website

Better SEO In Under One Hour: 2018 Edition

One of our most popular blog posts is ‘Better SEO In Less Than An Hour’ but almost six years later, there are other things we think are as important for making your site great (in less than an hour).

So mark off an hour in your calendar and tackle one (or some) of the items below… and we guarantee your website will be happier.

Reduce image sizes (and compress anything else possible).

Estimated Time: 15-45 minutes

Usually image and video files are taking up more room than you realize. Websites like videosmaller.com can be used to make videos 10-50% smaller without any noticeable quality loss online. Usually there are multiple images on your site that you forgot to resize before upload that can be compressed. Here are some tools that’ll let you do the job in bulk: https://mashable.com/2013/10/29/image-compressors/#fwSRDY1wAPqb

Smaller image files does two things: one it makes pages load faster for your visitors and mean you’ll keep your web hosting bill low over time. Compressing the images on my site saved me 236 MB of space!



Force site to load in HTTPS.

Estimated Time: 15 minutes

By adding a secure certificate to your site (check if your host is a LetsEncrypt provider and you could get one that renews itself yearly free!) and then make your pages load in HTTPS. We held off on doing this to GiftMDI.com (our ecommerce site) for awhile and when we did our Google Page Insights score jumped up 15 points immediately. (Do a before HTTPS and after test for yourself here: https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/)

Write unique titles and descriptions for all your pages.

Estimated Time: 5 minutes per page

Your page title and description are what shows up in search engine results, and seeing this allows people to decide if they should click on your website, or one of the other options. You can customize the title and description for pages, not just for Google but Facebook too. Wordpress has tools like All In One SEO and Yoast SEO for such tasks… and whatever website software you use will likely allow you to customize this as well for each of your pages.

Make as mobile friendly as possible. 

Estimated time: 30-60 minutes

Over half of most website visitors are on a mobile device. How does your website work on a mobile device? Google has a testing tool that you can run and gives you specific recommendations:  https://search.google.com/test/mobile-friendly

Find and fix broken links.

Estimated time: 30-60 minutes

Broken links are not just a bummer for search engines but for people too. You might have made a typo or you might have forgotten you changed a page title/link from /about to /about-us. Use a broken link checker (like this one: http://www.brokenlinkcheck.com/) to find and fix any broken links, which will make your site work better.



Make sure your site hasn’t been hacked.

Estimated time: 5 – 15 minutes

By making a Google account and registering your site in Search Console, you can find any security issues your site may have. Bonus is it will alert you when there are issues in future.

Update your software (if applicable).

Estimated Time: 5 minutes

Keeping your website well running and secure means updating software regularly, especially if you run Wordpress. If you don’t want to do this yourself, we offer a very affordable updating service. But for real, it’s really important to keep your software updated. We’ve unhacked enough websites to know that 100% of the time, when we asked the person when the site was last updated, they couldn’t tell us.

All this to say there’s always SOMETHING you can do to improve your site… so take an hour and do what you can… and imagine how great your site would be if you took one hour a week and worked on making it amazing. 



Website Launch: Mount Desert Island Historical Society

The MDI Historical Society has been an important part of our island for decades. Their website has a lot of interesting archival information, everything from listings of who is buried in different cemeteries to historical documents about Acadia National Park’s formation.

When you have this much information collected in one place, getting it all organized in a way that’s also user friendly can be a daunting task.

With some information archived in Past Perfect (a database for historical catalogs), some on external websites, and some on the MDI History website itself, we took on the task of getting people to the information they need while also giving them a pleasing design that matches their branding.

Branding That Is Clear

When you go to the homepage of the new site, one of the first things you see is their branding (with the Selectman’s Building and the Somesville Bridge outlined in a way that’s a bit more engaging). It also helps with user-friendliness in terms of orienting people to the site upon arrival.

The older version displayed a slideshow of the “Acadia Then and Now” photo series from the Acadia National Park Centennial celebration (photo composites were done by Anthony Palumbo, with support from Bar Harbor Historical Society & MDI Historical Society). This is a really cool photo series, and you can read more about the project here. It’s a bit more difficult to find what your options are as far as getting information.

A Research Page To Get Visitors Started

Speaking of finding things, another thing the new website offers is a “Research” page that serves as the focal point for the different types of offerings on the website. Before, it was not so clear to the average person where they should go to find Census Records or peruse the Champlain Society Collection. The Research Page is the ultimate navigation point- no matter what you’re looking for, this page is the compass to point you in the right direction.

The page itself describes what content you’ll find in Collections, Catalog, and Historical Resources (which is helpful if you’re not necessarily familiar with how historical records are archived). The menu on the right side of the page further helps with navigation and gives a clearer understanding of where to go for specific information (there’s also a “Search” bar at the very top of the page if someone gets truly stumped).

Accepting Donations, Selling Publications, And Otherwise Monetizing Unique Offerings

Another thing that’s available on the new website is the ability to accept credit cards for various things like memberships (which are given with anyone giving a donation of $20.00 or more annually), dual memberships with Seal Cove Auto Museum, event tickets, and purchasing publications. As you might imagine, a lot of these publications are niche and not necessarily wide-spread, which can make them difficult to find but having them available to purchase right on the site means more exposure and a greater chance of selling.

Utilizing Volunteers With On Demand Video Training

Although people looking at the site “from the outside” can’t see this, the new site is set up to make it easier to have website volunteers get set up. Some projects, like writing unique page titles and descriptions for each page on the site to improve SEO, are something that an intern can tackle. There’s a list of future projects, along with training videos, for reference, so it’s a lot easier for people to volunteer. We made MDI Historical Society a video collection for easy volunteer training.

Fun, Accessible Information For All With Internet Access

Other cool things to check out on this site include the Genealogy Project, which is an effort to share the genealogy of families on Mount Desert Island. Check out the list of last names, you never know if a good chunk of your family history is on there!

Another thing that I didn’t know about before delving into the MDI Historical Society’s site is that there’s actually a documented list of all the “named” cottages on MDI. Not only do you see the names and when they were purchased, but anytime the ownership changed hands (it’s a neat history lesson, from back in the days when people gave their home a name). Here’s an example of one I found particularly interesting:

If you have something you want to add to any of the archives, each page has information on “How to Contribute” (meaning you don’t have to remember the page you saw that thing on).

Check out the new website here, and if you’re so inclined, signing up for a membership is easy to do from the comfort of your home!

Congratulations to the Mount Desert Island Historical Society on their new site and all the great work they are doing to preserve the history of a very special place. 

Voyage Of A Domain

I think my work is insanely interesting, but I wouldn’t say people typically agree. But occasionally, I have something so random come to me that I get to do detective work and find a really interesting story.
A month ago, I got a call from Frank, who owned a domain ten years ago. On this domain was a blog about him and a crew circumnavigating the globe on a schooner. The site was originally set up to be a way for friends and family to check in on progress of the trip or for the crew to connect with people on the journey… but then it got big. When Frank told me it got millions of hits, I was really impressed… and sad to find the domain had expired.
The first question (for the actual work) was could we find his old blog posts?
But a second question showed up as we started digging: Where had this domain gone since it left Frank’s possession 5ish years ago?
The first thing to do was to go to the current website. I won’t link to the domain name because, surprise, it’s now a porn site. (If you really want to go look at it, the domain is written in the screenshots of non-porn versions of the website below. Don’t say I didn’t warn you). But what happened to this site during the time between being an innocent schooner blog and a not-so-innocent adult video website?
I decided to see what I could uncover. Knowing that a website with this traffic would have been archived by the Way Back Machine automatically, I went to web.archive.org , typed in the URL and started going back in time. Come on this fantastical journey with me…
First the domain was as schooner blog. Here is what the site looked like from 2008 to 2010:
Then it got hacked.
I know what you’re thinking: doesn’t that just look like the old website? And it does, but if we look closer at the text, we see evidence of the hack:
Further evidence of how deep this hack went happens when you click on any link on the site that isn’t the homepage:

 

Ah, remember what hacks looked like in 2013?

 

Once the domain expired and it wasn’t renewed within the 30 day grace period, it went on the market. In 2016, it was bought by someone and became a spammy looking information site about diabetes:

You may wonder why this happened. A common tactic people use to get their site ranked more quickly is to buy high traffic domains and link to their low traffic domains from them (or redirect the URLs to their websites directly) to give them a little boost. This is just my theory but it explains why 0% effort went into the design and the content seems pretty generic (i.e. like a site pretending to be a real website).
In the same year, this domain became something else even more random: a song lyric website:
I know, random! But notice the “earnings disclaimer” in the menu. Typically if you are going to put up a website that makes money off mainly display ads, it only makes real money if you are getting high traffic. And since song lyrics are a universally appealing topic and something that people frequently Google, bonus.
Then in the past year, it became a porn site. And who knows when it’ll become something else.
The great news is Frank’s blog posts are archived in the Way Back Machine and it’ll be a matter of copying and pasting to get them on his new domain. And in addition to that, now Frank and I have a fun story we didn’t expect from the experience of the domain name’s identity crisis.
The Schooner Maggie B went on an interesting journey but so did its domain name. Because the internet, like the open ocean, was built for adventure.

Experiments In Passive Income: One Month Making Under Minimum Wage

I started off my year with three resolutions:

  1. Simplify my life.
  2. Travel three times a year.
  3. Double my income.

I get those aren’t SMART goals but they gave me something to focus every decision on. If it wasn’t moving toward one of those things, it either went WAY down on the list or removed altogether.

As far as the first two goals go, simplifying my life involved selling many of my worldly possessions and unloading responsibilities. And that was lovely and continues to be as I look around my house and life at what else I can get rid of. Traveling three times a year was twofold of finding cheaper ways to travel (nextvacay.com is my new favorite thing ever) and making it a priority (book it already!). This year, I’m up to two trips, next year hopefully three.



The ‘hardest’ one is of course number three. I promised myself this year no more catering gigs (I even gave away my uniform so I wouldn’t be tempted) so I had to get creative about money but the truth is 1) anything I do can’t take away from my businesses or work (ideally it would ENHANCE them) and 2) this income would be passive.

To me there are three ways to think of “passive income”:

  1. Completely automated. The idea of this is you set it and forget it. Examples of this would be display advertising or some kind of affilate link sharing (if you have social media scheduling software that is).
  2. Moderately hands on. This could be something that needs periodic tweaking or interaction from you. Examples of this may be an online course that you respond to questions/comments on periodically or renting out your spare bedroom on Airbnb.
  3. Stolen moments. This is actually not at all passive but you can fit it in where you fit it in. An example of this would be taking a survey on Swagbucks or performing a task on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk site.

Now I love those “How I Made $10,000 Blogging Last Month” posts as much as the next person, but they also make me roll my eyes. The rest of us would be thrilled with a couple hundred bucks a month, am I right?

I have been spending my weekends exploring some passive income options and thought it would be fun to report back how it works for a moderately sized website run by a moderately internet saavy person who can only give very part time attention to this cause.



I will share a few nuggets I’ve learned so far:

You seem to have to pay your dues before getting the sweet gigs.

I know, don’t spend it all in one place…

As a new person on ANY of these platforms, you are going to be the low person on the totem pole, which means you have to do low paying stuff for awhile and get experience or other “cred” before you qualify for more lucrative gigs.

Let me now bury the lede: Amazon Mechanical Turks has earned me $2.58 for about four hours of work. I applied for this program knowing that much like Amazon Merch, because of its popularity I could be waiting weeks or months to hear back. When I got approved in five days, I was excited to be let into this very exclusive club. Note: I am not sure whether my website creds, my amount of Amazon ordering, some combination of the two, or other factors got me approved. Amazon doesn’t share its criteria but no doubt big data knows a lot about us.

I will say this system does feel pretty gamified, from the timer that runs as you complete tasks to the ‘pending’ and ‘approved’ statuses of your submitted gigs. So if you enjoy that kind of thing and don’t mind working on it awhile, something like that kind of gig marketplace would be good for you.

We might be able to say the same things about Upwork, Fiverr, and other online gig platforms. In short, you still have to build up a reputation before people throw money at you.

If it seems to good to be true, it is.

Don’t be jealous of me for my roughly $0.06 USD in bitcoin money I made over the course of 6 hours.

So I’ve been looking at bitcoin for a couple months and thinking the idea is pretty neat. This episode of Fresh Air is a really nice primer on cryptocurrency if you aren’t familiar and not at all boring.

Since I personally was unsure about buying hardware and software (or I guess more accurately, knowing how to maintain it), I began looking into cloud mining, which is basically where you use someone else’s equipment (which you can run from your computer) to “mine” for bitcoins (which are being slowly released into the world and will cap out at a certain number). What’s the catch, you ask? There is a minimum amount to withdraw (to save the zeros and put it into understandable US dollars) of like $20… and when you run it you make about $0.01/hour. And you read websites about people getting stiffed on payments so it leaves you to wonder if you really want to invest hundreds of hours in something before knowing if you’ll get a payout.

Most people in the space say this is “worth it” if you have access to cheap or free electricity OR you just buy Bitcoin and hold onto it, like stock.

In other words, too good to be true is just that.



One “dollar” is not equal to $1 USD.

So Swagbucks is a survey taking company that promises you three swagbucks or fifty swagbucks (some amount anyway) that you can earn and cash in. (Note, that is an affiliate link so if you try it, I get three swagbucks). I am a smart person and I keep thinking 3 SW is like $3 USD. It is not. Approximately 300 SB is redeemable for a $3 Amazon gift card. (Different gift cards have different discounts). In other words, you got to get a lot of SB to get real money.

Different earning systems may have similar features, not just to gamify the experience but to keep you from thinking each SB is like $0.01. Because 17 Swagbucks sounds WAY better than $0.17 USD. (And you signing up gives me a whole 3 cents so please, don’t feel like you are getting me too rich clicking on that link!)

You make the most (and easiest) money referring stuff (ie being an affiliate) but a good program is like a unicorn.

The most passive of passive income that generates real money is affiliate ads.

How I knew affiliates were a thing when I noticed them being a substantial part of Darren Rowe’s income report:

https://problogger.com/blogging-income-breakdown-first-half-2016/

Now if you look at his earnings graph even from two years ago, affiliate is not the majority so it represents a shift.

There are tons of affiliate programs out there, but finding one that pays enough to be worthwhile can be a needle in the haystack situation.

On our end, we’re adding our affiliate links to our social media rotation, our email template, and a few other places and will monitor results.



If we add up my weekends of work, I made somewhere between $0.01 and $.50/hour. 

I have also been going through and adding a few ads to some of our better performing blog posts (I started this three days ago). Kassie wrote a post previously about Google Adsense so head there if you want to get a good primer on this. 

So looks like we’re making $0.02 and $0.04/day which makes a whopping $7.30 to $14.60/year. I could similarly add Amazon Affiliate links (which I’ve started doing) to give us 3% of purchase price and probably make around $30/year in very passive income.

Remember, I’m not starting a brand new site with no traffic so this would be harder if I was only getting a couple website visits a day. But you get the idea.

  1. Truly passive income doesn’t pay well unless you have a TON of traffic.
  2. Income that is less passive pays better but you have to put in your dues.
  3. That said, some money for “nothing” is better than no money for nothing.

Pick your poison, my friends. Because I want you to make money, but having made less than minimum wage for a month, I hope this post makes you feel better for not being an instant success. You’re too smart for that and now, I am too.



Marketing a Piece of Cake

I have always had a bit of a sweet tooth. In fact, I’m pretty sure all of my adult teeth are actually “sweet.” Unfortunately it’s not possible for me to physically be at all the bakeries I’d like to (and there are so many to choose from around here), so that’s why I follow them all on social media.

The benefit is that I get to see delicious cupcakes and other goodies on a daily basis, even if I can’t physically make it into the store. Another benefit, which we’ll get into more in a bit, is that I’ll sometimes make a special trip to a bakery if I know in advance that they’re going to have a certain goodie there.

Based on some of the bakeries I’ve seen online, I’ve noticed a few things that bakeries do in their marketing to get people in the door.



Online Order or Inquiry Forms. One simple thing bakeries can do is set up a form on their website to take orders. For instance, if you get a lot of pie orders around Thanksgiving, you can create a simple form to let people know what your flavor options are. You can also use it as a way to filter out what you do and don’t offer (i.e. you only do chocolate, vanilla, and carrot cakes and nothing else) as a way to cut down on inquiries. Obviously, for those that do custom ordering, it’s difficult to implement a form to cover the infinite options, so instead you could do a general, initial contact form so that you know the person is looking for a marble cake for their cat’s 5th birthday. Sweet Sensations Bakery/3 Dogs Café  has a good system on their Specialty Cakes Page.

Galleries/Albums. I remember going to Hannaford and flipping through their birthday cake album that they had on the stand by the bakery and planning pretend birthday parties (…for myself). While it’s a little trickier if you do a lot of custom work, you can offer galleries of your past work to showcase what you’re capable of doing so potential customers can get an idea. For instance, Cakes Downeast showcases cakes after they’re made on her Facebook page.

Price Points & Offerings. Another idea for offering people as much information as possible before they contact you is to create a page of price points and offerings on your website. 3 Dogs Café is a great example of this on their website. For instance, on their bakery page they have a table of cake flavors, sizes, and the prices (with information about how many each size typically feeds).

Marketing Scarcity… “Limited supply” is one way to make people flock through the door FAST, especially when it comes to cookies. One thing that I’ve seen bakeries do (that totally works on me) is announcing when they’ve made something that they don’t usually make, AND letting people know that there is a limited supply (i.e. one batch/one cake etc). It also works as a way to test a new product. For instance, after seeing this cake, I considered driving to Bangor to grab a slice (tragically my schedule didn’t allow it).

…And Regularity. Most places have at least a few staple products that are always available, like coffee, bagels, etc. While getting people in the door for goodies you make occasionally is a good tactic, it also helps to let people know what they can expect on a daily basis. Of course it can be hard to keep up with posting social media while you’re also trying to run a business. A Slice of Eden in Bar Harbor has an interesting solution-by posting their soup and bagel of the week, and anything else to expect.

Speaking of regularity, making sure business hours are up to date on social media is key. Many bakeries are early to open/close, and people are more likely to stop in on their way to work if they know you’ll be open during their commute.

And whatever you do, remember to have fun, like our friends at Mount Dessert Bakery!

Whether you run a bakery (or just stalk them online like I do), here’s hoping this post gave you some ideas… and maybe an excuse to get your favorite carb at your favorite local bakery.

Note: If you are on or near us, Gift MDI has a very useful blog post about the best $5 carbohydrate you can get at every local bakery.



How To Use Audio To Your Advantage

Here’s something I’ve noticed in my tenish years doing this work. Most people HATE to go on video, mainly because you have to worry about how you sound AND how you look at the same time.

For example, I video recorded my pastor’s sermons for a few weeks. I noticed everyone was distracted by the tripod and the visible presence of my phone (which was the recording device). So I tried an experiment and this week: I just recorded the audio of the sermon.

Now you may ask yourself, “What I can do with an audio recording?” Honestly, plenty.



Put a still image with your audio and upload it to Youtube (or Facebook).
I see some podcasts that do this so they can host their podcasts for free (see next point down) but since Youtube is the second largest search engine after Google, having content on there people can find can be key. You could use one still photo or slides as the visual portion while using your audio file. Note: you’ll need to add a picture to your file or Youtube won’t accept it. Here are a few ways around their ‘you need a visual too’ requirement: http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/3-ways-add-audio-podcast-youtube/

Use Libsyn or Soundcloud or similar service to host your audio files. 
Unlike video, audio-only doesn’t have free hosting options, which means you have to figure out where these files are going to live. If you want them off of your website, there are several audio services that allow you to do this. Soundcloud allows 180 minutes free and Libsyn starts at $5/month. Once you upload them to these services, you can embed them or link them other places. (Kind of like how you can’t share a video unless you put it somewhere and then link it – typically these files are too big/annoying to email).



Use Media manager or Blubrry in Wordpress (if you have a self hosted Wordpress website).
If your site runs Wordpress, you can upload an MP3 (sound file) to your media folder or use the Blubrry podcasting app, which is not only very powerful but also free.

Transcribe your recording as a text post. 
Whether you want to do this yourself or pay someone to do it, having the transcription of an audio can allow you to have/share detailed notes or simply make the content accessible in written form too.

Besides these advantages, I don’t have to worry about taking notes and can be fully present. Also, audio recordings take WAY less space than video. So if I think I want video but it doesn’t make sense to have video, audio is the next best thing. 

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