Tag Archive | "Easy"

Customers Need an Easy Button for Cloud

“Customers need in a lot of ways, I hate to say it, but almost an easy button for cloud,” says Matt Liebowitz of Dell Technologies Consulting.  “Often when they try to build it themselves, they bring the components together themselves, but it’s really difficult to do that integration work. But this product, Dell Technologies Cloud, is going to help accelerate for us in consulting so that they can quickly get to a state where they have a functional cloud that they can start consuming.”

Matt Liebowitz, Global Multi-Cloud Infrastructure Leader at Dell EMC, discusses how to migrate enterprises to the multi-cloud in an interview with theCUBE at Dell Technologies World 2019 in Las Vegas:

Multi-Cloud is Not Just Using More Than One Cloud

The most common thing we see from customers when they say I’m doing multi-cloud is they’re actually using more than one cloud. That’s not multi-cloud. You really need to tie it together with a cloud management platform, something that can bring all the pieces together that’s API enabled so that they can programmatically access resources. When customers tell us they’ve got multi-cloud but they’re really consuming something in Azure and something in AWS they’ve just created more IT silos. We’re trying to get away from that. They can use all those clouds but wrap it together in that common control plane so you can understand your estate and actually manage it and consume it.

I think most customers are responding. The needs of the business are changing and they need to respond more quickly so they just consume cloud resources as they can. That often leads to the sprawl. We try to just wrap it together, do an analysis, figure out what’s out there, and help them not only understand where the applications should live but wrap an operating model around it so they can start consuming it properly. They can then understand what they’re going to advertise in their service catalog.

Are You a Digital Laggard or a Digital Leader?

We take what analysts do and we also have our own studies and indexes all the way starting from what we call digital laggards all the way to the digital leaders. What we found is actually most of the customers are either laggards or they’re just starting out. Maybe they’ve made some loose investments but they haven’t walked the path that far. There’s stuff kind of everywhere. Customers don’t often know where to start but I think they’re responding to the needs of the business. I don’t think it’s anything that they’re doing that’s wrong but it’s a little bit of the Wild West for sure.

It’s all about business value and business outcome. The customers who are the most successful have a business reason for what they’re trying to do. They’re not going to public cloud because Gartner said they should, they’re doing it because they know they’re going to get an outcome. They’re going to be able to go into new markets or operate faster and deploy applications faster. Those are the ones that are further down the line. I would say the ones that are the laggards are the ones that are just sort of peeking under the covers of what they should do. They’re just starting out there. They’ve got some workloads in multiple clouds and they need to get a handle on it but they’re just starting.

Customers Need an Easy Button for Cloud

Customers need in a lot of ways, I hate to say it, but almost an easy button for cloud. Often when they try to build it themselves, they bring the components together themselves, but it’s really difficult to do that integration work. I’m in consulting so we’re all about the outcome. But this product, Dell Technologies Cloud, is going to help accelerate for us in consulting so that they can quickly get to a state where they have a functional cloud that they can start consuming. Then we can help them with the day two to actually drive business value, consumption of the cloud and that sort of thing.

We have a framework on how we approach things for multi-cloud and for lots of other things. We use a methodology that we call as-is-to-be where we determine their current state, project where they’re going to be in the future and build a roadmap that’s actually actionable. Then I think what differentiates the methodology is we tie it to a business case. We tie it to an outcome and a financial outcome so that executives and IT leaders can see that this is not just another IT project. They’re going to get true value out of it. We build a roadmap pretty quick, within three to six weeks, that’s actually actionable. We build consensus and that’s how we get started.

Customers Need an Easy Button for Cloud, Says Matt Liebowitz of Dell Technologies

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Google: It’s Easy To Read Between The Lines

As you all know from reading this blog, I try hard to read between the lines when it comes to what Google and Googlers are saying. I try not to stretch that too much but I do use my 15+ years of history of covering Google to kind of help me with those calls. I am not always right and John Mueller of Google warns of us being careful with that.


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5 Easy Ways to Transform Your Website into a Standout Salesperson

Most freelancers I know hate selling. And I can include myself in that bunch. Whether it’s a fear of rejection,…

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12 Easy Tweaks that Could Lead to Outsized Improvement in Your Content and Writing

We often write about big, strategic changes you can make to give your writing more power. But this week, we…

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Easy Email Inbox: Reply to 3 Types of Messages (and Don’t Sweat the Rest)

When you run a content marketing platform, you’ll get other types of messages from your audience in addition to blog comments. You’ll get emails. Many people have a love/hate relationship with email. When it’s good, it’s really good — but when it’s bad, managing your inbox feels like a huge waste of time. But like
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7 easy ways to multiply your conversions

Personalize your marketing with dynamic content.



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Just How Much is Your Website Worth, Anyhow? An Easy Guide to Valuation

Posted by efgreg

We all work hard building our businesses.

We put in the sweat equity and all the tears that can come with it to build something truly great. After another day hustling at the office or typing furiously on your keyboard, you might be wondering… what is the end game here?

What are you really going for? Is there a glowing neon sign with the word “Exit” marking the path to your ultimate goal?

For the majority of businesses, the end goal is to eventually sell that business to another entrepreneur who wants to take the reins and simply enjoy the profits from the sale. Alas, most of us don’t even know what our business is worth, much less how to go about selling it — or if it’s even sellable to begin with.

That’s where Empire Flippers comes in. We’ve been brokering deals for years in the online business space, serving a quiet but hungry group of investors who are looking to acquire digital assets. The demand for profitable digital assets has been growing so much that our brokerage was able to get on the Inc. 5000 list two years in a row, both times under the 500 mark.

We can say with confidence that, yes, there is indeed an exit for your business.

By the end of this article you’re going to know more about how online businesses are valued, what buyers are looking for, and how you can get the absolute top dollar for your content website, software as a service (SaaS), or e-commerce store.

(You might have noticed I didn’t include the word “agency” in the last paragraph. Digital agencies are incredibly hard to sell; to do so, you need to have streamlined your process as much as possible. Even though having clients is great, other digital assets are far easier to sell.)

If you’ve built a digital asset you’re looking to exit from, the first question you likely have is, “This sounds fantastic, but how do I go about putting an actual price tag on what I’ve created?”

We’ll dive into those answers below, but first let’s talk about why you’re already in a great position just by being a reader of the Moz Blog.

Why is SEO the most valuable traffic for a digital asset?

SEO is by far the most attractive traffic source for people looking at purchasing online businesses.

The beauty of SEO is that once you’ve put in the work to achieve the rankings, they can maintain and bring in traffic for sometimes months without significant upkeep. That’s in stark contrast with pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns, such as Facebook ads, which require daily monitoring to make sure nothing strange is happening with your conversions or that you’re not overspending.

For someone who has no experience with traffic generation but wants to purchase a profitable online business, an SEO-fueled website just makes sense. They can earn while they learn. When they purchase the asset (typically a content website for people just starting out), they can play around with adding new high-quality pieces of content and learn about more complicated SEO techniques down the road.

Even someone who is a master at paid traffic loves SEO. They might buy an e-commerce store that has some real potential with Facebook ads that’s currently driving the majority of its traffic through SEO, and treat the SEO as gravy on top of the paid traffic they plan to drive toward that e-commerce store.

Whether the buyer is a newbie or a veteran, SEO as a traffic method has one of the widest appeals of any other traffic strategy. While SEO itself does not increase the value of the business in most cases, it does attract more buyers than other forms of traffic.

Now, let’s get down to what your business is worth.

How are online businesses actually valued?

How businesses are valued is such a common question we get at our brokerage that we created an automated valuation tool that gives a free estimate of your business’s value, which our audience uses with all of their different projects.

At the heart of any valuation is a fairly basic formula:

You look at your rolling 12-month net profit average and then times that by a multiple. Typically, a multiple will range between 20–50x of the 12-month average net profit for healthy, profitable online businesses. As you get closer to 50x you have to be able to show your business is growing in a BIG way month over month and that your business is truly defensible (something we’ll talk about later in this article).

You might see some brokers using a 2x or 3x EBITDA, which stands for earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization.

When you see this formula, they’re using an annual multiple, whereas at Empire Flippers we use a monthly multiple. There’s really not much of a difference between the two formulas; it mainly depends on your preference, but if you’re brand new to buying and selling online businesses, then it’s helpful to know how different brokers price businesses.

We prefer the monthly multiple since it shows a more granular picture of the business and where it’s trending.

Just like you can influence Google SERPs with SEO knowledge, so can you manipulate this formula to give you a better valuation as long as you know what you’re looking at.

How to move the multiple needle in your favor

There are various things you can do to get a higher multiple. A lot of it comes down to just common sense and really putting yourself in the buyer’s shoes.

A useful thing to ask: “Would I ever buy my business? Why? Why not?”

This exercise can lead you to change a lot of things about your business for the better.

The two areas that most affect the multiple come down to your actual average net profit and how long the business has been around making money.

Average net profit

The higher your average net profit, the higher your multiple will tend to be because it’s a bigger cash-flowing asset. It makes sense then to look at various ways you can increase that net profit and decrease your total amount of expenses.

Every digital asset is a little different in where their expenses are coming from. For content sites, content creation costs are typically the lion’s share of expenses. As you approach the time of sale, you might want to scale back your content. In other cases, you may want to move to an agency solution where you can scale or minimize your content expenses at will rather than having in-house writers on the payroll.

There are also expenses that you might be applying to the business but aren’t really “needed” in operating the business, known as add-backs.

Add-backs

Add-backs are where you add certain expenses BACK into the net profit. These are items that you might’ve charged on the business account but aren’t really relevant to running the business.

These could be drinks, meals, or vacations put on the business account, and sometimes even business conferences. For example, going to a conference about email marketing might not be considered a “required” expense to running a health content site, whereas going to a sourcing conference like the Canton Fair would be a harder add-back to justify when it comes to running an e-commerce store.

Other things, such as SEO tools you’re using on a monthly basis, can likely be added back to the business. Most people won’t need them constantly to run and grow their business. They might subscribe for a month, get all the keyword data they need for a while, cancel, and then come back when they’re ready to do more keyword research.

Most of your expenses won’t be add-backs, but it is good to keep these in mind as they can definitely increase the ultimate sales price of your business.

When not to cut expenses

While there’s usually a lot of fat you can cut from your business, you need to be reasonable about it. Cutting some things might improve your overall net profit, but vastly decrease the attractability of your business.

One common thing we see in the e-commerce space is solopreneurs starting to package and ship all of the items themselves to their customers. The thinking goes that they’re saving money by doing it themselves. While this may be true, it’s not an attractive solution to a potential buyer.

It’s far more attractive to spend money on a third-party solution that can store and ship the product for you as orders come in. After all, many buyers are busy traveling the world while having an online business. Forcing them to settle down just so they can ship products versus hanging out on the beaches of Bali for a few months during winter is a tough ask.

When selling a business, you don’t want to worry only about expenses, but also how easy it is to plug into and start running that business for a buyer.

Even if the systems you create to do that add extra expenses, like using a third party to handle fulfillment, they’re often more than worth keeping around because they make the business look more attractive to buyers.

Length of history

The more history you can show, the more attractive your business will be, as long as it’s holding at a steady profit level or showing an upward trend.

The more your business is trending upward, the higher multiple you’re going to get.

While you can’t do much in terms of lengthening the business’s history, you can prepare yourself for the eventual sale by investing in needed items early on in your business. For example, if you know your website needs a big makeover and you’re 24 months out from selling, it’s better to do that big website redesign now instead of during the 12-month average your business will be priced on.

Showing year-over-year growth is also beneficial in getting a better multiple, because it shows your business can weather growing pains. This ability to weather business challenges is especially true in a business whose primary traffic is Google-organic. It shows that the site has done quality SEO by surviving several big updates over the course of a few years.

On the flipside, a trending downward business is going to get a much worse multiple, likely in the 12–18x range. A business in decline can still be sold, though. There are specific buyers that only want distressed assets because they can get them at deep discounts and often have the skill sets needed to fix the site.

You just have to be willing to take a lower sales price due to the decline, and since a buyer pool on distressed assets is smaller, you’ll likely have a longer sales cycle before you find someone willing to acquire the asset.

Other factors that lead to a higher multiple

While profit and length of history are the two main factors, there are a bunch of smaller factors that can add up to a significant increase in your multiple and ultimate valuation price.

You’ll have a fair amount of control with a lot of these, so they’re worth maximizing as much as possible in the 12–24 month window where you are preparing your online business for sale.

1. Minimize critical points of failure

Critical points of failure are anything in your business that has the power to be a total deal breaker. It’s not rare to sell a business that has one or two critical points, but even so you want to try to minimize this as much as possible.

An example of a critical point of failure could be where all of your website traffic is purely Google-organic. If the site gets penalized by a Google algorithm update, it could kill all of your traffic and revenue overnight.

Likewise, if you’re an Amazon affiliate and Amazon suddenly changes their Terms of Service, you could get banned for reasons you don’t understand or even have time to react to, ending up with a highly trafficked site that makes zero money.

In the e-commerce space, we see situations where the entrepreneur only has one supplier that can make their product. What happens if that supplier wants to jack up the prices or suddenly goes out of business completely?

It’s worth your while to diversify your traffic sources, have multiple monetization strategies for a content site, or investigate having backup or even competing suppliers for your e-commerce products.

Every business has some kind of weakness; your job is to minimize those weaknesses as much as possible to get the most value out of your business from a potential buyer.

2. High amounts of traffic

Higher traffic tends to correlate with higher revenue, which ultimately should increase your net profit. That all goes without saying; however, high traffic also can be an added bonus to your multiple on top of helping create a solid net profit.

Many buyers look for businesses they can optimize to the extreme at every point of the marketing funnel. When you have a high amount of traffic, you give them a lot of room to play with different conversion rate optimization factors like increasing email options, creating or crafting a better abandoned cart sequence, and changing the various calls to action on the site.

While many sellers might be fantastic at driving traffic, they might not exactly be the biggest pro at copywriting or CRO in general; this is where a big opportunity lies for the right buyer who might be able to increase conversions with their own copywriting or CRO skill.

3. Email subscribers

It’s almost a cliche in the Internet marketing space to say “the money is in the list.” Email has often been one of the biggest drivers of revenue for companies, but there’s a weird paradigm we’ve discovered after selling hundreds of online businesses.

Telling someone they should use an email list is pretty similar to telling someone to go to the gym: they agree it’s useful and they should do it, but often they do nothing about it. Then there are those who do build an email list because they understand its power, but then never do anything useful with it.

This results in email lists being a hit-or-miss on whether they actually add any value to your business’s final valuation.

If you can prove the email list is adding value to your business, then your email list CAN improve your overall multiple. If you use good email automation sequences to up-sell your traffic and routinely email the list with new offers and pieces of high-quality content, then your email list has real value associated with it, which will reflect on your final valuation.

4. Social media following

Social media has become more and more important as time goes on, but it can also be an incredibly fickle beast.

It’s best to think of your social media following as a “soft” email list. The reach of your social media following compared to your email list will tend to be lower, especially as social organic reach keeps declining on bigger social platforms like Facebook. In addition, you don’t own the platform that following is built off of, meaning it can be taken away from you anytime for reasons outside of your control.

Plus, it’s just too easy to fake followers and likes.

However, if you can wade through all that and prove that your social following and social media promotion are driving real traffic and sales to your business, it will definitely help in increasing your multiple.

5. How many product offerings you have

Earning everything from a single product is somewhat risky.

What happens if that product goes out of style? Or gets discontinued?

Whether you’re running an e-commerce store or a content site monetizing through affiliate links, you want to have several different product offerings.

When you have several products earning good money through your website, then a buyer will find the business ultimately more attractive and value it more because you won’t be hurt in a big way if one of the “flavors of the month” disappears on you.

6. Hours required

Remember, the majority of buyers are not looking at acquiring a job. They want a leveraged cash-flowing investment they can ideally scale up.

While there’s nothing wrong with working 40–50+ hours per week on a business that is really special, it will narrow your overall buyer pool and make the business less attractive. The truth is, most of the digital assets we’re creating don’t really require this amount of work from the owner.

What we typically see is that there are a lot of areas for improvement that the seller can use to minimize their weekly hour allotment to the business. We recommend that everyone looking to sell their business first consider how they can minimize their actual involvement.

The three most effective ways to cut down on your time spent are:

  • Systemization: Automating as much of your business as possible
  • Developing a team: The biggest wins we see here tend to be in content creation, customer service, general operations, and hiring a marketing agency to do the majority of the heavy lifting for you. While these add costs that drive down the average net profit, they also make your business far more attractive.
  • Creating standard operating procedures (SOPs): SOPs should outline the entire process of a specific function of the business and should be good enough that if you handed them off to someone, they could do the job 80 percent as well as you.

You should always be in a position where you’re working ON your business and not IN.

7. Dig a deeper moat

At Empire Flippers, we’re always asking people if they built a deep enough moat around their business. A deep moat means your business is harder to copy. A copycat can’t just go buy a domain and some hosting and copy your business in an afternoon.

A drop-shipping store that can be copied in a single day is not going to be nearly as attractive as one that has built up a real following and a community around their brand, even if they sell the same products.

This fact becomes more and more important as your business valuation goes into the multiple six-figure and seven-figure valuation ranges because buyers are looking to buy a real brand at this point, not just a niche site.

Here are a few actions you can take to deepen this moat:

  • Niche down and own the market with your brand (a woodworking website might focus specifically on benches, for example, where you’re hiring expert artisans to write content on the subject).
  • Source your products and make them unique, rather than another “me too” product.
  • Negotiate special terms with your affiliate managers or suppliers. If you’ve been sending profitable traffic to an affiliate offer, often you can just email the affiliate manager asking for a pay bump and they’ll gladly give it. Likewise, if you’re doing good business for a drop-shipping supplier, they might be open to doing an exclusivity agreement with you. Make sure all of these special terms are transferable to the buyer, though.

The harder it is to copy what you’ve built, the higher the multiple you’ll get.

But why would you EVER sell your online business in the first place?

You’re now well-equipped with knowledge on how to increase your business’s ultimate value, but why would you actually sell it?

The reasons are vast and numerous — too many to list in this post. However, there are a few common reasons you might resonate with.

Here are a few business reasons why people sell their businesses:

  • Starting a new business or wanting to focus on other current projects
  • Seeking to use the capital to leverage themselves into a more competitive (and lucrative) space
  • Having lost any interest in running the business and want to sell the asset off before it starts reflecting their lack of interest through declining revenue
  • Wanting to cash out of the business to invest in offline investments like real estate, stocks, bonds, etc.

Just as there are a ton of business reasons to sell, there are also a ton of personal reasons why people sell their business:

  • Getting a divorce
  • Purchasing a home for their family (selling one digital asset can be a hefty down payment for a home, or even cover the entirety of the home)
  • Having medical issues
  • Other reasons: We had one seller on our marketplace whose reason for selling his business was to get enough money to adopt a child.

When you can collect 20–50 months of your net profit upfront, you can do a lot of things that just weren’t options before.

When you have a multiple six-figure or even seven-figure war chest, you can often outspend the competition, invest in infrastructure and teams you couldn’t before, and in general jumpstart your next project or business idea far faster without ever having to worry about if a Google update is going tank your earnings or some other unforeseen market change.

That begs the question…

When should you sell?

Honestly, it depends.

The answer to this question is more of an art than a science.

As a rule of thumb, you should ask yourself if you’re excited by the kind of money you’ll get from the successful sale of your online business.

You can use our valuation tool to get a ballpark estimate or do some back-of-the-napkin math of what you’re likely to receive for the business using the basic multiple formula I outlined. I prefer to always be on the conservative side with my estimations, so your napkin math might be taking your 12-month average net profit with a multiple of 25x.

Does that number raise your eyebrows? Is it even interesting?

If it is, then you might want to start asking yourself if you really are ready to part with your business to focus on other things. Remember, you should always set a MINIMUM sales price that you’d be willing to walk away from the business with, something that would still make you happy if you went through with it.

Most of us Internet marketers are always working on multiple projects at once. Sadly, some projects just don’t get the love they deserve or used to get from us.

Instead of letting those projects just die off in the background, consider selling your online business instead to a very hungry market of investors starting to flood our digital realm.

Selling a business, even if it’s a side project that you’re winding down, is always going to be an intimate process. When you’re ready to pull the trigger, we’ll be there to help you every step of the way.

Have you thought about selling your online business, or gone through a sale in the past? Let us know your advice, questions, or anecdotes in the comments.

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One Ridiculously Easy Way to Enhance the Power of Your Blog Posts

The overall aim of your blog is to help your audience with the issues they struggle with while also educating them on what they need to know to do business with you. That’s too much responsibility for just one article, so each blog post you publish can be thought of as a piece of your
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10 Easy Tips for Professional Audio Quality

"Your sound should be a 'welcome mat' that invites the listener in for what feels like a face-to-face conversation." – Toby Lyles

I started working with podcasts because I was an avid podcast listener.

I would be listening to a conversation, hanging on every word, and then it would happen: the guest would bump his mic at the exact moment when he said the one thing I wanted to hear, and I’d miss out.

Our content should connect and engage, not frustrate and push away.

Since I run a podcast production company, I’ve learned that most people think any sound problem can be repaired with the simple twist of a knob. If only that were so.

Do you know how to avoid the most common podcast production pitfalls that distract your listeners?

Read on to discover how your podcast can stand out from the majority of the audio content available on the web.

Quality audio defined

Audio quality can be as subjective as Picasso’s art in a museum. One person says it’s brilliant … the next walks away scratching their head.

Let’s start with what quality audio is not.

You can tell audio needs to be improved when you hear:

  • Hum
  • Buzz
  • Hiss
  • Room reflections (echoes from the recording room)
  • Microphone handling, bumping sounds
  • Other foreign sounds: animals, lawnmowers, keyboard clicks, etc.
  • “Plosives” (the explosive sound consonants make when spoken into a microphone)
  • Extreme audio processing (audio effects that create an unnatural sound)

On the other hand, quality audio can be defined in one word: natural.

Quality audio sounds as if you’re talking around a kitchen table or with a client in your office. Your sound should be a “welcome mat” that invites the listener in for what feels like a face-to-face conversation.

How do you accomplish that? Here are 10 tips that will help you produce the “welcome mat” experience.

1. Value your listeners

Podcasts and blogs are similar.

In the same way that good website design helps attract and keep blog readers, quality audio attracts and keeps listeners around.

Quality audio isn’t about making you sound good, it’s about engaging your audience.

2. Invest in the right microphone

You knew this one was coming.

Microphones are the most important element of quality audio, but podcasters don’t need fancy, expensive ones.

If you record a monologue or interview-style podcast in an office or room in a home, a dynamic microphone is what you need. Other microphones work, but they can require more resources to coax out good sound.

Want some recommendations? My favorites are:

  • Audio-Technica 2100: a great USB microphone at an amazing price
  • RE20: the most popular microphone for radio for decades

The microphones listed above will produce quality sound, but remember that choosing a microphone is mostly about personality and taste. You need to ask yourself if the microphone is right for you, your voice, and your brand.

One way to answer the “which is best for me” question is to book a session at a professional recording studio and try out a variety of microphones. Take those recordings and get some feedback.

Between the engineer at the studio and your friends and family, you should be able to find a clear winner. Also, keep your target audience in mind. Does the microphone help communicate who you are? Does it match the tone your audience needs to hear?

Here are a couple guidelines about microphones to avoid:

  • The headset microphone that came with your smartphone. While those are great for appearing live on Facebook, they’re not ideal for podcasting.
  • A condenser microphone. They’re made for the acoustics in big, fancy, recording studios. Unless you’re planning to build a recording booth in your garage, leave these microphones in the store.

3. Use a microphone stand

Some podcasters like to record with the microphone in their hands. Unless holding the mic is absolutely necessary, avoid that technique.

Another common microphone-stand mistake is connecting it to a surface your hands or feet easily touch. If it’s a desk-mount stand, try connecting it to a nearby piece of furniture that’s not touching the desk. Or, if it’s a floor-mount stand, make sure the feet rest on carpet or padding.

Otherwise, the small movements you make during recording can transfer up the stand and into the microphone, which produces distracting sounds.

4. Find a great place to record

This item alone is a quick win for good sound.

Before you record, double-check that your room doesn’t reflect your voice back into the microphone. Carpet, furniture, wall decorations, and non-parallel walls all help calm the reflections. Trying a smaller room, or even a closet, is often easier than acoustically treating your current recording space.

You should also keep outside noises to a minimum. Common offenders are:

  • Fans
  • Refrigerators
  • Furnaces
  • Cars
  • Phones and other electronics
  • Open windows

5. Speak near the microphone

Nearly everyone shies away from the microphone. Don’t.

Even a slight distance from a mic makes you sound like you’re in a cave.

You’ll want to nearly kiss it. Make it your friend, and it will make you friends as you build your audience.

6. Set up a pop filter

The downside of speaking near the microphone is that it causes “plosives.”

“Plosives” are simply the air from consonant sounds disrupting the sensitive components of the microphone.

The pop filter, a screen that goes around or in front of a microphone, is a tried-and-true solution. Expensive or cheap, they’re all about the same.

7. Select an audio interface

Although many recommend using a mixing board, I’ve found that the never-ending knobs create more headaches than freedom.

The simplest solution is to plug your microphone into an audio interface, which converts your analogue microphone sound into digital, so your computer can understand it.

As a side note, even if you’re using the Audio-Technica 2100, it’s still a good idea to utilize an audio interface instead of the USB connection. It produces a much more detailed and clear sound.

My current audio interface favorites are:

8. Record separate tracks

Take advantage of multiple tracks to make sure every voice has its own separate recording.

With a two-person interview, it’s easy to pan the host to the left track and the guest to the right track. If your guest joins you via video chat, capturing a separate track of their local recording is helpful.

In the past, this was only possible if the guest was well-versed in audio or recording in a radio station. Thankfully, technology has advanced.

One of my favorite tools is Zencastr. It records via a web browser and uploads the best audio possible to your dropbox account.

9. Back up your recordings

Some people prefer to avoid a computer and record into a small recording device. I often do this myself, after having one too many recording sessions ruined by computer glitches.

I know of an author whose power went out while he was recording an audiobook. He lost four hours of recorded audio!

You can avoid that exact situation by recording into an external recorder. Or better yet, record into a computer for convenience and add an external recorder as a backup, just in case.

One of the fastest ways is to simply use an XLR splitter, which will split the signal into both the audio interface and the external recorder. If you have multiple sources, running an output from the interface into the recorder is a great way to use it as a secondary backup.

A couple external recorder favorites of mine are:

10. Edit and produce your content

While creating a good recording is the bulk of what’s involved in producing a podcast, quality editing and production wraps up the package.

If you have audio experience, go for it, but if you’re hesitant, grab someone who’s spent some time in the field. Even if you don’t hire a producer who specifically works with podcasts, their wisdom can help ensure you avoid expensive mistakes and end up with a quality product.

For those producing podcasts on their own, check out Auphonic. Auphonic has turned years of professional audio experience into an inexpensive piece of online software. Their specialty is leveling audio and removing background hiss and noise, an audio producer’s two most important jobs.

Bonus tip: loosen up

Before you record, have some fun: watch a cat video, laugh a little, do some vocal warm-ups.

Think about the person you’re aiming to help and the problem you can’t wait to solve for them.

Better recordings strengthen your message

Remember, audio equipment exists to enhance your message.

Who you are and what you have to say is invaluable … the gear is just a method of transporting the gold.

Special offer for Copyblogger readers only: Contact Toby on Twitter or at TwentyFourSound for a one-time, free podcast review. He’ll help you find the exact steps needed to match your audio to your voice.

The post 10 Easy Tips for Professional Audio Quality appeared first on Copyblogger.


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Structuring URLs for Easy Data Gathering and Maximum Efficiency

Posted by Dom-Woodman

Imagine you work for an e-commerce company.

Wouldn’t it be useful to know the total organic sessions and conversions to all of your products? Every week?

If you have access to some analytics for an e-commerce company, try and generate that report now. Give it 5 minutes.

Done?

Or did that quick question turn out to be deceptively complicated? Did you fall into a rabbit hole of scraping and estimations?

Not being able to easily answer that question — and others like it — is costing you thousands every year.

Let’s jump back a step

Every online business, whether it’s a property portal or an e-commerce store, will likely have spent hours and hours agonizing over decisions about how their website should look, feel, and be constructed.

The biggest decision is usually this: What will we build our website with? And from there, there are hundreds of decisions, all the way down to what categories should we have on our blog?

Each of these decisions will generate future costs and opportunities, shaping how the business operates.

Somewhere in this process, a URL structure will be decided on. Hopefully it will be logical, but the context in which it’s created is different from how it ends up being used.

As a business grows, the desire for more information and better analytics grows. We hire data analysts and pay agencies thousands of dollars to go out, gather this data, and wrangle it into a useful format so that smart business decisions can be made.

It’s too late. You’ve already wasted £1000s a year.

It’s already too late; by this point, you’ve already created hours and hours of extra work for the people who have to analyze your data and thousands will be wasted.

All because no one structured the URLs with data gathering in mind.

How about an example?

Let’s go back to the problem we talked about at the start, but go through the whole story. An e-commerce company goes to an agency and asks them to get total organic sessions to all of their product pages. They want to measure performance over time.

Now this company was very diligent when they made their site. They’d read Moz and hired an SEO agency when they designed their website and so they’d read this piece of advice: products need to sit at the root. (E.g. mysite.com/white-t-shirt.)

Apparently a lot of websites read this piece of advice, because with minimal searching you can find plenty of sites whose product pages that rank do sit at the root: Appleyard Flowers, Game, Tesco Direct.

At one level it makes sense: a product might be in multiple categories (LCD & 42” TVs, for example), so you want to avoid duplicate content. Plus, if you changed the categories, you wouldn’t want to have to redirect all the products.

But from a data gathering point of view, this is awful. Why? There is now no way in Google Analytics to select all the products unless we had the foresight to set up something earlier, like a custom dimension or content grouping. There is nothing that separates the product URLs from any other URL we might have at the root.

How could our hypothetical data analyst get the data at this point?

They might have to crawl all the pages on the site so they can pick them out with an HTML footprint (a particular piece of HTML on a page that identifies the template), or get an internal list from whoever owns the data in the organization. Once they’ve got all the product URLs, they’ll then have to match this data to the Google Analytics in Excel, probably with a VLOOKUP or, if the data set is too large, a database.

Shoot. This is starting to sound quite expensive.

And of course, if you want to do this analysis regularly, that list will constantly change. The range of products being sold will change. So it will need to be a scheduled scrape or automated report. If we go the scraping route, we could do this, but crawling regularly isn’t possible with Screaming Frog. Now we’re either spending regular time on Screaming Frog or paying for a cloud crawler that you can schedule. If we go the other route, we could have a dev build us an internal automated report we can go to once we can get the resource internally.

Wow, now this is really expensive: a couple days’ worth of dev time, or a recurring job for your SEO consultant or data analyst each week.

This could’ve been a couple of clicks on a default report.

If we have the foresight to put all the products in a folder called /products/, this entire lengthy process becomes one step:

Load the landing pages report in Google Analytics and filter for URLs beginning with /product/.

Congratulations — you’ve just cut a couple days off your agency fee, saved valuable dev time, or gained the ability to fire your second data analyst because your first is now so damn efficient (sorry, second analysts).

As a data analyst or SEO consultant, you continually bump into these kinds of issues, which suck up time and turn quick tasks into endless chores.

What is unique about a URL?

For most analytics services, it’s the main piece of information you can use to identify the page. Google Analytics, Google Search Console, log files, all of these only have access to the URL most of the time and in some cases that’s all you’ll get — you can never change this.

The vast majority of site analyses requires working with templates and generalizing across groups of similar pages. You need to work with templates and you need to be able to do this by URL.

It’s crucial.

There’s a Jeff Bezos saying that’s appropriate here:

“There are two types of decisions. Type 1 decisions are not reversible, and you have to be very careful making them. Type 2 decisions are like walking through a door — if you don’t like the decision, you can always go back.”

Setting URLs is very much a Type 1 decision. As anyone in SEO knows, you really don’t want to be constantly changing URLs; it causes a lot of problems, so when they’re being set up we need to take our time.

How should you set up your URLs?

How do you pick good URL patterns?

First, let’s define a good pattern. A good pattern is something which we can use to easily select a template of URLs, ideally using contains rather than any complicated regex.

This usually means we’re talking about adding folders because they’re easiest to find with just a contains filter, i.e. /products/, /blogs/, etc.

We also want to keep things human-readable when possible, so we need to bear that in mind when choosing our folders.

So where should we add folders to our URLs?

I always ask the following two questions:

  • Will I need to group the pages in this template together?
    • If a set of pages needs grouping I need to put them in the same folder, so we can identify this by URL.
  • Are there crucial sub-groupings for this set of pages? If there are, are they mutually exclusive and how often might they change?
    • If there are common groupings I may want to make, then I should consider putting this in the URL, unless those data groupings are liable to change.

Let’s look at a couple examples.

Firstly, back to our product example: let’s suppose we’re setting up product URLs for a fashion e-commerce store.

Will I need to group the products together? Yes, almost certainly. There clearly needs to be a way of grouping in the URL. We should put them in a /product/ folder.

Within in this template, how might I need to group these URLs together? The most plausible grouping for products is the product category. Let’s take a black midi dress.

What about putting “little black dress” or “midi” as a category? Well, are they mutually exclusive? Our dress could fit in the “little black dress” category and the “midi dress” category, so that’s probably not something we should add as a folder in the URL.

What about moving up a level and using “dress” as a category? Now that is far more suitable, if we could reasonably split all our products into:

  • Dresses
  • Tops
  • Skirts
  • Trousers
  • Jeans

And if we were happy with having jeans and trousers separate then this might indeed be an excellent fit that would allow us to easily measure the performance of each top-level category. These also seem relatively unlikely to change and, as long as we’re happy having this type of hierarchy at the top (as opposed to, say, “season,” for example), it makes a lot of sense.

What are some common URL patterns people should use?

Product pages

We’ve banged on about this enough and gone through the example above. Stick your products in a /products/ folder.

Articles

Applying the same rules we talked about to articles and two things jump out. The first is top-level categorization.

For example, adding in the following folders would allow you to easily measure the top-level performance of articles:

  • Travel
  • Sports
  • News

You should, of course, be keeping them all in a /blog/ or /guides/ etc. folder too, because you won’t want to group just by category.

Here’s an example of all 3:

  • A bad blog article URL: example.com/this-is-an-article-name/
  • A better blog article URL: example.com/blog/this-is-an-article-name/
  • An even better blog article URL: example.com/blog/sports/this-is-an-article-name

The second, which obeys all our rules, is author groupings, which may be well-suited for editorial sites with a large number of authors that they want performance stats on.

Location grouping

Many types of websites often have category pages per location. For example:

  • Cars for sale in Manchester – /for-sale/vehicles/manchester
  • Cars for sale in Birmingham. – /for-sale/vehicles/birmingham

However, there are many different levels of location granularity. For example, here are 4 different URLs, each a more specific location in the one above it (sorry to all our non-UK readers — just run with me here).

  • Cars for sale in Suffolk – /for-sale/vehicles/suffolk
  • Cars for sale in Ipswich – /for-sale/vehicles/ipswich
  • Cars for sale in Ipswich center – /for-sale/vehicles/ipswich-center
  • Cars for sale on Lancaster road – /for-sale/vehicles/lancaster-road

Obviously every site will have different levels of location granularity, but a grouping often missing here is providing the level of location granularity in the URL. For example:

  • Cars for sale in Suffolk – /for-sale/cars/county/suffolk
  • Cars for sale in Ipswich – /for-sale/vehicles/town/ipswich
  • Cars for sale in Ipswich center – /for-sale/vehicles/area/ipswich-center
  • Cars for sale on Lancaster road – /for-sale/vehicles/street/lancaster-road

This could even just be numbers (although this is less ideal because it breaks our second rule):

  • Cars for sale in Suffolk – /for-sale/vehicles/04/suffolk
  • Cars for sale in Ipswich – /for-sale/vehicles/03/ipswich
  • Cars for sale in Ipswich center – /for-sale/vehicles/02/ipswich-center
  • Cars for sale on Lancaster road – /for-sale/vehicles/01/lancaster-road

This makes it very easy to assess and measure the performance of each layer so you can understand if it’s necessary, or if perhaps you’ve aggregated too much.

What other good (or bad) examples of this has the community come across? Let’s here it!

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