How Honest is your Review?

I don’t especially like writing reviews. They are tricky. I don’t like to be negative or critical, it makes me feel petty. But, a review needs honesty – otherwise it isn’t worth much at all.

Amazon’s lawyers are willing to go after anyone making money from writing reviews, no matter how small that “business” may be. In earlier lawsuits, Amazon targeted businesses that were selling packages of dozens or even hundreds of fake reviews. Fiverr is a site where people offer to do small jobs for $5 or more (hence the site’s name). Judging by the nature of the accused Fiverr ads, these mini-Internet scams are about as small-time as they come.

“Unfortunately, a very small minority of sellers and manufacturers tries to gain unfair competitive advantage for their products,” write Amazon lawyers. “One such method is creating false, misleading, and inauthentic customer reviews. While small in number, these reviews can significantly undermine the trust that consumers… place in Amazon, which in turn tarnishes Amazon’s brand.”

“Amazon is bringing this action to protect its customers from this misconduct, by stopping defendants and uprooting the ecosystem in which they participate,” the complaint concludes.

Source: Amazon sues 1,114 reviewers, some selling their opinions for $5 | Ars Technica

Write a fake, glowing review for something. Pick something in front of you right now: coffee mug, pen, batteries, skin cream, computer mouse, vitamins, etc.

Has WordPress Jumped the Shark?

I think WordPress is in danger of “jumping the shark”, becoming too complicated and loaded with too many features. Google has mostly forgotten all about Blogger, but it may become a better alternative for a lot of people who just want a simple business site. WordPress seems to be something for people who want to spend time and money on a fancy site with a lot of features. How many businesses really need all of that? Not many.

As someone who has kept sites for many years and used WordPress most of the time, I’m not planning to use a lot of customized posts. I don’t need them. I want to focus on content, not spend a lot of time on formatting.

I will add that if people are building a site to function as a web directory, job board, or any of a hundred other things – WordPress isn’t an essential element. It may even be a hindrance. WordPress is still a customized blog at heart.

Note: I posted this as a comment on WPTavern. The post there was about new custom formatting for WordPress posts. It got me thinking about how WordPress is used, who uses it and whether it is really still sustainable for the general blog user – people who are not web developers and may not want to spend that kind of time or money on a site for their business, or hobby, etc. Most of us have a limited budget. How important is it to have a fancy site with a lot of features versus just having a site up and functioning?

Is WordPress still a good option for putting up a site? Or, do you need to be (or pay) a web designer/ developer to work with WordPress?

Start an Online Advertising Agency?

There are times when idea people get in their own way. Or, they at least need to take a step back and see what it is they really are thinking. Pulling it all together, from a distance. This happens to me. This has happened to me, today.

I’ve been making a web directory. But, I keep changing my mind about details, adjusting for new ideas and just generally fumbling around – knowing what I want but not getting it done.

Then, while looking at another site, I understood that I’ve been misleading myself. I don’t want a web directory, I want an online advertising agency. I want to be my own public relations business, online.

The funny thing is… although I feel like a fraud, I actually do have the background for it. Corporate Communications (my college education) included PR, writing and publishing. In actual experience I have been online since 1996 building my own sites, maintaining, managing, promoting, writing and publishing other sites. I’ve been doing it all, all along. But, mostly for myself or as a contracted employee (contributor) for others.

Am I rushing into this? Quite likely, I tend to jump in when I think I have a good idea, before I have the plan all sorted out.

But, it does feel right. It is what I’ve been trying to build without really putting a label on it.

From Entrepreneur:

Online Advertising Agency

Startup Costs: Under $2,000
Home Based: Can be operated from home.
Part Time: Can be operated part-time.
Franchises Available? No
Online Operation? Yes

Not only will you be providing a valuable service for site visitors, but you will also be establishing your own potentially successful business. The business concept is very straightforward. Start by designing a website that features information about various advertising mediums including rates, contact information and any special promotions or discounts in terms of advertising rates. Business owners who visit the site simply locate the type of advertising that suits their marketing program and budgets. Income is earned by charging the advertising companies a fee to be listed on the site, as well as by selling advertising space featured on the site.

I think I have start up costs covered, one way or another. I know how to put things together, free, online. I’ve been working that way for twenty years.

Resources for Starting an Online Advertising Agency:

I’d start with an ad exchange. I already have all the links saved to become a directory. This would be a simple way to build the directory, see which sites want to be part of exchanging ads (which would help me eliminate those who are not active, don’t want to mess with code to make ads for themselves, etc.). The sites which want to exchange ads would have a fancier spot in the directory of links. I can give them an image, a larger description, and so on. All of that I can do with what I have now.

The next step would be finding outside advertisers from related businesses which would pay for ads (without being part of the ad exchange network). I’m not really confident/ bold when it comes to approaching people to ask for anything, but it could be done. I might even find someone to help me at that point.

That’s how I see it, for myself.

I do have the niche – urban exploration.

I have found a few ad exchange software possibilities, for free, just having a quick look this afternoon. I may be missing something but I am wondering where the people at Entrepreneur found a need for $2,000 start up costs? I guess I will find out along the way.

Software (RTB – Real-Time Bidder):

Blog Content When You Don’t Feel Like Writing

Not every post needs to be text based content.

If you have a camera, take photos and illustrate rather than explain.

Let the image speak for you. You may not be ready to jump into video posts but these days it isn’t difficult to edit an image online to create something unique. Add text to the image and create a quote post. Turn an image into a background your readers could use on their own sites and devices. A calendar doesn’t have to be the year, take it one month at a time and that gives you something to post each month.

List posts are popular.

Consider a list of the best sites/ resources in your topic/ niche. Or, take it to Amazon and find products people would be interested in. Write up a review (an idea not on the list below).  Use a list post to highlight your own best posts of the month or year or all time. A playlist may not interest you. I don’t have one myself. Music choices can be personal, more than you want to post on a business site. An alternative is a reading list, the books you have found useful in your business, or for building/ keeping your web presence.

So, there are quite a few options for the days you feel less than brilliantly creative and can’t make yourself write a post.

VIDEO
1 | YOUTUBE VIDEOS
2 | PERISCOPE VIDEOS
GRAPHICS
3 | PRINTABLE INSPIRATIONAL QUOTE
4 | BACKGROUND IMAGE
5 | PRINTABLE CALENDAR OR ORGANIZER
PHOTOS
6 | INSTAGRAM POSTS
7 | BEHIND THE SCENES
LISTS
8 | ROUND UPS
9 | PLAYLIST

List source: 9 Ideas for Blog Content (When You Don’t Feel Like Writing)

What do you Think About Gratuity Free?

gratuityfreeestablishment

The image comes from a restaurant owner in Brooklyn, NY, US.  The idea is older. Tips for service aren’t a new idea but the feeling that a tip is owed for service is still fairly new. I don’t like a tip being expected and I really don’t like (and won’t return to) places which automatically include the tip on the bill. Tips began as appreciation for good service. A way to show gratitude. When tips become expected they lose that meaning. I strongly feel I am not offering to pay anyone’s wages each time I use a service. The business owner is responsible for the wages for their employees, not me as the customer or client.

How do you feel about tipping and a restaurant which bans tipping?

In Canada, a restaurant tried to go gratuity free but customers did not like it. The restaurant went back to the old way of paying staff less due to expected gratuities/ tips from customers.

Would you tip for poor service? I know people will do so. Tipping is so expected that people fear a backlash if they don’t tip and tip well, no matter what kind of service they get. Gratuities has become a very socialist thing – everyone gets paid whether they work or not. Funny how turned around the concept of leaving a gratuity has gotten.

I worked as a cashier for years and did not get tipped. The only difference was in the wages paid to a cashier versus a waitress/ waiter. The job itself is quite similar. If wages were paid – which was the idea of having a minimum wage – the service people would be making the same money. Tips extra. Would you tip all the service people, cashiers included? Or do you tip out of obligation to pay wages to restaurant staff?

If you haven’t guessed… I only leave a small tip. I used to leave none, unless I really wanted to. Peer pressure about tipping got to me though and now I almost always leave a tip. I begrudge leaving a tip for average, standard service. As a customer and someone who has worked in the service industry it feels very unfair for restaurant staff to expect customers to pay them and for businesses to be not pay them the minimum wage due to expected tips.

I do not tip for poor service. I may or may not complain about poor service but I will not thank them for it.

Build “Near Me” Search

Smartphones link to all kinds of local information. Terms like “near me” “closest” and “nearby” are rapidly growing into the most popular search terms

Source: Build Your Business with “Near Me” Search

Not all of us have a brick and mortar business to apply a physical address to for this “near me” search idea. However, it can still work for you and your site.

Consider your content as a resource. First, the topic. It may be a physical object like electronics, fashion, etc. Or, an idea, hobby, like collecting stamps, help for hoarders, etc. The “near me” plan will still work for your site, and you.

Think about the resource you can build for readers who want local content and resources. Not just location but topic too. What other relevant or related topics could people be searching for in your niche?

If your site is about an idea or hobby find all the local resources and list them. Local to you is the easiest and most relevant list you can make. Not only can you find resources via Google search but you can talk to people in the community and find resources Google hasn’t found or not available online.

If you are writing about fashion, electronics or another niche topic you can also build up a list of resources for local search/ readers. Promote your resource as location based. Even if you just make it a page on your site, or a post, rather than turning your site into a local resource – you can still catch the “near me” searchers – and give them what they are looking for.

Miscommunication?

I don’t think this is sending the message they really want the public to receive.

It almost made me laugh. I come from a background of small business owners, often working on call seven days a week. I myself have mainly been in customer service or freelancing which has few days off, lots of being on call and I only get paid if I show up and keep working. So, I was surprised and then almost laughed out loud when I saw this come up on a website for a union. unionjobSource: The Media Union of BC

Since 2000… Can you Tell

This is a screen capture from a therapy clinic in Ontario. I’ve never seen anyone put a happy couple photo up like this. I think it’s a great idea for a small business, especially something intimate like a therapist. I’m posting about it for the people who work in web publishing and for the writers…

since2000

What story could you tell about this couple from their photos? Are they a happy couple? What does the body language look like to you? How have the years since 2000 been for them? What hardships and great events have they come through, together still?
Source: Newmarket Massage Therapy Clinic – Newmarket

Saving the Open Web?

Source: Can we save the open web? | Dries Buytaert

My comment:

I remember pre-Google. The Internet began shrinking when business became involved. Personal and hobby sites, especially those on Blogger or GeoCities were sneered at. Web mail for email became a reason to block or ban people. Funny how that attitude never seemed to touch GMail.

AOL began the filtered Internet. If AOL was your ISP you didn’t get on the Internet and see everything as everyone else did. AOL blocked and filtered the user experience to suit themselves. Now AOL is seldom heard of. I assume they were swallowed up by some other company.

I miss the Internet before social media. Though I do like Twitter, most of the rest are clutter, popularity contests and marketing extravaganzas where no one is really listening any more. Fifteen years ago we had blocks for pop up ads and frames. Now pop ups are back and almost no one gets into a ranting fit about them. Ironically, I wasn’t bothered much by them the first time around. But they really do bug me now. Especially those which descend as soon as you move your mouse to your browser bar.

There are far less personal or hobby sites now. People want to use information to make a buck. That’s not terrible but it does make everything less trustworthy. I review sites with dmoz, still. I see a lot of garbage. The interesting thing is noting how the garbage has changed over the years. There are always new schemes cropping up. Some good sites get drowned out just because they are personal sites, don’t look sleek and professional.

Marketing, content selling and so on isn’t a bad thing, so much. I think it’s more an issue of intentions. Too many sites are focused on SEO, keywords, marketing and they have forgotten people. Not so different with business, retail, commercial offline. Customer service is something they promote but don’t really care about. (I worked as a department store cashier, I heard all the pep talks in between being told how to sell/ market and smile). Meanwhile customer service people are paid minimum wage, like a lot of sales people. The Internet could hardly avoid this same phoniness.

I hope they can find a balance, but I don’t think we will ever get there. Twenty years ago people came online for different reasons. It really was social then. The Internet was about communication with IRC, BBS, etc. How many of those are still active – spam doesn’t count as activity. Now we have social media but it is flooded with marketing. Facebook is full of meaningless games built to scam people in small cash amounts over time, addicting, like gambling but legal.

I don’t think we can get back what the Internet was, it doesn’t even have the atmosphere of being friendly any more. It’s a business, impersonal but with a smile.

The Best Contact Page

As an editor/ site reviewer at dmoz I’ve seen a lot of sites. Today I found what may be my favourite ever contact page on a site. Here is the screenshot. Notice how simple it is to know where they are located. I like the city name as a header before each physical address too. Even if there were only one location, it sets it off very nicely. I like the map, big and easily read. Plain, simple and tidy – really nice.

Above this is the header with the company name, phone number and navbar.

If you have a business site, consider this a great template for your contact page.
best contact page
Source: Celco