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A weblog by Neta Gorelik, web developer, entrepreneur and web design company owner working in Israel, about starting a SaaS business, developing software as a service product and managing a web design firm.

Think about that

Fear and competition are natural byproducts of ego identification.

How To Create a Profitable Blog

I have been wrecking my brains out trying to come up with a good topic for a new blog site. The funny thing is that it’s not that I don’t have anything to write about, rather too much to boil it down to a specific topic. Are you feeling me here? If you have been thinking about starting your own blog, you have probably ran into the same problem as I did.

Writing a Blog People Want To Read Is Hard! Or Is It?

Trying to come up with a single post topic is hard enough, not to mention an entire topic for a niche blog site. After thinking about it for weeks, trying to decide whether to write about relationships, spirituality, internet business, start-ups, philosophy, web applications, cooking, child raising, personal finances or self development (the list goes on and on), I finally caved and decided to write about it all!

That’s right! I will write about everything that interests me and could be of value to my readers. Does this mean I will create a successful blog? Well, first of all it depends what your definition of success is, but my decision is not based to a belief that I found the formula to success. Far from it. I will write about everything, simply because it will get me going. It will get me writing, about something, anything really, just as long as I start moving.

The main reasons why people don’t start their own blogs is because (a) they don’t know what to write about, (b) they are not sure if people what to read about what they have to say, and (c) they don’t believe in themselves enough. Mostly its the latter.

The disbelieve can manifest in doubt in their writing skills, doubt in choice of topic and fear that it will take a very long time to see any results in terms of traffic and follow-ship. Well, let me tell you, writing skills can be leaned, and the best way to learn it to practice, practice, practice. Just start writing, about anything, practice writing, read about writing, read about best SEO practices for your blog. Assimilate the information as you continue to write. You will get better with time, guarantee.

So What To Write About?

As for the topic, there are two things to consider. One, if you are writing about something that interests you, chances are, there are other people interested in it as well. Two, one of the best ways to find topics to write a blog post about is to write about what you yourself Google for.

Think about it, if you are looking for it, other people are probably looking for it as well. To be even more efficient with choosing your blog post title, try using Google’s Keyword tool to find good phrases relating to the topic of your choice to maximize your blog post title to more frequently searched keywords. For example, if you want to write about Tropical Bananas (don’t ask), use the keyword tool to see what exact search terms people are using to find websites relating to Tropical Bananas. They might use a slightly different combination of words or entire phrases you can work into your blog post title.

So, they you have it. You already know what to write about – anything that you yourself is interested in, or it can even be something you just Googled today on the job. Chances are that if you Googled it, you have read at least a few pages about it, and already know more on the topic than the person before you. Second, using Google keyword tool, you fine tuned your title to include most searched for or at least popular keywords, which will engage your audience and catch their attention since your blog title is exactly what they are searching for.

Why TITLE Is Important And How To Choose a Good One

Continuing with last example, after doing some keyword research, your new post title might sound something like ‘The Different Kinds of Tropical Bananas’, where ‘kinds of tropical bananas’ could be a search terms people are actually searching for. You just weave it in to a nice sentence to appeal to the human eye and make sense.

So why title is important? Because the title of your blog post is the first thing your potential reader sees when browsing through search results, and wants to identify with. Yes, wants. People are lazy, and will first click on search results that correlate as closely as possible to what they are searching for. No one wants to waste a click to go to a page that is irrelevant to him. So include a search term people are already searching for in your title, and make it engaging to appeal to your reader emotionally. In a way, your title should say ‘Hey! You are looking for information about tropical bananas and I have exactly what you need’.

Ok, So Now What? All I Have Is a Title, Where Do I Find The Words?

There are a few tricks to help to get started to actually write the content of your blog. One of the best tips I can share that worked well for me, is create a bullet list with beginning, middle and end to cover the scope of your post. Your bullet list can be of three, four of five points. Whatever you have to say, just outline it first. There bullet points will become your sub-headlines to separate the content of your post visually for the reader, making it easy to first browse the headlines before he or she decides to read your blog. Most readers do this, they browse first to decide whether or not to invest another 10-15 minutes reading your post. So providing these sub headlines will help you break down your post into smaller peaces and allow your readers to quickly browse the post to understand its contents.

The bullet points can be informative or teasing, whatever you can come up with. Just write it as you think it, you will get better at finding the best sub headlines as you go along. These bullet points, or sub headlines as we call it, are also a great place to include some additional keywords you might have come across when doing your original keyword research for a title. But if you can’t easily weave them in, don’t worry about it.

Once you have your post broken into smaller peaces, it will literally start writing it self. Just read each bullet and treat it as if someone is asking you about it in a form of question. Now, just answer the question, in writing. It doesn’t have to be long, even a single paragraph will do for starters. Don’t worry how long your post will be, some will be longer, some shorter, depending on how much you have to say about it.

Writing Is Just Like Exercising

Now, you have Wrote your first blog post. Sure, its not a master peace (or maybe it is), but the most important thing is just to keep going. The only thing you should do before publishing it and forgetting about it, is spell check it. Then FORGET about it. That’s right. Why? Because one post won’t bring millions to your site, and if you are attempting to write for the first time, its probably not very good. But that’s OK. The important thing right now is to just keep going, and start on the next post as soon as you can.

In fact, writing is just like exercising, you just have to keep doing it to see results. Even if you don’t feel like it, don’t put it off. The sites that make it, make it largely thanks to sheet volumes of content they offer. Also, you will get better at it the more you write. And search engines LOVE sites with a lot of content.

Blog For Profit

I have a friend, that without any internet knowledge at all, created a blog that reached 20,000 unique visits a months just after six months! And that by blogging alone! Not a penny was put into advertising and not even the slightest effort was made in terms of search engine optimization. Content, content, content! Its the new ‘location, location, location’ of the internet age. Today, she is already banking a few hundred bucks from the site and growing strong.

How did she do this? Is she a great writer? Probably not. But she writes about many topics that interest her, that she is passionate about, and she writes, writes and writes. To be fair, she also publishes syndicated content from other sites, so it helped her reach this traffic faster. But the bottom line is, she publishes about 100 posts a month. Yes, its a lot of work, and not all posts are written by her, but then again, the point is – content. The more the better.

So start writing a blog a day and you will get there.

Write about anything and everything, short or long, good or bad… just get the ball rolling.

I would love to know how your first blog writing experience went. Please do share.

Мой первый блог!

Finally got my mother to start a blog of her own. Russian readers among you will surely enjoy it.

Мой первый блог! – her first blog. Come and share some love to encourage her.

Building a SaaS company

Today has been a long day.. Last three months actually. It’s been 2 months since we soft launched HappyTodos hoping for the best. The application has been in development for 6 months prior, so you can understand the anticipation of launching a product a year in planning, 6 months in development… and now 2 months on the market.

Back to the drawing board

We have refreshed our business plan from the one written a year ago, to get it up to speed. Hired a business consultant for that purpose. My experience with the consultant is a topic for another post, but enough to say a lot of useful information has been gathered in last two months, post launch.

Vast, ongoing research is being done daily into the trends, news, competitor research, marketing, SEO, online advertising and such. Now only need to put it all into one coherent plan and set up goals for the upcoming months.

The big milestone is to complete revamping and improving HappyTodos application interface by the end of the year, along with going live with new product website and double SEO efforts.

Marketing, Marketing, Marketing

One of the things we found these last two months is that PPC campaigns are too expensive and too low in conversion for a new SaaS product. There is no better up sell of web products than a recommendation from a friend. Since your clients can become your best sales people, it is important to groom online relationships and build trust with your visitors and customers. This is priceless. PPC – not so much.

In the online project management industry, a SaaS business model, these are considered good conversion rates:

- 1% conversion from website visitor to free signup
- 1% conversion from free signup to paying customer
- 6 months average customer retention
- 30% monthly churn

These are general, of course, and improving either one of these can greatly impact your business.

I would love to hear the conversion rates of your SaaS business. Please share:

Now an average CPA for SaaS running PPC campaigns is $200-$500 per customer. For a software that charges only $19 a month, that’s a pretty high CPA. So a strategy has been formed to invest heavily into SEO, online marketing PR and Social networking. Paid advertisement is currently on-hold.

What is your experience with building and marketing a SaaS company?

Build personal website with built-in tools for web site promotion

Came across SiteSell a year ago, I have to admit, they have a very simple technology, but they work. I think they were first before WordPress to integrate web site promotional tools as a part of their software.

Site Build It, the SiteSell’s website builder and promotional CMS is mostly for individuals who want to start a personal website rather than for companies. What Site Build It offers you is a very simple and straight forward content management system to create your own personal website.

More than that, they first offer you a 10 day video course (amazing course, I went through all 10 days). It’s called The Action Guide.

The Action guide takes you through the whole process from brainstorming you site’s concept, to keyword research, site plan building and even help with your writing skills. All included.

After you have about 30 pages live, Site Build It! walks you through  how to monetize on your site. In short, you write about something you already know, and SBI! will help you build traffic to your web site behind the scene.

P.S. If you buy Site Build It! be warned, you will be starting an actual business. Check out my project HappyTodos – web based work and project management software, it might come in handy in your new business.

Enjoy!

Internet Business Promoter

A nice tool I bought and using to promote my sites. It is an SEO tool, but please note – only a tool. Using IBP (Internet Business Promoter by Axandra) will give you the following benefits:
It can submit your site to top 100 search engines (you get to choose) and check your ranking under a certain keyword, on a schedule.
If you use AdWords to promote your site, it has a built in keyword tool that will help you dig all the good keywords for your campaign. IBP will also advise you on several parameters the quality of your selections.

The website rank check is cool, but I really got the software for these 2 fellows: Links and Optimization.
Optimization will analyze your site’s pages, one by one, for a selected keyword. You will get a very detailed report on how your site passed next to your top 10 competitors under that same keyword.

Many websites and blogs write about all the important points you should keep in mind when optimizing your site for search engines, while IBP simply does it for you. I believe IBP give a 60 days free trial. So you can try it yourself, personally I liked it, saves you a lot of work. It simply tells you what to do, how name words to add or how many times you should or shouldn’t repeat a certain keyword on your page. Stuff like that.

But the links is a beauty. I admit, I would love for it to have a few more options, like run automatically and submit my site all over the web, but it doesn’t.
It does however allows you to search websites with outbound linking forms within your niche market, websites linking to your competitors (that where you really like to be listed :-)).

If you keep a list of sites that link to you or promote you, you can also use this tool as an organizer, it has import options too.

So, right now I working on promoting the HappyTodos project. HappyTodos is a web based project management software.
I’ve got about 300 cool sites waiting for me to put a link on them, better get busy. It’s just a start too, IBP can get me thousands of such links. Oh, you can also set a filter to target the sites you want IBP to find for you.

You go to sleep and it searches the web for you. I love it!

Ruby User Stories Format

https://peepcode.com/system/previews/rspec-stories/diagram.png

Connextra Format

As a [stakeholder], I want [feature] so that [benefit].
Popular Variant

In order to [benefit], a [stakeholder] wants to [feature].

Or

As a [role] I need [feature] so that [business value].

Scott Bellware’s suggestion

As a [role] I want to [goal] so that [motivation].

Sample User Stories:

  • As an admin I want to be able to search for a member by their Member Id so that I can find a specific member quickly.
  • As an admin I want to be able to search for one or more members by their Member Type so that I can target an action against all members of a specific type.
  • As an admin I want to be able to search for one or more members by a wildcard search of first and last names so that I can find a member just by knowing their name.
  • As an admin I want to be able to search for one or more members by region or industry so that I can find members from specific industries or regions.
  • As an admin I want to be able to search for one or more members by a wildcard search of job title so that I can find members with specific job titles.
  • As an admin I want to be able to search for one or more members by member status for my organisation so that I can target an action against all members of a specific member status.
  • As an admin I want to be able to search for one or more members by activation status so that I can target an action against all members of a specific activation status.
  • As an admin I want to be able to conduct a search against multiple facets of a member at once (e.g. by member status, industry, member type and job title) so that I can get very specific search results.
  • As the system I want to give admins a common page which allows them to search for members for all sorts of reasons and then target actions against the members found.
  • As the system I want to ensure that admins can only ever see their organisation’s own members in search results.

Sample Acceptance Tests

Given that [context], when [event/action], then [expected outcome].

Resources:

http://johnnyholland.org/2009/11/10/a-ux-strategy-through-stories-scenarios-and-sketches/

http://blog.falkayn.com/2010/01/do-i-need-user-stories.html


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