The long tail of organic search…

Over the last little while I have doubled down my efforts to make sure that everything is in order with all the different websites that I operate in my spare time. Whether it is my most popular property – The New Paperclip… or some of my newer projects about the Zoom H4n or Yammer.

As part of the process I have been focusing on the basics. For example, getting into Google Webmaster Tools and Bing Webmaster tools to ensure that my content is actually being indexed. I haven’t really spent much time in Google Webmaster Tools – I usually just focus on the stats available via Google Analytics.

Something struck me when I was looking at the search queries for The New Paperclip. Most of us would be familiar with the idea of the “Long Tail”. In the context of the web usually we talk about the Long Tail of content – you may have just one or two pages on a blog responsible for a big chunk of traffic, whilst the other 80% of your traffic comes from the other 300 posts you made.

This is pretty much how the traffic flows on The New Paperclip. I get a lot of traffic from people searching for how to create a signature in Outlook, how to Center Across Selection in Excel, how to set up PowerPoint to use A4 sized slides, or how to change line spacing in Word. All of those search queries had appeared many times, and had multiple clicks from the search engine.

 

Here is the really interesting thing though. Of the 2367 unique search queries typed into Google where The New Paperclip was displayed as a search result… only 34 had resulted in more than one click. About 1500 more clicks were from unique search queries.

The lesson here? Targeting one key word or one search phrase in your content could have a negative impact on how discoverable your long tail is. Focus on good content that is easy to read for humans (not search engines), cover a lot of the different angles, add a few more sentences than you might think are necessary to ensure you explain the concepts you are trying to communicate… and chances are you will see more from the organic search long tail.

3MT: My experience participating in the Three Minute Thesis competition

Last week I posted about how I deconstructed Three Minute Thesis pitches to help craft my own 3MT presentation.  Well, I thought I would share the results with you…

Firstly, here is the slide that I used to support my topic – which explores how technology influences how we all construct the boundary between work and life…

I tried to make it as simple as possible (and not too busy).  I didn’t waste my audience’s attention with my name, my supervisors names, or the title of my thesis.  All I was trying to do was convey exactly what my topic was all about.  Even without me talking about the subject most of the audience would have understood what my topic was about.  The feedback from the judging panel suggests that I hit the nail on the head re: the slide.

When it came to the content and the delivery, again very good feedback, and breaking down the structure of the 3MT presentation into what I discovered when I reviewed winning entries certainly contributed to that.  Starting with a story that everyone could relate to certainly got the attention of the 20 strong audience on the day – lots of eye contact, lots of smiles, lots of nods – was great to see!

But…The dream is over!  Well.  I can’t really complain, I managed to snag a second place (out of seven) in a photo finish during the QUT Business School heat for the 2014 3MT Three Minute Thesis competition.  To be honest the winner was very good and deserved to go through – and her thesis really pulled at the heartstrings!  The feedback from the judges which set my presentation and the winner’s apart came down to one simple thing – she articulated her research question a bit better than I did.

As Maxwell Smart would say… “Missed it, by that much…”

Podcast: My Top 10 non-Excel Microsoft Office tips for Managers

I had the pleasure this week of being a guest on one of the most popular Microsoft Office podcasts in the world – Chandoo.org’s Excel PodCast. (click here to go to episode 17 where I am featured)

Chandoo and I crossed paths online a few weeks ago and as it turns out I have basically found my clone from both a professional, and personal point of view. We spent about 90 minutes on the phone – first discussing how our paths crossed, and then I shared my top 10 no-Excel MS Office tips for Managers and Analysts.

The first 22 minutes is all about:

Then for the last hour we get into the meat of the podcast for – my list of the Top 10 non-Excel MS Office tips for managers or analysts

I would love to hear your feedback (in the comments below) – this is the first time I have appeared as a guest on a podcast (and… um… I like… um realise that I aaagh and um a lot!). If you like Chandoo’s style – make sure you subscribe to his podcast and check out some of his earlier episodes.


Other options to subscribe

3MT: Deconstructing winning Three Minute Thesis entries

 

Next week I am entering the QUT Business School heats of the Three Minute Thesis competition. To help prepare my presentation, I thought I would look at a number of winning entries from within QUT, across Australia, and internationally to see if there were any patterns of success. Thanks to universities around the world publishing the work of their students on YouTube, there are a vast array of speakers from different subject areas to base my analysis on.

As it turns out, after watching 15 or so winning entries, there are four things that appear consistently across almost all high achieving 3MT presentations.

The Opening

Setting the scene is really important. Instead of diving straight into the student’s thesis and all the gory detail, most presenters started with a general problem that everyone in the audience could relate to in some way. Not only did they state the problem, but most very succinctly then demonstrated the consequences of that problem – this paints a very vivid picture to:

  1. Provides a clear “signpost” as to what the research is all about;
  2. Ensures everyone in the audience understands the importance of the research
  3. Now that they know it is a problem, keeps the audience intrigued as to how you solved it/answered the question

Sharon Savage from the University of New South Wales does this within just 10 seconds of starting her 3MT presentation. Clear, concise, to the point… and made the research relevant to EVERYONE in the room!

 

The Details

Very few students used technical research language to describe their study. For example, no one talked about “sampling strategy”. Instead the speakers used simple language to describe at a high level what they did. For example Matthew Thompson from the University of Queensland (Winner 2011) talked about “working with fingerprint examiners in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne.. etc” something that we can all understand.

(Matthew Thompson – University of Queensland on stage at the Australasian finals of the 2011 Three Minute Thesis Competition presenting “Suspects, Science and CSI” – my favourite 3MT presentation from my quick and dirty analysis)

Beyond using simple language, the speakers didn’t share their data – they shared the story of their data. The took complex results and boiled them down to simple statements which were consumable by the audience. Matthew Thompson summarised most of his PhD results in just one of sentence – “Generally fingerprint examiners were very accurate, however there were a few mistakes”. It laid the perfect signpost to segue to…

The Significance

Almost all speakers did a great job of tightly articulating why their research was of real practical significance. Not just “adding to the body of knowledge” – but passionately sharing the specific impact the research is already having, or will have in the world we live. The best students took this one step further, and ensured that the significance of the research was relevant to the audience. For example, Emily Milne from the University of Waterloo took her specific topic and then articulated how it was a social challenge that all Canadians need to care about.

(Emily Milne – University of Waterloo (2013) makes it crystal clear at the end of her 3MT as to the impact of her study on one of the most critical social challenges for Canadians)

 

The delivery

Ultimately everyone delivered very engaging presentations which took their audience on a journey. Passion, emphasis where it was required, subtle but effective hand movement, and confident delivery ensured that the audience understood the key points the speakers were making. The best example of this I found was Megan Pozzi from QUT discussing her research on teenage girls and social media identity. It is also very clear that all top speakers were well rehearsed – all had memorised their presentations – all didn’t need to refer to their slide for guidance – they knew their stuff!

(Megan Pozzi – the Three Minute Thesis 2013 winner from QUT – the most dynamic speaker from the bunch)

 

Now I know that watching 15 YouTube videos, with no theoretical framework to guide my analysis isn’t overly scientific – but hopefully my observations and tips will help you when preparing your Three Minute Thesis presentation. Good luck!

Tracking sleep with my FitBit: the awakening

I have almost religiously worn my FitBit Flex for the past 11 months or so. At first it was all about the steps. How many steps could I do each day. How often could I get that 10k steps badge? How many days in a row could I get the 10k steps badge? What is the highest steps badge I could get? As soon as I managed to get 30,000 steps in one very long day – the drive to get the little black band to do it’s light and vibration dance slowly wore off. Instead my focus switched to another interesting part of the device. The sleep tracker.

One of the other drivers for me to start looking even closer at the sleep tracker was that people in the office almost consistently every morning when I get to work say “hey looks like you had a rough night”, “looks like you need to go back to bed”, “man you look tired”. I know what you are thinking – surely that alone should drive you to sleep more – but with a young family, and lots of work and study commitments… sometimes you need more convincing J

That being said… you know what I realised pretty quickly once I started looking more closely at the sleep tracker? I am not sleeping anywhere near as much as all the doctors/magazines/blog articles suggest (and everyone in the office is right!). Let’s take a look at the last 7 days on the FitBit dashboard…

  • Last night:     5hrs 55mins
  • Thursday    7hrs 19mins
  • Wednesday    6hrs 34mins
  • Tuesday    6hrs 56mins
  • Monday    6hrs 07mins
  • Sunday        6hrs 17mins
  • Saturday    6hrs 47mins

Not only do almost all of those sleep durations start with a 6… the average for the week was just 6hrs 34mins of sleep each night! Well below the 7 or 8 hours recommended. (by the way, if you ever want to calculate your average sleep duration across a week, month or year – check out this article which describes how to average time in Excel).

So – we have a heap of data here from multiple sources (primary data from the FitBit which shows I not only have short sleep durations, but also inconsistent bed and awakening times – and the observations of my colleagues) suggesting I have a problem. What can we do about it?

Stop going to bed at 12:30pm?

I am a bit of a night owl and some of my best thinking happens late at night – I would hate to lose that

Start sleeping in after 7am?

Difficult with a young family to sleep through the noise (and then the associated guilt) of the breakfast/get out the door to kindy routine

Nap?

Again difficult, although I could go for a rest in the car at work during my lunch break

Eat a spoon full of cement and harden up?

Hmm have been doing that for the past few years and I think it may be impacting on my health and well-being just a little bit

I think out of all of the above options the easiest to implement will be to shift my usual’ish bedtime from 12pm (+/- 30 mins) to 11pm (+/-30 minutes). I wonder what impact one extra hour per night will have over time – first things first – let’s see what impact it will have over the next week. I will report in with my findings in 7 days J

 

 

Blast from the past: 10 Lessons I learned as an intern at Microsoft

This afternoon I spent an hour looking over some of my original posts here at paul-woods.com. I first started blogging in 2005-2006 – over 8 years ago now, over that time I have posted 100s of posts – including essays like “The Productivity Myth” which was nexus of an idea which would become the Business Productivity Services team at Data#3, through to the time I got an email from Bill Gates.  Whilst my publishing has been very “ad-hoc” over that time, there was one post I read stuck out though.  Back on 23 July 2006 I posted the 10 things that I learned during my one year as an intern at Microsoft.  Looking back at this list it is amazing that 100% of it still holds true today – and how that 12 months set a very solid foundation for my career (and career growth) since then.

Here is what I wrote…

I thought it would be great to share with everyone the top ten lessons I learned whilst an Intern at Microsoft.  The following list essentially is how I continue to analyse what I am doing every day… to keep on track.  Hopefully you will also find it a useful tool.

In no particular order…

10) Be Passionate
Dive in and give it your all.  Be excited, believe, and most of all encourage everyone else to believe as well!

9) Step Out of Your Comfort Zone
This is a big one!  12 months ago I was a nervous wreck whenever I even thought about presenting to a small group of people (… I was even nervous when I didn’t have to speak!).  Now I absolutely love getting up on stage and sharing a story with 5 people, or 155 people.  I would never have found this out if I had not stepped out of my comfort zone.  Likewise, when I went to university I stepped out of my comfort zone and picked a major I had no real interest in before, and now I absolutely love anything to do with Marketing.

Step out of your comfort zone, and live!

8) Take on Big Challenges
… because when you succeed, it is sooooooo much sweeter!

7) Give More
Live to give, do not live to receive.  Not only does it get peoples attention (which is great for building relationships), but you will get much more in return.  Offer to take notes at the meeting (you are the one writing the history books. As a friend of mine once said… “He who controls the definitions, controls the argument“), offer to present at the user group (you are the one igniting the passion of many in the room), offer to take the stretch assignment or the big challenge (people will remember you!).

Plus, it feels great to give.  Trust me!

6) Soak Up All That You Can
Try to learn as much as you can from as many people as possible.  Learn from their mistakes, their experience, and their stories.  Pick up as much advice as you can.

But don’t just soak it all up, actually use the information gathered in your analysis, your processes, and your decisions.  Act on what you have learnt.

5) Don’t be Afraid to ‘Geek It Up’
… just be sure to do it at your pace, and with products/technology you love.  Everyone I met at Microsoft did this (although many will not share that publicly!).  Whether it be Virtualisation and Development, or Cars and Photography, make sure you have something you can really stick your teeth into and know in depth.  Because there will always be someone, somewhere that you can strike up a conversation with, and build a relationship very quickly based on your knowledge of a particular topic.

So if you want to get to know me, lets ‘Geek It Up’ and talk about Flying Aircraft, Digital SLRs, or v.Next Software (or all three!)

4) The Result of Taking Shortcuts is ALWAYS Less Than You Expect
I have never really been one for taking shortcuts in the past, but this time I thought I could get away with it.  I can’t think of one time in history where this lesson hasn’t held true.  In this instance I had a product brochure (for BizTalk Server 2006) in PDF format, with all the extra bits that professional printing places need to figure out colour matching, where to cut the paper etc.  Being a little tight, I thought I could get away with simply printing the brochure on our unreliable colour laser printer at work, and then get the good old guillotine out and cut the pages to fit.

End result was a pretty lack luster colour, uneven cuts, and an overall unprofessional feel to the printed document.  Sure it saved me $500, but I am pretty confident that it also saved a majority of customers tens of thousands of their dollars for disregarding the product based on their first impressions alone… the brochure.

3) Do Not Tell a Cab Driver Who You Work For!
… unless you have quickly refreshed basic PC troubleshooting 101, the latest deals at Dell, and most importantly what garbage was published about computers in the weekend paper.  At one stage I was commuting to a client site in a cab every day for 3 weeks.  I learnt this lesson very quickly.  Every now and then there were days I would wear a Microsoft shirt.  You can’t talk your way out of that one!  They were the bad trips.

Note this lesson also applies to people sitting beside you on Aircraft, whilst waiting in Airports, sitting on the bus etc.

2) Relationships, Relationships, Relationships
Everyone by know should know that it not what you know, but who you know that gets you anywhere in this world.  From a personal perspective, all my job offers when I left Microsoft were unadvertised positions (some even created just for me!), and all were from people who I had a professional relationship with already.

The worlds economy runs on trust… people need to know you before investing in you.  Sure… pieces of paper and letters after your name count, but in the end the key differentiator for between you and another candidate, or your company, and another company, is the level of trust in the relationship.  No relationship = no trust = no sale, or no job offer.

Plus it is nice to have plenty of friends :)

1) Change the World Every Day
Otherwise it gets harder and harder to get out of bed in the morning.

What are the lessons you have learned from your current job or project??

Sick leave 101: Online housekeeping in 2 hours or less

Today I have spent most of the day trying to get over a horrible man-flu – given to me by my wonderful children!  Unfortunately when I am on sick leave the boredom kicks in pretty quickly and I tend to gravitate online to to keep occupied.  Here is what I did today…

Step 1 – look for inspiration

This step is pretty easy… since I missed out on my usual feed of podcast content whilst commuting to work, I had a quick scout around the web looking at some inspirational content from some of my favourite authors like Steve Sammartino, Tom Peters, Seth Godin.… and listening to a few podcasts from the likes James Altucher, and the crew at Beers, Blokes, Business

Lots of good content there to knock a chesty cough for six!

Step 2 – inspiration into actions

A consistent theme across all of those authors/channels was that it is really important to take control of your work online.  Now you can unpack that a number of different ways – but the things that I took away from it were:

  1. You should own your name online.
    Not LinkedIn, not Twitter, not Facebook.  At the moment in my part of the world this blog which sits at http://www.paul-woods.com is on the second page of results for Paul Woods – yep – I am a NOBODY!  My Linkedin profile, Twitter feed and Facebook timeline all rank higher.   This needs to change!
  2. You should own the content you produce online. 
    I have a few blogs around the place – some lie very dormant (like this one has for a while), some are quite low maintenance – like my Microsoft Office tips and tricks blog – whilst some a quite fresh like my new site where I am documenting the things I learn about my new Zoom H4n Handy Recorder.  Across just the three blogs mentioned above, I have written over 400 pieces of content in the past 8 or 9 years – a small back catalog of good (and not so good) content.  But according to Google, you couldn’t really attribute that content to me.  This needs to change!
  3. You should own your future
    Today, I have a great job where I have developed over time and had the opportunity to do some truly amazing things, and learn from some amazing people.  For example over the past four years I have been given enough rope and support to create a business inside the larger corporate machine – and have experienced the good and the bad of raw intrapreneurship – where I transformed what was simply a hobby – my Office tips and tricks blog into a “7 figure, profitable, employing a team of people” business.  But I know for sure that I will not still working at the same place when I retire at 40/50/65/70/80.   To survive/be comfortable in the future, where businesses are redefining what work is for the middle class… you can’t pretend to rely on employment forever.  I have been pretty comfortable to date.  This needs to change!

Step 3 – actions into execution

Yep… all of that needs to change.  But what is the first step?  Good question.  I thought I would share what I have done in the past 2 hours to kick start “turning the ship around”

  1. Wrote this article!  And committed to myself (and you) to write more articles like it which are more focused on where I want to be tomorrow.
  2. Ensured that I had some basic Search Engine Optimisation occurring on my WordPress blogs.  In this case I simply used the All-in-one SEO Pack for WordPress which does some pretty nifty things out of the box, but one thing in particular that I like is that it made it really easy for me to set up…
  3. Google Authorship.  Clearly identifying Paul Woods as the author of stuff that Paul Woods has created online.  This meant getting familiar with something that (to be honest) I had disregarded in the past – Google+.  Whilst there is little value for me in circles at the moment (as not many of my friends or family are there) – the fact that my Google profile acts as the glue between all my content – both text and video – is a good thing.
  4. 30 minutes Exploring other ways to raise / curate my profile and learn at the same time.   Top of the list was becoming a “author” – well as close to an author you can be without a publisher behind you.  I am thinking about taking some of the best content from my Office tips and tricks blog and turning it into a easy to consume Amazon Kindle title.  It will take some work, but a “as traditional as you can almost get” book published via Amazon.com is a great artifact that adds credibility to your story, what ever it is.  You can help me craft the first title by filling in this quick survey

So there you have it – 120 minutes of time that I let my body and mind rest from work, and applied some creative thought to the world I live in.  A little bit of future proofing for the years ahead.  You should give it a go too next time you are unwell and trying to stop the spread man flu and your addiction to a regular salary.

Paul W

One week in with my new toy – the Zoom H4n

(Long time, no post!)

As some of you will know I am doing some research at QUT, and it has come to the time to do data collection.  I’m no Quant (I pretty much scraped through maths in high school) – so my study into how people use technology to manage their boundaries between work and life is qualitative.  Using interviews to collect data is the usual fair in qualitative studies.  As I need to do 30 interviews, and that could potentially mean 30 hours or more of vivid, deep stories from the research participants, I needed to get a hold of some kind of voice recorder.  Enter my new friend – the Zoom H4n.

WP_20140701_005I bought it from Amazon when I was in Seattle the other week for work.  I may have ordered a few more accessories for it (a couple of microphones, some XLR cables etc) as I am keen to dabble in a bit of podcasting with it as well.  It has already got a workout.  Earlier in the week it was used at work to record a new voice over for a piece of video we plan to use for an upcoming event.  I used it for as the voice recorder for my first few qualitative research interviews.  And yesterday we had a live all hands video conference, where the Zoom H4n and my microphone were put to good use capturing some high quality audio to lay over the PowerPoint presentation for consumption later.

I always thought that you could get away with recording audio on a mobile, or using the built in microphone on a laptop – it was always good enough.  But I have quickly come to realise this week that there is a big difference between “good enough” and “really easy to listen to” audio.  I love it so much I have started to build an online shrine to the Zoom H4n Voice Recorder.  If you have a few different needs for an audio recorder you should definitely check it out!

Nigel Marsh on Work-life Balance

One of my favourite videos from TED… this presentation by Nigel Marsh at TEDx Sydney is an interesting perspective on the idea of practical work-life balance.  Managing your boundary between work and home, and how small changes in your approach to your day can positively influence your relationship with your family, and yourself.

 

What small changes are you planning to make today to swing the balance back in your favour?

Experiments in Online Marketing

So I certainly would not call myself an industry leading expert when it comes to Search Engine and Online Marketing.  But I do know enough to be dangerous.

I have had some success with my Microsoft Office tips and tricks site - The New Paperclip.  It still astounds me the power of the Internet – a few hundred simple tips I have come across over the past few years have now been read by almost 1 million people! 

The scale of it all excites me – more people in a month read my posts on The New Paperclip than most magazines in Australia!  One post alone, which took me about 4 minutes to write, attracts almost 500 unique visits per day!  Every day! 

… and the best part is, it earns a little bit of play money on the side (very handy now that our twins have almost arrived).

Speaking of the twins, with the prospect of one salary about to hit us square in the face, and a hefty mortgage to pay (as of next month, we are officially in what the experts call “Mortgage Stress“) I have been trying to diversify my online interests, put to the test some of the things I have learned, read about, or just interested in, and hopefully put into practice what I learn during my day job.

I have four projects on the boil at the moment.  One I would say is in a “shippable” state, the others  just early ideas and concepts that I will continue to develop over the next few months.

Project 1: Content Marketing – ShortcutCourse.com

This project is a spin off of The New Paperclip.  This site is focused on selling a 5 day audio course that I produced in late 2009.  The course helps people learn and gain confidence in the key keyboard shortcuts for Word 2007.  All in just 15 minutes a day.

The key lessons I have learnt from shortcutcourse.com:

1) Price matters.  At first I priced the course at USD $50.  Sales = 0.  Dropped the price to $24.95, and it started to sell (slowly, but still selling every now and then)

2) Creating your own content to sell, no matter how easy you think it is, is actually quite difficult.  But you know what, close to 100% margin thanks to the digital nature of the final product makes the effort worth while.

Project 2: Search Affiliate/PPL Marketing – BrisbaneVirusRemoval.com

This project is really my first foray into serious affiliate and search engine marketing.  So I found a highish paying affiliate program for a product I know a little bit about, in a market that has lots of vendor competition, but not much third party action… and then localised it.

What I realised from the success with The New Paperclip is that taking complicated content and making it personal, easy to read, and easy to understand can drive a lot of traffic to your site - and that is the strategy I plan to take here – but instead of Office tips and tricks, the content will be focused on helping people understand viruses, malware, spyware, and adware – and more importantly, how to remove them!

Early days yet.  Not much traffic.  But still learning lots :)

Project 3: Content Marketing / Online Retail - mbaSlideLibrary.com 

The concept is simple.  You are a high powered executive.  You have an MBA (or wish you did).  You don’t have the time to create your own business plans or presentations.  You run your business using PowerPoint (just like, surprisingly, many other organisations).  You would be happy to pay $$ for a complete business plan, where all you need to do is plug in the figures, not worry about how it is structured.

So, MBASlideLibrary.com is an online retail site where you can download that business plan, marketing plan, or that slide of Porters Five Forces.

Well the retail site is there (thanks to Shopify)… I just need to pull my finger out and get the content up there to actually sell (see the lessons I learned from Shortcut Course above!)

Project 4: Hyperlocal Journalism – (to be announced soon)

This one is still on the back of about 14 different pieces of paper in the office, but in the next few weeks I am going to launch a hyper local site for my suburb.  This project was been inspired by reading “Made to Stick” – there is a great story in there about a  very successful local newspaper aimed at locals, for locals – that kills traditional mainstream newspapers.  Whilst there are two or three print local rags in our suburb… print news is dead (oh no he diiiidn’t). 

And to be honest, they do not contain much news – lots of copy and paste press release content – and a lot of advertising (A LOT!).  Considering there is a proven market for a local audience that local small businesses are willing to pay money to get in front of, and that no one is doing anything like this locally, in a cost effective way (seriously, why print 11 000 copies of a newspaper when WordPress and a nurtured email list will do the job far better), I know that in 6 months I will have the media channel for our suburb.  THAT IS HUGE!

(did I mention that this old Internet thing still excites me!)

Now – across The New Paperclip and these four projects, I think I might be stretching myself a bit thin to do all really well, so I suspect I will re-evaluate around July and drop two of them.  But that is the beauty of online marketing – it is cheap to test, and cheap to enter markets (well most, apart from porn and gambling).

Are you from Brisbane and interested in discussing online marketing, or marketing in general over a coffee or beer?  Give me a shout  – paul@paul-woods.com