Finding your way through the Blogosphere

If you are barely familiar with the word ‘blog’ and feel like this RSS thing is over your head, but you’re thinking that this all sounds very cool, then you probably want a quick rundown of how the blogosphere works. This is a very basic overview for people extremely new to the area, don’t expect any blogging revelations here!

Browsing other People’s Blogs 

A lot of people now read blogs instead of newspapers. They offer a more realistic and wholistic view on current events because you get a thousand different perspectives – some from right within the action, and virtually no one relies on their blog for their income – so they feel no pressure to keep the advertisers happy. In recognition of this, many services have cropped up to show you the most talked about stories and allow you to search for topics that interest you.

Good Blog Search Engines/ Trackers to get you started

Evntually, you may find that your browser bookmarks are full of blogs you regularly enjoy visiting, and you waste a lot of time having to go to each site to see if the blog has been updated,

This is where Blog Aggregators/ Blog Readers Come In 

There are quite a lot of blog readers cropping up. A while ago we profiled netvibes, which is a blog reader intergrated into a bunch of other cool applications, other popular ones are:

 How Blog Readers work

Basically, when you sign up to one of these services you will get your own page where all the blogs you have subscribed to will show up. From this one place, you can monitor all your favourite blogs and stay informed. 

 How to subscribe to blogs

You may notice at the right of this blog there is a ‘subscribe to this feed’ button rss icon. This uses RSS (Real Simple Syndication). Most blogs these days have a similar button, all you need to do is click on it and put the url in the relevent input box in your blog reader.

 Some additional services

Because blogging is so popular there is a service for virtually anything you could possibly desire. Found a blog you like and want to know about similar blogs? go to Blogcode. Have you become an avid commenter? Track your conversations in one place at cocomment.

 

Print Publishing for All

Being a hoarder of photos and an avid writer, finding tools like these causes me to tingle with excitment.

Cafe Press 

cafe press

I first heard about Cafepress a few years ago when considering writing a book. If you are a small business or an individual who likes writing or designing graphics, here is the place to simply upload and publish to the real world in the form of caps, t-shirts, books… the list goes on, then sell them with a markup of your choosing to friends, family and complete strangers. Because of their business model, the costs are minimal and if your looking for something a little different to market your business, this will at the very least shower you with ideas.

I just had to add this link to show exactly what this means for the average person, let alone 8 year old children…

Blurb 

More aimed at avid photographers (be them professional or just anyone who clicks their digital camera like mad), Blurb allows you to turn your piles of digital photos into a beautiful, hard cover book. The possibilities currently seem near limitless, on a personal level and for those with a cool idea for a book who don’t want to go through the drama of traditional publishing companies.

Prices start at $29.95 for a 40 page hardcover book, with bulk buying discounts.

 Blurb

We love any tools that break down old barriers. Publishing is a biggie and these tools signify new freedom at affordable rates.

UPDATECool Book Publishing Services:

Lulu Book Publishing

 

 

Picaboo Book Publishing 

 

 

 

 

 

Good Content is Your Best Advertisement

With all the buzz about search engine optimisation and directing traffic to your site, using the right key words and the best key word infilteration percentage, urls, link text etc etc, the major way to market your business on the web is all but buried in the heap.

The number one secret about search engine optimisation

Search engine optimisation (SEO) in itself, is worthless. So, your website is perched nicely at number one, you’re getting a hundred visitors a day, life is looking up. However, a close look at your web stats shows that out of the hundred hits you get, the average visit to your site lasts about 3 seconds and noone comes back.

A search engine expert can do everything in their power to trick Google into convincing web surfers that your website is where it’s at, but all they are doing is tricking an algorhythm, people are a lot more difficult.

So what can you do? 

The web is like the perfect marketplace, there are just so many options and no real barriers so you have to actually be what you want people to believe you are. You do this through content, because no matter how many thousands of people you manage to get to your site, not a single one will stick around unless they like what you have to say.

It may seem like a hassle to have to regularly take the time to maintain your website, that’s why you hired a web designer right? Well, not really. We’re here to help you present your business on the web, but you must do the presentation.

But what do I write about? 

  • Any updates about your product/service
  • Things that are happening in your industry
  • Satisfied customer profiles
  • Industry news – things you take for granted, but what may be novel for your visitors.
  • News from within your business (new employee, awards etc)

As with anything, the more you do it, the easier it gets. The web is not a place for hardened structure either, have a few people writing updates to share the workload and bring in fresh perspectives. Not only will Google like you and therefore make your website easier to find, once found, your visitors will like you too.

 

People are Impatient and No-one Looks at Screens

I’ve just been over at webdesignfromscratch.com. The site is mainly targeted at web designers themselves, but I think a few pages at least are good value for anyone looking at getting a new website designed. Obviously a web designer is never going to expect you to be an expert in site creation, but it’s always good to have a healthy understanding of the rules behind one of your biggest marketing channels.

People are Impatient. 

Maybe I am repeating myself, but this is one of the most overlooked design rules in the history of the internet. People Are Impatient gives you a very good background as to why this is the case.

Noone Looks At The Screen. 

Even reading this article made my eyes start to hurt. There are so many reasons why people hate looking at screens, this is why computer geeks end up wearing glasses and why you should always have a site designed for your users not for your personal design preferences.

Writing Good Copy 

This is more important for the average person. Keeping your content fresh is one thing, creating content that your visitors will want to read is a tad more tricky. Here’s some more tips about writing for the web

 

Small Business Accounting Please

We are desperately seeking a good web based accounting system a la Net Accounts but that caters to NZ GST rules.

We want it to be:

  • Simple
  • Intuative
  • able to upload bank statements
  • Avaliable online from anywhere
  • Immediately.

Most small businesses seem to have to make do with MYOB or suchlike, and this was a problem we tried to address by building evolutionone, however then, and now we fail to find an accounting system aimed at normal, average small-medium business owners.

Is this not a job for the web 2.0 crowd? Is it not much needed? We have searched what seems like the entire web and everything we have found is either aimed at accountants, enterprise size or limited to part of the accounting process.

Anyone know anything or want to build this obviously much needed tool?

Smarter Browsing with Firefox

Get Firefox!

If you use the internet for periods longer than 2 minutes, and the word ‘Firefox’ conjures up images of a small furry animal in a painful situation, then you really need to read on. The fact that everyone should use Firefox is just such a given in our minds, we forget the need to give it a plug until we check our website stats to find most of you are coming at us from Internet Explorer. Yes, we know it is the default browser installed on your computer, but take 5 minutes and download the free Firefox browser and be forever self-congratulary (and congratulated by the 140807183 people already converted).

Reasons to Make the Shift 

  • Your web designer will give you a hug for taking them one step closer to a world where Microsoft’s infuriating insistance on not conforming to web standards wont matter.
  • You will notice that browsing the web is actually a fairly fast experience
  • You can add some super extensions to make browsing ever so much more fun.
  • It’s free
  • You will be supporting an open community of developers and people who don’t believe that massive all-powerful corporations are necessarily a good thing.

Get Firefox now:

Get Firefox!

And if you’ve already got it, don’t forget to upgrade to version 1.5 :) 

 

 

“Your Elevator Pitch” – Sum up Your Business in 60 Seconds

your elevator pitchI think Tim found the Your Elevator Pitch site and  del.icio.used it. It’s a great tool for anyone with a small business for something we have certainly struggled with in the past – summing up your business in a paragraph or two.

What’s even better is Your Elevator Pitch is very web 2.0, so it’s socially focused, meaning that after you make your pitch, the entire community can view and rate it. Meanwhile, you can look over other pitches, learn from them and re-pitch, and in the process find out about some cool companies. And it’s all about simplicity, trimming the fat and communicating clearly and consisely, be it with a potential customer, investor, or the guy at the BBQ who asks ‘so what do you do?’.

As of today there are only 41 pitches, so it’s fairly new, we haven’t quite got round do pitching yet but hopefully we’ll get there before it ticks over to 50.

How Websites are Developed

I am often amazed at how many people view their website as a necessary hassle. It appears that not a lot of thought is put into the process by businesses embarking on a new website, they seem to view their webiste as being outside their overall marketing strategy.

We are often struggle to get input from our customers, I think people still view websites as pretty graphics and splash pages not as extremely useful marketing tools. Many people are skeptical about the solid benefits of a web presence, and they have every right to be, given the history of the web is dotted with the splash paged, graphic laden, content poor sites described above. However, a website that is virtually your business represented on the web can offer incredible results.

Recently, we saw the results of a good collaborative relationship with a customer. We worked with the team at Southport Health Club to redesign their website. Their policy is to offer a free trial to all potential members and immediately, they were receiving about 5 enquiries a day from new customers – the numbers are incomparible to any other form of marketing they currently use.

The difference between their old website and the new one was the massive improvement in content and a site design that we were able to create to make the content really work.

Basically, like everything, if you’re going to do it, do it well. Don’t flick your web designers a 10 year old word document that we’re supposed to decipher and translate into a successful site, plan to spend some time, and bask in the glow of success.