Category Archives: Blotter

Beyond Content Farms: Better Content Management

Beyond Content Farms: Better Content Management

There are four basic steps for managing content on a website – focus it, source it, create it and disseminate it. Clearly, the hardest part about implementing these steps is the repetition that must accompany them. Search engine optimization (SEO) benefits result in the ability for a website manager to repeat these steps on a regular schedule. Whether it’s every day, every week or every month, these steps for managing content should be repeated like clockwork. Consistency will win the race.

Focus it
Google looks for consistency and keyword expertise when indexing websites. In addition to demonstrating a clear objective and purpose, Google offers a number of other tips to avoid creating bad content. A lack of focus on a particular topic damages SEO more than most website managers know. For that reason, website managers should be focusing content around consistent keywords to demonstrate their niche. Yoast is the de facto tool for choosing keywords to focus content, providing suggestions for long tail keywords (containing multiple words) that suggests which keywords are best. (Blotter uses Yoast and you should, too.) Not being disciplined and consistent in administering a website could be your biggest mistake.


Using Yoast will help improve your long tail keyword strategy – reflecting what users see when they type a search term into a Google search box.

Source it
Content farms (also called content mills) employ large numbers of writers to produce text. Google hates them because the content is soulless and pedantic. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with the practice of a room full of scribes producing content for a website, the results too often have bad grammar, disparate information and (at its worst) plagiarism.

A better strategy is for website managers to nurture relationships with individuals who understand the mission of the website and have expertise in it. Quality sourcing is why most companies with a successful SEO strategy delegate the responsibility of content creation to internal employees. Sourcing it within is the trend for most start-ups, for instance. Each employee must write on a regular basis.

Create it
Managing content on a website is all about demonstrating expertise on a particular subject. Creating informative content that demonstrates thought leadership or demonstrates a unique or compelling argument is what all good viral posts and videos have in common. Blotter follows and recommends the Ann Handley model for publishing dynamic content, but Blotter has simplified it to focus on the good of the good writing style:

The Good of the Good Writing Style

  • Good anticipation
  • Good data
  • Good teaching
  • Good writing
  • Good rewriting
  • Good logic
  • Good simplicity
  • Good reiteration
  • Good natured
  • Good editing

Disseminate it
We’ve mentioned many times how having a website is not enough for successful SEO. Most people use networking through LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter to get personal references from friends, or they look on review sites such as Yelp! or Google Maps to answer questions about perspective businesses. The dissemination of media should be a carefully choreographed affair touching on every kind of outlet, sending content to as many social networking services as possible – in tandem.

Blotter uses social media aggregators to help organize the parallel publishing of media. Hootsuite is one of the more popular tools used by website managers to aggregate and disseminate media, but Blotters prefers BufferApp, a service which not only pulls in the major social media services to one place, but lets you schedule when to send out the messages over the course of the weeks to come:

Content Dissemination

For most website managers, content originates on a website and trickles out to social media outlets. For this reason, these websites should be top-level domains (i.e., dot-coms). Consistency in publication schedules and consistency with internally linking nomenclature is also necessary. That means that you must ensure a consistent naming convention for long talk keywords as well as permalinks. To create a good permalink, create a title that encompasses the long tail keyword,” that literal phrase someone might search. Make sure your “Permalink” matches the title exactly, using dashes to separate spaces:

Good nomenclature

(Use dashes to spell out article names literally.)

Finally, a website manager should remember to keep a calendar and enforce the publishing schedule like a drill sergeant. Whether you only publish once per month or once per day, make sure it’s at the exact same time. Following these four basic steps for managing content on a website should result in better content and better SEO.

Are domain registrars worse than hookers?

Are domain registrars worse than hookers?

A registrar is a lot like a prostitute in that they both take your money, the difference being that the hooker tells you in advance you’ll be screwed.

Okay, that’s a little harsh. Prostitutes don’t try to sell you useless add-ons while pitching their service: “Would you like to buy some shampoo to go with your oral sex? Howabout you pay me extra and I’ll black your name outta my little red book? And for an additional fee I’ll provide you with your own phone number, too!”

But while they’re all solicitous in their propositions – often to the point of annoyance – the domain name registrar can also keep you in bondage for years to come. For most of us, registrars are a necessary evil, someone we never really wanted to be with in the first place. Registrars versus HookersExperience helps us to understand what each domain name registrar offers. Our focus on five popular domain name registrars may help you choose the best answer to this prevailing question: Are domain registrars worse than hookers?

Prostitutes don’t hold you hostage
One of Blotter’s clients is being held hostage by the registrar Melbourne IT, an Australian-based company specializing in affiliate registrars. After repeated attempts to contact the company at as well as multiple phone calls to their support line at +61 3 8624 2300, this registrar has refused to unlock the domain name and proceed with sending the authorization code. The problem resulted from a mismanaged alliance between Melbourne IT and the now defunct contact at AT&T, Inc.

It appears the Registrar is cybersquatting on our domain name. I’ve called the company a number of times (no answer) and have submitted multiple support tickets at both and on the website. Because you have refused to provide us with the Authorization Code for the domain name, we are escalating our issue by filing a complaint with ICANN because we consider you to be unresponsive to our request for transferring the domain name

Registrars who don’t cooperate should be reported immediately to ICANN, the governing body of domain names. ICANN will eventually resolved this matter.

Prostitutes don’t sell you add-ons like registrars do and are the worse offenders of useless and distracting upgrades with their multiple selection options that have nothing to do with registering a domain name for the first time. It’s quite amazing anyone uses them at all given their daunting interfaces.

Network Solutions sells you three hosting options under “Website Options” and five options under “Enhance Your Website” that include email management and “Web Forwarding” for $12.99/year. The final screen offers an additional “Private Registration” option for 100 years at a rate of $999.00 (claims to help prevent spam). The interface is fairly straightforward, however, and most users should be able to wade through these useless add-ons without too much distraction.

Network Solutions Options 1 - 2

Network Solutions: 1 – 2


Network Solutions: 3 – 7


Network Solutions: 8 – 9

Godaddy, on the other hand, has price advocates who point out that discount codes and other membership programs bring the cost of a domain name down in the long run – renewals average $8.47/year. It’s the novices who pay for the veteran’s price breaks, however. Godaddy’s nine upgrades are downright confusing for first-time users, with two protection upgrade options, four hosting upgrade options and three email options.

Godaddy Distractions #1 & 2

Godaddy Steps: 1 – 2

Godaddy Distractions 3-6

Godaddy: 3 – 6

Godaddy Distractions #7-1

Godaddy: 7 – 9 bait-and-switch options when registering a domain name are not improved with the renewals of domain names which provide eleven options including Email & Productivity powered by Office 365 as well as an SSL option ($69.99/year).

Name Cheap is similar to the other domain name registrars by offering confusing add-ons including cloud email, website hosting and mobile-friendly websites. But has redeeming qualities to its interface and makes no assumptions, labeling their add-ons under a header Improve Your Site: 1. Hosting for $9.88; 2. Privacy Protection for $1.99 (first year); 3. Email; 4. Mobile-friendly website for $39.95/year.  They’re the most clear of the domain name registrars featured here.

Pairnic is another registrar many website managers prefer for their IBM-esque design and no frills interface while registering a new domain name. But is not without confusion either, forcing the user to accept a dot-net registration along with your $19.00 (yikes!) dot-com selection. The buyer is forced to accept this “1st year free” .net transaction as some sort of helpful gift, never mind the likely automatic renewal next year at an inflated price.

A final note on domain name privacy protection
Registrars have taken a page straight out of Daniel Gardner’s The Science of Fear:

Fear sells. Fear makes money. The countless companies and consultants in the business of protecting the fearful from whatever they may fear know it only too well. The more fear, the better the sales.

Godaddy’s first step after a website manager selects a domain name to register is to warn users that they should pay at least $7.99/month to “Prevent your personal information from falling into the wrong hands.” For twice as much they’ll throw in something called a “Business Protection” plan which offers phony verification credentials called “Godaddy Certified Domain Seal” to prove to visitors that your site’s ownership is valid.

Which domain name registrar a website manager uses should be based on cost, but must also take into account availability and tools for updating MX records and DNS. Amateur website managers are better going directly to hosting platforms such as or who will manage their domain name registrations and their DNS – granted the cost will be a bit more. However, veteran website managers are know the perils of working with registrars well, and they’ll do well to be vigilant to avoid paying for services they don’t need.

Nine WordPress plugins you can’t live without

Nine WordPress plugins you can’t live without

WordPress may be the standard in content management systems (CMS). But there are nine must-have plugins for WordPress to be effective. All have a free version and all provide solutions for expanding a website beyond the simple blogging and navigation functionality WordPress provides. Of course there are many more WordPress plugins that will be needed when a website manager expands the functionality of a given website, but let’s assume a standard set of functional elements will be needed when building and managing most websites: anayltics, communication, spam management, backups, form creation and imaging management:

  • WordPress SEO (By Yoast) – Although Google continually evolves how they evaluate and index websites, it is crucial for a website manager to actively organize content using a united strategy. More than anything else, Google respects organization and consistency where tags, key phrases and other optimization is involved. This plugin has been downloaded and integrated with WordPress sites more than 13 million times.
  • Google Analytics Dashboard for WP – Even if you’re not actively reviewing and devising strategy around how users are interacting with your website, the Google Analytics plugin provides easy-to-find reference data that can be digested with a glance. For those of us who feel overwhelmed by the confusing and feature-laden dashboard Google provides on its own interface, the Google Analytics plugin appears in your WordPress dashboard as something of a godsend in digestibility.
  • MailPoet Newsletters – While the way users interact and share content from a website changes, something that hasn’t changed is the fact every user has an email address. Sending content within email newsletters provides website managers with an opportunity to share and market website information that otherwise goes ignored. MailPoet allows for the management of targeted mailing lists and provides easy-to-use templates for generating email communications. Drag-and-drop posts and images, then click send. Furthermore, this awesome piece of software empowers users to subscribe and unsubscribe from mailing lists without hassle.
  • SendGrid – If you send your digital newsletters to more than 1000 email addresses it’s important to use a robust server delivery system that will help prevent communications from ending up in spam folders while taxing a servers resources. SendGrid easily integrates with most newsletter plugins to do the heavy lifting when it comes to blasting emails.
  • Akismet – If you deal with comments and users interacting on your WordPress site, then you need a strategy to deter unwanted spam. Akismet is gleefully easy to install and integrate, protecting a blog from comment and trackback spam.
  • UpdraftPlus – Scheduling and performing website backups is more important than any other task a website manager has. If you don’t have a backup strategy in place, then expect to lose your website and all its data. It happens to everyone eventually. UpdraftPlus is a free backup service that ingrates with Google Drive or DropBox to seamlessly backup and store your website in a safe place in the unlikely event you need it.
  • Gravity Forms – At some point most website managers will need to capture information from users who enter information into a form. Whether selling a product or merely registering users for a complex service, Gravity Forms provides an easy-to-use interface allowing for visual construction of forms in a jiffy. By integrating it with (additional plugin required) or other merchant accounts, eCommerce becomes a cinch. Advanced Image Styles
  • Advanced Image Styles – Ever have a problem with your pictures running too close to the text? Manipulating graphics within WordPress can be a challenge when website managers want to go beyond simple formatting. This simple plugin allows you to create image borders and margins, then manipulate image title attributes and the associated CSS Class.
  • NextGen Gallery – This popular WordPress plugin generates photo galleries while downsizing images so that users can easily navigate through your great pictures. Bulk uploads are easy and shortcodes are available in the tool bar when creating posts and pages.

WordPress maintains its integrity by allowing website managers access to a vast directory of plugins that are vetted within a community of users. As always, be sure to backup your website BEFORE installing any plugins, and participate in the forums where feedback can be seen and reviewed by developers and users alike.


Should I hire a contractor or employee?

Should I hire a contractor or employee?

The question whether to hire a part-time contractor or full-time employee depends on the length of the project and budget. Contractors are good for small jobs while an employee can go the long haul. Both employers and their potential hires should look at the benefits and pitfalls for each model.

Also consider the quality of work a part-time contractor puts in versus a full time employee. Typically, contractors prove adept at task oriented projects, for instance where checklists or repairs are needed. Anything with nuance, however, requires that someone be vested in the project for a longer period of time.

Consider office expenses
Should I hire a contractor or employee?Having a physical location where workers come and focus on projects has its benefits and detractions. Without having to pay for utilities or rent, an employer can better afford their workers. Nonetheless, telecommuting is rife with problems, not the least of which are those workers who claim to be putting in their hours but are not. The federal website offers helpful tips if you’re considering the telecomuting option, for instance the need for increased management, scheduling and training for workers who will work from afar.

What type of job are you hiring?
We’ve outlined a cheat-sheet for those types of hires, starting with the type of job and listing the ideal hire – either part-time contractor or full-time employee. There’s also an assignment for how difficult it is to find someone for each of these jobs.

Type of Job to Hire Ideal Hire Difficulty
Website Designer Part-Time Easy to Find
Programmer Full-Time Hard to Find
Website Manager Full-Time Easy to Find
Sales Manager Full-Time Easy to Find
Data Entry Part-Time Easy to Find
Customer Support Full-Time Easy to Find
Content Strategist Full-Time Hard to Find
Text Editor Part-Time Easy to Find
SEO Manager Part-Time Easy to Find
Server Manager Part-Time Easy to Find
Secretarial Full-Time Easy to Find

Considering your budget
There’s also the issue of budget when considering whether to hire a contractor or employee. There are many online employee calculators to approximate what your up against when hiring an employee. Jolanders has a free version of its downloadable “How much an employee really costs” spreadsheet for figuring out payroll. Employees cost more than most people think. For example, paying someone a $70,000/year in salary could mean you’ll be paying them for vacation days, too. There are also legal obligations to consider when hiring full time employees, including maternity leave and unemployment benefits that will have a financial impact on the employer.

Most companies give employees time off for various holidays, so that should really be included in the calculation. The problem is that different countries can vary in their national holidays, and your company may give certain days off but not others. On average, in the U.S. there are 7 major holidays: New Years Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, the day after Thanksgiving (since this is always a Friday), and Christmas. Many businesses also have an additional floating holiday that is sometimes used for Christmas Eve, New Years Eve, or one of the days near July 4th.

Do the math
Setting a budget and understanding how much a salary costs means doing a little math. As a baseline calculation, let’s say you are one of those employees who won’t pay for vacation, but will offer 2 weeks off each year as unpaid vacation time.

Total time worked = 50 weeks (2,000 hours)

$70,000 salary = $35 per hour

There are many ways to slice the bread when considering the question whether to hire a contractor or employee. Something gained is also something loss when choosing a part-time contractor versus a full-time employee. It’s best to consider all factors before deciding which type of hire is right for you.

Should I charge an hourly rate or a fixed price?

Should I charge an hourly rate or a fixed price?

Charging clients an hourly rate versus a fixed price depends on experience with the project. Predictability goes hand in hand with a flat rate. In a nutshell – if you’ve done it before with confidence, a flat rate means you know how much time the project takes and any foreseeable costs involved. A flat rate means you’ll finish it in a flash.

On the other hand, hourly rates can protect a website manager from finicky clients and feature creep. A project with the potential for never quite getting finished should be billed hourly. (Flat rate custom website design is a no-no, for instance.) If there’s a chance your client might come back and say Do It Again, then keep them on the clock. Otherwise, clients have little incentive to stop when the project is complete.

When to charge a fixed price:

  • Where a project does not include creative design and engineering
  • When you’ve successfully completed a similar project more than three times
  • When the project has written specifications and defined terms

Sample Fixed Price Projects
Website managers familiar with standard Content Management Systems (CMS) such as Joomla or WordPress know that existing plugins make it easy to get a basic website up and running in no time. Be careful of hidden fees for “premium” plugins that go beyond basic services. But all the below items are repeatable and easy-to-replicate projects that should not necessitate a lot of extra hours. Turn-key software is available for all of the below:

  • CMS Setup
  • Turn-key templates with CMS backends
  • Newsletter integration
  • Google Analytics
  • SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
  • Webinars and Live chat Events
  • Photo galleries
  • News feeds
  • Social media setup
  • Website hosting
  • Email management
  • eCommerce

When to charge an hourly rate:

  • When the client doesn’t understand the technology
  • If you are dependent on a subcontractor
  • If you don’t have experience with the task at hand

Sample hourly rate projects
Time management is crucial for website managers who stand to lose the most when work drags on and revisions are necessary. Subjective projects where the work is likely to have complications or changes along the way include:

  • Website and graphic design
  • Database integration
  • Writing and creating copy
  • Improvements on existing websites
  • Flash or video projects
  • Responsive website adaptation
  • Marketing strategy implementation
  • Employee training
  • Mail merges for email blasts
  • Editing grammar
  • Scheduling and Storyboarding

Caveats to these guidelines

Time management for website managers means predicting efficiency for delivering technology and content, but also how a client will respond when a project is complete. Finally, keep in mind these rules we suggest go to the waste basket where experience with a client dictates how to charge. The question for whether to charge an hourly rate or a fixed price often comes down to understanding expectations and the resources. Experience with the client and the project should dictate which rate system to use.

In conclusion, the difference between charging clients a fixed price versus an hourly rate is no small matter for website managers looking to increase their bottom lines. Charging an hourly rate or a fixed price is something that can and should be discussed with your client, so don’t be afraid to negotiate a fixed price up front, for instance, with a caveat that any work done beyond the terms of an agreed upon project will be billed additional rates. Always deliver a contract spelling out expectations – this crucial planning point cannot go ignored.

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