To Protect and Serve .. but not to inspire trust?

I came across an interesting website today, that of West Yorkshire Police, which is interesting in that it has an Online Compliments Form and an Online Complaints Form. A couple of things hit me about those forms, which inspired me to put pen to paper (well figuratively anyway).

The first thing that struck me was how much harder the Complaint Form is to fill than the Compliments Form. Not in terms of the amount of information you need to fill, but rather in terms of the extent of personal information needed. The Complaints form requires you to fill in your Date of Birth and Address, while the Compliments Form doesn’t need a Date of Birth and your personal details are an optional section. While seeming inocuous, this sort of different can easily skew and statistics generated by how many forms are submitted, a skew that is not immediately obvious when looking at the results.

The other thing was the Verisign Trusted logo at the bottom. Study the following image and tell me what you think:

If you’re noticed that the website is not actually secure you get full points. The problem with the image is that it implies trust, it plays on the viewer not having the technical wherewithall to check whether the page is indeed secure. If there’s one thing that’s worse than having an insecure system, it’s having a system that claims to be secure and isn’t!

Goes to show how careful you need to be on the Web out there!

The secret to gaining SEO Juice for your website

We all know that ranking high in search engines is the best way to drive traffic to your websites. So, what techniques can you use to help push your way up the list? Well, incoming links are the most valuable resource that SEO professionals use to help influence search engines into give you a good rank. Here are some places you can get links from:

  • Blog Links
  • Social Media and Bookmarking
  • Press Releases
  • Directory Submissions
  • Local Search
  • Select Authority Link Leasing

This list comes from an SEO company called Globe Runner who can help with link building services should you need them. But if you read up about the techniques used, it’s not really rocket science.

What techniques do YOU use for link building?

Earn cash from your blog

Have you ever wondered if it’s possible to turn your blog into an income stream? Well, a number of people have done it, some even turning themselves into Internet celebrities. However, always keep in mind that the first thing you need to do is to build up your audience. Once you have an audience you can start to position your blog so it’s attractive to advertisers and can generate new business for you.

And this is where you might want to have a look at AffinityClick ads for blogs. It works by matching appropriate advertising to the content of your blog to help target your readers with offers they might be interested in. It works around the fact that more traditional forms of advertisement do not generate the business that advertisers want. Text link ads aren’t intelligent enough and AdSense just isn’t attractive enough.

I’ve actually signed up for the service and will be running it on AskOwen, my Q&A blog. I have been running Amaon ads, but the main problem is that if I use ads from the UK site, then clicks that redirect to the US site aren’t credited and vice versa. AffinityClick matches the advertising to the user on the blog, so you’re guaranteed the best possible return.

Check it out.

Check out my new theme

As you can see, I’ve rolled out a new theme to this website. It’s an awesome theme called Freshtweet which incorporates a number of Twitter-ish ideas. Here are some of the great features:

  • Change color styles with a single click
  • Choose a featured category via the theme options area
  • Integrate Feedburner and Email link subscriptions
  • Integrate TweetRoll widget with one click
  • Simple and clean design
  • jQuery sidebar
  • Supports threaded comments
  • Drop down categories at a glance
  • Prominent search area
  • Easily integrate “Recent Comments With Avatars” plugin
  • Compatible with WordPress 2.8+
  • Easy access to admin area for logged in users
  • Optimized for search engine traffic

I find WordPress an excellent platform for blogging, as you can change the look and feel of your blog anytime you wish, without losing any of your content. And I use it for non-blogs too. It doesn’t matter if you’re a professional Orange County web design firm or just a sole developer building websites in his free time (i.e. me), but it’s always a great asset having a platform you can build on easily.

What do you think of it? What would you change?

Building a blog to retire off the proceeds? Think again!

And interesting post on Techmeme started my day this morning called Time To Hang Up the Pyjamas. It was an article by Daniel Lyons who had set up a highly-trafficed blog called The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs a couple of years ago. The gist of the article is that he put loads of effort into monitising the blog, but failed to generate anything that would surpass what he could earn holding down a normal job. Here’s a poignant part of his article:

My first epiphany occurred in August 2007, when The New York Times ran a story revealing my identity, which until then I’d kept secret. On that day more than 500,000 people hit my site—by far the biggest day I’d ever had—and through Google’s AdSense program I earned about a hundred bucks. Over the course of that entire month, in which my site was visited by 1.5 million people, I earned a whopping total of $1,039.81

A number of other blogs were quite quick to point out that the blog resulted in his rise to relative fame, a book deal and his new job at NewsWeek, but millions of bloggers around the world will never earn as much from AdSense as he did. What he DID DO, however, was raise his profile so that his net worth was much higher than it would have been otherwise.

Articles like this always help put blogging in perspective and help people focus on the why they blog. Using a blog to earn money isn’t impossible, there are a number of companies out there who will pay a blogger for their efforts, but it’s no different to being paid for dropping leaflets in someone’s mailbox. The amount you can earn is constrained by the time you have available and the moment you pull back you’ll see your earnings dry up. Selling advertising space on blogs is another money-earner, but without fresh, compelling content and the traffic it brings, well, that’s another non-starter. In my humble opinion, the worst reason to start a blog is to generate enough income to quit your day job.

On the other hand, a blog can do wonders for your profile, image and self-esteem. It can serve as an outlet for you to talk about your passion, to meet like-minded individuals, to show off your strengths and seek opportunities. A blog can help you build online relationships which will benefit you in the long term in many diverse ways. Monetary benefits are a possibility, but they’re always much harder work than you originally imagined when you decided to set down the blogging path.

photo credit: Dan4th

New videos for your viewing pleasure

I’ve just updated the videos in my Media Corner with some new material to replace the clips and snippets which were there before. It’s a bit geeky, but then, so’s the rest of the blog. Here’s what you have to watch:

  • iPhone Magic
  • Great ideas for finding new sources of energy
  • Techcrunch’s demo of Microsoft Touch Wall
  • Twitter in Plain English
  • How to piss off a geek
  • Will it blend? The iPhone

Intrigued? Just look in the top right corner, turn down your table lamp, cover your legs with a blanket and start watching.

Hope you enjoy them!

When hosting companies go bad

I’ve just had a run-in with my old hosting provider ServerGrid and it has just escalated to a point where I can’t work with them any more. The latest debacle consisted of them turning off one of my websites last week because they alleged that I was using a section of  it to send spam! Those pages hadn’t been in use for a couple of years, so this was highly unlikely, but they deactivated the site without any notification. I realised this a couple of days later, so raised a ticket about the problem. It’s now 5 (FIVE) days later and I’m still waiting for the ticket to be resolved! How shoddy is that!

I’ve just looked over my ticket history and I raised 27 tickets this year, most of them caused by sites being down or non-responsive. Most of the tickets were pretty frustrating. I would raise a ticket that there was a problem, they reply a few hours later saying that it looks fine at their end, I tell them I still have a problem, then a few hours later the box gets reset (problem goes away) and they email back saying that it still looks fine from their end.

As I’m writing this post The Only Network is still offline but I’ve already made the domain change to move it to my new host (Tubu, whom I love). I raised the ticket last Thursday about this and it’s Tuesday now and well, I’m sick of being treated like crap. The ineptitude of their staff and their sheer reluctance to help means that they have lost one customer who was happy to sing their praises in the past.

Goodbye ServerGrid. I won’t be missing you!