It’s like building a house

“The Requirements Payoff” by Karl Wiegers (DrDobbs.com via Information Week, 9 July 2010). As is tradition around here, don’t let the subject matter fool you. This is not just about building systems. The lessons here can be applied across the board. We are all familiar with:

— Look before you leap.

— Measure twice, cut once.

— Do it right the first time.

— Haste makes waste.

The one caveat here is that Karl is focused on user requirements, when the focus should be business needs. Defining what’s wanted (is easy) and defining what’s needed (not so much so) is not the same thing. Being human, we’re all guilty of letting emotions get in the way, eh? The focus needs to be thorough and objective. Not some pie in the sky brain dumping.

In short, have a plan. Then review that plan to ensure the journey you are planning will get you to where it is you are wanting to go. Opps, I meant needing to go.

The darkside of PPC

“Fight Click Fraud on Pay-Per-Click Ads” by Kim Boatman (Inc.com, 7 July 2010). As they say, “It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt.” PPC (pay per click) might not land you in the hospital but it can take more out of your butt than necessary. A couple quick points to add:

1) While Kim gathers plenty of good points, the best and often most overlooked is the one about limiting a PPC campaign geographically. I wish I had a buck for every time I saw an AdWords ad in search results that was obviously for a local based business well out of my area. Wasted impression add up. In turn, CTR (click throught rate) effects ad placement and bid price.

2) Keep in mind, (typically) PPC is *not* like old media. It’s not about impressions and trying to be everywhere all the time. PPC is about quality. That is, ads and keywords that draw in quality leads and customers. CTR is a handy guide but ultimately it’s about conversions and the quality of the lead/customer there of. In short, PCC isn’t a shotgun, it’s sniper fire. However, you have to take the time to draw the right bullets to your target, else you’ll be spending more than you should.

Have you ever been the victim of click fraud? And what are your PPC tips and secrets?

Ya can’t find what isn’t there

“Here’s Looking at You – Make your site a better search engine target by optimizing your company’s images.” by Mikal E. Belicove (Entrepreneur Magazine, June 2010). At a high level SEO isn’t rocket science… “But wait! What is SEO?” you ask. Opps, sorry.

SEO is short for search engine optimization. SEO is the art and science of trying to think how search engines think and making adjustments to your website to fit that M.O. That thinking is how search engines crawl and index your website’s pages. It’s how and why search engines exist — to match search queries, best they can, with a list of web pages that might satisfy that query.

Search engines are like high tech matchmakers using sophisticated algorithms to spark a relationship. These top secret black box algorithms evaluated countless characteristics of a web page and a website and then rank the results of that evaluation. In short, if it’s on your website, then as far as search engines are concerned it matters.

One of the easiest and most overlooked SEO best practices is properly naming the files that are the images on your site. For example, file123.jpg is probably not going to be as effective as seo-tips-and-tricks.jpg (if someone is searching for: SEO tips and tricks). Again, search engines are going to use any insight possible in order to make the best match between searcher and site. Makes sense, right?

If you’re looking to be smarter and get more out of your website by making it more “SEO friendly”, please check out Mikal’s great article on image file naming.

Track… Analyze… Adjust… Repeat…

“Evaluate Editorial Impact Using Google Analytics” by Lars Johansson (WebsiteMagazine.com, May 2010). A thorough, if not somewhat technical article on the finer point of Google Analytics. Let’s just jump right to the AU value add:

AU 1 – There is also another way to filter out internally generated traffic  and that’s by using cookies. Details can be found on this Google Analytics support page. (btw, Thanks Lars!) This is especially handy for when your “staff” is not in a fixed location and/or use multiple devices to access the same content.

AU 2 – Another must-use tool that extends and integrates with GA is Google URL Builder. In short, when you place banners and other content (e.g., links) on other sites, URL builder is a tool for building custom URLs for each placement. The clicks back in from those URLs can then be tracked via GA.

AU 3 – Semi-related to URL Builder is AddThis.com (and similar sharing services). AddThis is nice because it will log the shares going out as well as the clicks that come back in from those shared links. In addition, you might want to consider using your CMS (content management system) to integrate and customize your AddThis button with URL Builder formatted URL so you can pull in even more data.

AU 4 – And finally, there’s bit.ly. With URL shortening being all the rage (and absolutely necessary the Twittersphere), bit.ly will take a long URL and shortens it. The bonus is that it too logs that request and tracks the clicks on the shortened link. While in some regards the analytics might be overkill, the use of a URL  shortening service is often necessary. bit.ly is the current king of that hill. And if branding of your shortened URLs sounds appealing then then be sure to check out bit.ly Pro as well.

Congratulations! It’s only Tuesday and already your head is ready to explode with more essentials. Success, it doesn’t come easy, does it?

Picking up Website Magazine’s slack

The good news and “the huh?” news…

WebsiteMagazine.com, a fairly reputable resource when it comes to well… um… websites, recently published a list of their “Top 50 Design Resources”. (Note: We have not vetted this list, nor given the endless resources on the internet should it be consider all inclusive.)

Now here’s “the huh?” There are 50 URLs and they a published as an image. In other words, not links, not even HTML text that can be copied and pasted. A .gif! But wait, there’s more! That image is named: top50may2010.gif. In terms of best practices it should be something like: top-50-web-design-resources-may-2010.gif. And finally, they don’t use the alt=” ” in the HTML for the image. Again, another SEO no no. Website Magazine? Huh?

So in the spirit of “If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself,” here are the first 25 of those Top 50:

1. cssbeauty.com
2. cssdrive.com
3. thefwa.com
4. thebestdesigns.com
5. cssvault.com

6. unmatchedstyle.com
7. designmeltdown.com
8. designshack.co.uk
9. webcream.com
10. cssheaven.com

11. cssremix.com
12. bestgalleryweb.com
13. cssmania.com
14. patterntap.com
15. csselite.com

16. cssclip.com
17. designbombs.com
18. siteinspire.net
19. edustyle.net
20. styleboost.com

21. genuinestyle.com
22. css-website.com
23. cssbased.com
24. mostinspired.com
25. stylegala.com

Btw, when it comes to design, web design and web development two of the AU must visit (and must RSS) are SmashingMagazine.com and SpeckyBoy.com.

Staying on task

“How to Get More Work Done In Less Time” by Lexi Rodrigo (FreelanceFolder.com, 16 April 2010).Time, there’s never enough is there? As, “More with less” continues to be the mantra of the moment, the usage of this fixed resource becomes even more critical to success. So whether you freelance or not, Lexi has shared a worthy set tips. Hopefully you have the time to read them.

While you’re there, see also: “10 Productivity Tips That Work Surprisingly Well” by Ritu.

More is less. Less is better. But more is not better.

“E-mail is Making You Stupid” By Joe Robinson (Entrepreneur Magazine, March 2010). Funny, wasn’t technology supposed to make us all more productive? But it can. Just take a few minutes to step away from the Facebook updates and focus on this article. Great stuff! Especially helpful is Joe telling the truth about multitasking. Not only is it overrated, it’s actually unproductive.

As you’re walking, chew on this:

The cult of multitasking would have us believe that compulsive message-checking is the behavior of an always-on, hyper-productive worker. But it’s not. It’s the sign of a distracted employee who misguidedly believes he can do multiple tasks at one time. Science disagrees. People may be able to chew gum and walk at the same time, but they can’t do two or more thinking tasks simultaneously.

In short, it’s a quality issue. Focusing on less and completing those tasks before moving on will actually yield more.  Trying to do it all at once is a mistake. The human brain is wired to have a limited span of control. Overstep that bound and output and quality actually drop.

You should find this useful as well:

E-mail multiplies like rabbits, each new message generating more and more replies. Want fewer distractions? Send fewer e-mails. Here are some helpful rules.

— Turn off all visual and sound alerts that announce new mail.

— Check e-mail two to four times a day at designated times and never more often than every 45 minutes.

— Don’t let e-mail be the default communication device. Communicating by phone or face-to-face saves time and builds relationships.

— Respond immediately only to urgent issues. Just because a message can be delivered instantly does not mean you must reply instantly.

— Severely restrict use of the reply-all function.

— Put “no reply necessary” in the subject line when you can. No one knows when an e-conversation is over without an explicit signal.

— Resist your reply reflex. Don’t send e-mails that say “Got it” or “Thanks.”

— Use automatic out-of-office messages to carve out focused work time, such as: “I’m on deadline with a project and will be back online after 4 p.m.”

One SEO step at a time (Part 10-16)

More from this ongoing series on SEO from Stoney deDeyter over at Search Engine Guide (http://www.SearchEngineGuide.com).

Part 10: Everything You Need To Know About Keyword Qualifiers
Part 11: Everything You Need To Know About SEO Copywriting
Part 12: Everything You Need To Know About Page Content
Part 13: Everything You Need To Know About Links
Part 14: Everything You Need To Know About Link Anatomy
Part 15: Everything You Need To Know About Linking
Part 16: Everything You Need to Know About Building Links
Part 16: Everything You Need to Know About Building Links

Btw, one thing worth mentioning is that SEG could probably do a better job with keywords in their URIs.

One SEO step at a time (Part 5 – 9)

Opps. Looks like we’ve fallen a bit behind in keeping you in the loop on this ongoing series on SEO from Stoney deDeyter over at Search Engine Guide (http://www.SearchEngineGuide.com).

Part 5: Everything You Need to Know Domain Names
Part 6: Everything You Need To Know About Search Engine Friendly URLs & Broken Links
Part 7: Everything You Need To Know About Site Architecture and Internal Linking
Part 8: Everything You Need To Know About Keywords
Part 9: Everything You Need To Know About Keyword Core Terms

One SEO step at a time (Part 1 – 4)

The use of the word everything is an over-statement. None the less, this is a damn good round up by Stoney deGeyter to get your search engine optimization (SEO) juices flowing, as seen on SearchEngineGuide.com (http://www.searchengineguide.com).

Part 1: Everything You Need To Know About SEO
Part 2: Everything You Need To Know About Title Tags
Part 3: Everything You Need To Know About Meta Description and Keyword Tags
Part 4: Everything You Need To Know About Heading Tags and Alt Attributes

Sounds like a plan, man

“Using Checklists to Prevent Failure – Interview of Dr. Atul Gawande” by Harvard Business IdeaCast (Havard Business Review, 22 January 2010). This 15+ minute audio interview is going to save you hours, if not days as well as avoid excessive stressful moments. A classic case of what should be obvious and second nature is really a handy reminder. Thanks doc!

In a nut shell: Think ahead, develop a plan, keep it simple, write it down,  communicate, get and keep the rest of the team on the same page, avoid getting bumped off track by refering to the plan but be flexible.

Further proof that more often than not best practices are not rocket science.

Home, home on the Wave

“Frequently Asked Questions About Google Wave” by LifeHacker.com (www.LifeHacker.com). Wave – some love it, some don’t, some don’t know what to think, and finally others have yet to try it. Regardless of which category you fall into this article and associated comments (which are always insightful) should help you decide where you are, or maybe where you should be on this H2O based subject.

Have you tried it? And … ?

Mashable does it again

“Mashable’s Social Media Guide for Small Businesses” by Matt Silverman (Mashable.com, 4 December 2009). Brilliant! So jam packed with goodies that the best thing to do is get out of the way and let you jump right in. Enjoy!

They can hear you anywhere

Another buzz service that maybe you’re familiar with is Google Voice. In short, it’s a free phone number with it’s own outgoing message. No more using your personal number for business. Or maybe you just need a special (temporary) number for a special project. Skye, Yahoo! and others do provide free numbers but more often than not they don’t allow for your own personalize outgoing message.  And this is just the tip of the iceberg.


Intriguing, eh? From here be sure to consume “How To: Totally Overhaul Your Phones With Google Voice” by John Herrman (Gizmodo.com, 12 December 2009). That should get you started. Much like Google Wave, Voice is in limited beta. It’s invite only for the moment. But the turn around is approximately two weeks — http://www.google.com/voice.

What’s hard to say, but certain to be interesting, is how Google eventually integrates Wave with Voice. For those who have thus far underestimated Wave, the ball is still bouncing so keep your eye on it.

Just change? Or change for the better?

“Work for Change” by Alexander Stein (Fortune Small Business, November 2009). It’s always interesting how the title of  an article sometimes changes from the print version to the web version. In this case, the web version is actually, “Break bad habits, make more money.” Look out Spiderman, here comes SEOman. I digress.

Change and innovation continue to be the buzz words of the moment. Add in the fact that the New Year’s resolution ritual is just around the corner and this article becomes a great way to kickoff your post-Thanksgiving week.

As we so often like to do, let’s bait you with a pull quote teaser:

There’s no simple prescription for change. But here are the first crucial steps:

Recognize that your personal history plays a central role in shaping your behavior.

Revise any prejudice against emotional inquiry. Accept the fact that fear, rigidity and avoidance are corrosive — and that reaching an understanding about yourself can reap rewards.

Admire psychological complexity; don’t let it intimidate you. Decode your mind to harness its natural ingenuity.

Respect the gargantuan force of your emotional life. Emotions can propel you to success. They can also impede and even straitjacket you. No matter what, you can’t ignore your emotions and still hope to prosper in business or in life.

Keep in mind, we’re about to enter the second decade of the 21st century. What 20th century habits and approaches do you hope to leave behind already? What do think it’s going to take to make those changes happen? Who or what — aside from yourself — is stopping you? Where else do find sources of inspiration that work for you?

The Art of The Twitter

“How Twitter Is Revolutionizing Business (140 Characters at a Time)” by Jason Ankeny (Entrepreneur magazine, December 2009). Jason rounds up both a history lesson as well as bits on the current state of The Art of  The Twitter. Unfortunately, the Entrepreneur web site is not as current as the print version. Not to worry, just whip up a Google/Yahoo! alert so you know when they finally get around to sharing this article digitally.

In the meantime, here is the run down on the sites/services mentioned:

oneforty.com — “A Better Way to Discover Twitter Apps. oneforty is your Twitter outfitter, with tons of resources for all things Twitter. Currently tracking 2031 apps that make Twitter even better.”

ChirpCity.com — “Local Twitter search, latest tweets from and about your city… and a top user list for the cities (listed) above.”

NearbyTweets.com — “Instantly find Twitterers nearby.”

Tweepz.com — “Search, find and discover interesting people on Twitter.”

SocialOomph.com — “Tools to Boost Your Social Media Productivity.” For example, schedule your tweets.

CalTweet.com — “Social Events Sharing Tool via Twitter & Facebook.”

Seesmic.com — “Stay connected and share information with your friends.”

Twitalyzer.com — “For Tracking Influence and Measuring Success in Twitter.”

ExecTweets.com — “Find and follow top business execs on Twitter.”

Tweetdeck.com — “TweetDeck is your personal browser for staying in touch with what’s happening now, connecting you with your contacts across Twitter, Facebook and more.”

BingTweets — “BingTweets enables you to see deeper, real-time information about the hottest topics on Twitter by fusing Bing search results with the latest tweets.”

Twidroid — “The Twitter & Identi.ca client application for android mobile phones.”

And while you’re waiting for Entrepreneur to update their site, be sure to check out Mashable.com’s Twitter Guide Book — How To, Tips and Instructions.

Good stuff, eh? Looks like Black Friday will have to wait. How about you? Please leave a comment to share any sites you feel should have been on this list.

Stop selling (and find out what they’re buying)

“Rouse Your Silent Prospects” by Steve Bookbinder (New York Enterprise Report magazine, November 2009). Pardon the rush job but given this morning’s time constraints the focus will be to stick to the highlights. First, the sub-headline of this one is: How to craft emails and voice mails that will get a response.

Pull quotes:

There is a golden rule for getting a response from a silent prospect: If you want a response, ask a question the prospect can answer.

Avoid using emails as an opportunity to type your entire sales pitch or provide your manifesto to strangers… Just get to the point. Your Blackberry-reading receiver of this message will appreciate this more while they walk and read.

If nothing else, on page 3, be sure to consume, “7 Tips for Getting a Response from a Silent Prospect”.

Also worth checking is, “Putting An End to Cold Leads” by Jeremy Nedelka (www.1to1media.com). Note: Unfortunately, the 1 to 1 site requires registering. None the less, here’s a pull quote to wet your whistle:

Jill Konrath, author of Selling to Big Companies, says that a little research like that to get in the door is all salespeople need to stand out in the ever-growing crowd. “Today corporations get pitched by so many people that the price of admission requires additional research and a deep understanding of what that company and its employees are going through…[like] looking at triggered events that happen within or external to a company that cause it to shift priorities.”

Multitasking is overrated

“Staying Productive in the Information Age” by Sharon Lowenheim (New York Enterprise Report magazine, November 2009). We are all trying to do more with less. More and more work with less time and less budget to do it. Quality, value and efficiency continue to be the mantras of the moment. Doing it all might not be possible, so doing the right things becomes the next best choice.

Truth be told, there’s not much new in Ms. Lowenheim’s suggestions but a friendly reminder on the topic of productivity isn’t going to hurt either. The best bit might actually come in the last paragraph:

Don’t multitask. Every time you switch tasks, your brain has to close out one task and boot up the other, resulting in lost time. Trying to do two things at once ultimately takes you longer and will produce substandard results. Instead, use your prioritized task list to guide your activities, and work on one thing at a time.

There is a reason why a production line is a production line. The human mind does better when it’s focused on less, not more. That is, quality and completion, not quantity and loose ends. Unfortunately, multitasking is probably one of the most overrated must-haves in business.

Finally, there are two other suggestions we like to add. One, be sure to take breaks. Aside from needing focus, the brain also needs to catch its breath from time to time. Less can in fact be more. Two, find work that you enjoy. Some say you don’t have to love your job. That’s bull! In terms of waking hours a person probably spends more time at work than he/she does with their kids. Is it alright not to love them too? Probably not.

Yes, work hard — and smart. But don’t sell yourself short. Love what you do and who you do it with.

Dude, where are my files?

“Digital Tools: Forget Disruption. Dive Deep Instead” by Lee Gomes (Forbes Magazine, 2 November 02, 2009). True, there are a number of solutions similar for DropBox (www.DropBox.com). On the other hand, there’s something to be said for being vetted by Forbes and Mr. Gomes. As Lee mentioned, simplicity can be a beautiful thing. A free account of 2 GB is available so it’s certainly worth a look.

While the means is different, there can be times when Adobe’s online suite of Acrobat (Acrobat.com), BuzzWord (BuzzWord.com) and/or Photoshop (Photoshop.com) comes in handy. One of the nice things about BuzzWord is that it uses a secure https connection. Whether the others do or not, I’m not sure. I’ll have to check on that. That being said, what’s more likely to happen, someone breaching your internet connection, or you losing or  temporarily misplacing a USB drive?

Jam on it

Start here: “Building a collaboration strategy” by Rob Koplowitz (KMWorld.com, 28 October 2009).

And you’ll be glad you ended up here: “Wiki tools are not all the same” by Tony Byrne (KMWorld.com, 28 October 2009).

The power to simplicity ratio of wikis is amazing. When it comes to true collaboration on a project a wiki beats email just about every time. By their very nature wikis  keep eveyone on the same page, literally.

To Mr Byrne’s list (at the end of his article) we’d like to add the offerings from PB Works (www.PBWorks.com) and Zoho (www.Zoho.com). These might not be the perfect fit for all projects but in terms of quickness in getting up and running, as well as simple ease of use, they’re both quite efficient.