Blow Your Goddamn Trumpet

Trumpet image
A few weeks ago I received an interesting enquiry from a local designer, who does a lot of design work for musicians. Given that I’m a proper music fanatic, I was really excited at the opportunity to potentially work with him and his clients. He asked me for my hourly/day rate, and although I stressed to him that I quote on a per-project basis depending on what I think is required to do the job, I gave him a rough idea of how much I usually charge. We discussed a potential small one-off project (which sadly fell through shortly after discussions began, as his client backtracked on wanting SEO work done), and then he suggested that I work on a pet project of his instead. However when he brought up the latter project, he explained that when he told his team about me, they “freaked out slightly when [he] mentioned [my] rates!” Hmm.

I replied saying something about how we could price it based on their budget rather than my fee, if that was easier – and I left it at that. It was quite a weak and timid response, looking back at it now. I’ve yet to hear back.

Ever since I sent that last email, I’ve been kicking myself.

Sure, the “your prices are high” reveal could just be a ruse to try and get me to lower my prices. Or it could be the case that his team doesn’t value or ‘get’ the cost of SEO. I don’t think I charge exceptionally high prices (I know a few SEOs with less experience who charge about the same), and given that he’s a designer – and probably gets people raising their eyebrows at his prices – I’m surprised he’s surprised (if that makes any sense)!

Whatever the case, I later realised that I didn’t give him any reason to realise why I charge that rate, whether it’s perceivably high or not. I just said “oh I can probably match your budget if you let me know how much that is.” What a mistake. I could’ve/should’ve used it as an opportunity to sell myself a bit more…

I could’ve told him that I’ve been doing SEO full-time for over 8½ years (since early 2009). And that I’ve worked at two agencies locally as well as for Confused.com as part of their in-house team. And that I’ve been blogging for over 5 years and that this humble SEO blog has been a finalist in the Wales Blog Awards as well as the UK Blog Awards for three years running. And that I’ve written guest posts for Moz’s blog, which is widely considered to be one of the best SEO resources in the world. And that one of my campaigns – which I spearheaded single-handedly – was a finalist in the UK Search Awards 2015 for two awards (and that I believe I was the only solo consultant/freelancer to get shortlisted that year). And that I have a bunch of very happy clients on MOM’s testimonials page, many of whom are also on my Linkedin profile as recommendations, meaning that they’re genuine and not simply made up. And that I’ve spoken at one of the biggest SEO conferences in the UK – not just once, but twice – and have a bunch of other speaking gigs under my belt as well.

To be fair, I hate to brag – and the paragraph above feeling like one full-on braggy braggathon. Ych a fi!

…But I could’ve left it with him to think about. Did he think my rates were too high because he didn’t know too much about me? Would he still think they’re too high now that he knows all of the above? I guess I may never know – but next time I’m gonna try this approach instead.

The moral of this story? Don’t be afraid to blow your trumpet once in a while. The next time I get chance, I’m gonna blast the hell out of the damn thing.

[Image credit – Tom Mrazek]

Working Tue to Sat: Pros & Cons of an Alternative 9-to-5

“What a way to make a livin’…”

A few months ago, I changed up the days that I worked in order to try and achieve a better work-life balance. Instead of the traditional Monday to Friday, I dropped the Monday in favour of working on a Saturday. So still five days a week, but different days.

I wasn’t going to bother blogging about it (honestly because I didn’t think anyone would care, haha!), but I told Lee Sharma (@startuplee) about it and he found it really interesting. I’ve also chatted to couple of other people about it as well (including someone just the other day). This got me thinking that it might be worth writing about after all, as there’s some pretty unexpected pros and cons with the whole thing.

MOM desk Prisma image

The habits we all fall into…

I’ve discovered a weird sort of irony in that a fair few freelancers I know went into freelancing so that they could have more freedom and flexibility in their working hours… and yet they’ve gravitated towards continuing to work the traditional Monday-to-Friday 9am-to-5pm routine you get in the employment world.

And I’d done exactly the same thing.

Even though I had the option to work whenever I wanted, it still felt like a weird alien shift in mentality to work evenings and/or weekends instead of weekdays. I guess that’s how much it’s become engrained as the ‘norm’ in our society (non-office work notwithstanding). Heck, I even remember reading a blog post by Dom Hodgson (@TheHodge) – which I can’t find now sadly – where he talked about his freelancing style and that he often worked an 8pm to 4am shift, and I thought to myself how utterly weird that sounded. But hey, if that worked for him, it worked for him – we certainly shouldn’t knock it.

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4 (Unusual) Alternative Image Ideas for Blog Posts

Ahh, the age-old question: what image should I use to accompany a blog post? A stock image? A screenshot? Any old thing you find from Google Image Search…? (No, definitely don’t do that last one.)

When people ask me, I usually send them down the Flickr Creative Commons route, as I hate stock imagery and Flickr images often feel more genuine. But sometimes there are some good alternatives you can use that you mightn’t have thought of…

Let’s start with the really obvious one, and work our way to the more… odd.

1) Take your own photo

Ok ok, so this one’s not that unusual (going by the title of this post), but with Google Image Search, Flickr, etc. being so ingrained in our minds as the go-to resources for images, it’s easy to forget that you can always just do it yourself…

Even if you’re not a professional photographer (and if you’ve ever seen any photo I’ve ever taken, you’ll definitely know that I’m not a professional photographer), with smartphones it’s easy to take a good, high quality photo by yourself that can be decent enough to go with a blog post. The question however: what do you take a photo of?

I’ve gone down this route when Flickr Creative Commons – and other avenues – have come up short. Obviously it’s topic-dependent, but I’ve often found something lying around on my desk that I can turn into a half-decent image. When I struggled to find a good photo to go with a post talking about my thoughts on DA (Domain Authority) for example, I grabbed my Roger Mozbot bobblehead figure and artfully positioned it in front of a computer monitor displaying Open Site Explorer data.

Roger Mozbot (before Prisma) photo
…Meh

Of course, that photo looks dreadful, so I took it one step further…

2) Take your own photo (and run it through Prisma)

Prisma examples
The iPhone app Prisma ‘artifies’ photos. I’ve blogged about it before and used it a stupid amount of times on this blog:

And even guest posts:

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Community: The Key to Happiness?

This post was originally intended as a guest blog post on behalf of Welsh ICE. However, given that it’s quite personal in nature, we agreed that it’d be a best fit on SEOno instead.

ICE coworking community image
People who know me personally or via Twitter might see me as a (mostly!) cheery, friendly, positive guy. However I’ll be the first to admit that when I was growing up, I wasn’t happy for a lot of my early life… I was bullied in school, suffered from depression as a teenager, and also experienced bullying in the workplace in some job roles that I took on. I’m in my early thirties now and I’m pretty happy about my life and where I am at the moment… And recently, while looking back over key moments in my life, I noticed an interesting pattern in the times that I’ve been happiest in my life so far:

  • 2003-4: Working behind the bar at a live music venue in Leicester (The Musician Pub – I recommend it if you’re ever in the area)
  • 2005-7: Helping to run LULUMS (Lancaster Uni Live & Unsigned Music Society) while studying at university
  • 2013-present: Joining Welsh ICE, a coworking space in Caerphilly (on the outskirts of Cardiff)

In each of these instances I was in a fun environment and working on things that I love, but there was another key ingredient: a sense of community. When I worked at the live music bar, I became friends with my fellow bar staff, the pub managers/owners, the regulars and the performers (especially the locals on the open mic circuit), and we bonded over our love of good music. Similarly, with the live music society at university, I became good friends with other members of the society, the venue owners that we worked with, and the bands that we put on. Jump to the present day and I’m a self-employed online marketing consultant working out of a coworking space, and the people who run it – as well as my fellow members – have become such good friends that they feel like family.

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The 30-Day Website Interstitial Sign-up Experiment

Email interstitial sign-up eyeroll photoAt the beginning of March 2017, I decided to run an experiment: I would sign up to every single interstital that I encountered for a month. In this post I document this (quite frankly rather bonkers) experiment, and give insights into what I discovered along the way…

What is an interstitial (and do they affect SEO)?

Interstitials are those annoying same-page pop-ups that sometimes appear when you’re browsing a webpage. They appear for different reasons, but usually appear when you’re about to close the browser tab or if you scroll right to the bottom of the page/article. Most of the time (but not always) they’ll ask for your email details, to get you to join the site’s email newsletter.

As a user (and even as a marketer), I am infuriated by interstitials. I often wonder why people implement them, but have never actually gone to the effort of looking into their effectiveness as a sign-up tactic. Part of me just thinks “well, they’ve gotta work – otherwise people wouldn’t do them, right?” But then part of me thinks that I ignore them every time I see one, and I’ve even avoided websites that I know use them to the extreme…

Whatever the case may be, I’m even more curious about interstitials now – given that from mid-January, Google started to penalise them when used on mobile sites. So yes, they may help to get more people subscribed to your newsletter, but are they harming your website’s SEO efforts in the process…? Following on from the penalty rollout, Glenn Gabe (@glenngabe) had been keeping tabs on sites that had been using interstitials, but admitted that he had not [seen] widespread impact” even “a full month into the rollout” (source; original emphasis). Even so, Google have this knack of scaring the crap out of webmasters whenever they pull stunts like this, and although it may be a case of the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon in reverse(?), I’m convinced that I’ve seen fewer interstitials on websites since Google first announced and then supposedly implemented the change.

So for various reasons, I was curious: How many did I encounter every day? What form do they take? What kinds of sites do they appear on? I was about to find out…

The 30-day experiment

On 1st March 2017, I set up a spreadsheet to log all the sites where I encountered an interstitial during my usual browsing travels. Whenever I encountered one, I made a note of the page/site, the date & time, how it appeared and whether or not I was able to sign up. I’ve made a couple of changes, but I’ve made the spreadsheet public here if you want to take a look.

Vital Random statistics

In total I encountered 23 interstitials across 22 sites during the month (from 1st to 30th March). I honestly expected to encounter more than that to be completely honest… In fact, the inspiration for this experiment came from the fact that I’d noticeably encountered loads the month before.

20 of them were via desktop – only 1 was on a tablet device (iPad) and 2 happened while browsing a smartphone (iPhone).

The biggest gap I had between interstitial encounters was 8 days. The shortest gap I had was 5 minutes (or 0 minutes, if you count that I had two different kinds on the same site pretty much one after the other). And the most I had in one day was 4.

There’s a bunch of other stuff I discovered, too…

Click to read more!