Archive for January, 2017

SEMrush

Saturday, January 21st, 2017 | Tech

SEMrush is a competitor analysis tool for online marketing. Specifically, they focus on Google. You can enter a keyword and it will bring up a report that shows you:

  • Volume of traffic
  • Related keywords
  • What the search results are for it
  • Who is running paid ads
  • Copies of the ads they are running
  • A history of the ads for that keyword

Then, if you want to look at a specific competitor, you can bring up a domain report. This shows you:

  • How much organic search they are getting
  • What keywords it is coming from
  • Copies of the adverts they are running
  • What keywords they are bidding on
  • How much they are spending on paid advertising
  • Where their backlinks are coming from
  • Who their main competitors are

They also have a projects feature where you can enter your website and SEMrush will track it. This includes crawling it to find broken links and other bugs, as well as offering SEO advice: does a specific page have too little text or too many keywords?

It is super-useful for marketing. However, it also expensive. Their lowest package, which only allows you to create five projects, is $70 per month. They offer a free 30-day trial (for the pro account, the guru account trial is only 14 days) if you search around for it, which is time enough to evaluate if it will deliver enough benefit to cover the cost.

BriteVerify

Friday, January 20th, 2017 | Tech

Email is a word of trouble these days. Most of it spam. So everyone, ISPs and users alike, put up huge defences against the spam. These are typically so aggressive that a huge amount of legitimate email gets caught in the net. For example, gMail categorises anyone emailing Anxiety Leeds as spam. Most ISPs block any email from Leeds Skeptics also.

However, email is still really useful and probably the most powerful form of online communication, so everyone is still using it. You have to find a way to make it work. One of the important ways of doing this is protecting your reputation. You cannot be sending emails to the wrong accounts, or accounts that do not exist.

When I started a course to teach IT contracting, I had a problem. I was giving away my first set of lessons, and a book. All you have to do is register and you get it all for free. But people were registering with fake email addresses or other people’s email addresses. To stop this, I put in a double-opt-in system, in which you had to click the link I emailed to you.

However, still meant I had to send an email to a possibly fake email address. Not to mention that people started using disposable email addresses.

So, I integrated BriteVerify. They have an API where you can check whether an email address exists or not. They check the MX records of a domain, filter out disposable email addresses, and does a few other checks.

Does it work? Mostly, yes. It passed on all the test email addresses I gave it. In the real world, it is not perfect, but it does provide an easy way for me to automatically screen out obvious fakes. They maintain a list of disposable email address providers for example. I have my own blacklist, but there’s is much more comprehensive than mine.

The downside is that a) it costs money ($0.01 per check with no free tier) and b) that it will slightly slow down the response times of my page while I am speaking to their API. Given that registration is a one-time process, though, so far it has proven worth it.

Unbounce

Thursday, January 19th, 2017 | Tech

Unbounce is a WYSIWYG editor for building landing pages. If you have no coding skills, you can whip up a landing page for your business by dragging and drop elements onto pre-built templates.

I have been wondering whether approaching everything as a coder is a distraction from building my businesses online. Maybe I should use more tools like this and concentrate on building the business, not the website code. It certainly does allow you to get up-and-running very quickly.

It also has some good integrations: I can easily drop my MailChimp account in there, for example. It also supports building a desktop version and a mobile version at the same time. As you drag elements in for one version, they appear on the other. You can then toggle between them and adjust each one individually.

Some things I found frustrating. For example, centring text. When coding, I would make the box 100% width, and therefore it would be in the centre regardless of the screen size. However, Unbounce requires you to create boxes with a specific size and then adjust the size for the different breakpoints.

Also, I did not feel it added too much value. Yes, it allowed me to create a page, add some integrations and create A/B variants. That is all useful stuff. But, I could do that myself. It does not provide step-by-step funnels and chain-linking pages that some of the competition seems to offer. I enjoyed my free trial, but ultimately, I have decided I can do without it for now.

WATCH: Video preview of Trump inauguration speech

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017 | Religion & Politics, Video

On Friday, Donald Trump will be inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States. Unless Obama resigns tomorrow, and Joe Bidden takes over, in which case Trump will be the 46th president. That seems unlikely, though.

It has been a hard time filling the bill. Celine Dion, Charlotte Church, Elton John, Moby and Rebecca Ferguson (and possibly many others) all declined offers to perform. Some because they wanted to make a political statement that they do not like Trump. However, for others, it could simply be that they already had plans.

Here is what Trump is expected to say in his inauguration speech…

How to be more productive

Tuesday, January 17th, 2017 | Success & Productivity

Over the holiday period, Freakonomics Radio was rebroadcasting old episodes. One of which was how to be more productive. I had already listened to the episode once, but it felt like the kind of topic you could always use a refresher on.

On the episode, Dubner interviews Charles Duhigg (great surname, right?), author of The Power of Habit. In the book, Duhigg tries to boil down what are the universal aspects of people who are successful in achieving their goals.

Interesting, he starts by dismissing an idea many of us may consider important: having one goal and solely focusing on that. Duhigg explains that he only wanted things that everyone agreed on. A single goal was not one of them. Many people would say “you have to focus on one goal: it’s essential.” But others would say “you have to be flexible, you cannot commit yourself to one goal.”

So what does make the list?

  1. Self-motivation: making a decision to do something helps trigger this
  2. Focus: training yourself to focus on the right things and ignore everything else
  3. Goal-setting: you need a big stretch goal which is your ultimate objective, and then a short-term goal that you can action tomorrow morning
  4. Decision-making: think probabilistically, considering the outcomes and weighing how likely they are to occur
  5. Innotvation: take cliches and mix them together in new ways; being interdisaplinary can help with this
  6. Absorbing data:
  7. Managing others: give the problem to the person closest to it
  8. Teams: who is on a team matters more than what the team does

Those are the eight characteristics Duhigg finds consistent across successful people.

As for how many projects you should be working on, the answer seems to be enough to make things interesting, but not so many that you cannot devote enough time to each. The people who are most productive work on 4-5 projects. Critically, these should all be different so that it teaches you new skills.

OptIn Monster

Monday, January 16th, 2017 | Tech

Earlier this month, I trialled OptIn Monster. It is a set of lead generation tools designed to help you convert visitors into return users. I have been using it on my personal blog, as well as the Leeds Restaurant Guide.

For my blog, I used their footer bar. As you scrolled down the page, a bar would appear to ask you if you wanted to get the blog posts in a weekly email. I like this because it is a not intrusive way to offer some extra value to visitors. It does not stop you reading but lets you know my newsletter is there. The problem was that when the bar loaded in, it changed the font of my titles.

By the way, if you did want to sign up for that newsletter, it is still available: you can find it at the bottom of each blog post page.

With the guide, I used exit intent offers. These are dialogues that appear just as the visitor is about to close their browser tab. In this case, I offered them the first three chapters of the guide for free. Again, that is still available on the guide’s website. In this case, I couldn’t seem to get the offer to trigger.

The toolset itself is a great idea, but the implementation is not perfect yet.

How to Exit Vim released

Sunday, January 15th, 2017 | Books, News

Today is the day: How to Exit Vim is now available to buy.

Vim is a command-line text editor in Linux. It is notoriously difficult to get out of it once you have gone in. So, I have written a book about how to do it. It does not cover anything else: the only stuff in there is about how to quit Vim. It has 19 chapters.

Granted, the chapters are not very long. I have broken down each scenario and the correct command to use for each. That means it has nearly as many chapters as it does pages. But who really wants to trawl through 400 pages? When you are stuck in Vim, you want an answer and you want it fast. This book gives you exactly what you need; no fluff.

This is the blurb:

This book does not cover anything except how to exit Vim. It has 19 chapters.

Have you ever found yourself trapped in the command-line text editor Vim? If so, this book could save you from tearing your hair out. It breaks down each situation you may find yourself in, and the correct exit command to get you to safety.

Without it, you may find yourself losing work, overwriting critical data, getting lost in a sea of tabs, or worst of all, looking stupid in front of the stern-looking system administrator standing behind you.

With it, people will think you are a wizard. Finally, a way to unlock the mysteries of quitting Vim without leaving a trail of destruction behind you.

Sounds awesome, right? But it gets better. Because the best part about it is the value: I’ve priced it really low. It’s £2.99. When people give away books for free, they charge $7 shipping. This is half the price of a free book.

Look, I am not saying that if you know all of these Vim commands, more women will have sex for you. Even though, most of us who work in IT suspect that is true. That may not interest you. You may, for example, be a straight woman. In which case, I am not saying that knowing all these commands will get you a job as a Google engineer. But…

Finally, one last point from me. Take a look at the cover:

That is a cover that says “this book is amazing”. Why? Because the cover is so basic. It is called sated strength. Other books, inferior books, come up with hugely flashy covers because they know that is the only way they are going to sell. A cover like this says “wow, this book is good it does not even need a professionally designed cover”.

It is available now from Amazon and iBooks.

The maze is solvable, by the way. Here is a bonus activity: if you take it into Paint, draw the correct route through it, and send it to me within the next week, I will send you a copy of the book completely free.

IT Contracting Master Class launches

Saturday, January 14th, 2017 | News

Today, the full version of the IT Contracting Master Class launches. How exciting, right?

We have been developing the course over the last couple of months and a dozen people have gone through the beta programme. Since then we have added even more lessons and content. The course notes, for example, now contain over 15,000 words.

I have built the business model on one thing: delivering value. When you sign up, for free, you get the first five lessons and an eBook First Steps in IT Contracting. The stuff in there alone will help you organise your career more effectively and write a far better CV.

The full version is even better. It takes people through each task step-by-step, making it really easy to make the leap. If you prefer to read or want to revise, there are the course notes. Then, as you do each task you mark it as done with the checklist system. And, if you are having problems, there is a private community to ask questions in.

It is also half price for the first 72 hours: not an offer to be missed.

Work email rules

Friday, January 13th, 2017 | Success & Productivity

Want to free up a couple of minutes of productive time in the office? My friend John taught me this email rule, and it is worth implementing…

Anyone who puts two exclamation marks in the subject line is not someone whose emails you need to read.

Scientific Advertising

Thursday, January 12th, 2017 | Books

Scientific Advertising is an incredible book. Why? Because it is the online marketing bible. Everyone in online marketing is talking about it. This in itself would be a pretty impressive feat for a book. But it gets even more incredible: it was written in 1923.

How is this possible? How does the entire global e-commerce industry run on a book written before computers even existed?

The answer is that technology may change, but human psychology does not. The author, Claude C Hopkins, was writing about how to sell products by direct mail. In the book, he lays down a series of principles that had been proven to work. You could replicate them, and it turns out you can replicate the same strategies in the online age as well.

Here is what David Ogilvy said about it:

“Nobody, at any level, should be allowed to have anything to do with advertising until he has read this book seven times. It changed the course of my life.”

Best of all, it is now available free to download. For anyone looking to sell anything, this is a must-read.