Taking control of my data and social media

© Andrei Lacatusu Earlier this month, I set a resolution to blog more and use social media less. While I still need to work on blogging more, I'm certainly spending less time on Facebook. I'm halfway there. So far, only my mom has complained about me spending less time on Facebook.

This morning when my alarm woke me up at 4:45am, I took it a step further. Most mornings, I spend ten minutes checking Facebook on my phone. Today, however, I deleted the Facebook application from my phone, rolled out of bed and started my workday. Great!

As an advocate for the open web, I've written a lot about the problems that Facebook and other walled gardens pose. While I have helped raise awareness and have contributed time and money to winning back the open web, I haven't fully embraced the philosophy on my own site. For over 12 years, I've blogged on my own domain and have used Open Source software instead of using a third party service like Blogger or Medium, but I can't say the same about sharing my photos or social media updates. This has bothered me for some time.

I felt even more motivated to make a change after watching David Letterman's new Netflix series. During a conversation with his first guest, President Obama, Letterman shared the fear that his son will one day ask, "Wait a minute. You knew this was a problem, and you didn't do anything about it?". Letterman's sentiment mirrors Jeff Bezos' regret minimization framework; when you look back on your life, you want to minimize the number of regrets you have. It's a principle I like to live by.

We can't have a handful of large platform companies like Facebook control what people read on the web; their impact on democracy and society is concerning. Even Facebook doesn't like what it sees when it looks in the mirror.

Today is not only the day I uninstalled Facebook from my phone, but it's the day I fully embrace and extend my new year's resolution. Not only would I like to use social media less, I want to take back control over my social media, photos and more. I also want to contribute more to the open web in the process — it will be a worthwhile personal challenge for 2018.
Source: Dries Buytaert www.buytaert.net

Make Your Website Fresh Again With These 7 Tips

Back in the day when websites were all about content, web design wasn’t too much of an issue. As long as you had amazing content, the overall look of your website wouldn’t matter. Of course, times are a-changin’, and keeping your website fresh and updated is now a default strategy for any site owner.
Site visitors have become more meticulous in choosing the company and brand to patronize, based on the websites that they visit. More than textual content and aesthetically pleasing web design, keeping your website fresh is of utmost importance to retain customers and encourage potential clients.
If your website has been around for a while – and you’ve been using the same design and theme for years – maybe it’s time for a little upgrading. Especially when your site begins to get a steady increase in traffic, returning visitors may want to see the same outstanding features in your site, but would also expect to have some changes that would make them more interested.
How Often Should Websites Be Updated?

Whether you own a personal blog, a corporate website or an e-commerce store, it is essential to keep your website fresh by updating it on a regular basis. The frequency of updating the website can be based on many factors.
For instance, it may be a waste of your effort to update a corporate website as often as you would an e-commerce store. If you are running an online store, you may have products posted online that are no longer offered, or you may have new products to sell.
This holds true for personal blogs, in which followers may want to receive new and fresh information from the blogger. As a general rule, publishing three new blog posts in a week is enough to keep your followers coming back.
Corporate websites are a bit difficult to update once the website has been published. However, some websites incorporate news releases and blog posts within their site, all of which can help increase the interest of online visitors.
Why Some Websites Fail to Capture a Good Following
The reasons why corporate websites fail may be due to the following reasons:

Not allocating enough resources to make it work (both money and time)
Article titles not strong enough to catch the attention of online visitors
Lack of useful, unique and informative content
Lacking the knowledge of using the right keywords
Not giving it enough time
Not measuring the effectiveness and ROI from blogging
Wrong choice of blogging platform

Tips In Making Your Website Fresh
In order to captivate the attention of online visitors – especially the ones who are returning and expecting more – you should create a website that is not only pleasing to the eyes, but is also full of information that they need.
If you want to make your website fresh like the morning dew, here are some tips to freshen up your pages:
1. Add a blog
What makes a website come alive is the amount and quality of information that makes visitors come back frequently. For instance, if you are running a business consultation firm, you may add articles that can help visitors understand about business and other topics related to it. This is on top of citing the services that you can provide.
Your online visitors would want your website to be a one-stop shop where they can receive tips on how to start and maintain a business, the sacrifices that an entrepreneur may face, the qualities of a good entrepreneur, and more.
While you may have created a list of topics that you want to feature on the blog, make your articles as concise as possible. A long article can bore out users, which can then eventually lead them to leave the website. On the other hand, a brief article piece may turn off search bots due to lack of authority in the topic.
2. Provide opportunities for discussion
Online visitors are not satisfied with merely looking at the products or services on a website. Some of them may have questions that they would want to be answered.
For this purpose, putting up a forum allows them to talk to other customers who have bought your product or sought your service. The forum will become a lively channel for people to exchange ideas, product reviews, and other experiences.
3. Add videos
We are in the age where videos play a very significant part of our life. For instance, adding tutorial videos for DIY websites can encourage online visitors and existing clients to view the video files.
As for other types of businesses or industries, marketing campaigns using videos are extremely powerful forms of media to hype up your company or business.
Of course, in order to pull this off successfully, you need a team solely for generating video content. This group of people may include (but is not limited to) camera personnel, videographers, video editors, segment directors, cinematographers, writers, and actors.
4. Repurpose old content
Old blog posts or articles may still be considered valuable for the current generation of readers, and the best way to put it back into circulation is by updating or repurposing the old content.
Here are some techniques in bringing life back to your old articles:

Write a spin-off article from a subtopic in the original post
Put links to your popular posts on the sidebar or as a list on a new page
Convert your old articles into a downloadable whitepaper
Reformat your old content into new forms of media, such as an infographic or a video
Post your links on social media, and use a throwback reference
Change the post date to today, and add new content

5. Add event calendars
Want to let your site visitors expect something from you at specific days of the year? Send them alerts on key events of the year for your website – say, your company’s founding anniversary or an upcoming event. This technique keeps your website fresh and new, without having to add too much content (and only by using your existing calendar).
This strategy can be helpful for schools or non-profit organizations where they can have several activities lined up every month. This helps students, officials or members to be updated with the latest events.
6. Adding high-quality images or cinemagraphs
Online users usually stop at websites with attractive and colorful images. Lately, cinemagraphs have been trending in web design, since it can create a visually striking story that increases the interest of online visitors. These cinemagraphs has been found to have a positive impact on the click-through rate (CTR).
In other words, keep tabs with the latest image design trends, so that your site photos won’t look stale and obsolete.
7. Change the overall website design
Over time, the design of your website may look outdated. Because of this, there is a need to be aware of the latest trends that can help encourage online visitors to stay and browse through the whole website. Being left with a design that has been in existence for more than 10 years may not encourage people to stay, since recent web designs provide a more pleasant experience to the users.
On the flip side, it may be necessary to retain the style of the page where the customers have been accustomed to. It’s up to you to decide where your site visitors are leaning towards, in terms of changing your web design.
However, if your website is recently plagued with errors and threats of malware, then it may be time to update your website design, both on the front and backend. More than aesthetics, one of the biggest reasons to change your site design is security.

Updating a website requires time, effort and money. But instead of looking at this as a burden, it should be perceived as something worthwhile. Not only will it help to increase the traffic on your website, but it may also increase the revenue for your business.
We hope you find these tips on making your website fresh again helpful. On a final note, your motivation for updating your website should be customer satisfaction – that your site visitors will be happy browsing through your site and getting an amazing user experience.
The post Make Your Website Fresh Again With These 7 Tips appeared first on Web Designer Hub.
Source: http://www.webdesignerhub.com

3 Things to Consider Before Switching Hosting

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Are you fed up with your current host and now you’re looking for a different provider?
Maybe you found a cheaper host or a faster one or a host that offers some sort of benefit like a website builder.
These are all valid reasons to switch hosting companies, but it’s essential to consider a few things before making the big change.
First of all, no matter how much the host tells you that they’ll do everything for you, some of the work is going to be completed by you. Most notably, your email address transfer.
Some companies don’t have email addresses provided through their host, so those people won’t have to worry about anything. However, it takes some reading, understanding, and frustration to configure your Outlook or other inboxes with the new hosting credentials.
So, start by understanding that moving hosts doesn’t mean you sit back and watch the experts take care of everything. It’s a collaborative process that’ll most likely take a significant amount of time out of your day. After all, you have to communicate all of the logins to your hosting company and walk through the process of setting up your emails.
Some other considerations come into play during your switch from one host to another. If you’re thinking about jumping ship, take a good look at these thoughts so as not to make a rash decision. You may discover a great deal, but if you find out that the new host stinks, it’s a whole separate process trying to get your money back and moving the files to the old host again.
Therefore, keep reading to learn about the things to consider before switching hosting.
1. Is the Host You’re Switching to Considered One of the Best?
Your entire website setup relies on the hosting. The speed, security, management, and control over your site depends on getting a good host. Therefore, it’s extremely important to consider whether or not the world is talking about the new host.
If you can’t find anything on blogs or other online publications, it’s probably not a good idea to risk your website with the host.
The best hosting companies get mentioned all the time on “best of” lists, where the articles break down why they’re so good, based on criteria like speed, uptime, and customer support.
You’ll also learn more details about the hosts, considering most hosting company websites have extremely salesy and confusing information. So, instead of looking through hosting website sales copy, you’re at an extreme advantage checking out reputable blogs that talk about hosting, blogging, and building website.
As you peruse the internet for reviews, seek out articles that reveal critical, unbiased information about those hosts. If you start seeing your prospective host in these lists as quality options, you’ll most likely have enough information to pull the trigger.

For instance, I like to see some of the following in the articles:

The cost – It’s great when the author showcases all hosting plans from each company. We also like to see how long you have to prepay in order to get a certain rate. The reason for this is because most hosts market their lowest price on the website, but then you’ll discover you have to pay for something like two or three years in advance to get that monthly rate.
Money back guarantees – Although the goal is to locate a great host so that you don’t have to leave again, it’s important to find articles that highlight money back guarantees. This way, you know how long you have to get a full refund.
Load time – If the author didn’t at least complete a little research on load time I’d skip the article altogether. Why? Because hosting has a strong effect on how fast your website loads up to customers. The speed affects SEO and how often users leave your site without looking at anything.
Uptime – This is in the same category as load time, but it’s more about whether or not your site is going to randomly crash because of server problems. Most often the uptime for a host is close to 100%, but it’s good to check in the hosting reviews to see if anyone else has experience uptime problems.

2. Are You Getting Swindled?
Let’s face it, most brands and individuals looking into hosting think about pricing before security or speed. It’s not the way it should be, but budgets are a real thing.
Therefore, it’s ideal to find some of the cheapest pricing you can for a host. The only problem is that when you see hosts selling for less than a dollar, or somewhere around that, there’s a chance you’re getting swindled out of your money and placed on an easily hacked, unsafe server.
In addition, you might find that these super cheap hosts operate in a bad IP neighborhood, and this means that Google will most likely punish your site in return.
Along with rough downtime and bad support, your best bet is to avoid situations like these.
For example, some of the cheapest Aussie Hosting options are pretty bad. However, you can find quality shared and VPS hosting in that region without having to spend too much money. This is especially the case if you’re a blogger or small business owner who doesn’t initially expect to see much traffic coming to the site.

3. How’s the Customer Support?
When transferring from one host to another, the customer support comes into play quite often.

It’s also essential to have a phone line, live chat, and email address to contact the host after everything has been moved over. After all, you’re bound to encounter troubles with your site files. When that happens, you need someone to talk to.
Are You Ready to Switch Hosting?
Okay, so you’ve evaluated whether or not your future host is considered one of the best, checked to make sure you’re not getting swindled, and made sure that the customer support is pretty good.
Once you’ve walked through those steps you should have no problem switching over to the new host. Good luck!
header image courtesy of Alexey Kuvaldin
This post 3 Things to Consider Before Switching Hosting was written by Inspired Mag Team and first appearedon Inspired Magazine.
Source: inspiredm.com

On Achieving Sustainable Income

I’m experimenting with Patreon (and it’s pronounced “patron” for those that didn’t know…) for my brother’s growing cryptocurrency community and I find their model (and their tooling) to be very good.
I also particularly like their mission which is simple, digestible, and easy to understand (but also really exciting and measurable):

Help every creator in the world achieve sustainable income.
This is exactly what we’re trying to do and it’s exactly why we decided to investigate the platform and system to see if what they had created was worth the time and investment to put together.
The world is changing and the opportunity for independent creators to live sustainably is bigger and more possible than it has ever been. Technology like Patreon appears to be leading the way and I’m excited to dive into the system and put it to good use (also their API as well…).
There’s something inside all of us that wants to support the independent creator because I think it’s a reflection of our own identity as well.
You see, I believe that we are all creators in our own right but not all of us feel the need or desire to find community-based financing for our creations. For those that do, well, you have things like Patreon.
I remember trying to put together financial resources when I looked at going “pro” with blogging (i.e. becoming a professional blogger and living solely on my writing).
I was successful in many ways but managing the finances and the different ways to build income was such a hassle. Patreon didn’t exist back then (they were founded in 2013) but I had need of the when I first started putting things together in 2011.
And so now I wouldn’t even consider trying to put together a hodge-podge of managed solutions… I’d probably just use Patreon. At least until one felt it didn’t scale (although I’m not sure how it wouldn’t…).
These are exciting times you know. It’s far easier to earn an income while doing the very things that you enjoy than ever before. And as our world becomes even more inter-connected and diverse the potential becomes even greater.
The post On Achieving Sustainable Income appeared first on John Saddington.
Source: https://john.do/

Stockio Review: Stock Photos and More Without the Attribution and Costs

Inspired Magazine
Inspired Magazine - creativity & inspiration daily
If you’re looking for a featured photo to match that perfect blog post, the process often takes much longer than you would expect.
Most bloggers have no interest, or money, to pay for stock photos, and most of the time you can find royalty-free images that don’t require attribution.
Unfortunately, there are a few main problems when it comes to finding royalty-free images that don’t require attribution:

Many search engines don’t have the proper tools to filter out photographs that aren’t legal to use.
Many times you stumble upon a free stock photography website only to find that you’re required to provide an attribution link on each photo.
There are so many photography sites that you often have to bookmark several of them to find the pictures you need.

It’s a tough process, but with the help of Stockio you should be able to make it much easier.

The Stockio free photo finder is much more than a collection of stock images.
It offers items like fonts, vectors, videos and icons. Therefore, a web designer, blogger or regular business person trying to make marketing materials can go to one location online to find everything.
The True Stockio Advantage
As a blogger and web designer myself, I find it pretty unfortunate when I locate an online asset (like a photo or vector) only to see that it requires attribution (or some sort of credit to the creator). Yes, attribution is great for sending more business to the designers and photographers of the world, but sometimes it simply doesn’t make sense to have a link below the photo. Take book covers, for example. It’d be pretty weird if a beginner blogger on a budget had an attribution link underneath their book cover.
It’s fine to have blog posts with image credits, but you can’t expect companies to place attribution on a slider image.
That’s why Stockio makes so much sense. It allows photographers and designers to find an audience, yet the people using their creations aren’t bogged down by the whole attribution thing.
Stockio encourages its users to credit things like photos and vectors, but it’s not required. Therefore, you can pick and choose for the situations it makes the most sense.
Now that you have a better idea of what Stockio offers, let’s take a look at the functionality of its website, along with the selection you can choose from.
Free Photos with Stockio
The free photos are the main focus on Stockio, so we’ll begin with that. Upon landing on the Stockio website, you’ll see a large Search bar for you to punch in any keyword you want. In addition to that, the website has several featured galleries for images, fonts and everything else on the site.
Let’s say, for example, I have a hardware store client that needs to start featuring some of its lawn maintenance products. We’re talking lawnmowers, fertilizers and sprinklers. Therefore, I want to search for photos that are tagged with the “lawn” keyword.
After doing that on Stockio, I saw a large collection of relevant images pop up. These lawn images are high-resolution, beautiful and ready to be used for marketing, blogging and social media materials.

After finding a photo I liked, the Stockio website brought me to the main page for that photo. What’s great about the image pages is that they’re not cluttered with tons of ads or other buttons that make you confused during the process. All the user sees is a Free Download button without any information about leaving attribution. These photos are available for both personal and commercial use, as long as you don’t go out and resell the actual photos. Depending on the photo, you’ll see some different sizes and formats, allowing you to keep the resolutions high and the formats the same.

Stockio Also Offers Free Fonts and Vectors
The free fonts come in all shapes and sizes, from gothic styles to more professional typography. Stockio eases the search process by presenting a wide assortment of categories. You click on the category that makes the most sense, then you’ll see a full gallery of the photos tagged with that category.
For instance, some of the categories on this page include:


The free vectors appear rather impressive as well. Stockio doesn’t seem to provide categories for the vectors, so you must go through the featured collection or make your search through the homepage.

As with the regular photos, vector files come in multiple forms. For example, this particular vector has both EPS and JPG files. You have the opportunity to select the file format that’s going to work best for your project. Once again, the attribution requirements are completely eliminated from the vector area, leaving you free to download at your own will.

Stockio Has Videos Too!
Quality free videos are hard to come by, so it’s refreshing to see that Stockio keeps a large selection of quality choices. For example, I received at least 20 or 30 great results when I punched in the keyword “lake.” It appears most of the videos come in standard mp4 format, but that’s just from looking at a few of the video downloads. In fact, the video pages are even easier to handle than the photos and vectors. With only one format, you only have to think about clicking that Free Download button.

Don’t Forget Your Icons
As a writer I don’t use icons at all. However, the web designer side of me likes to play around with icons when creating new websites and breaking up the monotony of text. Stockio provides a solid set of free icons. As you can see in the screenshot below, you can choose from icons of cats, houses, PSD files, computers and more. Before downloading, Stockio asks whether you’d like a PNG or SVG. Then, you’ll have to select the size if you go with a PNG.

Stockio is the Real Deal
I’ve said it before, but the free stock image business has seen it’s troubles. Most of the time you find a site riddled with ads or attribution requests, but Stockio has managed to avoid all that. Therefore, I’d recommend giving Stockio a try for your photo, vector, font, video and icon needs. You don’t have to sign up for a free trial or anything. Just start searching and downloading the items you need. Have fun!
This post Stockio Review: Stock Photos and More Without the Attribution and Costs was written by Inspired Mag Team and first appearedon Inspired Magazine.
Source: inspiredm.com

Online Ads: Simple Mistakes That Might Be Costing You

Inspired Magazine
Inspired Magazine - creativity & inspiration daily
The world of online advertising is segregated into publishers and advertisers. The publisher is the owner of a site who allows somebody else to advertise on it, while the advertiser is obviously the one doing the advertising.  In some cases the publisher may also be the advertiser, and when this happens it is called internal advertising.  Everything else is external advertising.
Why these terms need to be defined is because they strongly affect how much tolerance and acceptance an audience is likely to have for being exposed to the ad.  In general, an audience will have much higher levels of trust and acceptance in the case of internal advertising, and in turn they are more likely to let their guard down and potentially engage with the advertisement.
On the other hand, external advertising can generate a wide range of responses, but many people report feeling annoyed by external advertisements, and some are even enraged by them. How this came to be is largely due to the collective behavior of a majority of the marketing industry in the early 1990s.
Why internal advertising is more accepted
Users who arrive at a website as a result of a conscious choice to engage with the brand represented by that website are also likely to engage with internal advertising on the website.  Fast food restaurant chains such as McDonald’s, KFC, and Burger King are good examples, as they normally contain a lot of internal advertising, and users are quite willing to engage with these, because they’re already tuned to receive the marketing message. They’re on a site that is relevant to their interest and they want as much information as possible, especially if the ad is promising some kind of incentive like discount coupons.
Why external advertising is less accepted
Due to the shady techniques used by unscrupulous marketers, users quickly developed an aversion to what was seen as invasive advertising. At that time the main source of antagonism was that the ads severely affected the user experience, but gradually as users became aware of the potential for cookies to track and identify them, it triggered an enormous backlash.

The result of marketers going too far
Among other things, these abuses gave rise to the ludicrous European cookie laws, which don’t actually solve any problems and do create new ones. It is also the reason why there’s an entirely new industry dedicated to blocking ads (and ironically many of the systems created to  block the ads are advertised online).
But users don’t really hate ads
The greatest misunderstanding in the marketing industry stems from the idea that users hate ads and this is the reason why they use ad blockers. The truth, however, is different. In reality what users hate is having their privacy invaded. Ads that don’t employ tracking or attempt to “personalize the user experience” are acceptable to the majority of intelligent internet users. Ads that are helpful or provide benefit to the reader in any form as a result of engagement with them may even be viewed with favor, except when the ad appears to be personalized, regionalized (falsely), or making use of tracking techniques.
Advertisers and publishers need to consciously avoid the mistakes that lead to failure
Wouldn’t it be great if there were some simple rules that could tell you what to avoid doing, and how to be more successful in online advertising?  Well hold onto your hat, because those rules actually do exist. Now let’s take a look at the common mistakes that may be costing you money and good will.

Mistake 1: Publishers generating negative cash flow from ads
There are certain types of publishers that have ideal sites for hosting external advertising. In general, they are non-corporate sites. If you have a site that is somehow tied to a brand, it may make your site seem unprofessional if it contains ads for things not related to your business.
Imagine if McDonald’s had ads on their site for a shoe sale at the mall. Such an ad would definitely be out of place, and would detract from the user experience, even if the user was really in the mood to buy some shoes.  They didn’t come to the McDonald’s website expecting to be shown an ad for shoes.
If the ads on your site have a negative effect on your professional appearance and reputation, those ads may be costing you more in terms of lost business than they can possibly generate for you as advertising revenue. In that case, you’re much better off not hosting the ads.
Mistake 2: Utilizing pop-up or pop-under windows for advertising or tracking
This is one of the most annoying things an advertiser or publisher can do. Hardly anyone ever clicks on ads contained in pop-ups or pop-unders, and when they do, it’s often by accident. You don’t win if you get somebody to click through to your site as a result of an accident or through deception. It just annoys the user.
Even major sites like TripAdvisor have used pop-unders, and that has generated a lot of complaints from users who are frustrated by them. One reason why it matters is that pop-unders are stealthy. The user may not even be aware that one has been opened until they go to close the browser window. But it can also impact more seriously on the user, because your pop-under may prevent Firefox from offering the user the opportunity to save their browsing session.
Mistake 3: Nag screens
These are common on commercial blog sites, but have also sometimes found their way onto corporate sites as well. These are modal windows that are triggered on certain events such as the user entering the site, attempting to leave the site, or scrolling past a certain point on the page. The modal usually nags or begs the user to subscribe to a mailing list or something like that. It’s incredibly rude.  It’s like blocking the door of your shop until the customer tells you where they live so you can send them catalogs.
The problem is that these nagging pop-ups actually do work. Various idiots (and the occasional genuinely interested person) actually fill them in, and what eventually happens is the advertiser gets lots of email addresses, so marketers still believe they’re good to have.
What they’re not considering is that the majority of users find them annoying and even when email addresses are harvested and spammed to the hilt, you won’t see a dramatic rise in sales. You may even see a decrease in your sales. That’s because hardly anyone reads the newsletters and other solicited spam you send out.
Nag screens are not the only way to acquire subscribers, and there’s evidence that they’re less effective than the alternative methods.

Mistake 4: Promising one thing and delivering another
This is just plain dishonesty, and it usually backfires. A variation on this is disguising an advertisement as genuine content, and only revealing quite late that you’re trying to sell something to the user. Both types of ad are likely to result in the user taking a negative view of you. Certainly you may make some sales regardless, but you’d probably make a lot more if you were honest in your intentions.
An example is when you offer the user a free trial or free sample, but then they discover it’s not really free. There is a big difference between a free trial and a money back guarantee, but there are plenty of marketers who will happily overlook that difference and call a spade a shovel. Other examples include raising the price above the advertised price by adding more charges where it wouldn’t be justified, showing a product that isn’t actually the product being sold, using obviously fake testimonials, and so on.
Mistake 5: Blatant dishonesty and misrepresentation
This is where the advertiser presents false information to try to convince the consumer to buy. Apart from the fact that it’s illegal in many jurisdictions to do this, it only takes one person to expose the fraud on social media, and your entire reputation could be in ruins. You may even face prosecution and lawsuits.
Mistake 6: Tracking
This is why people use ad-blockers and privacy tools like Ghostery. It’s why more people are using anonymizers, rejecting cookies, and using online personas. And it’s why Europe created their crazy cookie laws. Now that President Trump has approved the selling of browsing history, users are likely to be even more resistant than ever to being tracked. When you use tracking there are two things that happen. The first is that many users perceive this as inevitable, and the second is that nearly all users resent it.
Mistake 7: Over-reliance on display ads
Advertisers often make the mistake of thinking that what works in the offline world is also most effective online. Display ads are not as effective as inline content ads, except where the inline content ads are SEO links pretending not to be ads. When a blogger who is popular among runners makes a recommendation for a certain type of running shoe, readers are more likely to respond favorably to this ad than if it was simply a graphical banner ad displayed on the page or a deceptive link that was only added to get you a click.
header image courtesy of justyna stasik
This post Online Ads: Simple Mistakes That Might Be Costing You was written by Inspired Mag Team and first appearedon Inspired Magazine.
Source: inspiredm.com

How to Find the Best Freelance Writers in the Business

At a first glance, the thought of writing a blog post or copy for your email campaigns doesn’t seem so difficult. You’ve read a million and one of each before, so how hard could it really be?
As it turns out, the answer to this is typically “a lot harder than you’d think.”

This is why freelance writers exist.
As anyone who has ever hired a freelancer can tell you, though, freelancer writers are not all created equal. Deadlines get missed, quality is lacking, factual errors could pop up, and the content may not fit your brand or your voice.

There are a few ways to find great freelance writers that are reliable, experienced, and have the training and knowledge to hit the ground running as soon as you hire them—and I’m going to tell you how to find them.
Know What You’re Looking For
Before you even start looking for a freelancer, you’ll need to know what you’re looking for and what types of tasks you need accomplished. Otherwise, you may hire the World’s Best Blogger but realize they don’t know much about writing copy for Facebook Ads, which is what you really need from them.
Writers may classify themselves in different ways. The terms you’ll probably see a lot include:

Bloggers. These writers specialize in blog copy. They may or may not have other specialties.
Content writers/content marketers. These writers typically specialize in multiple types of content designed to help your business, including blog posts, guest posts, white papers, ebooks, and more. “Content marketers,” like myself, often offer consulting and strategy services in addition to actual writing.
Copywriters. This is a pretty big umbrella term, but if you’re looking for email campaigns and ad copy, copywriters are for you. The write content that sells.
Copyeditors. For the sake of simplicity, we’re grouping this term under the writing category. Copyeditors will go through posts that you or someone else has written and clean them up. They may or may not offer fact-checking services.
Ghostwriters. These writers come with all sorts of specialties; there are content ghostwriters, article ghostwriters, book ghostwriters. These writers should be able to emulate your voice, and you’ll get credit for the work. Be prepared to pay extra for this one; good ghostwriting is expensive.

Many freelancers, including myself, have overlapping specialties so we’re able to offer more than just once service. This alone is fine; if you’re able to find one great writer you love and stick with them, great! Just make sure that their talent is as strong across all departments (spoiler alert: sometimes it isn’t).
To Use or Not to Use: Freelancer Finding Platforms
There are number of different places businesses go to look for freelancers of all kind, including freelance hiring platforms. Like freelancers, though, these platforms are not all created equal. From what I’ve seen (and have surveyed my colleagues to confirm), there are a few platforms where you can find decent writers, but you might not find the best ones.

This includes Upwork, and any other freelance finding platform where there are more low paying gigs than high paying ones. And here’s why you may not find great writers on sites like Upwork:

These sites do have some great clients that are willing to pay well, but 99% of the jobs contacting writers ask us to write blog posts for $2 a piece. At one point, my hourly rate was set to $75 per hour, and I still had people sending me these jobs.
The sites take a little while to pay, and once they do, Upwork takes a great big chunk of fees. When the fees increased last year, I left for good.

If you’re using Upwork and like it and it’s working for you, great! That’s what matters. But from my experience, there are other methods I’d recommend instead to find the best freelance writers in the business.
Problogger Job Board
Problogger lets you post job opportunities seeking freelance writers. The writers who peruse the site have a wide variety of expertise and experience levels, so you can probably find a great fit here. There’s even the option to let writers apply directly on the site.
The downside to Problogger is that you’ll probably get slammed with applications from writers, which can be difficult to sort through. Some of these writers might not actually be qualified for the position they’ve applied for. My best recommendation is to ask pointed questions like “How do you optimize your blog posts for SEO?” so you can quickly weed out less experienced writers.
What I don’t recommend doing is asking writers to create headlines or to pitch you ideas; this takes so much time on the writer’s side with very little chance of benefits, that a lot of talented writers will pass right over the job.
LinkedIn (ProFinder and Otherwise)
LinkedIn ProFinder is one of the newer platforms; it rolled out last year, and it allows clients to post jobs that they need done. Vetted, pre-approved freelancers will be notified of the opportunitity, and can submit proposals with estimated cost and a brief cover letter. The first five freelancers who submit proposals will be considered, and if the client hires someone, they do so off the platform. There are currently no extra fees, but at least on the freelancer side, you need a Pro account ($30 a month) to be able to participate.

If you don’t want to use ProFinder, LinkedIn can still be extremely helpful. You can search for writers, copy writers, content marketers, ghostwriters, and editors. Some writers will have recommendations, which you can use in addition to their portfolio to see if they’re someone you’re interested in hiring.
This is my favorite freelancing platform, and aside from LinkedIn ProFinder, it’s the only one I use regularly. Writers get to set their minimum rates, and are only shown jobs that meet that rate. The clients I’ve worked with have all been exceptional, and have all raved about the platform, too.

Clearvoice is not a free tool for those hiring freelancers to use. It is a great full service tool, however, with options for qualified writers and content marketing experts to help you develop strategies, manage your content calendar, and write and edit your content. The freelance writers need to apply to the platform, and are vetted before being accepted. And even then, you’ll get to choose which freelancers you want to hire for individual projects. If you find one freelancer you really like, you can offer jobs specifically to them in the future.
All of Clearvoice’s plans give you access to their network of approved writers. Their standard plan costs $249 a month, which can help you find and manage writers. You will pay the writers on top of this fee.
Get Referrals
I highly, highly recommend this method of finding the best freelance writers. It’s free, it’s easy, and it’s the best way to get a freelance writer you know you can trust off the bat. Ask colleagues and friends for referrals. More than half of my new clients come from referrals from current or past clients.
Many businesses of all sizes have used a copywriter, content writer, and/or ghostwriter at some point, just as many have hired a graphic designer or site developer at some point. Your colleagues and friends would never send someone to you that they wouldn’t recommend (and if they do, you need new friends).
Contact Writers Who Wrote Articles You Love
Massimo found me this way and recruited me to write for AdEspresso over two years ago. After referral work, this is the second most common way clients find me. This strategy has some great benefits: if you’re able to find a writer who is already writing posts you love, you know that they’ll almost certainly be able to replicate those results. When you assign them their first project, you can also say “I loved your casual writing style/ data-heavy focus/ specific hypothetical examples—can you include that in these posts?” This is helpful for both parties, and can help you get what you want more quickly.

Some writers will have their contact information in their bio under their article. If they don’t, you can google their full name and “writer.” If they’re serious about what they do, there’s a good chance their website will pop up and have information about services they offer and a contact form.
If you’re really stumped and can’t find a site, check out the publication’s Twitter or Facebook. See if you can find a tweet with the article; the post might have the writer tagged.

Characteristics to Look For in a Freelance Writer
There are several characteristics that I recommend looking for if you want to hire the best talent in the industry and weed out some of the frauds. As a freelancer who has worked with and hired other freelancers, in my experience, the best freelancers you can hire:

Prioritize deadlines. The biggest complaint I hear from new clients is “all our old freelancers never made their deadlines.” This is an enormous problem with the freelance world. One trick to use is to see if the writer has any long-term clients; if they have several clients that have stuck with them for several years, that’s a good sign that they’re turning in good work on time.
Have an awesome website. A writer’s writing is their livelihood, and if they don’t have a site outlining some basic information and some writing samples, they may not be fully invested in it. In my personal experience, you’ll get the best results from someone who is writing full time so that you can be a priority instead of their “real job”… and that means they’ll have a site.
Have experience or training to back up their claims. Anyone can call themselves a “full time freelance writer” or a “copywriter,” and many people do—even if they really aren’t. They should be able to show you projects they’ve worked on, classes or training they’ve taken, or certifications.
Do not come cheap. Quality writers charge high rates. If they’re not, they’re either trying to create a portfolio or aren’t really that good. Don’t ask them to write for exposure (we get real annoyed, real fast);  they’ll be worth the investment.
Have SEO & strategy experience. Writers who understand the strategy behind the content they write will be the most beneficial to your business. They should understand SEO basics, along with strategies like how to generate brand awareness. These writers create goal-driven content that reads well for people first and Google second.

How Will I Know if They’re a Good Fit?
This is where Massimo’s strategy of contacting writers he likes comes in handy; you’ve seen something in their style of writing that you like, and you already know they can deliver it. Writers you contact can often show you writing samples to showcase a body of work.
When in doubt, you can always ask the writer to do a small, paid sample project, like a 400 word blog post instead of a 1500 word post, priced accordingly. (Don’t ask us to do this for free: we’ll say no.)
It’s also worth noting that even the best freelance writer may not be the best fit for your specific business. I’ve done a few sample projects and realized I wouldn’t be a good fit and normally figure it out before the client. I bow out and refer them to someone else instead. If you notice that your writer isn’t a great fit for your needs, you can start looking for another.
Final Thoughts
There are some incredible, outstanding freelancer writers (and similarly, graphic designers and marketing consultants, and on and on) out there who can help elevate your business, you just have to know how to find the best out there.
Knowing where to find them and what to look for is essential, and remember that content from a great writer is an investment for your business that is always worth it.
What do you think? How have you found the best freelance writers? What qualities do you look for in your freelancers? Leave us a comment and let us know what you think! 
Source: https://adespresso.com/feed/

Brotli and Static Compression

Content compression can be as simple as flipping a switch, but there's a lot to consider beyond that. We pretty well know what we need to compress, but what about configuring compression? Or static versus dynamic compression? What about Brotli?

By now, Brotli enjoys support in a good chunk of browsers in use. While it provides performance advantages in many situations, there are some ins and outs that can prove challenging. At its highest compression setting, Brotli provides superior compression ratios to gzip, but the compression speed at this setting is slow enough that the benefit is squandered when content is dynamically compressed. What you really want in cases such as these is static compression. If you're unaware of the differences between static and dynamic compression, here's a quick refresher:

Dynamic compression occurs on-the-fly. The user makes a request, the content is compressed (as the user waits) and the compressed content is served.
Static compression is when assets are compressed on the disk ahead of the user's request. When the user requests an asset, compression doesn't happen. The pre-compressed asset is simply served from the disk.

The big issue with dynamic compression is that the server can't reply to the pending content request until the compression is done. This is no big deal at default compression levels. If you're cranking up the compression level to shrink assets as much as possible, though, it can hold up the show while the server waits for the compressor to finish. Even if you realize significantly lower file sizes, the delay of dynamic compression may end up being a performance liability.
The answer to this problem is, predictably, static compression, a concept which is no stranger to tech bloggers. In this short article, you'll get to learn about setting up your site to statically compress files for optimal compression performance, and see real world results of this powerful technique.
How do I statically compress content?
How you use static compression depends on which web server you use. As this blogger points out, Nginx has static compression capability for Brotli is built right in. If you use Express, the shrink-ray node module will provide this benefit through its own caching mechanism.
With other servers like Apache, however, it may not be so simple. Apache's unofficial mod_brotli module (and even its official mod_deflate module for gzip) doesn't provide static compression functionality. You don't necessarily need a server module to accomplish this goal, though. You can statically compress assets on the disk beforehand, and then configure the server to serve those pre-compressed assets from the disk using mod_rewrite.
So what do you use to pre-compress assets? You could manually do it using a binary in bash, but automating that work with gulp is much more convenient. Let's say you want to pre-compress all HTML, CSS, JavaScript and SVG images in a project and spit them out into a different folder:
const brotliCompress = () => {
let src = "src/**/*.{html,js,css,svg}",
dest = "dist";

return gulp.src(src)
extension: "br",
quality: 11

exports.brotliCompress = brotliCompress;
The brotliCompress task is then invoked like this:
gulp brotliCompress
This will process all the assets matched by the file glob (specified in the src variable) and output Brotli compressed versions to the destination directory (specified in the dest variable). styles.css will be compressed to styles.css.br, scripts.js will be scripts.js.br and et cetera. Best of all, thequalitysetting of11yields the best possible compression ratio. It's also possible for you to generate pre-compressed gzip assets to serve to browsers that don't support Brotli withgulp-gzip. Its syntax is largely similar togulp-brotli, and you can use alevelsetting of9` to max out your gains from that compression method as well.
So what's the next piece? This is where a bit of Apache configuration knowledge comes in handy. This blogger's technique works magnificently:
# Specify Brotli-encoded assets
<Files *.js.br>
AddType "text/javascript" .br
AddEncoding br .br
<Files *.css.br>
AddType "text/css" .br
AddEncoding br .br
<Files *.svg.br>
AddType "image/svg+xml" .br
AddEncoding br .br
<Files *.html.br>
AddType "text/html" .br
AddEncoding br .br
You can also specify gzip-encoded versions for those browsers that can't understand Brotli encoding:
# Specify gzip-encoded assets
<Files *.js.gz>
AddType "text/javascript" .gz
AddEncoding gz .gz
<Files *.css.gz>
AddType "text/css" .gz
AddEncoding gz .gz
<Files *.svg.gz>
AddType "image/svg+xml" .gz
AddEncoding gz .gz
<Files *.html.gz>
AddType "text/html" .gz
AddEncoding gz .gz
From here, you need a couple mod_rewrite rules to detect what encodings are available in the browser's Accept-Encoding request header and then serve the appropriately encoded asset to the user:
# Turn on mod_rewrite
RewriteEngine On

# Serve pre-compressed Brotli assets
RewriteCond %{HTTP:Accept-Encoding} br
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME}.br -f
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ $1.br [L]

# Serve pre-compressed gzip assets
RewriteCond %{HTTP:Accept-Encoding} gzip
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME}.gz -f
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ $1.gz [L]
With these rules, the browser will serve pre-compressed Brotli content to browsers that specify it in their Accept-Encoding request headers. Other browsers will get statically compressed gzip versions. That's it. You just learned how to serve statically compressed assets to users in a browser that doesn't support it.
How does this affect performance?
As you might guess, taking the cost of on-the-fly compression out of the equation confers a performance benefit for the user. To test this out, I deployed this change to a client's static site and ran some tests. This site was roughly ~900 KB in total size with a number of stylesheets and scripts (including a sizable CSS/JS framework), some SVG images and some decently sized HTML. Using sitespeed.io, I ran 50 iterations on each of four scenarios:

Dynamic Brotli compression with a quality setting of 11.
Static Brotli compression (with the same quality setting).
Dynamic gzip compression with a level setting of 9.
Static gzip compression (with the same level setting).

The effects on back end time were quite noticeable:
Comparison of back end times of various compression method
Here we see that dynamic Brotli compression at the highest compression level is very slow, (which has been noted in a few write-ups). When we pre-compress assets with Brotli, though, we're getting the full benefit of the smallest possible file sizes, but without the penalty of dynamic compression that comes at highest level. The differences between dynamic and static compression using gzip are less dramatic, but notable. On the average, static compression is beneficial to reducing back end time. If it's one thing we know, it's this: If we can reduce back end time, we reduce almost every metric that occurs after it. Reduce back end time where you can, and you'll improve overall responsiveness.
Caveats and Conclusion
Static compression is ideal, but it's not for every situation. For example, what about dynamic content? Any page generated by a back end language (e.g., PHP or C#) falls under this category. That kind of content is not a candidate for static compression. In this case, you have to accept that static compression just isn't an option. What you can do, however, is use a sensible dynamic compression configuration for compressing dynamic content. Using Brotli or gzip default compression levels should yield a performance benefit without adversely affecting your site's time to first byte.
What about BREACH attacks? Compressed content is vulnerable to this exploit over HTTPS, but the key here is that the BREACH exploit is only problematic for content containing personally identifying information. In this case, you might stick with leaving your HTML content uncompressed, but compress other kinds of content that don't contain sensitive information. It's a workable compromise, but there are other mitigation methods out there.
Beyond these scenarios (and potentially the upkeep of compressed assets in your workflow), there's very little reason not to adopt static compression. Even if your web server of choice doesn't support it, it's still feasible to implement. Give your site a boost and try it out today!

Jeremy Wagner is the author of Web Performance in Action, an upcoming title from Manning Publications. Use coupon code sswagner to save 42% off it, or any other Manning book.
Check him out on Twitter: @malchata

Brotli and Static Compression is a post from CSS-Tricks
Source: CssTricks

What Works Now: 13 Content Marketing Secrets from Kissmetrics, WordStream, Unbounce, KlientBoost, Close.io & More

“Content Shock” was first discussed in 2014. Mark Schaefer’s prescient concept that there was too much content to read. More supply than demand.
If consumers were struggling to keep up in 2014… they must be completely overwhelmed today.
The content marketing bar has never been higher. People are pumping out more awesome stuff than ever before. Faster and more frequently.

So what are the pros doing? The best and brightest. The ones who’re on the front lines, slogging it out every single day. The content marketers themselves and content leaders within today’s leading marketing technology companies.
Thankfully, they’re also very nice and happily agreed to share their insight.

Here’s what works now in content marketing according to Aaron Orendorff, Zach Bulygo, Claire Suellentrop, Edward Dennis, Elisa Gabbert, Casey Armstrong, Bill Widmer, Brian Sun, Amy Wood, Kaleigh Moore, Andy Crestodina, Johnathan Dane, and Steli Efti.
Welcome to the Content Marketing Hunger Games
‘Thin content’ refers to any low value, scraped, or duplicated content.
It was squarely in Google’s crosshair several years ago with the Panda algorithm update.
The theory, at the time, was that web pages needed at least 300-500 unique words in order to be ‘valuable’ (and therefore, not ‘thin’).
For years, 500-odd words was the default blog post length. Easy. Only took an hour or two to crank out and you got on with your day.
Except something happened. Supply vs. demand. Everybody started doing the content thing. The Inbound Marketing thing. And that level slowly edged up.
Average word counts rose to ~800 in 2014 and then over ~1,000 in 2016 according to Orbit Media’s blogger survey. Then Brian Dean and Eric Van Buskirk analyzed over a million search results and found the average first page result had over 1,890 words.
But it’s not just length that’s gotten exponentially more difficult.
HubSpot was one of the first B2B sites publishing multiple times a day. Because it worked. Even in 2015, where they found:
“Companies that published 16+ blog posts per month got almost 3.5X more traffic than companies that published between 0 – 4 monthly posts.”

Then there’s the complexity, detail, nuance, statistical evidence, images, gifs, video, skyscrapers, and more.
The time it takes to create a piece of content has risen proportionally. Over three hours to scrape together a measly 1,000 words. While longer pieces can take half-to-a-full day to complete.

(image source)
Content marketing has gone from a cheap, easy, ‘free’ way to attract attention, to a cutthroat, winner-takes-all, heavily-funded marketing strategy.
Want attention? To rank and increase brand visibility? To keep those rankings and drive new leads?
Chances are, your stuff ain’t good enough. The Content Marketing Hunger Games (I’m trademarking that ASAP) will eat you up and spit you out. You gotta first take a step back, figure out where things are headed, and prepare yourself for the long road ahead.
It’s a marathon, not a sprint. A muther-effing ultramarathon. And your journey starts here.
Begin at the Beginning with Customer Research
Aaron Orendorff owns “conversion optimization” online.
At least, that would be the impression you’d get if you tried to read anything about the subject.
According to his recent Unbounce piece (which has already racked up over 2,000 shares after only being published for a week or so), that includes:

The number one ranked article for “conversion rate optimization principles”
The number one ranked article for “wrong with conversion rate optimization”
The number one ranked article for “optimize online copy”
The most shared article for “CRO marketing”

What’s the catch?
He admits that he’s not a “conversion optimizer” and is instead “faking it”. (And doing one hell of a job at that, apparently.)
I’m stealing his lead here. Misappropriating it entirely. But I think it still works. Because the reason he’s been able to run away with “conversion optimization” headlines (rankings and credibility) is because he understands exactly who his audience is and what they’re looking for.
Not in a primitive, shallow way like most companies. But on a deeper, personal, and intimate level.
Take it away, Aaron.
Aaron Orendorff, IconiContent
Aaron Orendorff is the Founder of IconiContent and a contributor at Mashable, Entrepreneur, Huffington Post, Lifehacker, Inc., Fast Company, Business Insider, Success Magazine, The Next Web, Content Marketing Institute, Copyblogger, MarketingProfs, ConversionXL, Unbounce & more. (Jesus, is that all Aaron?!)
This next year is all about personas and funnels. Why? Because content for content’s sake — even popular content — is a seductive myth. What matters is creating content tailor-made for decision makers. B2C this matters. B2B it’s life or death. On top of that, content has to fit into the buying cycle of real humans and real organizations. The only way to do this is by creating data-driven personas and locating where in your funnel each particular piece of content can meet needs and catapult your audience into the next step. All this has to happen before you ideate and put finger to keyboard.”
Zach Bulygo, Kissmetrics
Zach Bulygo is the Blog Manager at Kissmetrics.
The most important thing you can do is have a great understanding of who your target market is. Understand what their job is like, what challenges they have, and how you can help them through your content. The best way to do this is from a list of “target topics” that you know your target audience is interested in, then sticking to those target topics in every new piece of content you produce.”
Claire Suellentrop, Love Your Customers
Claire Suellentrop is a SaaS Messaging & Conversion Expert at Love Your Customers.
Many marketing teams put all their effort into acquisition-focused content, but overlook how crucial content is during new user activation.
Imagine picking up a tasty-looking frozen pizza at the grocery store, flipping the box over, and realizing…hey, there are no instructions on this thing. If you have no idea how to bake it properly, chances are, you’ll put the pizza back and move on.
While acquiring signups is a valuable goal, shoving those signups into a subpar onboarding flow — without adequate content to guide trial users to success — is a recipe for low trial > paid conversion rates.
So, my thoughts on content strategy in 2017? Devote half your efforts to acquisition content, and the other half to activation content. Both types can often be tweaked and repurposed to fill the other funnel, and when you give the two equal attention, you set yourself up for a much higher ROI on your acquisition efforts.”
Edward Dennis, Core DNA
Edward Dennis is in Digital Marketing at Core dna and bwired. (Fun fact: His legal name is just “Dennis”. True story. Like Prince or Madonna.)

Niche wise: start narrow.
Branding wise: cultivate a “Us vs. Them” movement

Here’s what I mean by start narrow. Whatever your industry is; whether it be agencies, removalists, bodybuilding; there are a lot of “underserved” sub-niches. Nerd Fitness is a good example; it focuses on a sub-niche in the fitness industry – nerds who want to get fit. So, start by identifying a few underserved sub-niches in your industry. There are a bunch of how to build a startup related sites and content. But there aren’t a lot of resources on how to build a startup for people with typical 9-5 jobs.
Re branding/marketing, people want something or someone they can look up and relate to. FrankBody is a good example; for those who didn’t know, they sell coffee-based scrub. FrankBody is NOT for everyone – that’s how they intend it to be – and they’re proud of it. They’re for young, digital-native women who are not afraid to show their skin, rub coffee grounds all over their body, and believe in natural health products. With this “Us vs. Them” movement, you’re basically creating a sense of purpose for those who “fit in” and make everyone else worry they’re being left out – FOMO, anyone?
I’ve yet to see a company that’s successfully created this “Us vs. Them” mentality better than FrankBody. A quick search on Instagram for #frankeffect and #letsbefrank will prove this.”
Upgrade Your Existing Assets to Leverage Past Success
Most companies focus exclusively on their latest content. The stuff that got published this week or this month. 
Yet when you open up Google Analytics and search for your most popular content, something surprising will happen.
You’ll notice that in most cases, your most popular content over the past few weeks that has brought in the most visitors might actually be from a year or two ago.
SEO rewards compound growth. The longer something’s been around, the more authoritative it tends to be. The longer it has to be shared, read, bookmarked, and linked to. And so each piece will continue to ‘snowball’; delivering more and more returns like the way compounding interest works.
And that’s exactly where some of the biggest content marketers are starting.
Elisa Gabbert, WordStream
Elisa Gabbert is the Senior SEO & Content Marketing Manager at WordStream, where she manages the WordStream blog. Follow her on Twitter at @egabbert.
– We leverage data from both our client base and our free tools whenever possible to provide original data resources. People are hungry for data and these resources end up being our most linkable assets-stuff like our industry benchmarks for AdWords and Facebook Ads, or data on how Expanded Text Ads affect ad KPI’s for early adopters. It’s not a new strategy, but we’re not slowing down.
– I’m actively optimizing for Google’s featured snippets whenever possible, as we’ve seen great organic CTR and traffic from content that earns the feature snippet. There are plenty of little technical things you can do to improve your chances, but the #1 thing you need to nail to get a featured snippet is intent match-make sure you’re giving searchers what they really want when they type in the query you’re targeting.
– We’re also proactively updating old content so we don’t lose rankings when new competitors roll around. This involves making sure all the information and images are up-to-date, and optimizing for engagement versus the more shallow SEO that used to work just fine in the old days.”
Casey Armstrong, BigCommerce
Casey Armstrong is the Director of Marketing at BigCommerce.
Optimize 1) current content that is close to ranking well and will drive significant traffic and 2) content that is driving quality traffic, but not turning into new customers or revenue. People often chase the bright shiny object before optimizing what they currently have, which the latter often bares fruit much faster.
I’ll stay very high-level, but for #1, figure out how can you best optimize your quality content that you already poured so much time into so that it ranks better or gets better distribution. I’ve seen this time and time again where you can increase traffic via SEO by 10% or 50% or 100% by fixing what you already have. For #2, figure out how can you create lead magnets or reasons for people to move deeper into your funnel from your current traffic before building more of what is likely the same content you’ve been doing.”
Bill Widmer, Content Marketing Consultant
Bill Widmer is a content marketing consultant and freelance writer for Social Media Examiner, HootSuite, SEJ, and more.
“The standards for content are getting higher and higher as more businesses hop on the bandwagon. This is actually great news for those who are serious about making it work – if you can create something truly awesome, you can stand out.
However, the content itself is only one-half of content marketing. Otherwise, it would just be called blogging.
Getting eyeballs on your content is getting harder as well. The strategies I’ve seen the most success with are networking and SEO. The bigger my network, the more people share my content. The better my SEO, the higher I rank on search engines.
And, of course, backlinking is still as important today as ever. Guest posting and (cover your ears, white-hatters) buying links are very prominent right now.”
Brian Sun, AutopilotHQ
Brian Sun is the Senior Manager, Content Marketing at AutopilotHQ.
At a high-level, I want to take a compounding approach to content so that everything our team creates builds on top of the content before it. How can blog posts be batched together into a series to show up higher in search results?
How can automated lead nurturing campaigns extend the life of recent articles? What recurring social media updates can we set up to run forever because the content is timeless?
Compounding our efforts is the name of the game in 2017.”
Level Up New Content in Every Way Possible
Only after understanding your audience and leveraging past success are you ready to start cranking out new stuff.
The reason?
The ‘bar’ for new content has been raised in almost every facet imaginable. From the initial hook and topic idea, all the way through the depth, complexity, and production.
Many of the web’s top marketing companies, like Unbounce, pre-screen content ideas and don’t even give it the time of day if it doesn’t scream 10x.
Amy Wood, Unbounce
Amy Wood is a Content Writer and Editor at Unbounce.
The last thing I want to do is contribute to the noise. If it’s not original, if it’s not valuable, if it’s not educational, it need not be a priority. This means taking a hard look at our prioritization process and accepting that — despite what I was told when I first started blogging — publishing top-quality content less frequently is often more valuable than publishing medium-quality content several times per week.”
Kaleigh Moore
Kaleigh Moore is a freelance writer for Entrepreneur and Inc. Magazine and helps create written content for growing SaaS companies like Citrix, Campaign Monitor, WhenIWork, and more.
I’m focusing on creating more in-depth content for clients that teaches an actionable how-to rather than reporting on high-level trends or facts. The reason: There’s far more value for the reader in this type of content.”
Andy Crestodina, Orbit Media
Andy Crestodina is a co-founder and the Strategic Director of Orbit Media, an award-winning 38-person web design company in Chicago.

10x Formats: More images, more video
Total Originality: publishing research, becoming the primary source
Maximum Depth: Longer, more detailed, more thorough and more mega-roundups (which I don’t really like, personally)  Brad’s note: <- Ironic, eh?
Headline Hackers: Better use of emotional triggers and power words
Social Aggression: Keeping things in heavy social rotation for longer”

Doubling Down on What You Know Works
Inside sales tool, Close.io, originally started as Elastic, Inc., an outsourced sales team for startups.
In other words, they’re sales experts. Well versed in the latest Predictable Revenue, cold calling 2.0 tactics of referral emails and more.
And yet, they haven’t even bothered with doing outbound sales to grow Close.io.
KlientBoost is a fast-growing PPC agency that recently hit the $300k/month mark in only ~two years.
And yet, they don’t run many ads for their own company, either.
Instead, both Close.io and KlientBoost rely on content marketing. The massive success speaks for itself.
Here’s how they’ve been able to use content marketing to grow their companies so quickly that they haven’t even needed to lift a finger in their own respective specialties.
Johnathan Dane, KlientBoost
Johnathan Dane is the Founder and CEO of KlientBoost.
We’ve been able to have a strong consistency with our blog, so we’re going to expand our content efforts to video and do the same thing we’ve done with our content: trying to outdo everyone on the topic we choose to focus on.”
Steli Efti, Close.io
Steli Efti is the CEO of Close.io
Our content strategy for 2017: Do more of what worked in 2016 (and ’15, and ’14, and ’13…). There are many trends you can follow, many opportunities you could pursue. But you’ll be better off to focus on one thing that plays to your strengths. What enables you to deliver maximum value to your audience? Double down on that. I see too many people opportunistically jumping on every up-and-coming new channel. Stop listening to the experts and start listening to your audience.”
The content marketing bar has never been higher.
Supply has far outstripped demand. To the point that now you’re in a winner-takes-all race to top SERPs, get shares, and grab eyeballs.
Thankfully, the experts who’re doing it on a daily basis have stripped away the guess work for everyone else.
The first step is to deeply understand what your audience is looking for. What motives them, scares them, and builds trust with them. Then before cranking out anything new, go back and upgrade your existing content assets, first.
Only after leveraging past success are you ready to move forward and create new 10x content that’s original, valuable, insightful, in-depth, data-driven, and perfectly produced.
Once you’ve begun to reach those stratospheric heights, don’t stop.
Find out what works best for you. What’s moving the needle. And then double down as much as possible to the exclusion of other hot trends, channels, tactics, or growth hacks.
Source: https://adespresso.com/feed/

Freaks, Systems, Mental Spring Cleaning

I had forgotten that I had contributed a few things to Chris Brogan’s book, The Freaks Shall Inherit the Earth, which apparently came out in 2014; wow, has it been that long?!
I was reminded of this from a digital friend, Andy, who’s a Church of England vicar, DJ, musician, artist, magician, and entrepreneur… among many other things, who wrote me a great email full of encouragement.

But I had forgotten my contribution to Chris’ book and, in fact, I’m not sure I had ever read a copy or seen what was ultimately put in the book! I asked Andy and he transcribed the section for me. What a guy!
In any case, here’s a little bit from Chris Brogan’s book that might resonate with you (or not):
Create Systems That Work for You
Blogger, entrepreneur, and friend John Saddington recently made a public announcement to his community that he is dealing with autism, specifically Asperger’s syndrome. Before I go much further, I should remind readers of the saying: If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism. That is, everyone’s different—and John’s difference requires an interesting system.
John can remember things much better visually. Visual presentations stay with him much more clearly than audible ones; if John takes a picture, it will stick with him. For example, John would likely forget a grocery list’s details, but if he photographs the list, he can navigate the store without a problem. He can remember people, but if he sees their photo, it’s like opening up a mental database of what he knows about the person—even if they’re just on the phone with him.
Because this is just how John is wired, he’s developed a system to handle it best. And as a software entrepreneur, he’s also created software to support that system.
So before we go on to talk about systems, think about how this story relates to the freaks concept. John’s a freak just like you or me. His challenge is his autism, and building a business that he wants to build while living the life he wants to live. I can tell you that John’s business is paying him well enough and he’s living on his own terms, which sounds like success to me. The choices he’s made have allowed him to inherit the earth he wants—specifically, his choice to build systems that work for him.

Thanks Chris for sharing part of my story with your audience. I’ve appreciated our virtual friendship over the many years.
I’m still building these systems, by the way. It’s not like this activity or endeavor every completely stops. You just get slightly better over time and you learn to refine your systems faster and with even more resolve.
This doesn’t mean that they don’t break, but you recover faster when they do. I actually am feeling this pressure right now and this week I plan on going through a massive “mental spring cleaning” if you will. I share a few more thoughts on this via today’s vlog:

I’d love to hear from you and if you have any personal thoughts or experiences with making more mental space for yourself so that you can be the best version of yourself for others… and, well, yourself.
And don’t forget – everyone wins when you do.
The post Freaks, Systems, Mental Spring Cleaning appeared first on John Saddington.
Source: https://john.do/

5 Crucial Blogging Mistakes Every Beginner Makes (And How to Avoid Them)

Inspired Magazine
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While creating a blog might seem simple on the surface, creating a successful blog is much more difficult. Many people are under the impression that simply building a blog and regularly posting content is enough to build an audience. However, many new bloggers commit crucial mistakes that could be easily avoided. Before you create a blog, here are five crucial blogging mistakes many beginners make and how to avoid them yourself.
Not Knowing their Goal
One of the most common blogging mistakes bloggers make is assuming that if they write, the audience will come, and that they can write anything and generate views and revenue. This hurts you in several respects. First, if you don’t have a goal in mind for the blog, it risks becoming a diary online and losing the interest of almost anyone except your immediate social circle. Second, if you don’t have a set goal in mind, even a vaguely focused blog will suffer periodic posts that undermine its focus.
Know why you are blogging. Are you writing about a technical area you know well to promote your consulting? Then you need to write exclusively about the technical topic and not throw in posts about your personal life or politics. Are you blogging in the hope of converting website visitors into buyers or signups for a newsletter? Then all of your content on the blog needs to include calls to action to sign up for the newsletter or reference the content they can buy, as well as reference why that content is better than the free sample available online. Are you writing about being a mom and hoping to earn money from doing so? Then keep the discussion focused on kids and parenting.

Not Knowing their Niche
Writing about too many topics in an effort to appeal to as wide an audience as possible is a mistake too many new bloggers make. There are literally a million other outlets large and small competing with your blog for an audience. You need to know not only your goal but your niche before you create a blog. You need to pick a niche that you can write about in volume and in depth but not repeat what everyone else is saying.
If you are a blogging parent, do you have expertise on raising multiples or a child with a specific handicap? You’ll stand out from a million other moms telling generic funny stories about what their children did today. If you are blogging about food, find a niche like a type of ethnic cooking or cooking for someone with specific dietary restrictions. You’ll capture an audience eager to read about good meals they can actually enjoy.
Why do you need to know your niche before you start blogging? The focus of your blog will determine how search engines categorize it and the audience it will start to attract. It is easier to select a unique niche that suits your long term goals from the start than to write a generic, unfocused blog and try to bring it into focus later. And when you know the blog’s focus, it is easier to create titles and content rich in the key search terms the audience will be using to find blogs like yours.

Not Knowing their Audience
One common mistake bloggers make is writing for themselves and not their audience. Understand who is going to be reading your blog and write content for that audience. Mommy blog readers want to know how to simplify their lives, raise better children and save money in the process. Someone seeking technical advice needs content that answers their questions, though the blog may state that for more complex issues or their particular situation, the reader should consult with an expert, you. Understand the problems they face so that you can write about solutions they care about and will read about. You need to understand your audience so that you don’t make posts too complex or too simple.
Understanding your audience helps you pick topics for the blog that they find relevant and interesting, as well. For example, a mommy blogger can review baby products or minivans, whereas a review of wine glasses or gag gifts will fall flat. Financial advice blogs could review insurance products, recommend credit cards or financial books. A financial guru recommending personal care products will lose their audience quickly.
Conversely, you should not be writing your blog to vent frustrations of the moment. If the content isn’t of value to the audience, they’ll stop reading it after several posts like this. The only exception would be parenting frustrations that can be spun into something entertaining, such as messes toddlers made or crafts they tried to create.

Not Being Consistent
An estimated 95% of all blogs have been abandoned. Most bloggers start a blog with gusto and then peter out. One of the most important things you do after starting a blog is to continue to post. It is more important to post content regularly, such as on a weekly basis, than put out a large volume of posts at the onset.
What do you do if you’re running out of ideas? Look at the subjects you’ve already covered and find ones ready for an update, such as when you reviewed version 2.0 of a product and version 3.0 just came out. If you still need help, consider guest bloggers who write on the same topics you do or offer complimentary content. Or read through the comments your readers posted and expound upon them in a new blog entry.
Your blog must also be of high quality to rank well with search engines; grammar and spelling mistakes will hurt you as will repetitive phrases and filler words.
It is better to put out one good blog post per week than three lousy ones. So while you need to maintain a publication schedule, it is better to post fewer, better articles than a greater quantity of poorer quality content. Remember that search engines grade your blog based on the quality of the content, so hurriedly drafted content posted on the site hurts your blog’s ranking.

Not Knowing How to Monetize the Blog
Many bloggers start writing in the hope of making money from the effort. They often make mistakes when they try to monetize the blog. Before you do product reviews in return for pay, understand the FTC’s rules for disclosing that fact. Learn how the blogging platform you use treats Amazon affiliate links before you put too many links on the blog and get hit with spam penalties. Think about what your audience would find valuable before you start asking them to join your latest affiliate sales program. If you are using the blog to promote your writing, include links to where they can buy your book or sign up for a subscription newsletter. If you plan on running Google ads on your blog, learn what subjects the blog can’t address without being demonetized.
Understand how to connect the blog to your business, if the blog is used to promote the business. For example, an appliance repair blog should discuss maintenance and do it yourself repairs for the average homeowner, as well as clear references as to when to call in a pro like your business.

In Closing
Before you start a blog, know your reason for blogging and your unique niche. Understand your audience and create quality content that they will be interested in. A blog is not the right place to vent your personal grievances or maintain a diary. Understand the rules before you try to monetize your blog, and know the right way to promote a product or service if that is the purpose of your blog.
header image courtesy of  Jeremy Booth
This post 5 Crucial Blogging Mistakes Every Beginner Makes (And How to Avoid Them) was written by Inspired Mag Team and first appearedon Inspired Magazine.
Source: inspiredm.com

Breaking Down Our Ebook Launch Strategy

We just wrapped up our launch of The Book of CMS, an ebook about content management systems, and I’d like to share the strategy and lessons learned from the launch experience that may help you with your next ebook launch.
If you’re thinking about launching an ebook, it’s important to first understand why you’re making an ebook before you launch it. What are your goals? We had three:
To pool together our knowledge and experience in content management and create one shareable resource to help people in the process of selecting a CMS.To create an attractive, well-designed, and organized ebook that we can use for lead generation and email audience growth.To demonstrate thought leadership and build awareness of our brand.
With our goals set, we threw ourselves into the vast knowledge base of the Internet to research what has historically made an excellent ebook. Here’s what we found:
3 Parts to a Great Ebook:
It addresses a relevant problem to your audience and delivers a viable, practical solution (source: Jim Kukral). In our industry (digital), folks often ask us about which content management system (CMS) is the best and how to choose one for their particular organization. It's a significant problem, and if misdirected, can lead to costly frustrations down the road.Its design, format, and content are aesthetically pleasing, accurate, and educational (source: Hubspot). If you write a wonderful solution to a pressing problem but then publish it in an ugly, hard-to-read, or boring format, the impact will be lost. Marshall McLuhan coined the popular phrase, "The medium is just as important as the message." If you can't ensure your publication will be easy and helpful to read, then you may want to wait until you have the resources to do it.It's clear why it's more than a blog post (source: Smart Blogger). More words for the sake of more words is not helpful to readers. Ebooks are meaty. Blog posts make a single point whereas a book knits together an ecosystem of points to address a larger problem.
To create the content we knit together a 72-page document of our existing blog posts on the topic of content management. By leveraging existing content, the bulk of the writing was already done. We then organized the writing and edited intros and outros to make it flow seamlessly.
(Retrospectively, I don’t recommend this. Original content flows more naturally, whereas piecing together separate blog posts and sales documents creates disjointedness, tonal inconsistencies, and unnecessary repetition.
However, it is neat to have all of your content on one topic in one place. It makes sharing easy and puts forth a good impression.)
We underwent weeks and weeks of editing rounds and design iterations. This was a catch 22 —  the more people involved in editing and designing, the richer the content and better the design, but at the cost of more time to meet everyone’s approval.
Looking back, I recommend taking it slow, involving many people, and making it as perfect as possible (it’s a book, not a blog post that can be easily fixed).
Pro tip: Make sure the PDF download is less than 10mb for fast downloading and data plan-preservation on mobile devices.
Once the ebook was finished, we wrote out the following plan to get our team on the same page to prepare for launch day.
Key Links:
For easy access, we put the most important links at the top of the launch plan doc.
Landing pageFolder of ebook screenshotsActual PDFSpreadsheet of contact listNewsletter announcementBlog post announcement
(The landing page should be finished well in advance -- we recommend 3 weeks -- of launch day. If you don’t have a landing page yet, see: 20 Ebook Landing Page Examples Used by Today’s Best Brands).
2 Weeks Before Launch
Ask a Product Hunter to hunt the ebookCreate a spreadsheet of at least 50 prospects to send personalized emails to with a link to the landing pageIn the same spreadsheet, list the online communities you are involved with where you can post a link to the landing page (Designer News, Web Design Depot, Reddit, etc)
1 Week Before Launch
Send an email to remind your team of launch day and ask them to add client contacts to contact list spreadsheetLoad social posts (Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, Medium, Dribbble)Email media contacts with embargo-ed announcementCreate and schedule email newsletter announcement
Launch Day
Promote via social channels (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Linkedin, Medium)Publish announcement blog postEmail contact listSubmit to curated (e.g., sidebar) sites and community sites (Product Hunt, Designer News, Reddit)Send newsletter announcementTweet at relevant accountsStand up and announce at event that day (meetups are great)Have ebook authors tweet from their accountsRun a paid ad campaign (we used Adwords)
We wrote this content to make it easy for our team to share in their networks and to keep the messaging consistent.
The Book of CMS
(A note on formatting: be sure to use “The” before “Book of CMS” whenever possible and always italicize the title whenever possible.)
Tag Lines
How to select the right content management system for your organizationEverything you need to know about content management systems
One-Line Description
A comprehensive guide for choosing the right content management system for your organization.
One-Paragraph Description
With today’s endless options of content management systems, how do you choose the best one for your organization? The Book of CMS addresses everything you need to consider when selecting the most appropriate CMS for your company. From custom-built to off-the-shelf solutions, to Wordpress vs. Craft, to security and ecommerce, we compare the most popular choices for CMSs. Written by over seven authors from veteran digital agency Viget, The Book of CMS is comprehensive and well-designed ebook, and filled with examples, screenshots, and case studies. Download The Book of CMS and learn how to choose the best CMS for your organization today.
Outreach Content
Subject: Announcing The Book of CMS
Hi [First Name],
We’re releasing our first-ever ebook, The Book of CMS, and wanted you to be one of the first to see it. With over seven authors, the free ebook includes everything we’ve learned about content management over the years and serves as a comprehensive guide to help you choose the best CMS solution for your organization.
Our designers did a gorgeous job with the ebook and I’d love for you to take a look.
Download The Book of CMS.
[Your Name]
Viget Twitter
We’re releasing our very first #ebook! It’s about content management systems. Download it here for free: https://www.viget.com/the-viget-book-of-cms #BookofCMS
We wrote a comprehensive guide for choosing the right CMS for your organization. Download The Book of CMS here for free: https://www.viget.com/the-viget-book-of-cms #BookofCMS
We published an #ebook. 7 authors. 72 pages. Everything you need to know about content management systems. #BookofCMS https://www.viget.com/the-viget-book-of-cms
Viget Facebook
We’re excited to announce the launch of our first-ever ebook, The Book of CMS. Over seven Viget authors contributed and our design team did a beautiful job crafting the ultimate guide for choosing a content management system. This is a topic we’re passionate about and in which we have a lot of experience. We’d love for you to take a look. Download the free Book of CMS here: https://www.viget.com/the-viget-book-of-cms
Viget LinkedIn
For anyone wondering which CMS is best for their organization, we wrote an ebook to help you decide! We work a lot with CMSs and wanted to put together everything we’ve learned into one place. We’re happy to announce The Book of CMS! A comprehensive guide for selecting the right content management system for your company. Learn more here: https://www.viget.com/the-viget-book-of-cms
Paid ads
Our ad campaign targeted relevant keywords and phrases around the subject matter, including cms, content management system wordpress, cms comparison, choosing a CMS, content management system comparison, best cms, CMS guide, DrupalCoin Blockchain vs. Craft, CMS security, cms tool, web cms, etc.
We set up Google Analytics event tracking (read how to set up event tracking here).
In the first week, we received the following numbers:
Individual downloads: 677New email signups: 504Landing page pageviews: 2,166Product Hunt upvotes: 57
Post Launch Survey
We sent a post-launch survey to the the 677 downloaders with the following 6 questions:
Did you read it? [yes, no, not yet]How satisfied were you with the ebook? [scale from 1 to 5]How helpful was the topic and content? [scale from 1 to 5]How can we improve the ebook? [long answer]What topics would you like to see in future Viget ebooks? [check all that apply]Any overall feedback for The Book of CMS?
We received 12 responses.
Conclusion: Did it work?
Revisiting our initial goals, we were hoping to increase email subscriptions, generate leads, and create a resource that demonstrates thought leadership.
Based on the data and feedback from the survey and community, we’d say this marketing initiative was 67% successful.
Our email list grew by 500. That’s always great.The local and digital communities complimented the book and the survey results were positive (83% gave it a 4 or 5 out of 5). No, it wasn’t viral, but it raised positive awareness about the Viget brand to over 2,000 people.We can continue to use this resource in the future, and the template laid the foundation for future ebooks.
It took a loooooong time to produce (over two months), which made us question seriously if it was worth the time, or if we could’ve used the time more effectively elsewhere.We didn’t receive any immediate qualified leads directly from the ebook launch in the first month.
Lessons learned:
Sooner is not always better. We could’ve launched earlier, but we waited an additional week and we couldn’t have been happier. It’s worth it to delay the release of a product if it means you have well-planned launch strategy. For us, the additional week to prepare made all the difference.
Take it easy on design. We thought we were finished after one month but completely scrapped the entire first design of the ebook. While the end product is gorgeous to look at, it doesn’t read like an ebook. Ebooks are first about the copy, and second about the design (colors, layout, pictures, etc.). Next time, we’ll err on the side of light design over heavy art direction.
Make sure an ebook is the right form of lead generation for your particular business. As our first ebook, we’re still learning if this is the right medium for digging up new business for a premium design and integrationagency. If we were selling a $30 software product, this probably would’ve generated more sales. The point is, it was a bigger challenge to quantify the ROI of the ebook than we expected, as a service agency.
On a practical note, I’m super glad we added the “Company” and “Role” fields in the download form. Without it, the data would’ve been just a name and email address and we would’ve had no idea who we were reaching. The only thing I would’ve added is a checkbox that said something like, “Let Viget contact me about my current CMS.” This would’ve allowed us to feel confident in proactively reaching out to the 24 noteworthy leads that came in to see if we could help.
Lastly, the survey was critical. While the numbers were encouraging, the feedback from the survey helped flesh out how the community received the ebook. We were glad to see the positive responses and the constructive criticism and going forward, we’ll incorporate the community’s feedback into our next ebook.
In the end, we learned a lot from launching The Book of CMS, and we hope you found our strategy and lessons helpful as you plan your own ebook launch. Don’t hesitate to share your thoughts or ask any questions in the comments below. We’d love to hear what has worked well for others.

Source: VigetInspire

We’ve Analyzed 100 Ads in the Travel industry and here’s what we’ve found

Based on the previous case study where I analyzed my newsfeed, we learned that the majority of ads are retargeting.
Facebook ads are becoming so popular that to keep performance high we need to dive deep into just one industry and learn the ins and outs.

I’m obsessed with travel, had my first Facebook training in the travel industry so what better industry to dive into than that?
Social media and particularly Facebook is popular and well fitting for the industry so if you’re working for a travel/tourism related business, you’re going to like this.

I’ve used Adespresso’s brilliant ad gallery for the research.

I would have liked to feature dark posts (unpublished ads) as there a lot more campaigns being run but unfortunately, the gallery doesn’t capture those and as far as I know, there isn’t any way to collect dark post ads from Facebook except manually.
Dark posts are the best way to split test ads, so in this case study, I won’t expect a lot of split tests from the data – who would publish several almost identical ads on their brand’s page?
The best practices are to first test different ad versions using dark posts before publishing the best performing one, and I’m sure the majority of the social media teams are aware of that.
Let’s dive in!
Lat’s start from the end: The Results
The ads were based on the following companies. The majority was by far airlines which I imagine is because they have a significantly higher budget.

I divided travel agents and tour agents into two different groups: one specifically for tours and experiences:

and the other more focused on flight/hotel aggregators (e.g. Kayak.com):

Since previous studies show that many hotel bookers look for a place to stay last minute it logically makes more sense for hotels to be active on search as it’s intent based.
It surprised me that they are as active as the tour- and travel agencies, as I’d expect those to be much more active on social media. In my experience, the bookings can take up to 3-6 months and are a bit less price sensitive.
Content and topics
Most ads had a very general message, which is the opposite of what I usually recommend.

More often than not I see better results from a very specific message delivered to highly targeted customers. The more personalized it is, the better the response.

I divided the ads into destination specific, those that focus on a particular experience (e.g. a particular safari trip or spa) and more generalized ads such as branding.

I’m not surprised that the majority is generalized ads as there are plenty of bigger brands involved in this study which focuses on branding. It’s a shame for the target audiences though as they are getting a worse experience which is almost always shown in the performance.
By sub-segmenting and personalizing the ads to specific target audiences, the brands will usually get more bang for their buck and the audience will be more interested in the ads.
Of course, the bigger brands might not be as serious about social media as smaller companies that heavily rely on return on ad budget to grow.
Next, I looked at whether the ads used images, carousel images or video.

I’m not surprised that most use images as they are a lot cheaper, faster, easier and requires less commitment to produce than video. However, video appears to be performing a lot better and fits perfectly with displaying destinations and experiences.
Just look at travel video blogger Lost Leblanc, who skyrocketed his Youtube channel through posting videos every day for about 9 months in 2016.
As mentioned before most ads are general branding related but as I looked deeper into what they were offering, it turns out that almost half of those were specific promotion campaigns, sales or special deals.

I have no way of knowing how they targeted the audiences but based on the generic ad copy it’s fair to assume that the targeting was broad which is fine if you are doing branded campaigns but by targeting more specific they would be able to improve performance quite a bit.

Almost ⅔ of the ads were offering a discount which gives the impression that they were just looking to boost the reach of an existing campaign – it wasn’t a Facebook or social media-native campaign.

Similarities across the different travel businesses
Not surprisingly hotels are focusing a lot more on destinations and experiences rather than branding compared to airlines.

What’s interesting is that hotels are using sales and special deals with discounts a lot more in their facebook ads compared to airlines that focus more on branding.

Ironically since they are using a lot less video to show their experiences compared to airlines but that is most likely because their budget is a lower.

One of the findings that surprise me the most is that tour agents focus mostly on general ads rather than selling the experience.

I find it odd as they are using more video and articles which are suitable for what they do. In fact, they use articles a lot more than the rest of the companies.

Compared, travel agents push mostly sales with discounts to destinations.

They are the only type of company really using carousels of images.

Another thing that I noticed is that the vast majority of the images used were stock photos. Previous tests I’ve been part of internally has shown that stock photos generally still perform better than more authentic ones.
Something else that I didn’t notice other companies do is sell both their home base both as a tourist destination but also as a great place to live and work for the company as it’s the case with Emirates in some of their ads.

One thing to keep in mind is that many ads contain text. It might be because a bit older, the marketers didn’t know about the updated policy or they felt/tested it was worth the penalty (limited reach).
Analysis of results
What I’m particularly missing is using ads as part of a longer funnel or specific lead generation as we see it from other industries.
The cost of most of the bookings made is a significant amount of money to the guests, so generally, they take more convincing and longer time to book – hence the need for travel consultants at tour agencies.
Most if not all of these ads take you to either a great piece of content that doesn’t take the buyer any further (just click, read and close), or directly to the booking page which is too fast (that’s great for the buying intent you get through Google), or simply straight to the website frontpage as general branding.
It’s unfortunate because there is so much opportunity to drive bookings through Facebook – and with a number of users they have it’s highly scalable – but with a different strategy which is a topic for another blog post.
I divided the data into the following categories based on my previous experience with advertising in the field:
#1 – Copy
I didn’t look for trends in the copy. It’s too different and impossible to compare properly. Instead, I looked at the offer as an indication of the purpose of the ad.
#2 Content

Destination or route (e.g. from London to New York)
General (e.g. branding)
Experience (e.g. a spa or a safari experience)

#3 Creative


#4 Offer

Sale or particular deal

#5 Discount


#6 Industry

Tour agent
Travel agent

I wasn’t able to dig up an equal amount of ads for all type of company, so the results could be slightly skewed in some cases. I only looked at ads that were placed in the desktop newsfeed as that was 99% of the database. Also, ads had to be in English or directly translated.
This is not a scientific study so don’t take it as such. It is an experiment – a deep dive into ads from the travel industry to get an idea of what’s going on there.
My aim was to study how different travel businesses handle their advertising on Facebook. I’m looking for similarities and ways to improve the experience for both advertisers and consumers at the same time.
Closing thoughts and conclusion
I do see an opportunity for improvement for most of the travel companies in this study. Based on the content, it looks like they are treating Facebook as a way to boost generic campaigns rather than utilizing the power of targeting that Facebook ads have to offer.
By using Facebook’s targeting options further and tailoring the ads to fit, it should be a lot easier to capture the interest of you target audiences.
Hey! I’m Aske Christiansen and I write about how online coaches and teachers can grow their email list with Facebook ads at Scaling Your Business. I’ll show you how getting cheap email subscribers with Facebook ads can be uncomplicated, easy to use and even fun! It’s all about focusing on the big wins”. 
Source: https://adespresso.com/feed/

Hot or Not? Do these 3 Annoying Lead Capturing Tactics Work?

We’ve all seen them. Clicked them. Declined them. Ignored them. And then got pissed off by them.
So many damn distractions; from a welcome mat to a pop-up to a slide-in, before another F-ing pop-up takes over your screen again.

All before you can even read a single sentence of that blog post you came here for originally (which you already forgot what it was about).
So… what gives? Does their performance override how annoying they are? Let’s see.

How Pop-Ups Became a ‘Thing’
The nineties were known for many things. Chief among them: ugly denim, bad music, and Birkenstocks. (Wait – why are 90’s happening again?!)
Tripod.com was one of the early ‘dot com’ companies who relied almost exclusively on advertisements to bring visibility to their college graduate content and services.
‘Cept one day, things got… messy.
Here’s a direct quote from Wikipedia that explains where the inspiration behind the banner ad came from (to make sure nobody thinks I’m making this up):
“After one of [Tripod.com’s] major advertisers complained that one of their banner advertisements had appeared on a page that celebrated anal sex.”
So the guy in charge of the site at the time wanted to come up with a way that delivered an ad, but did so without being associated with the content on the page (in this case, for obvious reasons).
The workaround was a new window that would fire and direct the user, successfully getting someone’s attention, while also disassociating the message from the page.
This technology wasn’t new per se, but this context definitely was.
Pop-up ads are now credited to this dude, Ethan Zuckerman.
There you have it. Now you know who to hate. Here’s his Twitter handle if you want to get even.
In his defense, he later apologized for creating them. He wrote in the Atlantic:
“Along the way, we ended up creating one of the most hated tools in the advertiser’s toolkit: the pop-up ad.”
“I’m sorry. Our intentions were good.”
Yeah. Whatever, Ethan.
Since that time though, a lot’s changed.
Online ads have come to rule the world, yet their effectiveness is under fire.
Consumers have developed new behavior, like completely ignoring anything that resembles an ad online, diverting their eyes just as quickly as the creative loads. Today 86% of peeps are ‘banner blind’.
Preventative ad blocking technology is also on the rise, quadrupling in the past few years to now reach 47% of consumers, too.

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In other words, people are actively avoiding static, untargeted ads on a page. The effectiveness and performance and ROI of those things then are waning.
Beyond better targeting though, the race-to-the-bottom solution is by inserting more distraction. You use animations and timing and overlays to grab the user’s attention (whether we like it or not), forcing them to look at your thing until you hit the passive aggressive button to close.
And unfortunately for us all, the results back up these tactics.
CrazyEgg shows that “websites with pop-ups consistently outperform websites with no pop-ups.” Even more depressing, is that OptinMonster says they can “increase conversions 2100%.
Ok. Ok. 2100%?!   Now we’re listening.
Websites with pop-ups consistently outperform websites with no pop-ups, and can even increase conversions by 2100%.
Static, passive sidebar opt-ins might only convert around 0.4%. Pop-ups, slide-ins, overlays, etc. work because they introduce pattern interruption.
Aggressive, yes. But effective.
In one Inbound.org comment, Bryan Harris from Videofruit reported:
“We did in-depth analysis of our revenue last year and found pop-up, welcome mat and slide box opt-in subs accounted for just over $250,000 in revenue.”
He went on to mention that without “an active campaign” (referring to these tactics), “I’ll lose 50% of all my potential sub[scribers] to my list”.
There you have it. Case closed. Let’s look at them in detail.
Tactic #1. Welcome Mats
“Go to Facebook logged out”
“What do you see?”
“Yup, a landing page”.
“Twitter? That too. Gmail? Same.”
“Once you login you never see it again. That’s the same with Welcome Mat and most landing pages in general.”
Noah Kagan’s concise response in defense of welcome mats told the story well. And he should, as the mind behind SumoMe which specializes in many of these tactics.
AppSumo was on this Welcome Mat bandwagon years ago, following in the Dropbox or Groupon-esque fashion by using a static, squeeze feature upon an initial visit.
When they first added it to AppSumo, they quickly discovered that it was “three times more effective than any other page we’ve ever built”.

SumoMe reaches millions on a daily basis, powering over 10 million pop-ups in just a single month. Holy crap that’s a lot of annoyed visitors.
After analyzing their data, they discovered that the Welcome Mat is the King of annoying lead capture tactics (converting almost 1% higher than anything else).

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Sujan Patel backs up this performance, stating:
“Welcome mat works well for me. My opt in rate ranges from 1.8-2.3%. I’ve had that performance for 3-4 months.”
While average Welcome mat conversions might hover around the 2% mark, some of the best websites are closer to almost 7%.

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Blogger Matthew Woodward offered similar results, hitting 5.9% at one point before settling in around 4.42%.
The trick he recommends?
“In my testing I have found that if you present the welcome mat the first time a visitor lands on your site, it doesn’t have the best effect.
But if you show it on their second page view or just on the home page (most of my traffic lands on an inner URL before navigating to the home page) then it works very well indeed.”
✅  Revamp your offer. Especially as everyone’s first response is to kill your pop-up ASAP. But as we’ve learned before, your offer is everything.
✅  Keep visits in mind. Test based on number of visits, and consider suppressing it on initial visit.
✅  Test on specific pages. Or just make your homepage a landing page.
✅  Disable it for existing subscribers. Duh. Connect with your other marketing automation techniques so you’re marketing smart, not dumb.
Tactic #2. Lightbox Pop-Ups
The pop-up has gone through many iterations, from opening a new browser window to now blocking out your screen or dimming the background content so all of your attention is devoted to the message in the foreground.
These have been around for awhile, but they’re also getting new life by slide-ins from the corner of your screen or drop-downs from the top.
And, unsurprisingly, they’re pervasive ‘cause they work. 
The results are so good that the biggest email marketing software tools, like MailChimp and Aweber, now  carry them out-of-the-box.
Case in point: They helped Brian Dean from Backlinko pull in an extra $82,125 per year. His email conversion rate literally doubled after only two days (from less than 2% to over 4%).

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Gael Breton at AuthorityHacker saw similarly fast results in just a few days after setting up their own lightbox pop-up (so much so, that they “don’t even bother putting opt-ins in the sidebar anymore” of their sites).

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The top lightbox pop-ups can see a 7% conversion rate, while average ones hover somewhere between 2-4%.

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Not workin’ for ya?
A couple things to try:
✅  Message match. In principle, this is the same damn thing to an advert. Show someone a message related to the topic of the post/page they’re trying to read. Context is key.
✅  Un-suck your copy. Beyond a strong value prop, experiment with clever wording and show some personality that fits your site’s tone.
✅  Play with triggers. You have (1) on exit, (2) time-based, and (3) scroll depth. Unfortunately for consumers everywhere, aggressive seems to show results. So reduce the time or decrease the scroll depth required.
✅  Try animations. Thrive Themes saw a conversion lift with a ‘rotational animation’ (as the pop-up enters your screen) vs. a ‘zoom’ one. Weird. But test your own.

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Tactic #3. Push Notifications
Push notifications originated on mobile devices, with their SMS-style updates.
What’s unsurprising though, is that the vast majority of consumers find them annoying. According to a Localytics study, 52% of consumers said they were “an annoying distraction”.

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Some genius then, decided to extend that same technology application to websites so that you can present ‘clickable’ notifications to people to send them content, new offers, or shopping-related messaging.

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Why on Earth would someone do such a thing?
Because it works.
Buy Whole Foods Online is a UK-based eCommerce site that wanted to capitalize on the immediacy of a visitor’s site experience. So new users saw the customary opt-in request using PushCrew:

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After agreeing to the opt-in, users proceeded to receive special offers, like this one for coconut water:

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According to PushCrew, this offer saw a:

15.2% click through rate
71 people (out of 97!) made a purchase

Which brings us to our first takeaway:
✅  Start with a tripwire. An offer that’s too good to refuse, and gets people to spend that all-important first dollar (which immediately separates them from all the other freeloaders on your site.
That’s what Buy Whole Foods Online saw:
“Once people were on the website, apart from the coconut water which was on offer, they also browsed through other products – adding them to their cart, to qualify for free shipping.”
In other words, once you got them over that initial hump, they kept on browsing, buying, and driving up their average order value.
✅  Treat like SMS. Website push notifications are modeled after mobile. So how would you / do you use that medium (in relation to all of the other messages you’re pushing)?
✅  FOMO. Anand Kansal recommends you pull from Cialdini’s scarcity effect and use messaging that emphasis potential loss (rather than gain), like an expiring flash sale or example.
So there you have it.
Whether we like it or not, these all annoying trends are here to stay.
And it’s partly our fault. Well, it’s Ethan’s fault.
But we’re contributing to what he started. We’re not looking at sidebars. We’re ignoring banners. We’re creating and installing technology that prevents this stuff from showing up ever again.
Marketers and advertisers are like cockroaches though. No matter what you try, you can’t get rid of them. And they always find a way to get what they want.
The final caveat for making these annoying things work comes from Sujan Patel, who said:
“I’ve found the winning formula is a combination of a few tactics. My overall opt in rate is 5.5% with my ebook, welcome mat & list builder. I’m always testing to improve that.”
In other words: cohesion, not isolation.
Welcome mats, pop-ups, and push notifications don’t have to suck when they help lead someone to something they were already looking for.
Source: https://adespresso.com/feed/

Top Posts from 2016

Like many bloggers I’m fascinated by traffic patterns and understanding user / reading behavior. If I were to be even more strategic I would actually do something with a lot of this data but I actually don’t care much about it at this point in time.
In fact, I don’t care at all, to be honest. If a particular blog post gets a lot of views then I’m happy and if it gets barely anything then I’m equally happy. Why? Because I write first and foremost for myself.

But, for those that are interested, here are the Top 10 Most Viewed Posts of 2016. And, if it makes sense, I’ll provide a bit of context and perhaps explanation with some of these. All of these stats are provided via Jetpack.
Most Viewed Posts in 2016:
1: How To: Care for a Little Sad Person
Holy shit, did this post bring in the pageviews. I mean, it brought in hundreds of thousands of visitors, mostly first-time ones. And not only did it go “viral” once, but at least twice and a few more mini-spikes to boot. I wrote a small retrospective on the second one here.
This was a classic, classic, example of how straight-up stupid-lucky you can be when you just consistently produce content, even when it’s not even that good. This post was completely “throwaway” and yet it out-performed every single blog post of the year by an jaw-dropping margin.
The internet is whacky, unpredictable, and can sometimes pull in your favor. Your job is to just show up.
2: The 10 Best Writing Notebooks to Capture Your Creative Thoughts
Please, please notice the time-stamp on this post. That’s right, August 2011. If it wasn’t for the “Sad Person” post above this post would have been #1, just like it has been for the last 5 years running.
In the industry of blog and content creation we call this “evergreen” content and there’s a reason for that. Because it keeps producing for you, year after year after year after year.
And, if I told you how much money I make from that one post (via affiliate links and a direct link to my indie macOS app, Desk App) it would kind of blow your mind.
I could actually talk much more about this, but, I’ll just let what I’ve written so far sit there for your consideration…
3: What is a Blog? What is a Blogger? What is Blogging?
This post is even older than #2. It’s one of the most referenced post of all-time on this blog. It’s made me, essentially, an “expert” when it comes to being a “blogger” or defining the darn word.
Not that I am, but, the internet thinks that I am. Hilarious.
4: Create a Simple Privacy Policy for Your Blog
Really…? Really.
5: 20+ Distraction-Free Minimal Writing Apps to Help You Focus Your Blog Content Creation
Could I please have a longer title? Also a key driver of conversion for my indie macOS app (go figure). Make that money, yo.
6: How Much Traffic Do You Need to Start Advertising on Your Blog?
One of the most searched for answers in terms of blog monetization. People want to know and apparently I have a pretty decent answer to this question.
Now, this was during the time that I was personally trying to maximize earnings via the blog directly (i.e. I was trying to be a professional blogger) so I was simply sharing what I felt was appropriate and what I did for my own property at the time.
Do I still agree with this sentiment? Probably not. In fact, I’ve moved entirely away from direct monetization from my blog and it even feels “icky” when I see others try it. I tweeted this yesterday:

Personal blogs with sidebar advertisements look and feel so old… and out of touch. #shrug
— John Saddington (@8BIT) December 29, 2016

Times have changed, but folks are still looking for answers to these common questions. My blog (and that blog post) delivers.
7: 10 Tips on How to Push Down Negative Search Results
I can understand why this one is popular and continues to be one of the most popular posts of all-time. It’s something that many of who live digitally online would love to figure out.
8: The Role and Responsibilities of a Chief Communications Officer
Kind of surprised by this, but, it is still a popular topic and it was something that I was fascinated with because I tried the role out for a small amount of time at a startup.
It’s worth noting that not only did I get fired from that job (thankfully) but that startup ended up tanking completely, for a number of legit reasons. But, I shared my learnings and it still resonates with other folks. Glad I could help.
9: Getting Featured in the Apple App Store (iOS)
Not surprised by this because it was one of the most important queries that I had when I first started building iOS and macOS apps. It still is a topic of huge conversation when I chat with other indie Apple-centric developers.
We all have our independent and corporate theories and apparently the stuff that I continue to throw out there is good enough for a feature (the last 3 weeks I’ve been on the front-page carousel). So grateful, so humbling.

@DeskPM and @8BIT congrats on making it into the @AppStore featured section. pic.twitter.com/Ylp3ePcYcx
— Khürt Williams (@khurtwilliams) December 30, 2016

10: The Complete Guide to Using Images in Your Blog Posts
One of my personal favorite blog posts of all time. I really enjoyed putting this one together and it’s helped hundreds of thousands of people over the years. So glad that I penned it.
Final Note: This is really striking: Only 1 post was written in 2016 and the rest were as follows:

2010: 2 posts
2011: 4 posts
2012: 1 post
2014: 1 post
2015: 1 post
2016: 1 post

Apparently 2013 was a really crappy year of writing. Oh well.
But aside from that random aside, the reality is that 90% of the top-performing posts in 2016 came from previous years. Again, evergreen content all-the-things.
And, you know, I’d love to just sit on this topic for some time and preach the value of just writing and not quitting but I harp on that so hard I won’t do that again in this post, but, I think you get the point.
Showing up and doing the work and being patient about the long-game is, well, the name of the game. But, if you don’t agree with that principle then I’ve got nothing for you.
The post Top Posts from 2016 appeared first on John Saddington.
Source: https://john.do/

Buying Instagram Followers? Our Experiment Reveals The Truth…

Let’s be real—buying followers on Instagram is very tempting.
When every blogger and mom-and-pop store seem to have more followers than you, with hundreds of people blowing their comments and engagement rates through the roof, how are you supposed to compete?
With Instagram becoming one of the top new sales platforms for e-commerce, the temptation to buy followers has never been stronger.

Get more followers, and even if they’re “fake”—the thinking goes—real people will take notice and start to shop in your store.
Buying Instagram followers could be a way to “growth hack” this new and incredibly powerful channel.
But does this theory hold any water? We set up an experiment to find out.

So, What’s the Deal with Buying Followers?
Buying followers generally falls into two categories:

A company makes a bunch of fake pages, and then they “follow” you. The bad news is that Instagram has been known to crack down on fake accounts, plus the only thing it does is inflate your follower count. We didn’t test this tactic out—since the “followers” are shell accounts, they clearly aren’t going to drive revenue or engagement for your business. It’s also an easy way to get banned.
A company uses a bot that automatically follows/likes accounts and then unfollows them. Within this cycle, people will see that your account followed them, check out your page, and give you a follow. This technique works because it plays off common Instagram etiquette—follow me, and I’ll follow you back—but here the other account gets unfollowed after a few days. You can choose how fast you want the bot to work, but it’s generally faster than what your crazy-dedicated intern could do on a few energy drinks.

We decided to go with the latter because it was more likely to actually work as a method of increasing your brand’s social media strength, given that our followers wouldn’t just be a bunch of empty accounts.
Laying Down The (Experimental) Law
The experiment would be relatively straightforward. We already had a real Instagram account with a store—Not Your Girl Shop—attached.
We’d taken note of our Instagram results (followers gained, engagement on our posts, etc.) and also had a variety of metrics from how well we converted those people to visitors to customers on Shopify.
Then, we’d ramp it up. We’d pay for a bot to do the work of getting followers for us—at super speed. We’d compare the results from our bot-following phase with our natural results, and finally get some answers as to whether or not buying followers is worth it.
We are going to measure:

Follower Count

Running The Experiment
Step 1: Making our Instagram Account
We knew that the experiment would have to have a good Instagram attached. We followed our own advice for setting up a good Instagram account and made the Not Your Girl Instagram, scheduling pictures that hit on the aesthetic we were going for. Not Your Girl is curated to appeal to edgy, fashion-focused millennials.

All the images are high quality, and we posted regularly, but not excessively—about once per day. The Instagram is linked to an online shop where you can buy some branded Not Your Girl gear and a few other items.

We also used a bunch of hashtags on each post, to help the organic aspect of our growth. We used the same hashtags throughout the entire experiment, to keep everything but our follower-gaining tactics consistent.

Step 2: Gaining Instagram Followers – The Real Way
Outside of using hashtags to tap into our potential audience, we followed pretty much best practices for gaining followers the usual way. We looked at accounts that had a similar aesthetic to Not Your Girl, and went into their followers. We then followed some of their followers and liked some of their posts.
Those users then saw that we had engaged with them, and hopefully followed us back.
We didn’t go in and comment on posts or DM any of the people we followed, because we wouldn’t have been able to keep that consistent with our bot.
Step 3: Gaining Instagram Followers – The Bot Way
We temporarily stopped gathering new followers and posting before we switched over to buying followers. This gave us a nice clean break when we went back to look at our results — there is no overlap at all between our bot results and our human results.
There are a lot of bots and services out there you can use to buy followers on Instagram. These types of services are abundant, and often seem pretty fake. We used Boostgram, which claims to help you fully automate your account and give you “real followers, likes, and comments.”
It’s pretty easy to set up: you link your Instagram account with Boostgram in their dashboard, choose some quick settings, like how fast you want the bot to run, and you start “generating” followers.
The generation process is pretty much the same as what you would do yourself (find, follow, unfollow) but much faster. With Boostgram, we targeted people following four popular stores that have the same target audience as Not Your Girl.

There are a few more targeting options on Boostgram (gender, location), but we kept ours targeting to just those four stores.
After setting up our account on Boostgram, we were almost ready to go. The monthly cost for Boostgram is $99 and up, so we had to take care of footing the bill, and then we let Boostgram run and waited for the bot to do its thing.
Bot or Not? Our Results
Our regular follower acquisition ran from July 2nd to August 13th, and the bot follower acquisition ran from November 23rd to December 19th. In that time, the regular method gained 401 followers, and the bot gained 111.
Followers Results

Since the regular method ran longer, it makes sense that it would gain more followers. However, the regular method gained an average of 9.3 followers per day, while the bot method gained an average of 4.1.
It is worth noting that, at the very beginning of the Not Your Girl Instagram, we had three days of +20 follower gain. Though this skewed the regular method up a little bit, the regular method clearly beats the bot when it comes to acquiring followers, even though the bot was “working faster” than a human. It is worth noting though that there is time saved with the bot.
Engagement Results

If you look at the gray bars above, it is again clear that the regular method beats the bot method. The average likes per day for the bot doesn’t crack 100, but the regular method is garnering over 200 likes a day—that’s double the likes.
Comments are a similar story.

For the regular method, we cut off the first day because the first day was an outlier and skewed our graph, which is why this starts on the 3rd of July instead of the 2nd.

The regular method was pushing ten comments/day, and the bot method hovered around four comments/day, so, once again, the regular method gave roughly twice the results as the bot method.
Engagement rate is so important when using Instagram—its per-follower engagement rate is 4.21%, calculated using 1.5+ mil interactions over 160 Instagram posts. This is 58 times higher than Facebook or Twitter. And with Facebook now using its algorithm in our Instagram’s feeds, engagement matters more now than ever.
While yes, buying fully “fake” accounts isn’t what’s happening here (the bot is following real people), our engagement still sharply decreased via such an automated tool.
It’s always worth having your eye on your Instagram engagement rate. To do this, combine the number of likes and comments on a post and divide by how many followers you have:

Sales Results
While we didn’t rake in the dough with either campaign, there was a definite difference in number of customers who visited our web store from our Instagram when we used the bot and when we didn’t.

The regular method averaged between 15 and 20 visits a day to our online shop.

Meanwhile, the bot averaged between five and ten visitors a day. Again, regular outperformed the bot.
And the trend just continues.

The regular method actually drove interested customers to our shop—ones that put items in their cart and purchased. The bot, meanwhile, only had one person put an item in their cart.
What this shows is that the types of people who were following our Instagram and visiting our shop during the regular method were people who were actually interested in our product, which is exactly what you want when you’re building a follower base on social media.
All purchases during the experiment were made during our regular method time frame.

With the regular method, we got consistent sales throughout the month or so of the experiment. However, the bot once again disappointed.
 “There were no sales during this time,” is something you never want to see as a business and a massive demerit for the bot.
We can also say that having more followers doesn’t necessarily mean getting more followers, at least not if the difference is a few hundred people. Although social proof can be a powerful marketing force, we gained more followers starting our Instagram from zero using the regular method than we did starting out with 1,000 using the bot method.
Maybe there would be a difference in follower increase if Not Your Girl suddenly had 100,000 followers, but at the rate that our bot was going, it would’ve taken decades to get us there.
Here’s the takeaway: When you’re starting a new social media account for your business, build social proof by having engaged customers and authentically connecting with people who follow you.
You Can’t Bot Your Way To A Business
Automatically following and liking accounts was the epitome of a quick fix. It got us followers, comments, and “engagement”—but only on a vanity level. It took no work; we just pressed a button, and it started happening.
But was it worth it?
We didn’t sell any merchandise during the period of buying followers on Instagram (via the bot). We weren’t going out and engaging with potential fans of the shop and trying to get them to follow us back—we were relying on the bot to bring us customers. And our Shopify metrics tell a dark story about just how much these botted followers cared about our business. They didn’t.
Why Did The Bot Fail?
Why the bot performed worse than the regular method could come down to a number of things.

The bot can’t discern who might follow you back. If it went into, for example, Forever 21’s followers, it can’t tell which followers are bots, brand ambassadors, inactive accounts, etc. that won’t follow you back.
People can tell we used a bot, and were put off by it. They might have poked around the Not Your Girl Instagram and discovered a high followers to following ratio, or the bot could’ve liked three pictures in rapid succession, tipping off an Instagram user that we weren’t really engaging with them.
Our targeting wasn’t quite right. Perhaps followers of H&M’s Instagram just didn’t want to follow us or buy our clothes.
It unfollows too quickly. If someone doesn’t check their Instagram every day, they would have missed the bot following and unfollowing them.

Elbow Grease Makes the Difference
Get on Instagram. Post every day. Get followers. Cash out—that’s how building a business on social media works, right? Karen Horiuchi of Glambot disagrees. “Although an impressive following on Instagram is nice to have and gives the appearance of success,” Karen says, “what really matters is money in the bank. An e-commerce startup needs to focus on revenue through conversion. Survive first then flaunt later.”
Flaunt later? That seems too easy for someone who’s already succeeded on social media to say!
But it’s true. Building a brand on social media isn’t about getting more followers than everyone else, it’s about getting into a niche market and building connections with real people that appreciate your product and—most importantly—are willing to spend money on it. While there’s a lot that technology can do, for now a robot still can’t find that sweet spot without any help from humans.
Interaction with organic followers is the best way to learn about your audience as well. Whether it is through the comments on your pictures or visiting their Instagram pages, learning what your followers are truly interested in can help you further define your niche in the market.
Creating a rich, engaged follower base takes hard work—work that will pay off in actual dollars and cents if you give it the time it needs. Even though it may seem daunting to set out a plan to increase your follower count on Instagram, a little strategic planning, and some elbow grease will get you the followers—and customers—of your dreams faster than a bot ever could.
Source: https://adespresso.com/feed/

Why mnml app?

As many of you know, I just released the very large and significant update to Desk App, now version 3.
There’s already been a lot of neat attention being brought to it (Featured Worldwide) and I’m incredibly grateful for it all since it’s mostly because we’ve got a pretty smashing community around it.

One of the things that happened with this latest version is that I decided to focus solely on WordPress as the only point of integration. This is different than previous versions where I had integration points with other blogging platforms and systems, like Blogger, Typepad, and more.
This allows me, in simple terms, to build a better and more structurally sound product in the short and long-term since I no longer have to account for the dramatic differences of formatting text and a variety of different APIs, some that are in really bad shape, to be honest.
But one of the integration points that was the biggest loss was Medium.com, especially since I personally use that platform as well and recommend it often to others. In fact, one of the most popular posts on my blog suggests using it above anything else!
As a result, I’ve decided to build mnml app, a “sister” app to Desk App that’ll provide a writing experience for those that love Medium.com. The interface is different and specifically designed for Medium, so, I’m excited to build it and release it; should only be a few weeks away!
A refreshing UI and UX.
But, one of the main reasons outside of the loss of integration with Desk is the simple fact that Medium is growing like a weed. In fact, they just released some of their yearly stats and they grew 140% year-over-year, from 25 million to 60 million unique visitors a month!
That’s nuts and it’s nuts enough to pay very close attention to. It’s not even close to taking a serious swing at WordPress and other blogging platforms… yet… but, it’s making waves and the team behind the product are, in no uncertain terms, legendary.
So, that’s why building mnml app makes a ton of sense and that’s why I’ve built it. There’s part of me that strangely believes that, from an indie app perspective, it might be a more “successful” product than Desk.
But, my batting rate at predicting things like that is bad; abysmal might be a better word, so, who knows? Who knows.
The post Why mnml app? appeared first on John Saddington.
Source: https://john.do/

Shipping is Salvation

Getting to launch for any sized project is tough and even if you’ve done it many times before it’s still tough.
I think this is especially difficult if it’s a personal project where you do not have any external pressure to ship as compared to a team project or enterprise piece of software – in the former the only “boss” that you have is you and you can call the shots including whether you want a “ship date” or none at all.

In fact, most projects that are created never see the light of day and I think that’s as sad and unfortunate consequence of… well, a lot of things.
But, pushing things through is an act of more than self-discipline; it’s a decision to die to oneself, to do something unnatural and to willingly open ourselves up to the world and showcase something private about ourselves.
The act of creating is always like that; self-revelation.
So, anyways, I’m finding a bit of time here and there to put together the last bits and pieces of Desk version 3.0, which I’m very excited to get out the door.
Right now I’m squashing bugs here and there, the most recent are small issues with things like Markdown. For instance, I’m having issues with the app interpreting and translating video links not working in self-hosted WordPress installations versus WordPress.com blogs.
We’re getting into the weeds now but here’s the problem (for those interested): You must enable Markdown via WordPress settings in self-hosted blogs and if the blogger is running WordPress 4.6.1 or below then the Markdown functionality isn’t available and you can only use WYSIWYG.
If higher than 4.6.1 then it’s possible but, again, requires you to manually turn it on. What to do?
Well, what I’ve thought through is that if the user wants to post then the app will check the version and if under 4.6.1 then it’ll show a small pop-up that suggests the user use WYSIWYG or upgrade.
I think this will be the most optimum solution but, I’ll admit, that it’s not really that optimal because it really messes up the flow and experience of publishing. The writer is at this crucial moment, ready to showcase their thoughts to the world and they are blocked because of some setting or some version of their installation that may require a lot more time and work to get adjusted.
Fixing this will take just a few hours, tops, but, I wish there was a better way. And even if it just takes a few hours to fix it’s enough to have me push out the release date because mentally it feels like a lot more (which sucks).
Self-revelation isn’t without cost. You feel the weight of these decisions at every turn and you can become your worst enemy at any moment. But shipping is salvation.
The post Shipping is Salvation appeared first on John Saddington.
Source: https://john.do/

The Best Minimal WordPress Themes in 2016

If there’s one design trend that will never go away, it’s minimal design. Simple in appearance but effortlessly powerful in terms of impact, minimal design is actually one of the toughest styles to pull off.
Luckily, there are plenty of WordPress themes ready and waiting for you to tap into when you need something minimal and fast. So here’s our pick of the best minimal WordPress themes available right now, for those projects where you don’t have time to obsess over every little detail yourself.
Divi 3.0: “The only theme you will ever need”

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Elegant Themes’ claim that Divi is the only theme you will ever need gets stronger with ever update. Now in its third full release, Divi 3.0 is more versatile than ever with a constantly improving Divi builder for fast customization.
You can start from scratch with every page you add or use the collection of templates (about page, contact page, etc.) to give you a starting point. Minimal design is at the heart of everything Divi – as long as you don’t add too much yourself – and this is still the best WordPress website builder I know of.

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Bushwick may not be as flexible as Divi but it’s got minimalism nailed and it’s difficult to screw that up with this theme. The number of demos you get included depends on which version of the theme you buy and you can see the price plans here:

It’s also worth noting you can use the theme for multiple domains if you go for the $149 version, so keep that in mind when you make your choice.
Fashion Stylist WordPress Theme

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This effort from Template Monster puts all the emphasis on imagery for fashion retailers. At least, I assume that’s the case, but you’ll need to get the theme set up with WooCommerce before your clients can actually sell any products.
Otherwise you’re looking at a simple, but snazzy theme for fashionista blogs.

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Pure is a portfolio/blog style theme that bundles items into a responsive grid of cards. That’s all there really is to it but it looks great and keeps things ultra simple for that genuinely minimalist design.
You can tell this theme was developed with design portfolios in mind, but it works perfectly for any kind of visual portfolio.

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Raven piles full-width divs in between responsive grids to create this half agency/half portfolio design. It’s got a lot in common with Divi, too, in terms of the page builder and customization options you have available.
In fact, the first time I saw it, I thought I was looking at a site built using Divi for a moment. However, there are a number of stylistic differences and Raven isn’t as customizable as Divi. That said, it’s slightly cheaper, although Divi comes with access to the rest of the Elegant Themes library.
Travel Responsive WordPress Theme

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The name kind of says it all but this theme can be used for more than just travel. Your clients will need access to decent images to make the most of it, though, with that feature section, although that quickly disappears on smaller devices.
There are some customization options but you don’t get a lot of freedom so you’ll pretty much get what you see with this one. At $56 for a single license, it’s pretty standard in terms of pricing and design but it does precisely what it aims to.

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Throne is an ultra-sleek theme “dedicated for creative types; designers, architects, artists, photographers & more”. Instead of the usual scrolling single-page designs, most of the demos offer up full-screen home pages with carousels or sliders.
It sounds like an odd throwback to outdated design trends but the team at Stoned Themes pulls it off with Throne. It also comes with a “one page” template included, which has you covered if you/your client isn’t feeling the full-screen approach.

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Drone is a cracking theme from ZigzagPress for all your portfolio needs. It’s another grid setup with responsive cards filling up the display to show the best of your designs or other portfolio pieces.
Subtle animations over the images, scrolling effects and tonal colors turn gentle touches into powerful impact – everything you want from a minimal theme.

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Avoir is another portfolio design that’s all about making a bold impression. It’s a minimal design in disguise with chunky fonts and slab-like images that almost pop out of the screen. Everything else is pretty much white background and minimal text, leaving all the emphasis on the portfolio pieces its designed to showcase.
Sure it makes a great portfolio theme for designers but I also fancy this as a website for any product or services that oozes visual appeal. Interior designers, carpenters, independent jewelry designers or designer perms for poodles. The more excess, the better!

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Milano is new for 2016 from BeantownThemes and you’ll find it over at ThemeForest for $59. Definitely worth checking out.
It’s not easy to find minimal WordPress themes design with eCommerce in mind, but this is precisely what Milano brings to the table. Aside from a number of sleek options for portfolio and agency sites, Milano packs plenty of options for retailers – especially for those clients in fashion or other stylish retail sectors.

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CAM by RJThemes claims to be a “minimal multipurpose” theme with a flair for photography, agency, blogger, portfolio and freelancer sites. It lives up to the promise, too, with a clean layout, sleek design elements and all the features you would expect for the kind of sites listed above – portfolio sections, progress bars, pricing plans, etc.
So there’s our rundown of the top WordPress minimal themes right now. We’ll be back to update this list over time, though, so be sure to point any out you think we may have missed!
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How to Guest Blog: The Complete Guide by @JuliaEMcCoy

Today, guest blogs are a major pathway to online success, fame, reputation and ROI. Learn why guest blogging can boost your brand and how to find and approach your best-fit guest blogger platforms, in this in-depth guide.The post How to Guest Blog: The Complete Guide by @JuliaEMcCoy appeared first on Search Engine Journal.
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