WordPress Themes that are great for Search Engine Optimisation

WordPress Themes that are great for Search Engine Optimisation

Last year I changed my blog over to the Generate Theme on the ‘Genesis framework’ offered by the guys at StudioPress. A number of people have asked me why I chose it, so today I thought I’d explain my reasons. Its also worth me saying that the links in this article are aff links because having had personal success with this combination, I signed up to help promote the StudioPress option to others. It’s important to say that I wouldn’t be doing this if I weren’t getting value from this myself.

Firstly, a wordpress theme actually sits on top of a framework and having done a lot of research into companies offering good solutions for both, I decided to take the recommendation of Chris Brogan who at the time, also used this combo. I believe he’s on a custom theme on top of Genesis now.

SEO: One of the main reasons I chose this framework was for its optimisation (SEO) value. Here’s an excerpt from the studiopress website explaining why it’s so good.

“State of the art code and smart design architecture make it easy for search engines to see what you’ve got. With automatic updates to the Genesis Framework, you never have to think about it again. Your code will always be up to date and fully optimized.”

And boy is it…Having added this article to my blog today, it was almost certainly appear in Google within a couple of days, sometimes I’ve seen it enter their index the same day.

Design: Once you run the Genesis framework you can use a number of what they call ‘child themes’ on top of it which means that I can have a different look for my blog without the need for a designer or developer at a touch of a button.

Support: If you need support then the guys over at StudioPress are second to none. That’s worth paying for in my opinion.

Security: In terms of security, they’ve employed security experts to help with locking down the insecurities that wordpress can suffer from. Obviously nothing is totally infallible but they’ve down what they can to make this the best they can.

There are also a plethora of other custimisation/widget options which I won’t bore you with today.

If you’re looking for framework to go with then I can definitely recommend genesis or any of the studiopress products. For more info on the themes they offer, make sure you check out their great theme chooser.

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Using Social Media to Enhance Employability

I’m really excited as tomorrow I’m going to be spending the morning with students at Exeter University, talking about Social Media and how it can help their job prospects. We all know its a tough world out there right now and getting a job is a lot harder than when I left the same University, 12 years ago.

I’m excited because when I was there, I didn’t have any of the tools available to these guys to help my search for work. Those who want to give themselves a head start in life really do have a fantastic opportunity to do so.

So here are my top tips to any student looking to use Social Media to enhance their employability potential.

1). Without wanting to start on a negative note, the first place to start is understanding privacy settings and what employers these days use the web for – Googling your name. Have you Googled your name (that’s mine by the way) to see what turns up? Have you checked to see what information people can turn up on you on Facebook without being logged in, or through a profile that is not friends with yours? If not, I suggest you do, because rightly or wrongly prospective employers will be doing so.

2). Right lets get positive now. If I could give one piece of advice to a prospective employee it would be to start blogging. How many CV’s do you think every job you go for is going to attract? How many of them link to a blog which shows off their knowledge, thoughts & personality? Not many I bet you. So here’s your number 1 chance to stand out. With tools like WordPress so easy to use (and free), you can start a blog today, while you’re at Uni and demonstrate to future employers 1000 times more about you, than you can on your CV.

3). Start listening & learning. Use tools like Twitter to start searches for people tweeting in the area you’re looking to get work. Build up a picture of who is about and begin to engage with them. Getting to know a prospective employer before you’ve even applied for a job could just give you the edge you need when it comes to interview time.

4). More Learning. Really?!? Yup ‘fraid so. The workplace is very different to Uni life. Find industry experts and influencers in your field of choice and follow them on sites like Twitter. Learn from them, create your own posts about the things they say on your newly formed blog. Find the thought leaders out there and start to build up real world knowledge of what business is really going to be like.

As an aside, if you’re into Business & Marketing here are a few great people/companies to start with:

Chris Brogan
, Seth Godin
, UnMarketing
Mashable & Econsultancy

5). Make LinkedIn your corporate network. In the business world many of us use LinkedIn as our corporate network. We keep personal stuff to Facebook so that’s not much use to connect with us on. Twitter is more difficult to build close connections on quickly, it takes time. Start to add people you meet at job fairs/events/shows/out networking and build your numbers. Know people in the local business community (family/friends etc)? Add them too. Numbers lead to leverage in LinkedIn and as you take your profile wherever you go in your working life, you should start to see this as one of your most valuable assets.

6). Be Proactive – When I’m looking to recruit, I want someone that stands out. I want someone that makes the effort to go the extra mile. I want someone that doesn’t just send me in a CV and hope for the best. Recruitment is expensive for us company owners. You can not only save us money but show you’re different by finding me on LinkedIn and sending me your details. Ensure to tell me not just about your skill set, but why you want to work for me, what you can bring to my company and why you’re different. You’ll be ahead of 95% of other candidates already and if you’ve done everything else I’ve said above I may not even bother seeing anyone else!

Guys, if I were looking for a job now I’d be really enthused by all the ways I can make myself stand out. The question is….are you?

Now Your Thoughts

  • Have you got any more tips for the stars of the future?

Like Minds & The Social Media Survey 2010

Like Minds & The Social Media Survey 2010

So last week was the Like Minds conference in Exeter, Devon, a bringing together of Like Minded individuals from all over the globe – The topic – Creativity and Curation.

My Online Marketing Agency, Optix Solutions was proud to sponsor the event for the 3rd time running, making us one of the companies to be there in support from the beginning. We also used the platform to launch the results of the Social Media survey we ran earlier in the year. A glossy 26 page booklet with the findings as well as contributions from some of the world’s leading social media minds was presented. More information on the survey and details of how to request a copy can be found here: http://www.optixsolutions.co.uk/social-media-survey-2010/

It contains insights from the likes of Scott Gould, Trey Pennington, Olivier Blanchard, Julian Summerhayes and a foreword was kindly written by Chris Brogan.

Anyway, here are my take-aways and observations from the fantastic two day conference

1). Exeter is a special place and everyone that came to visit it loved it.

2). Despite Like Minds’ move away from social media to other things, it remains in my mind, a social media conference and when the speakers take on social topics, the audience lights up. I hope the team take this on board for future events.

3). Steve Moore of the Big Society can write a well crafted speech in front of a couple of hundred people in less than an hour, just before he goes on stage – he is also extremely funny and tells amazing stories.

4). The new immersive format in the mornings rocked – I got most of the value from these sessions this year.

5). Did I mention that Optix Solutions released the results of the Social Media Survey 2010 :)

6). Benjamin Ellis is one clever guy and if you want to talk Psychology then he’s your man. Thanks Benjamin

7). Joanne Jacobs predicted in her immersive that by 2012 the web will be viewed by mobiles more than desktop computers, so companies better get their websites mobile friendly. She also said that we’ll see a shift of users to people that currently don’t really use the internet at work (like handymen) – the Internet on their mobiles will become very important for their work

8). Was great to see Jon Akwue back again and even more fantastic that he read the Jeffrey Gitomer book I gave him last time recently and enjoyed it :)

9). Wikis are a great way of sharing social strategy with staff internally, allowing everyone to collaborate and understand what the company is trying to achieve

10). Cofacio is a new Help Engine which is very cool – You can offer help and ask for help and earn points which are used to help good causes. You should signup now

11). Shaa Wasmund has done a lot with her life and not let anything get in her way. She rightly points out that if you don’t try you’ll never know what could be. She’s also incredibly positive – a massive plus in my book

12). James Whatley talked about gaining success in Social Media (and other places) by ‘Displacing the market’ – I.e. trying to do something different to the norm. I love this and will use it often – thanks James :)

12). Robin Wight is a fashion icon (and very clever guy) and I want his shoes!

If you’ve not had the chance to be a part of a Like Minds Conference until now then I wholeheartedly recommend you do your best to get to the next one – you won’t regret it.

Now Your Thoughts

  • What were your highlights – I know the organisers read this blog so it’s a great place to share
  • Have you read the survey – what are your thoughts on the results?

Public Speaking – A Secret to Success

Public Speaking – A Secret to Success

I wasn’t able to get to my blog post on Friday last week due to a string of seminars I’m currently running. Unusually we had three turn up within a week of each other so I had to prioritise and I’m afraid the blog post lost out this once. That said, I’m catching up now and figured it would make a good topic if I wrote about how important public speaking is for my own strategy and how you should consider embracing it, if you aren’t already.

Seminars/Presentations, whatever you want to call them, are gold dust. If you’re given the opportunity to run one, grasp it. Where else do you get a number of people interested in your subject in a room together? If you run it well then you will undoubtedly come out with lots of opportunities and increase your chance of being approached to provide a service or product after.

I wrote about presentation skills a while back where I focused on ten strategies for a successful presentation. Today is more about re-enforcing the importance of being seen out there in order to build your personal and company brand.

I know it’s quite appealing to shy away from these opportunities – the thought of standing up in front of a load of people and talking fills most people with fear but here’s the truth – it get’s easier and you need to start somewhere. Still to this day I get a little nervous when I’m about to speak but it’s natural and helps me to fire on all cylinders. If you get nervous, don’t let it stop you – much better to learn how to control the nerves than miss out on the fabulous opportunities these events provide.

I started presenting at University as it was part of some of the courses. When I then started Optix I made sure that I had every opportunity to be in front of people, either one to one or in a group presenting. I was never a natural speaker so one of the best things I did to help was to join a business networking group called BNI. At BNI’s all around the world, you meet up every week and have to stand in front of 20-40 business owners and tell them about your business for 60 seconds. This really focuses the mind and hones your presentation skills. If you’re starting out now why not look up a local BNI chapter and throw yourself in at the deep end.

There are also organisations like Toastmasters which I’ve heard are excellent (Although I’ve not had first hand experience) – These focus on improving your public speaking skills so if you’re not sure where to start then I’d recommend looking up one of these in your area.

Here’s another great tip. I attend a number of conferences and always watch the speakers very carefully. I want to improve my own style so I try and capture the essence of where these people get it right and adapt it into my own flow. Recently I was lucky enough to watch Chris Brogan speak and then even luckier to sit next to him at a sponsors dinner that night. He was able to do 20 minutes off the cuff, without any help (no powerpoint) while making people laugh and leaving people with major takeaways by the end of his talk – genius! I asked him at the dinner how he did it and if he had any tips – he said to me something that resonates every time I find myself in front of others – ‘Alastair, I’ve had a lot of opportunities to fail’. Chris speaks hundreds of times a year, all around the world – that’s an awful lot of times to work out what works and what sucks – it’s that simple – practice makes perfect. Thank you Chris :)

How do you get on with public speaking? Do you avoid it? Are you working on any plans to improve yourself and want to share these with others?

Likeminds 2010 & Never forget where you’ve come from

Likeminds 2010 & Never forget where you’ve come from

Last week saw Exeter host Likeminds 2010, a social media conference (for want of a better title). It showcased some of the world’s leading authorities on social media, in some of the world’s largest companies. The event took place on the 26th of Feb and boy was the line up something special. My Online Marketing Agency in Exeter, Optix Solutions is proud to have been a local sponsor for the second time running. On the day, the hashtag for the event #likeminds, ‘trended’ on Twitter (meaning it was among the top 5 or 6 most referenced things in the world at that time!) The event has subsequently had write ups in numerous blogs around the world and large newspapers such as the Guardian. At certain times during the day, I literally sat there pinching myself, to remember that we were actually in Exeter, in sunny Devon.

The speaker line up included names from Orange, Sky, Ogilvy, Reuters and one of the world’s leading social media masters – Chris Brogan (author of best selling book – Trust Agents). It was nicely balanced however with local participants such as John Harvey, Exeter’s city centre manager, Helena Holt, CEO of Devon Air Ambulance and many others, not to mention the fantastic ‘Endevours’, where local charities were given 5 mins on stage to promote their causes. Likeminds is exciting for a city like Exeter, most events of this type are held in larger cities like London, so to have people descend on Exeter for a couple of days is unbelievable, raising both the profile of city and showing what great waves it’s making in the social media world. It would be very easy to write for days and days about this event (as many others will) and in light of the fact that this blog is aiming at reaching out to young entrepreneurs and adding value to people looking to start up businesses, I’m going to pick up on how it felt to spend some of the day with a social media ‘rockstar’ – Chris Brogan.

If you’re not in the social media or marketing world yourself you’d be forgiven for not having heard about this guy but for those of us who are, let me tell you, he’s a bit of a hero. He co-authored (Affiliate Link) Trust Agents, a fantastic book about how you should conduct yourself online and build trust and the rewards that can lead to. He has over 100k twitter followers and thousands of people subscribe to his blog.

I was extremely lucky to have the opportunity to talk with Chris a couple of times that day, at Lunch (where he even paid the tables tab!) and at dinner for the sponsors and speakers in the evening (how lucky was I!). This is a very humble guy – it would be very easy in Chris’ position to simply rub shoulders with the other people around the world who share his success but I get the feeling his mantra is about never forgetting where you’ve been and helping the up and coming stars (in fact he references this in his book and definitely carries it out in real life). All day, Chris gave his time to whomever approached him, always happy to share stories and sign books – it must have been pretty exhausting for him but he never once looked uninterested in anyone – in fact, far from it, he always showed interest beyond the call of duty. This is how he does business and in my opinion it’s one of the main reasons he’s been so successful. I see the same traits in Trey Pennington (whom I also met from Likeminds last year). These guys are just genuinely nice and make it their business to help others (they are true connectors) – they know when they do this that they will benefit, maybe not immediately but certainly over time. This has been part of the way I’ve built my business. Where possible I try and add value to others, helping them with their problems or challenges – I never ask for anything in return, but over time this definitely leads to more good than bad experiences. I’d strongly recommend you considering this path for your business too.

Another thing that particularly impressed me about Chris was his ability with names. Chris signed my book at lunch and asked me my first name for it, later that night, having met literally hundreds of people he was still calling me by it and that was special – I noticed he did this with everyone he met. I wrote a post about the importance of a name a while ago. This skill is so important in getting ahead in business and clearly Chris knows this.

I want to end on something Chris said in his keynote speech at the end of Likeminds. It was probably my ‘take-away’ for the day – ‘Make your customers feel special’ – Chris talks of the ‘guest experience’ for customers, a term coined by Disney I believe. This is essentially going the extra mile for them and leaving them with a warm feeling, one that makes them want to refer you on. This was also one of the points that Jeffrey Gitomer makes about great customer service being the number one priority for any company – get that right and you’re on the road to success. I learnt about a system called the ‘net promoter score’ the other day – it’s a system that monitors how many of your customers would be prepared to refer your business. Most companies struggle to get above 30% and in fact many are far lower. It strikes me that social media tools, on top of good company principles and values would lead companies to increasing their NPS scores, something I may focus on in another blog post sometime. We’re all looking for more success, I think it’s absolutely vital to remember everyone that’s helped you on the way up and make sure that you always remain true to your values – Chris Brogan is a bit of a master at this and I learnt a lot from the day with him. I hope to have passed some on to you all out there.

Make sure you follow Chris on @chrisbrogan

Social Media in Business

Even by the internet’s rapid standards, the rise of Social Media sites such as Twitter, Facebook and Stumbeupon has been nothing short of meteoric.

With hundreds of millions of people worldwide using social networks regularly (Facebook now has 200 million active users) and their popularity continuing to grow on a daily basis, they represent a massive marketing opportunity to switched-on business.

In Exeter, Social Media is taking off with a large group of users networking regularly together. Next month sees the first social media conference in Devon organised by my friend @scottgould. Optix Solutions are amongst the sponsors and are very excited about hearing and meeting @treypennington and @thebrandbuilder who are both flying over from America especially for the event. Tickets by the way can be bought here: http://alikeminds.org/

The big question for me, is still whether or not a brand can embrace Social Media as well as a person can. I believe there is room for both and there is no question that many high profile businesses have done extremely well from Social Media. Dell, Starbucks and Google all use Twitter well but is there a case for smaller SME’s to make it work for them?

My Opinion: YES! MOST DEFINATELY and I’ve experienced this with my own business. However, whether you run a business or a personal account there are certain ways to go about things and certain etiquette you need to get used to. Within Optix, we encourage our staff to have their own blogs/twitter accounts/social media pages and without a question of doubt this has lead to stronger relationships with our clients who are also using social media and to new work and relationships with people we would almost certainly never have come across without it.

Here are the twitter feeds of some of the guys in Optix (oh and Optix own one is @optixsolutions – we use this for info on our business, special offers, news and site launches):

My Own Twitter Account: @banksy6
Al Gleave (Bus Dev): @alpenwest
Kris Sousa (Sales/Support): @kristensousa
Nick Watson: (Developer) @nickizzle

There is so much I could say about Social Media and Twitter in particular but I’m aiming this at new business owners and entrepreneurs so lets just set you along the right path with some good solid advice on why you need to start thinking about Social Media in your business.

Here are Banksy’s top 5 tips for making social media work for you.

1). Allow people to share your business successes and stories with others – FOR FREE! You can do this by adding a tool to pages on your website that allow anyone surfing, to very quickly share your content with others. Popular tools include Share This and Add This both of which do the job more than adequately. If you’re not sure what I mean by this then take a look at the Devon Air Ambulance website that my company Optix Solutions have just launched and scroll right down to the bottom of the page. You will see a green icon with ‘share this’ written next to it. Click it and see how easy it is to share that website on Facebook/Twitter and many, many other websites out there. Think now of the power of just one or two users sharing that website with potentially hundreds or maybe even thousands of trusted contacts and friends that they have on their own networks. Its almost a no-brainer to have this added to your website these days. If you don’t know how to add it or need help then drop me a line :)

2). Build contacts, relationships and networks online – I’m sure if you’re starting a business, in your early years as a business or an entrepreneur of any kind, you are probably networking offline? Am I right? Well Twitter and other social networks allow you to find people with similar interests and values and then connect with them. The rest is up to you as it would be offline. Just don’t make the mistake of thinking this is a short-term gain, its not. Invest in social media and you’ll reap the rewards later.

3). Leverage social media for your other forms of marketing – Social Media is a great way of generating traffic for your blog or website. Users may then go on and look around other services you have to offer on these websites. In fact, although this blog is starting to get a good reputation with the search engines, the largest referrer of traffic to it each time I post is Twitter. This is because I put the word out to my network each time I post and people visit….which is great:)!

4). Become known as a ‘thought leader’ – This is really about building authenticity in your brand – be it personal or business. It’s a brave/stupid person that tries to sell directly from social media – it just doesn’t work. You need to show others that your posts/tweets/content can be thought provoking and hopefully interesting  so they will engage with you if they feel it’s right to do so. Don’t push marketing material out to them too much or you’ll simply lose followers and contacts.

5). Even if you don’t believe in social media yourself, others do and they could be talking about you or asking for help. There are a myriad of tools out there which allow you to monitor mentions of phrases, including your own brand. I for example, have tools set up to monitor mentions of my company name as well as my own name. Our company monitors local tweets, and anything to do with people looking for web design work.

As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, this is not meant to be, in anyway a full break down of social media and what it can do for you, its merely a teaser. I do hope in the future to focus on the individual networks and go into a bit more depth for you on how to get the best from each of these, however in the mean time I recommend reading the Chris Brogan’s blog post on social media here for some great tips:

http://www.chrisbrogan.com/50-ways-marketers-can-use-social-media-to-improve-their-marketing/

Consider today what you want to achieve from social media, consider your audience and which sites they might be using and then put together a plan for yourself and of course, if you need help – drop us a line. Good luck.