Ryan Welton

Sports + Digital + Music + Life

Tag Archives: Digital Marketing

WordPress Tip: How to edit the bio at the bottom of your posts


Thought I’d devote a quick post to this in hopes of helping somebody not waste 25 minutes trying to find it.

I love WordPress, but I also think the CMS is largely unintuitive, especially without search. On several occasions over the past few months, I’ve wanted to update an outdated bio at the bottom of each blog post.

Not only was the information out of date, but it was devoid of HTML, so it looked like a jumbled heap of words.

So, I hopped into the WordPress admin tool and clicked here. And clicked there. And then I did a quick Google search, and then I started to grow frustrated because there is no search in the WordPress admin that I can find — and it should all just be easier than this.

And then I eventually figured it out.

I’m going to show you so that, maybe, you don’t have to waste your time.

  1. Go to WP Admin
  2. Click on ‘Users’ in the left-hand column.
  3. Then click on ‘Your Profile.’

What you’ll see looks like this:


Type in all the updates you’d like, and note that you can add HTML links to things like social media sites. I tried adding paragraphs and line breaks, and that was no-go. Just add the simple <a href HTML code around any link you have, and it should work.

Then you click the ‘Update Profile’ button just below that, and – boom – all done!

Instagram growth sparked by the simplest of routines


One of my digital goals for 2018 has been to grow my Instagram channel. With everything I’ve got going on between work, volunteering and social obligations, this hasn’t gone so well so far.

I need a gimmick. I need a routine.

And I think I came up with one. I’ll take a photo outside each and every morning that details the temperature and the expected high and weather conditions, not a full forecast just a brief summary. It’s useful. It’s visual, and it’s something I could do each and every day. At a minimum, this gives me one post per day.


I need to come up with more of these ideas, well, beyond just taking photos of food.

Why? Because Instagram has 813M users as of April 2018. It’s an incredible platform for brand building and storytelling. In the past couple of weeks, I converted my channel to a business profile, @ryanweltonmusic. The primary thing this gets me is Instagram analytics and the ability to run ads. You can add a contact button to your account, and I think you can even add a hyperlink.

For the moment, I have a pretty big caveat: My channel only has 354 followers.

I’ve got a long way to go.

You’d think with a name like @ryanweltonmusic, my channel would be all about music or would have more video snippets of me playing. Alas, no. I’ve mostly used my channel for unfocused personal nonsense.

That doesn’t have to be a bad thing if you at least post consistently, which I don’t and haven’t. The goal is 4-5 posts per day, but I’d settle for a consistent one daily. Here are a few of my weather photo posts:

It stayed chilly most of the day Saturday.

The night before was gorgeous, so much so that I took two photos that day.

Likewise, I forgot to post in Tulsa on Friday, when we all got together for the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters (OAB). If this is going to be a new social media habit for me, I need consistency — and that means every day.

Strategically, I believe that brands and people both can be posting on Instagram way more often. Up to 4-5 times a day with the full allotment of 30 tags. At some point after I get a bunch of posts into the Instagram analytics system, I’ll do a post that compares my posts and how they rank in terms of impressions.

But for now, know that my weather-image strategy has netted me six new followers in four days.


Where I find my digital inspiration


I had a coffee with a friend of mine a couple months back, and we discussed our careers and digital and marketing and social media, and we discussed the things and people who inspire.

We’re close to the same age. We both work in TV news. And I think we both are pretty danged sharp with ambitions to maintain our edge.

I thought about sending him a note with all of this, but then I thought, “Are you crazy? This is perfect fodder for a blog.” (I’ll send him the link though!)

And then we (both) had lots of big news to cover, such as severe weather, wildfires and this week’s Oklahoma teacher walkout. I’m also involved with the Redbud Classic as part of its board of directors, and I recently accepted a spot on the JayMac board of directors for the University of Oklahoma, my alma mater. Actually, I accepted that months ago and have yet to be able to attend a meeting with the flu getting me last go-round.

All of this has me super excited and sounds like a humblebrag, except that I have to admit: I work hard and go go go, and I’ll eventually get really tired tired tired and need to recharge. And when I need to recharge, I really need to recharge. I need sleep. I need healthy food. I need lots of water (or a couple beers). I need to run. I need to meditate. I need to create.

And I need inspiration.

I wrote about my passion for running recently, so now I’ll tell you about my inspirations. These are the people who pick me up on a regular basis.

My original digital sensei was Gary Vaynerchuk. I met him at Google’s New York City offices back in 2016 as part of this group I belonged to called The Conference Board. Although Gary is famous for selfies with fans, I didn’t ask for one because I’m a bit shy and embarrassed to ask, and I was genuinely satisfied getting to meet him and ask him questions. There were about 15 of us in the room, and we peppered him with questions.


Jeremy Smerd, Executive Editor of Crain’s New York Business hosts Gary Vaynerchuk, CEO at VaynerMedia for Too Good To Fail at Internet Week HQ on Day 2 of Internet Week 2015 in New York May 19, 2015. Insider Images/Andrew Kelly (UNITED STATES)

One digital communications professional worked for a firm that sells military equipment, and she asked how social media could be used to market a B-2 bomber, for example — and he proceeded to tell her. And he was absolutely right. What’s crazy is that he’d be the first to admit, as founder and owner of Vayner Media, that not even half of his big-name clients go all in on digital content as he’d wish they did. I say that to say: not even Gary Vee’s proclamations were likely enough to cause that pro’s boss to consider Instagram as a platform for telling stories about B-2 bombers.

But Gary goes all in, and his content is fantastic. His books are useful. And I’ve consumed them all to the point that nothing he’s saying in 2018 is new to me. I’m pretty sure I could write Gary Vee fan fiction at this point. Mostly, I listen to the “GaryVee Audio Experience” podcast or watch his YouTube videos. But if you don’t know this guy and you need the basics for how to do digital or entrepreneurship in 2018, spend time consuming all his content.

And then do.

This just happens to be his most recent video. I went to his channel to find one that epitomizes his personality, and I didn’t need to look far. This is quintessential Gary.

What makes Vaynerchuk especially inspiring to me is that his philosophies on life and the way he treats people are aligned with the values to which I aspire. It’s basically: work hard, be self-aware and be kind. And that’s it.

However, he’s not the digital personality I’m most into right this second.

That would be Casey Neistat.

Casey is much less tactical in terms of what he tells you and much more tactical in what he shows you. If you’re not familiar with Casey, he’s a videographer who had an HBO show and then became a YouTube star with 9.2M subscribers, many of which were earned when he started daily vlogging a few years ago.

It helps that he’s a fantastic videographer and storyteller.

He’s a stellar digital marketer because he understands the need for delivering content often. To the extreme. Quantity IS important.

Casey Neistat

Casey Neistat

The inspiration is in seeing him create this content day after day after day, knowing full well that he accomplishes other things in life and business, enjoying it and understanding that there is as much magic in consistent content creation as there is in the high-level art that is his videography.

What you want to learn then is: what are the efficiencies in shooting, writing, production and — heck — life that can allow you to achieve at such a high level? I get that from other folks as you’ll read here momentarily, but I digress.

Casey Neistat has a tremendous energy, and he has started a new daily vlog called 368, named for a collaborative space he’s opening for YouTubers and others in New York City. It’s short for 368 Broadway, which is in lower Manhattan. I don’t know exactly what it will entail exactly, but Neistat’s is a brand I trust to offer entertainment and video inspiration.

I’ve seen two episodes so far, and it feels a little more like a digital-TV hybrid, as in: what if Casey’s daily vlogs were made for episodic television. Here’s the first episode:

Another inspiration as a fellow named Tim Ferriss, best known as a podcaster and author, who gained fame writing the book ‘4-Hour Workweek,’ ‘4-Hour Body‘ and most recently ‘Tribe of Mentors.’ I own the latter and have read some of the two former. ‘Tribe of Mentors’ is a fantastic encyclopedia of life advice from hundreds of successful people in a wide variety of occupations.

And that’s what Ferriss’s podcast is about: breaking down big concepts into bite-sized chunks for self improvement, tactics that people can do each and every day. And in my case, I pick and choose what I can and want to apply in my own life. For example, he turned me on to mushroom coffee. Sure, it was an advertisement, but Ferriss talked a lot about Four Sigmatic’s mushroom coffee “lighting you up like a Christmas tree.”

Let’s be real. I love me some coffee, but the primary appeal is that it wakes your ass up.

I tried the coffee, and it was fantastic. It even tasted good, and I didn’t expect mushroom coffee to taste anything beyond gross.

Tim Ferriss

My favorite episode of the Tim Ferriss podcast ever was his interview with Terry Crews, former NFL player, actor and author of the book, ‘Manhood: How to Be a Better Man — or Just Live with One.’ I won’t delve into it much, but Crews became one of my favorite people after listening to him talk for 45 minutes. Fantastic human being.

So, as you’ve been able to glean, I mostly listen to podcasts and watch YouTube. I don’t do a lot of television, and while I read books more than I do watch TV, I don’t do either all that much. On the other hand, I do listen to audio books on Audible. My two most recent selections have been “Hillbilly Elegy” by J.D. Vance and “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain.

My belief is: consume content how you’d like, and don’t let anybody tell you that watching videos or listening to audio books is inferior. The grand arbitrage in 2018 is time and latching onto anything that can help us save it while at the same time doing more.

Speaking of podcasts, my first one was “WTF,” the vehicle that re-launched Marc Maron‘s career. To be perfectly honest, I rarely listen to his interviews. I mostly like his monologues before the main event.

I also listen to several other podcasts on the regular, including “Marketing School” with Neil Patel and Eric Siu, “ProBloggeer Podcast” with Darren Rowse, “The Life Coach School” with Brooke Castillo, the “YouTube Creators Hub Podcast” with Dusty Porter and “Reliable Sources” with Brian Stelter. Each one of these podcasts fits a pocket of my life and my interests. They get heard in the car during my commute to work each morning.

Likewise, there are a lot of other YouTube channels I follow pretty religiously, including one from an up-and-comer named Amy Landino. Her primary expertise is vlogging, as evidenced by the book that made her famous, ‘Vlog Like A Boss: How To Kill It Online with Video Blogging.’ However, her channel is mostly focused on tactics that help you become more productive. Work productive. Life productive.

Amy is a more tactical version of another digital marketer I like named Marie Forleo. Both refer to their channels as “X-TV,” as in “Amy TV” and “Marie TV.” Forleo used to be much more tactical in her content relative to business and marketing, but I’m sensing that she’s shifting to more of an Oprah-like personality that’s directed much more toward women.

So, I’m way more Team Amy at this moment.

There are several YouTube-centric vlogs I follow, including channels from “Video Creators,” “Video Influencers,” “TubeBuddy,” and a pair of channels from Nick Nimmin and Brian G. Johnson. All of it is super educational for anybody interested in creating video content meant to grow an audience.

I’m also a pretty regular viewer of Peter McKinnon’s fine work on YouTube. The best way I can think of to describe him is as the Canadian version of Casey Neistat. What both he and McKinnon have in common is that they’re tremendous videographers.

Anyway, I don’t spend all my time consuming this content. I listen to it during commutes or watch it while I’m unwinding from the day. Most of the books I buy from folks who inspire me are ones that I use as resource guides or for when I need a kick in the butt. For example, I think I need to spend a few minutes this weekend with Vaynerchuk’s ‘Crushing It’ just so I can get back on track after a long week in the newsroom.

Ten minutes of inspiration from folks who know what they’re doing in the digital space is all you need.

I’d love to know who or what inspires you!

I’d love for you to follow me on Twitter (@ryanwelton) or subscribe to my YouTube channel. Please – and thank you!




YouTube channel update: The YouTube growth struggle is real.


A few days ago, somebody noted that they enjoyed seeing me play the piano online, and I gave a jumbled nonsensical reply about trying to master YouTube, which is at once the truth but not nearly as effective as just saying, “Why, thank you!

Everything I’ve been doing over the past 4-6 months online, personally, has been about trying to figure out which platforms I could possible master, which I’d want to master and which I should just forget about, personally, not professionally. With work, there are platforms such as Instagram and Twitter that I need to conquer for work purposes, but I’m especially passionate about YouTube.

But, damn, is it a grind these days.

When I started in 2007, it took me a while, and then it kind of blew up. And then I stopped making videos after YouTube started cracking down on cover songs. It’s like my willingness to execute is never matched by a vision for where the platform is going — and in this case, as of March 18, 2018, I’m convinced that YouTube is the new gold rush.

It’s where stars will be made.

It’s where businesses will be made.

It’s where experts will be made.

Even beyond FaceTwitaGram, YouTube is the platform where I’d tell an ambitious person to start their quest. It’s important to do the others to the extent that you can, but YouTube has the biggest upside. Just my opinion.

But I sure have gone nowhere the past six months, although it’s not for lack of trying.

I tried vlogging some piano tutorials.

I tried vlogging about Big Brother.

And I’ve tried doing some personal vlogs.

Oh, and I’ve done more covers of pop songs, old 80s songs and whatever I can knock out pretty quickly, trying to replicate some success I had last year with The Weeknd’s “I Feel It Coming,” which garnered me 13,000-plus views and probably accounted for most of the 100 or so new subscribers I’ve gotten over the past year.

Branching out hasn’t been the answer so far.

So I’m returning to the original niche that propelled me in the late 2000s: smooth jazz or contemporary (c-jazz). When I uploaded “Step To It” in 2007, I had no idea it would soon exceed 160,000 views. Of course, I attribute that mostly to the great sax work of Oklahoma City’s own Chris Hicks. However, I’ve had a modicum of success with other instrumentals.

And I go back to what Gary Vaynerchuck always says about documenting the journey. Well, this is my journey, kind of back to square one in terms of narrowing my scope of YouTube production back to smooth jazz, some covers and personal vlogs, most of which will probably have something to do with music.

I also decided to put a little money behind what I’m doing, so I set up a few $1-per-day ads on four of my most popular songs. I’m not that well versed on what makes a particularly successful AdWords campaign, and the AdWords system doesn’t let me target nearly as narrow as I’d like. For this campaign, which stretches over four songs, I’m only able to target “music lovers.” There is no “likes smooth jazz” selection, although I might be able to associate some demographics with that tendency.

For now, I’m just gathering data and telling you what I’m doing.

Oh, and I figured out how to add a watermark to all the videos on my channel. That was pretty easy, although I’m not sure how effective it will be. And last but not least, here are the songs I’ve put money against. We’ll see how they do after a couple weeks.

And I’ll report back.

“Step To It” by Ryan Welton featuring Chris Hicks

“Nocturnal” by Ryan Welton featuring Chris Hicks

“Cool Like Kelsey” by Ryan Welton

“Vibe” by Ryan Welton featuring Eric Montgomery



The 3 basics of 21st Century digital public relations


The biggest purpose of this blog post is to help small businesses that have zero idea on how to navigate a communications or public relations strategy. Sure, you could hire a firm, but cash flow is king. You might prefer to try to do it yourself.

And you can.

It isn’t easy.

But it’s not rocket science.

This is your guide to 21st Century digital public relations with a focus on what will help those of you who own or manage small businesses.

The first thing you’ll want to do is to learn the media landscape of your community or city. Start liking, following, getting to know your local reporters. Be active on media sites so that stations and reporters know who you are. Establish yourself as being friendly to the grand media complex, and provide value when you can.

I can tell you from first-hand experience that name recognition and respect is your first step in capturing attention with media entities. That can backfire, too, especially if what you eventually submit to a newspaper or TV station isn’t regularly on point.

Your action items: Create a list of all your local TV stations, newspapers, influential blogs, etc. Go like them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Be a regular commenter with quality takes or value-added information.

The second thing to do is to learn how to craft a press release. Many marketers will tell you that content marketing is king in 2018, and it’s definitely important — but your first and best opportunity to capture the attention of reporters, editors and producers is to know how to put together a killer press release.

What makes a great press release? I’d say the most important thing is to be sure that your press release isn’t merely a collection of words. It needs to have a quality hi-res photo and other multimedia, such as a link to video or b-roll that the newspaper or station can use. First, a high-quality photo captures the attention of newsroom folks who have to sift through hundreds of emails. Second, multimedia provides a station or paper with art they can use in their story. You’re doing them a solid, and it’s appreciated.

Ultimately, your press release has to communicate newsworthy information that goes beyond promoting your business. Aside from the grand opening or your restaurant or store, there aren’t many promotions that are strictly one-way that will truly capture the interest of folks in the Fourth Estate.

Don’t take it from me. Heed the advice of one of the most respected folks in the industry, Serena Erlich. I got to know her during my time in corporate communications with Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores. She always has top-notch advice, and she’s a staunch defender of the press release, as am I. If you’re going to “be a media company,” you have to know how to capture the attention of newsies.

There’s no better way than to master the basics of a 21st Century press release.

Your action items: If you don’t have the cash to spend on a quality public relations firm with pros who have their APR, then learn the basics of writing a press release. Brush up on your photography skills, and learn how to create and edit video. I’ll put together a blog on the basics of writing a press release soon. However, there are also a ton of resources out there.

The third thing to do is to not depend on the press to amplify your message. Let’s say you create that press release, and you get no traction. You need to know how to amplify it yourself through social media, social advertising and content marketing.

That doesn’t mean posting your press release to Facebook and expecting magic to happen. That means crafting some verbiage in concert with an appealing image or images or video and styling it to work with Facebook and Instagram. Twitter is nice with its 300M users, but if it’s me, you’d be focused on Facebook and Instagram with a combined 2.8B users.

Your action items: After you send that press release to your media list, re-create that same message in the form of social posts, blogs, you name it and amplify using organic and paid mechanisms. Spread the word yourself.

Those are the three basics of 21st Century digital public relations. However, I’d add this: Any given story or event or promotion has a life cycle unto itself. There is pre-promotion. There is the event. There is post-mortem. Creating a press release and sending it to your media peeps with a little bit of amplification on your own ahead of the event and then calling it a day is a recipe for disappointment. You need to master the press release, but you can’t stop there.

Ideally, you’re seeking the help of media to cover your business. However, you’re prepared to do it yourself — and you start well before and end well after, making your piece of news feel less like a one-time thing and more like an event that demanded attention throughout because it was so compelling.

Again, I’ll take this manifesto of sorts and break it down over the coming weeks. But if you’re a small business owner or manager who intends on doing this yourself, this post gives you a sense of the scope of everything you’re about to undertake.

Photo credit:
Paolo Negri, link here:


5 tactics for small businesses to survive changes in the Facebook news feed


The Facebook news feed has been all the rage the past few weeks as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has let the world know that changes are coming. Brand pages and publishers will be seen less in the news feed as Facebook aims to reward value-driven content that produces meaningful engagement.

If you haven’t read Zuck’s declaration, click here to read it. Here’s the sentence that businesses need to pay attention to the most:

(Several weeks ago) I announced a major change to encourage meaningful social interactions with family and friends over passive consumption. As a result, you’ll see less public content, including news, video, and posts from brands.

Passive consumption means reading your articles or watching your videos or viewing your posts-that-are-really-ads without commenting, reacting or sharing. What Facebook is trying to encourage more isn’t merely engagement as we know it but a true back-and-forth among people that goes beyond the polarizing and brings us together.

Ever since my agency days in the late 1990s and early 2000s, I’ve been saying that businesses have to behave like media companies. I remember being at a project meeting at the agency I worked at in Dallas back in 2003 or so, and everybody was bemoaning having to wait on the client for content.

My response was, “How does the Wall Street Journal manage to put out an entire newspaper every damned day, and we can’t get an article from a company with 100 employees?” The solution wasn’t merely that we should have waited on the company either, but somebody needed to get to writin’.

Because that’s what media companies do. At their core, media companies produce all sorts of content.

How can your small business make a name for itself on Facebook in an ocean of companies that are just like yours? How can you survive the changes to the Facebook news feed? More than ever, you have to behave like a media company.

Here are five ways you can survive any change to the Facebook news feed:

1. Create content constantly.

That means articles and videos, and that means becoming comfortable with live video whether it be on Facebook or YouTube. If you’re a CEO who isn’t very adept technologically, hire somebody to oversee your digital. That person should have a journalism background.

This could include graphics and photography, and it most definitely should include audio and content for devices like the Amazon Echo and the Google Home. You don’t have to do it all today, but from here forward, you’re in the content business.

There is no other marketing in 2018.

2. Start posting on all platforms.

In the era of the new Facebook news feed, the last thing you want to do is have all your digital content eggs in one platform basket. That means the best way to survive the Facebook news feed changes is to not only be on Facebook.

YouTube has 1.5 billion users.

Instagram has 800 million users.

Twitter has 300 million users.

Reddit, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Flickr, Tumblr and more constitute hundreds of millions more users.

And this doesn’t even count the number of people who listen to podcasts or still read blogs. Heck, Google is still the mother of all content platforms, which means if you think a blog is a remnant of the early-2000s, think again. I remember encouraging my last company to start a blog, and their biggest concern was how the organization would be able to get a post out there every week.

My thought was, “Every week? Why not every day.”

If I teach you nothing else on this blog, it’s that creating content is neither difficult nor a mystery. It’s words + art + voice + video in all sorts of varied combos. And perfection is the enemy of progress.

But you might want to hire somebody. If I may do so, I’d recommend somebody with a journalism background and a photographer’s eye. Musicians are particularly good for content roles. Maybe that’s a personal bias on my part seeing how I am one.

A clever digital assistant will know how to re-purpose all the content he or she creates for different platforms, complete with verbiage in various voices that comes across authentically to its audience. This is the equivalent of throwing digital spaghetti against the wall, but serendipity in this era requires some experimentation and a willingness to go thin before you go deep.

Quality is important. Quantity is the secret sauce.

3. Go live.

Do it often, daily even. It doesn’t have to be just you and a camera, talking blindly into the ether and answering questions. It could be a camera set up at your front desk or in the break room or the lobby. It could be a Facebook Live during a meeting.

Go live. People interact with each other on live videos, and that’s precisely the type of result Facebook is going to reward. In fact, if you understand nothing else, know that the meaningful interaction that live video produces is precisely the type of result that Facebook is going to reward in its news feed going forward.

If I’m a business owner, I go live every day at a certain time and talk to my audience, no matter how big or small it is.

4. Interact with everybody.

Like Facebook comments. Answer their questions. Let them hit you up on Messenger, and comb through old posts to see who has commented recently. Your interactions with people on your Facebook page not only help your standing in the news feed, they’ll help to encourage other people to interact with you as well because they’ll see that you’re the type of business that interacts.

And do it in a timely manner.

5. Have a paid plan.

You don’t have to spend millions or even thousands. Hundreds might do the trick, but it’s imperative that you learn the Facebook ads platform. It’s imperative that you take it seriously. Posting content onto Facebook with no intention of moving beyond organic reach is an incredible waste of time and is marketing malpractice. First, Facebook is still grossly under-priced as a place to do targeted advertising. Second, it over-delivers compared to every other advertising platform on the planet as of today.

What if I told you that you could start with $20 tomorrow on Facebook? Spend $100 this month, and see what happens.

You don’t have to spend a mint. But you have to get into the game to have any shot of being a player on the platform. Go to Google or YouTube and look up content on how to get the most out of Facebook’s advertising platform.

If you enjoyed this article, I’d love it if you followed me on Twitter, @ryanwelton, or subscribed to my YouTube channel @RyanWeltonMusic.

5 things I learned as a YouTube creator in 2017


Toward the end of 2016, I realized with regret that I had allowed a ton of momentum on YouTube to slip by. Between 2006 and 2016, I built an audience of 590 or so fans only to stop creating. I know: 590 isn’t that much in the world of YouTube, but the way I always looked at it, it’s 590 more than zero.

My resolution was to get back in the YouTube game in 2017.

Since my decision to become a YouTube creator once again and to be a student of all-things YouTube, I’ve created 69 videos for the platform including 64 in 2017 proper. Most of the videos are original songs and covers although I dabbled with driving videos and ASMR sort of. I’ll do a full blog explaining ASMR sometime. If you know what it is, then I suspect you’re a fan of those videos. If not, it’s a little hard to explain in just one sentence.

I’ve picked up 92 subscribers this year, but it’s been a struggle to gain subscriber momentum. The best I can tell, even with focused SEO and tagging work on your videos, there isn’t much organic reach to be had on YouTube. I’m not talking engagement; I’m talking reach. I’ve even spent some money to promote videos this year, and I’ve found AdWords to be frustrating compared to Facebook’s ads system. I’m not sure I even recommend it. The competition on YouTube is tougher than ever, making it as close to impossible as it’s ever been to break through.

And yet the process of being a YouTube creator is still damned fun. I’m in the game, in the mix. I’m creating and learning.


I created 64 videos and earned 35,672 views this year. There are companies that haven’t managed to get 35,672 views this year. I added 92 subscribers, and I made $17.79, which I won’t see unless I make another $82.21. Google disburses after $100.

Sure, YouTube is very much only a hobby for me at youtube.com/RyanWeltonMusic please subscribe please subscribe please…you know. Ahem. My apologies; I get carried away. I always do. YouTube is a hobby for me, but I’ve learned a ton about digital content creation, audience development, SEO and using other platforms to funnel into YouTube.

I have not mastered YouTube, not close — but every week I get a little better at it. So, I wanted to share with you what I learned about YouTube in 2017. Maybe you’ll find one or two helpful tidbits in here.

1. The competition on YouTube is only getting more fierce by the day. If you’re not OK with only doing YouTube for fun, it’s going to disappoint.

When I started in 2006, it only took a mention from The Boring Dispatcher (R.I.P.) to get me my first subscribers. I need to do a blog post on The Boring Dispatcher sometime. He was a trip. His direct message to me was literally, “Holy shit. You should have subscribers.” He mentioned me in a video somewhere, and suddenly I had subscribers. It was my first time experiencing the benefits of influencer marketing.

Today, you have to stand out to be among the elite on YouTube.

Your talent has to be world class.

Your videos have to be top notch.

Your content has to be useful or entertaining.

However, you don’t have to be any of those things to have a go at it on YouTube. Not at all. In fact, I like to tell people that perfection is the enemy of progress. Create a channel. Shoot video. Go, and see what happens.

But if you’re interested in growing a significant audience at some point, however you define that, you’re going to have to hyper-focus on talent, video quality and creating useful, informative, entertaining content. That’s the stage I’m in: trying to improve my YouTube game.

2. Lighting and audio quality matter, and it doesn’t cost a fortune.

In 2006, I used a pocket camera that I bought at Target, a contraption with a USB connector that popped out of it. Then I bought a Sony Handycam and used that for the next 10 years, shooting always in available light. Then in 2017, with my iPhone 7 in hand, I bought a lighting system for $52 on Amazon at the recommendation of my friend Rob, who among many talents holds lighting expertise among them. I thought I was going to have to spend $1,000 for a good lighting system.

Nope. I spent $52, and my lighting system is bad ass. It pays to have smart friends.


The basics of a lighting system are pretty simple: a key light, a fill light and a back light. Apparently, that’s the construct for good lighting everywhere, those three lights. They even call it three-point lighting. Those of you who are more frugal than I could probably make this happen with lights you have sitting around at home. My office is now a YouTube studio. I don’t even have room to walk through it, and I’m totally fine with that.

As far as the audio, I have a mixer, and I have lavalier mics, and I even have a little gadget my YouTube friend, Ric, sent to me. I haven’t made time to use it yet although it’s among my next goals on YouTube. The reason improved lighting and audio are important is simple: because the competition is better than ever before. I’ve improved my lighting, and now I need to improve my audio — and little things, at scale, are a big damn deal. By the way, that’s just a nugget of life wisdom right there.

Even if we’re not super talented YouTubers, the least we could do is get a little bit better at creating competent video.

3. Google AdWords might be a waste of time if you produce niche content and need to reach a narrow audience.


This year, I spent $133 on video ads for a total of 88,500 impressions and 103 clicks. That’s a cost-per-click of $1.30. What made AdWords ultimately unsatisfying is that, unlike Facebook ads, there’s no way to hyper-target your YouTube promotions. I do smooth jazz and yacht rock, essentially a type of blue-eyed soul from the late 70s and early 80s. My best targeting option in Google AdWords is to go after music fans in the United States and Canada. On Facebook, I could target people who are fans of yacht rock, music fans who “like” Daryl Hall, etc. I could get super specific.

If anything, my lack of success with Google AdWords served only to discourage me because the views I got didn’t result in engagement or subscriptions.

4. A great thumbnail can be the key that opens the door, and you don’t have to be a graphic artist.


Link to video: “Step To It” by Ryan Welton & Chris Hicks

If you’re not taking the time to create a strong thumbnail for each of your videos, one that looks good and has a direct, compelling call to action, you’re missing out on a key opportunity to attract views and possible subscribers. In the last month, I’ve subscribed to something called TubeBuddy, a browser extension that works on top of YouTube. Among all the things it does, TubeBuddy helps creators come up with good-looking thumbnails on the fly.


TubeBuddy is also great for suggesting tags to use on each of your videos for SEO purposes. Another benefit of TubeBuddy is that you can do all sorts of keyword research, work that can help you decide what kind of videos to create in 2018. Despite the fact that I’d love to get a million subscribers doing nothing but yacht rock and becoming the next Michael McDonald, that’s not likely going to happen because the demand isn’t there for it — and TubeBuddy can help clue you in to where the demand actually is so that you can create videos that provide supply to demand.

The free market is the free market.

However, in the short time I’ve used TubeBuddy, I’ve actually lost subscribers, and my daily video viewership is down. On the average, I had been getting upwards of 100 views per day earlier this year. Right now, I’m down to 30-40 per day.

The jury is out on TubeBuddy for me in terms of building audience. We’ll see. Where TubeBuddy might be really useful is in driving me toward other types of content creation, ones that drive more traffic.

5. Spending time as a consumer, networking within the YouTube community is everything — and I suck at it.

One proven growth tactic I have done woefully little of on YouTube is in becoming a true, genuine part of the YouTube community as a consumer. Commenting on other posts. Collaborating with other creators. That has to be my No. 1 YouTube goal for 2018. Based on everything I’ve heard from knowledgeable folks like Gary Vaynerchuk and Dusty Porter on the YouTube Creators Hub podcast, which you should be listening to, going beyond posting videos is a vital part of any YouTube strategy.

In 2018, I’m likely to experiment with different types of content, focusing on improving my lighting, my audio, my editing, all of it. Combine that with a genuine effort to dive into the community head-first, and 2018 could be a move-the-needle year on YouTube. Even if it isn’t, I’ll be back here next year to tell you what I learned.

You can find me at youtube.com/RyanWeltonMusic




DIY SEO: You can get to Page 1 on Google. You really can. Here’s how …


When I created this blog, I called it “Smooth Jazz and Digital Marketing” because those were two topics that I figured I’d write about regularly as a musician and a digital marketer. I’ve mostly written about my travels, and I haven’t been too regular about that.

However, I’d like to write about a topic in the digital marketing space I know pretty well: SEO. That stands for search engine optimization.

I’m sure you’re thinking: it’s another guy who thinks he’s the king of SEO, a guy who can talk extemporaneously about Panda and Penguin and Hummingbird and canonicals and, well, word vomit, anon. That’s honestly not me at all.

I’m the guy who believes anybody can get their site to page 1 of Google with a little bit of strategic, focused effort — and I want to explain how to do it without paying an agency a dime. There are many ways to do it. This is my way, and it’s 100 percent “white hat,” which means that it won’t get you in trouble with Google. Promise.

What do you want to rank for?
First and foremost, you need to pick out a term, a phrase or keyword that you’d like to rank highly for. Maybe it’s “bocce ball” or “polka band;” it doesn’t really matter. The process is the same for any term. And for every term, phrase or keyword, there is a market for it. That means there is a search volume and what I’d call a level of difficulty for ranking highly. Take the terms “college football” and “Neyland Stadium,” home of the University of Tennessee Volunteers.

The search volume for the former (“college football”) is about 1 million searches per month. The search volume for the latter (“Neyland Stadium”) is 14,800 searches for month. (You can find out search volumes for any word or term by using Google’s keyword planner tool.)

So, it’s obvious, right? You have to pick the term “college football!”

Wrong. It’s not nearly that simple.

When deciding what to focus your SEO efforts on, you want to pick a phrase that’s the best match of what your (content or business) *IS* and what your (customers or readers) are searching for — and then stick with it for awhile. Even if the phrase isn’t searched on as much as another, you might be way better off being the big fish in a small pond instead of a minnow in the Pacific Ocean.

On-site SEO: Get your house in order
The next thing you want to do is build your website in such a way that Google knows that this phrase is what you should rank for. This is what’s called “on-site SEO.” Let’s say you’re building a site all about the history of Neyland Stadium.

Your website builder should focus on five elements:

1. Your <TITLE> tag. This tag is kind of like a one-line summary about your site. If the focus of your site is Neyland Stadium, and the search phrase you’re focused on is “Neyland Stadium,” then your <TITLE> tag should be something that includes that phrase at the front of it. For example:

<TITLE>Neyland Stadium: A site about Rocky Top and the Tennessee Volunteers</TITLE>

2. Get your META tags in order. There isn’t a consensus about the value of META descriptions and other META tags. Just get in there and fill ’em out. It won’t kill you. Be descriptive in an authentic manner, working in the search phrase of your choice, but don’t stuff it with variations of that keyword or phrase. In fact, develop a philosophy of understanding how SEO works but never trying to game the system. This is in its essence a process of smart content development and management, and it will work naturally if your content is worth a darn.

3. H1 is No. 1. The most important piece of HTML on your site is the <H1> tag. Your headline for any site page or blog post should always, always, always be in an <H1> tag. Not a <DIV> and not a <P> and not a “whatever you construct in CSS.” The <H1> tag tells Google what’s most important on your page, and in this case, we’re focused on the term, “Neyland Stadium.”

<H1>Neyland Stadium: College football venues that rock!</H1>

You can also use <H2>-<H6> tags to your benefit. That could be a topic for another blog post.

4. Text rules. Your site, your page, whatever it is you’re trying to optimize for should have text on it. In 2017, we develop websites for two audiences: People and Google. Google don’t do video or images or anything quite the way it handles plain-ol’ text. So, when you go about designing your website, it’s great to want it to look beautiful and modern, but without a couple paragraphs of text, you’ll be fighting an uphill battle in terms of SEO.

Write copy that is easy to comprehend and that is grammatically correct with proper spelling. Believe it or not, Google is quite the judgmental little %#&* when it comes to this stuff because it indexes with credibility in mind — and content that is properly written with proper spelling is thought to be more credible.

Don’t stuff keywords. Keep it natural, and tell your audience what the page or site is about. Keep it simple. Focus on bringing value to the reader.

5. Image file names. The way you name your image files is vital. Google is the largest search engine in the world, and I believe that YouTube is No. 2. However, Google’s image search tool is right up there, and the key tactic to maximizing your images for SEO is in how you name the file.

Most designers name their files something cryptic, something that helps them know what the file is about. For example, maybe a file of Neyland Stadium might be called ney_stad2017nBama_2b.jpg. That image might be a picture of Neyland Stadium at night from 2017 and their game against Alabama. The ‘2b’ part of the file name might simply be a versioning suffix of some sort.

What I’m suggesting is that you name your files so that Google can know what the heck it is. In this case, I would suggest it be called Neyland-Stadium-Alabama-game-2017.jpg. Note that I’m using dashes instead of underscores, which are no-nos in SEO. Ultimately, what I’m doing here is squeezing out the clarity in every last element on my page. I want there to be no question that my website or blog post is about the search phrase at hand, “Neyland Stadium” in this case.

And use the alt attribute, too! More on that some other time.

Social signals: Be social
This next part I can keep pretty short. If you have a website or a web page or a blog post that you’d like to get to Page 1 on Google, you need social media support. You have to amplify that sucker on every platform available and do it in a way that draws people who are willing to engage with you. I’ll devote another blog post to how to do this effectively later. Most folks know how to do this pretty well, and in SEO-speak, it’s called “sending social signals.”

Inbound marketing
Aside from executing proper on-site SEO, inbound marketing or “link building” is the other “most important” part of the search engine optimization process. This is a process of getting other folks, other websites, etc., to link back to your site using the search phrase of your choice and focus. It should be known, however, that in the Google world, there is a pecking order of website worth.

For example, your Uncle Joe’s website is probably kick-ass awesome, but he’s not likely to have the domain or page authority (concepts I’ll write about some other time) or search traffic that the University of Tennessee has. Sure, get him to link to your site using the phrase, “Neyland Stadium,” but you can’t accomplish that and think you’re even close to done.

Here’s what a link back to your website might look like:

<p><b>Check out my nephew’s awesome site about <a href=”http://www.iloveneylandstadium.com”>Neyland Stadium</a>!</b></p>

In the world of Google, sites with a .org, .gov or .edu prefix are the gold standard. They’re considered to be the most credible, meaning that entrepreneurs and business owners would want to focus on getting a link back to their site from the local government, the Chamber of Commerce or a local school nearby. Those are the links that will move you on up the charts relative to Google ranking.

You’ll want to be very specific about how the link should be added to their site, all the while knowing that you can’t force the other party to do it exactly like you want. In this case, you really, really want them to put the anchor tags around the phrase “Neyland Stadium.” What this does is tell Google that the site linking to you thinks your website is a credible site about the topic included inside the anchor tag.

Another terrific tactic to get some “Google juice” back to your site, as the SEO wunderkinds call it, is to get links to your site from news stories. If a newspaper or TV station mentions your website, ask them to link to you. Heck, if your website about Neyland Stadium is really that informative and entertaining, go find old news stories about the stadium and then reach out to the stations and their editors and ask them for a link.

You’ll probably be told, “No,” most of the time if you even hear from anybody. However, it’s important to make the ask if you’re really serious about SEO for your website, page or blog post.

And then, as if to dip directly into an SEO denouement, this effort to “link build” or do inbound marketing will be a process you undergo forever more. It never ends. Each day, go out and search for your phrase on various browsers, track where you rank and watch the progress. Document what moves the needle for your site.

I should note: This blog post is merely a basic summary of some steps that anybody can do to achieve a Page 1 result for their SEO term of choice. It works, and it costs you effort way more than it does dollars — but there’s a lot more that could be written about each part of this. If this post interests folks enough, I’d be happy to write more about this in detail in the future.

Have an awesome weekend!

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