(Ok, I’ll admit it. I really wanted to name this post “Google+, the WordPress Killer, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it.)
Today, knowing I’m always good for a rant on content strategy, a friend of mine shared a Google+ Post from logIT.net. In it, the company (logIT) explains why it isn’t going to create a traditional blog. Instead, it’s going to use Google+ as its blogging platform. Needless to say, it didn’t even take five seconds for me to think of a list of reasons why this is a bad idea. Sadly, it took me well over 3 hours to write them all down.
So, grab yourself a coffee and make yourself comfortable. (Slightly edited post below.)
Using Google+ to Deliver Your Content? Might Want to Rethink That
Well, I have to give logIT.net points for creative thought and ingenuity, but aside from that, I’m afraid I’m just not on board with the idea. Why not? Well, where do I start?
How about the value of a blog? This varies drastically, but let’s take a quick stab at estimating it, shall we?
Let’s be generous and say you can write a post in an hour (I usually spend 2-3 hrs. Hell, I spent longer than an hour writing my reply and I didn’t even have to stop to research anything, nor did I edit it. Sorry.). Now, let’s say you post 3 times a week. That’s 3 hours a week, or 156 hours a year. Let’s assume you only run a blog for the average of just 33.8 months before running out of steam and letting it die.
33.8 months / 12 months in a year = 2.81 years x 156 hours = about 439 hours.
How much does the average blogger make an hour in their day jobs? Because this is logIT, let’s use web developers as an example and say it’s an average of £20. That means your blog is a £8,780 investment.
(Of course, there’s sales, links, etc. here as well, but for the time being, let’s stick with the almost £9K investment.)
And now that we’re on the same page, let’s go through some of the particulars.
“Google+ may not go anywhere.”
This is arguable, at best, regardless of how many users it has. The only one who knows this for sure is Google, and many times, I wonder if they even know what they’re doing. But, I digress. Are you really comfortable risking an £8,780 investment on the assumption that G+ isn’t going anywhere? How about MySpace? Still confident with this assumption?
To be honest, the idea of Google doing away with G+ isn’t my biggest worry. My biggest concern is this: What happens if Google changes its format? What if it no longer handles large amounts of content well? What if it’s no longer “blog friendly”?
Consider the changes Facebook as made to its platform and how many users it has. Are you still sure? I’d like to think they wouldn’t, but I sure as heck wouldn’t be banking a significant portion of my brand and marketing strategy on it.
Ah, but you can export it, logIT argues. Sure you can, but what about everything you’ve built up here? Anyone who has moved a website to a new domain will tell you it takes a lot of work to get the traffic and engagement back.
What about all the things you’ll lose because you don’t own it? Comments, for example. Their lead dev and another member of the company state Google’s API allows you to export comments, but are you going to ask permission from each person before republishing their comments elsewhere? Isn’t that sort of like content theft?
I’d have to dig through Google’s terms of service, but even if it isn’t, I’m not sure it’s ethical. Just because I’ve left this comment here doesn’t mean I want you to take this comment and republish it on YOUR blog, where it’s away from the eyes of MY followers. If I leave the comment on your blog, that’s different. It means I felt the blog was worthy of the time, effort, energy, and thought that I put into my comments.
“Google never killed a product without liberating the data.”
Heh. There’s always a first time. And you know what? They don’t care. They only have one focus, and I promise you it’s not your content and marketing strategy.
As far as I’m concerned, you should never rely solely on one company for your marketing, income, finances, or anything else. ALWAYS have an out. Don’t know why? Just ask some of the sites that lost their rankings with the recent updates. Or, the site that lost most of its income because Google shut down its AdSense account for no apparent reason, without warning. Or, talk to the freelancer who relied on one client for his income only to have that client sell the company. He lost his contract and all his income with it. This isn’t a rare occurrence. Do a search. It happens all the time.
Google+ Is a Thousand Times Easier to Get Sharing and Interaction
Really? REALLY? I’m willing to bet that the thousands of people out there struggling to create and build a successful G+ page would be all too happy to argue with you. What’s the difference between building up a following on your own website VS building it on someone else’s site?
- Spam/Troll control
What am I missing? You write a post and publish it on your blog, and you market it on your social networks. Google+ posts? You write the content, publish it, and market it to your social networks.
logIT even admitted to using the same cross-seeding and promotion tactics with their G+ concept in their post above:
“12. Google+ = Twitter + Facebook + Tumblr + Blog combined.” And ” 8. We’ve already built personal connections on Google+ which we will use to blow some wind into our sails, now that we’re just starting out.”
Would those same connections and techniques not do the same if it were just a link back to your blog post with maybe some extra info or an opinion? I would think so. Otherwise, the millions of other brands and bloggers using G+ are totally making up their share numbers.
Blogs not only come in with plenty of built in options, but there are hundreds and thousands of plugins that make it simple and easy to automate various processes AND customise their functionality to meet the needs of your audience.
Google+? logIT states it has “everything you need in a blog is already implemented into Google+”. While there might be some kind of addon section hidden somewhere, I’ve yet to see it. This means it’s tailored to the needs of the blogger, but not necessarily his target audience OR his readers (which, by the way, isn’t always the same group of users).
While we’re on the topic of user interfaces…
Google+’s Horrible UI
Google+ is poorly designed when it comes to managing vast amounts of content. If you go to someone’s profile, there’s no way to sort the content they shared other than by the type of content it is (image, video, text). There are no categories, no tags, nothing. You can’t organise any of it in a way that makes sense, easy to use, or even find.
You can’t format the posts.
You can’t add more than one image/video per post.
You can’t control the layout.
Don’t think these are important? Talk to a designer. As far as I’m concerned, this is an entire topic unto itself.
The comments aren’t even threaded for cripes sakes. Wait…let’s discuss the comments, shall we? Unlike a blog, Google+ doesn’t combine all of the comments onto one page, in one location.
If you want to see all the conversation surrounding a particular article, you have to click through and follow all of the shares to see everything. How is this better? I’m confused. Sure, it means the possibility of expanding your reach because the conversation is spread from one end of G+ to the next.
What good is it if readers can’t access the really juicy conversation that’s 12 or 13 shares down? There isn’t even a small chance that they’ll get sucked into the content through the discussion.
The other little glitch is that you have to expand the posts to view them. How much attention is your pillar content going to get if it looks the same as the rest of the content?
Oh!. I almost forgot. While make it possible for G+ users to search and find content by topic, I’m pretty sure blogs have a similar feature. It’s called “tags”. Then, when you share it on networks like G+ and Twitter, you can add there.
There’s no rule that says thehave to be used in the content. Why not share a comment when you share the link and add the in there? All in all, though, I can’t help but wonder if Google+ and Google+ will be overrun with spam and made pretty much unusable. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen this happen somewhere else before, and I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather have clean, usable tags.
What about the wealth of other sites, systems, and platforms that make use of blog content? RSS readers, content curation tools, etc.? If they’re not using any sort of blogging platform, how does logIT propose to make use of all these other tools that move, share, and summarise blog content? I can say from personal experience that most of my backlinks and blog-inspired conversions came through RSS readers and other such tools.
(Image Courtesy of Nik Hewitt)
“A platform does influence your blogging behaviour.”
So, just to satisfy my curiosity, how IS Google+ influencing their blogging behaviour? Is this something you really want Google influencing?
Somewhere in their comments logIT mentions G+ makes their blogging shorter and to the point. If that’s the style they prefer, what’s the difference? Why not compose their content in the little G+ input box and paste it into their blog afterward if they can’t do it in a word doc?
Ask any content strategist or anyone with experience in content-based marketing and they’ll tell you variety is key. In fact, I can’t be bothered to read most 200-word articles because they have little to no value. There are very, very few writers in this world who can present and explore a topic successfully in 300 words or less.
Most of the time, this kind of content seems to do nothing more than encourage bloggers to keep mimicking themselves and spreading the same old crap they’ve been blogging about for years. They can pound out posts in 30 minutes or less, and they never once address the other goals of the blog or the needs of their readers. I’m not saying you can’t blog successfully with nothing more than short posts. I’m saying you need to consider the role the blog plays in your marketing and make sure to address all of them, not just the author’s lack of time or the audience’s short attention span.
“Our peers and also our target customers are here”
That’s fantastic. It really is, but what about the tons of others who aren’t on Google+? Surely logIT doesn’t think “everyone who’s anyone” using G+. If that is the case, they’ve created a fatal flaw and a fantastic hole in the market. Their competitors are going to love it. Sure, readers can see the content, but that’s about it. They can’t comment, and because of a lack of social sharing buttons, it’s difficult to share. And if they fail to cross-promote the content on other networks, the only ones who will ever see it are G+ users.
Facebook uses this concept. Any content published on Facebook is limited to FB users. No one else can see it, and therefore, sharing it is usually useless. There are tonnes of people in every crowd who refuse to use the platform, so that cuts into your overall reach.
Another question I have when it comes to G+ and their target market is intent — are logIT’s users using G+ specifically to find content that will eventually lead to some kind of return? I don’t know because I haven’t done any research and have no idea what logIT’s business model is, but I can’t help but cringe a little bit here. I hope they didn’t fall into the trap of assuming their target audience uses G+ the same way they do, without any sort of research or data to back that up.
Obviously, if their target audience IS using Google+ to find and consume content in a profitable way, their competition will be using it, as well. Keeping in mind the crap UI and inability to customise pretty much everything, doesn’t this mean they’re relying on the chance they might be seen? This places a lot of stress and emphasis on their headlines and intros. If this is the case, I hope they’ve hired a good copywriter, videographer, and photographer because they’re going to need it, especially since they’re placing most of the emphasis on just one network.
SEO and the Value of G+
First of all, never, never, never, never blog for SEO sake. If that’s all you’re doing, quit now and move to something faster and cheaper. Like article marketing, maybe. Sure the introduction of G+ into the SERPs has added yet another ranking factor, but it’s just ONE of what is arguably hundreds of factors. So they get a G+ post to rank in the SERPs. So what? What about the rankings of their own site?
I realize that getting G+ content to rank has its benefits. But is it REALLY benefiting the site? Is it going to convert? I don’t know about you, but I would much rather have visitors coming to my own site than Google+. At least then they’ll get familiar with my brand and get an idea of what I offer. Ideally, a good blogger is exposing readers to his products and services in an attempt to convert them. That can’t happen on Google+.
logIT would likely argue that blogging purely about the traffic, but I’d like to argue that I have no idea what logIT does, offers, or even if it’s good at what it does. Why? There’s no context. Granted, I COULD click through to their site to have a look, but I just can’t be bothered to check. Why should I? They haven’t given me a reason to make the extra clicks, wait for their site to load, and then look around for the answers. I didn’t even bother to click through to their profile page because there was no need to.
I guess what I’m saying here is that SEO is important, but if there’s no conversion and very little context, there isn’t going to be much ROI in it, either.
And don’t even get me started on the whole rel=”author” thing. That was quite a misguided comment made by logIT, as far as I’m concerned. Rel=”author” is about the writer, not who’s publishing or where it’s been published. The idea is that Google will be able to follow that writer regardless of where he or she has content published. So what good is publishing solely on G+ going to do? What does that do for your authority level? “No, I haven’t been published on any authority sites, but I do publish content on Google+” ??
Think of it this way:
If I want to build an authority site on rock music, I’m going to get authors to publish content on my site who are authorities on their respective subjects. Lots of industry big wigs. Think of it like a newspaper, with a special writer for each section or column. How are you going to manage that if all you have is G+? By the way, can I guest post on your blog? Oh…wait a minute…you don’t have one, and there’s no point in me publishing on your site as an article or white paper because very few people ever go there.
So, you’re not building your site’s authority. What about the other ranking factors? How about freshness? If you’re not blogging, are you regularly updating your web copy? How about those situations where your target audience isn’t looking for a product or service? One example of this is things like cloud computing and other new concepts that target audiences don’t know exist. They’re searching for a way to sync multiple computers, for example.
Or, what about services/products that aren’t often associated with a provider… web developers who create and sell branded apps, for example, instead of just code websites. While I’d like to think you can create a page for each scenario, it’d be pretty difficult to do in a number of instances. Most of the time, this would result in creating pages specifically for SEO purposes, and we all know how Google views these pages.
Overall, I’m glad logIT enjoys Google+, finds it easy to use, and has found success with it. I’d like to think logIT thought this through, but to be honest, their post was too short and failed to explain any of the reasoning behind any of the points they made. As far as I can tell from those few words, it looks to me like the company saw posting on G+ as a short cut. In my experience, short cuts always cost way more in the end than they saved.
I had a lot of good rants and brain dumps this week. There was the GM debacle and death of its $10 million Facebook ad campaign and the debate about blog spam and what to do about it. I also shared some of the tools I use behind the scenes to keep everything running, but there are a bunch I haven’t shared with you…yet…
We Trust Shared Content More Than Mainstream Media
Social Media Marketing.com.au published a post Monday that looked at a recent survey from Neilsen on consumer trust and content. According to this study, more than 70% of online consumers trust consumer reviews and word of mouth over trusted media and other sources. Combined with the struggle brands have to maintain consumer engagement, and this is becoming a huge issue.
The way I see it, this is placing even more emphasis on a company’s ability to produce link bait, reviews, and consumer-based content. Ads will have to get more interactive and move away from the stuffy, traditional marketing that says, “Here’s our product. Here’s how you benefit.”
The other problem? Check out the next article I enjoyed this week…
3 Reasons Why I Hate Newspaper Paywalls
If the trust consumers have in official media is declining, and newspapers are moving toward a paywall-based business model, I think it’s pretty clear that disaster is imminent. Don’t you think? Mathew Ingram makes some very valid arguments against paywalls, as well. This leaves me with one question: Has the Globe and Mail thought this through?
There are tons of other ways they could monetise their business. And what about increasing engagement? The more time people spend interacting with their site, the more time their friends will spend on the site, and the more opportunity the newspaper will have to make money. My fingers are crossed that the media will soon sort this out. Otherwise, there will be a horrific number of people out of work.
Don’t get me wrong. Paywalls can be a great thing. I’ve seen a number of projects people have done with the WordPress membership plugin Your Members, and some of them really are brilliant. But it has to be done right. If you’re going to use this method, you need to offer something that isn’t already widely available. And secondly, give your users a taste and make them WANT to see what’s behind the curtain.
**UPDATED** Poynter published findings of another crap study on paywalls. The study, performed by DigiCareers, included statistics like:
- 87% of respondents would sooner use free news sites over paid. — Well DUH! Given a choice between getting the same information for free or paying for it, which one would you choose?
- 82% said they’d go elsewhere if their favourite sites introduced a paywall. — Considering how well most people deal with change, is it any wonder?
- 52% of respondents would immediately leave the site if they encountered a paywall. — There’s no definition of paywall. With no context, this is based merely on perception.
My comment as follows:
My opinion here is similar to Ryan Sholin’s. I think a lot of people have a pre-conceived notion of a paywall. And considering how badly they’ve been done by a number of the big newspapers (and smaller ones), it’s no surprise that people are biased against them.
Of the many newspapers who have turned to a paywall-based structure, some have done exceedingly well while others have failed miserably. I think a lot this stems from misunderstanding paywallconversions. Many see them as being based purely on the content, and this just isn’t true. Sure, creating unique, quality content is important, but this only takes care of the interest portion of the sales process. A lot has to happen first. Trust, for example.Think about it: You click a link expecting to see a really great piece of content and are suddenly told, “Oh sorry. We lied. You have to pay us first.” Because you likely aren’t familiar with the site, you have no idea if their definition of “quality” and “valuable” matches yours.Then, there’s value. If the only option is a weekly, monthly, or annual subscription, you don’t know whether there will be more content that’s actually worth paying for. This is marketing 101. If I’ve never visited a site before, and the only option is to pay for a month’s worth of content, am I going to bother? Not likely. I’ll get the information some other way. But, the more I keep returning to a site, the more likely I am to give in and give up the cash.Another big error is targeting the wrong audience, expecting the wrong audience to pay, or failing to consider user intent. If I want to read an article purely for entertainment purposes, I’m not going to be as motivated to buy as I would be if I was using for research, for example.The failing of the newspaper industry has nothing to do with paywalls, in my opinion. It’s the fact that they’re putting a band aid on an unsustainable and poorly planned business model.
Effective Copywriting and Infomercials
I’ll admit that I had to chuckle when I came across Heather and Laura’s post on how you can improve your copywriting by watching infomercials. I frequently do the same thing. Well, I don’t watch a lot of crappy late night TV. (My TV doesn’t even work.) But I do spend a lot of time watching ads and spotting good advertising.
Not only do I enjoy a creative ad, but I also love seeing the various techniques in action. I’ve gotten some great material from ads other people have done. I’ve even considered taking pictures of the great ads I see and explaining why I like them. Thankfully, my busy schedule doesn’t allow me to get started on yet another project and I am able to put aside these more entertaining pet projects in favour of more profitable ventures. Anyway, I digress. Have a read (or watch Heather’s video) and make notes. This post is another example of how super sharp this lady is.
Did you come across any really good copywriting-based info this week?
So, GM pulled its $10 million Facebook ad campaign because their marketing team feels the ad platform is ineffective. This is an interesting move, considering Facebook’s IPO is due out on Friday, but that’s not what I want to talk about. I’m wondering if this really was a wise decision. (On a slightly unrelated note, the Business Insider’s headline is a fantastic example of a link bait headline. Anyway, back to my rant… er, I mean post.)
This is from the WSJ article:
“GM marketing executives, including Mr. Ewanick, met with Facebook managers to address concerns about the site’s effectiveness and left unconvinced advertising on the website made sense, according to people familiar with GM’s thinking…”
Given that I don’t know GM’s campaign particulars, I can only guess why the ads weren’t performing. That being said, I can’t help but think GM’s marketing agency got it seriously wrong somewhere along the line. This has left me with a number of questions and quite a bit of confusion.
Are GM’s Low Click-Throughs Really an Indication of an Ineffective Platform?
First of all, Business Insider reports GM’s $10 million Facebook ad campaign suffered from a low click-through rate (CTR). Business Insider suggests part of the problem could be the fact that Facebook ads have a lower than expected ROI in general. I’m not so sure you can make this assumption, or lay the blame on Facebook’s ineffectiveness.
With a budget of that size, I think it’s fair to assume that the company was paying for a huge number of ads. Combine that with a low CTR, and I can’t help but think targeting and segmentation were significant factors here. It suggests to me (keep in mind that I’m purely guessing at this point) that one (or more) of three things happened:
- They targeted far too wide of an audience.
- They targeted the wrong audience.
- They approached the right audience, in the wrong way.
Can You Really Compare Facebook Ads to Other Platforms?
I also question the comparison of Facebook and Google AdWords. (Before I go any further, I want to say that I have a huge amount of respect for Wordstream. I will happily recommend them to anyone, and I do so regularly. This is not critiquing the company, their report, their quality, or their work. I’m merely exploring the topic and questioning BI’s use of the study in this context. With a bit of luck, I’ll maybe even inspire a bit of healthy debate that I can learn something from.)
With no way to see the data, how it was collected, or where it came from, I don’t feel I could confidently make the assumption that Facebook ads are less effective than Google ads. (Not that I’m 100% confident with any of my other assumptions in this
big rant little post, either.)
Another reason why I don’t think it was an appropriate use of the study in this instance is because Google AdWords and Facebook ads are far too different. It’s like comparing apples and oranges.
I enjoy these kinds of studies and find them helpful, but at the same time, I don’t think the Wordstream team intended the study to be used in this manner. I think it was merely intended to make people think about where their money is going and make sure they consider all the options. I think it was also a great way for them to publish their findings and encourage discussion.
To put this another way: The scientific or healthcare communities don’t make major decisions based on a single study. They subject the study to a peer review and perform multiple studies on the same subject before making a broad, definitive decision like cutting a $10M ad campaign.
So, do I think Facebook ads are less effective that Google’s paid ads? Not yet. I think they’re two very different systems, with different users, different advertisers, and as a result, the two systems are worlds apart.
And while we’re on the topic, let me present this idea: When users search Google, they’re actively searching for a solution to a particular problem. When users are on Facebook, I don’t think their sole reason for being there is to research a product. So, the idea of measuring the ROI of your Facebook ad campaign by the number of sales and click-throughs you get is a bit flawed.
(According to one Oracle study (Word Doc), “24 percent of consumers say they incorporate their online purchasing activities on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace, nearly the same number of people said they didn’t even know this is a possibility.”)
The Buying Process, Yardsticks, and How Facebook Ads Fit Into It
Now, I don’t know about you, but the buying process I go through when I want to purchase a vehicle is quite a bit different from the one I follow when buying a pair of shoes, a magazine subscription, or music. I have, on rare occasion, been known to click on a Facebook ad to purchase a Christmas gift. BUT, I can promise you that I’ve never clicked on a Facebook ad to purchase a vehicle. I don’t research vehicles on Facebook, either. (I usually talk to mechanic friends of mine to find out what they’ve been fixing lately.)
What if 5% of these click-throughs resulted in a sale? What’s the value of a click-through, anyway? How many of those click-throughs are converting? It could be very little. It could be almost all of them. In truth, you just don’t know. Someone could be clicking on the GM ad, checking out the car, and looking at the vehicles offered by their competitors, before stopping in at the dealership on his or her way home from work the next day.
Alternatively, let’s say a wife saw an ad with the picture of a car she likes. She realizes it’s the car from the TV ad she saw the night before. So, she turns to her husband and says, “This car looks really interesting. I hear it has x, y, and z features. Maybe we should get one of those?” The husband then stops at the dealership to look at the car. They may not make the final decision for weeks or even months after that. Are they going to say they heard about the car on Facebook when they made the purchase? Not likely.
Because GM has a fairly strong presence on Facebook, it might not notice much of a difference, but I’m worried that they won’t realize what they’ve missed out on. That’s like saying you lost the $5 million lotto prize because you forgot to buy a ticket for Monday’s draw.
I’m not the only one considering the validity of the Business Insider article and GM’s decision to pull the ads. Marty Weintraub of Aim Clear also has doubts and published his own rant on the topic, which has a number of other issues I didn’t bring up here. Business Insider also made some interesting arguments on both sides of the fence.
I don’t know. Am I way off base here? The only thing I’m completely sure of is this: I would have loved to hear the arguments GM’s marketing team gave against the campaign. I think it would have been quite interesting and informative.
I like shiny new toys. The only thing I like better than shiny new toys are shiny new toys that make my job easier and improve the value and service Angie’s Copywriting provides to our customers.
The problem with all these toys is finding ones that work well AND save time. Lots of times, I find ones with one or two helpful features and this usually means entering the same information into multiple locations. Or, I end up tracking several applications at the same time.
Well, you’ll be happy to know I’ve found some brilliant programs. They’ve made my life easier, and as far as I’m concerned, they’re a must-have for anyone creating content or running a website.
Project and Strategy Planning — Trello
Fog Creek Software call their wonderful new program “a collaboration tool that organises your projects into boards”, but Trello is so much more.
A free collaborative organizational program, Trello lets you create lists and cards you can add to a virtual board. These cards can then be dragged and dropped between the boards as needed. You can label and filter them, add comments, a voting mechanism, checklists, due dates, and more. (Did I mention you can collaborate with others and even publish the boards publicly?)
Currently, I’m using Trello to organize and track:
Books I’m Writing – I name the board the title of the book. Then, I create a list for each chapter. The subheadings and topics in each chapter are represented by cards in the list.
Marketing Strategies – I have one list for ideas, one for onsite marketing, one for offsite marketing, and one for promotion/advertising. Then, I create a card for each segment. (The email marketing list might contain cards labeled “signup strategies”, “pitches”, and “landing pages” for example.) To help flesh out the concept on each card, I add URLs, ideas, checklists, due dates, and notes in the comments section.
Website Planning and Building – Trello is excellent for keeping up with the constant changes that come with new websites. I create a list for each parent page, cards for each child page, and add links to additional boards in the comments.
For larger websites, I create multiple boards: The first board is divided into steps. So, I’ll make a list for market research, design, structure, content, marketing, etc. Then, each of those lists contains cards that represent and link to yet another board for each of the major steps. (Under marketing, for example, there might be a card for social media with a link to a social media board, one for SEO with a link to the board with all my SEO plans on it, etc.)
Content Creation — As you might imagine, I work on a ton of content for clients, my sites, and sites I run in collaboration with others. While I use Google Calendar and RememberTheMilk to keep everything straight, I found I still needed something to keep track of ideas and what stage each piece is at. So, I created a board specifically for content creation.
To do this, I made a list for each step in the process (ideas, currently writing, waiting for editing, ready-to-publish, published). Then, I drag each idea from one board to another as I get them done.
Easy peasy, right? Trello could use a few tweaks to improve its usability, but they’re pretty new and they’re working like crazy to add new ideas and features. Overall, I am absolutely loving it.
- Able to keep up with constant change (drag and drop)
- Excellent collaboration
- Flexible (boards/cards/lists can be used for just about anything)
- Labeling, filtering, and card customization
- Unable to make a card represent a board
- Comments get lost on extremely active cards
- Inability to integrate with other software programs like iCal, Basecamp, and others
Email Marketing and Newsletter Management — MailChimp
For effective email marketing and management, you can’t beat MailChimp. I’ve seen it in action for businesses of various sizes, and it always impresses me.
MailChimp starts with easy-to-build signup widgets and forms. These simple forms collect and automatically add respondents to a list. Then, you can use an existing template or create one of your own to make your own HTML and text emails. (Recipients can choose which format they prefer when they sign up.)
You can schedule the emails to go out at a specific time, create and drip feed an autoresponder series, or send them out immediately. You can send an email out to everyone, or segment your lists to personalise the emails and get a higher conversion rate. MailChimp’s reporting feature and live statistics make it really easy to see how your campaign is performing.
MailChimp offers a number of other services as well including an inspector to ensure safe delivery, an RSS-to-Email tool, geo-location, split testing, and more.
- Super simple for non-tech types
- Make campaigns as simple or as complicated as you’d like
- Integrates seamlessly with a variety of other software programs
- Flexible campaign creation
- Free or very affordable
- Solid list management
- Excellent reporting feature
- Easy campaign duplication
- Takes a bit of tinkering when you first start if you’re inexperienced and have no techie know-how
- Would love to see more data collection involved
- A bit clunky when dealing with late sign ups or sending to a single recipient
- Can’t disable social sharing on some emails and not others in a single campaign
Product Marketing and Membership Software — Your Members
A membership plugin designed for WordPress, Your Members isn’t something I’d normally recommend for anything other than creating a membership site, but wait until you can see what it does.
Your Members includes full user management, payment gateway integration, content management, and a ton of other features. It also includes add-on packages for Facebook membership sites, secure video streaming/distribution, and more.
Currently, I’m using Your Members strictly to manage and market the ebook series I’m working on. This plugin will make it possible sell my ebooks individually (choose the ones you want), in bundles of four for a small discount (buy all the books on a specific topic), as an annual 12- month subscription (for all 12 ebooks), or for a significant discount. It will also allow me to offer additional content and ebooks, as well as deliver courses and other features.
I think this is brilliant for anyone who creates content. You can use Your Members to sell your works of fiction (think: a novel and a series of short stories, or releasing the novel as a series), videos, podcasts, products and educational courses, blog posts, web designs, images…If you can make it, Your Members can sell and manage it.
Your Members Pros:
- Create flexible packages and memberships
- Full content control (Hide or show full or partial posts)
- Tons of opportunities to upsell and cross-promote
- Super easy to install, set up, and customize
- Ability to create your own messages and emails
- Integrates easily with other software
- Excellent customer service
Your Members Cons:
- Requires an initial investment
- You need to plan how you’re going to offer your content very carefully
- Must make sure the right people have access to the right content
Social Promotional Tool — inviteApe
Social sharing and word-of-mouth marketing are becoming more and more important. A recent Neilsen study showed more than 70% of consumers trusted socially shared content over brands and official media sources, so why not use this to market your products and services? That’s where the inviteApe WordPress plugin comes in.
This tool allows your followers to share links and information to your website and rewards them when that share pays off! So, if I share a link about my buddy Glenn’s book, and you click the link, I get a free copy. Ok, maybe just a discount or some other free material, but you get the idea. I used it to share initial copies of my first ebook and I don’t have a single complaint.
inviteApe uses Gravatar to create personalised pages for you and all your followers without lifting a finger. You can redirect users and customise the offer however you’d like. It’s a brilliant, quick little app.
- Easy way to encourage others to share your content and expand your reach
- Very little setup required
- Works for just about anything, and with a little customisation, you can even use it to sell and sign people up to mailing lists
- Works easily with pretty much any theme
- Need an established social-based following that’s already sharing and paying attention to your content
- Must have a main offer and something to give. This “something” has to attract others who aren’t as familiar with your work and tempt them to share
Invoicing and Bookkeeping — Freshbooks
I love that Freshbooks has a dashboard where all of my clients can log in and see what’s happening with their accounts. The UI is pretty and easy for everyone to use, and it tracks everything involved in my projects including my time, expenses, how long it takes them to pay, how much is outstanding, and how much I’ve been paid for. Best of all? It’s priced at a level that’s suitable for individuals and small businesses.
Another thing I really enjoy about Freshbooks is that it integrates with tons of stuff. This means I don’t have to worry about setting up PayPal requests or copying and pasting the same information multiple times. I just set it up and go.
The time tracking is probably good for people who remember to turn the silly thing on and off, but for me, it just doesn’t work. I need something with automatic tracking, a desktop app that works on my Mac, and something that lets me assign the time to a project, without having to go back to the website. For this, I use Paymo.biz.
Paymo’s time tracking app still needs some tweaking because it’s a bit clunky, but it’s new. And I have to say that it’s the best I’ve found for Mac so far. (Paymo is actually another really good alternative to Freshbooks. However, I find it has more of a project management focus, which is why I chose Freshbooks. I also don’t generally use time to invoice, so it isn’t much of an issue.)
- Slick, brandable interface for clients
- Easy and fast to track and send invoices
- Uploading options means you can keep all of your client’s files in one place where they can access them whenever they need to
- Snail mail and email invoicing. Also does recurring payments
- Integrates with Basecamp and numerous other programs small businesses already use
- Time tracking is helpful, but it doesn’t auto-track movements on your desktop.
- Another set of log-in details for clients
- Initial setup takes some time
- Frequent tab switching when locating and setting up projects
Customer Relationship Management — CapsuleCRM
CRM programs have been a particular pain for me. I’ve tried a bunch, and I’ve found they all had major issues for me:
- Desktop-based — Really sucks when you travel and frequently switch machines, not to mention a huge resource hog.
- Affordable, but don’t do what I want — I hate having to track everything manually!
- Fantastic, but expensive — If I have to work six months to pay for client management software, I don’t care how well it works. It’s not worth it.
Capsule CRM integrates completely with Gmail, so I never have to re-add information. Just click the button to upload the email and it’s done. It automatically matches the email with the right client.
It manages sales leads, as well. As a small business, I don’t find this section as helpful, but I’m trying to get into the habit of maintaining it for that inevitable day when I realize I’ve once again grown bigger than I thought. Overall, the entire thing is quite intuitive and I no longer have to worry about losing emails to a server crash. (Just be sure to back this up.)
- Stores contacts individually and as an organisation
- Integrates with other software and apps, as well as social networks
- Makes contacts and organisations easy to find, including any projects or opportunities associated with them
- Change an individual into an organisation or an organisation into an individual
- Merge multiple contacts
- Doesn’t allow you to make a case into an opportunity or an opportunity into a case
- Doesn’t include cases and opportunities on the dashboard
- No way to search the content of emails? (There may be one, but I haven’t found it yet.)
- Tasks and calendar don’t integrate with iCal and Gmail tasks or other calendar/to-do apps
Content Collaboration — Gather Content
I’ve been looking for a suitable way to share and revise content with clients, and this quest brought me to Gather Content. It basically gives you a way to design mockups and insert content. You can then invite clients, designers, and others involved in the project, so they can revise and tinker with the layout and the various elements. You can assign pages, due dates, and upload content. When you’re done, you can export the whole kit ‘n’ kaboodle in one full swoop.
I don’t think I’m using it the way the developers had intended it, but so far, I’m pretty pleased with it. At the moment, I’m using it to design and layout new website content. I’m also using it as a temporary home for all the new content for my existing sites. I couldn’t care less about the design options, but I did have a play with them and thought they worked quite well. I’ll be testing this one further before adding it to my existing client routine.
Gather Content Pros:
- Easily create and move pages
- Files, comments and everything you need is in one place
- Project organisation is fantastic
- Keeps track of what’s due and when
- Easy for others to change things and make comments. (Revisions are all saved, so you can easily move from one revision to the next without losing anything.)
Gather Content Cons:
- Having to play with the design is a bit frustrating when you just want to use it for content. You need to add a text box to the page before adding content
- Reloads the entire page when you switch from one page to another. Avoid this by opening pages in multiple tabs
- No integration with other software or apps yet
**UPDATE** I just received an email stating that Pegbe is being shut down. However, I’ve left it in this article because of the information on RememberTheMilk. I also thought it was a good insight into the way I structure and manage my day.
To Do List — Pegby
I’ve used RememberTheMilk to handle all my to-dos since I started my business. I enjoy it, and find it’s really convenient, but I have been playing with Pegby recently. It’s another one of those pretty drag-and-drop apps that you actually don’t mind playing with. You create one card for each item, and from there, you can add notes, files, and tags. You can push it off until later, or share the board with someone else and delegate the tasks.
This is fun for me, but not practical when things start getting overly complicated. Not to say it won’t work for someone else, but my brain simply doesn’t work that way. That’s why I’m still using RememberTheMilk to handle all of my long-term tasks. But, I’ve found Pegby’s Trello-like information radiator layout is a great option to manage my daily to-do list. (I’m still playing with it, so opinions here may change.)
- Pretty, fun, and makes me want to get things done, so I can move the cards around
- Information radiator layout is ideal for daily task lists
- Free (Works on a pay-what-it’s-worth model)
- Collaboration is pretty simple
- Email cards to the board
- Paying members can make boards public and give them their own branding
- Can’t simply tick off completed tasks if it’s an item with multiple steps
- Not really designed for long-term task management
That’s it for me. What sorts of tools have you recently adopted or been testing? Anything I should try?
*** Update ***
The other day, I tweeted a blog post and made a comment that I really liked the tag cloud the site was using. Today, Infomous replied to my tweet with a thank you and a gift! Turns out, it’s a tool. And they have a bunch of other really neat tools for analysts and publishers like this nifty alternative navigation system. Very nice, yes?
Blog Tag Cloud
Twitter Tag Cloud
I love a good link. You know the kind…they irritate you, inspire you, entertain you, or just get you thinking. That’s what I’d like to do here. As an added bonus, it’s the perfect opportunity to share the neat things I’ve found throughout the week. Ready?
SEO and Content Publication
I came across two great business-type links this week. The first is Matt McGee’s post on the downside to publishing content at specific times of the week or day. I published my thoughts on AngieNikoleychuk.com, but overall, it’s a good, quick read, if you haven’t seen it yet.
The second is from Monica Wright. She did a guest post on Raven Tools that addressed the worries non-SEO site owners often face when they start working with an agency or SEO professional. Again, she brings up some really important points and gave some really good tips that should help you get more from your SEO dollars. This is never a bad thing.
Internet and Website Security
ARS Technica covered a story on the .secure TLD. In it, the author introduced readers to a security researcher who just received $9 million dollars. And what is he going to do with this kind of money? Why, create a private area of the Internet for organizations like banks and governments, of course. This left me with quite a few questions, but you can read more about that on AngieNikoleychuk.com.
What If Your Copywriter Had a Dark Side?
On the fun side, I discovered a great site called The Depressed Copywriter. If you like good ads and Internet memes, this is the perfect site for you. While some of them are creepy, or just plain wrong, some of them are absolutely brilliant. They got more than just a few chuckles out of me.
3 New Tools For Creating Better Stuff
I enjoy Problogger, and I love trying out new tools, so this post by Neil Patel was right up my alley. (I’ve been following him on Twitter for quite some time. Super smart fella with some brilliant 140-character revelations, but I digress.) In the post, Neil recommended IFTTT. I’ve looked at this tool a few times during the past few months and have considered using it in a number of different ways. I think it has amazing potential, but I just can’t seem to sit myself down long enough to have a play with it.
I already use the last tool Neil recommends regularly for keyword research, but the second tool he suggests is the answer to my prayers and a fantastic alternative to the now-missing Google Lists and Google Wonder Wheel.
If you want to know what these tools are, you’ll have to read the post for yourself. It’s called 3 New Tools That Can Help You Create Better Content, Convert More Readers, and Conquer Higher Search Rankings. (Dear Neil, you need shorter headlines. On a side note, it worked. lol)
Speaking of tools, I’ve been looking for ways to easily manage multiple WordPress sites. Today, I came across InfiniteWP. It’s free at the moment, but I see there are premium addons coming. At first glance, it looks slick and easy to use, but I was wondering if any of you have tried it?
Anyway, that’s it for my wanderings this week. Cheers!