Websites

Finding And Using Niche Social Media Websites

We’ve all at some point heard the adage of ‘quality over quantity’. Usually, we are not hearing it for a good reason, but as a reminder to ‘be happy with what you have.’

In the case of niche websites, however, it means something a little different.

We know about the giant social networks: LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc. like we all know about big cities like New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. But let’s say you LOVED cheese. Sure, you can probably find tons of good cheese in most big cities, but Madison, Wisconsin is near lots of local cheesemakers and may be a better destination for you if you are looking for all things cheese.

Niche social media websites are like Madison for cheese seekers; they are small places enthusiasts of [fill in the blank] are most likely to be. If you sell something to these enthusiasts, you are also more likely to talk to a potential paying customer on these websites than some of the larger websites.

What are some examples of niche websites?

If we think of something we want to connect about, we can probably find a niche website for it.

So here’s my random list of things (yes, I made this up with no reference to Google when I did):

microbrew beer
amateur woodworking
gymnastics coaching
first editions of books

Hey look what I found:

Untappd gets points for reminding us all there are still people with Blackberries.

I appreciate that this social network didn’t spend a ton of time on design. Hey, it gets the job done!

I bet if I made a login (and was actually a gymnastics coach), I could find other gymnastics coaches.

Two million people doesn’t seem like a lot compared to Facebook’s one billion but, hey, it’s still actually a lot.

OK, you made your point, there is a social network/niche website for probably everything. How do I find them?

Well, you aren’t gonna find many with an attitude like that! Kidding.

Google searching whatever term plus ‘social network’ is a good place to start. Thinking of some synonyms may actually help, as well as thinking of things a little more broadly (ex: I bet Library Thing has at least a group or forum for bestseller enthusiasts.

Another place to check is blogs in the same arena. Back before social networks, communities of frequent commenters were established on blogs. In some cases, in particular if there’s already a good group hanging out on a blog but not a giant enough group to go set up a whole new website, the comment section of a cool industry blog can lead you to where those people are hanging out. In some cases, it may be the forums of a woodworking website and in others, it may be a private Facebook group.

You can also look at big websites/blogs and see what drives traffic to them on Similarweb.com. For example:

Tools like this can help you see interlinking websites and the overall landscape of a particular industry/topic. Note: websites like this only seem to track websites that have a lot of traffic so this won’t provide you a complete list so much as a way to find more sites.

Why spend time on niche websites if there is less people there?

Because 1) even though there is a smaller group, they are more likely to be engaged 2) because if they are more engaged, they are more likely to buy what you are selling and 3) because there is less activity, your presence is more likely to be noticed.

Am I trying to give you more to do? Of course not. But I am trying to say, give niche a chance, as a participant or a more ‘commercial’ user. You may find yourself saying that quality is better than quantity after all.

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

The Importance of a Shortened URL: The Sasquatch Defense

Before we get into this blog post about the use of customizable URL shorteners, let’s clear the air about one other thing: Big Foot is real. Without a doubt. I know, because I’ve seen him in various documentaries, most notably, 1987’s gripping “Harry and the Hendersons,” http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0093148/ which recounts a failed attempt to integrate a Sasquatch into a typical suburban American family. A Big Foot even landed a sweet endorsement deal with Jack Links Beef Jerky, and yet the lamestream media all but denies the existence of this gentle, pungent creature.

What does this have to do with customizable URL shorteners? If you’re like me, you probably have hundreds of online articles, videos and other Sasquatch-related media bookmarked. You cite that media when you give your annual Big Foot Power Point presentation, hard copies of which you give to attendees.

The problem is, many URLs are long, cumbersome, difficult to remember and hard to retype in your web browser.

For example, The Atlantic posted a great story titled “Why Bigfoot Sightings Are So Common Across Cultures.” But no one want to retype: http://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2016/10/sasquatch/505304/.

That’s when you use a service such as Bitly to access the URL “theatln.tc/2eJycC.”

Note that The Atlantic’s website appears to include a plug-in that integrates its name into the shortened URL, but also limits the customizable options of Bitly.

I also like Tiny URL, a free service that allowed me to generate this customized link: tinyurl.com/BFcommon.

Shortened links are also useful for directing print readers to sites with additional data, such as a videos  or interactive slideshow that augments the print experience.

Shortened URLs also means it’s easier for your audience to access public documents, such as the government’s top secret 800 page spreadsheet chronicling Big Foot sightings in Acadia National Park for 2016. Obviously, you can’t reprint the entire thing to include in your Acadia Big Foot Society newsletter. But you can post the report online and provide a short, snappy customizable link in your mailer that will make it easier for folks to access the raw data.

Shortened links makes it easier for your audience — whether live or print — to access any content with a URL, and to pass that content on to others. And using a clever, succinct, shortened URL will really set you apart from those UFO nuts. Believe me, those guys are cray-cray.

Next: We’ll show you the how to use shortlinks online, and give you a look at the tools offered by Bitly to help you gather analytics.

A Crash Course on Google’s Link Shortening and Tracking Services

There are a few jobs in the world where a keen sense of tracking is necessary. These include bounty hunters, meteorologists, storm chasers, wildlife biologists, Sasquatch enthusiasts, and marketers. Unfortunately, unless you’re a marketer, this post isn’t going to help you a whole lot. If you’re curious about the kind of tracking marketers partake in, then you should stick around for a bit.

We’ve explored the idea of short tracking links before with services like bit.ly, owl.ly, and tinyurl.com. and (spoiler alert) have more posts coming about those services. These services are perfect if you have a URL you want to shorten, but don’t have access to the website or it’s analytics. Google now has a link shortening service that is more or less a stripped down version of Bitly, so between this service and Google Analytics, Google is more or less a one-stop shop for your link shortening/tracking needs.

Google Link Shortener

This service varies slightly from Google Analytics (which I will also discuss in a bit), but it’s basically Google’s version of Bitly. You can copy any link and shorten it, then measure it’s progress (who shared it, where they’re from in the world, that sort of stuff). It’s completely free, meaning that you don’t get to customize shortlinks, and anyone can view the shortlink stats. The URL format is goo.gl/[random letters and numbers] . Below is a look at the different bits of data you have access to with a Google link shortener (my sample link was from a random blog post, I haven’t actually shared it anywhere so that’s why the data looks a bit empty).

googlshortener

Google Analytics

Google Analytics gets you the nitty-gritty information, but doesn’t shorten any links. It’s a free service that requires a bit of setup to start collecting data, but it’s something that only you can look at for your own website. Doing this gives you much more in the way of statistics- you can see things like how people reached your site (Facebook, email, Google search), average length of visit, most popular page, and more. The amount of information at your fingertips with Google Analytics can be overwhelming if you aren’t sure what you’re looking for. Nicole wrote this great post a few years ago that will point you in the direction of metrics to begin with.

An example of Audience Overview statistics for one month (as you can see, there are a ton of options for viewing preferences)

An example of Audience Overview statistics for one month (as you can see, there are a ton of options for viewing preferences)

Unfortunately, not all the information is 100% accurate (sometimes “users” includes the same person visiting your website on a different browser). But, if you are a website that has user ID’s (like eCommerce sites where you create an account), you can set up User ID tracking to “zoom in” on individual user activity. It takes some time and light coding to set up, but if you’re really serious about that sort of thing, check out this article that explains the set up.

If you don't care to follow individual users, you can get a "clumped together" look at how people move around on your website with the User Flow feature.

If you don’t care to follow individual users, you can get a “clumped together” look at how people move around on your website with the User Flow feature.

One thing you can do is set goals (and then track them), so if you have a page in particular that you want people to get to, setting a goal in Google Analytics can help you focus your marketing techniques.

Although shortening links and tracking links are two separate services, sometimes you can get both in one service, like Bitly or Google’s link shortener. But if you want an in-depth look at tracking, you’re better off using Google Analytics to set goals and make more informed marketing decisions. Stay tuned for more about link shortening throughout the month!

Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.

Fun with Keywords

If you’ve ever done a Google or any type of online search before, you may have encountered something similar to the above post. How does Google generate these suggestions? According to Search Engine Land, there are a few components. These include overall searches (things people around the world have typed in), your own search history, and regional suggestions.

So, Google and other search engines have methods for anticipating what people are looking for and delivering relevant results.

How do you get your website to show up in searches? That’s where SEO and keyword research comes in. According to Techopedia, a keyword “is a particular word or phrase that describes the contents of a Web page.” Having the right keywords on your website helps get your material to the right people when they search for certain words/phrases. How do you know if your words/phrases are “right”? There are a few pieces to that puzzle.

One part, which may seem like common sense, is that you want keywords that match the content on your website. For instance, it wouldn’t make a lot of sense to use “Barnum & Bailey Circus” on our Breaking Even Contact page. It’s not accurate and probably won’t get us any traffic. (Spammers tend to use popular words to get traffic to their spammy sites so search engines will penalize you for what they consider a mismatch between what you say is on your website and what is actually there.)

Once you determine what’s relevant, another piece of a “right” keyword is what your target audience/people who are interested in what you’re offering. Just because you think people are using certain search words doesn’t necessarily mean they are actually using those words. A lot of times, business owners have more industry knowledge and might assume others are using more jargon-y terms to reach their website. To reconcile these potential discrepancies, keyword research comes in, and that’s where things can get a bit…silly.

Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of doing keyword research using a website called SEO Profiler. This is a paid service that has several tools, including keyword research. The keyword suggestion tool lets you type in a word or phrase, and then suggests other search terms based on number of local searches (based on an area you pick out, ‘local’ for us is United States) and  competition (how many other websites are using the keyword). One of the more interesting words that I discovered was ‘whales.’

The results for ‘whales’ was very similar to some of the aforementioned Google autofill fails. Since SEO Profiler (and other keyword research tools) are basing their information on what people are searching for, this yields some pretty interesting results. My top 10 (there were HUNDREDS of hilarious results):

  1. Prince of Whales
  2. Whales the country
  3. Why do whales beach themselves
  4. Whales with legs
  5. Blackfish
  6. Why is a humpback whale called a humpback whale
  7. Do whales fart
  8. Do killer whales kill
  9. Can whales drown
  10. whales tale (<–apparently this is a water park in New England)

So, when you’re thinking about keywords, remember: relevance (is it on your website and a phrase people are actually searching), accuracy (is it what your people are searching for), and value (are people looking to ‘buy’ what you are selling when looking up that word).

The fun factor was one of the pleasant surprises to be found in keyword research, but entirely optional.

Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.

Picking A Wordpress Theme

One of the things we do is training, and some of that training is related to Wordpress, a popular web design software.

It happens that every time we train people, at least one in the group is going to ask me to help pick out a Wordpress theme.

Now it’s not that I don’t want to help… but there are a couple things to know:

  1. There are literally hundreds of thousands of themes and there is no way I can personally be familiar enough to comment offhand about most of them.
  2. Part of what people pay a web designer to do is wade through these options.

So without getting super detailed (and spending about 30-60 minutes of my paid time researching), I couldn’t necessarily recommend (or disqualify) a specific theme. Besides knowing you can Google ‘best wordpress theme insert-your-profession-or-business-here’, here are a few other things to know about evaluating a theme:

Love Something? Stalk It

I will say if there is a website you like (assuming it runs Wordpress), you can put the URL in this website: http://whatwpthemeisthat.com/ and it’ll tell you the name of the theme!

With one client, she sent me three or four websites she really liked and we found that two of them were running the same theme (with customizations of course). Problem solved!

Think General In Search

Let’s say you’re a yoga teacher, and the yoga themes make you want to say ‘namaste’ to Wordpress in a general way. (Little terrible yoga humor there.)
Instead of only searching ‘wordpress theme yoga teacher’, try ‘wordpress theme health’. Simply broadening your search will allow you to still see businesses that look like yours while also giving you some options.

Basic Themes Will Give You Options… And Options Mean Decisions

Picking something basic, like Genesis or Canvas, will give you more options but more options also equal more decisions. Do you want your H1 font to be Helvetica 35 point? Do you want you blog page to be laid out with a left sidebar and the pages on your site not to have a sidebar? Now take these decisions and multiply them by 500 and you have a ‘basic’ custom premium theme. If you are someone decisive and cares that your hoverlink color is 2 shades lighter than your link color, you’ll love having a basic theme.
Some people love this and some hate it. And if you want to be a control freak without doing a ton of code, these ‘basic’ themes are for you. (By basic, I clearly mean minimalist versus uncomplicated.)

All Things Equal, Pick The Better Company

You also want to look at the name of the company making the theme. Do they have documentation? Do they seem fly by night? How are their reviews?

Support is a good thing to have so all things being equal, pick the company that seems better on the support side. If your theme provider has a support page like this, that not only has general information but also a way to get specific questions answered, you are on the right track:

themesupport
Above all, know there are a lot of great Wordpress themes out there and you probably won’t choose wrong if you do a little homework, keeping our tips in mind! Happy theme hunting!
Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

We Can Get Someone To Maintain Our Site For Free.. Or Can You?

I was once on a committee that was discussing goals. We were bouncing ideas around, as many groups do.

There was talk about having to hire someone to do project management to coordinate the lots of moving parts. Totally understandable.

There was talk of hiring a logo designer to help create a better brand. Absolutely.

‘And we can probably get someone to maintain the website for free.’ said someone.

Out loud.

With me sitting in the room.

Now, maybe this was a way to get me to volunteer…But implying that what I do is easy enough that we could get someone to do it for free, well, that’s not the way to do it.

Here are three snarky, sarcastic things I didn’t say back:

“Yes, because so many people keep their websites up-to-date, there must be tons of people doing this for free already.”

“Yes I love the free t-shirt I got that software conference so much more than the $20 one I just bought.”

“See it’s the fact there are so many people that can do this well that explains why I am practically out of a job.”

Please enjoy my restraint.

Now here’s three reasons why you should assume something is ‘easy’ and therefor someone would do it for free (Yes, even for a good cause) with maintaining a website as an example.

1) You are willing to pay for similar skills… even when it would require getting the ‘free’ person to do stuff. Project manager wants something updated on the website? Graphic designer wanted a certain kind of website header? Guess who they have to talk to. Asking one person to do it free versus paying who they are working with is like asking your new girlfriend to get your stuff from your ex. Plus it’s awkward for all concerned and won’t lead to good feelings…or results.

2) You call someone not free when something terrible happens… so why wait? I have (way more than one time) cancelled my weekend or evening plans to spend hours trying to fix the hot mess of a hacked website. So why wait for something bad to happen to hire a pro?

3) Often the folks that you are asking for free help need something to pay their bills besides ‘exposure’ or ‘good word of mouth’. You wouldn’t show up to your job if that was your ‘payment’, how do you expect this person to be equally (or even a little) reliable with little to no incentive?

Via http://doonesbury.slate.com/strip/archive/2012/04/09

Via http://doonesbury.slate.com/strip/archive/2012/04/09

My point: If you are asking someone to do something for free, ask yourself why. If you have the money to pay other people for services; are going to be annoyed if it isn’t done (or isn’t done well); and are going to be annoyed at people you pay to bail you out as needed, reconsider. Otherwise, happy bargain hunting.

P.S. This blog post has been in draft mode for two years… and every time I think of releasing it something similar happens. So if you are reading this now and think this is aimed at you in particular, I assure you it is not. This is a general idea to consider the next time someone to do some work for free that you’d normally pay someone to do.

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.
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