Archive for Blog

Take A Look AT The Graphic That Will Help Me Win The $500 Brother “Back To Business” Contest Prize

Brother Creative Center

Entered Biz Sugars’ Brother CreativeCenter Contest

Yes, I decided it was time to take my shaky design skills to the next level. Fortunately with the Biz Sugar Brother CreativeCenter “Back To Business” Contest, I did not need to brush up on my graphic skills to rock your eyes with my works of greatness. The process was pretty simple. Spend about 10 minutes on the Brother CreativeCenter creating a graphic that I can then use to promote Start Up Gap. Then I created the absolute beauty below to shock and amaze you all! Are you shocked? Are you in awe? Why not?

start up gap flyer

practicing vood traffic

Practicing Voodoo Traffic at the Chicago library to get you to the Start Up Gap Episode with Anita Campbell tomorrow

Ulterior Motives

So, why am I sharing this with you. Well, three reasons:

1. I plan on winning the prize for the contest, and thought doing a blog post would help garner more attention. Always important to get compensated for writing and designing.

2. My subconscious NLP method for getting you to check out StartUpGap.Com tomorrow at 4 PM CST when I interview Anita Campbell, the owner of BizSugar. Working on getting some serious voodoo traffic to the event tomorrow with this post. Look into my eyes. Burn this date onto your Google Calendar! Join us for this session to learn how Anita Campbell built her business. On the count of three you will wake up with a sudden urge to watch this show.

3. I thought I would take this time to show you how to actually use the Creative Center to create your own graphics. When I do win, I want to make sure that I had some serious competition. Are you up for the challenge? He! He! He!

 

 

How To Set Up Your Own Flyer Or Business Card

I thought that one of the easiest ways to show you how to use the Creative Center would be to do a quick video, as I set up some business cards for Start Up Gap. Be prepared to be amazed. Now, that I have worked my voodoo on you, I am sure that it is sure to happen.

What do you think? Pretty easy for you to set up your own graphic as well right? Then join in on BizSugar, so I can have some additional competition.

What Do You Think?

I know this was a visual explosion for your eyes. Definitely join in on the contest, so you too can claim international fame for your graphic skills (or at the very least have a great flyer or business card made up on the cheap.)

In the meantime, quick question. Should I now become a professional graphic artist, or stick to writing? Let me know in the comment area, along with a link to your own design.

The Six Insider Secret’s Of Contagious Content

Viral content is everywhere on the internet. People are always saying that a video “went viral”, which usually means it received a vast amount of views in a short amount of time. There’s a lot of psychology that goes into creating a viral video, though, and a lot of skill for those who are attempting to achieve viral success. Viral content is, in and of itself, emotional content. And emotional content will always drive people to share, comment, and send the video to their friends.

It has been demonstrated that practical, useful, surprising content goes viral more quickly, because the person sharing it is seen in a more positive light for having done so. Causing someone to be positively affected is one of the easiest ways to create a viral video, but the “shock and awe” factor also helps to make a video share-worthy.

There are many ways to ensure that the content you’re creating will be shared, possibly even at a viral level, but in order to really make the best out of all the knowledge pertaining to how to make a video that will be a hit, you need some actionable steps. This infographic can help you understand the psychological basics of human behavior, and steps regarding how to apply that behavior to your video creation.

The Six Insider’s Secrets of Contagious Content [Infographic] by Who Is Hosting This: The Blog

Content Runner

I recently had the opportunity to check out Content Runner, a service that helps you find quality writers. Weird, I know, why does a writer need to find writers? Well, the truth is that I sometimes take on a lot of projects, and have other writers create some of the articles so that I can keep my content fresh for clients.

To do this I use systems like Content Runner to make my life easier. Now, before I get too far, I will be honest with you – I was given a review account to check out Content Runner. However, to be objective and provide you with the best information possible I will provide you with a balanced approach that discloses some of the shaky things about this site as well as the benefits of using this system. I broke this review into the different sections of the site that I found useful or interesting (screenshots included for reference).

content runner dashboard

 

Style GuideStyle Guide

First, they have a cool style guide section already completed, where you can add or subtract different styling information you require for the site. I found this more useful than the approach taken by other sites like iWriter or TextBroker, where you have to write in every project bid what you expect from the writers.

One note: Content Runner talks about citing official sources and using headers. However, they do not touch on telling writers to make sure the grammar and spelling is up to snuff. While this might sound obvious, I included it because some writers just need to need that gentle reminder.

The other benefit to this, is that if you have multiple clients you can create multiple style guides for each client. Therefore, if one client is on grammar patrol, and another is more concerned about SEO then you can specify each client’s needs in separate style guides.

Ease of Use

The ordering process is easy enough for your kindergartener to do it (so hide the username and password from them). From the dashboard you click “Post Your Order.” Then a small pop up screen appears with your Order Request.

content runner order form

Next, you either fill out the form or upload your request into the form. For those who fill out the form, you just need to include the article notes about the topic along with the word count, deadline, and price. Remember that the style guide will provide your writers with the general criteria, so you do not have to keep repeating yourself every time you need an article on what you need.

The whole process, once your style guide is set up should take you no more than 5 minutes. Remember to check the article after you submit it to ensure that everything is correct. You can start getting offers from writers on your articles immediately. Then you approve the writer that fits your needs.

White Label WordPress Exporter

One of the coolest things I found while using Content Runner was their WordPress exporter plugin. This plugin enables you to post any content directly from Content Runner straight to your site without have to log on, or copy and paste files.

They even have a white label option for marketing firms outsourcing their content for clients. That way, you can import the content, and your clients will not be the wiser when they are on your WordPress site that you purchased content from Content Runner.

wordpress api key content runner

Writer List with Favorites and Blocked List

The final Feature on Content Runner is the Writers List. You can favorite and block writers you like and dislike as you go. Also, you can take into consideration what other clients thought of the writers as well. This way if someone has two or more blocks, you can block them as well from even applying for your article.

content runner writer list

Need to be able to do full edits on instructions

The major downside that I saw on the articles is that once you have submitted an article you are not allowed to make edits without deleting the article entirely. If one aspect of your article changes, it is nice to be able to change that one specific area without having to start all over.

However, since your article is live I do understand why Content Runner does this. The only thing I would say is that, if you have to approve the writer in the first place, allow the clients to edit the article requests up to the point of the publication. That way, if you need to change the price for example to attract more talent, you can do so with ease.

It was driving me a bit crazy, because I play with how things look and feel. In other words, I want to be able to edit things the entire time until the article is with the writer.  The lack of an editing feature would make it easier.

Content Runner Summary

Overall, I found the site very easy to use, and great for client work. As someone who writes and hires out writers as well for WordPress projects, the plugin to be one of my favorite add-ons to the entire site.

Since, I am new to the site I will update you also on anything new that I find as I keep using the site. Just approved my first writer to create an article, and am impressed with how easy the process is at Content Runner. Let me know if you have any questions on Content Runner below.

Three Things I Learned From Moving My Blog Hosting

You might have noticed that over the past two weeks I have not written anything. The reason behind that is I needed to move my blog hosting from Godaddy over to Hostgator. This move was way overdue, and a host of challenges (yuck! yuck!) appeared once I started to make the move.

However, as with anything else online, this was a tremendous learning experience for me. I had to address a lot of buggy problems that have been besetting my site for years now. Great opportunity to start over, and a lot of work getting everything to work right.

I personally want to thank Josh Alexander for his help, and also Marc Benzakein from ServerPress for him walking me through how to set up ServerPress to run a local install for my site before going live.

Below are three things I learned during the move.

Three Lessons From Moving My Blog Hosting

1. Ridiculously Fast Website Speed

All I have to say is a picture is worth a 1000 words.  Then the two pictures below saved me from writing 2,000 words. Safe!

pingdom website speed test

pingdom website page load time

According to Pingdom, my site load speed is now 1.21 seconds. Prior to the reboot, it was around 4-5 seconds. This means my site is now ridiculously fast. More important, notice the sharp, cliff-like drop at the end. That is the power of rebooting your entire website to make sure it works properly.

2. Great Chance To Upgrade Site Over the past two weeks, I have had a chance to play around with Pagelines DMS. This is the free theme that came out a few weeks ago that will give iThemes Builder a run for its money. Check out my Previous Pagelines DMS to learn more about how the theme works.

Wordpress PluginsAdditionally, I have consolidated about 22 plugins into 14 plugins for my site.  Going back to point #1, my site is now ridiculously fast. Also, I am running lean and mean on my site for the first time in years. Plus, I will probably be able to consolidate the number of plugins down another 1-2 in the next few weeks. Plugins like SEO Extended is making my life easier now, so I can ensure all pages have an SEO title and description after the update.

Finally, after switching themes a few times over the years, some of my permalink structures got a bit…wonky. I believe that is the technical term for this.  Redesigning my site actually helped my search results, because when I exported the content onto the local host at Serverpress, I just exported the content, not the pages.

3. Moving Your Blog Hosting Always Take Longer Than You Expect.I thought moving my blog would be easy, because I have BackupBuddy. However, strange forces were at work with this hosting change. First, I did not realize that when I set up my initial back up plugin 3 years ago that the plugin was backing up into my website database. Apparently, it was not going to my remote location.

Do not ask how this happened, because that would be like asking a mouse why they like social media marketing happycheese. It was there.

So,  I looked into manually downloading my website only to find that my site with the constant backups had swelled to over 12 GB of data. Backup Buddy could not even back it up. FTP took almost 2 hours, and the code was an absolute mess.

My best option turned out to be starting over with the content I had from site. Here is what I did. I took exported the content from the site to an XML file. To do this go to tools=>export on your WordPress dashboard. Then I created a local hosting solution with ServerPress.

Imported the content from my site on the local host, and started over again with plugins, themes, etc. All told the changes took about two weeks.  When I was done, my previously 12 GB site was a lean, mean 250 MB speed demon ready to roll. I was then able to use Backup Buddy to move the site over to my hosting account at Hostgator.

What Does Your Blog Hosting Have To Do With Me?

I want you to beware of what you put in your WordPress site. Like many when I started, I had no clue what I was doing. Check out this link for a detailed list of my Blogging Duh Moments.  Learn from my mistakes and make sure everything is working properly. Makes your blog hosting changes a lot easier.

Now, for an important deviation, and critical sales process announcement. If you need blog hosting, use the contact form above. I can help you move your WordPress site over (250 MB max move), and get you started on a low priced plan today. Learn more by using the contact form on this site to discover blog hosting options for your business.

 

 

New Pagelines DMS Theme

Have you taken a look at the new Pagelines DMS theme? This is a free WordPress theme that is just awesome! DMS is a fully customizable theme that works like the premium themes like iThemes Builder. However, DMS is a free theme with responsive design included. Below is the video I took navigating the admin part of the site.

Pagelines DMS Video Walkthrough

Pagelines DMS Pro And Cons

Now that we walked through how to use this theme, let’s talk about how the WordPress theme can be used for your site. What are the pros and cons of DMS in other words.

Pagelines DMS Pros

  1. This is one of the easiest themes to configure. Drag and dropPagelines DMS Drag And Drop technology that can be used by anyone. I love all the different features you can add to different sections of the site. You determine how you want your site to look.
  2. Some of the design elements in this theme are amazing. You can create an ultra-modern site, and make it look professionally done as well.
  3. While there is a professional paid version, the bulk of the features on this theme are free.  Equivalent themes to this go for around $100-$200 or more.

Pagelines DMS Cons

  1. Why does the theme editor only work in Google Chrome? I understand that Chrome is a good browser, but not understanding why this does not work in Firefox and Internet Explorer as well.
  2. Some of the changes on the site are not intuitive, so you might be a bit lost. I had trouble changing the header size, and had to call a friend to find out how it works. Placed a post in the forums as well, and found out that I was not alone there.
  3. The theme does have a few limitations, so if you want really customized work you might still need to speak with a developer.  DMS covers basic changes that most site owners need, but coding is required for a few odds and ends to tie it together.

I am impressed by the new Pagelines DMS. Get the theme here.  Let me know what you think of Pagelines DMS in the comments below?

Get Your Blog Out & Let’s Toast to This Post!

There are two simple rules every blogger must follow in order to grow their brand and audience: update frequently and produce fresh, interesting content. The previous is a simple matter of motivation, while the latter requires a bit more creativity.

Tumblr has almost 102 million blogs, while WordPress and Livejournal combine for more than 120 million, according to Snitchim.com. Though several million of these blogs are unattended, it is safe to assume that you are not the only person blogging about the subject matters covered on your website. The way your blog looks and its timeliness will help get you regular readers, but fresh, unique content is what ultimately drives organic traffic. Here are some proven techniques that can help you generate new content and gain more followers.

Google+

Though Facebook and Twitter get most of the headlines when it comes to social media, Google+ is becoming an essential tool for any blogger who wants to be relevant. Trendstream, a UK market research firm, found earlier this year that Google+ is now second only to Facebook when it comes to active monthly users. Bloggers can tie their websites to their Google+ accounts, which in turn will display their photo and biographical information next to their blog entries that appear in web search results.

Google+ is also a great tool for content generation. Following people, companies and organizations that are relevant to your blog basically creates a feed of information that you, in turn, can crunch into content. iAcquire, a Phoenix-based SEO company, is using the social media platform to great effect. The iAcquire G+ page has 135 people in its G+ “circle,” most of whom work in content strategy, SEO or some other related field. A travel blogger, meanwhile, would want to follow airlines, hospitality sites, and even meteorologists. Google Alerts is another tool bloggers can utilize to have the newest articles with certain keywords emailed to them as they are published.

Interactive Q&A

Whether you blog about daily happenings in the world, or about a product or service you sell, feedback will come in the form of comments and emails from readers. For instance, you may receive an email from a reader declaring that your company caters only to certain individuals and that you are losing business because of this. That one email can be turned into a 500-plus word blog post explaining exactly who and what your company is, along with addressing that individual’s concerns. Not only does this show that you care about individual customer or reader concerns, but shows you are willing to answer criticism. These types of blog posts are great opportunities to retain old customers and gain some new ones in the process.

Re-purpose Old Content

Many bloggers write year-in-review articles at the end of December, basically summarizing and re-hashing some of the things they’ve blogged about throughout the previous year. You could also compile a list of the ten best (and/or worst) comments ever posted on your blog and publish it. Polls are excellent for keeping customers engaged and the results could be made into a story.

Don’t let stale content keep your blog from becoming a player in your industry. Remember to keep it fresh and intriguing, and they will come.

Emotions And Usability

The power of emotions and usability by Ross Johnson at WordCamp Chicago. This is an overview with my unique commentary added into the blog. The power of experiences through websites. Sounds a bit like eMarketing Experience.

The first thing is to figure out what the definition of usability is in a website. How a website interacts with the website visitors. When you come to this website, how do you react to this site. Hopefully, you do not have a violent urge to lose your lunch.

The layout of the site, and how it flows is very important. I have had sites in the past that died quiet deaths, because of the fact that I did not organize the site properly. A good wireframe is important.

So, how do we Emotions drives behavior. Logic is used to justify behavior. Think about the fact that we do so much throughout the day with subconscious emotions that we do not realize. Then we use logic to justify the decision after we make the subconscious decision in the first place.

Good example is the aesthetic usability effect, because looking at something pretty with all else equal makes it more usable. Even though there is no difference in a product. You feel more at ease when something is aesthetically pretty, which makes you more susceptible to not over-analyze the product.

How do you manage emotions on a website?

Don Norman’s Emotional Design is a good foundation to this.  He talks about Visceral, Behavioral, and Reflective emotions.

Gut (Visceral)-Our old brain, the most powerful emotions to control through design. They happen really fast, because these are the old survival instincts. Is the site dangerous or an opportunity. You feel uncomfortable in a dark, place. Conversely, in a bright place you feel comfortable.

The reason this is important, is because we are all very similar in our actions and thoughts, because our similar biology. So, if you see an image that is important you it causes a physical reaction. However, small the physical reaction, which will charge their emotions. A picture of your mother will stimulate you more than a picture of a strange woman.

You are putting them in the right frame of mind. Consider Facebook. The entire site works because you see your friends pictures.

Heart (Behavioral)-Take the cost benefit principle mentioned in the presentation. If you feel like you will get more out of an action then you will do it.  This why we like short forms on a website versus long, obnoxious forms. Why fill it out if you do not need to. Make things simple for visitors. Visual Stimuli

Dont read instructions unless we have to, which is why long instructions scare people. How many people read a TOS? Why?

Hick’s Law: The more options you have the longer it will take to make a decision. Therefore, sites with multiple options scare people. While you might get more people to the site, you will see less sales percentage wise.

Head (Reflective):  Validate the conscious emotions, influenced by nostalgia, collective memories, class emotions, etc. Your emotions are different when you think of a Thanksgiving dinner, based upon your up-bringing. happy thanksgiving

How will people remember the site, so will it be a positive or negative experience with the site.  If a site looks prestigious then it will help you feel more prestigious and perception to be in this group.

Customize A Website Based On Users Emotions

Using this combination of emotions and usability will change how you create your site to increase conversions and convey the right branding for your site.

 

 

Stop Making Your Site Pretty, Start Designing WordCamp Presentation

Listening to Michelle Schulp at WordCamp Chicago talk about how a website that is designed well, not just beautiful. Part of this discussion will be for business owners and part for designers. So, if you do have questions as a website owner please make sure to ask.

Design is about Problem-Solving. Design is not for the the designer, not art, and not for your customer. The following sites are

sites that serve a purpose, but are not traditionally great designs.

Google Website Screenshot

Google-is very simple and minimalist, but a very effective site.

Lings Car Screenshot

Ling won an award for the worst designed site, but make millions of dollars.

Good web design is about solving the problem. What we like is irrelevant, because it has to make sense in context of it’s audience.

Our goals as website owners and designers is to make sure that we convert a feeling about the color and look of a logo or background color, and turn it into goals. Then we add that along with the budget, and a complete design process.

Design a website is like Jazz, you have a beat to what works in the site.  This is the process she uses.

Good way to do this is to have a gray screen prototype and a white screen prototype.

The Grayscreen Prototype is a functional site that has no visual elements, and address the general layout of the site. Use WordPress themes helps with these prototypes.

Design: Style Tiles-Addressing the different graphics styles for the site. Looking solely at colors and graphics that can be added to the site.

Design: Style Guides-start putting everything together.

Design Specific Graphics-This is where we set up the different graphics that we need for the client.

WhiteScreen Prototype: Full functionality with plugins and development. Need customer sign off from client.  Content creation should be created at this time as well to fit the design of the site and fit with the structure.

Then you start using testing and design to make sure everything is working, and that the entire structure works together with the users.

Design adds value to the client by elaborating their business strategies.

Here is Michelle’s LinkedIn Page. The slides from the presentation are below for clarification of her discussion.