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The Process That Helps Me Manage an Authority Internet Business

by Steve Scott | Join Him On Facebook

You need to track a variety of things as an Internet entrepreneur.

This is especially true if you’re building an authority Internet business that deals with a large amount of links, web accounts and content pages.

In a given week, you have to track:

  • Links to promotions and affiliate offers
  • Autoresponder and broadcast email messages
  • Published blog posts and social status updates
  • Ideas to develop into future articles and products
  • Marketing actions you’re currently testing
  • Networking contacts and related websites

Now, most people manage each of these items in a separate document or piece of software.  A simpler solution (in my opinion) is to run your entire business using a simple document.

In this post, I’ll talk about the “master document” that I use to manage my authority site, DevelopGoodHabits.com (DGH).  To start, I’ll talk about why it’s important to create this file.  After that, I’ll provide seven real-world examples of how I use it.  And then we’ll finish off with a simple action plan for implementing this strategy.

Let’s get to it.

Introducing: The Master Document

Since 2007, I’ve managed each of my Internet businesses with a single file that I cleverly call “the master document.”  (Okay, I’m not very original.)  Whenever I’m starting a new site, like DGH, I’ll open a new Excel file and start recording pieces of information related to that project.

The main purpose of the master document is to save time while writing blog posts, creating paid products and networking with other people.  Each morning, I pull up this document and keep it open throughout the day.  Invariably, I’ll always need to grab a piece of information from this sheet or quickly record a thought.  By continuously having this document at my fingertips, I save at least 30 minutes a day of personal productivity.

Now, you could easily make the argument that there are advanced software programs that can do the same thing.  But, I have yet to find one that manages disparate pieces of information in an easy-to-use format like Excel.

How to Create a Master Document

Update: I’ve had a few people ask to see an example of the master template.  While I can’t list my own in full detail (because I have some private notes and emails), I can show a good example.  Click here to get an Excel version of this document.

The key to a functional master document is to create a tab for each aspect of your authority business.  Here’s a simple three-step process 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 each part of your authority business.  Starting a new tab is really easy.  On a PC, scroll down to the tabs at the bottom of the sheet and “right click” the mouse.  Then choose the Rename button to name it what you want.   (Here’s how this looks on a PC platform.) Finally 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 (here’s how that looks.)

Simply repeat this process as many times as you need, creating a section for each area of your business.

#3: Manage this document on a daily basis.  This means doing things like: Adding links to new blog posts, updating affiliate/promotional links, recording good ideas and updating all expenditures.

At first, all of this might seem like needless busy work.  But, you’ll be glad to have every important piece of information in a single, easy-to-access interface.

You might wonder what actually goes into one of these documents.  It really depends on the nature of your business.  My advice is to include information that you use for the day-to-day operations of your business.  So if there’s a file you’re constantly opening, odds are it should be added to the master document.

To illustrate this point, let me go over ALL of the tabs I use for DevelopGoodHabits.com:

#1: Publishing Schedule

I’m constantly linking to old articles while creating new content.  This can be a tedious process if I had to scroll through my site whenever I need a link.  Instead, I maintain a list of every article I’ve published.

Here is how this tab is organized:

  • Date published
  • Title (or working title)
  • Type (MVP, product review, Kindle promo, specific habit overview or habit concept)
  • Link to the article
  • Notes and any reminders

With a publishing schedule, I’m able to keep track of old articles.  Plus, it gives me a chance to know what future content should be created.  For instance, as I write this article, I’m looking over this document and see that it’s been a month since I wrote an MVP caliber post.  So this has given me a reminder to start planning one of these posts.

#2: Networking

You can’t build an authority business in isolation.  Instead, you should reach out to other bloggers/authors/experts and establish solid relationships.

Now, I’ve often found the practice of networking to be disingenuous.  It seems like the common recommended strategy is to approach other blog owners and immediately pitch them with a guest post or request to share an article.  Me?  I prefer to develop organic relationships by initiating a conversation and seeing where it goes.

Networking is a long-term process.  So it’s important to keep track of who you’ve talked to and what was discussed.  Here’s how I do it on a tab in my master document:

  • Name of the person
  • Website or social media handle
  • Contact information
  • Affiliate program (I’m always looking for good offers to promote.  This is why.)
  • Initial outreach sent (Yes or No)
  • Notes (What I like about this person and anything we’ve discussed.)

My attempt to network is still a work in progress.  But, I find that dedicating a tab to this process is a great way to build a database of influencers in your market.

#3: Links

Sure, there are lots of WordPress tools that can manage web links.  Unfortunately, I find them to be unwieldy to manage on a daily basis. That’s what I have a tab that includes every link that’s related to a marketing promotion.  This includes:

  • Current affiliate links
  • Product review pages
  • Potential affiliate products to promote
  • My social media accounts
  • My Kindle books (without an Associates link)
  • My Kindle books (with an Associates link)
  • Squeeze pages and other list building pages
  • Places to submit guest posts

You’d be surprised at how easy it is to become overwhelmed by the sheer volume of web links.  However, when you put them into a well-organized tab, you’ll discover it’s easy to grab the right URL in a few seconds.

#4: Idea Garden

If you’re like me, you probably get dozens of ideas every single day.  The trick is to write down and follow up on these thoughts.  Whenever inspiration strikes, I record it in the “idea garden” tab in the master document.  Here’s how it breaks down:

  • Blog post ideas
  • Kindle book ideas
  • Potential traffic strategies to explore
  • Social media status updates to post
  • Anything else that pops up

To be honest, my idea garden is a bit of a mess.  The important thing is I use it to record every thought and review this section on a weekly basis.

#5: Autoresponder Sequence

A good autoresponder sequence can shape the opinion that readers have about your content.  Whereas most marketers use their list to pitch products, I focus on sending good content, before asking anything in return.  (Read my book Email Marketing Blueprint for more on this.)  So what I like to do is map out an autoresponder sequence in advance and make sure each message matches the overall theme of the authority site.

Right now, I’m still developing my autoresponder sequence.  But here’s the information that I currently include in this tab:

  • Subject line of the email
  • Number in the sequence
  • The action I want people to take
  • Notes and relevant information

Creating a good autoresponder sequence is a bit of a balancing act.  You want to hook the interest of subscribers, but you also don’t want to overwhelm them.  When you map out a sequence in a master document tab, you’ll see how each message fits into your overall email strategy.

#6: Financials

If you read my first traffic and income report, you’d see that running an authority business costs money.  What’s important to remember is to track every expenditure and make sure each is a worthwhile investment.  That’s why I have a tab on my master document for every cent that I spend.  It’s broken down into five sections:

  1. Web Development: Domain registration, hosting, WordPress them and web design tweaks.
  2. Content: Blog posts, editing, web articles, lead magnet creation and a few eBook sections.
  3. Graphics: Stock photography, logo design and eBook covers.
  4. Mobile Apps: Graphic design, wireframing, programming and app store submission.
  5. Marketing: Press releases, Fiverr gigs, paid advertising and various experiments.

It’s important to keep this information in separate columns, so you know where your money is going and if you’re getting a decent return on investment (ROI).

#7: Marketing Experiments

You should always test different things with your authority business.  Sometimes a small tweak or change can have an amazing impact on your bottom line.  The problem?  It’s a pain in the butt to track every current marketing experiment.  Often, it takes weeks—even months—to get reliable results and it’s easy to forget about a test during this time.

That’s why I include a simple three-column tab called “marketing experiments” on my master document.  It includes the following:

  • Date of the experiment
  • Action (what am I testing and why)
  • Notes (important metrics, quick reminders and follow up ideas)

Running different tests can do amazing things for your business, but it’s not easy to track them.  With the “marketing experiments” tab, you can create a weekly habit of reviewing what tests are running and what can be tweaked.

Take Action Today!

As you can see, a master document can be used in a variety of ways.  While I provided seven examples of how I use it, you can tailor it to the nature of your authority site.  Simply think of the information/links that you access on a daily basis and then create a tab for each part of your business.

The master document provides a simple tool for maintaining important information in a central, easy-to-find location.  You won’t waste time looking for a random link.  Instead you’ll have everything at your fingertips.

Now, it’s time to turn this information into action.

Right now, I want you to do three things:

  1. Create a new Excel spreadsheet (or use a comparable program.)
  2. Categorize your business information into separate tabs.
  3. Keep this document open while you’re doing work.

I’m a big fan of simple solutions.  By implementing the master document process, you’ll have an easy tool for maintaining information and following up on the ideas that pop up throughout the day.

Okay, it’s your turn.

Do you use something like the master document in your business?  If not, how do you maintain the piles of links/ideas/notes that regularly pop up?  Have any suggestions on how to improve this process?

Sound off below and let me know your thoughts.

Take Action. Get Results.




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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Philipp

Hej Steve,

thanks for your tipp to use excel.
The chapter “idea garden” is great, but when I am not at my pc, I use Evernote on my iPad or iPhone to collect my ideas. It synchronizes with my local app and I have all ideas there.
Also I can collect all the other things you mentioned in notebooks for each categorie.
BUT: Evernote can’t calculate – I think..
;-)
Have a great halloween,
Philipp

Reply

Steve Scott

Hey Philipp — I use Evernote as well, when I’m not in front of my computer. It also has great functionality for organizing information, but I prefer the Excel to manage everything. Generally, I’ll transfer my Evernote ideas and put them into Excel. That way I have a central place to follow up on good ideas.

Reply

Ronnie

Hi Steve,

Thanks for the reminder , keeping good records has been my my weakness. I spend more time looking for that paper that has the data on it than doing productive work. I like this system so with a little discipline I can put it into practice.

Reply

Steve Scott

Yeah, it’s REALLY easy to lose paperwork, links and other data. That’s why I recommend putting into central location. Hope this post helps!

Reply

Emily

Thanks, this is a great method. This will help me out a bunch in organizing all my sites, and planning new ones.

Reply

Steve Scott

Thanks Emily… hope it helps with your organizational efforts.

Reply

Amy Hagerup

I’m going right now to create an excel mastersheet. I too use Evernote but I have yet to streamline it so that I can glance at something like this mastersheet would allow. Could you show us a screen shot of your mastersheet and then maybe one of the tabs opened? That would be helpful. blessings, Amy

Reply

Darlene at BlogBoldly

I’ve been operating with a Master Doc for quite sometime and didn’t realize it!

Love the other tips I hadn’t thought of.

darlene
p.s. Yours is one of the few list I subscribe to anymore because you always provide valuable info and don’t try and sell every two minutes.

Reply

Dave

Hi Steve,
great idea! There are so many ways to simplify our task management and this certainly is one I am going to test drive. I’ve found some great time management stuff over the years and though there are ones with bells and whistles, it’s the easy-to-use, simple ones that often work the best.
Just a quick question re: your Kindle publishing schedule; How do you determine and measure how long a book should and will take and the various steps in its cover design and promotion?
All the best,
Dave

Reply

Tom

I run an Excel file for all my websites combined and just recently thought “WHAT A MESS!”. The concept you describe here brings a lot of structure into the workday and probably also helps in not getting distracted too easily. I quite often start fiddling around with a second or third website just because I saw the name of the site listed in the worksheets tabs. With dedicating one file to one website (and sticking to work with only one open file) I probably would be more productive.
Thanks Steve for this eye opening post.
Tom

Reply

Anne S.

Steve,
Using Excel is brilliant, just brilliant.
Thank you
Anne S.

Reply

Tom Thiessen

Would it be worthwhile having an ‘Affiliate’ tab?

I do mostly affiliate products, from numerous programs, and it can get crazy keeping track of them all.

Need to keep track of what I’m promoting, and where. Will use this as a base and expand on it.

Thanks Steve

Reply

Prisqua

I am not a fan of spreadsheets but to stay organized I use evernote and my favorite tool is Microsoft OneNote.

Reply

Damon Hall

Steve,
I just wanted to share with you that since learning of your website and information materials over the summer, I have learned so much about this business from the information you have produced. It is very thorough, complete, and is enough for me to go and take action. I have created and launched my first niche site which is starting to get traffic through various traffic method explained. This project has taught me a lot has given me the fuel that I need to move on to the next. I have a great idea for an e-book in which I have begun typing into Byword on a daily basis. So things are moving in the right direction and I hope to get to the point where I do not have to report to a 9-5 -very soon! I just wanted to share this note with you and thank for this latest post. It really seems helpful in staying organized and efficient in one’s business.

Thanks again!
DH

Reply

Honor

Hello Steve
Your post is soooooo…helpful, full of detail and truly educational. I currently have one ‘niche named’ XL spreadsheet which has the following 3 tabbed headings: key word/phrase research, Topics and Headlines. However, will quickly add your ideas into my framework and create new templates.(This is timely, so I can become better organised and include relevant headings).
I am working on content for my ‘authority niche site’ where people want solutions. And have some of your ‘E’ books; plus have also printed some of your articles/posts off, and have them as references with a few others I follow, on my office ‘pin board.’

At the moment I am ‘stuck’ and cannot figure out what the required ‘Picture Properties’ size for websites and blogs/emails and hoped you would please help me? My Picture Properties program is Office 2007.
This is what I am doing at the moment…
File type: JPG (this is what my program converts pictures to automatically; should I alter this?)
Dimensions/pixels: 365 x 336 or 768 x 1024 (what is the best and what is the limit?)
Size: 39.1KB (I have some at 468KB; what is the best and what is the limit?)

Many thanks in advance, Steve
Honor

Reply

Pau

Wow, what great advice Steve. I am guilty of having separate documents each to track their own separate thing, and having to open them separately every time I need some information throughout the day. For some reason, putting it all into one single spreadsheet never occurred to me!

I love to learn and think about new organizational methods that make my life cleaner and easier, and this one is very welcome. Until now I had a combination of several work and spreadsheet documents plus notes on Evernote, so it was a bit all over the place. Evernote is still useful to gather some notes and snapshots so I will keep using it, but I will most definitely create a master document for the rest.

Reply

Steve Scott

Completely agree with everything you said. It’s easy to miss obvious solutions, especially when we’re busy with a hundred different things. I too use Evernote…So far, it’s had an amazing impact on my productivity…especially for capturing ideas and organizing it.

Reply

Daniel

Hi Steve,
What if im an internet savvy, knows my in and outs and specializes with all the technical stuff. I really want to tap into the kindle books niche with a website that will be monetized, BUT, i do not know how to write. I mean professional writing, like you and how you are so good in laying out your thoughts and knowledge in such great manner. what then? should i hire a writer? Would a short but to the point “Reports” with my knowledge of my niche do the trick? Don’t get me wrong, im not looking for short cuts, at the same time i know what i can and cannot do.

Reply

Steve Scott

Daniel — Honestly, I don’t feel very “professional” with my writing. Basically I break things down into a sub-sections and checklists. It’s not that hard to create compelling content when you do it this way. Then I have an editor go over everything. Really the key is to use simple words and explain things that might be confusing.

Reply

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