Your 2011 Favorite Website and Web Marketing Schipul Blog Posts

Your 2011 Schipul Posts with the Most Love

At Schipul, we love to spend our time researching what’s new and innovative and the “next big thing” in web technology and online marketing.  We are super-pumped to uncover all the awesomely geeky web-tech coming in 2012 – and wanted to take a moment and reflect on what You thought was the best and most interesting news in web marketing in 2011 before we ring in the New Year – from our mobile phones, of course!

Our SEM team pulled up our analytics reports and took a look at what You were reading and sharing in 2011.  Here are the most popular blog posts visited on the Schipul blog and the most shared posts on Facebook in case you missed one.

Posts with the Most Reads on the Schipul Blog in 2011:

Posts with the Most Shares on Facebook in 2011:

  1. Google+ Video Overview
  2. Google+ versus Facebook for Video Calls
  3. Google+ Business Pages Are Here

There’s Even More to Love Ahead in 2012!

Add Schipul to one of your Google+ Circles  to tell us what types of blog posts you’d +1 in 2012.

Follow Schipul – The Web Marketing Company on LinkedIn and see what we are up all year.

Find out Your Top 10 Favorite Pages on Our Website and Our Top 10 Favorites from 2011.

Keep current with the constantly changing web environment with our new, weekly feature page The Newest, Coolest, Next Big Thing on the Web where we’ll pick what we believe is going to be a Web Game Changer in 2012.

Yay! Effective Blogging Strategies

Want to know about Effective Blogging Strategy? Check out this great slide show presentation by JJ Lassberg!

From basic blogging know-how to her top tips, this presentation is a must see!

JJ’s Top Tips For Blogging

With what seems to be about a gazillion blogs in internet land, how do you ever wonder how they started?  Or how each blogger developed a blogging strategy? It can be a bit overwhelming to think about, especially to someone new to the blog world and may be looking for advice.

Schipul’s own JJ Lassberg knows that effective blogging takes strategy, focus and a fundamental knowledge of blogging basics. She has even composed a presentation on “Effective Blogging” for rookies that include her “Lucky 13” blogging tips, blog basics and methods.  Check out the entire Slide Show for a really terrific “How-to” on Blogging!

Thanks for a great Wordcamp Houston 2010!

Matt Mullenweg CEO of WordPress
Photo thanks to Ed Schipul

This weekend marked the very first Wordcamp Houston event at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.  As well as being a Community Sponsor, the Schipulites were active participants as coordinators, speakers, volunteers and excitable (what’s new?!) attendees.

Houston Museum of Natural Science
Photo thanks to Ed Schipul

Didn’t get to make it this year and wondering what you missed?  Here are some of the highlights of the day at HMNS, in the Schipulites’ own words:

David Stagg at  Wordcamp Houston 2010
Photo thanks to Brett Morrison

David Stagg (who taught the swell WP 101 class)

I was honored to be given the chance to speak; it was a pleasure leading the WP 101 class, setting up Monica (aka Cosmopolitician) and Chris Everson—two incredibly talented people—for the 102 class. I felt honored to teach some new people from the Houston Zoo, Noah’s Kitchen, Reliant Energy all about how user-friendly WordPress truly is. The class was lively, had some great questions, and was genuinely curious about how to further their WordPress knowledge. Since it was the inaugural WPCamp Houston and it sold out quickly, I can only imagine what it will look like next year!

Albert Hughes

My thoughts:

  • Kelsey Ruger is a genius and I heard a lot of people agreeing with that statement.
  • I saw several people including Matt Mullenweg wearing “toe shoes”
thisisnotapril's shark
Photo thanks to April Kkyle

April Kyle
I really enjoyed having HMNS at the host. It was such a neat backdrop for us; and as part of being there I personally was exposed to things in the museum I’d never seen before. In the break times and lunch; we got a chance to play around a bit and have some fun – totally cool for breaks as opposed to had we been in just a conference center or hotel. It was just super neat seeing the kids learning, and we played around with the exhibits too. Plus, there was a shark.

Eloy and Matt Mullenweg at Wordcamp Houston 2010
Photo thanks to Eloy Zuniga

Eloy Zuniga
My favorite moment was sitting next to Matt Mullenweg during a session simply because I said “I saved you a seat”.  He is ridiculously nice and humble.  I’m glad he’s a Houstonian.

Derek Key and Susan Saurage photo by Ed Truitt
Photo thanks to Ed Truitt

Derek Key (who led a great panel with client Susan Saurage)
My favorite sessions from WordCamp were Kelsey’s “Rebirth of Slick” and Bill Erickson’s “WordPress Beyond Blogging”. Kelsey’s was incredibly fun as always and made me think about websites in general, not necessarily WordPress, and Bill’s was very informative and relatable to what we do for clients.

I think the two biggest takeaways are:

  1. Shopify – ecommerce solution for WordPress that can be easily updated graphically to match a site and is easy to manage on the client’s end (from Roby Fitzhenry’s session)
  2. Custom post types and custom taxonomies in WordPress (from Bill Erickson’s session). Allows for more than just pages and posts so you can actually call different content different names… very Drupal-esque.
HMNS IMAX theater for Wordcamp Houston keynote
Photo thanks to Ed Schipul

Michael Coppens (from his @urbanhoustonian Twitter account)

Not sure how I didn’t know WordPress founder @photomatt is from Houston. Makes it a perfect home for Urban Houstonian

 

Wordcamp Houston 2010 at HMNS
Photo thanks to Erin Flis!

Chris Minor (our fearless intern and videographer)

My favorite session was Kelsey Ruger’s presentation about design called “Rebirth of Slick”. Kelsey weaved his valuable insight into designing a website with a multimedia experience featuring music like hip-hop and jazz that made his presentation not only enjoyable but relevant and understandable in our society. WordCamp was also the first time I have been exposed to a real-time Twitter conversation. Many times I found myself staring at my twitter feed watching all the participants sharing what they were learning and I gained valuable brain-candy from the many passionate developers and users of WordPress.

Katrina Esco
The major takeaway I got from Wordcamp:  We understand things in story so we should be able to tell a meaningful story about a brand or company.

Christine Portillo

Kelsey Ruger’s preso was a highlight, and in a slide asking audience which of many companies listed had the “cool factor,” Schipul client IKEA was one of the few (along with Virgin Airlines, Zappos, and more). Best PHYSICAL takeaways: nifty, comfy, stylin’ T designed by Ben G and boasting Schipul on the arm and the bounteous bags of M&Ms provided by the blogger track’s “Whose blog is it anyway?” session.

Boss Blog of the Month: Nataliedee.com baby!

Boss [baws, bos]

-adjective
1. exemplifies a unique quality; awesome; incredible
2.  An expression from the mid 1950s, which fell from favor by the early 1960s….until now...

When I was introduced to Natalie Dee, I wanted to hug her. Granted, we were not formally introduced and to digress from creepy status, I can tell you one thing – she is a satirical comic genius who totally digs Wu Tang.

I bet you want to hug her now too.

Nataliedee.com has become my daily affirmations – not necessarily by definition. Through her comics she expresses her real life encounters, vulnerabilities, conversations and of course, her addiction to diet coke. Browsing through her unique art you may even think to yourself, “maybe I’m not the only one with a screw loose…there really is someone else who enjoys Turban Tuesday.”

And over the past couple of years, I have come to realize that her comics serve a dual purpose. Because Natalie Dee is seemingly well rounded, her comics come in handy for any and all human exchanges (use of comic’s impact is likely greater if you are at a loss for words). I have created real fictional instances below in hopes that you will recognize why Natalie Dee is so BOSS.

Are you in an altercation?

Instead of lying down like a coward in the fetal position, use this little gem.  Your nemesis will walk away out of mere confusion. This is also an ideal time to holler, “Booyah!”

Do you own a cat?

Me either. So if you find yourself surrounded by cat lovers in deep conversation about LOLz…attempt to relate.


Did your sister-in-law just get pregnant?

Nothing will express your excitement more than a rainbow.

Are you running late for work?

Turtles are slow – how could your boss ever refute that one?

Are you awkward?

This one is great for the time you held the door open for a complete stranger and they proceeded to call you “awkward.” You turn-around and you show them awkward…

Not into politics?

There will never be a winner of a political debate held down the street at your local pub…until you prance in the door.

Enjoy the Moutain Dew/Nerd combo?

Dew the dew bra! That’s all I really have to say about this one.

Did you make a bad decision?

While explaining the situation to your parents, ease the mood with a cupcake. Hey, it could always be worse…

Overwhelmed by technology trends?

No need to worry your pretty little head about it. Reply to the office email about iPhone 4 discrepancies with this farcical treasure – Nutella does wonders my friends.

Do you like adorable creatures?

When saying it in words won’t do you justice, this princess works for all occasions.

Want more Natalie Dee?

Like her on Facebook

Follow her on Twitter

Say hi to her friends over at Toothpaste for Dinner, Married to the Sea and Superpoop

Buy her prints on a T-shirt

Trend Tuesday: Comment SPAM gets Tricky

We’ve all come across email SPAM, but that is only where the annoyance begins. If you have a blog, a website that takes comments, or even a contact form, then you have probably seen some SPAM there, too. It used to be easy to identify, but spammers are becoming craftier at their game. Learn how you can fight back.

We’ve all come across email SPAM, but that is only where the annoyance begins. If you have a blog, a website that takes comments, or even a contact form, then you have probably seen some SPAM there, too. It used to be easy to identify, but spammers are becoming craftier at their game. Learn how you can fight back.

SPAM stacks up
SPAM can pile up in your blog. Learn how to get rid of it.

Why people Spam

Before diving into the problem of comment SPAM, I’d like to answer this question: Why do people SPAM? The biggest purpose of comment SPAM is SEO-related. One of the things Google and the others factor into their algorithms is linkbacks. A linkback is any link from an external site back to your website. In many comment forms on blogging platforms there is an option to include a website, which is then linked to your name when you leave a comment. This is a way of telling people who it is that is leaving the comment. Spammers use this opportunity to link to trashy SPAM websites that make pennies per visitor. If they rank higher in the search engines for keywords like “free viagra”, they can drive more traffic and make more pennies. Pennies turn into dollars which turn into Benjamins, and you get the picture. However, this doesn’t work very well for the spammers.

While most of the blogging platforms include comments and do send links, they include a little piece of code that prevents linkbacks. It’s called a “nofollow” link. It tells Google not to count a link as a linkback. Google doesn’t follow the link, so that website isn’t given any benefit. It’s an optional setting, but it is turned on for professional blogs as well as Blogger.com and WordPress.com hosted blogs. We don’t use nofollow links on this blog so that we can pass along benefits to our commenters. However, spammers don’t know that we do this, and they don’t seem to care much either way. Even with nofollow links, the spammers will still attack your site. Now that we know the why, lets look into the “what” of comment SPAM.

What Comment SPAM looks like

Most people can identify the obvious SPAM very quickly. It is riddled with links to ED drugs or other pharmaceuticals, or in some cases it is written in Russian. This kind of SPAM is automated by the spammers and can be caught by filters. The other types of SPAM are much harder to identify. They look more like real comments. Here is an example (the link doesn’t work):

From Investment Ideas: Great Post! I stumble by this blog from Google and your content really speaks to me. You are an expert in your field and this post is proof. I am now subscribing to read more.

At first glance this looks like a very nice comment. It is probably one you would be proud to have at the bottom of your posts. Unfortunately, it is SPAM. The “name” of the commenter is used as a keyword to create a linkback to the URL, which in this case is also about investment ideas. The text sounds very nice, but it would probably sound very nice on any of your posts. These types of comments have a few things in common, and you can become a pro at identifying it and removing it.

How to Identify and Stop SPAM

Unfortunately, this kind of SPAM is not caught by the filters because it looks genuine. In many cases it is even entered by a real person (often overseas). They copy/paste a snippet on many sites as fast as possible. But, you can spot it when moderating your comments. Here is three-item test to identify the tricky SPAM:

  1. The name looks like a description and not really a person’s name. In the example, it is Investment Ideas.
  2. The link goes to a site very similar to the name. It may also include several hyphens, which are sometimes used in spam URLs.
  3. The text of the comment is very generic. It doesn’t reference anything in the post and can probably apply to almost any of your posts.

Those three quick tests can help you to identify most comment SPAM. After reviewing the fake comment above, you will see that it includes all three of the regular pieces of SPAM comments. You may come across some comments that just say “Great Post!”. To determine if these are SPAM you should pay close attention to the name and link. If it is a person’s name and goes to a personal site or blog (like JMO), then it is probably not SPAM.

You will have to use your own discretion when deciding which comments are SPAM on your blog. Comments are great places to have a bit of further discussion about posts. They can add to the “conversation” in many cases, so blocking SPAM is even more important to keep the conversation fluid. While comment SPAM can’t hurt you directly, it can look ugly on your blog.

While some sites have turned off comments all together to prevent this, you may still want to keep comments on your site. Using nofollow links can help prevent the spammers from gaining anything with their garbage, but it will still pile up in the back and can clutter your real comments. Moderating your comments regularly and having a keen eye for SPAM can protect your site from the evils of comment SPAM.

UPDATE:

I have decided it to let the SPAM comments show up on this post so you can see some examples of what we get. I will neuter them by removing the link, but the text and name of the commenter will be left alone (unless it’s profane). Our first winner is “Affiliate Network”.

UPDATE 2:

Many more SPAM comments have rolled in to the mix. I’ve removed links on all of them, but the text gives you an idea of what they may look like on your site.

Awesome SPAM creative commons image thanks to freezelight.

Trend Tuesday: Talk to me and win a shirt!

Ah, the Blog Contest. Who doesn’t love a good blog contest. You may be think from the title and first words (and perhaps the by line) that this will be a bit of biting criticism calling out the blog industry for selling it self short. Or perhaps you think it is ridiculous self promotion for our current blog contest. Well, this is neither. It is the perspective of those two people who can agree on one thing: Blog Contests work!

One of the values at Schipul is Win/Win. This means that in an interaction or agreement or business-dealing, both sides walk away feeling like they have gained something. When we do work for our clients, we earn their business, and in turn they are provided with a service they need. The Blog Contest is, on most scales, a true example of Win/Win.

The Blog owner can be seeking PR, attention, an urge for traffic, or perhaps they just have extra stuff. To accomplish their goal, they can utilize traditional advertising, but this does not always help them reach their audience in a fun and interesting way. Even online advertising can be a poor fit for the audience or the budget. The flexibility of the Blog Contest allows you to give away pretty much anything, from a Wii Fit to netbooks to cat T’s.

From the reader perspective, generally very little is asked of you. Leave a funny comment, become a fan on facebook, mention something on twitter, etc. Much of the time your odds of winning are quite good compared to a business card fishbowl or a clearing house sweepstakes. And generally there is a high amount of transparency in seeing who wins. Unless a contest gets out of hand (see Wii Fit above), then the contest is contained to the community of people who read the blog, with maybe a few outsiders who are just around for the contest.

Even after a winner is announced, many great things have happened. Either a new reader has won something, which may keep them coming back as a reader, or an old reader has won something, which rewards them for being a part of the conversation. Attention is gained at a cost (like all advertising), but in this case the readers profit, not an Ad agency. Aside from some twitter contests which can be quite annoying (i.e. planet-orbiting-berry), the old-fashioned blog contest is a Win/Win event.

In all seriousness, these contests are really good for everyone and are turning into a great advancement in online economics. The scale of costs and attention help to create a happy event for all involved. A small giveaway creates a small burst of traffic, and giving away something large can create bigger waves on the internets. As a blog creator, you control the size and expense. As a blog contestant, you can control what contests you enter, and what is worth your time/attention/info. Everyone remains in control, traffic goes up, and someone is a winner.

In the words of Michael Scott, this is Win/Win/Win. One Win for the blogger, one Win for the contestants, and a Win for me for explaining it here and encouraging you to create a blog contest. There’s another Win too if you follow me on twitter, because all of my followers are winners.

Trend Tuesday: Still Waiting til the Last Minute?

(I realize this was published later than normal.  It is part of the story.  Welcome again to another crazy JMO post.)

In the blogging world, many people teach that having posts on a regular schedule is the way to create a readership.  But this is only half of the message.  It leaves out the ‘quality’ part.  To have a successful blog, there should be a regular stream of quality posts to feed a readership.  Here is a quick list on how to have a great blog.

  1. Make a blog. (wordpress is good)
  2. Set a regular schedule you can maintain.
  3. Write a QUALITY Post.
  4. Click Publish.
  5. Repeat 3 and 4 based on 2.

Ok, so that probably isn’t the Top 5 list you were hoping to see.  Too bad, because that’s really all there is to it.

In writing this post I was almost guilty of overlooking Step 3.  When you title your blog post Trend Tuesday, you are setting yourself up for a pretty hard deadline.  And Tuesday is almost gone.  Should I just hit Publish now?  Probably not, as I haven’t finished my story yet.  So, why am I not done yet?  I’ve got some great excuses.

  1. I haven’t reached the deadline yet
  2. I work better at the last minute
  3. It wasn’t a high priority

I haven’t hit the deadline.  For this excuse, I am really blaming the deadline.  Unfortunately, deadlines have a tendency to backfire.  A week ago we set a deadline to have a new Trend Tuesday blog post done by Tuesday.  I had a whole week to get it done.  But really, by giving myself a deadline of Tuesday, I committed to doing it on Tuesday.  Because this is due in a week, it ranks behind other tasks, until Tuesday that is.  Now it is on top of the heap, but it is almost too late.  Way to avoid this: set earlier deadlines, or, if you can, do things immediately. Think of the deadline as less of a due date and more of a time to actually do it.

And anyways, I work better at the last minute.  Because at the last minute, there is added stress and pressure.  And I work great under pressure.  NOT.  At the last minute, I am forced to get things done.  Not to make them right, or even above average. And certainly not to make them spectacular.  But they do get done.  Had I made my deadline, you would have stopped reading after the Top 4 list.  That is what is produced by someone who works better at the last minute.  Way to avoid this: set standards for quality. For this post, it could be the words, time spent on it, or links.  Or it could be that I got 5 other people excited after they read it.

But the real reason I didn’t finish on time is that this wasn’t a high priority.  Unfortunately, task managers and to-do lists have this annoying priority system built in with 1-5’s and stars and red flags, etc.  I think priority is really a boolean, or an on/off switch.  Something is a priority, or it isn’t. Merlin Mann agrees, or really, I agree with him.  But when I first learned of this task, I said this wasn’t a high priority. But if this isn’t a high priority, then why am I not done yet?  It is superseded by a real priority.

The real priority is that when I publish something with my name on it, it has to be my best effort. This is the priority.  This is Step 3 above.  And this is what makes great bloggers, writers, designers, and all creators.  When I first started this, under the deadline, rushing it out, it was about 200 words of garbage.  I’ve since deleted all of that, and written all of this.  While some may argue that I was just lazy and procrastinated and that’s why this wasn’t finished, I’d have to disagree.  I set myself up for failure when I did the following:

  1. I  made a deadline that was the absolute last minute I needed to finish.
  2. I did not make this a priority.
  3. I did not start until close the deadline because this wasn’t a priority.
  4. I lied to myself about my abilities to do quality work quickly.

All of these things caused me to miss the all important Step 3.  Fortunately, the place I work is smart enough to recognize that a quality post that is late is much better than a weak post on time.  Hopefully the readers if this blog and yours are also flexible.

Recap:

  1. Set deadlines before things are really due, or just do them immediately.
  2. Don’t wait til the last minute.  Your work is not better when you do.
  3. Make quality stuff (which should be on time if you follow the first two).

Hopefully the trend of waiting til the last minute will fade like Will Smith’s hair on Fresh Prince.