Net-times: My Perspective

A collection of unorganized thoughts about my experience in the online world (by Kevin Shea)

It seems like developing good corporate blogs is in high demand these days.  Just yesterday I helped my client Sparta Systems (makers of quality management software) launch their first corporate blog.  Here’s a screenshot of the homepage:

It’s always exciting when launching new products.  But it’s particularly exciting to see companies really start to understand the power of this social web.  This blog, if administered properly, will help promote the company’s authoritative position in their industry by giving their internal talent (which is significant) a channel to discuss topics and events that are important to them.  I am consulting with the marketing group which will start seeing positive returns in SEO and PR.

Having done this various times in the past, and knowing how beneficial a properly developed and operated company blog can be, I am constantly amazed at how often it is not included in a company’s marketing effort or implemented poorly.

Sparta is now off to a great start.  Now they need to make sure the company adheres to the operating guidelines we have put in place.

Kevin

increasing website trafficBefore I get to the importance of web analytics today and in the future, first let me tell you a little story about an 800 lb gorilla.

Google recently announced that it was going to provide a browser plugin that allowed anyone to opt out of being tracked by their metrics reporting product, Google Analytics.  From a normal user’s perspective, it sounds great that they are providing this type of flexibility.  However, Google has been pushing this (free) web reporting product for years as an enterprise-level solution for tracking web visitor activity.  And now, after gaining significant market share, they tell their customers people will have the option of easily opting out.  While adoption rates are projected to be low, this is not a friendly gesture to users of Google Analytics.

Google analytics opt-out browser pluginThis move by Google has generated several discussions on the importance of web analytics in the world of web KPI reporting.  I have heard people say lately that “eyeballs” and “pageviews” are becoming less relevant and the impact of Google’s move is lessened by this change in the way we look at web analytics.  My answer to this discussion is that “eyeballs” and “pageviews” have never really been the metrics to watch on their own.  However, both can represent achieved objectives in the eyes of many businesses, and this can’t be ignored.

For example, due to the powerful downturn in the global economy, in late 2008 and 2009 many businesses were expanding into new areas of opportunity or contracting to focus on specific areas of business.  In either case, their messaging needed to be modified in order to properly communicate with existing and new customers.  Without properly communicating the change in messaging, these businesses would have a hard time generating leads, sales or other types of conversions.  People read content in many ways online, but many still do it the old fashioned way…they visit the company’s website.  So, in order to tell if people are effectively browsing your new content/messaging, a proper view of your website activity (analytics) is necessary.  It may not be eyeballs or pageviews, but your analytics application should give you the ability to view the equivalent.

Businesses that seek B2B lead conversions as their primary object also need to watch web activity.  Many businesses with long lead, or long sales cycles need to understand web user behavior better than fast converting products or services. Various important questions should be answered by your web analytics operation, including the following: What content are visitors looking at prior to conversion?  What content are they viewing and not converting?  Where are the breaks in my conversion funnel?

Once these and other questions are answered, the right reporting structure will give you the tools to optimize your web assets that will ultimately increase conversions.  So, don’t dismiss the importance of analyzing web activity.  It is likely more critical than you may think.

Kevin

Converted Blogger to WordPress

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A few weeks ago I received an email from the Google Blogger folks that they will no longer support the ftp version beginning sometime in March.  Unfortunately I had 4 Blogger services running.  While I was a little bothered by this abandonment, I wanted to move over to a better platform anyway.  WordPress was the most appealing choice.

I needed a little advice on migrating and I posted the question on LinkedIn.  The generous responses were quick and concise.  It turns out that WordPress has an import feature…awesome!  I was excited to get moving, but this domain was hosted on a friend’s server which was a bit bare bones, without all the bells and whistles you get from new hosting services.  It has been there for about 10 or more years, but I needed more control.  So, I setup an account with a new hosting provider and moved my files over.  Then we changed the dns and all was ready to begin.

The new hosting provider made it easy to install WordPress.  A couple of clicks and I was working in the admin.  I spend an hour or so looking for a theme I liked and voila, we were in business.  Moments later I find the import function in WP and that process began.  Unfortunately, it didn’t work.  I was able to make the connection to blogger, but received a generic message that “nothing was imported”.  Frustrated, I tried this a few different ways still with no luck.

I decided to manually pull the content and post them in the new app.  On this blog it was easy since there are only a few posts.  However, I have hundreds of posts on my other blogs and will NOT be copying everything over manually.  I will need to investigate an alternative that helps ease this process.

Once the content was uploaded I made some changes to the templates and added a few widgets and we were done…almost.  Now I had two blogs running with the same content and that would not be good.  My hosting provider offers a redirect function from control panel.  All I had to do was setup redirects for all the pages and we were done.  Well, the redirect function did not work either.  There might have just been a delay, but either way I was not seeing the results I expected.  That meant I needed to edit the .htaccess file and manually plug in each redirect.  This would include the actual post pages and any other page indexed by the search engines.  A little time consuming, but not a huge problem either.

I then added a few more pages and some ads and the job was complete.  Overall, it took about 10 hours to complete, including time spent choosing a theme/template and tweaking the layout.  Another 3 – 5 hours should be enough to make the additional changes I would like.  I’m happy with the results.

So there you have it.  A small blogger ftp account converted to WordPress manually.  Now I have to tackle the larger blogs!

Kevin

Zingby has been making some good progress lately. We have quite a few number of improvements in the works for the general sns portion and we are specing out more advancements towards a collaborative environment. This includes a number of changes to functionality, formatting, layout and design. Also, long due is a complete notification system which we are developing now.

New groups created recently are: Shanghai Interpreters, China Travel and Shanghai Hotels.

We are also looking for a PHP developer to work with us in Shanghai or New York (must speak Mandarin or be bilingual English/Mandarin). Please visit Zingby if you are interested in joining us.

Kevin

Shanghai One Year Later

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I returned late last night from my trip to Shanghai (China, for those of you unfamiliar with the city of 20 million +). It was more than a year since my last visit and things haven’t changed all that much. Of course, I stayed at my favorite Shanghai Hotel, which I highly recommend.

However, I did notice a few things that were different.

The economy: One of the first things people in Shanghai asked me was about the economy in the U.S. and if we were recovering. This is not surprising given what has happened in the past 18 months. The economy (at least the tech side) has been significantly impacted by the global downturn. There are many great tech professionals not working, just like here in the U.S., but without having the actual numbers, it felt like their situation was probably worse than it is here. So, if you are looking to start up a technology team in China, now is probably a good time to find great talent.

I did spend a few hours gift buying and wondering around some of the tourist areas. Maybe it was the time of year, but it felt like there were less people crowding places like Yuyuan Garden (豫园 a popluar shopping area) and Xintiandi (新天地). Of course there were the usual crowds, but I can remember having to work just to gain a few feet of ground. This time, however, I walked freely.

Construction: Ever since I started traveling to Shanghai for business (sometime in 2005), I was amazed by the amount of significant construction that was happening. From a normal drive from the Pudong Airport, you would see skyscraper after skyscraper being constructed for the 30 mile or so drive into the city. It was amazing to think about the number of people they would need to fill those apartments. This time, however, while there was still noticeable construction, the numbers seemed much less. Also, I did notice that many the massive structures that were being built seemed to be stalled, like construction had been halted.

Business relationship with the U.S.: There has been a strong push of confidence among the people even during this economic downturn. They have always been a people of strength and confidence, but now I see this even stronger. The effect feels like it is bringing our two nations closer. Like any good relationship, a feeling of being on equal footing makes for better communication and progress. As I discussed this topic with some of the people there, there was agreement that they felt the same way.

Since I have grown to appreciate the Chinese people over the years, I am happy we seem to be coming closer together.

BTW, If you travel to China, Shanghai is a must see.

Kevin