Tuesday, June 7, 2016

What is a senior engineer and mentoring

I've merged my business and a project I'm doing at school where we are developing an android app to help people with pornography addiction.

As part of that I'm having the opportunity to mentor two beginner/novice software developers in my school class that I'm taking and I'm being confronted with the stark reality of the large gap there is between my experience and someone who may have a year or two of CS experience under the belt. It's been very humbling as I've had to talk through and discuss things I Just take for granted. I started looking out to the internet for some support and came across an article that is very humbling to me, and even motivates me to be an even better senior engineer or as the article mentions a mature engineer.

This is more for my reference but the article is here: http://www.kitchensoap.com/2012/10/25/on-being-a-senior-engineer/

The whole article was very good, and I pulled a large number of things to improve on. While I feel I fit in with many things discussed as a mature engineer or senior engineer but I also see many many areas of improvement. The part about novice vs expert though drew my attention.

The Novice:
  • Rigid adherence to rules or plans
  • Little situational perception
  • No (or limited) discretionary judgment

The Expert:
  • No longer relies on rules, guidelines or maxims
  • Intuitive grasp of situations
  • Analytic approach used only in novel situations

And then:

Novices operate from an explicit rules and knowledge-based perspective. They are deliberate and analytical, and therefore slower to take action, they decide or choose.

Experts operate from a mature, holistic well-tried understanding, intuitively and without conscious deliberation. This is a function of experience. They do not see problems as one thing and solutions as another, they act.

As I find myself pairing with these two I'm working with, I find myself just acting.  I know there is no hard fast rules, I have seen similar situations, and I can figure out the solutions quickly and rapidly even in new contextual environments.  Rarely do I rely on taking an analytical approach to the problem unless it is an extremely new situation.  The rules are flexible and malleable as I adjust and change them based upon the needs of the system that I see.  Yet, to try and mentor and tutor the novice or beginner I can see how this can be mind-boggling and batty.  How can they derive the rules to work with / govern their behavior until they can move out more confident on their own through software systems, when I'm not playing by any hard fast rules?  When I just act instead of thinking through the solutions or explaining them?

I think I'm going to have to figure out how to slow down the process, how to think more conciously about my actions, and how to explain, encourage, and motivate to success.  All in all I relish this experience, despite it's challenge.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Backlinks, Analytics, and a look to the future

Well it appears that the semester for my class is drawing to an end, but my business is moving forward.  What a blessing I consider the information I have learned and the resources it has provided me.  I know so much more about advertising, search engine optimization, and using my analytics to verify how I can improve.

In keeping with my previous efforts here are the links for me to refer to in the future.  We covered more SEO and generating external backlinks to my site as well as using analytics to measure the performance of my site.

First backlinks:

Intro to Link Building

Advanced Link Building Strategies

Link Building Strategies: Checklist

Google Webmaster Guidelines

SEOmoz.org Beginners Guide to SEO

Then Analytics

Also another tool I used this week was WooRank.com  which I have to say is a really awesome tool for evaluating my site once a week to see what recommendations I can do to make my site better.  It goes through a wide variety of SEO, social media, website performance metrics etc, and gives me a score on how will my site is performing.  I can take their suggestions and improve my site.

I also learned from the link building how to search out my competitors sites and try to get links on the same locations which I found absolutely fascinating.

At the beginning of the week I thought my advertising campaigns were pretty much a bust, I had tons of traffic but no real sales (well I had one sale but the guy requested a refund).  However, after going through the analytics reading I actually figured out that people coming to my relationship test landing page were actually making it to my checkout page (about 10% of them) and then were dropping off.  I also was able to identify that the majority of them were mobile users.  So now I have something I can actually dig into and see why mobile users are exiting the sales cycle as soon as they click the buy button and get to the checkout.  Overall it gives me a lot of excitement and it means that I can continue to tweak my campaign, listen (through analytics) to what my audience is doing, and then make more changes as I try to improve the conversion process.

Overall I feel very satisfied with this class and how much I have learned.  I plan on taking these principles and working on my business until it becomes a successful venture.  I know I still have tons to learn, but I feel like I'm on a much more solid foundation than I have ever been before.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Social Media and Social Networking

Social Media

So this week we covered more social media and SEO in my business class. I had to write a one page essay covering my long term and short term goals.  Now I won't repost that essay here but I will go through some of the things I've thought about in terms of my social media strategy.

Short term I recognize I need to have more content.  The more interesting and unique content I can post on my website I can also include on my social media accounts.  From my research it looks like facebook will be the very best avenue for me to do my social network accounts due to its ability to micro-target to my audience as well as how people thinking about relationships are actually interacting on facebook.  I also will leverage youtube as I have videos I can reference there.  The nice thing about facebook is that I can also embed some of my quizzes and assessments there and get it going viral.

Long term I need to be aggressive in responding and communicating to the wider community as they talk about me and my products.  Twitter is a good way of leveraging this, but in general I need to spend a portion of my day each day responding to social media.  There's a lot of information here, but I hope to be able to incorporate this more over the long term as I move forward.  The first steps are setting up the facebook account and actively publishing content on it.

Here are the links and there are indeed a lot of them.
 4 Steps to Social Media SEO Success

16 Rules for Social Media Optimization Revisited

 7 Steps for a Successful Social Media Strategy

How to Measure Social Media Traffic with Google Analytics

Developing a Social Media Plan

How to Use Social Media To Effectively Improve SEO

How to Use Facebook for Business

Is Your Website SEO and Social Media Friendly?

Social Media SEO & Analytics Tools Worth Checking Out

Free Tools for Social Media Optimization

Social Media Marketing

Wikipedia’s summary on Social media marketing

Must Watch: 12 Awesome Social Media Tutorials

How Does Social Media Affect Search Marketing?

Omniture / Adobe webcast on Facebook and Twitter marketing

How to Use LinkedIn: Using social networking to further your career

Landing Pages and SEO

Landing Pages

I've decided to change up the format of this and subsequent blog posts.  As I intend this to be a resource for myself to help me review I'm going to start posting the links I find from my class (and my own investigation) on the topics we are studying.  I'll also continue to talk about my reflections.

So we talked about landing pages.  First a few links:

Understanding Landing Page Experience

 Basic Strategies for Optimizing Websites and Landing Pages

Create Better Websites: Introducing Content Experiments

Content Experiments the Benefits

So the first key take away for landing pages is to AVOID POPUPS. No seriously stop using them!  I was happy to find that piece of advice from google that they specifically prohibit landing pages with popups for the advertising policy as I hate them yet I had read (and even blogged) about how people see increases in sales with them.  I'm glad google is starting to penalize people for using them.

The reality is the old way of doing landing pages was to try and keyword spam the page to make it so it was more relevant to google's SEO and advertising algorithms.  Now a days they want you to have content that just flows naturally (so talking about related concepts, synonyms, etc).  If you keyword spam google will penalize and possibly eject you from adwords and their SEO rankings.

I also really liked on the basic strategies link for the tips I had there.  The biggest tip for me on my landing pages was to drive a single call to action.  I thought I was leaving money on the table if I didn't try to throw every possible email signup, product purchase, video watch, etc at people to give them every possible option.  However, focusing on a single thing I want people to do actually increased my conversion rate as well as the time people spend on my pages.  Which was fascinating.

The other element, which I have tried but I am going to when I get a bit more time is the content experiments.  I already do a bit of A/B testing by sending people for the same ad to different landing pages, but with content experiments I can have the SAME landing page and present different tests to see which ones perform better.  I'm really interested in this and I just need to devote more time to it.

Next up SEO.

So here are some links to help remind me about topics of SEO:
 What is Search Engine Optimization/SEO

Perfecting Keyword Targeting & On-Page Optimization 

 Backlinks Checker Tool — Backlink Watch - Check to see how many backlinks (external links) to your site you have.

So I actually worked for an SEO company when I first got back from my LDS mission and it was awful because we went through creating these spam landing pages to generate links back to our website.  Our content writers would create tons of articles and post them out on the internet in all kinds of random obscure places in order to drive up search traffic for our clients.  The days of that working are no longer.  Now Google specifically looks at how you are targeting your keywords and the reputation of the links coming back to you.  Highly reputable sites linking to you?  Higher ranking.  Continuously fresh content?  Higher Ranking.  Spamming articles and websites that all link to each other with no external links?  Likely to be banned from google search.

Overall I recognized I need on my business to have better schema organization of my site, target a few specific keywords I've identified from my best performing adwords campaigns and write a lot more content, frequently.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Google Adwords - Translating clicks and impressions into sales.

This week I've been monitoring my adwords campaign and I would have to say that I'm pretty good at getting clicks and impressions on my ads and not so good at getting sales.

My initial campaign had 5 different running ads with over 60 keywords I was targeting and a daily budget of $9.67 a day.  It had 4000 impressions and 40 clicks on Wednesday when I re-evaluated my campaign.  Astonishingly I found out from Google's search term reports (a report that shows the keywords people are actually searching) that I was receiving a lot of clicks from the wrong audience. People were clicking on my ads looking for relationship advice, tips, teenage dating, etc and it was costing me a lot of money - over $20.00 in clicks for people that I was not even targeting.

I also noticed that a few people were clicking on my ads that were searching for quizzes or tests which is one of my products but no the one I was trying to push people to.  I started an adgroup for tests and targeted some of the keywords people were searching for and I had over 30 clicks in 1 day (compared with 5 days of running and 50 clicks total) also my costs for those keywords were much much lower.  However, my keywords are still not translating into sales.  So I either have the wrong audience still or my landing pages are not functioning as well as I want them to.  I know there's a lot of data and I just have to sift through it to try and identify where things are a problem.  I'm also considering giving a free offering of a portion of my products that people can try out for free and then purchase.  I wonder if people are not wanting to spend the money I'm asking for without actually trying out the product.  However, this will take some time to build so I'm not sure I'll be able to get it done in the context of my class but I can look at it as a future plan for my business.

Overall I am very happy with what I have learned about google adwords.  I've found that by narrowing my focus I have a much higher click through rate.  For example a keyword I was targeting that only has 70 searches a month, has a click through rate of 20%, others with volume under 500 all have much higher click through rate as well.  These people stay on my site longer (as I can see through google analytics) and look at more pages.  Somehow I just have to figure out how to get them to convert (hence my free offering idea).

Again I know now know how to get traffic to my site, I just need to find the right audience / right product fit.  I may find out eventually that my products just aren't wanted / desired but I think based on my click behaviors that there is a market I just to have to refine the message and the product to meet people's true needs.  I'm excited about the journey ahead!

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Google Adwords Relevance and Quality Score

So I think the business highlight of this week has been learning about google adwords quality scores and improving my advertisements because of it.  When you advertise with google adwords they will tell you the quality of your advertising efforts for specific keywords in your campaign.  They look at the keyword, your advertisement text and your advertisement landing page and give it a score.  If your keyword is average or below average it can lower your position on the search pages as well as increase your costs.  It also gives you clues into whether users will actually click on your ads when they see them.  All of my keywords ended up with scores around 6 out of 10 which is considered average.

What I learned from my class and ended up implementing was creating specific landing pages to target each of the groups of keywords for my advertisements.  I created unique and specially crafted keywords to target areas such as relationship problems, another one for how to save your marriage, another for no intimacy in your relationship.  Each one a different experience.  I then customized my ads and had specific text for each ad group.  Originally I had the same ad verbiage and same landing page and that gave me average scores across the board.  I haven't seen the scores update yet so I'm assuming it will take some time but I have a lot more confidence that my relevancy and quality will be much higher.  In turn this should increase the number of sales we have.

I also installed google analytics on the site and experimented with the e-commerce integration.  I've used analytics a lot for technical and functional analysis of the performance of the website but never really for advertising and conversion tracking.  I really enjoyed learning more about goals and setting monetization values for my campaign.  I'm interested in exploring that further although sadly we won't cover it much in the class.  The week has been busy so I'll cut it short at that but I'm feeling really excited to start seeing how adwords will translate to sales!

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Get feedback from others than yourself and the value of mentoring others

This week I'm so grateful that my school work was a bit slower as we just moved and are trying to finalize up our home sale.  What a relief the break has been.  I am grateful though that I've been able to get a lot of great feedback on my ads.  For my business class we had to create our advertisement and post it to our discussion group to get some feedback on it.

What I've learned once again from this experience is how important it is to get other's feedback because you think differently than they do.  No matter what business idea or thought process you might have you need to vet it with other people, the best ones would be actual customers.  Just throwing money at an advertisement without at least getting a few other opinions is just flushing your money down the toilet.  My group helped me identify a way to change a few words in my ad to make it better and more appealing to people.  I also got to see a lot of good examples of ads that were very creative and compelling.  If I ever sell actual inventory products I have a lot more knowledge on using action words such as including the sale or product price in the add (30% off spring sale), recipes for even the pickiest eaters.  I really like how the ads catered to a specific market and communicated clearly.  

We also had a chance to peer review our group's websites and I've come to realize how much I enjoy mentoring people on website design / website building.  I saw a lot of good websites and also was able to give some good feedback to people who are just starting out.  I've come to understand how enjoyable it is to pass on knowledge to people who don't know as much as I do in website development.  I would like no matter where I am at in my businesses in the future to continue to participate in mentoring groups and to be mentored as well.  

This post is shorter than my others, but I expect future weeks to be a bit longer.