alone.

Donna Toothaker is CEO and founder of 1st VA the highly sought-after online marketing and consulting company. 1st VA specializes in providing online marketing support and services to entrepreneurs and solopreneurs who wish to effectively build or improve their online presence. To discover how 1st VA can help your business – visit