Top web designers get paid in cows

Eoghan McCabe and Ken Stanley are doing some work on a website for us. Under wraps until it’s complete, but even at this stage it looks very slick. This work is as a result of Eoghans win a web design competition so they’re refusing to take any payment for it. So what do you do to show their appreciation? You buy them a cow.
I don’t know what the going rate (in cows) are for Eoghan’s and Ken’s services, so this is only a token amount. And the cow goes to Africa via Oxfam Ireland rather than An Post leaving it at your doorstep. Although once Ken found out about his bovine-surprise, he threatened to track it down and BBQ it himself.

And yes, if you’ve been reading this blog for while, you’ll know that I’m a serial cow buyer.

Denise Fay (Achieve Marketing) – the latest Irish Business Blogger

Denise Fay of Achieve Marketing is finally blogging over at achievemarketing.ie. The guide to Business Blogging in Ireland is a direct result of Denise’s Marketing Session at the Ballymascanlon Hotel, Dundalk, but even so , it’s taken 6 months of intimidation sorry encouragement since the Barcamp Belfast meetup to get Denise to this point (she insists on using her time to look after customers).

A couple of things that I’ve learnt if you want to get people in your business network blogging:

    1. Everybody wants the site traffic, but not everybody can / wants to make the effort. Not everybody is suited to writing stuff (but then again, they’re probably a natural at professional networking). Denise writes press releases already , so not only does she have interesting stories to tell, but she has those stories already written down.
    2. Blogging probably seems natural to you now, but you forget how much you’ve learned. Set aside some time to go through the basics with your victim. 1 hr should be enough if you’ve done the ground work (i.e. have wordpress already setup). Get a blogpost out within the first 10 minutes (to show how easy it is). Then work your way through the other tabs in wordpress. Concepts (like categories, linking , trackbacks, url structure) will naturally flow in the conversation.
    3. I was lucky that Denise had already setup Google Analytics for some of her clients. Even so the latest version of wordpress makes setting up analytics easy , and those charts are so damn addictive!
    4. I found that a combination of having the new blog (Achieve Marketing) and my one (People and Technology) open at the same , and flicking between the the old and new blogs worked well. Some stuff like themes, archived blogposts, spam prevention is easier to understand on a blog that’s been in use for a while.

To set the background, Denise is very knowledgable about her area (Marketing), has people to get the techie stuff done and definitely knows more about the web than she admits, but would in no way be classed as a ‘techie’!

Business Blogging in Ireland – Who, What , When, Where and Why

At yesterday’s Plato marketing training event, the topic of business blogging came up. Seems like our 100,000+ unique visitors is nothing in the blogging world, but most Small to Medium Irish Business (SME’s) would kill for that kind of traffic. So since I’m an ‘expert’ (and when exactly did that happen ?!) here’s the 10 minute guide to get your business on it’s way.

Plato rules presume that member companies remain confidential (until they choose to break cover!). So, if you want to leave a comment below (feel free to link back to your website) I’ll be happy to apply the advice below to your business. I don’t sell blogging advice (although there is a business idea!) – more Irish Business Bloggers there are the better (all, hopefully, linking from their websites back to here!)

What is blogging?

  • A Blog is a new way of doing that same old things. You already network, talk (and listen!) to your customers and are passionate about publicising the thing you love (your business idea). A Blog just helps you do the same things online.
  • A Blog is the easiest way to update a website. If you can email (remember how scary that used to be?) you can blog. And yes, I can give examples to back that one up. And that’s you updating it, not paying some web design company to do it.
  • A Blog is the quickest way to get a good website. If you haven’t a website, a blog is the quickest way to get one. It does most of the Vodoo Search Engine stuff out of the box. Likewise, a blog can easily added to your existing website.
  • A Blog is an online Diary. Think one of those reality TV shows. But about your business. And without Jade Goody in it. There is a reason that ‘Big Brother’ and ‘Blogs’ score highest in the ratings – they’re all about people. Remember ; People don’t buy your business, they buy you.
  • A Blog lets you have conversations with your customers. It allows customers to say what they think about you on your website.Scary? Yes. But not as scary as not hearing what they are saying about you.Yes you can delete offensive comments, but I’ve only had to remove 2 out of 700 comments in the last 3 years.

The Who, What, When , Where and Why of Irish Business Blogging

Who should blog

  • You, as the owner of your business. If you have people who are equally passionate, then (a) you’re very lucky and (b) you should let them write as well. But chances are, it’s going to be you.
  • Blogging works very well for people in the professional services area. There are hundreds of people in IT, but blogging lets me stand out and gives me credibility.
  • I’m confident (and can give examples) of ways of how Hotels and Tourism, Shops and Engineering Companies can blog successfully), but it’s a little be fuzzier (i.e. not direcly linked to my personal experience)
What should they talk about

  • Talk about what you love – your business. But remember who you’re talking to; your customers, and people who will either link to you online, or recommend you to new customers.
  • I find a personal style works best. We’ve all seen the bland corporate website and we don’t believe them. Speak personally of your experience.
  • Set your own red lines, and respect them. I don’t blog about my personal life (or lack of it!). I don’t reveal customer details. But outside of that, if it’s interesting, I’ll talk about anything it.
When (or how much time is involved)

  • Like all marketing , you’re in this for the long haul. It’s important that you measure using Google Analytics (free). You’ll be surprised at what works and what doesn’t.
  • Blogging is cheap in money but expensive in your time. I reckon about 1hr per week for a post like this one, sometimes more, sometimes less.
  • Don’t forget the extra time involved in publicising your blog; leaving useful comments / links on other sites back to yours. But you’d be doing this anyway as you surf the web.
Where do people find out about your business /blog

  • Those comments on other (relevent) sites and more popular blogs link back to yours. If somebody likes your comment, then they will often come back to your blog.Remember, useful comments not spam! – your comment /link should always add to the site you are leaving them on.
  • Google loves blogs, because of all those incoming links.
  • The links on the top left of the page allow you to subscribe to this blog as if it were an email newsletter. Some people like this. Most people prefer RSS; Like an email newsletter RSS notifies you of new content but, RSS gives you a summary of all the blogs you are interested in. And it doesn’t clog up your inbox. I use Google Reader, but there is plenty of choice out there.
Why

  • Because you’d like more business. You do want more business, right? The only question: ‘is blogging the best use of my time?’
How
Two main choices, the second one being better as it gives you more choice.

  • Sign up for a free blogging account at Blogger.com (backed by Google)
  • Ask your (existing / new) web host for the following. It should cost a lot less then Eur500 , including the first year’s hosting.

‘I’d like WordPress (free) setup on my website at www.mywebsitename/blog. Use one of the standard templates. Please add Google Analytics (free) to the this template. Please explain where I can get the number (from Google) that you will need for the analytics. When finished let me know the address, username and password to log into my blog.

Remember, blogging is cheap to try out (in money , if not in your time) . It’s still new enough to forgive people who make mistakes. Dive in , give it a go, and when (not if) you learn something new, tell me about it.

And after all that, you couldn’t be bothered blogging?
Try LinkedIn.com. As a business networking tool , it’s excellent, with more Irish business contacts than anywhere else.

Damien Mulley is the number one threat to Irish Productivity

Forget inflation, overpaid government ministers or a still bubbling Irish property market. The hot news (coming an inside contact) is that according to Webmarshal and Websense (Net nanny type products that many Corporates use to restrict access to certain websites), the biggest threat to Irish Economic Success is ….

DamienMulleyBlocked

Damien Mulley (Warning: site may contain opinions on Irish Broadband and Comreg dangerous to corporate web filters).Paul Watson has more on his Websense issues.
Yes, who would have thought it. Apparently Damien, organizer of the Irish Blog awards and PR Guru by day, is actually a dangerous left wing subversive determined to undermine the economic foundations of the Irish state. Think a Cork version of Che Guevara. Or maybe I’m just jealous that this blog isn’t important enough to get banned. Well, it did get Frankie goes to Hollywood to number one in the UK Charts.

What is strange is that there are several other ‘higher profile’ sites that are not blocked. ‘Higher Profile’ includes one that is valued in Billion Dollar range. In general, the site of banned sites is ‘bought in’ from WebMarshals centrally maintained list , so I would expect this ban to have a substantial (but not crippling) effect on Damiens Google Analytics Stats. And that’s before we get into the ethics of not trusting well paid employees to manage their own time.

Do I have a better suggestion on how corporates can manage their web access? Yes; let all employees access any website. Then publish the web-surfing records (everything is recorded you know) on the company intranet. Amazing how much productivity will improve. As it is, any intelligent employee could find their way around the current set of net filters.

And the 19th Best Irish Blog (by incoming Links) is …

According to Justin Mason’s List, it’s this blog (People and Technology). We’re number 19 by incoming links, number 22 by bookmarks and number 45 by Technorati rank. No , I don’t understand the numbers either – just happy to be in the top 100.

Given that Tom is off to Spain, Grandad has Retired (allegedly) and Donncha’s page rank is being pummeled by Google, all I need is for Lucky the Laughing Assassin (of Twenty Major fame) to bump off both John and Michele and I’ll be well on my way to the top 10.

How much does it cost, Twenty?

British Midland's – BMI – Dirty Little Online Checkin Secret

Flew Dublin – Heathrow again last week – this time with BMI (British Midland International). It’s what all Java consultants do – pop on the plane to London to see a client. Now I like BMI, not least because they provide a bit of competition for Aer Lingus. I like Web Checkin. A lot. See my post on how to use Web Checkin to solve Dublin Airport’s problems. But BMI have a (bad) secret about their online check-in that they don’t tell you until after you have paid for your flight.

BMI Logo
Online or Web checkin means you print your boarding card before you leave home. It means you arrive at the airport , walk straight through security and enjoy a coffee while waiting for your flight to board. For Aer Lingus it’s great on a day trip; print both boarding cards the night before you leave. For BMI there’s a glitch; you cannot print your return boarding card until after you arrive in London.

What? On your busy-day-with-client-not-one-second-to-spare you are expected to start printing pieces of paper. What is worse, you only find this out after you pay your money. Called the Flight Helpdesk ‘we have a lot of people complaining about that Sir’. Mail to BMI customer service, no reply.

The moral of this story is not to complain about BMI (although here’s my Ajax related Rant about Scandanavian Airlines if that’s your thing , or Mulley’s lost baggage saga if you prefer). And yes, I should be glad of a choice of flights to Heathrow (see Limerick Bloggerand Bock the Robber)

No, the moral of the story is that IT systems (yes the geeky bits) can have a huge impact on customers in traditional business (you know, the ones that pay you money). Being the helpful people we are, we’ll even show BMI how to fix this using Business Rules. Somewhere, deep in the bowels of the BMI system code, Someone, a long long time again decided ‘no one will ever want to check in before they leave’ . And now that it’s spaghetti code, it can’t be fixed, leaving a lot of unhappy customers.

SEO for Blogs – help Google find your older content

Richard Hearne writes (a bit) about Search Engine Optimisation for Bloggers. One point that he made in his review of Pat Phelan’s (Roam4Free) site was how to help Google find your older content. Taking this advice, I’ve installed the WordPress Page Navigation Plugin on this blog – it’s the widget giving the ‘Page 1..2..3..end’ at the top of this site.

Blog Page Views

Without this plugin , all wordpress gives you by default is a single ‘previous page’ link. A user (or Google) might have to follow 15 or so links to get all your articles. Now it is all linked from the home page of your blog.

Almost as important as the number of visitors to the site, is what they do when they get there. You can see from the Google Analytics above , that the average visitor reads one and half pages on this site. (Is this Good? Is this Bad? – let me know) This could be multiple articles (there are about 20 per page), but the number isn’t really moving over time. I’m hoping the plugin can shift these numbers (up) even a little bit.

(Almost) Related Update and links (via Damien) : If you want to know more about SEO optimisation for WordPress, Matt Cutts of Google had a very interesting talk. A transcript of the video and a summary are also available.