I have no idea how I learned about this site, but it’s so unique that I just had to share it with you.
It’s called The Oatmeal, and it’s a collection of articles, cartoons, quizzes and news that’s presented in a unique way. What I’m stunned about is that it’s ranked really high, yet I’m just hearing about it, and I’m betting it’s fairly new to most of you as well.
A good example of an article on this site that’s also educational is called How To Use A Semicolon, something I use often, but see very few other people using. It’s a training article with images, and very simply teaches people how to use semicolons. There’s even dinosaurs in the article; when’s the last time you saw talking dinosaurs teaching you anything (don’t even go the Barney route)?
As you’ll see, the articles are also presented in a totally different style, with cartoon headers rather than text. Frankly, if I had an artistic bone in my body, I have just the type of warped humor to be able to pull the same type of thing off.
Me being me, I wondered how they made any money off the site, since I can’t find any advertising. They have an online store, where they sell items with their logo on it and other stuff associated with their brand. I’m betting they do well; heck, I’ve been tempted to buy something myself, but keep wondering where I’d put it and how long it would last before my wife snatched it and hid it on me. Also, some of the articles end up being products themselves, being created into posters.
What else is there to say? Check the site out, and obviously this isn’t a paid review, since how the heck could they pay me when they don’t know me? The Oatmeal is a lot of fun; give it a shot.
Suffice it to say, many of us write our blogs and hope to find a loyal audience. To get a portion of that loyal audience, something else we do is visit each other’s blogs and, when we can, we write comments on those blogs. It not only helps us in potentially getting people to follow the link back to you, but it helps them because not only are you contributing to the community, but you’re also helping their community grow. It seems that people love commenting on blogs that show some kind of activity.
If you wanted to, you could say that’s a way to “game the system”. I don’t necessarily believe it, but the truth is that it’s nice knowing there are some people who have your back from time to time.
However, I’m betting most of us can’t compare to what’s been reported about the Chinese government. It seems that China wants to change its reputation around the world in the worst way (so many ways to go on this one). So what they’ve done is hired 280,000 people to write good things about the country. Not only on their own blog, but on other websites that even mention China:vacation sites, political sites, product sites… you name it.
This isn’t new, really. How many folks remember the tale of Belkin, a company that was caught having its own employees review their products in many places, including eBay and Amazon, favorably, until someone found an internal memo and leaked it? It’s that sort of thing that brought about the FCC’s new policy on disclosure.
At the same time, who can compete with 280,000 people being paid to say nice things about you, other than India? That’s really gaming the system, and that’s just not right. I mean, almost no one here would be upset to get that kind of great press for their blogs or websites, but at the end of the day, it’s disingenuous, false, and no one benefits from it, including the person being talked about.
Today was a day of interesting frustration as it pertains to doing some things online. I’m sure I’m not the only one to go through something like this, so I’m sharing my tale with you. On Friday, I purchased an existing blog, which I’ll be bringing up pretty soon. Actually, I’ve already tried bringing it up, but I don’t want to jump ahead in this story.
On Tuesday, someone posted on Twitter that there were two websites that someone was selling for a relatively low amount. I’m the curious sort, so I figured I’d meander over to see what all the fuss was about. Indeed someone had posted on the Warrior Forum that they were selling two websites, and one of them was a blog. This particular blog is something I know a little bit about, but want to know more about, and it was relatively new. The owner had decided he didn’t have enough time to work on these two projects and decided to unload them. I wanted this one, so I wrote him. Actually, I had to write a comment on one of his blog posts, because he hadn’t created a contact page, so I had no other way to reach him.
The next morning, he responded to me and said that no one else had put in a request for it, and if I wanted it then it was mine. I was happy; I figured this would be an easy conversion, it already had a couple of posts, and because he had written basically every 10 days or so I could take some time with it, as it hasn’t really built up any following yet. I finally wrote him and asked if we could take care of the transaction over the weekend, since I was packing so I could go to my mother’s for the Thanksgiving holiday. He agreed, so we said we’d contact each other on Saturday.
Instead, I ended up coming home relatively early Friday afternoon because I had another commitment planned, but that got canceled. Sitting around on a Friday night with nothing else going on, I wrote him to see if he was available, and he was. So, here’s the process of purchasing and transferring a domain name to someone else.
I started off by paying him the amount he’d requested for the domain. He gave me his Paypal email address, so I went into my Paypal account, clicked on the option that said “Send Money’, put in his email address and the amount, and away the payment went. I got an almost immediate notice saying the payment had gone through, so I felt pretty good about that. Then I sent him an email mentioning the payment, and I gave him my GoDaddy account number, since that’s where he’d purchased his domain name. That’s all he needed; he didn’t need my password, which was a good thing. Now, if we hadn’t had accounts at the same place, I’d have had to create one wherever he’d purchased his domain from, and then I could have transferred it to whomever I wanted to at that point.
Within minutes after he’d set the transfer in motion, I had an email from GoDaddy saying there was a transfer in motion, and I had to sign onto the site to accept it, which of course I did. About five minutes later I received an email saying the transfer was complete; it can take up to 48 hours in some instances, so I was pretty happy.
The next step for me was to go to my host and set it up for acceptance of the new domain. As usual, when you do this you get the DNS servers for you to put in where you’ve temporarily parked the domain name, and while you’re doing that your account is being created by your host. I went to GoDaddy and did what I needed to do, then waited. The first notice I got was from GoDaddy saying the nameserver transfer had gone through. I then went back to my host, 1&1, and saw the message that my account had been created and was ready for full processing; sweet!
I went into the domain account, created a directory and set up a password, waited about five minutes for it to be created, then I started loading the database that the guy who’d sold me the domain name had backed up. That took awhile, since it’s a WordPress blog (most of you know it’s an easy process, but can take awhile sometimes). When it was finally loaded, I was ready to go see the fruits of my labor.
This is where the problems started, but they’re not going to be what you thought; don’t jump ahead. I typed the domain name in, expecting to see the blog fully set up, and instead I had this message that said “Error establishing a database connection“; I was not a happy man. I thought that maybe I had done something wrong, and indeed I had, as I hadn’t saved the correct files in the correct place. So I had to load all the files again, knowing that this time around it was all going to be good.
Nope; I still had the same error message, and now I really wasn’t happy. I wondered if I was supposed to run the blog process through the host first, as they have a program which will create a WordPress blog for you on your domain. So I signed into my account and selected that option, figuring that I didn’t mind if it overwrote what I’d uploaded, since I could always upload whatever I wanted to again. This time it was going to work, right?
Nope; it still didn’t work. Now I was frustrated, so I called the hosting company to ask for some assistance. One of the problems you sometimes have with customer service when it’s based in another country is that you may be using the same words, but you’re not speaking the same language. In this case, the person on the other end first said that I’d created the wrong kind of directory, which didn’t make sense since I’ve done this many times before, and then he said that maybe I need to make some corrections in my data.
I took that to mean that I needed to go into my account through my ftp server and delete some files. I ended up deleting all the files, which, unfortunately, takes much longer than uploading them, because you can’t delete a folder until you’ve deleted everything in that folder first, and of course some folders have multiple folders themselves. I spent pretty much just over 3 hours deleting every single file I’d uploaded so I could try the process again.
This time, I decided to call customer service back to ask about this directory thing, which I knew had to have been correct the first time around. I got someone else, still in another country, but we were understanding each other better. He said the directory was fine, but said he didn’t see anything in it. I told him that was because I’d deleted everything in the directory, based on the previous conversation with another representative. He then said the system was showing that the full transfer of the new domain to the new nameservers was still in process, and could take from 24 to 48 hours. I said I thought it had already completed, and he said no; that explains why I couldn’t see anything online. Ugh!
So, I had to upload everything again, and this time I guess I’ll be patient and keep checking over the next 24 to 48 hours. I hope it’s sooner than later, but until I see it for myself, I’m not going to mention the name. But there’s another lesson learned, and now I hope I’ve helped y’all learn a thing or two also.
Let’s get this out of the way; I have Spidey senses. Yup, that’s right, I’m the kind of guy who can meet someone or talk to them on the phone and pretty much know what’s coming. I’m not Kreskin, but I sometimes amaze myself on how accurate a strong feeling I get very early comes to fruition later on.
Thus was the case when, yesterday, I got a call from someone who wanted to talk to me about the possibility of my creating a website for them. When people call you about the possibility of contracts, usually you’ll get that little spark of interest (okay, big spark of interest) and you become animated, even when you’re trying to stay in control of yourself.
In this case, within about 10 seconds, I knew he wasn’t going to be a buyer. He hadn’t stated it, but the Spidey senses picked up on it. Still, I went ahead and made an appointment to meet him for breakfast this morning at Denny’s; not that I necessarily feel Denny’s is the best restaurant in the world, but it was a convenient place for both of us, plus I knew they’d always have tables available.
I met the “potential” client, and I kind of knew what was coming. For the next 90 minutes, we talked all sorts of things, mainly website things, but he wasn’t really listening. He had his ideas and thoughts on things, but none of it had to do with what I’d tried to tell him as far as steps were concerned.
When he got around to asking about price, I tried telling him that he had a lot of work to do as far as deciding how he wanted his layout, what he wanted to do, etc. Then I gave him a price, and at that point he started quoting me prices from other websites that he’d been visiting, and of course they were all lower than what I charge. He even gave me the domain names so I could check them out later, which I took because I always like looking at websites, even of people who do what I do, as a point of comparison.
I probably need to learn to charge for this kind of access to my time, even on a Saturday. I gave him 90 minutes of consulting that I’m sure he’s not going to use even 10% of. It was a major waste of my time; at least he decided he didn’t want to eat anything, so I only had to pay for my meal. He was a nice guy, and we talked about a couple other things, so it wasn’t a total waste. But I could have used that time for other, more productive things.
By the way, I have checked out the two websites he told me about, along with the pricing. My thought on the site going in, that he said would build him a total website, with everything he wanted, for only $500, was that they’d start off with a template that he’d have to use. Instead, what they offer are website packages based on the number of pages you want, and, based on what they’re showing as examples of their work, they’re not going to be able to give him what he wants for the prices they’re quoting. He saw a low price, but without understanding exactly what his needs are, which I tried to tell him, he’s not going to end up with what he wants.
I’ll charge to go back in and fix things, which I’ve done on a couple of occasions, including some optimization, but it’s so much easier to work on getting the whole thing correct the first time since, as with the project I highlighted above, I just might have to go in and recode things. The other site was only a hosting site; nothing much more to say about that.
Looking to cut corners on price won’t do you a lot of good if you can’t get what you want. If you’re not sure what it is you want and someone is offering you advice, especially free advice, usually it’s a good thing to do more listening than talking, unless they ask you a specific question.
I definitely need to learn to start charging something for my time, in advance, if I think it’s going to go long because, as a consultant, I believe I offered some very good and specific advice. I could have told him everything he needed to hear in 30 minutes and been done if he would have only listened; if that was free time, I wouldn’t have minded so much.
He also took 3 calls during that meeting. I would bet I’ll never hear from him again, but there’s no way he could ever tell anyone that I didn’t give him superior information; I’m like Joe Dimaggio in that regard. Reputation has to always be maintained, especially when someone recommended you.
Enough of that; I know what you’re asking me: “What did you tell him?”
I’m not going to recount the entire conversation, because we’ll never get out of here, and I’ve already been accused of writing some very long posts. Here are the basics if you’re going to have a commerce website:
* Realize that, at the very least, you need to have an idea of what color you want the background and fonts to be
* You need to list how you want your products to be aligned. For instance, if you’re selling shoes, do you want a page of all blue shoes, all size 7 shoes, all Hush Puppies (only brand of shoe I know off the top of my head), designer shoes, sneakers,… in other words, how do you want to categorize your inventory
* How do you want your inventory to show on a site: big or small images; 4, 8, 16, etc, number of images on a page; rotating images on a page; descriptions on each item or one major description for each page
* Is your inventory replaceable, or are you selling one of a kind items
* How you hope to price your items; will each item have a flat rate; will you offer coupons or discounts based on different criteria
* How are you hoping to market your site, or how are you hoping to use it
These are the things I told him he needed to think about before moving forward with a plan on wanting a commerce website; he didn’t write any of it down, which is why I’m thinking he’s not going to get what he wants. If you think of these things first, then it’s easier to talk to someone about building your commerce website for you, or even for you to build your commerce website yourself if you have the knowledge on how to get it done, because everything else can be discussed on the back end.
I also told him two other important things that don’t necessarily need to be discussed up front, but are very crucial:
* One, who’s going to write the content for the site. If you as the client write some of the content for your own site, it’s much easier for the person creating the site to either just plug in what you wrote or, if you have someone trying to optimize your site, it’s easier to optimize and alter something else that’s already written. If the website creator has to do it, you then impact number…
* Two; pricing for building websites is always based on time. If someone tells you they can build you a website in a couple of hours, it probably means they already have templates available, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. However, if you want custom websites, all the variables you might want adds to the time it takes to build one. I actually wrote an article on whether people should have a website that talks about some of this, along with an outline of things one should consider.
I’d love to hear other views on this concept of planning before one builds a website. I can honestly say that I’ve done that for all my websites except one, and right now I’m in the process of thinking about how I can modify that website so it’ll start doing for me what I was always hoping it would do. I wish I’d had someone who could have given me even 30 minutes before building that one; oh well,…
I’ve written a new ebook titled Using Your Website As A Marketing Tool. Going to that page will allow you to put your name on a mailing list for the launch, which will be on Monday. Who’s the book for? Well, check out the page!
Actually, what I’m doing is known as a product launch sequence. You set up the first page, and then you try to build the interest after that. You also send out a series of letters, trying to build up momentum. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to make some kind of offer on the back end that will help encourage sales in some fashion.
In the book “Multiple Streams of Internet Income” by Robert G. Allen, he demonstrates the process by showing how, in his first letter, he mentioned the book he was marketing and telling some things about his background. In the next letter, he changed things up by making an offer for a lucky winner to get something special from him, with a few other prizes for runner’s up. In the third letter he set up a survey where he asked the people on his mailing list some questions to keep them engaged, then reinforced it in his fourth letter.
Letter five was launch day, and of course he made a lot of money. Well, I’m not going five letters, and though I’d like to make a nice bit of change, I’m no Robert Allen at this point of my career. Still, I figure I’ll do the launch tactic, and we’ll see where it goes.
In any case, please check out the link for the book, and pass it around to anyone you think might be interested. Thanks; happy marketing.