Monday, 19 September 2016

Leave it to us, that kind of thing is our domain

Every little thing has changed in the 17 years I’ve been in the web industry, from the way websites are built, the coding behind them, the designs, the general direction of the internet and the way people perceive it.

Back in the early days, people would come to us for a website (which was still quite a novelty back then), we’d build it for them, register the domain name, do all the necessary donkey work and everyone would be happy. Nowadays people are so used to having sites and used to everything being quick and easy (because the internet world and computers in general have become so advanced they give the average person the idea that they are actually clever) that people are rarely happy and always want something changed or control granted to themselves in some form. People are also getting used to things being cheap or even free.

One of the big ones these days is domain names. More and more people seem to be registering their own domain names or asking if we can transfer a domain name we hold to their own control. The problem is that these people generally haven’t got the first clue what they are doing. They are generally doing it because it is cheaper for them to buy it themselves rather than get us to do it for them because we (and indeed most) web companies mark the price up to cover a basic management cost.

Whilst it’s not a problem, it does tend to bring up a few issues and it almost always ends up costing the customer more money. My first question is usually “who have you registered your domain name with?” and the number of people who can’t even answer this simple question is worrying in itself. I then have to raise a charge for releasing the domain and processing a transfer because, let’s face it, I have to charge for my time otherwise how would I make money? This cost, whilst small, generally means any cost saving they’ve made on registering the domain themselves is negated.

Then there is the technical side of things. When I explain to these people that it’s fine for them to host the domain themselves but they have to be in charge of all the DNS settings, this usually confuses them. When they ask how they get the domain name to point to the website, my answer of “You need to log into your domain control panel and update the DNS settings to point the A NAME records to our server IP address”, people tend to look at me in the same way I look at Kanye West fans.

What happens is people say “I haven’t got a clue what you just said, can you walk me through it?” Of course if it’s a domain control panel I’m familiar with, I might be able to do it but then I’m giving support so I’d have to charge for my time. If it’s a control panel I’m not familiar with I’d have to say no, whereby I’d either suggest they contact their supplier and I give them detailed instructions of what I want, or I’d request they send me their login details so I could mooch around their control panel myself and make the changes. In both cases, I’d have to charge for my time. Given I’d be charging at my hourly rate, it would end up costing the client more than it would have cost them to take the domain name out with us in the first place. This would inevitably piss them off.

It gets worse because people usually want an email address set up and they realise once they’ve bought the domain that they either have to pay extra for it or they simply can’t figure out how to set it up. They then come back to me asking for help and advice and, in a lot of cases, requesting we manage the email for them which involves them having to update more DNS settings to point the MX records to our mail server. This confuses them even more, makes me a bit cross and also costs them even more in my time charges and hosting which pisses them off even more. Basically nobody is happy any more.

Then there is the added hassle of behind-the-scenes changes. Every so often we have to upgrade servers or migrate data or even move to different hosting providers. This has happened several times over the 17 years I’ve been in the web business and every time it happens I need to update the DNS settings for all the domains we host. Generally speaking this is something the customer is never aware of because the transfer is seamless. The only time it ever becomes a problem is when people have their own domain names and either don’t know where the domain name is held and/or don’t know how to update the settings and/or ignore my repeated requests for them to update because they assume it’s not important and then get really angry when their website stops working. Again, this is something that’s happened a number of times over the years.

So, yes, it is possible for you to register and manage your own domain names. My advice, however, is don’t. Let us do it for you because, although it might cost a bit more up front, in the long term it’ll save you a hell of a lot of money, time, effort and stress.

Friday, 9 September 2016

What are the best blogging sites?

The Datapartners Daily Blog about blogs: 10 of 10

For someone like me who designs and builds websites for a living, I could build my own blogging platform. In fact I did have a blogging app at one stage but it was one of many things I shelved because I simply couldn’t compete with the big players.

So what are the best blogging platforms out there? The most popular ones are Wordpress and Google’s Blogger and there are benefits to using both. Wordpress allows you to build a much more professional looking website and there are a huge number of mobile friendly templates out there. My only complaint with Wordpress is the admin is verbose, unintuitive and I think it’s a tiny bit crap. I’ve used Wordpress a number of times over the last few years for a handful of projects and I usually end up swearing a lot.

I prefer Blogger (well, that’s obvious isn’t it?) Firstly, I’m a big advocate of everything Google. Secondly, whilst it is a lot simpler and not as good looking as Wordpress, it does exactly what it says on the tin. Also, with the blogging network, it’s a lot easier to get found by other bloggers.

Of course there are others. The likes of Wix, Squarespace and Tumblr all offer some good features. Plus Networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn also have the ability for you to write notes and articles so that is always worth considering. The advantage of doing it through a social networking site is because publishing it automatically shares it with your network.

My personal recommendation is Blogger, especially if you want to earn some pocket money. Google’s AdSense is by far the best and biggest pay-per-click advertising medium out there and it’s very quick and easy to get ads hooked onto the site. The trick is getting people to click on them without violating Google’s terms of service. So please don’t click on the ads on this blog… #ReversePsychology

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Getting other people to write my blogs

The Datapartners Daily Blog about blogs: 9 of 10

The thing with blogging is it requires both a passion to write and, ideally, literacy. Unfortunately not everyone can come up with new material on a consistent basis and, more worryingly, few people in this world are literate.

There’s nothing worse than reading a badly written essay full of spelling mistakes and no punctuation. It also won’t help your readership if people have to try and decipher gibberish masquerading as English.

So what can you do if you want to start a blog but don’t have the inclination or skills to do it? Well you could get someone else to write them for you. This was briefly covered in the “can I make money from blogging?” post last week. There are professional writers out there who offer their services (like me for example). You might also want to consider opening up your blog and allowing other keen bloggers to become contributors. For most people, blogging is a hobby so, if it’s a subject they are interested in, they may be willing to do it for free. Guest blogging is also a good way of expanding your reach. If you ask a contributor of another successful blog to write something for you, they are likely to share it with their followers. Likewise, if you offer to write on another blog, you are sharing your wordage with a whole new group of people. It’s all about networking.

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

What about vlogging?

The Datapartners Daily Blog about blogs: 8 of 10

Something that is becoming increasing popular these days is video blogging, or “vlogging”. The most successful “vloggers” appear to be attractive lesbian couples making videos discussing their mundane every day life, interspersed with the occasional kiss. In all honesty most of them probably aren’t even lesbians but are just a couple of attractive females who realise that 99% of the internet traffic is made up of horny men who like looking at pretty girls kissing, and are simply cashing in on their desperation. Fair play to them.

So is it worth vlogging if you’re not an attractive fake lesbian? If you feel comfortable in front of a camera and aren’t afraid of people making fun of your face then it’s probably worth considering. I personally don’t like being in front of a camera on account of my face and the fact I hate the sound of my own voice. I’m also much more comfortable and can get a message across much more clearly using written words. Some people may find it easier to convey their message via spoken word.

Also it does usually require a bit of video editing which involves buying some software or downloading some free software that will no doubt infect your machine with Trojans and all sorts of hideous internet diseases. Depending on the material, you may also need some additional software. For example, if you want to vlog about something that requires giving a visual demo, you may need to invest in some software that allows you to record your browser.

With the huge reach of Youtube, plus the fact a lot of people prefer to watch something rather than read (because let’s face it the majority of people can’t read) it’s definitely a worthwhile option.

If you become a fake lesbian, you’ll get plenty of visitors.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

What benefits does blogging have?

The Datapartners Blog about blogs: 7 of 10

Blogging has many benefits. As well as the therapeutic effects of writing (I usually feel much better after a good old fashioned rant) the benefits to your business or website can also be greatly helped with regular blogs.

For starters there is the visibility in search engines. Everyone wants to get found on Google. The best way to get found on Google is to have lots of good quality content and many back links to your site. Enter the blog. If you are regularly blogging, you are submitting more and more content to Google’s index. There more content you have out there, the more chance there is of people finding it and potentially clicking further in to your site. If you have links back to your own website, the more chance there is of people following them. Also, the quality of relevant back links and referrals will have a positive impact on your overall ranking in Google.

It also helps gets your name out there. When used in tandem with the likes of LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter it can increase your exposure if people share it. Rather than just coming to your site from a single source, people will potentially get to you from a number of different avenues.

It can also help establish authority. A blog like this is providing free advice. Becoming an expert on a particular subject is likely to get you a following with people who are interested. Again, regular updates will keep visitors coming back and reading, and logically looking into your services in more detail. Of course this is the seventh of ten planned blogs on the subject of blogging and I’m mostly talking bollocks. Still, it’s useful advice.

Monday, 5 September 2016

How do I promote my blog?

The Datapartners Blog about blogs: 6 of 10

If you want to make money from blogging or use blogging to sell your products and services, it’s important to make sure people know about it. If blogging is going to be used to promote yourself, the idea of promoting the thing that you are using to promote your products and services may seem like a bit of a pointless step.

The reason it isn’t is because it actually is quite easy, providing you have something worth saying. By simply using social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn and generally annoying your friends and associates, you can start to spread the word and get people visiting your blog. The beauty of viral marketing like this is it’s absolutely free and very effective.

Of course you can also pay to increase visitors. Something like Google AdWords or Facebook or Amazon adverts are the most obvious ways. You can also pay some of these stupid companies who will suddenly boost your hit rate by a million percent or get you a thousand new Facebook likes and Twitter followers overnight. You’d be a fool if you did this though because all those accounts are dead links and won’t actually be real people.

This does all take time and requires you to regularly post about it multiple times in multiple locations but, the more content you have, and the more you promote it, the more visits you get and generally speaking the higher natural listing you may get in Google.

This coming from a blog that gets relatively few hits because I never promote it. Do as I say, not as I do.

Friday, 2 September 2016

Can I make money from blogging?

The Datapartners Daily Blog about blogs: 5 of 10

So you’ve got your blog, you’ve got good content, you enjoy writing. Now you are thinking “hey, I’d like to do this for a living. Can I actually make money from writing?”. The answer, simply, is yes.

In truth, making a living out of blogging is very difficult unless you have an enormous fan base (and I’m talking millions of views a month) or you are getting paid to write blogs for other people and are charging per blog or per word.

The most obvious ways of making money from a blog are by sticking adverts on them. Google AdSense is the most popular choice and you earn money every time someone clicks on an advert on your site. As mentioned above, however, you need to be getting a large number of visitors to make any sort of money. To put it into perspective, one of my small personal blogs receives about 2000 page views/ad impressions every month and I am making on average £2 per month from it. That’s not going to allow me to retire early so, using a bit of basic maths, it’s safe to assume that if I had 20,000 visits a month, I might make £20 per month, 200,000 might earn me £200 per month and 2,000,000 page views per month could earn me £2000 per month, which would be an average salary. Of course if I was getting two million page views a month on one site I’d probably need to spend all the money I earned on a bigger web server.

Another way of making money is through some sort of affiliate scheme. Amazon offer something like this whereby you can place product adverts on your blog and when a visitor clicks through and makes a purchase, you earn a commission. Again, however, they only give a 5% commission (up to 10% over a certain threshold) so the amount of money is likely to be minimal.

Other ways of making money are offering your own products and services on your blog. Do you need a new website? Then visit and we’ll quote you happy.

Thursday, 1 September 2016

How often should I blog?

The Datapartners Daily Blog about blogs: 4 of 10

Do you know someone who talks a lot? Do you want to punch them in the face? Or do you perhaps know someone who doesn’t say much and trying to converse with them is like the proverbial blood from the stone conundrum? Do you get to the point where you can’t be bothered with them any more?

The same principle applies with blogging. You may have a lot to say but do people need to hear about it every five minutes? Flooding people with constant updates will probably start to annoy them after a while and will likely stop reading. On the flip side if you don’t do it enough people are likely to forget all about you.

So how often should one post? Well given that between 2014 and 2015 I published less than half a dozen posts on this blog, I probably shouldn’t comment. However, because I’m one of these people who never practices what he preaches, I’d say that at least one a week is optimal. I’m currently doing a “one a day” challenge for two weeks on this blog and that’s probably not excessive either. Again, the subject matter will depend greatly on how often you will be able to blog. For example, one of the publications I write for is a satirical news site and it’s based on relevant stories so it’s only really possible to blog when a related story comes out. Trying to write posts for the sake of releasing something would probably not work because it wouldn’t be relevant to anything.

Conversely, I know a guy who is a huge Star Wars fan and does at least one video blog per day on that - usually ranging from 2 minutes to 10 minutes each depending on the subject. Given all the thousands of books, comics, films, TV series and general nerdy fanboy material there is out there, the guy will probably never run out of material. He also has about a quarter of a million subscribers so it’s fair to say he’s doing it right.