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How a Single File Manages an Entire Internet Business

by Steve Scott | Join Him On Facebook

Excel LogoHaving trouble tracking all of your content?

Don’t know what type of email to send subscribers?

Need a place for the links relevant to your online business?

In this post, I’ll show how a single file is the answer to all three questions and SO much more…

The “Master Document” Principle

For many years I’ve used a simple technique to manage each of my Internet businesses.  I call it a “master document.”  (Yeah, not very original.) This file saves me lots of time while writing blog posts and emails for my business.

How does it work?

I use it to organize all project-specific information into an easy-to-access system.  What goes into this document depends on the particulars of each Internet business.  One file might include a list of blog posts and networking contacts.  Another document will have a list of your email sequences.

The key is to use this master document as an organizational tool.  In other words, it tracks all those bits of information that are most important to your business.  (Later on, I’ll give specific examples.)

I use a master document for each of my Internet businesses.  This includes my:

1)      Internet Lifestyle blog (this site.)

2)      Niche affiliate site

3)      Information product

4)      Go Large Project

I always have a master document open when working on one of these projects.  This helps me immediately find information/hyperlinks that improve the quality of my content.

How to Create a Master Document

It’s pretty easy to get started:

1)      Open a file using your favorite spreadsheet program.  I prefer Microsoft Excel.  But you can also try a free tool like Open Office Calc.

2)      Create a separate tab for the critical pieces of information in your business.  In the next section, I’ll provide specific examples of what I include.Insert Tab Feature

Making a new tab is super simple.  On a PC, all you do is scroll down to the tabs at the bottom of the sheet and right click the mouse.

Choose the Rename button to name it what you want.   (See to the right.)

Then select the Insert button to add the tab to the document.  This brings up another screen where you have to add a worksheet and hit the OK button.  (See below.)

Insert Worksheet Feature

That’s all you need to create separate tabs for this file!

3)      The final step is to maintain the master document.  This is actually the hardest thing to do in this process.  It’s important to not forget to add information on a regular basis.  That’s why I recommend scheduling this task as weekly maintenance project that goes on your to-do list.

Creating a master document literally takes a few seconds.  The trick is to make sure it’s being used.  My advice is to always have it open as you’re working on particular task.

Master Document – Steve Scott Site

What goes into a master document?  Like I said, it depends on the activities you do for each business.

In case of the “Steve Scott Site,” my primary activities are writing and networking.  So I’ve created tabs that enable me to do these activities in an efficient manner:

Master Tab- Steve Scott Site

(Click to see a large version)

As you can see in the above image, I’ve broken down the critical pieces of information into areas that help me write in an efficient manner.  This is particularly useful since I do all of my writing offline.

So let’s talk about each tab:

#1- Publishing: The publishing schedule is the heart of my blogging business.  It’s how I keep track of what I’ve posted and the articles I’m currently developing.  Here’s what this tab looks like:

Publishing Schedule for May

(Click to see a large version)

There is a lot that goes into this single page:

  • Color coordination- Green for published.  Pink for articles ready to go live.  Grey for rough drafts.   Yellow for ideas I need to flesh-out.  And white for basic concepts I’ve brainstormed.
  • Post Number- Every blog post is in a file on my desktop.  I include a number to make it easy to find.  This is useful for those times when I want to refer to something I’ve written in the past.
  • Date- Again, this is another way to find a file for future reference.
  • Title- Self explanatory
  • Purpose- This the category of the blog post.  With Excel, sorting content is simple to do.  I categorize my posts when I want to review a certain type of content.  Like my resource, MVPs.
  • Images and Keywords- With each post, I make sure I spend a little time doing keyword research and creating images that match the theme.  These two boxes track this task with a simply Y if it’s completed.
  • Notes- This area jogs my memory about what I’ve written in the past.  Plus it provides any relevant information for the purpose and/or why I wrote the post.
  • URL- I can’t overstress the importance of including all URLs in a central location.  I’m always referencing articles I’ve previously written.  I know there are plugins that can do this.  But I’ve found it’s useful to tailor each link to WHY I’m telling people to go read a post.

#2- Redirects: This is another way to save time.  Often in my blog posts I recommend free (and premium) tools to readers.  That’s why I’ve included all the links in a central location.  Instead of using Google to find a link, I simply refer to this tab.

#3- Guest Posts- This tab keeps track of the guest posts I’ve written for other sites.  Plus it gives me a strategic approach for the sites I’d like to target in the future.

#4- MVP Ideas: You don’t need to reinvent the wheel with blog content.  Sometimes the best ideas come from posts on other sites.  With this tab, I include a hyperlink and description to great pieces of content.

I don’t plagiarize anything.  Instead, I use this section whenever I get writer’s block.  Usually I’ll review this list and find an idea that I can relate to something I do in my Internet business.

#5- Networking: Reaching out to other blogs has been a challenge to me in the last year.  So I’ve created a tab of sites I’d like to work with in the future.  This helps me track conversations and what I’ve done to build a relationship with that person.  (This tab is a work in progress.  So I’ll keep you posted on the results.)

#6- Product Ideas: I get product ideas all the time – Especially when I write.  So I use this tab to make sure I don’t lose any of these ideas.

That’s it for my Steve Scott Site master document.  There’s a lot that goes into this file.  And I’m constantly tweaking it to make sure I stay focused on whatever task I’m doing at the moment.

Master Document – Go Large Project

I’m doing a lot with the Go Large Project.  You can break down most of the tasks into two distinct areas:

1)      Creating content that generates traffic

2)      Creating autoresponder sequences

Both of these are income producing activities.  With the first, I concentrate on the SEO and YouTube strategies that drive traffic to my squeeze page.  The second focuses on the different autoresponder sequences we use to make money (Right now, there are four total sequences.)

Here’s how all the tabs look in my master document:

Master Document - Go Large Project

(Click to See Large Version)

Let’s review what goes into this document

#1- Master Content: This tab maintains all the traffic-generating content we’ve created.  This tab is a combination of information and a simple Y if I’ve completed a particular task:

  • Post number- This helps me quickly find a particular blog post in Word Press
  • Title- Self explanatory
  • URL- The hyperlink of each blog post article.  This is useful when we’re creating backlinks.
  • Feeder Site Link- I have a feeder site with a Google PR 4.  I’m currently creating a 200 word article for each of this blog posts.  This column tracks which ones have already been linked.
  • YouTube- Each article gets turned into a video.  This section tracks which ones we’ve completed.
  • Re-Optimized- Once I get traffic to a post, I like to edit it and make sure I’m converting traffic into subscribers.  Re-optimizing articles is a great way to leverage the traffic you’re already getting.  This column lets me know if I’ve done this task for a post.

#2 to #5- Autoresponder Sequences: As I said before, I have four autoresponder sequences with this project.  So each gets a separate tab!  Including each sequence on this sheet helps me easily test and track different things with my multiple email lists.

Trust me, things can get confusing when you’re writing dozens of emails each week!

#6- Old Broadcast Messages: I have over TWO YEARS of broadcast messages I’ve sent to my primary affiliate list.  I keep all of this data on this tab as reference for the four autoresponder sequences.  This makes it easy to find messages that were successful in the past.

#7- Scratch: This is my “working” area.  On this tab, I’ve included a number of emails that haven’t made their way into any of the four autoresponder sequences.  I’ve already identified them as successful messages.  But I don’t know how I’ll use them yet.  I keep them on a separate tab to make it easy to find emails that are proven winners.

Final Thoughts on the Master Document

As you can see, a master document can be used in a variety of ways.

I gave two examples.  Both are completely different from one another.  The important thing to note is I use this file to manage the key pieces of information for each of my Internet businesses.

The master document is a great way to maintain all the important information in a central, easy-to-find location.  I don’t waste valuable time looking for a random link.  Instead I have everything at my fingertips!

This is an indispensible tool for anyone in an information business (ie: anyone reading this blog.)

Implement this technique and you’ll save a lot of time.  No longer will you have to hunt for a hyperlink or what you’ve written in the past. Everything will be included in this file!

This tool helps you gain a little bit of extra time that can be spent on the income-producing activities that propel your business forward.

Take Action. Get Results.




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{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

Tristan@Blogging Tips

I like it! I currently use a couple Google Docs documents for keeping track of my stuff, but I like your idea of having it all in one spreadsheet file better. I’ll make the switch over later today.

Another thing I love doing with a spreadsheet is planning out new blogs. On the first page of the spreadsheet I have stuff like the main keywords I’m targeting, tagline ideas, what will be in the sidebar and menus, etc. Then I make new tabs in the document for each category of the blog. I usually don’t end up using categories much on my blogs, but I think they’re great for the planning stage. And then I write my post ideas for each category. I’ve also found that planning by category gives me a clearer idea of what direction the blog will go in, and what I’ll end up writing a lot about and not so much about.

Thanks again, Steve!

Reply

Steve Scott

Tristan,

Some great ideas for using the doc for the planning stages. Would be a great “tab” in my system, to refer to as you build and grow it (IE working out from it)

Nice addition.

The great thing about the master doc is it can be whatever you want/desire the great thing about it is that it is all there!

Reply

Extreme John

We’re the same. I also use Google docs basically make things organized but I also use the kind of organization that Steve suggested here. The Google docs kind of serve as my back up for my computer files. It also helps me share files more easily.

I’m thinking of creating master file and then upload it in Google docs. What do you think?

Reply

Joe Barlow

Wow, Steve! Some terrific, and actionable, ideas here.

The concept of a master document is a good one. I’ve been using a spiral-bound notebook, in conjunction with a Textedit (similar to Microsoft Notepad) document on my Mac, and it’s just too hard for me to keep jumping back and forth between them, especially on a day like today, when I accidentally left my notebook at home instead of bringing it with me to the office.

I think I’ll take your advice going forwards. I don’t know Excel as well as I’d like, so this might be a good opportunity to become more familiar with it.

As far as paid products go, Steve, you should consider selling a copy of your Excel template. For those of us who are intimidated by the thought of setting up a spreadsheet from scratch, that could be a valuable resource.

Thanks for the great post, as always.
-j.

Reply

Steve Scott

Joe,

Maybe I will post a copy of a template one of these days for free. There is really nothing to it. The secret is really simplicity. Excel can get really fancy, but I don’t fancy it up to much.

The important part is having all the information there and ready to go.

I also take notes in a notebook. I just set aside that time once a week to add the “better” ones to the excel.

It makes it handier…and I never worry about forgetting the notepad. ;)

Anyway hopefully this will be useful for you, I do think it is a nifty time saving (and directing) tip.

Reply

Dia

Hi Steve,

This is an excellent idea. I do have a “master document,” but it is not as thorough as yours. My just lists all the blog posts I have written and going to write. I like how you created a separate tab for each task. Planning and having everything in one place makes everything easier for managing a business. Thanks for sharing my friend

Reply

Steve Scott

Dia,

Yours might be sufficient. It doesn’t need to be fancy. Just if you find you ever “look” for something or have information stored that you have to call up another file for…it might be better to add another tab.

Reply

Sean Mathena

Great post Steve!

I have used a master document to track my finances for years, but I never really thought about using one to manage my businesses. Thanks for opening my eyes to this use!

Reply

Steve Scott

Thanks Sean,

It is certainly similar to a master doc. for finances. With the same principal. Everything in one place at your fingertips.

Reply

Marco Lee

Wow! A thorough master Document. I keep a journal but mostly gibberish but still organized. I also do some stuff on Google Docs. I definitely agree, This is a must. Without a plan well…. surely we would not accomplish anything.

Reply

Steve Scott

Marco,

Thanks for the comment! I keep a journal too… I just find it is good to take the time to put all the important stuff in the doc somewhere. It makes the process of writing a lot smoother.

Reply

Patricia@lavenderuses

Hi Steve

I got about a quarter of the way through this and had to bookmark :-) Cos I want to get out Excel spreadsheet in the morning (getting late here now) and do this; as it is such a great way to be organised!

I do Excel spreadsheets for keyword research and heaps of other things when I am researching for new site and I find them really good to use. Just so easy to pull up all the information.

Will be on my “to-done” list tomorrow ;-) Thanks Steve.

Patricia Perth Australia

Reply

Daniel Snyder

This is brilliant and HUGE. I too have been using excel for managing aspects of my blogging for years. It’s a tool that is indispensable, but the extent to which you are using it here is awesome and inspiring. Tracking information, goals etc. is great and doing it all in the same place is fantastic as well. I tend to use Microsoft Outlook for goal tracking a lot, but it isn’t as pretty as some of things you can do with Excel. Thanks!

Reply

Steve Scott

Thanks Daniel.

It is pretty isn’t it. ;).

I never got into outlook. But I understand it is also quite good fro tracking some things. The real important part is that you have ONE single document with EVERYTHING.

I appreciate your stopping by.

Reply

Steve@Internet Lifestyle

Patricia,

Using excel as a “master doc” really does increase productivity. Let me know how it goes after you have used i a bit,

thanks

Steve

Reply

Adam

Awesome brother!

Indispensable tool – yes indeed.

I use Excel to keep track of my posts and what needs to be done in my blog. My spreadsheet is a primitive master document but is a great help. Definitely saves me time.

After reading your post, I gathered more ideas on how to make it more efficient. Love the way you use different colors to track your blog posts. I am so going to try it out.

Thanks Steve.

Reply

Steve@Internet Lifestyle

Adam,

Awesome, I am glad that you got some good additional ideas from this for your own master doc. :)

Reply

Rohan@Marketing Mix

Organization is the way to go with any form of business especially an online marketing business where it is very easy to get carried away with so many ‘awesome distractions’ and though the trick you mentioned is simple , it is a really effective one …. I have been using google docs to keep track of things but never contemplated using an excel sheet . Next top priority with my upcoming niche site experiment… :)

Reply

Steve Scott

Yup, you got it! Organization is key! For people starting out, you can get by and be disorganized, but as time passes and you have hundreds, or thousands of links to manage, as well as numerous projects, it becomes essential to have the best and most efficient forms of organization.

Ultimately it comes down to “what you will USE diligently” but personally I think excel does the best job.

Reply

Edwin

Sweet tip Steve. Thanks for this, it should keep everyone of my projects nice and organized :)

Reply

Leonard@redacteur web

Thank you so much for sharing this. It’s really a professional way of keeping your business organized.

Reply

Steve Scott

Thanks Leonard, Glad you liked it!

Reply

Craig Kelley

Keeping track of this stuff can be overwhelming. Good advice! We use fogbugz.com for keeping track of programming issues, advertising, blog ideas, etc. I personally love that it can be accessed by more than one person and from anywhere. I guess I like a web based approach.

Thx for sharing!
Craig

Reply

Steve Scott

certinaly nothing wrong with the web based approach. I am all for the cloud. In fact when i read about the new Google ChromePad I decided I want one… It sounds cool and all web based. NO reason you cannot have your excel on ” the cloud” though

Reply

Timo Kiander

Steve,

This is great stuff!

Being organized is crucial when running your business.

I was already maintaining a file like this (much simpler than yours), but you have taken it to a second level :) In fact, I have several smaller files where I keep my data, but I’m thinking now to centralize all them to one file instead.

Reply

Steve Scott

Thanks Timo,

I think the idea of having the file centralized really makes things easier in the long run. It isn’t that hard eaither, since you have all the data…

Reply

dan

I’ve been using the same technique but not as detailed as yours. Props for sharing your method, I’ve certainly learned a few nuggets from this.

What I also do is have one master document for tasks/items that are common to most of my projects, such as networking/relationship management.

Reply

Steve Scott

Dan,

It sounds like your system is pretty sound. If you can get a few nuggets, awesome!

thanks for dropping by !

Reply

Matthew Needham

Steve, I like to think of myself as pretty organised. However, you really do take the biscuit. You’re a productivity guru in your own right. I think this a great idea. I already do a number of the things that you do, except that I don’t have them all in one place.

What a simple yet effective idea. Thanks for sharing.

Thanks, Matthew

Reply

Steve Scott

Thanks Matthew,

I try! :)

Actually you should see the way my dad organizes. I am almost disorganized in comparison.

You know the way it goes…

anyone who does less than you…completely disorganized…how can they get anything done

anyone who does more… very “anal retentive” they must be a little bit (or a lot of bit) OCD

Reply

Calli

Hi Steve,

I also keep a master document but yours is a very organized and detailed one. I thought I’m overdoing it already because some of my friends don’t have one. lol Its good to know that I’m not (overdoing it). :)

Reply

Adam

Hi Steve,

Great stuff. I’ve always been searching for that magic form to use, and here you go showing us it’s been right there in front of us all along !

One very important thing to add, we must remember to always do regular
back-ups of this work to avoid a potential disater losing it all.

Thanks alot for your insights & guidance,
Adam

Reply

Steve Scott

Adam,
Of course! Backups are absolutely essential! At least they are when you need them. Thanks for dropping by and commenting.

Reply

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