Found! Secrets to Massively Improve Blog Readership

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Want to increase the hits to your site and the readership to your articles? Here’s how.

If you are a new reader please note this headline and part of the post are part of an ongoing experiment. I can, I mean I have the ability to, be very cheesy but I generally reserve it for my clients’ content – at least those who require it. The results of part of the experiment are published in this article. Enjoy!

The thing about data is it can be skewed. The great thing about A/B tests is the results show up in the data. Recently I ran a test with changing the titles of some blogs. First I used descriptive titles but no enticing language – just to get a base line. This was done on a single page site that only has short blurbs and just a very few subscribers. Eighteen to be exact. In reality most blogs don’t have thousands or even hundreds of subscribers so I wanted to use a site that would better proximate a start-up blog.

For seven days I used titles like, “WordPress is written using PHP, JavaScript and HTML” and “Most readers don’t take time to comment on blogs”. I placed the links to these posts on a Twitter account that has only about 250 connections just to make sure the results weren’t skewed by using an account with thousands of connections. I made sure to not use any SEO tricks and did not include any link sharing or social sharing tools.

I started the title experiment upswing by using the title, “Do not read this post unless …” and readership went from 0 to 4. The following day I posted with a title “If you can read this …” and readership went back down to 3. On the third day I used the title “10 Tricks Pros Use To Get Blog Readers” and readership jumped to 18. Six of those 18 came from the RSS feed and 10 came from Twitter. The other two came from shares. Keep in mind I was not using any link or social sharing on the page at all and the site was new and barely indexed by Google.

A humorous bark about GoDaddy …

Today I wanted to see if the domain name “JOBSBOARD.COM” was available – for obvious reasons. For domain names I prefer GoDaddy so I clicked on my bookmark and typed in JOBSBOARD and left .COM in the drop-down list. There are two things that jump out at me.

1. GoDaddy has a fresh new, easier to navigate (for me) look.

2. See if you can find the humor – what is it?

Just in case you still didn’t get it …

[podcast]http://thekencook.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/jobsboard.mp3[/podcast]

WordPress like button plugins – Facebook, Google+ and Twitter

WordPress Plugin: Simple Like Buttons

Here’s a WordPress plugin many people can use. The situation is that I had separate Facebook, Twitter and Google+ buttons scattered at the top of my posts. While I wanted them at the top I would prefer for them to all be aligned in a single row. I searched a bit in the WordPress plugins directory for Facebook Like, Twitter tweet and Google Plus 1 but was finding only individual plugins for each social media site.

Just as I was about to give up on the search and code my own I found Simple LikeButtons (Facebook, Google+, Twitter). In the image it appears the buttons are at the top of the post, and they are, but “out of the box” this plugin places the buttons at the bottom of the posts where I happen to have a lot of other things going on. Unfortunately the plugin also does not have a way through their built in options to do anything other than select which buttons are displayed.

Since WordPress works around something called “the loop” and this plugin was very simply coded (some plugins are packed with code but this one relies on much third party coding so it is much smaller and simpler) I knew it would be pretty easy to find the location in the script which handled the location task and modify it. I suppose I could have modified the admin options script but if I did that I would like re-code the entire script and submit it to the repository myself.

The “fix” is so easy that anyone even without any PHP or JavaScript or even HTML to do it. You can watch the short video for a visual instruction. If you need me to do it for you I can and will. Just contact me and I’ll get it done … $25 for this. Enjoy!

File uploads for small business websites

Recently a prospect contacted me with a need for their clientele to be able to upload a few different types of files via the website. The company requires documents from their clients and wanted to move away from the fax machine and allow customers to upload files directly from their computer to the site. The files needed were PDF, DOC, TXT, and ZIP.

Since the company already had an existing WordPress installed for their Content Management System (CMS) they needed a solution their WordPress guy had no idea how to create but needed it to work with their theme he had customized. This mean it had to be created in such a way that when their existing guy quit handling it and new updates were made the application would not break.

Web Development

The coding of the file upload application was identical to any that would be created for any stand alone site not encumbered by a CMS like WordPress, Joomla or Drupal. Since the maximum file sizes would be around 3 to 4 megabytes we simply used a PHP upload function and stored the files in a non-web accessible directory above the root. This was done for security purpose. We then created a simple way to inject the application into the loop on WordPress using a shortcode so that wherever ##UPLOAD## is found the application is inserted into that location on the page or a sidebar.

There are options, too, if you do not have PHP on your hosting account or if you want to go above the limit for PHP uploads. One option is to split larger files into smaller files and rejoin them on the server using PHP. The other is to use Perl to upload any size file (based on server limitations). Either way the solution is there and cost is based on how it is used.

Meet WordPress for small business

There are plenty of things to be thankful for which we North Americans tend to reflect upon this time of year. Small business owners have a mixed bag of things to be thankful for and one of those is a little content management system called WordPress. For those of us who have been using and developing solutions for WordPress since it separated from B2 we have been ever interested in the evolution. No pun intended for those who got it.

What WordPress is

WordPress is a web content management system. It’s also almost fool proof … er, caveman proof.

For the casual user and professional user alike WordPress can be a tremendous saver of time and expenses. While it does have several limiting factors for those on a budget these are easy enough to live with. True customization of WordPress can be quite spendy when the site owner is looking for more than just aesthetic changes so we’ll leave that for another article on another day. For the next few hundred words let’s look at free (as in the site owner investing their own valuable time) and inexpensive solutions. (Word: there are multiple solutions to every challenge – we do not have time nor interest in examining every possible solution for WordPress for small business owners in this article.)

Two types of WordPress

WordPress gets a little confusing out of the gate because there are “two” WordPresses. The first one is WordPress.com where you get a free WordPress account on their server. This is the more limiting type of installation so if you really want control of your site you’ll need a professional WordPress solution. There are several available and the one I recommend (and use) is Professional WordPress Hosting. I use it for many reasons too numerous to list the advantages here.

Expanded chatting with Google+

Have you tried Google+ (Google Plus) for your small business? While there are many reasons to do so this one jumps out from the others in a couple of notable ways. First of all let’s say what Google Plus is for those of you new to the name. If you are in small business marketing or simple want to market your own small business this can be a powerful, free tool.

Google Plus is Google’s new social networking division which incorporates a re-invention of some of the best of Facebook, Twitter and other social media networks. It is fast-moving like the Twitter stream or the recently modified Facebook stream but in the stream it allows videos, photos, long posts, short posts, links with thumbnails, and +1’s which are similar to Facebook Likes and Twitter re-tweets. If you don’t use those social networks I would be very surprised to find you reading this article!

With me and my readers the question always is, “how can this be used or leveraged for or by small business?” Really the full answers are yet to be determined but the chat feature is something we really have been waiting for. On Twitter you can chat with anyone. It should also be understood that everything on Twitter except Direct Messaging is completely public. To Direct Message with someone you have to be “following” them and they have to be “following” you.

On Facebook you can also send private messages and to almost anyone but you cannot chat with them unless you are “friends” or in the same group together. Being friends on Facebook is not always the most ideal situation and let’s face it, getting to be a member of far too many groups on Facebook is way too easy to accomplish.

With Google Plus in order to chat with someone else you only need to be in a common circle. But listen … that’s to chat in *any* Google site. Including the chat from GMail. Well that explains it then! You noticed all those people online you had never seen before and now you know why, people from your Google+ circles now appear in your standard Google chat.

What’s changed with Chat?

  • Previously you could only chat with someone if you knew their email address. Now you just need to have each other in Circles.
  • When you and your contacts have each other in Circles, you’ll be able to chat with them across Google properties such as Gmail, Google Plus, iGoogle, Orkut, and the Google Talk Client.
  • Instead of displaying all of your contacts in your Google Plus Chat list, we’re displaying contacts from your most recent conversations who are online now. (You’ll still be able to use the search box at the top of the Chat list to find contacts that aren’t displayed.)

The above is straight from Google.

What tech tool or toy are you most thankful for?

It can be anything, really. It can be a social media network, a game console, your new 3D Evo … whatever. Most of us are thankful for our health, our family members, our friends. But let’s face it – other people can’t just go out and buy those. Well, they shouldn’t be able to. So thinking of things you can actually buy and even give as a gift, what tech tool or toy are you most thankful for?

As for me I have to say my Evo 4G. It’s not perfect. It’s not an 8gig, quadcore, 2tbyte monster machine … but it’s faster and more powerful than my first 4 computers!

Three tips for generating leads online

Generating leads is a wide topic. The lead could be anything from a sales lead to a date prospect. In fact it could simply be another name to add to your list. While there has been much written on the topic the baseline of it all can be summed up in three functions: present, ask and follow-up.

Present

There are a lot of different opinions on the format and style of presentation. In the end some work better than others and some simply fail to deliver. All experienced people will tell you the same: keep it short and to the point. In reality if you can fit everything on a single screen, not requiring any scrolling, you have done an amazing job.

Ask

When reaching for contact with another person in physical experiences do you read them a book to get their business card? No! Sometimes you simply ask, “do you have a card?” repeated studies have shown that floating forms increase the number of conversions by hundreds of percentage points. Don’t let that be the only place you ask for contact but certainly include it on your landing pages.

Follow-Up

This is what separates the name takers from the action makers. Your contact pages should immediately confirm that you received the information and this should happen automatically. Additionally the ideal lead generation page would make use of a timed messaging system until the lead converts or drops out.

Wrapping it up

While those three items are the foundation there is a lot of room for work and methodology in the balance. There are social media accounts and proper use of those, there are only advertising sites, relevant discussion boards, comment marketing, QR codes in the physical, and many more. This post was not intended to address those – you’re on your own!

Listen

[podcast]/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/3-tips-lead-generation.mp3[/podcast]

Small business websites: what should they do?

This is one of those questions like, “how much is a car?” Further the answer, it seems, is completely subjective from the perspective of the person being asked. So that would be the first step, finding out how many small business websites the person being asked has actually created and how successful they were or are – the sites that is.

Small Business network

Small Business Network - Image: jscreationzs

Having developed a few hundred and having operated a few quite successful ones for many years I have learned a few things. So here is one of those answers “from my perspective” about what the generic topic small business website should do:

  • accept input from the visitor at least in the form of a “Contact Me” form – I actually put this above content because I have had sites which had only a contact form during development and it worked for the site owner.
  • include a phone number – no matter how new school we get people still want that tactile interface.
  • deliver a concise and easy to read message in the content about what the site owner does for clients.
  • allow users to comment and make recommendations on the site – I know, you’re old school, you may disagree, but in today’s open book society letting customers comment on your pages makes a big difference to some potential clients.
  • provide a menu of services so people can choose – a good example would be a building contractor who does electrical. Many people may not know what all that includes. They may not know, for example, if you also install solar panels or static control – let them know!
There are so many important considerations to factor in to your small business website it is impossible to relate there here in such a short article. Think of your goals, be realistic in how you can achieve them, work with a professional small business website developer, remember this is a long hike not a short sprint.

When a whisper online screams big opportunity for small business

As  a small business professional, meaning I have started, built, operated, and sold small businesses since 1979 there is one thing I always wanted to have and worked like mad to discover or create: a desirable advantage over my competitors (thus eliminating them as threats). For example: In 2000 I was coding ecommerce sites for Swissartex (later renamed to ICHA) at the rate of about 2 or 3 per month. Business was

small business keywords

Use the Google keyword tool to determine which "secrets" are most spoken!

excellent. I had one assistant, Anusha Patel, and a couple of contractors who came and went. We were well content in what we were doing. But with so many coders out there how did a little no-name, one office developer, land such a great gig creating ecom sites for Fortune 1000 companies at the rate of dozens per year?

First you have to know I only had one real competitor in my area, that was Bella Web Design and they are my friends, but I didn’t want to do just local, I didn’t want to make things pretty – I wanted to make things work and lift heavy loads. That’s when I quit doing sub work which ended up on the back ends of sites for people like The Atlanta Braves. I quite literally created a spec work ecommerce solution and readied it to come out of the box. When I finally got the chance to demo it live not one person ever turned it down – even for the price I was charging.

I didn’t know anything special I just heard a secret: I heard (read online) that a new company called PayPal was going to make it possible for anyone to operate an online store and accept credit cards and checks. It was just a whisper in a message on a board.

Here is my advice if you are listening for whispers today. Think about the things you may overhear in a conversation between complete strangers standing in line at a restaurant that would make you speak up and introduce yourself and toss in your pitch. Go set those as Google Alerts. Seriously. Then even if you don’t respond to the alerts read what people are saying when they are using your keywords. One of these things may transpire:

  • You may contact them directly and establish a transactional relationship with them
  • You may be inspired to create a global solution including the desires you picked up in whispers
  • You may write an article with the answers to questions you see repeated often using your keyword and attract new business

Think about it. How can you use “whispers” you pick up online? What whispers have you heard that have been leveraged into business for you? Your contemporaries love knowing about your success, please share it in the comments below!