Basecamp V Copper

Online Project ManagementManaging client expectations, project management, work allocation and tracking is not an easy, in fact, it’s down right hard to do it right especially if the job is complex and the client is difficult.

Transparency is the way to go and you want to do it right. Part of good project management is having your finger on the pulse of the project, scheduling the process, looking for things that could go wrong and planing for all contingencies and on top of all that keeping everyone involved informed and up-to-date with where you are at any given moment on any of your projects.

Doing this right can impress the hell out of your client if the process is easy to use and the software does what you want it to do, this all comes down to choosing the right project management software.

I have just gone through the process of moving over to online (cloud) project management and here is what I came up with. I did not have to go far, I tried about 6 different platforms and in most cases they where similar to Basecamp.

Basecamp

Basecamp came highly recommended from many people and the hype is that it is the best online project management platform available, so It was my first stop.

They don’t have a free version or a free trial plan so I needed to fork over my credit card details with the promise that if I don’t go beyond the 30 day trial my card would not be billed. I don’t call that a free trial but as I had heard so much about Basecamp I signed up.

Basecamp has a good interface but the problem is that it is not very intuitive. The help section is not that helpful and does not correspond to the section you want help with. The order of the stages is just wrong and again not intuitive. This is coming from someone who designs online applications and is very adept at working through thought processes.

After half a day off setting up and testing I was on the hunt for something that had to be better. If this was the top rated project management platform I was going to have to write my own because Basecamp just does not cut the mustard for a intuitive, good project management platform.

Copper

I came across Copper as one of the 6 platforms in my quest and they had a free trial for a month, yes, that’s what I like, try before you buy.

From the start I was impressed, the site is a users wet dream, written in HTML5, it is slick and intuitive. As a website designer I was impressed and instead of taking half a day to work it out I was up and going in 30 minutes.

The set up of users, groups, and clients was just too easy and the process ordering was in accordance with what I have in mind for managing projects.

Copper includes everything Basecamp charges extra for, wow, what a bargain.

Summary

If you are a Basecamp user, have a squiz at Copper, it will cost you nothing but time and the learning curve is a fraction required for Basecamp plus you get a heap of additional must haves included.

There is no choice between the two, Basecamp comes a poor second to Copper.

Hands Free Article Writing

articlesWriting articles for submission to sites like ezine articles can be a bit of a pain in the “you know what”. It’s not an easy task to pump out information about your business in a style that is entertaining as well as being informative (let’s not forget the bit about linking back to your website) and not have it come across like a total sales pitch.

Writing articles and posting them to sites that have a good page rank is time consuming to say the least. I find it hard enough to write an article here on Sitemaster every week day let alone writing for other sites with a link back to Sitemaster. It’s one of those things you want to do but the reality is that it takes a lot of effort.

This is where I should throw in my sales pitch with something along the lines of ‘what is your time worth’ or ‘can you ignore to not get quality back links’ and all that stuff.

Did I tell you that I just missed out on a good deal where I could have obtained 25 monkeys that can type?… No? I had to let that pass because they only typed in mandarin and have you seen the price of Bananas?

Well instead I made a real deal and came up with a real opportunity to get 100 articles written about almost any industry for $14 each by real people that can really write well. Really.

Let’s examine this;
Write an article andsubmit it to a website for $14.
The time to submit the article alone is nearly worth that price.

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For the small one time investment of just $1396 our content writing team will hand research and write 100 unique articles (approx 400 words each) tailored specifically to your search engine optimisation keywords & target audience.

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How To Build The Page Title

the titleThe title of your page is one of the most important pieces of information you can provide. It helps the search engines with keywords, the topic and subject of the page or post.

Now don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of other factors when it comes to search engine optimisation but the page title is one of the first places to start and one you should think about carefully to make the best impact.

I wrote about How To SEO Your Website and typed briefly about the page title, it can be so effective when you get it right that I thought I would dedicate a post to the subject.

With all that said the next thing to do is give you an example.

The first thing is to think about what someone would type in to the search fields when looking for the page you are composing.

Let’s say the page you are writing about is for growing tomatoes, the first thing that comes to mind is ‘Growing Tomatoes’ as the title and in fact that would be a good title but what would be better is ‘How to Grow Tomatoes’.

Why would it be better? Both titles will perform well but if I wanted to ask a question about how to do something, I would type in the words ‘How To’ and the subject. Doing this would get better results for my search request and let’s face it, if you don’t appear on the first page of search results the chances that someone will go to the second page are slim.

Go to Google, type in ‘growing tomatoes’ and view the results then do a search with the phrase ‘how to grow tomatoes’ and see the difference in the results. The better results are of course the search done with the phrase ‘how to’. So if you had used the title ‘How to grow tomatoes’ there is a good chance that your page will come up on the first page.

So think about the way people would search for the page you are putting together. do a few test searches and see what the results are, from there you can see your competitors for the same key words and get a better idea of the way to construct your title.

All that said, the title is just the first in a line of things you need to consider when aiming to come up on the first page of Google.

Building Your Page Rank

google page rankI have talked about How To SEO Your Website in a previous post here on Sitemaster and this is a great way to tune up your website to provide precise information to the search engines about not only your website but each page of your website but another area that is just as important if not more is ‘Off Page SEO’.

Off page SEO is basically building links that point back to your website. Google loves to see links that point to your site from other websites and the higher the page rank of the recommending website the better.

Get Social

Facebook is the first step you should take, if you need a hand, read Branding With Facebook.

Link Exchange

Email website owners that have similar fields of interest asking for a link exchange. This is time consuming and you may, if you are lucky, get a reply for one in twenty. The idea is to get a good value link exchange by targeting sites with a high page rank, the higher the better.

Paid Links

Buying links is a quick and relatively cheap process and one I highly recommend. I use Directory Submission ServiceDirectory Submission Services to build my in bound links.

Article

You could write articles and submit them to an array of sites that deal with the subject of your website.

Guest Blogging

Write a blog article for other bloggers, this not only gets amino back to your website but you may also be able to pull a few readers to your website and build up your reader base.

All that done and said I have one warning, do not build your back links to fast, by that I mean that if Google sees that you have gone from 0 – 10,000 back links in nothing flat you could be penalised. So do it gradually over 6 months or so for the best results.

Have you got a link building idea I have missed in this article? Drop it into the comments area below or email me about it.
Hey, why not write an article and post it on Sitemaster, it has a good page rank (PR4 at the time of this post)

Beware of Cheap

I recently outsourced the conversion of a graphic design to a WordPress theme (psd to wordpress) I say recently but in fact it was months ago. That’s what happens when you go for the cheapest quote, you get what you pay for.

I looked around for the best price ie the cheapest as it was a straight forward job. You see I was only going to use WordPress as a CMS, the client did not want a blog so the template work was reduced considerably.

I found ‘the cheapest’ for US$99 the next price was US$300 and they would not drop the price even thought it was only one template and no blog templates.

I took the cheapest option

Needless to say, you get what you pay for. Bad service, substandard work that I have had to consistently send back, bad communication, lack of care and worst of all but the norm when dealing with unprofessional people, blame.

Yes blame, it all became my fault because I upgraded my WordPress application and it broke their work. Don’t get me started on this point.

I could vent my spleen on this but I will save you my anguish because I have learnt my lesson.

You get what you pay for, so next time you get quotes for something (web work in particular) think carefully about the whole process. This little exercise cost me way more than $300 in my time let alone the stress I have had to go through.

So I will say it once more ‘Beware of Cheap’ you will only get what you pay for.

How I Started to Start Blogging

So you want to be a blogger but what are you going to blog about? This is a question nearly every blogger has had to ask themselves at one time or another, if not continually and one that perplexed me for some time.  I had a hard time defining what I really wanted to blog about.   I still can not define what I blog about in a few words as I feel I am just finding my blogging legs. Being a designer developer I attempt to write about the things that interest me from  website design, SEO, social networking, online marketing and blogging and trying to connect the dots between them all for others. This is How I Started to Start Blogging

What are you going to blog about?

This was the question of questions for me, I can only tell you what brought me to start down this sometimes painful and yet satisfying road.

I am a website designer and developer. I thought I knew a lot about website design having designed websites since 1994 and I have worked on many big name websites.

Along came My Space, I didn’t get it, what a waist of time I thought and then came Facebook, I still did not get it.

My kids started using both My Space Facebook finally settled with Facebook. I still didn’t get it.

The smart marketing behind Facebook is that you need to have an account to view someones pages, I wanted to see what my kids where doing on this ‘social network’ and I needed an account to be able to do just that, so I signed up, I still did not get it.

I didn’t do anything with my Facebook account for an age or two, it just sat there doing nothing. You see, I only signed up to see what my kids where doing and ‘try to’ connect with them on their level.

What I did next, which I did not know at the time was my first real venture into social networking, I get a Twitter account.

Twitter was hard for me grasp, some of the dribble was way to superficial for my likes but I stubbled across Michael Martine aka @remarkableblogger
I stared following his tweets and reading the things he linked to, looked at the people that also followed him and found a heap of information that lead me to get a grip on what it was about for me and it changed the way I looked at social networking.

I started looking for other interesting twitts … twitterers to follow and looking at their websites and their tweetes, I was hooked, great information from like minded individuals.

SEO was my first great interest but I came across Mashable, Problogger and a heap of other sites that pushed all my buttons, but in a good way and my education had begun.

That’s how it happened for me and it has reinvigorated my passion for the digital space, so much so that it has changed my outlook on website design and online marketing and now I am following in the path of those that inspired me.

If you have a similar story or one that relates to this, please let us know or add a comments below.

How To SEO Your Website

Everyone has a website but there are only ten listings on the first page of Google. Search engine optimization is the key to success for online marketing of your business.

For your business to be successfully marketed on the Internet you need to appear on the first page when someone types in your key words or phrases when looking for your service or product.

If you don’t come up on the first page of search results then you are waisting your time and money and all you have is a great brochure website.

Even the businesses that do well by coming up on the first page continually have to work to keep their place on the first page because the competition is aiming to take that position from them and keep it for themselves.

So how do you compete with businesses that are pumping big dollars into tweaking their websites?

It’s not easy, you either hire an SEO company or you learn to do it yourself

I am here to help you along the ‘Do it yourself’ road.

Page Title

This is what is displayed in the search results, it’s the first line, the title.

With Google you get 66 characters (including spaces) and if you go over this amount Google shows 63 characters and 3 dots = 66 characters.

Think this through carefully because it is very important.

The biggest mistake made by so many websites is to put their website/business name in the title and use up the display limit.

Face it, people do not care what your business is called, they are after a search term and want the results for that term. If they knew your website name they would go directly to it.

What you do want is a description to attract your audience.

Use an individual title for each page, something to describe what the page is about and do not put the same information on every page.

Meta Description

This is displayed by Google for searchers to read and comes after the title in the search results.

Get this right in relationship to each page and you will see a big difference in page views.

You have 150 characters, think of it as a tweet.

Meta Keywords

All of your keywords should be lower case, comma separated and should be specific to the content of the page.

Do not use vague or generic terms without first addressing what the page is about first. Sometimes generic terms can be beneficial, it’s all about what your selling.

Nofollow

This is used in links to tell the search engines NOT to follow this link. Apply this to pages like terms and conditions, privacy and so on. It should also be used when linking to external pages or sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Why use nofollow?

Your website page rank is diluted by the number of pages you have, this is a very complex subject and I will not go into it here but basically the gist is to use the nofollow on pages that are not going to effect what you are trying to achieve.

SEO your Images

Name your images in relationship to the page subject. There is no trick here it just takes effort and a bit of thought when first naming your images.

Title and alt tags

Apply both title and alt tags to all links and all images with the exception of spacer images.

Page content

Optimal page content size should be between 250 and 350 words. When developing copy consider the page subject, the keywords and phrases you will be aiming at the search engines ie. the terms you want to be found with when someone searches via the search engines.

Write in a normal fashion, do not stack the content with unintelligent content and keywords aimed at attracting the search engines, Google can understand sentences and can see if you are trying to stack the page with keywords and you will be penalized.

Internal links

Link between your pages, Google likes it

Footer

Put your sitemap in the footer of your website allowing one click to anywhere as well as giving the search engines and visitors easy reference to the rest of your site.

That’s about it for the beginners ‘How to SEO your website’

If you use WordPress the best SEO module you can use is Headspace 2, it does require you to put some effort in but the results are well worth it.

Branding With Facebook

facebookFacebook is the second most popular website in the world. If you really want to raise your brand awareness or sell your products and services then you need to be on Facebook. That’s it, you can stop reading now because this is all I am going to tell you. Well not really, there is lot to mention but the message is the same, get your business on Facebook.

I call it the Book of Face because marketing your business is all about your brand and your brand is the face of your business.

Marketing

Advertising on Facebook is great value for money because you can define your demographic and market only to them. Let’s say your target demographic is Australian males in Post code 2250, aged between 35 and 45, Facebook let’s you display adverts only to people that fall into that demographic criteria. How good is that and you can also target people having birthdays that are between the ages of 55 and 60 in Gosford and the cherry on top is that it’s all pay per click.

Get a free website

Facebook lets you have a free website, that’s right a free website, so if you have a personal Facebook account you can create another set of pages linked to your personal account that you can brand.

So as I said in my opening paragraph, get on Facebook today, don’t delay and if you want to see an example of a branded Facebook site look at Sitemaster on Facebook and if you want to hire someone to create your branded Facebook page, please consider contacting me.

Flash is Dead, Long Live SEO

adobe flash is deadFlash is dead, well, not quite but with HTML5 on the rise and SEO being so important, Adobe Flash is destined to slowly disappear from our screens over the next few years.

Why is Flash going to disappear?

It’s simple, search engine optimization has become so important in the struggle for first page placement on the search engines that to ignore an opportunity to optimize your site to it’s fullest while those around you do so is a death call for your business.

Flash V HTML5

Put simply, Google can not read flash, it just ignores it, where with HTML5 you can do lots of cool stuff that flash does and the search engine can read it.it’s a bit of a no brainer if you ask me.

I am currently working on an international car manufacturers website converting it from it’s ‘way cool’ Flash animations to HTML5. This conversion is not a cheap exercise, the site looks as slick as can be, so why would they spend a shit load of money to convert the website.

The answer is as simple as three letters, SEO.

We are also doing a few other tweaks, all SEO related because getting to number one on the search engines is the goal, it’s brand awareness, brand placement and sales.

It’s going to take a while for flash to disappear from the majority of sites unless Adobe pull a rabbit out of their hat which I can’t see happening.

Top Of The First Page of Google

First page of GoogleI would love to get a dollar for every time I have heard someone say ‘My site is on the first page of Google’ and when I ask them the search terms they use to achieve this excellent position on the major search engine, 90% reply ‘i just type in the name of my website’

Hence the saying ‘A little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing’

Sometimes I will point out that if I knew the name of your website why would I search for it but usually I just tell them well done, add a smile and change the subject.

As I said, I wish I had a dollars every time I heard that statement.

On my better days when I am feeling more social and up for an education I will actually ask another question like ‘So who designed your website?’ and again 80 to 90% will reply ‘I did it myself’ or ‘My 16 year old nephew did it for me’ or something along those lines.

This usually stops me dead, I know when I am defeated and in comes the smile with a nod and even an enthusiastic ‘great’ or ‘ok’ with a raise of the eye brows for the body language part. Sometime I will try and just raise one eye brow like Spock in Star Trek just to see if I can pull it off (I get a lot of practice at doing this, I can do the left side fine but the right side makes me look like I have indigestion or I am having a stroke).

On the very odd occasion when my masochistic side is showing and I am really board, so board infact that I actually open my mouth and sound emerges (even to my own amazement … or amusement … because a little bit of punishment just is not enough) I ask the final question I know will complete the loop, making me finally realize I should not have opened my mouth after the first answer … and that question is ‘Have you thought about doing some SEO work on your site?’ see answer number one.

Is there a moral to this story? Apart from the one about learning when to shut my mouth? There could be, there should be but I don’t know what it is. I could say something like ‘ Do you change the oil on your BMW yourself?’ but that is not quite right for many reasons I won’t go into. Needless to say, if you are competing for one of the ten positions on the first page of Google and you are not in a niche that is so obscure that there is only ten of you in the world on the Internet, you need to be proactive in your approach to your business and that means taking a professional approach, this does not mean that you need to run out and get a professional developer to do everything for you but it does mean that you need to have an open mind, consider the possibility that you can do better and look at what you do best and hire me.

The Title Tag

title tagsThere is the title for your page and there are title tags. I want to talk about the latter, title tags. This is something missed by a lot of people. I am amazed at the numbers of sites that just miss out doing this simple but effective little tweak. Some people fill in the alt tag but even fewer add a title tag to go with the alt tag.

Let’s step back and have a look at what the title tag is and does.

The code looks like this: title=”title description”

You know those site you go to and if you mouse over the navigation or an image a description appears, usually it is the same text as the navigation button or a description of the image, well that comes from the title tag. Yep, we all see it everyday, it’s something you may not even notice but if you keep an eye out you will see it.

I have a strong feeling that there may be some SEO advantages associated with adding in the title tag. Like alt tags, the title tag is another descriptive tag for the search engines.

Even if Google did away with recognizing it tomorrow the advantages for using it would still remain because it helps the visually impaired, it’s helpfully to every user to your website and the other search engines will always do things differently so it’s always best to prepare for all contingencies.

Now is the time to do a site review and make sure your titles are in place.

301 Redirects

linksIf you are moving, upgrading your website or have recently moved your website this article is for you. In all cases you should consider the search engines and what is going to happen to your page rank.

Page rank is the Holy Grail of search engine ranking, well … along with a few other things but all those other factors go to contribute to your page rank.

Before the move

Determine weather you are going to change any of your URL’s. By that I mean any change at all, like changing from a .html to a .php or adding a mod reWrite to change your .php or .html to make it a more search friendly URL? I could go on for lines and lines about the different type of changes you could make … but I won’t.

Google, Bing and Yahoo have referenced every page on your website already and will be sending people to those URL’s for some time after you have made any changes.

Document every URL in your website or just the ones that will be effected by the changes you will be making, so you have a reference.

If you are doing this after the move do a search on your domain and have a look at the results, this will let you know what URL’s the search engines have referenced in relation to your website.

The next step

Now that you know the URL’s it’s time to do the real work.

What you need to do is create a 301 redirect for each URL. Google does no penalise you for using a 301 redirect.

Now you will not loose your traffic to the dreaded 404 error and you will not effect your page rank.