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Looking Back on Your Achievements

Celebratory whiskey image
We all sometimes get that feeling at the end of the working day where you just sit there are you think to yourself: “enh, it feels like I didn’t get anything done today…”

One of my favourite ever blog posts (which annoyingly I can’t find for the life of me now) offered a great tip on this: actually write down what you did that day. That way, despite feeling like you might’ve accomplished nothing of note, you’ll actually see for yourself what you did and therefore realise that you managed to get a fair bit done.

When you’re engrossed in the day-to-day, it can also be easy to forget what’s happened in the bigger picture – such as during a year-long period. As we enter December, take the time to write down your achievements over the past year. Here’s mine from 2016:

  • MOM‘s income increased for the third year running – an increase of around 60% on the previous year
  • I started work with a company that I’d considered a potential dream client for years (Target Group)
  • I continued to get good results for clients… In one instance I helped to increase a client’s organic traffic by 300x in one year (from c. 30 visits per month to over 10,000 visits per month)
  • I spoke at the mighty brightonSEO for the second time (link to talk info, etc.)
  • I was a finalist in the UK Blog Awards for the second time
  • I’ve continued to write for State of Digital, and continue to receive great feedback from my editor
  • I launched Cardiff SEO Meet – we’ve had three meetups so far with turnouts of around 30-40 each time
  • I did a lightning talk for charity and raised over £300 for Climb (Children Living with Inherited Metabolic Diseases)
  • I was invited to give a talk on SEO at the Big Ideas Wales Business Bootcamp (an event which made national news), which was a huge honour
  • SEOno – this very blog – turned 5-years-old, a heck of a milestone in my eyes

And the best bit? We still have a month to go.

Don’t get me wrong – there have been problems, hassles, frustrations and probably an epic fail or two this year, too. But why fixate on that? Learn from it and move on.

How have you done this year?

[Image credit – Heather Anne Campbell]

Deconstructing the Worst Article I’ve Ever Seen

"Dear lord..."Ladies and gentlemen, we have reached peak BuzzFeedification.

By “BuzzFeedification” I refer to the recent onslaught of articles that fit BuzzFeed’s style (i.e. full of GIFs and memes) and/or follow the get-as-many-ad-impressions-as-possible model, which has been adopted by many publishers at the moment – more and more by the day, it seems – in an attempt to get that elusive click.

I came across one article that ticked all the usual boxes…

  • Unnecessary multi-page image listicle? Check.
  • Memes? UGH. Check.
  • Goes on for much longer than it needs to in order to try and accrue more ad impressions? Oh god yes check.

…and is simply one of the most frustrating and pointless articles I’ve ever read. The things publishers will do to get you to click and get you to view ads is becoming laughable.

The article and site in question (which I’ve nofollowed because I sure as sh*t don’t want to give them any SEO love)? “A Woman Makes A Shrine Of Her Used Condom Collection” on Rebel Circus.

Let’s take the time to dissect what’s wrong with this absolute sh*tshow:

They’ve turned a simple one-page story into an unnecessary multi-pager

Below the heading and opening summary, there’s a small paragraph about the ‘collection’ and an image of said collection. Below that, there’s a ‘Next Photo’ link:

RC Fail - page 1
Ok, fair enough. So far so good – no harm done.

The inclusion of the ‘Next Photo’ link led me to believe two things:

  1. It’s a multi-page image slideshow article (or whatever the technical term is), but more importantly,
  2. That there’d be more photos of the collection – and more information.

Click onto page 2 and you get this:

RC Fail - page 2
…An image of a record collection? Alrighty then.

Click to read more!

My Top 5 Takeaways from ReWork

ReWork book cover imageRecently I started listening to audiobooks during my commute (a great tip if you don’t have much chance reading/listening to books in your spare time), and I was recently recommended ReWork by Scott Sherwood (@scottsherwood) of TestLodge.

I’ve never agreed so hard with a book in all my life. I wasn’t joking when I tweeted that I was “screaming “yes yes YES!” after every sentence”

The best thing about ReWork is that it flies in the face of traditional business thinking – the authors are proof of it. If you do anything that isn’t truly ‘traditional’, don’t worry… and don’t let anyone tell you that you’re doing anything wrong.

If you’ve not yet read/listened to it, here are my top five takeaways from the book. I won’t lie… I really, really struggled to choose just five, but to be honest, if I included all of ReWork‘s best insights in this post, I’d probably end up just typing out the entire book – hah!

So here we go:

1) Other people’s failures are other people’s failures, not yours

If you’re thinking of starting a business, the classic “more than half of businesses fail within the first five years” stat (source) can be mighty intimidating. It might even put you off from taking the plunge because, y’know, what if you fail too?

But you know what? Why should it? What’s that got to do with you?

“If other people can’t market their product, it has nothing to do with you. If other people can’t build a team, it has nothing to do with you. If other people can’t price their services properly, it has nothing to do with you. If other people can’t earn more than they spend… well, you get it.”

…So why let it stop you?

2) Plans should be called “guesses”

Even back when I was learning about the wonderful world of business during A-Level Business Studies lessons, and despite having entrepreneur parents, I’ve never liked the idea of business plans, financial plans, marketing plans, or… well, any kind of businessy type plan. Why? Because you can’t predict what will happen years from now, and everything could radically change the moment that you action the plan, making it obsolete overnight. Don’t get me wrong… planning is important, but you shouldn’t take it as gospel and follow it blindly – it shouldn’t be set in stone. So it was a relief that ReWork echoed this way of thinking:

“Unless you’re a fortune-teller, long-term business planning is a fantasy. There are just too many factors that are out of your hands: market conditions, competitors, customers, the economy, etc. Writing a plan makes you feel in control of things you can’t actually control.

“Why don’t we just call plans what they really are: guesses. Start referring to your business plans as business guesses, your financial plans as financial guesses, and your strategic plans as strategic guesses. Now you can stop worrying about them as much.”

Click to read more!

The Importance of ICE 50 – A Member’s Perspective

Disclaimer: In addition to being a Welsh ICE member, they’re also a client of mine – albeit they came on-board after I joined them. So I was a member – who benefitted from the funding – first and foremost.

ICE 50 logoEarlier this week, Welsh ICE (my co-working space) announced ICE 50, which you can apply to here. In short, they’re giving away 50(!) fully funded spaces in order for entrepreneurs, startups, freelancers, etc. to be able to grow their businesses in their business centre in Caerphilly (just outside Cardiff), South Wales. Membership is usually £250 (+ VAT) per month, and these bursaries are for the first year of membership, so you’d effectively be getting c. £3,000’s worth of business support, desk space, etc. for free.

It’s a fantastic opportunity. I should know – I was fortunate enough to be on a similar funding scheme when I started my SEO consulting business 2+ years ago. I thought that talking about it was worthy of a blog post, as there’s a few things people don’t realise about places like ICE, plus I wanted to give my perspective on it in the process.

Why this funding is a big deal

One of the biggest problems with starting a business is all of the upfront costs. When I started mine, I invested in a website, branding, contracts, software and much more, while still building up a clientbase and therefore not exactly earning a large amount of income in those early days in order to counteract it. Getting office space is important – whether it’s for professional perception, or striking a better work-life balance by getting out of the house, or both – but it is yet another expense, which is why you find so many business owners inevitably working from home, in order to keep costs down.

The beauty of the ICE 50 funding is that by the 12-month mark, most businesses are in a much stronger position financially, and therefore able to keep up with the costs from that point forward. So it’s great that so many businesses can receive the benefits of operating from such a space but in a low-risk (perhaps even no-risk) way.

Why it’s more than just a desk

Co-Lab at ICE image
The misconception of setting up shop in a co-working space is that… well… it’s just a co-working space. It’s just a desk, WiFi and coffee, right? No, it’s not. It’s more than that:

  • It’s a networking opportunity – fellow co-workers might refer clients to you, or even become clients themselves,
  • It’s also a collaboration opportunity – you’ll never know who you’ll meet and work with on projects (e.g. I hired an ICE-based comic book company to provide illustrations for a guest blog post, which you can read about here),
  • ICE in particular offers mentorship, by partnering its members with mentors who can help them in areas where they’re struggling (e.g. I met with an experienced sales consultant who passed on some cracking advice),
  • Funding is also available (location-depending) – as Caerphilly is considered a deprived and struggling area economically, various funding options are available that mightn’t be available otherwise.

Click to read more!

Spotify is Missing a Trick: UGC & the Gamification of Explicit Tracks

Expletive napkin imageI’m a big rock music fan, a daily Spotify user and a new dad… It’s an wild mix.

Before becoming a dad, it didn’t matter what I listened to around the house. But nowadays I have to be very careful what I listen to, especially as I listen to bands like Rocket From The Crypt and The Wildhearts, whose tracks (and even song titles!) contain swearwords. Spotify doesn’t censor music, but it does its best to tag offending tracks as “[EXPLICIT]”. However it’s certainly not foolproof: for example, “Get Down” by Rocket From The Crypt isn’t tagged as explicit yet it contains various swearwords; on the other hand, every track of Hidden World by Fucked Up has lazily been tagged as explicit (probably due to the band’s name), despite many of their songs not actually containing any expletives (example: “David Comes To Life”) – although admittedly I probably shouldn’t be listening to them in the presence of a 16-month-old anyway, so not the best example, heh…

It seems as though Spotify manage the process themselves – whether automated, semi-automated or entirely manually, I’m not sure. It seems likely that they would give precedence to more popular acts, so if Justin Bieber drops an f-bomb, it’s more likely to get tagged more quickly than an obsure hipster-friendly band you’ve probably never heard of. And there seems to be no way to report tracks as a user – whether by desktop…

Spotify example - desktop screenshot
(Click to enlarge)

Spotify example - mobile screenshot…or by mobile… (see right)

It doesn’t look possible to do it at an album or artist level, either. The functionality just doesn’t seem to be there at all.

But if you ask me, Spotify if missing a trick here. Why not give users the chance to report tracks as-and-when they listen to them in UGC (user generated content) style? So when I realise that the aforementioned “Get Down” contains the s-word and the f-word, I can tap/click it, report it as explicit, then someone at Spotify can check it and add the tag if I’m correct. They could keep it simple on a mobile, but the desktop version could ask for more info (e.g. roughly what time in the track the offending word appears). They could even semi-automate the process – they could cross-reference each track against lyrics websites and/or use transcription software to see if it can detect any swearwords, limiting the amount of time that some poor intern has to sit and listen through them all one-by-one.

Hell, they could even gamify it. What if someone who reports x number of tracks wins some sort of reward, e.g. a free month of Premium? It seems like a no-brainer to me. Encourage users to do it – the more they find and report, the more they stand to benefit from doing so.

For me, it would make the whole Spotify experience more trustworthy and more reliable. A more trustworthy and reliable service means that I’m going to remain a Premium user for longer; it means that a free user is going to listen more often, listening to more ads and therefore enabling more ad impressions – or decide to become a Premium user themselves, too. However if tracks continue to be tagged incorrectly, I might switch Spotify off (or cancel Premium altogether) and simply put Radio 2 on instead – and that’d be bad for Spotify.

In the meantime, I’ll try my best to rock out (minus the swears). Wish me luck, mofos.

[Expletive napkin image credit – Julie (sewitsforyou)]