Meet Gregory McDonald. He’s a search engine specialist running his own company, Consulatio in the US. Gregory’s two main productivity tools are email and Evernote. He has a similar hierarchy for both, where he has a top level folder or notebook, followed by sub folders or notes and tags. As a long time Evernote user, Greg uses Evernote to manage the different aspects of his business capitalizing on Evernote features that provide enhanced collaboration and organization.
Gregory has been on the paid version of Evernote, which is the Premium version since it first launched. He is one of the first 5000 users of Evernote – he even has a certificate to prove it! He first downloaded Evernote when it was in beta and now has more than 8000 notes. He is constantly up-to-date on the latest updates and features. Aside from work, Gregory also uses Evernote in his personal life to organize his vacations. Some time ago, we jumped on a call with Gregory for a chat, and here’s what transpired.
How do you use Evernote for keyword and competitive research?
We would have a sheet for every competitor and go into a competitor’s site, write lots of notes within Evernote. We might do some screen grabs. We might copy some of the HTML code that we see them using, so we can keep that on file. Then we create a bulleted list of keywords we think they’re using in their optimizations.
Every competitor has a research file. We compile those into a master note that we use as the basis for the research of our keyword databases. So that forms this master sheet, this compilation of the individual competitors and industry research. Those serve as the seed keywords for doing the keyword research itself.
One of the things I really like is the ability to share spreadsheets with people for reference purposes, but I don’t want them touching anything. So I just have mine, where I’ll expose my notes to clients through a read-only share link.
It brings it up in their browser if they don’t have Evernote installed. That actually intrigues them a lot of times too. There was this time when we were updating a spreadsheet almost every day, getting ready to launch a new website. We were making our notes so we would just be sending the client these links. I think one of the people finally installed Evernote and is sort of getting into it now.
On that topic, how do you think new users can get started with Evernote?
I think if you just use it every day as you’re doing your daily activities, whether it’s personal or business it helps. I just started clipping interesting articles in trade publications that I wanted to keep around, and it was a perfect tool for me to catalogue articles that I can go back to as reference material later. That’s sort of how I started using it. Then I started using it as almost a journal.
On the client level . . . You have to find somebody who’s willing to take the plunge and use it for a while. Then there’s a lightbulb. It’s a eureka moment that happens. After they’ve used it for a bit and used it in a collaborative way as well, I think all of a sudden, they realize, “Wow. This is a very valuable tool,” and then they start using it more on their own, just unrelated to what I might be working with them on.
What’s your favorite feature in Evernote?
There’s so many… I don’t know. It’s like, “What’s your favorite movie?” You know? You can’t really have a favorite. The feature that I like the most, first of all, it is wherever I’m at. It’s a central repository for all my notes, organized like I intended them to be. I can be anyplace, because sometimes I will be out. I might even be at the store, and a client might call for something and I can just look it up on my phone. I have it right there, and I know exactly where to go get it. I can actually send them that sheet that if they need something in writing.
So I like that ability to have the information every place I’m at. Plus, I can always go to the web if I’m at a place where I don’t have a number or a computer. I like the way you can organize notes. I like the collaborative tools, where I can share notes or notebooks.
Do you use Skitch for annotation?
Oh, yes. We do use that. Yeah. We’ve actually done some really nice stuff, integrating that. Usually it’s either drawings, photographs, or PDFs. We’ve used it for a non-profit event organization, for table layout, for example. It was a big event, like 200 people. The entire event was organized in Evernote from being to end. I scanned the card that the country club gave the non-profit, and then I was able to go in with annotations, just drop in who’s sitting where, what companies are assigned to what tables and stuff like that, tracking everything. It’s a mini project management that is very flexible. You can assign people responsibilities using check boxes. Then I just shared the sheet, and everybody had it. They open up their sheet to find out what’s going on.
Also, I use Penultimate on the iPad. Sometimes if I’m trying to draw diagrams and stuff, I’ll bring out the stylus and do it with Penultimate. Not very often, but often enough that I keep the stylus around in my briefcase.
Share some power tips with our readers.
Oh, I know what is cool! I can right-mouse-click on a note, grab the URL (because it has its own Evernote URL) and I can paste it into my Apple calendar. I can paste it in address book. I can paste it into a to-do list. I use Things, which is a to-do list for Mac and project management thing. So we integrate and use the links to cross-reference things a lot. That way, I could have a note for a calendar, but I’m gonna be working and I’ve got this meeting coming up. I’ll have the Evernote link in that appointment. So when that day comes around, I just click on that link, and I’m right at that note. I love that.
By keeping everything consistent, it keeps things organized. Every time you and I met on the phone, I have some keystroke macros. So all I do is “backslash E-N-M,” for Evernote meeting, and that goes in the header. It fills in the date, puts a colon, and prompts me to enter the name of the client and what the meeting is about. Then I have another keystroke that’s “backslash-E-M-H,” which is Evernote header. It gives me a popup. A text-expander is what it is. Then it fills in a heading that I can fill out about who was in the conversation, what time it was, if there’s follow up required, stuff like that.
Then every meeting that I ever have, whether it’s phone or in-person, has one of those Evernotes. Everything is discussed. It’s in bullet points, and then I can put up followups into my to-do list from there.
Do you use Evernote with third-party tools and integrations like IFTTT?
No, we don’t use any third-party integrations at all. We do some photography. We store some photos in it. We store some voice memos in it, things of that sort, but we haven’t really played with any third-party tools for it because it sort of does everything we need. We’re just comfortable with it out of the box, even though there’s no box.
Any closing comments?
Evernote is a power user tool. Somebody can use the free version of Evernote just to organize their life or their kids or their scout troop. But if you’re using it for business, it can be a very powerful tool. I don’t think other collaboration apps come anywhere close to it. I probably do more typing in Evernote than anything else. I hardly ever use word documents at all because most of my note-taking and everything is in Evernote. I can print off notes fast or email it to somebody if they want a single-page copy.
I think once people use Evernote, they realize the value, and everybody uses it differently. So I may use it completely differently than other people, because it’s sort of a free-form tool.
I’ve been on the paid version for years, ever since Evernote introduced it. I think this is very clear-cut. This is $60 a year. That’s $5 a month for a tool that provides incredible productivity. That’s the price of a cup of Starbucks coffee. How could I not pay that? I can’t imagine not paying that.