Search: Fishing in the Clickstream

VISIBILITY: Part 3 – Search

Ever heard of that old cliché, ‘you’re fishing in a bowl’? Getting that kind of predictable result would be fantastic, wouldn’t it? If I could guarantee that to my client, I would be golden and sitting on a beach somewhere preferably reading some obscure science material. But it is obviously not so easy to gain that kind of predictable traffic for your customer. It takes knowledge of the search criteria, how your audience is looking for that information and even behavior science to really map out a close target. And I mean just a close location where the ‘fish’ really are!

In my last SteamFeed post, I touched the tip of Engagement in visibility [Part 2] which is developing your 5 main channels that connects you with your audience, [5 Touch Points of Engagement: Not in ‘Likeness’ But in Diversity]. In this last step of creating visibility [Part 3], I will just graze the surface of ‘Search’ in all its conducive power but you will be surprised at the final analysis on how truly simple the perspective on search is!

Search – Where the Fish Are:

1. SEO – Search Engine Optimization has been an ongoing chess game since the beginning but much has changed leveling the field by the search engines themselves (Google being the heaviest hitter). Before Penguin (Google’s newest search algorithm) and Panda (Google’s newest content updater) came on the scene there were many more ‘tricks’ not penalized to grab that coveted top ranking spot. Now the tables have turned and even a few big reputable companies got caught in the landslide and had fallen off the rankings and hard! The new algorithms didn’t account for many reputable links and cut everyone down off the ladder. Google quickly released new updates in the wake of the backlash.

But how can you legitimately get the ranking you deserve? It’s all on generating the best, relevant content. I know that seems so simple but it is what Google is striving for. Genuine, quality site content and shareable! The engines like shareable information most but make sure it is in alignment with your content as a whole not just thrown in there for ‘shareablity’. Next is links! No longer will any site profit from link schemes by grabbing low quality links on non-relevant sites. Create links by finding strategic partners that make sense in your info arena. These backlinks can be as a contributing author on their site or by adding a resource link. Just make sure it is relevant to the site and WHERE it is linking to. If you are new to the scene check out your Page Titles and Descriptions. Optimizing them can make a big difference for a newbie on the scene (they should be optimized regardless). If you have local markets then gear your descriptions and content toward that geo-targeted area.

{That’s just a few …}

2. SMO – Social Media Optimization is the sister to SEO. These work in tandem, did you know that? Google wants them to be your team in Search. So you need to consider this as well, since Google still owns almost 70% of the market share (as of 11/30/12). How can you up the ante with your social? First take each profile for each of your social networks and optimize them based on word selection and description but keep the consistency across each network (for brand, message and voice). You can keep them segmented in how you’re engaging but for search purposes remember those consistent key ‘modifiers’ (meaningful and descriptive text in your data) across the board. As always keep them ‘relevant’ … sorry to keep throwing in that word but it is critical in search and has to be adhered to!

Then add proper tags to your blog posts for user ease. Add audio clips, video and PDFs into your posts. The engines love these especially because they are considered such shareable media. Use them where it makes sense don’t just fire out a slew of this media for search results, your audience will possibly find it a turn off. Variety is the spice of life, so without a doubt keep the variety just decide thoughtfully with search in mind. When deciding on modifiers in your posts compete where you can with long tail keywords (Type of keyword phrase that has at least three and some times as many as five words in the phrase. Long tail keywords are used when the website wants to refine search terms to the web page, as well as when the searcher is looking for something rather specific.). Sometimes selecting just a slightly different word that has the same meaning and audience usage can provide you more visibility then being the smallest fish in a very popular search word pool.

3. URLs and Hashtags – Your domain name grabs points in search so while you want it to reflect your brand and company name, you also want it to gain some search weight. So discern during this selection of URL options. The .com’s extension still rank but by adding the .co’s and some other extensions you can amplify your rankings. But again, add them with consideration to your audience in relevancy. These domains need to generate a real page with content/information that supports that URL not end up on some unsupported blind page.

Hashtags add draw in many ways and can increase your friends/followers on social network s. Instagram does a really nice job of this, as well as the originator themselves, Twitter. So take it one step further, promote these hashtags on all your other media (ex: social networks – LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest, etc. and on your blogs, websites and print). Again be thoughtful on selecting these hashtags. What would my audience be searching for? What terms would they be using and please use their terms not your own! Not sure how your audience is searching then you need to do a bit of research before just firing one out there.

4. Unstructured Content (images, video and audio) – Here you can use Alt Tags for your unstructured content media. The bots can’t read the content so it queries it differently than the text data. Don’t just put a list of keywords in even though it may seem like relevant words rather define the media with a sentence using very clear descriptive words on what the image, video or audio is about. Keywords will penalize you even though you intended it to be a genuine explanation for your audience. Keep all this material ‘shareable’ by adding plugins and already built-in options to share it on other channels. You can also make sure you ‘watermark’ (mark showing contact info of some sort) your images with your logo mark, Twitter handle, or URL. Keep this contained somewhere in the main section of the material not on the edge where it can easily be cropped out. The more viral share you get on this, the more your searchability stays intact!

5. Search Measurement Analytics – With all this research, thoughtful selection of modifiers, and relevant content work you have supplied would it make sense to not measure your results? And then what? How can you now reapply this found insight into your continued strategy? It is a must and don’t think that this part is easy. It is the hardest part but the most worthwhile. Search is an ongoing process that must constantly be refined. Also, it can become more and more specific based on the criteria you are measuring.

There is the top level view of clickstream analytics in reporting the results of how much traffic is coming in on which pages, how long they stay there and how many pages they have traveled to. Then you can move into specific IP addresses and follow purchase patterns and how the user navigated the site, where they linked to, what they were interested in and for how long. Sessionization will show you when they departed the site and when then returned. You have the ability to mine users for behaviors and social network effectiveness. Create scalable data queries that look into strictly behavior analytics. Customer patterns galore! Google Analytics does a nice job of generating decent reports and it’s free. If you are looking for more in depth analysis with some customized solutions then there are other analytics software out there from which you can choose.

In the end with the introduction of Penguin and Panda we no longer are trying to ‘beat the system’, though in effect I suppose we are always looking to get the best results. What becomes the driver is the relevancy of your content throughout every element you place on your site, your blog posts and your social networks.

Genuine content that makes complete and perfect sense to your audience is where it is at. I would love to fill this whole page up with nifty ‘tricks’ on how to circumvent that but it would help you not. Don’t we all want to provide the information that best educates, enlightens and motivates our readers to actually do something? So stop the keyword embedding you will be penalized. Write short relevant copy that describes concisely and overall use your BEST content and not manipulate the system!
… so now what? You’re ‘good-to-go’ right? Not so fast rabbit.

Continued Online Growth is next because it just “never stops” and neither should YOU!

3 Reasons Google Plus Can’t Be Ignored

Are you still deciding whether it’s worth investing in Google Plus?

If you work in social media, chances are you’re already on it because …well, that’s your job. If you’re a small business owner, you’re likely one of the millions who signed on during the hype, got dizzy going around in “circles” then abandoned it, leaving your page to lie there like a dead leaf on wet pavement.

GooglePlus

The number one Google+ question I get is not:

“How do I get started on Google+?”

Nope. It’s… “Do we really need another social media platform”?

Do we really need another type of tablet, smartphone, or toothpaste?

Ok, maybe not so much toothpaste.

Many say they don’t spend time on Google Plus because their clients aren’t there.

I say…”yet”.

How many of your clients were on Twitter a year after it started?

And unless your clients were university students, they probably weren’t on Facebook either.

Google Plus isn’t a small start-up with it’s beginnings in a student dorm or SXSW hallway.

It was developed by a company that owns 2 of the biggest search engines in the world; Google and YouTube and who have very deep pockets.

A year and a half after its debut, nearly 450 million people are now signed on to Google+.

Unlike its precursors, Buzz or Wave, Google Plus is not a social platform.

Google Plus is GOOGLE.

“Google+ is just an upgrade to Google,” says Vic Gundotra, senior Vice President Engineering for Google. “People have a hard time understanding that. I think they like to compare us  with other social competitors, and they see us through that lens instead of really seeing what’s happening: Google is taking its amazing products, and by bringing them together, they just become more awesome.”

As Mike Elgan puts it, Google took its various products and turned them into features of Google+, rather than treating Google+ as a standalone social network.

Why You Need to Pay Attention to Google+ 

1. Social Networking

Networking on Google+ is more like Twitter than Facebook. You can stalk, uh, follow anyone you want without their permission. The advantage over Twitter is that the platform allows limitless text and integrates with rest of Google.
Tip: Find and follow people who share interests (not necessarily DNA or school colours). A good source is Google+ Shared Circles. You can also circle your Gmail contacts who will receive a notification and then can decide to circle you back or not. Regardless, you can still share content with them from G+. They’ll just receive it in their mailbox instead

Video: Find People You Know

PDF: Getting Started with Google+ for Business

G+ Post: How to Interact Well on Google+

Google Plus

2. Content Marketing

Creating valuable and sharable content improves your Google search ranking as well as your brand recognition and influence.

Because of it’s reach and palette of features, some writers have chosen to use Google+ as their blogging platform. Although I always advocate having your own piece of internet real estate, they  make a good case.

Tip: Take advantage of all the content creation tools that Google+ offers including images, video and Hangouts. A major advantage of Google+ is that you can do this all on the same platform.

Video: Formatting your posts with bold, italic and strikeout text

Blog Post:Why I blog on Google+ (And how)

G+ Post: How to Participate in Hangouts and Hangouts On Air

3. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

The top reason businesses stake a claim on Google+ is because of the perceived SEO benefits of being on Google property. The assumption is true – to a point.

You can’t just set up a Google+ Page then walk away expecting to rank #1 in search for your keywords.

Google has made it relatively easy though for you to optimize your chances of doing just that with G+ badges for your website and AuthorRank (rel=author) to improve.

Tip: One of the best ways to optimize your Google+ presence for SEO is to make sure your Profile Page is complete and filled with “keyword” rich texts.

Video: How to Create a Google Plus Business Page in Under 3 Minutes

Blog post: 10 Dead Simple Tips to Take Advantage of Google+ for SEO

G+ post: Why Is There a Search Boost for Businesses on G+?

Google Plus

In closing, I’d like to share this video just released from a Google+ friend of mine, Martin Shervington who was the first to invite me to a public Hangout and who has since helped many “newbies” get “plussed”.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2FOGc8E0gMY&w=560&h=315]

Everything you need to know about Google Plus but were afraid to ask!

What’s your biggest Google+ challenge? Please leave a comment below!

How to Create Your Most Popular Blog Post of All Time

There’s a secret I used when writing one of my most popular blog posts of all time.

Every successful blogger knows it and has used it. I bet you even saw a few posts implementing it while scrolling through your social media timelines today. Some know how to use it to produce compelling content that drives blog traffic and gets referenced and linked to. Others, not so much. They fail big time and end up hurting their brand reputation by looking like a tool.

Secret to writing blog postWell, not you. Not your brand.

Today I’m going to share that secret and how to do it the right way. And, it all starts with an episode of VH1’s “I love the…” series.

Say what?! Keep reading. I’ll get to that in a moment.

If you haven’t guessed it by now, the secret blog post type is the round up list of all the most influential, must-follow, kick-ass, and greatest people, products, or blogs of all time in or around your industry. You know, the ones that you secretly wish YOU were mentioned in like:

When I came to the online scene, I noticed that highest ranked websites on Google within my industry were round-style posts. So I figured that if I wanted to rank for certain keywords in my industry, I’d create my own list.

Selfish, I know. It worked.

So what does VH1 have to do with any of this? Okay, let’s get to it…

The round-up technique isn’t new. People are catching on and that means these superlative list posts are starting to get played out and boring.

With mass appeal comes mass mess-ups centered on laziness:

  • Not putting in the research
  • Posting links to dead accounts or websites
  • Not even referencing why they selected the honorees or who they are.

That’s the brand killer. These people need VH1.

When the “I love the 80′s” series took off in the early 2000s, I was glued to my TV set (like everyone else) reminiscing about pop-culture nostalgia from my childhood and laughing my tush off with the comedians making fun of it all. Hello, Michael Ian Black!

Why was this show so popular? With flashbacks of people, music, movies, TV shows, products, fashions, fads, trends and major events that defined pop culture for each featured year, who couldn’t resist tuning in? Like, totally.

7 Must-Haves for Your Superlative List from VH1’s “I Love the…” Series

  1. Title. The show’s title says it all. You know from the get go you are going to re-experience all of the things you loved about that decade. Take Action: Make sure your superlative title is click-worthy and intriguing.
  2. Anticipation. They included nostalgia you were expecting. Otherwise, you’d tell your friends how much the show sucked. Take Action: Include the heavy hitters on your list that your readership expects to demonstrate that you know your industry basics.
  3. Discovery. You can only remember so much, so when VH1 threw in parts of the past that had been forgotten, it rekindled your memory and felt like you had discovered history for the first time again. Take Action: Include the new and unexpected that demonstrate your ability to dig deeper within your topic or industry.
  4. Commentary. Each clip was brought to life with observations and antidotes from celebrities and comedians that lived through it, adding an extra layer to the program. Take Action: When creating your lists, add your own remarks and comments as to why you are including each person, blog, or product.
  5. Interactive. In between segments, fun games and trivia were featured that engaged the audience and made them return to the program after each commercial break. Take Action: Don’t just simply end your list, engage your audience by including action steps that helps the audience solve a problem and ties the list together.
  6. Visuals. The video clips and photos are what made the “I love the…” series rock. Take Action: Include pictures, videos, audio, and any other visual element you can think of to make your post stand apart from all the other lists out there.
  7. Bonuses. The show further engages the audience by featuring bonus clips on their website. Take Action: Include additional ways your audience can engage with your list content. For instance, if you make a twitter following list, create an easy way for them to follow everyone with a list on your Twitter account.

Your turn… leave a comment with a link to your favorite list post AND the reason why it rocks.

Google Plus: The Just In Case Network

Google Plus. Some love it, some hate it, and quite a few are still trying to figure out what it is. Google’s much beleaguered social network has been overwhelmingly unimpressive. What is impressive: The strong opinions many have espoused.

Launched in June of 2011, Google+ now boasts an impressive 400 million users, 100 million of which are active every day. Granted, it still lags behind Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, but 400 million users is nothing to sneeze at. I’m pretty sure we’d all be doing backflips if we had that kind of monthly traffic. However, there does seem to be a strange disconnect between the sheer volume of users and vocal few who seek to malign it.

Why are so many people, especially social media aficionados, using a social network that they spend so much time complaining about? Or worse, that they find irrelevant and predict will ultimately fail? Why bother to cultivate a presence if you believe it is a waste of time? I have a theory. That theory has its own acronym: JIC. Just In Case. Just in case Google can pull off this social media experiment. Just in case Google was right and social signals translate to more meaningful search results.

Google has a track history of doing the improbable, the unthinkable. Case in point, the very word “Google”. It has evolved from a noun to a verb. We don’t search, we google. Google is synonymous with search. It is part of our vocabulary. Google is a search powerhouse. We are tantalized by the SEO possibilities. Do you really want to ignore what could mean the difference between life and death for your online presence? Neither do I…….just in case.

Recognizing that it would be foolhardy to ignore Google, I have a suggestion for Google. Give us something that will make Google+ indispensable. Something so inherently useful that we wouldn’t dream of looking for the next great thing in social media. Something that would make us circle with glee. Give us Venn Diagrams. Yep, I said it. Math geeks rejoice. Venn-Diagram functionality in our circles. The ability to automatically create new circles based on the intersection of existing circles. For example, I could take my “Believers” circle, my “Women of G+” cirlce and my “Social Media” circle, see where they overlap and create a new circle, “Social Media Women Who Are Believers”! Genius.

Such a simple concept, yet so incredibly useful that its hard to believe they have not done it yet. In that I’m a “cup half full” kind of gal, I have faith that they will eventually give us what we need. In the meantime, I’ll do it manually….just in case.

My Favorite Things to use with WordPress

You’ve seen the show. You’ve seen the hype, and you have certainly coveted missing being an audience member on the day Oprah tapes her “Favorite Things” show. Well with WordPress we can have favorite things all year round, and here are some of mine.

 

Framework


Woo Themes – Woo is my all time favorite framework. Not only do they make stunning themes straight out of the box, but they also have built a bunch of really cool plugins that correlate with the theme and integrate nicely. Some themes even have them built in. Don’t want to use that part of the theme? No problem. Most themes allow you strip them down and it still looks nice and runs smooth without then. From sliders, to featured areas, and fancy fun shortcodes I can’t get enough of Woo. We build most of our child themes with the Woo framework. As a developer signing up for the developer license is a must. Then you have access to all themes, and all psds. A really nice touch to tell your clients you are including the cost of the theme in the price.

 

Theme

Simplicity – Naturally since Woo is my favorite framework I am of course going to choose a Woo Theme, and that would be Simplicity. Canvas is Woo Themes flagship theme, but I have to beg to differ. Simplicity is what it is called…simple. We have customized the crap out of Simplicity and made completely different looking themes which because I am a geek is super fun. Some of the different child themes we created using Simplicity are :

You can see how there is a lot to do with Simplicity, and the possibilites are limitless.

Backup Plugin

Backup Buddy- Often times when people setup backups on their site they either do one or the other files or database. Well this one does both. It is especially useful to use to migrate clients sites from your developer server. It also has a cool feature where it will do a Malware scan on the files too to make sure you are uploading a secure and safe version of the clients site.

SEO Plugin


WordPress SEO by Yoast - I used to be a big proponent of All-In-One SEO pack and Platinum SEO pack, but after switching to Yoast I never looked back. It also killed two birds with one stone by being able to create my XML sitemap with one plugin instead of having to install a 2nd plugin, Google XML sitemaps. I really like it’s setup for page settings as well. Woo themes comes with an SEO portion integrated, but I always recommend using a plugin for this because you will always end up with a different theme down the road.

 

Social Sharing Plugin

Twitter Facebook Social Share-  TF Social Share for short this plugin includes the top social sharing items even Pinterest. It has counters and non counter icons if you want to keep it plain. It also has some styling items included which let you do a border and background color. It isn’t that popular, and I consider it my little secret.

 

Slider Plugin

Nivo Slider- I LOVE NIVO!  If you are not using a theme that already has a slider integrated then Nivo is your best bet. It has some cool features for background options and is super simple to install. It allows for linking to any page or post, and you can even add text to it.

 

Forms Plugin


Gravity Forms – Gravity forms is the…well, you know what. It rules. It integrates with a bunch of payments processors. It allows for front end post contributing and is hands down the nicest and easiest form plugin to use. Sorry Contact Form 7, you lose. It’s super nice drag and drop ability allows you to create a form in minutes, and adding it to a page is just a simple shortcode. It has fancy drop downs, calendars, and even does multi page forms which can make your payment checkout look super sweet. Again, this plugin has a developer license so it allows for that perk of telling your clients it is included. Gravity forms also has a MailChimp add on so you can hook it right up.

 

3rd Party Email Marketing System


Mail Chimp – Not only does Mail Chimps website and branding  just simply blow Aweber out of the water, so does their functionality. Mailchimp also seamlessly integrates with Woo themes and their dashboard. It easily connects all subscribe forms on the site to Mal Chimp and all you have to do is insert your Mail Chimp email address into your Woo dashboard. It has way better looking forms too if you aren’t using Woo. Have you ever tried to build a form in Aweber? I rest my case.

 

Want to ask me what my favorite thing is beyond my top list above? Do you have any favorite WordPress plugins? Feel free to leave a comment and ask!

The Brain Drain – How to Blog When You Can’t

I had two blogs due today but only one idea. That’s kind of a problem (my serious case of procrastination did not help the situation). So what do I do?

brain drain for blogI write a blog about how I can’t write a blog.

I have come about this problem before, my writing style is very much “attack when inspired”. I’ve been known to sit down and plug out 6 or 8 posts at a time. The problem with that is when I hit a dry spell. For this post, I’ve put together my tricks to get my flow back:

Write about it – It may sound odd, but sometimes writing about your block is all you need to get started. Just getting words down can get the flow going you need to be inspired. A great place to do that is on a site called 750Words.  It is a site dedicated as a writing exercise. They want you to “get into your brain” and write.

I also take the “just write” idea and record ideas as they come. I will often jot down title ideas or random subject thoughts to write at a later time.

Get Evernote – Get Evernote. Seriously. Get it now. I’ll wait. I find using Evernote is vital to how I write. I have the app on my phone and on my iPad as well as use Evernote.com when I am at the computer. The reason why this is awesome? It’s everywhere. No matter where I am I can start or edit a post and it will sync across everything. I tend to get my ideas when I’m not ready to write anything. I’ve started blogs on the train, at restaurants, at the grocery store, and can go back and work on them later.

Think about you – Think about what gets your juices flowing. For me, it’s taking things that make me happy and seeing how I can turn them into an allegory for social media or blogging. My favorite post I have ever written was about Star Wars.

Some people might find inspiration from music, pop culture or nature while some might find they want to switch to a visual post when stumped and do a vlog or an infographic. Every person is different and has their own way of charging up the creative juices. Sometimes, even if you have nothing to write you find a way to write on.

What do you do when you are stuck in a writing rut? Please leave a comment below!

How to succeed with your WordPress company

In 2005 when I was 21 and attending The Art Institute for Graphic Design, my dad, who at the time was a successful internet marketer made me come over to his house so he could “show me my future.” He made me sit down at his desk and pulled up a WordPress site he had made with the little “Hello World” Kubrick header, and he said, “Rachael, you have got to learn WordPress and make headers for people…you will be rich!” I literally rolled my eyes and said, “This is what you made me come over here for?” Little did I know the seed he had planted inside of my head at the time.

wordpress designHow I got into WordPress and SEO

After that, he had one of his friends make me a WordPress website called thebannerqueen.com which was set up for me to sell my graphic services which included headers, banners, ebooks etc. All the really dorky internet marketing graphics in ‘05. At the same time we also set up virtualgraphicartist.com (VGA) where I would sell one-hour blocks of time where I would get on GotoMeeting with a client and he/she would direct me while I created their WordPress header or the other graphics we offered. It was going pretty well and it was a good little job that lasted several years while I was in school, but I was approached by a competitor to purchase both companies in 2008 and I jumped at the opportunity. After I sold thebannerqueen and VGA I took a break from my computer and graphics, took some time off school, hung out with friends, and skateboarded for about six months.

Following my hiatus from all things digital, I moved to Phoenix, Az. in 2009 with my fiancé, and decided I would try my hand at the corporate world. I landed a job at a real estate brokerage company as their in-house SEO, web designer, and office slave. What they didn’t know at the time was that I didn’t really know how to do SEO or web design, but since I wasn’t too shabby at graphics and was somewhat familiar with WordPress I figured what the heck I’ll just teach myself on the job, and I did. I rebuilt their company website in WordPress and within 1 month, I got it ranking organically for some very competitive local keywords in Phoenix.

My journey back to entrepreneurship

I had originally chosen to join the workforce because I thought I needed to rely on someone else to be the boss and to make the tough decisions for me. I thought my personality was the type where I needed to be directed and that I would prefer someone just telling me what graphics to make, but after being put into that exact position I realized I was the exact opposite. I found I enjoyed project management and being a leader. I had gotten a taste of working for someone else and I knew this was not the position God had planned for me. Out of the blue one day I decided to post ads on craigslist for my web design and SEO services and see what happens. Within two months, I had built up enough clients to walk away from my job and went full-time with Rachaelbutts.com, a full-service WordPress design and development company.

It is pretty funny because at the time I didn’t even have a personal site, and was so swamped I had to build it on the side as I was working on clients sites. We have now grown into a team of 4 including lead developer Jamie Brewer, and lead illustrator Harry Martawijaya. They rock to say the least.

The reasons why my company is successful

I attribute our success to three fundamental business principles that can be used in any business, not just web design, and those are great project management, a cohesive team, and honesty. No good business can survive without good project management. It is not just for our personal organizational needs it also creates a great client relationship.

Great Project Management

  • Jamie and I try to do a weekly meeting each Monday where we go over our calendar together. We discuss projects that are coming up in the queue so he knows what to be prepared for, and we also go over and create timelines/deadlines together. We then place it all on our shared Google Calendar where his tasks are in green, and mine are in red.
  • For email communication, I try to lay out emails very clearly with titles of items in bold and highlighted in yellow and the task itself right underneath it. We also set up our subjects lines with project name first like “rachaelbutts.com – subjects goes here.”
  • We have tried all the fancy project management systems but we found we spent more time putting the information into the system than needed, and it is just more efficient to use Google Calendar, Docs, and Gmail. In addition, they are free!
  • For Gmail we create folders for each client. Each client is marked with a color. Green means I need to work on their project (which correlates with the Google calendar), red means I need to reply to them, blue means I am waiting on the client, and purple means I am waiting on a team member. It works great.
  • We also utilize Gravity Forms for all of our questionnaires. We create one for client logins, web design creation, and logo creation. That way when I send that needed information to Jamie or Harry it is all laid out in a nice format already.

The key is to be very efficient and effective all while maintaining a high quality of work.

A cohesive team

The cohesive team component was a difficult one for me, and I know it is for a lot of people in our industry unfortunately. Often times clients come to me and they’ve been burned by a previous developer. Hopefully we as a community can come together to solve that problem by doing quality work and having better customer service. I am so blessed now to have a solid team working with me. Don’t get me wrong I have been through a couple bad ones, but sometimes you have to go through those growing pains to get to that sweet spot. I personally had success on WPHired. There are lot of designers and developers looking for full to part-time work and who knows maybe you can find a lifelong business relationship on there like I did or find work for yourself. You will find once you get into sync with a few good designers and developers that they kind of know each other and can refer you. Don’t be afraid to ask if people and/or companies are hiring too. We would much rather see a designer/developer eager to work than have to chase them down. Just make sure you have your own site and a portfolio.

Always be honest!

Finally, the last successful component, honesty. When isn’t honesty a good thing to have? Ok, so there is such a thing as being too honest like telling your clients their picture of their dog they want on their homepage is hideous, but you get my point. If you can’t meet a deadline, or you can’t get that plugin working like how you promised, tell your client. What is the worst thing that could happen? They would much rather know than have you just avoid them. One little email can go a long way, and hey, they are people too. You will find 99% of the time if an issue pops up the client will be understanding, and if they aren’t, maybe it is time to fire them (and yes that is always an option).

 

Just believe in yourself: you CAN run your own business if you really want to. If you’re a beginner remember that we were all beginners at some point. You cannot live your life with the “what ifs.” What if you never try? When you wake up 20 years from now are you going to be mad that you tried and possibly failed, or never tried at all? Sure, every business has its ups and downs, but when you write down a list of pros and cons you’ll see a much longer list for pros, and you’ll find most of the cons to be fears that may or may not ever even happen. Live in the now, and focus on today. Focus on your determination and surround yourself with like-minded individuals that will support you.

If you want to be a designer or developer for WordPress specifically, get involved locally with WordPress meetups. Subscribe to blogs to stay up to date on the latest news, trends, and business practices like CodePoet and WPCandy, and reach out to others in your community. I know I was nervous as an amateur talking to other WordPress professionals, but the more I did the more I found how willing they were to share their advice with me and remember that they were amateurs once too. We all have come from a humble beginning and this is especially true I believe with WordPress.

 

 

 

Keyword Research and Optimization Are Integral To Online Marketing

Keyword research and keyword optimization are not dark arts! There’s no danger of becoming “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named” if you use the tools that are available to you as they were intended to be used. It’s when you attempt to game the search engines that there will be problems. Every business does itself and their customers a disservice if they do not properly optimize the content that they produce.

keyword researchWhen I was born, there was no internet. At all. That’s only forty years ago. Now we use it all the time, almost regardless of where we are. We expect the answers to all our questions to be instantly available and verifiable at the mere click of a mouse or the tap of a screen. This is such a seamless process that we often forget the technology involved in getting those answers to us.

From a small business perspective, this is an amazing opportunity, to have the ability to reach your audience by answering their questions and providing solutions to their problems without leaving your office. You can reach a section of the global marketplace that you could never have hoped to only a few decades ago. We’re right to get excited about this world of opportunities that have opened up to us.

It’s not a free lunch, however, you still need to work to get your content in front of your audience. Most will use search engines to find the answers they’re looking for; the volume of search queries increase year after year, and there is no end in sight to this trend.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) attempts to bridge the gap between what the search engines need in order to consider your content relevant and of high quality and providing what your audience will find compelling to see and read. Think of it as optimizing your content for both people and computers.

Researching, identifying, and providing what your audience wants has always been part of the product and marketing strategies of most successful businesses, making sure that their products or services meet one or more needs of the intended audience such as physical, legal and regulatory, emotional or aspirational ones. Small businesses have always been at a disadvantage because of how this type of research has until recently been very costly to carry out, but now you can look at data from various sources to find out what potential customers are searching for in and around your niche.

Keyword research is a valuable tool. It’s not for finding words to thoughtlessly stuff into your content as an attempt to game the search engines; it’s there to help you get inside your audience’s heads, to walk in their shoes and to understand the language that they use. This way, you can provide them with what they are looking for in a language that they understand. If you do this well by using your keyword research the right way then your content will also naturally be considered relevant and of quality by the search engines.

Not using relevant language and keywords across your content and site structure is a bit like owning a grocery superstore that has no street address, no signs to guide customers to the  store, no signs within the store itself and the shelves are randomly stocked with products in a haphazard manner. You might be happy to do this as it is less for you to have to think about in the short-term, but you’d have a hard time staying in business! People won’t be able to find you, and if they do by accident then they will leave frustrated having had a bad experience. Using keywords appropriately provides signposts for the search engines so that they can index your site and direct your audience straight to what they are seeking.

Give your business a fighting chance to be successful online — incorporate SEO from the ground up. There are plenty of free tools and tutorials that can help you get started with keyword research and SEO. Unfortunately, it is the case that a great deal of SEO information out there is less reliable than you would like, and it can be hard to work out who is providing solid information about the topic. I’d suggest that you head over to SEOmoz and start with their beginners guide to SEO; they walk you through the process in easy to manage steps and will have you on the right track in no time at all!

Do you use SEO on your website? What tools do you use to do your keyword research? Please leave a comment below!

Blitz Posting is not an Effective Social Media Practice

Social Media is not about Blitz posting (you know the folks I am talking about). Some people do absolutely no engaging with their social media community. They simply go on one of their many social networking accounts, and post about 10 to 20 posts all in a row, in the manner of a machine gun: One right after the other – Bam, Bam, Bam…

fine bottle of wine, like social mediaThis approach to social media is about the same as drinking a fine bottle of wine all in one gulp, just to get it out-of-the-way. Let’s talk about this and what you are actually accomplishing when practicing Blitz posting.

You are not engaging!

You are not by any stretch of the word “engaging” with your community. Engaging in social media means responding and posting relevant information that your community is going to relate to, and trigger some sort of conversation. How are you encouraging engagement if you are firing off one post after another? You would be much better off posting at different intervals and engaging when someone responds. Be a person, not a robot, for goodness sakes. I mean really, how many social robots do you know?

You are affecting your SEO, in a negative way!

By bombarding the space all at one time, you are gaining no SEO whatsoever. Part of SEO is about posting a particular subject topic (keyword) on a consistent basis. Consistent is not meant to be interpreted by flooding the space with a ton of repeated mentions (that’s the same as keyword stuffing in my book).

You are spamming!

Finally, when it comes down to it, you are spamming the space. Social media is not about annoying people. Disagreeing politely, general discussion, etc., are all acceptable ways of engaging in social media. However, flooding the timeline with post after post is simply rude – STOP IT!

There I feel better now. What do you think about these blitz posters…?

Here are some articles you might find interesting from other websites:

Website Speed – Do Your Audience Or Search Engines Really Care?

For most people, patience seems to be a lost virtue. We live in a global society that values and demands instant gratification however unrealistic that might be. This gives you a clue as to why you should pay attention to your website speed. There’s more to it than just that so let’s delve into the topic a little deeper and see what you can do to improve your site.

Website Speed FlashWebsite Speed in the Eyes of the Search Engines

The ultimate goal of a search engine is to provide relevant, quality information to their users in a timely manner. Yeah, I know they don’t always succeed with any of those, but that is their aim. They need to do this so that the user continues to use their services. This is why website speed is important to your search engine visibility. It’s a ranking factor, maybe not a big one, but it’s not something you want to ignore.

The Human Side of the Story

Website speed affects your human website visitors in an entirely different way. Whenever you interact with someone online or offline, be it a person or a business, you subconsciously make a snap judgement about that entity in around seven seconds. So, from someone clicking on a link to your website, whether it’s from the search engines or not, you have only those seven seconds to make a positive impression on them.

If your page load time is excessive, then that eats into the time that visitors will spend doing an initial scan of the page on which they have landed. Due to the impatience factor, it can also lead to frustration, which may cause the visitor to abandon their visit to your website. You can grab some research on this topic here and here.

You can have high bounce rates — a visitor entering and leaving your website from the same page — for a variety of reasons, but when combined with a low time-on-page the most touted one is that your content is not relevant or appealing to your audience, but I would always start by fixing any technical issues before wading into the content.

Slow loading of a website is a significant contributor to high bounce rate/low time on page visits. Getting the technology in order first provides you with a proper baseline on which to monitor and test tweaks to your content.

How to Test Your Page Load Speed

This couldn’t be simpler. You can easily test it using a variety of free tools, but the one from Google comes with the best support. You can find it here.

Pick either “analyse your site online” or “install browser extensions”; they both give the same results. It’s quicker to analyse your site online as you don’t have to install anything, but it does mean that you have to go back to the speed tester page every time you want to recheck your site.

Yikes! What to do with the Results?

There’s a large number of things that contribute to slowing down your site. When you see the list of issues, try not to panic! Most of them are easily resolved; it just takes a little planning followed by a little action on your part. For example:

  • The way in which you use images on your website — start by reviewing this article from Google and make sure that you always adhere to the guidelines. Draw up a plan to update each of your images. If you have a large site with many images, you’ll need to use a batch image processing tool like smush.it or image optimizer to help you get the job done quickly.
  • If you find that you need to leverage caching — instruct the visitors browser to use the resources they used previously — or enable compression, you can find an extension or plugin that’ll help you do that across most of the popular platforms (Joomla, Drupal, WordPress). A word of caution: if you decide to use something like W3 Total Cache for WordPress, which is an awesome plugin, make sure that you fully understand the plugin and its options before implementing it.
  • Review all the plugins and widgets you have on your site. Are they all necessary; do they all serve a purpose and does your audience use them? Each one that you have installed adds to the time required to load your page. For instance, you only need one social sharing plugin — find the one that suits you best.

Google has a set of useful articles that will help you work your way through most of your website speed issues. Like with everything else in life, you might need to go through a little pain in order to see the desired results. If you are pushed for time and want to do it yourself, break down everything that needs to be addressed into small steps and plan to complete the tasks day by day over a few weeks.

If you have any questions about the process or if you get stuck whilst trying to fix your issues, leave a comment below and we’ll help you out!