Gravity Forms vs Survey Monkey-Best Survey Tool for WordPress?

Gravity Forms vs Survey Monkey

I generally use Gravity Forms (same plugin we installed to field feedback on your last site). It can definitely be used as a survey tool to create quick and simple surveys. It can also be used to create long and complex multipage surveys.

Imho Survey Monkey is a great service, but for one off polls, I like Gravity Forms better. There is no monthly subscription fee, no limits on how many questions or even responses you can receive without having to pay more. I think there is a place and time for Survey Monkey, especially when you want to provide a survey with a somewhat sterile looking response medium outside of your own site. A survey loaded on your own website might have subjective distractions such as ads, or things a survey taker can click on and quite before the survey is completed or saved.

As a disclaimer, Softduit Media charges $40 to install and configure the Gravity Forms plugin itself or alternatively you can purchase a Gravity Forms license directly at prices starting at $39 and going up to $199. Softduit Media can also create individual surveys or other forms with Gravity Forms.

Update – 2013 Gravity Forms Coupon Codes

If you buy a license directly from Gravity forms, here are 2 Gravity Forms Coupon Codes.  Use which ever is best for the package that interests you.

SAVE5-A:2180
(customer saves $5.00 on any purchase)

SAVE10-A:2180
(customer saves 10% on any purchase)

Gravity Forms Contact Form Plugin for WordPress

If you simply need a survey, this is definitely something you could learn to do yourself with either Gravity Forms or Survey Monkey. Gravity Forms offers some options that include creating user generate feedback forms or blog article submission tools that definitely have a learning curve for the do-it-yourself types. We can help if you don’t have time to conquer the learning curve.

Where is Survey Monkey better? Graphs and Infographics!

One of the functional areas where Survey Monkey may trump Gravity Forms is in the display of the results. Gravity forms allows you to receive email notifications of each submission, or you can download results in a csv file, which can later be pumped into a spreadsheet to manually create a graph of results or something. However, there is no built in tool to display survey results in a cool looking graph. (note you have to pay for survey monkey to get excel export)

Update – Formidable Pro and Formidable Free or Lite Form and Poll Plugin – A Middle of the road option

A couple weeks after publishing this article Formidable Pro was brought to my attention by Richard Farr at Clickadvisors.  :)  I have not tested it yet so this is not a recommendation but more of an awareness update.  The Formidable plugins and add ons seem to strike something of a middle ground as compared to Gravity Forms and Survey Monkey.  It is priced at a level that just slightly under cuts Gravity Forms.  There is a freemium offering called the Formidable Free Edition or Lite version that offers Form options with a limited set of basic form elements. Then the premium level kicks in at $47 for a single site and $117 for unlimited sites with the full range of services.

Update – Formidable used to be slightly cheaper than Gravity Forms on all packages.  It now is a little more expensive for a single user and $84 cheaper for unlimited/developer versions.  Plus, Formidable does not require a renewal of the license every year! Formidable Pro

Two things immediately distinguished the Formidable Pro plugin besides the $2 savings as compared to Gravity Forms:

  1. Formidable Pro does provide infographic or graph presentation options of results.  The main thing missing from Gravity forms (when contrasted with Survey Monkey) is the presentation of polling results for those situations where you are conducting a survey with the form as opposed to some other form usage.
  2. Lifetime updates – instead of having to renew the license on a yearly basis (as required from Gravity Forms) Formidable Pro only requires a one time purchase.  So in addition to that $2 savings, you don’t have to spend the money all over again next year!

Decrease Bounce Rate on Blog Articles–Swim Up Stream

How to decrease bounce rate and increase page views at the same time

image

If you think about this question for a few seconds you will likely realize that both outcomes are tied together pretty closely.  If a visitor arrives at your website, and  then leaves immediately without viewing any other pages it is considered a bounce by Google Analytics.  So if you decrease bounce rate, those would have been bouncing visitors have not left, they  have moved onto another page on your site, thus you have increased your page views.  Sounds great, so how do we do it?

Background on Bounce Rate first.  Google Analytics defines Bounce rate is the percentage of single-page visits or visits in which the person left your site from the entrance (landing) page. Use this metric to measure visit quality – a high bounce rate generally indicates that site entrance pages aren’t relevant to your visitors. The more compelling your landing pages, the more visitors will stay on your site and convert. You can minimize bounce rates by tailoring landing pages to each keyword and ad that you run. Landing pages should provide the information and services that were promised in the ad copy.

To view the bounce rates for your website, go to the Bounce Rate report under Visitors > Visitor Trending > Bounce Rate.

In lay persons terms this is bad, you brought someone to your website and they didn’t find anything useful enough to stick around.  The exception that makes the rule is possibly a scenario where they land on your site, find exactly what they are looking for there and leave immediately to go get it.  Presumably your site is just the leap off point to something good.  Keep in mind as well that Google tends to have an ‘advertising skew’ on the concept of bounce rate and the ways to decrease bounce rate because they look at it very closely in regards to Google Adwords campaigns and bounces off of landing pages.

If we consider how to manage our site better and get better results, lets consider that the people that fit within the exception are not true bouncers, but conversions.  We brought them to  us, and showed them the right thing and they went and got it per our advice.  We do not want to change their behavior by slowing them down or delaying them from getting the right thing.

But in several other scenarios, they may go away immediately and get lost once they are gone.  We haven’t really closed the deal with these folks in that scenario.  A stronger close might involve more education or training or sign posts to show them what to look for to be successful.

In other scenarios, we might attract people to our site.  They are looking for something and we just happened to be the closest thing to fit the bill.  But when they land on our site, we only give them enough information to tell them, these are not the droids your are looking for!  Go refine your search and try again.

That’s a lost opportunity.

Instead of showing them that we don’t have the right stuff in our content, we could show them related alternatives.  To this end, for years, I’ve been using the YARPP plugin on my WordPress websites.  YARPP is an acronym for Yet Another Related Posts Plugin.  It does some good things.  It shows a quick list of blog articles that are similar to the one that is currently displayed.  It is not a perfect plugin, but for an automated tool it is pretty damn good.  On the down side it tends to show these ‘related articles’ at the very bottom of the article you have.  Knowing that 80% of visitors never make it all the way to the bottom of any article, that means that 80% of your visitors never see the YARPP recommendations!  So one of my tips is to do a little custom coding and move those YARPP recommendations up, way up the article.  Put them in your sidebar possibly, or create a floating box in your post for them, possibly just below the first image in your  article.

image

By showing the related articles towards the top, a person scanning your blog article will see immediately if you have a better alternative than what showed up in search.  You can still put the YARPP list at the bottom as well for the hardcore 20% that will read the whole thing and look for more of your articles as well.

What happens when YARPP can’t find a really good related article?

Here’s the rub.  Related Post Plugins can’t find related articles on your site if you have not written related articles!  The automation only automates the organization not the writing.  So you need to go and do some work!

Decrease Bounce Rate with Scribe SEO Content OptimizerFor years, I’ve been recommending Scribe SEO as one of the tools to help decrease bounce rate.  The simple reasoning is that this helps a writer optimize their copy and their SEO in sync with each other so that the article post optimization is more likely to show up in Search Engine Result Placements (SERP keyword listings) for the right keywords.  Ergo your article ranks for something it is actually about as opposed to some accidental tangent keyword that it is not about at all.  Scribe works very well in this  regard.

Proudly displayed Scribe SEO Affiliate link

However, sometimes when there is an information void (an information opportunity might be another  way to consider it) in Google search on a particular topic, your article that has been optimized by Scribe may not be the right fit, but it may still be the closest.  So when people click on it, hoping to  get lucky but preconditioned to bounce because they know they aren’t clicking on something that looks like a good fit, they will bounce away almost every time when you don’t have what you said you wouldn’t have.

To fix this and decrease your bounce rate and increase your page views, all you have to do is follow some simple steps

  1. Look through Google Analytics> Content> Pages and sort for the articles with the highest traffic and highest bounce rate
  2. If you like, export your results from Google Analytics into a csv or spreadsheet file for easier sorting if you are not familiar with Google Analytics filters
  3. You are looking for your good articles that pull in lots of visitors according to Google Analytics.  These are your home run hitters but they are fowling out by attracting a visitor that bounces.
  4. Find your top 5 (later you will repeat these next steps with the next 5 and so on)
  5. Look at each of these and write 2 articles that relate to them.
  6. The first article should cover a topic that is related but talks about what someone might do further up the pipeline from the original.  Ergo if you original article was about buying tires for a car, your new first article might be about How to determine when you need to buy  new tires.  Your goal is to educate them enough so that they will be prepared for your home run hitter next, but on the off chance that you attracted someone from a Google search that was not ready for that  original article, you are better positioned to answer their actual question if they are earlier in the process.
  7. The second article should cover a topic that is also related but is further down the pipeline.  What do you  do after you buy the tires?  Ergo, it might be an article on getting an alignment, or tire rotation, or even sharing their thoughts with you and your readers based on their own experience!
  8. Now your original home run hitter is more likely to either hit it out of the park for the people that do want the information it offers, or get on first base with a solid hit by helping what would have been a likely bounce rate increaser to find an answer closer to their needs.
  9. This can then be repeated for all of your content over and over.  For an existing website, this is a great way for an editor to figure out what should be put into the content plan for the year.  Sometimes the topics might feel like they are getting stale because they have been covered and  covered, but this helps us find the wholes in our own content that we might be too familiar with ourselves.

8 Alternate Perspectives on Bounce Rate Decrease Techniques

  1. Standard Metrics Revisited: #3: Bounce Rate It is quite likely that your company is spending tons of time, energy, and dollars on web marketing efforts yet conversion rates (or ROI) are stuck  …
  2. Six Tips For Improving High Bounce Rate / Low Conversion Web Pages  …improve conversions of your web pages: Source analysis, Testing, Usability …
  3. Bounce Rates  Sometimes as a webmaster I feel we can over complicate things, with so many things to do , juggle, test and remember it is easy …
  4. Bounce Rate Demystified – The @KISSmetrics Marketing Blog  If you … have Google Analytics setup for your website, it’s very likely that you know the
  5. Real Bounce Rate in Google Analytics  The problem with bounce rate starts with its definition.
  6. Bounce Rate: 16 Ways to Make Your Blog Sticky  Bounce rate affects your SEO, traffic conversion, and bottom line.
  7. Lower Bounce Rate | High Bounce Rate Lowering your bounce rate to help engage visitors …
  8. Blog Bounce Rate Blues – Does Your Blog Bounce Rate Got You Down   Since Google’s Panda update went into action, keeping

Advanced Bounce Rate Decrease Tips

  • In addition to just writing an article that is designed to fit one step earlier in the process or one step later in the process of our original content article, We can build out on this, like building a wedge or a pyramid, growing the base down further.  So go forth and write articles up and down the process chain relating to your best articles.  Increase your footprint on the topic, and flesh out your website to answer every related question, and cover every related step along the  way.
  • I haven’t said it yet, but I definitely do recommend optimizing each of these new articles of course.  I use Scribe SEO still and these days, I’m also doing additional levels of optimization with other tools such as InboundWriter and even Zemanta.  Decrease Bounce Rate with Inbound WriterInboundWriter is somewhat similar to Scribe with more of a focus on keyword search analysis.  Zemanta is just a useful way of adding related articles, links and images to help get the point across.  Plus, I do not just mean Search Engine Optimization, I definitely do mean Copy optimization or copywriting optimization or just improving general web readability.  These tools guide you through the process which is easier than internalizing and never forgetting a master’s level degree in web readability.  None of them are perfect, but together they round out the rough edges.
  • Finally, if you have a really hot topic, the best way to hit a home run every time is to go back and create a YouTube video about the article.  If it is doing well in print, odds are amping it up with video and embedding that video back into your original article will also help drop that bounce rate and show those visitors that don’t like to read where the answer is when they hit the play button.

The 2011 State of the BlogWorld Expo LA #bwela

2011 State of the BlogWorld Expo LA Keynote Stage

Herein lies my report on the State of the BlogWorld Expo. Unlike other States of thing type of reports, this report has a sample size of 1. There have been years of anecdotal conversations and debates that have fueled this report, but in a Steve Jobs kind of way, it is really my own perspective on the State of the BlogWorld Expo. This is a show and a community that I have grown to care about quite a bit over the years even though, for most that attend it’s just business these days. If you are not familiar with my writing style (and Google analytics tells me your are not), I tend to use 50 words where 5 will suffice. So get a coffee and sit back and read.

This last week I returned from the 2011 BlogWorld and New Media Expo in Los Angeles. I’ve been to every BlogWorld from Vegas to New York and to LA. I’ve also been to almost every Podcast and New Media Expo with the exception of the first one in 2005. I’ve spoken at BlogWorld and Co-exhibited with Blogger and Podcaster Magazine. I have followed the State of the Expo with keen interest since 2006 and this year, I must must say the state of the BlogWorld Expo is strong with many areas for growth, improvement and new opportunity.

Background on the State of the BlogWorld Expo

In the early days, the Podcast and Portable Media Expo was a bit of a party fest put together by hobbyists. They had some great self taught educational tracks, similar to the best of WordCamps or PodCamps and they had a lot of big blow out rock star parties in small hotels. There were concerts and live performances and break away podcast stars and start up companies. The Expo itself couldn’t be sustained in the auspices of Ontario, California (West LA) and during the last couple years of the show, a start up emerged called BlogWorld.

In 2007 BlogWorld launched in Las Vegas. It was impressive in that it launched in Las Vegas alone, but the initial show located in the Las Vegas Convention Center felt like a pre-schooler running around a major college campus. Three years later by 2010, BlogWorld Expo had not only bought and merged with the New Media Expo but it had moved into cooler digs at Mandalay Bay and found some very large corporate sponsors. We partied like reality TV stars at the hottest clubs and venues in Vegas, and built social media empires by day. Along the way, podcasting took a back seat and video casting and even blogging were kicked over to shotgun while social media made names and fortunes. But the search for ROI had not really hit home yet.

The show seized an opportunity to co-locate and start a 2nd show in New York at the Book Expo of America. It was a small show by BlogWorld standards, similar in size to the first BlogWorld in Vegas way back in 2007 with about 1400 – 1700 attendees, as compared to the Vegas event the previous fall that brought in over 4,000 people. But the 1,700 of us at BlogWorld in New York City were just starting to swim with the 10,000 Book Expo attendees in a pool that was much bigger and deeper.

BlogWorld Expo City – Los Angeles

The show headed to LA that next fall, or in current terms last week, and this is where I begin with the 2011 State of the BlogWorld Expo in Los Angeles.

While I have not received any official numbers, I’m led to believe that the numbers were again over 4k, probably in the range of 4,100 attendees registered for the show. This year the show was held at the Los Angeles Convention Center right next to the Staples Center, which was somewhat empty with the NBA on strike. This probably accounted for the easy seating at restaurants in the immediate vicinity, which was cool and a nice change from Vegas in the early years.  I flew into LAX despite my preference for either Ontario or Burbank.  The new full body scanners had the airports I travelled through lit up with naked pictures of bloggers, fortunately not where anyone could see them.  The only result of the scanners was an even slower security line, especially for flights later in the day.  The concept of getting to the airport early was definitely important if you actually wanted to leave LA after the expo.  From my experience the streets and sidewalks of downtown LA were safe to walk, although very wise to walk with at least one other person.

BlogWorld Convention Area

The show was a bit spread out in this new convention center. It is not as big as the Las Vegas Convention Center but definitely larger than the Mandalay Bay facility. As such, the flow of people was also spread out over 2 large areas, an upstairs and the coming and going of attendees of an unrelated Franchise Expo and a Tony Robbins convention, followed by a comic con of sorts replete with a visit by Stan Lee and Elvira. The result was that it was never difficult to find a quite place to talk, but traffic never felt super busy either. There’s a lot of room to grow and opportunity to better organize where every thing is located next year, but this year it felt a little loose.

BlogWorld Hotels

There were several partner hotels and like BlogWorld in New York, the show offered free shuttles to and from the show most of the day. You could also make the walk if you chose at about 1.7 miles from my hotel the Millennium Biltmore on 506 Grand. The distance was about the same as it might have been when I stayed at the Hilton in Los Vegas and had to trek to the South Hall or was it the North Hall…

Regardless the shuttles were awesome because it gave people a chance to network with each other, which is definitely one of the strengths of this show. One exhibitor, YouCast, even stepped up to the plate and hit a home run by offering attendees a free shuttle service to and from LAX! Any company that will solve travel to and from LAX is a winner in my book. That may or may not require FTC disclosure, if so here it is, but for the record, I purchased my own shuttle paid for out of my own pocket through Expedia to Super Shuttle. I didn’t use that one and took the ride with YouCast to network with people yet again and that was awesome. Plus they gave me a free donut, so there you go, fully transparent.

There are passes and then there are passes to BlogWorld Expo

I have been to every show and I have had just about every pass there is to be had from the super expensive to the super cheap to the press pass and the speaker pass too. The last couple of shows (NY and LA) I went on an inexpensive Exhibit Hall pass for $50 last minute or $25 if you buy it at early bird rates. The pass gets you into the expo hall and into the parties. It has been my experience having gone to all the BlogWorld’s that the Exhibit Hall is the best place to find cool and useful things and meet some of the folks that are really making things happen in this space.

Despite my preference for going the cheap route, it appeared to me through casual association and conversation that most visitors were there for the sessions and had paid to hear them.  I believe there were also just over 300 speakers covering the 10 tracks.  Speakers get in for free in exchange for speaking.  There were a handful of press passes issued, although since this is a blogging conference press passes are usually rather limited as it is a bit odd at best having the media cover the media and at worst its just an organization or two finding a cheap (free) way to get a full access pass.

BlogWorld Expo Sessions

Don’t get me wrong there are some gems in the conference sessions and keynotes. In past years, I have found inspiration from Leo Laporte, the guys from the YouTube show Ask a Ninja, and Rocket Boom’s CEO. The Copy Blogger team did a bang up job last fall in Vegas as well, and the tonight show like keynote at BlogWorld was one of the funniest I can think of. (disclosure my business partner Joe Klein performed the role as the announcer and imho came up with most of the idea and material to set that scene up). In LA, I never quite found inspiration at the keynotes. I was looking, I was listening, but nothing ever quite resonated nor came close to epiphany levels for me. There was a motivating and very well delivered keynote from @ambercadabra aka Amber Naslund. It resonated with me quite a bit as I’m a federal whistle blower and most of it sounded like a hoorah stand up and fight for what is right kind of speech.

I’ve never had much difficulty with that, and I felt like she was preaching to a choir of one. I think others may have been more inspired by it than I was, but I’ve been drunk on that Kool-Aid for years. The closing keynote by all accounts came together at the last minute in classic BlogWorld style. It was a very entertaining keynote, but it struck me that in terms of ‘new media’ the folks on the panel were largely talking about the past, what they had done in the past to get where they were and very little talk about what they saw in the future, with the exception of the quietest member on the panel, Tim Street. He did share some of his lessons learned from producing French Maid TV, something that anyone that has been around the show knew about already, but the rest of the panel, with the probably exception of iJustine, seemed to be clueless about. That seemed ironic to say the least as the celebrity/strangers to the community didn’t know him but many of us did. (even though he wasn’t wearing his dark glasses maybe that was why) Winking smile

Other talks from folks like Deanna Brown, Michael Stelzner and Lisa Stone seemed to be way off the mark. (Michael a little less so, but definitely a disjointed combination on this panel). I did not attend but heard many complaints about the presentation by Technorati in regards to their State of the Blogosphere, a report that is very unlike this one and has no relation what so ever although they did quote me in their 2008 report. I heard from at least 10 people that this presentation was dull and mostly just a person reading slides. If you have read the 2011 State of the Blogosphere, you will probably get the idea, however, I would encourage you to focus on the final part of that report where I think there is some interesting information.

State of the Blogosphere

A Fortune 100 Company Learns The Need to Produce Less – Not Quite yet

The presentation by Jim Farley from Ford almost had some interesting insights in it as Ford shared how they had learned to communicate with their customers by sharing the stories of their employees. They had learned how to break out of the communications bubble of a big corporation and show the real people on the inside and let them tell their story to the world. That was something of a case study in the obvious way to use social media. However, I was struck with the counter intuitive epiphany that for about 100 years, Ford Motor Company has been in the business of taking people and sticking them in bubbles where they are unable to communicate with others until the bubble (picture a Ford Pinto for the true bubble car) takes them from A to Z. These days their cars are cooler looking and loaded up with smart tech, but the tech is a slight counter to the physical separation and divider of people. Ford did not create the suburban wasteland that many of us commute from today, but it couldn’t have been possible without them. Plus no matter how safe you make a smart car, if you still have to drive, you are going to be distracted when you simultaneously communicate and your communications are going to be less zeroed in when you are distracted by traffic.

As I saw it, Ford needs to learn from their lessons in how the changes in social media have changed the world and wake up and learn how to survive in a world where they will need to produce FEWER cars! I don’t mean that so much in a green way, although it is a nice bonus. I do mean that people do not want to waste productive time that they could spend doing something else, getting something done, or even communicating with the people that are important to them. Every minute spent behind a steering wheel, is a minute of productivity lost. I tried to share this thought with the Ford Team at their booth the next day. They were very polite, and mentioned the vision of their CEO and their smart cars and work to plan for less congested roads, but like my old employer (the one that was the number 1 cell phone maker in the world 10 years ago) they didn’t get it when I explained that things were already changing. We’ll check back with them in 10 years and see if Google or Apple owns them…

So Where Was the Good Stuff for BlogWorld Expo 2011?

As I mentioned before there was some very good stuff at BlogWorld Expo 2011.

Disclosure on my finances of the show

Before I jump into this let me put out a disclaimer. I spent over $1k in travel and food and hotels and tickets to attend this event. A couple of the company names below gave me a freebie or two in the form of discounted prices (none of which I have used yet, but I do plan to use them if I can make the time). The sum total of these freebies by my estimates is probably almost $100, or 1/10th the amount that I spent to go to this show. I say this as I do not personally feel influenced by any of this. But I do want to disclose it and you can make up your own mind. In addition, I do intend to either use services of some of these companies and or resell the services or cross sell some of these services to my own customers. In some cases, I may earn a little from this, but it will likely be a while before that cross sales activity or reselling activity makes up for the expense I put up up front. Not to mention the expense I laid out year after year for this show since 2006, which spans approximately 9 shows which is probably over $10k. (Podcast & New Media Expos 2006, 2007, 2008; BlogWorlds 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010LV, 2011NYC, 2011LA).

You may ask why I go to the show at all if the return is so meager?  During my first visit, I was travelling on a corporate budget.  During that trip I saw a huge potential in this new group and industry and returned on my own dime ever since.  It has only been in the recent couple years that I have found a formula that allows me to find an ROI in attending BlogWorld.  This has more to do with my primary business working as a business developer and web developer.  I find solutions for my customers at the show, and sometimes when things go very well, I find new customers at the show too!

This is partly why I have always found that the good stuff was in the Expo Hall!

There were some very cool exhibitors at BlogWorld 2011, and in quantity more than any other BlogWorld to date. There were a few less giant booths this year as compared to last fall so the overall show floor size seemed about the same if not slightly smaller.

Here’s a run down of some of the exhibitors that really stood out, starting with technologies that are most likely to change the industry for the better. The first couple will probably move the dial significantly but in different ways.

  1. imageWeVideo [Note as soon as I have an affiliate link for this I’m using it because this service rocked! I like money and if you signup for it,you’ll probably thank me, even if I get a commission.] – By far one of the coolest technologies I’ve seen at a BlogWorld yet (and I’ve seen technologies that by all rights should have killed Facebook, Utterz) WeVideo is an online, Collaborative, video editing, rendering and distribution service. A few years back, I think it was 2008, TubeMogul came out and everyone was impressed that they could allow you to distribute your video to more than one place at a time. Well We Video does that and at lower price points that TubeMogul, but that’s only a fraction of what WeVideo does. It also provides a very high end online video editing service. Instead of paying $500 to several thousand dollars for video editing software to go on one machine you can start off using this tool for free! Plus, it gives you access to a music and video catalog! But it just gets better. (Not trying to sell it, just think its cool) The service allows you to share your video project with others so they can help you edit it. That’s one of the main reason why I stuck with this industry, I wanted to see the day when I could collaborate with people! One of the other major cool features is that they do the rendering on a super fast computer in the cloud, which cuts the rendering time down significantly no matter how fast your personal machine is. Then they do the upload to YouTube or wherever through a connection far faster than you have at your home or office. Those last two features alone could probably shave two thirds off of production time for your average online video project. Decrease your computer equipment purchasing bill as well and this service looks like a bargain even at its highest package levels.
  2. imageInboundWriter – I am not crazy about the name of this company, but I am crazy about their product! For anyone that has ever use ScribeSEO (and I love that one!), this is a little similar and very complimentary. Where Scribe helps a non SEO person or a non Copywriter to optimize their blog articles or their website content after a first draft has been written, Inbound Writer helps a writer from the very very beginning. They help you figure out what topic to cover and how to write a better headline and they give you feedback along the way. Their user interface is out of this world. They have an amazing writing tool on their own site once you sign up for an account and they have a pretty good plugin that gives you the best of that interface right in your own WordPress writing environment. They call their service a Freemium plan, where you can get it for free each month indefinitely when you write no more than 8 articles using their service. After 8, you have to pay for the premium service (or not use it anymore that month). The premium service costs $19.95 for unlimited usage, which compared to Scribe is a whole lot cheaper, although I’d probably recommend using both for reasons I won’t get into here. This service is going to help writers become BETTER writers and help their articles get found and get even more readers. Win, Win, Win, Win, Win!

    Update Scribe SEO v InboundWriter Video First Look

  3. GTO Management – This one might not be so obvious, especially for the bloggers and podcasters, but these guys are tops when it comes to soup to nuts setup and/or management of an affiliate program. They run the affiliate program for BlogWorld itself, and setup the program for ScribeSEO that I mentioned previously. They are run by a family team and I love all three of them. They do a great job, get companies great results, and have been leaders in the affiliate industry for years and years. If you were a company at BlogWorld that didn’t have an affiliate program, then you should be talking to these guys right away (WeVideo and InboundWriter, I’m looking at you!)
  4. Theme Design Competitors – > 1. Headway Themes and 2. PageLines – In years past I discovered Artisteer, which was a phenomenal desktop software program that makes it easy to design WordPress themes, Drupal templates, Joomla etc. This was not the first time I’ve seen PageLines or Headway, but I think it was the first time that their up and coming new software (versions 3 and 2 respectively) were achieving that level where I feel they could be truly useful. I’d advise waiting for the arrival of the new version before you try either (headway coming on Nov 25 2011 and PageLines on December 12th I believe). This is not desktop theme design software but online, web based drag and drop theme design software. Very cool stuff and definitely takes theme design to a whole new level.
  5. imageSpreeCast – This was a cool cool online video broadcast tool launched by the founder of StubHub  that allows people to record up to 4 video casts as one show. It also has the added cool feature of letting audience members talk to live shows with video as well. Kind of like Ustream or Livestream but with 4 talking heads and with audience video chat. I have not seen anything like this anywhere else. On the down side, the final show can not be exported to YouTube, they want to keep everything in house and do a bit of an ad share program with the content owners. Since YouTube has most of the video audience, that means that this platform will probably be limited to whatever audience of users they can muster and how much users can push their own website fans and followers onto the new platform. Its got potential, but I’d love it more if there were an export/upload to YouTube option!   I’m in the midst of scheduling just had a more in depth walk through with Greg Wacks from SpreeCast later this week(For all of my old Utterz friends, do check this out!)
  6. imageWebDoc – whom I first met at BlogWorld in New York was back and doing some very cool things again. These guys are taking the concept of Rich Media (think new media but with everything all at once with a double emphasis on easy) to a whole new level. They are to Facebook pages What WordPress was to blogging on your own website.
  7. 23Press – I almost forgot about these guys and had to go back through my notes to recall what they did. Oops, there were a lot of cool things this year. 23Press.com helps you move your blog from one host to another and they offer the service cheap, cheap, cheap! I do development work and from time to time do this for clients, but it makes no financial sense to pay a developer to move files when you can get an efficient service like this to do it for a tenth of what I’d have to charge for the time spent. Their prices to do all of this is ridiculously cheap.  Typically less than the cost of buying 3 coke zeros in the LA conference Center at $3.50 a bottle!  A single blog move will cost $10 or if you are a developer and have more than one site moved (assuming at a time) the cost is $5 each.  That’s far less than anyone can do it themselves, and frankly in my experience its cheaper than wasting 30 minutes mostly on hold and later trying to smooth talk a hosting company into doing it for free.  I’m still waiting to hear how they handle the infamous WordPress widget settings.  Those annoying things can get lost very easy in a move, especially if there is a domain name change.  (Tip the Shiba Custom Widget plugin can sometimes help)  Update – They are soon coming out with a backup service that will backup a wordpress site for only $5!  (that’s about a tenth of the cost of another very popular wordpress backup system)

There were many other cool exhibitors that should get some honorable mentions. Some are iterating cool new improvements like Posterous Spaces (think Posterous but as an App and with group areas). CD Baby has been around for a long time, but I was very impressed with their sister program Book Baby that helps writers get eBooks out. I’m going to order up a book cover design next week for $149 $279 for my first fiction book.

image

ThingLink lets you add links or other types of interactivity on pictures that you might embed in your blog. Looked real cool and easy and I hope to try it out with a mindmap soon! Pond5 offers up a ton of stock media from video to pictures and photos to audio and more. They gave me $50 in coupons to try the service out and I can’t wait to try some of their after effects samples and audio. I also want to get my wife (photographer) set up as a contributor. Check out their cool search utility below:

Search Stock Video by - -
arrow View - -‘s Artist Profile on Pond5

VoiceBase lets you take audio and video files and have the audio indexed such that it can be searched. Very cool application, but I’d like to see them add the ability to generate voice transcripts as well. I’d pay for that last bit! InCrwd helps commenters on a blog earn points towards free stuff. Seemed like an interesting idea, but its one of those things that will either work great or might be a bit weak. Popularity alone will probably allow it to sink or swim but I couldn’t predict it one way or the other. Stickam.com lets you broadcast from an iPhone or a iPad and have video conversations while you do it! Cooking with the Troops is a non profit organization working to help give soldiers and veterans more job skills as they transition out of the military and also help show them out to cook and eat healthier. As a former soldier who grew up eating all the wrong foods, I could relate to this effort on many levels and would like to help them too.

But that wasn’t it! There were even more exhibitors that also deserved some exploration and attention

  1. Raw Voice/Blubrry (the people behind PowerPress) were soft launching a new service that will put video casts and podcasts on Roku devices, right on someone’s HD TV. Very cool stuff this
  2. Zippy Kid- was there showing off premium WordPress hosting services, something that will probably be all the rage in 2012. I had just seen a demo of WPEngine the week before.
  3. Viddy – offered up a 15 second iPhone broadcasting app. I like the app, but the whole 15 second limit is maybe not the best fit for me.
  4. NewTek TriCaster booth at BlogWorld 2011NewTek – was there showing off their amazing TriCaster. This is definitely one of the tools of the future for this community.
  5. Raven Internet Marketing Tools was back in force again. I really like their user interface for managing SEO campaigns on a site. This is one of those tools that has been on my list to do more with for months now! – Free 30 Day Trial
  6. Website Magazine was present and I have to say that I stock pile their magazines and read them on the plane whenever I travel. I told them they needed to start putting bit.ly links on their physical magazine articles so I could share them easily while flying. They loved it and someone will probably get promoted when they get back to the Website Magazine offices. Great job!  You can get a feel for their writing value with articles like these
    1. New Microdata Plugin for WordPress
    2. Affiliate Marketing Glossary
    3. Impact of Google Search’s SSL Change
  7. My friends from ShareaSale were there. I earn a happy revenue stream from various affiliate programs on ShareaSale. To my friends at the show and ShareaSale as well, I apologize for not talking you up more. But it’s a competitive world. Join shareasale.com, Earn Cash!
  8. Last but not least were my good friends at CorpNet who help people get incorporated, perform Trademark research or setup a nonprofit corporation so that you can then get a tax exempt nonprofit PayPal account(if you area charity) among other things all for dirt cheap prices. (And they were giving away lots of cash prizes and two iPad 2. Last year I won an iPad from them in a blog naming contest!)
    1. Here’s one of their services that any blogger especially those with a domain buying habit should consider…Get $20 Off Any Trademark Service at CorpNet®. Use Code: SASTM – Start Now!

CorpNet at BlogWorld 2011

Well that’s the state of things at this point, I’ll likely revisit and upgrade this article sometime in the near future. Yet to be discussed was the colocation of PodCamp LA at BlogWorld and the future of Tracks, Sessions and most importantly Training! Plus whatever happened to those super cool interactive .epub formats with 3d interactive books and synced up iBook’s and audio books from BlogWorld and Book Expo in New York????

Cool stuff I’ve found in past years at BlogWorld Expo

  • WindowsLiveWriter – edit almost any blog on almost any technology, easily with clean code from your computer – 2007
  • Artisteer – WordPress theme design tool for any level of experience from beginner to advanced – 2008
  • Utterz – Didn’t survive the name change  Sad smile 2007 I think
  • WordPress – You may have heard of them
  • Libsyn – 2006
  • TechSmith – Snagit and Camtasia folks – Every year but this year
  • Dawn and Drew – 2006
  • Tee Morris
  • Joe Klein – 2006 – 2010
  • The Beatles Love Show – 2009
  • UStream
  • MycroBurst.com – 2011 NYC
  • LiveStream
  • TubeMogul
  • Lewis Howes and his awesome LinkedIn Optimization tips – 2009
  • Andre Natta – 2007
  • Sean Jackson – ScribeSEO fame met him at PostieCon back in 2007

and much more!

Improvement Opportunities for BlogWorld Expo

This year the the expo hall sound system for announcements made every one cringe and try to scratch out their eardrums by going through their eye sockets.   It was comically bad at first and got worse.  That’s probably more of an issue for the convention center.

LA PodCamp was there, but I never found them!  I asked directions at the BlogWorld Expo booth and was directed to an empty booth in the middle of the floor.  I asked around several times and I never found anyone that could find it.  After the show, I heard that it had been set up in a side room somewhere, maybe upstairs???  Something similar happened when WordCamp Las Vegas collocated in 2007, but I found it back then, partly because I was a scheduled speaker.  Still I had an audience of at least 30 people.

Both shows were supposed to be on the expo hall floor. For a ‘Camp’ to work, it has to be right in the middle of everyone so that the people on the floor can vote for the tracks and things they want to hear about on the spot.  There needs to be a ringleader herding people around a bit.  If it is in a side room with too few people, it just won’t work.  I think this one should go through a redo, but maybe set up a full Podcasting area on the floor, maybe a video casting section also, and a social media section or blogging section too.  Something to help people get orientated and not have the floor quite so random.  It can also pool some of the people together that are in the same sub niche and spur more conversation.  Hell maybe there could be a different camp for each day of the conference.  Exhibitors of related tools could even pitch sessions to show off their wares.  Due to the nature of an unconference or camp, if no one votes for the sessions it gets crowd de-sourced anyway.

Show Growth Up – Can it Continue?

The show has consistently grown every single time.  New York City is something I treat as an expansion and I will look at the numbers of that show separately or added to the numbers for LA, so for 2011 that puts total attendees at something close 5800 up from about 4k in 2010 when the who was only in Las Vegas.

Rick and the team behind the show have done a great job.  I got a sense that the momentum might be stalling a bit, and here’s what I mean by that.  The number of people that are just bloggers or podcasters seems to be slipping.  They are being replaced by people that are corporate social media, corporate bloggers etc. at probably a 2 or 3:1 ratio.  The thing is those corporate types in addition to wanting to learn, want to meet independent bloggers and podcasters!

The independents are the least likely to be able to afford the entire show including hotel, flight, and tickets themselves.  I’m something of an independent myself and more often than not (I think its like 60% of the time now) I only get the expo pass as I mentioned before.  The show still runs at least $1000 and usually a bit more than that.  I’ve learned how to profit from the show.  I sourced about a third of my clients in 2011 from the show in 2010.  *I met some of those clients many years earlier and closed deals at the show or soon after.

While at the show and soon after I did some brainstorm and provided feedback to the team.  I think the show needs something like an ‘indie’ pass.  It’s a little too weird for corporations to run give aways for passes and the winners are often announced to late for people to actually book affordable travel.  The whole disclosure thing wonks things up too.  But potentially, the show could offer a pass focused maybe just on blogger improvement areas (as opposed to the full full show) and do that for maybe $100 – $150.  Larger corporations or sponsors could possibly provide a networking event or dinner as well and every one could benefit.  With the 2012 election coming up, there could be a political angle to this as well.  In 2012 political blogging was a very large component of the show.

The pass in my mind should be some type of pass a little discounted (maybe for first timers?) blogger/podcaster coming to the show that is not working for a big company.  I’m sure it would be difficult to vet out, and there could be a quantity limit as well but I think that might help.  Financially it might even work better than say the affiliate summit scholarship program. Maybe BlogWorld Expo could even host a page on the site where people could list whether or not they were seeking donations to make it to the show, possibly something held in escrow to insure things are on the up and up.  Something like a network of Kickstarter projects, but simply just bloggers and podcasters looking for help.

Bringing new folks in like that also needs one other key ingredient to make it viable.

Some of the Sessions/Tracks Needs a Steve Jobs Channeling Dictator

Issue

The speaking tracks are determined by committee.  This generally produces a long litany of critiques over the end results of the substance and quality of those tracks.  Plus, show attendance suffers because the tracks do not get finalized until just a few before the show.  A whole lot of tickets never get sold, because the decision to travel that far affordably expires a month or two before anyone knows who is going to speak and what information they will share.   The tracks need to be final and published at least 2 months before the show, preferably 3.

Solution

Keep putting some of the tracks together by committee.  This will continue to generate the same type of mix that the show has had historically. Some motivational talks, some industry debates and panels, some concept and tip sharing sessions as well.  Those are all needed and serve their role.  They rarely have a lot of meat on the bone, things that can be taken back to a company or home studio or what have you to be used to make money and bring people back again to the show!

This is one of the reasons why I focus on the expo floor where a participating exhibitor company has a strong enough value proposition to shell out money for a booth and put their money where their mouth is!

In addition set aside 3 tracks for nothing but comprehensive education. DO NOT run this one by committee!

The show needs to pull a Steve Jobs on this or find someone to be a mini dictator and create a training syllabus of topics to cover.

The tracks should be soup to nuts education on 1) Blogging 2) Podcasting & 3) Video Casting

When I say soup to nuts, I mean they should start out on day 1 hour 1 with beginner level education and build on that throughout the day until they end on the last day and last class with advanced training.

If need be, sub contract this out to someone like Lynda or Total Training.  (Digital Video Expo uses a similar business model for training working through the Weynand Training Center offering things that include Apple Certified Courses right at the show!)

At the end of the day, if the show can become a center place for training (meat on the bone) people at all levels will come from all over the country to get the tools and training they need to be successful, not just the good ideas and tips and networking.  :)

Then I think we could see the show grow in size a whole lot more.  Partly because people will come learn something useful and make money from it, hopefully enough money so that they will come back and repeat year after year.

 

This concludes my 2011 State of the BlogWorld Expo. I’m sure if you were crazy enough to read this far you have learned quite a bit about the show, its potential and its weaknesses.  I do find it valuable and fulfilling both personally and professionally.  I hope that it is able to continue this tradition, and I can’t wait to see what’s happens in the spring as BlogWorld Expo and Book Expo of America build more synergy, right in the middle of a major election!


Social Networking 1.5 Surfing Exchanges

I do not write about this concept too much on Maven Mapper’s Information these days, however there is a very good and slightly old fashioned way to network with other bloggers across the blogosphere.  Its called a blog surfing exchange. 

How Blog Surfing Exchanges Work

A blogger or a non-blogger signs up (works better if you have a blog).  You then surf through the directory of blogs that they offer, they tend to display a new blog one after the next in categories that you pick.  You control the speed and you can rate blogs as you go if you want to do that type of thing.  You can also block or favorite blogs as you go.

For each blog you visit, you earn some credits.  You can then use these credits to list your own blog in the exchange and other bloggers will then see your site in the que.

This is a good way to find other bloggers, see what they are doing, how they are doing it and network or share or develop ideas. 

This is not a good way to market your website or products or ebooks.  If you are into that type of thing, you should probably look elsewhere.

This is primarily for bloggers to connect with other bloggers and generally communicate blog to blog.

As I mentioned this concept has been around for a long time.  I am a long time member in BlogExplosion and BlogMad.  These are two of the largest surfing exchanges.  BlogExplosion is the oldest I believe and BlogMad seems to have recently eclipsed it as the largest.

To my knowledge if you have more than one blog, there is no limit on the number of blogs allowed at BlogExplosion.  That said, they are slow at approvals and very picky.  You can expect to be rejected a few times.  Try and take it in stride as it can pay off later. 

I do not agree with their philosophy, but it is their club.

BlogMad is much easier, but they limit you to 3 and then later 6 blogs.  Essentially you have to work your way up the levels to get more benefits such as the ability to list more blogs.

blogmad-levels-number-of-blogs

I’m just about to hit the ‘Mad’ level for example, I was hoping to win a Technomarine watch, but will settle for the ability to add more blogs.  Sounds goofy, but hey its about as mature as Facebook.

Big Picture Purpose for Building Subscribers

This isn’t a good place to go strictly to get traffic for your website, however as you network there and as people see and possibly like your site, they will essentially be able to use that introduction as a means to coming back and maybe subscribing to your syndicated delivery via rss or email.


Keeping the Creative Juices Going

As a writer, web designer and CEO, I have a serious need for creativity.  It is intrinsic to everything I do.  My business will not survive if I am not constantly innovating and creating new things from:

  • websites
  • graphic design
  • artwork, buttons, banners, flash presentations
  • mindmaps
  • databases (yes designing a database requires a great deal of creativity)
  • coding
  • designing processes
  • business plans
  • stories,
  • articles
  • how to guides
  • videos

Those are all activities that I will hit in a given month, sometimes a week and sometimes a day.  That doesn’t even include the marketing work that I do!

Now trying to stay fresh and creative when you are creating so much, so fast, so often is not easy.

To keep my creative juices flowing during so much production these are some of the things that I do to stay fresh and keep my soul from fading.

  1. I read incessantly.  Mostly for time reasons, I listen to audio books from Audible on my Treo.
  2. I watch a lot of movies and TV while I’m doing all of the activities above.
  3. I read and watch a lot of news.
  4. Traveling helps a great deal also.  New landscapes, sites and new people are very important.
  5. I talk to people as much as possible.  Working in a home office, its easy to fall out of touch with people.  Fortunately technology comes to the rescue in the form of discussion boards, Skype, twitter, other blogs, calling people the old fashioned way, email and more.
  6. Sleep!  This is very very important, and the thing that is my biggest weakness.  I do not get enough sleep.
  7. Exercise, especially exercise in natural surroundings.  I can’t get much from a gym, the cold surroundings bore me to death and I leave feeling like crap.  Put me outside, jogging, hiking or doing sit-ups hanging from a tree and I’m happy.  Add in some swimming or kayaking and its pure serenity.
  8. Don’t get into any routines.  For some people this does not work, but for me if I avoid routines and keep myself out of a comfort zone that challenges my thinking and forces me to continually re-evaluate and continually improve.  (Nice trick I learned at working for the Postal Service during the 90′s. :) )
  9. Try new things all the time.  Food, hobbies, software, technology, etc.  The important thing here is to look for new insights from the new perspective that new things give you.  If you just go bungee jump off a cliff, you’ll get a nice adrenalin rush, but if you learn nothing from the experience you have missed some of the potential.
  10. Learning new things all the time, follows that last one very closely.  I am a habitual student, which is partly why I have a couple hundred credit hours of education.  Its also why I have a resume that never ends and leaps from discipline to discipline.  Plus, its why I constantly by lots of training DVD’s and take lots of non-credit technical courses all the time.  I also am becoming a connoisseur of free courses.  The internet provides a lot of good knowledge for free.  The trick is that you have to typically create your own syllabus, then do the research to fill it in with good content!
  11. Lastly, accepting your vices until you can beat them.  I am a coke zero junkie, never been much for coffee nor espresso machines, although I have rotated in and out of various teas.  At the end of the day its water with chemicals in it.  It could be worse, unfortunately its not better, but I do not stress over it.  Stressing over your vices is sometimes worse than the vices themselves.  Someday I’ll kick my vices or replace them with something better, but until then I accept the reality that they are there and that I could be even more flawed.

Looking for a New Theme for this Blog

I’m looking for a new theme to use on this website.  If you look at the article below this one, you will notice that the article section of the blog is rather skinny and doesn’t utilize the full range of the browsers space.

This lack of use of the valuable browser real estate doesn’t help this blog communicate as effectively as it might.  This is exceptionally true when we offer up videos or large images.  Under the current theme those images or videos must fit into a pixel space of approximately 450 pixels in width.

That just doesn’t work when it comes to Mind Maps or wide videos presumably of mind maps or other full screen software applications.

So far I have not been able to find a theme that would be just right, and so I am also rapidly studying up on the things needed to code my own custom WordPress theme.  So over the next few weeks you may see some testing of new themes when you visit here.

Hopefully, I will find one rapidly and find one that utilizes the screen space more effectively and for those folks with slower DSL connections, I will hopefully also find one that loads faster as well.

As I am going through these tests, I would definitely welcome any feedback about the themes that I test out here. 


Vote Up DodgeBlogium at FuelMyBlog

My friend AndrewIanDodge of DodgeBlogium is trying to win a trip to the Superbowl and be featured in Superbowl ad.  He’s one of 10 finalists.

Please consider dropping by to sign up and vote at

http://www.fuelmyblog.com/index.jsp?t=mybowlad


AdPods from Tumri

I received an invitation to join a new advertising program for publishers and advertisers via email this week from Tumri called AdPods.  The new service offers a unique twist on the concept of offering up one of those little boxes with rotating product ads.

Instead of offering a box that only provides ads to products from one site like chiquita or Amazon or a dozen others, AdPod offers ads from multiple retailers from Amazon to Target to Best Buy and more.

Basically, they consolidate lots of different offers into one box.  For a publisher or blogger that is good as it utilizes your web real estate much more efficiently and effectively.

Everything else about the program seems to be pretty much standard as these types of programs go.