21 Haziran 2011 Salı

Know Your Visitors – Know Your Customers!

Most websites fail. Why? Because, they don’t post regular content that people will want to read.
How do you know what people want to read? The answer is to get to know your website’s visitors and potential visitors. By knowing your readers, you will hopefully have some idea about your potential customers!
Here are a few ways that I try to get to know my visitors.
google analytics


Always keep an eye on your website statistics. So, if you haven’t already, you have to sign up toGoogle Analytics. Always keep it open in a tab in your browser and monitor the numbers day-by-day.
Google Analytics is like a drug – when consumed it can give you feelings of achievement and vindication that’ll keep you coming back for more.
You will find a lot of information about your visitors here: where they are geographically, what browsers they use, how much time they spend on the site, etc. Check the number of visitors daily, weekly, monthly and yearly. See which pages are viewed the most, which are viewed the least and which are the exit pages – the least successful pages.
How are your visitors finding you? You’ll see the traffic sources are split into three: organic (search engines), referrals (website links) and direct (mostly email).
referring sitesReferrals: Look in Traffic Sources > Referring Sites in Google Analytics and here you will learn, for example, which social sites give the best traffic. Facebook? Twitter? LinkedIn? What does this say about the sort of visitors they are? Experiment submitting new blog posts to different social sites and see which ones send the most traffic. And see which site sends the traffic with the highest number of pages viewed per visit (click the header of the Pages/Visit column). This will tell you something about your visitors and how to keep them.
pages visitKeywords: Look in Traffic Sources > Keywords in Google Analytics and you will learn a lot about your customers. Here you will see what your visitors are typing into search engines to find you. What are the most popular keywords that they type? And which keywords result in the most pages per visit. These are the keywords your visitors are most interested in and will keep coming back for.
It’s not just about Google Analytics, view your site on Alexa. Here you have information on your visitors’ sex, age, income, etc. There are a host of other stats packages to explore.
By keeping an eye on Google Analytics I have found out that people arrive at my site wanting to know how to run a design business and I have posted articles accordingly.
Remember, results almost always increase when measured. The more you look at your visitor stats; the more you’ll understand them and the more you’ll get!
keyword research


Generally speaking, you should be researching the keywords you use, the keywords you think you might use and even the keywords you think you shouldn’t use. This will help you know what to write about and what words to use in the titles and headings of your site.
But also, after looking at the keywords your visitors use, you should research those as well. See what comes up in Google’s Keyword Research Tool as well as Google search. This will give you a better idea about what your visitors are really looking for.
Researching the terms that your visitors use will show you more about what they are looking for and therefore help you to serve your customers better. I have found numerous subjects and avenues to explore as a result of researching various keywords I already use. For example, I found the phrase “small business marketing” was quite popular and one that I could use here.

Talk to your readers

Always, always, always, talk to all your visitors via your website. Allow comments on all pages of the website. Install a subscribe to comments plug in so visitors can be notified if a comment has been made. Do everything you can to keep the conversation going. Answer questions. Comment on comments. Express gratitude for thanks. Ask for opinions at the end of every blog post. Write in a way that is accessible and makes people feel at ease to comment. Reassure them that their email will not be used. And don’t even think about using it!
Always answer any email you may receive that’s not spam. Sometimes your website’s visitors will contact you directly – this is pure gold. Engage with every reader that gets in touch to find out what subjects and products interest them. I have many readers contacting me and I very much enjoy the interaction with them!


Another great way of learning about your website’s visitors is to offer a mailing list subscription. UseAweberMailChimpiContactVerticalResponse or any mailing service and paste a sign up form on your website. You will get more subscriptions if you offer a free ebook in return for the email address.
By doing this you can enter into a dialogue with your readers. They will receive email direct from you in which you can ask them about themselves. Ask what sort of information they would require from your website.
In a recent newsletter, I asked my readers what they would like to read about. The subjects I got requests for were: keyword researchbooks I recommend and open source design applications – all of which I’ve written about!

Put your latest posts onto social media

Use StumbleUpon, Digg, LinkedIn groups, Twitter, etc., to advertise your latest posts. People will make comments about your posts on these sites, especially on LinkedIn groups. Read and respond to these comments as this will increase interaction with your readers and help you understand them. The conversation will tell you a lot about the sort of people who engage with your site. And the sort of links they click on will tell you a lot about the sort of people you can attract to your site.


Your website should be a conversation – and you can’t make a very good conversation if you don’t know who you’re talking to.
But, as always, I’m really interested in what you think. If you have a website, were there ideas that you found helpful or do you have any other ways of getting to know your readers? And, if you haven’t got a website, let me know what you think of this one! You can leave a comment down below.

Using Featured Images in WordPress

Featured Images in posts or pages is yet another example of how WordPress is not only a brilliant blogging platform but also an adaptable CMS (Content Management System).
The basic idea behind Featured Images is the ability to set a thumbnail, or any size of image, to an article so that when that article is listed in the site the featured image can appear as well. It creates an easy visual reference (which is worth a thousand words!) alongside the text-based title and description of your post or page which is so much more enticing and will make your visitors more likely to stay and read more!
My main blog page is an example of using Featured Images in WordPress. For every post I have set a generic thumbnail image that sums up the content of the article. So for each post you can see the image, the title and the excerpt.

A really simple example of using Featured Images

First of all, you need a theme that supports Featured Images. If so, you will see this box on the right-hand side when you create a new post or page.
featured image box wordpress
If you can’t see this box it means your theme isn’t set up to support Featured Images yet. You just need a small bit of code to put in your theme’s functions file which is located here: wp-content/themes/your-theme/functions.php – you can edit it by going to Appearance > Editor on the left-hand side of the WordPress back-end and then by clicking “functions.php” on the right-hand side in your theme’s template files.
add_theme_support( 'post-thumbnails' );
set_post_thumbnail_size( 150, 150, true );
The first line enables the use of Featured Images on your site. The second line determines their size (in this case 150 pixels square).
So, when you’re adding a new post and want to assign a Featured Image to it, click “Set featured image” in the Featured Image box on the right-hand side. In the resulting pop-up box below, after choosing an image from your computer or one that is already in your Media Library, it is important to enter the post’s (or page’s) title in the Title field as this will ensure the correct text pops up when you hover over a Featured Image.
set featured image
Once you are happy with the image, the alt text and the title click “Use as Featured Image” (circled above) close the box by clicking the cross in the top right-hand corner. Now you will see your Featured Image in the right-hand side of the WordPress post editing area. Publish or Update the post. You will notice that, if you selected a horizontal or vertical image and yourset_post_thumbnail_size is square, WordPress will have cropped your image. If you are not happy with the crop of the Featured Image you will either have to crop the image yourself and upload another image or read on as I have another solution for this!
In order to get a Featured Image to actually appear in your blog you will have to put this somewhere inside the loop:
<?php the_post_thumbnail(); ?>
Here is an example of how I get my Featured Images to appear on my main blog page:
<?php if(have_posts()) : ?><?php while(have_posts()) : the_post(); ?>
<div class="post" id="post-<?php the_ID(); ?>">
<div class="thumbnail">
<a href="<?php the_permalink(); ?>">
<?php the_post_thumbnail(); ?>
Followed by a div of the title which links to the post’s permalink div.
Followed by a div with the excerpt plus a “read more” link to the post’s permalink.
<?php endwhile; ?>
If you’re worried that you might not be able to assign a Featured Image to all of your old posts, you can use this code to display a default image if no Featured Image exists:
if ( has_post_thumbnail() )
echo '<img src="default" alt="" />';

Displaying Featured Images with two different sizes

If you look at the bottom left-hand side of my home page, you will see that I list my most recent 5 posts with much smaller thumbnails (40 pixels square). Here’s how I did this. In my theme’s functions file I put:
add_theme_support( 'post-thumbnails' );
set_post_thumbnail_size( 150, 150, true );
add_image_size( 'my_thumbnail', 40, 40, true );
Above you can see in the third line of PHP a second size of Featured Image. And then in the template file I use for the home page I put inside a loop:
<?php the_post_thumbnail('my_thumbnail'); ?>
Which produced 40 by 40 pixels square thumbnails!

How to maintain the full width or height of a Featured Image

So, now we know how to set and display images that are generic to the post as small square thumbnails, but what if you want to use the Featured Images as logos which can’t be cropped? I came across this issue when a client asked me to set up a system where every time a new company used her product she could upload the company’s logo and display them on her website. This is what I put in the theme’s functions file:
add_theme_support( 'post-thumbnails' );
set_post_thumbnail_size( 75, 40, true );
add_image_size( 'bigger_image', 9999, 40 );
This ensures that the images will be displayed with a maximum width of 75 pixels and a maximum height of 40 pixels and that none of the image is cropped. And, within the loop, this is how I called the logo image:
<?php the_post_thumbnail('bigger_image'); ?>

Video showing how to use Featured Images using the above example

The video below explains how to assign a Featured Image to a post and how to set up Featured Images within a WordPress theme. It shows the example above of displaying a string of logos that are linked to a blog post in a particular category.


I am just scratching at the surface of what you can do with Featured Images in WordPress. It’s an incredibly powerful function with real ease of functionality for the end user. I am hopelessly indebted to many helpful people from the WordPress community that supplied some of the above code. What about you? Do you use Featured Images? Or, if not, did this help you at all to understand the use of them? Does this seem easy or difficult to apply?

How to Write for the Web

You have a web presence. You have a product or a service to sell. You need to create awesome web pages that will elicit a response… You need to know how to write for the internet.
It’s a devilishly difficult skill to master. I’ve been doing it for five years and still consider myself a novice. Here’s what I’ve learnt so far:

Grab the reader’s attention

Your readers are extremely time poor. You need to solve a problem of theirs quickly and effectively.
  • The most important points should be made in the first few lines of paragraphs or directly under subheads.
  • Headlines should be short, direct and eye-catching.
  • The text itself should be scannable (with short paragraphs, loads of subheads, use of numbered and bulleted lists, bolded words, links, images, etc.)

Practice and test

The skill of internet writing comes with practice and testing.
  • Use Google Analytics to see which of your web pages are the most popular and ask yourself why.
  • Use Twitter and see which tweets are retweeted and/or answered the most.
  • Use social bookmarking sites like StumbleUpon and Digg to see which headlines work best.
  • Use Google Keyword Research to find out which phrases are being regularly searched for. This will tell you what people are interested in.

Hone your blog writing process

  • Keep ideas books Have paper and pencils/pens in every room of the house, at work and on your person every minute of the day. Every time an idea comes into your head, quickly write it down.
  • Don’t start writing in a browser Start writing on in a text editor like Word or TextEdit (Mac) or on paper. Don’t start to write in the WordPress text editor — that’s a real creativity killer.
  • Copy the formatted text (with embolden and italicized words) and paste into the WordPress Visual editor (the formatting will be kept). Click “Save Draft” on the right-hand side of the WordPress editor. You’re not ready to “Publish” yet. Not by a long way!
  • Work on tidying, editing and adding graphics to the text in WordPress. Check progress by clicking the “Preview” button which will open a version of your blog post before it is published.
  • Repeat this process multiple times. Read and re-read the Preview version in one tab whilst making corrections in the WordPress editor in the other tab.
Every sentence that you read in this article I will have re-read back to myself at least ten times.

Don’t write crap

We all do it. It’s time we stopped. Here is a great guide to writing well where I took the following quote and advice:
“Never use a long word where a short one will do.” (George Orwell)
  • Be as clear as you can
  • Avoid the passive voice “He was seen by Joe” should be “Joe saw him.”
  • Use orthodox spelling, punctuation, and capitalization
  • Avoid qualifiers: a bit, a little, sort of, kind of, rather, quite, very, too, pretty much, in a sense.
  • Avoid long words when short ones will do:  Assistance = help; implement = do; referred to as = called.
  • Avoid laborious phrases. Why use “at the present time” when you can use “now”?
Go to Copyblogger for further internet writing advice.


This is what I’ve learnt while writing online. But I’m sure there’s more out there. Have you got any tips for writing effective web copy?
Also, if you have enjoyed or learnt something from this article, you could tweet, like or vote using the buttons below.

How to Blog for Business

For me, blogging isn’t about making money from advertising, affiliate marketing and selling products. It’s not about that for the majority of bloggers either.
But it is about business. All of my current clients have either contacted me through my website or are a result of a recommendation through my website.
I advise most of my clients to see a blog as a marketing tool.

How should I use my blog?

A blog is the hub of your online presence. There is no better way to constantly distribute content so that it can be easily found.
You may love getting stuff out there using FacebookFlickr or YouTube. But all these social sharing sites should point back to your blog as that is where your brand is under your complete control.
I have had many fantastic people contact me through my website and I ask them what search terms did they use? What was it about the site that attracted them? In what way was I better than the alternatives? The interesting thing is that I’ve never had the same answer twice.
In the early days of this blog, I tried to rank highly for the keywords “graphic designer”. I didn’t even think of researching the keywords which I should have but I thought it was a no-brainer that people looking for graphic design work would type “graphic design” into a search engine.
Was I right? Well, yes and no. Some of my clients used the obvious words to find me. Most, however, and most of the best ones, used the obvious words in combination with others.
long tail seo

The long tail

What is the long tail? Imagine a graph of your search terms on the x axis in relation to traffic provided on the y axis. That graph would have a peak for your most popular term (“design”, 55,600,000 searches a month) and then get shorter for the less popular terms (“graphic design”, 1,830,000 searches a month) and shorter down to the least trafficked terms. Maybe terms like “freelance graphic designer london” or “graphic design inspiration” will get only a few thousand searches a month. These low traffic, more descriptive phrases are known as the long tail.
The most fascinating thing about the long tail is that the total volume of searches are actually more than the highly competitive single and double word phrases. What’s even more amazing is that these long-tail searches convert better. That is, visitors that arrive at your site from long tail searches are more likely to make a purchase or sign up to a mailing list.
The more words you type into a search engine; the more likely you are to find what you’re looking for. So a person who finds you having searched for a more specific subject is more likely to form a positive attachment to your brand.

A great example of how the long tail can work for you

long tail
I have a well-known classical music publisher client who has given me thousands and thousands of dollars of business over the last few years. Just this week I was talking to the person at the company who first contacted me. I asked her how she’d found me. She’d actually searched for “rates that graphic designers charge” and found my blog post about freelance design prices. I couldn’t believe it! I’d written that article as a response to the many questions I’d received from designers asking this question. It was a post written for other designers rather than for prospective clients. By trying to help other people I was helping myself!
The fantastic thing that this story teaches us is to forget about keyword density, meta tags, internal PageRank sculpting and other boring practices the “SEO gurus” bang on about. Forget about all the claptrap and create good content! If you write about what you know best you will attract the right people to you.

Don’t forget about social media and backlinks!

social media
There is a flipside to creating content and that is getting links to it which isn’t always easy. When I first started blogging I spent ages getting my site in directory sites and setting up reciprocal link exchanges. Nowadays, Google and other search engines are counting social media links more than they used to and they lead to links on other sites. So follow up your blogging with participation in your social media platforms of choice (be they Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook) and by forming alliances with other bloggers in your niche.
Follow the same basic rules when engaging in social media and blogging relationships as you do with your blog. Create good content on the social media sites and pass on useful information to your blogging buddies in the same way as you help people with your blog.

What about you?

Do you use a blog to solicit responses from potential clients? Do you have any specific “hire me” links on your site? Actually a specific call to action on the site was one thing I purposely didn’t talk about in this article as I don’t have any evidence as to their effectiveness. As always, I’m dying to hear your responses! And, if you enjoyed the article, please consider tweeting or voting for it on your social network of choice!

Reader Profiles for my Blog

I was inspired by Darren Rowse’s article about writing reader profiles to inform your blogging.
Darren Rowse, for those of you that don’t know, has been blogging since 2002 and writes a number of successful blogs including ProBlogger.net which aims to help bloggers learn the skills of blogging and is one of the most successful sites on the net. I have been reading his stuff for years now and he has helped me immeasurably.
Darren feels that after you have created these reader profiles you are better able to connect with your audience and create relevant content. The following subjects need to be covered in the profiles:
  • Demographics
  • Financial Situation
  • Needs/Challenges
  • How they use the Web
  • Motivations for Reading the Blog
  • Experience with the topic – Level
  • Dreams
So, based on the readers that contact me personally, leave messages and promote my stuff through Twitter, etc., here are three reader profiles for this blog:

Gary, freelance graphic designer

garyGary is 32 and describes himself as a creative graphic designer. He has a good degree in design and has always been known for his creativity and artistic nature. He has held a number of good jobs in studios in London, UK, mainly working in print design and corporate identity.
However, Gary is frustrated by the limited opportunities afforded him both by his current employers and the financial situation. Ever the resourceful person, Gary has already started taking on a bit of design work through various contacts and dreams of setting up his own design company. As he wishes to settle down with his long-term girlfriend and start a family, a greater degree of financial security is hoped for.
Another frustration for Gary is that he has been involved in print design but is fascinated by the internet and mobile worlds and is obviously extremely tech savvy. He is teaching himself web design and has just moved to WordPress and a CMS of choice for his personal site which stuggles for traffic.
Gary has visited RobCubbon.com many times in the last few years whilst surfing for Adobe CS tips and has found information on blogging and starting your own design business very useful and so eventually subscribed to the newsletter.

Sanjit, junior SEO, article marketer and budding entrepreneur

sanjitSanjit lives in a middle class suburb in Bangalore and has finished his further education in design and marketing. He works in a large SEO outsourcing company in the center of town but spends his evenings and spare time glued to his laptop reading and participating in blogs, forums, social sites and wikis, learning about design, internet marketing, mobile communications and anything connected to running a successful online business.
Although, Sanjit still lives with his parents, he’s going to get married next year and therefore wishes to make more money online. Sanjit’s dreams for his future business are general and unfocussed due to his young age but he believes his developing skills in English, writing, design, SEO, SM and marketing will stand him in good stead in the future.
He gathers information from a wide variety of sources online mainly stemming from social networking groups.

Heather, employed super-mom

heatherHeather is 48, from Perth, western Australia, has held a long term part time job in recruitment and is finding she has more time on her hands now that her kids are grown up. Having put her career on the back-burner through years of bringing up children, Heather is now dead set on utilising her skills to create an online business. Heather is university educated with a degree in geography but has taken a number of home study and online courses in design, writing, reiki, herbal medicine, to name a few, and has been on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter for a while developing connections both real and virtual.
Her dream is to run a website selling homeopathic remedies as this is something she truly believes in. Her nature is hands on and so is starting the daunting task of learning ecommerce web design from the ground up. Being cautious and intelligent, she has created a WordPress.org blog to write about the subject first and is encouraged by the increasing traffic and the early signs of a developing community. RobCubbon.com is one of many, many blogs she is using to discover how to develop a brand and sell products.

My readers and visitors

One of the reasons I thought this may benefit me is that I have been worried about the somewhat changing subject matter of this blog. When I started blogging in 2006 I was working in print design and the articles reflected that.
My blog has since morphed into being about print design, web design and internet marketing. These changes have been not only because of my changing interests but also because of the changing requests from my visitors and my clients. The world is very different now in 2011 to how it was in 2006. The recession has meant that people want improved website design as well as getting that website found through search engines and now social media and interest in traditional media has waned.
But it is essential that I take my readers with me.
So, as always at the end of an article, I must ask you to tell me what you would like to read about. What problems do you have in your professional lives at the moment? What is stopping you from achieving your dreams?
What do you think of my reader profiles? Is one of them close to you? :)
The most important thing I take from writing these reader profiles is that all the personas have one thing in common. They want to use the internet to either further their businesses or create businesses: they are all entrepreneurs! Is this true of you?

19 Haziran 2011 Pazar

FDA Asks Pfizer About Chantix, Heart Risk And The Stop Smoking Drug

Pfizer's stop-smoking drugChantix (varenicline) can lead to a small increase in cardiovascular problems such as heart attacks for patients who already have cardiovascular disease, U.S. drug regulators said on Thursday. In fact, The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is changing the label for Chantix after reviewing the results of a clinical trial. 

Annual sales are now about $800 million, making the pill a "moderate sized" product for the pharma giant. 

The FDA stated this week: 

"The known benefits of Chantix should be weighed against its potential risks when deciding to use the drug in smokers with cardiovascular disease."

An independent randomized trial of 700 smokers with cardiovascular disease who were treated with Chantix or a placebo showed that Chantix was effective in helping patients quit smoking for as long as one year, but patients who took the pill were also slightly more likely to have a heart attack or other adverse cardiovascular event versus patients on a placebo. 

Varenicline is in a class of medications called smoking cessation aids. It works by blocking the pleasant effects of nicotine (from smoking) on the brain. 

Investors had high hopes for the drug when Pfizer first launched its smoking-cessation aid in 2006, but reports of serious side effects have prevented strong sales growth. 

Varenicline received a "priority review" by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in February 2006, shortening the usual 10-month review period to 6 months because of its demonstrated effectiveness in clinical trials and perceived lack of safety issues. The agency's approval of the drug came on May 11, 2006. On August 1, 2006, varenicline was made available for sale in the United States and on September 29, 2006, was approved for sale in the European Union. 

Chantix has been associated with agitation, depression and suicidal thoughts, and, in clinical trials, linked with nightmares. That's no fun. Psychiatric symptoms have occurred in people without a history of mental illness and have worsened in people who already had mental illness. 

The drug already is required by the FDA to carry a black box warning, the agency's strongest safety warning, due to public reports of the said side effects above. 

There have been problems in the normally fairly lax country of Canada. On June 3, 2010, Health Canada also announced changes to the Canadian Product Monograph that include changes in mood or behavior, serious allergic reactions and skin reactions , neuropsychiatric side-effects in patients taking varenicline with or without a history of psychiatric disorder side-effects such as sleepiness, dizziness, loss of consciousness, seizures, or difficulty concentrating. 

Health Canada advised those taking varenicline not engage in potentially hazardous activities, such as driving a car or operating dangerous machinery until they know how they may be affected by varenicline. 

Finally, earlier this year in May, it was revealed that Pfizer had submitted 589 varenicline-related adverse effects reports to the FDA through "improper channels." These reports dated back through 2007 and included 150 completed suicides (more than twice the number previously reported).