- Eric Davis ( )
- Charles Max Wood ( )
01:47 – Static sites vs
03:33 – Important parts of a Website
- Placeholder sites
- Contact information
04:27 – Getting contacted
07:43 – Blog Posts
08:45 – Portfolios
11:05 – Testimonials
11:55 – Mailing Lists/Newsletters
- Waiting list of clients
14:13 – Landing Pages
- Small pages
- Guide people to their goal
16:33 – Social Media
17:22 – Logos
19:22 – Static Site Generators
21:07 – What do you want people to do when they visit your site?
- Welcome Gate:
- Contact Me
23:40 – Products/eBooks
25:49 – Landing Pages
- Call to action
29:23 – A/B Testing for WordPress
30:33 – Analytics
31:23 – About Pages
- Use “I” not “We”
34:07 – SEO
36:35 – Project Inclusion in Portfolios
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CHUCK: Hey everybody and welcome to Episode 39 of the Ruby Freelancer Show! This week on our panel, we have Eric Davis.
CHUCK: And I’m Charles Max Wood from devchat.tv. This week we’re going to be talking about “What Should Be On My Website”. And this was kind of my idea as far as something that I wanted to do mainly because I’ve been playing with the idea of putting together a website for my freelancing business. It’s kind of shocking, I think. To think that I’ve been doing this for two and a half years and still don’t have a really functional website for my business. But at the same time, I mean I have some ideas of things that I think should be on there, and I know Eric has been doing this for a while and has a website that does bring him business. So I thought we could just jump in and talk about some of the things that we think should be there or some of the things that people put on there that maybe they “un” put on there or maybe don’t give them as much of a win as they think it gives them. So Eric, I’m a little curious before we start talking about what’s on the website, is your website built on like WordPress or anything? Or is it something you built on Rails?
ERIC: Yeah so right now I was just using WordPress. Let’s say I started with a static site, built a custom Ruby, or actually Rails CMS, scrapped to because I’d rather work on client projects or paid projects than to maintain my own CMS system. And I jumped around to just different stack side generators, but I ended up going back to WordPress just because it worked, it’s functional, and I can get basically all the features I needed without having to tip-down and write code and maintain all the code for it. So yeah right now, it’s for now on WordPress and I got a custom VPS built for it. So it’s all of my sites are actually hosted on a private server, it’s not like a shared host or anything.
CHUCK: Yeah that makes sense. I started with WordPress and I’ve toyed with the idea of using a static website generator like Jekyll or something. And I don’t know, I think I’m probably just going to wind up going back to WordPress and paying somebody to skin it.
ERIC: Yeah and I mean it all depends how much your goals are. Like as I got started I had a basic design that I made myself and then I ended up paying a designer to make just kind of a template for me, just static HTML that I converted into — it was actually my Rails site back then — and I basically just taken that design and piggybacked it onto the other site that I’ve done. I actually used an existing WordPress theme, added my design onto that theme. It didn’t take that much work, but basically that’s me keep the way of my site’s looks, and it’s pretty consistent, but I haven’t been able to kind of switch the systems underneath it.
CHUCK: Yeah that makes sense. So what kinds of things are the most important for you on your website?
ERIC: Well it’s kind of hard because actually like you don’t have a very, very much on your site. I think I’ve seen it before like it’s just kind of a placeholder site. I actually know quite a few freelancers that that’s all they have like it might be “this is my business, this is my name, here’s how to contact me”. And from what I understand like that works pretty well and you could stay busy with that. So most of these like I guess you don’t really need anything other than a website with contact information, but I found like there’s — you had a couple of things to anew, can she get a pretty good return of the time you put into it.
CHUCK: Right. So we’re talking about — last week we talked about optimizing your sales pipeline. And I guess this is the piece where toward the bottom of your pipeline, they’re coming to your website and so you’re trying to increase conversions on your website. That’s what we’re talking about.
ERIC: Right. And for me like, as once talked about before, like if you’re reading a magazine, you come across a webpage, typically for you to go to that webpage you have to turn on your computer or get out of your phone or whatever. It’s basically a mode switch. And at the same thing if you’re watching TV and you have to call someone. So for me on my website, if I just had just my phone number there or even just an email address, it’s a mode switch. Like someone will have to pick up the phone or open their email client to send me an email. It’s not that hard, but I didn’t want any kind of barrier for potential clients to get a hold of me. And so what I do is I have a contact page which has my email address and has my phone number if they want it. But it also has a form that lets them basically compose an email and send it to me. I don’t know exactly how many because I’ve changed it, but I think the stats for it I think I have hell like little over 300 different emails sent to me through that. Some of them are potential leads, some of them turned into clients, some are just you know “hey, I’ve talked to you at a conferences, want to catch up I couldn’t find your email” whatever. But the fact that it’s just a web form makes it really, really easy for people to fill it out and just send me an email and start that contact.
CHUCK: Yeah. I really like the idea of people being able to just be there and contact you. Are you using a particular service for that? Or is that something you built in there? Or is there a plugin for WordPress? How do you approach that?
ERIC: Yeah I know these plugins for WordPress and I know a lot of people uses, I’m actually is using Wufoo. Basically it’s a surface of service with basically like a WYSIWYG form editor. And what I do is I have Wufoo so that it basically when it submitted and emails me, I had it. I used to actually have it SMS me, so I get a text message when someone did up, but I just turned it off because I was paying for it and didn’t really need it because I have the email on my phone anyways. But I use them a lot when I was doing a static site because I don’t want to have to deal with any kind of backend stuff. And then I kept it around when I did the Rails site and then back on WordPress, that is still if you’re like trying to setup email on my WordPress server and trying out the WordPress plugins because I’ve heard of some plugins that would emails and if it’s a potential client email, that could be a couple of thousand dollar email that you’ve lost. And so I stuck with Wufoo, they’ve been great. They have tons of other features but I just basically use them as a simple contact form.
CHUCK: Yeah. And like I said, I really liked the idea. That’s something that I need to add into my site. Because yeah basically it’s just a little — in fact I don’t even know what’s there because I haven’t looked at it forever!
ERIC: Yeah I don’t have it anymore, but I used to have it where the billing have dropped down of like what do you talking to me about it? Is it potential project? Is it an open source question? And then I also have like different types of services I’d offer because I have broken a lot more back then. And so someone would select that and they basically could tell me what budget range they’re looking in. Basically I look at the subject line of the email and decide like “Okay, this is someone who just has an open source question, I can hold off on answering this” versus “This is someone with a six figure project, I’m going to answer that right now” type thing. So it kind of let me filter out things a little bit faster and email to.
CHUCK: Yeah I like that. I really like it. So what other things do you have on your website that kind of drive people to want to contact you? I mean it’s WordPress, so are you writing blog posts?
ERIC: I tried that for a little while. The big problem is that my blog on theAdmin.org I’ve had for (god!) 9-10 years, I don’t know. I’ve had it for a long time and been writing over there. And then I started my business after I just had a significant amount of my blog. And so I tried to do have a blog on each and, I just never wrote to the business blog, and I ended up just kind of getting revolve the blogging stuff on my business website and basically just point people over to theAdmin.org and have them go there for my blog stuff. And so my business side is basically the home page, the contact page, couple pages about me and the kind of work that I’ll do. I guess right now the biggest part of my site will be my portfolio where just past project I’ve done, open source I’ve done, that sort of thing, and even that’s like old and I haven’t really been able to update it for a couple of years.
CHUCK: Okay, so that’s another question that I wanted to get into. Because I mean a lot of the projects I’ve worked on are under Andy A. and I can’t really attack him that way, I can’t put them up on a portfolio. So I mean, have you found the portfolio to really be that critical? I haven’t really have a problem finding work for that one but –
ERIC: I really don’t know. I haven’t measured it. I know my portfolio because I put a lot of details into each project. I know I’m getting some traffic. Just SEO wise if people searching for really specific stuff finding my portfolio item that talks about that and then them going to other parts of my site and maybe contacting me. But I haven’t actually had any clients or potential clients really referred back to my portfolio. I’m kind of thinking it might just be more of like “this is proof that I can do what I’m saying I’m doing” versus just a single page just like “contact me for Rails stuff”. So it might be kind of the underline trust building that no one really actually thinks about but they just — it’s there for them kind of get some to that as next type of contacting me.
CHUCK: Yeah and I thought about, I don’t know, I mean I keep thinking about putting landing pages up and it’d be nice to have “Hey! Here’s some of the project that I’ve worked on”, maybe have a cycle through or something. You know just kind of a little widget down in the corner or something but — I don’t know! I just don’t know if people really care unless it’s something that is exactly relevant to what they’re doing.
ERIC: Right. I’ve kind of talked about this before, it’s like when we win a project like typically a significant amount of revenue most of the time that’s over a couple of months, so we really don’t need a high volume of clients. And so you could do landing pages, you could do a lot of the more…like ecommerce site stuff, but still we’re not selling $20 widgets, so it’s going to be really hard to measure and it’s going to be really hard to track. And so like, I guess my site is mostly focused on the trust building. Like “This is who I am, this is what I do, here’s proof about that. If you like to work with me or even just talk to me, contact me and we can talk”. Basically not trying to do a hard sell, not trying to get someone to commit to paying money on the site, but just start a conversation.
CHUCK: That makes sense. How about testimonials? Do you have testimonials on your website?
ERIC: I should. I have bunch of testimonials, I just have to put them on there. One thing actually I recently did this is basically broke out like client services like — that’s basically to my custom development and all that stuff, but on their — I actually went into and got all of the client logos and stuff like that that I’m authorized to use. I basically put them on there so they could see who I’ve worked with before and if it’s someone in their industry or someone they heard of kind of more of like I said the trust building. But testimonials, yeah I just — I haven’t found a good place to put on. I might have one, maybe two on here somewhere but it’s just a kind of like “where should I put it? Where’s the best spot for it? It’s also the fact that I started to kind of update my site this year, and got really busy with client work, so it went on the back runner.
CHUCK: So another thing that I’m wondering about when I just pulled up your website and I saw that you have a sign up form for a mailing list?
ERIC: Yeah that’s something I push kind of hard actually, now I think about it.
CHUCK: Now, does that — I mean we’re talking about sales, sales like old sales marketing firm kind of thing. And this get kind of get people in where you can reach them routinely, and we talked about this last week. Is that kind of the biggest deal for you because it’s kind of front and center on the site when you bring it up?
ERIC: Oh! So actually I have — I don’t look at my site so often so I forget it. Yeah there’s a thing when you first loaded, it’s kind of ask you to sign up for my newsletter. Once you click for that you get to the rest of the side. But yeah, I kind of pushing the newsletter a bit more just because, like I said [inaudible]. I don’t have, need a high volume clients. And so there might be clients that count me as a perfect fit, but I’m actually booked working on someone else’s project and so I can’t actually help that new client. And so if they can wait, if I can get them on the newsletter then when I’m free, I’m probably tell the newsletter “Hey I’m open” and that potential lead might still be able to get me into that project. And so it’s kind of — I’m using kind of the newsletter as both to trust building stuff we talked about last week but also of “here’s the list of clients that I can kind of contact” and say ‘hey I’m available, does anyone need work tech thing?’ So it’s like a waiting list almost in a way.
CHUCK: And there’s a video above, is that just an introduction to the mailing list? Or is that something else?
ERIC: I don’t remember. I think it’s just me introducing myself, just what I do all this and that. Like I said that whole introduction thing and actually my actual homepage is kind of new work in progress stuff that I have to shelf. If you’ll see, I’m clicking on my site now, if you look there’s a bunch of pages before the yellow box and redesigned “feel free to contact me”. If you’re looking for something you don’t see it because the page is still in progress. I want to get that little construction worker who’s like the enemy at the gate that’s like digging in the ground under construction but I couldn’t find that. GSA is going down and kind of makes it harder.
CHUCK: Yeah makes sense. So let’s see…I’m trying to figure what else people put on their landing pages…
ERIC: Well one thing because I did kind of a rough survey of other like Rails companies sites like the higher like 5-10 developers’ sites companies and maybe a couple of exceptions, one thing I noticed they all — all of their homepages really clutter. It’s very amazon.com-y of like “Do you want to invite us? Do you want to invite us? Click here, click there, and do this, do that” and I mean everything I’ve seen and learned from conversion optimization says like that’s a bad thing to do. I mean new person’s going to come to your site and not know what to do. And if they get confused enough they will just leave. And so my homepage is still pretty, it’s not as bad as someone might saw, it’s still pretty like “go here, go here, go here”. But I’m actually working on slimming it down and making my homepage about like “this is the single action you need to take and if you don’t want to take that or you’re not a good fit for me or whatever, go to this other pages or whatever”. And so basically it’s a very simple choice for the user and so they don’t feel confused right away and I’ll slowly introduce them to myself and the projects I do and how I can help them. But that’s kind of a thing that’s like “don’t go overboard” especially on the homepage. Try to keep it simple and think about what’s the very next step that the person needs to do when they come to your site.
CHUCK: Yeah I really like that. So essentially what you’re saying is you build up a series of pages and it’s kind of a guided tour of “here’s what I offer and here’s why you should trust me to do the job” and then it’s focused on “here’s the next step”.
ERIC: Exactly. I mean if you look at my homepage now, ignore the slider at the top of all of my actual products, but I basically say like “what do I do” and then in bullet point form of what I do, and then it’s basically two boxes of learning about the client services. That’s if someone’s like “Yeah I want to work with you. Let’s see how you can help me”. The other option is to see my previous work where they might be like “I don’t know if I trust this Eric guy enough. Let me see if he can actually do what he says he does” and so that takes to my portfolio and would kind of walk him through stuff in there. And so I mean don’t be afraid to kind of have small pages and a bunch of them. I mean think about the any kind of application, you’re going to have work flows, you’re going to have people landing on different pages; you want to guide them to whatever they need for their goal.
CHUCK: Yeah that makes sense. What about social media stuff? I mean do you just kind of put standard links in a standard place? Or is that part of the sales funnel? You come to the website and then you follow me on Twitter or –
ERIC: Yeah I don’t know. Like social stuff is kind of weird and it changes from week to week. It looks like “I have a little things, you can follow me on Twitter and I have some for GitHub and Facebook and then Google+ on my kind of top [inaudible]. I don’t really push you like I think one of it, at a page, where talks about me. I might include some other stuff if people want to get a more in-depth about the person behind Little Stream Software, but I don’t push the social that much. I mean it’s — I guess that is the Math time and take to really learn and do it well, I think wouldn’t have a good return just based on the volume of stuff that I made.
CHUCK: Okay. One other thing that I’m wondering about and this is something that I’ve kind of fought off and on with my website, is that I kind of want a cool little logo. I don’t know what it would be; I have some ideas but nothing really super concrete. Where do you go to get a good logo? Or do you just kind of — did you just dry yours yourself? Or did you have somebody put it together for you or what?
ERIC: Yeah if I drew at myself you’d laugh at it. No it’s — that’s something I did when I got started. I thought I needed a logo and needed stationery, all that stuff. And I ended up paying that. Don’t think they’re around anymore; it was called “Logo Works”. I think Hp bought them and then Hp closed them after a couple of years, but I paid a couple, maybe several hundred had them do a logo for me. Basically they’ve just ripped off the entire thing and I said “This is my company name, this is what I stand for, this is kind of how I want it to look and feel” and they just went at it and this is one of the choices I had to came back with them: basic normal design reiteration back and forth for a couple of times and they finally got this. Basically, if you can see like I have blue’s and green’s as my logo and kind of a smooth font who’ve taken that idea to the designer who did the rest of my site. She erased those colors and that kind of look and feel and just been copying that around. But realistically, you don’t need a logo. If you’re just [inaudible] under your own name or whatever or you just have kind of a really small like shell companies that you’re not really pushing that company brand, you’re more pushing your personal brand. Like I guess kind of like how Evan is Evan’s very much; you’re working with Evan, not his actual company. You don’t need a logo; you can just type out your company name, maybe pick a nice font for it, photoshop a little, image file instead of text, and just get on and do something more important because most people aren’t going to care.
CHUCK: Yeah that makes sense. I’m trying to think of what other things we should talk about. I’m a little curious about why you decided to go with WordPress over the static site generators of a custom — I understand the custom Rails that you need it because you have to maintain code, but the static site generator seems like a pretty straight forward way to go to.
ERIC: Well, that’s what I thought at first. But every static site generator I tried had limitations. I mean first part you’re generating static text so you can’t have anything dynamic on your site unless either you have some kind of back end component which then defeats the whole purpose of the static site generator, you use Java scripts which as nice, but if you’re trying to do SEO stuff or if you don’t know Java scripts, that’s just another chunk of code to maintain. And I mean it’s like those are the kind of only two choices you have to do dynamic stuff. When I first did it I was like “Okay I actually want to have a blog on my site” and so kept doing the blog kind of thing of the static site generator, it was just a pain. Like even just the basic RSS feed was like “Oh I got to dump all this XML and make sure that each time I publish the static site generator doesn’t recalculate anything and spin the RSS feed”. And so I kept looking at what I really want to do and decided like “WordPress is really the best publishing platform for the web for what I need”. And the fact that it’s a large community, I can pick plugins that are used by hundreds of thousands of people and kind of could trust it “Okay this is going to work for me”. And then also hoped that in my past life, I was a PHP developer and I have written maybe a half a dozen WordPress plugins. So if I really had to go fix code or write something custom, I could. But I haven’t looked; I mean other than my theme, I’m just using stock plugins nothing fancy.
CHUCK: Nice. Let’s talk through your site a little bit. So when somebody comes to your site, what’s kind of a first thing you want them to do?
ERIC: Okay so first they’ll probably see the welcome gate which is something I got from (what’s the company name?), I think it’s LeadBrite. Basically it’s a quick thing about — little bit of text about what littlestreamsoftware is. I have another plugin that lets me put a video and basically it has, I think it has a client logos that says “Send off my news there if you want to hear more about X”. And so first thing, every person that hits the homepage sees that and so that’s kind of to keep your will to subscribe right away. It’s set up so that people only see it once and if you’re actually on deep link like say someone links to like a blog post or something on the site, they won’t see that. It’s only on the homepage. So someone ideally they opt in for that like right away but I can see some people might not, and so they kind of click through to that actual homepage. Like I said, right now I have a little kind of animated spinner of my different products that I have like actual e-books and stuff. That’s going away, because I’m trying to focus my site to be more client services instead of products to, and that goes back to what I said about the single focus on your homepage. And so my homepage is kind of like I said what I do, how I can help, and to kind of the next step would be either to learn more about my client services and maybe book me, or to look at my portfolio. And the ideal case on my website where I want everyone to go is to contact me, and so I push that. I think I said that on my client services but let me check. But I really try to reinforce how easy I am to get a hold of and I have like the contact form link on the top of every page and also at the bottom of every page. And the rest of the side is basically centered around building up enough trust to get someone to contact me.
CHUCK: Right. Just so people know, when we’re talking about Eric’s website we’re talking about littlestreamsoftware.com so…
ERIC: Oh right yeah. If you go to theadmin.org, that’s my blog. It’s mostly technical blog right now and that’s a completely different b’s of what I do there…that’s more of just me ranting and writing.
CHUCK: Yeah. But then if you want to go to my website, it’s awful right now. It’s intentionalexcellence.net and it is very not put together well [laughs] because I kind of started it and then just left it alone. But that’s something that I’m working on. And then I’m going to be working on driving more traffic to it once I get devchat.tv up and running. So that’s something that I’m pushing at. One of the things that I wanted you to ask you about was as far as the pipeline goes, do you have a separate pipeline for your products like your eBooks? Or do you kind of drive everybody to the same place and then they keep kind of opt to go one way or the other?
ERIC: Yeah I was actually going to talk to that because how I’m doing with some of my products is kind of bad, I think. Ideally my products — so I have a book on refactoring Ruby code, I have a book on like red mind stuff work kind of users, and then I have a book on writing eBooks, which is kind of made of whatever. All of those are kind of a different niche industry than my actual main business website. And I guess that’s why I’ve chirped, which is a completely separate notion that people would go to my website. So the problem is this, before I kind of how’d my products show up on my Little Stream Software site, and if you go to the homepage that’s what the sliders I keep talking about. And so it’s really — it’s kind of a muddled message. I mean it was like “hire me for Rails or dev” or learn about writing eBooks; and that’s not really consistent. And so if you have products and they’re the same thing as what you do, by all means put them on your main site, talk about them there. Yeah even if you make a real larger site for them separately, make sure you talk about them on your business site. But if you have products that are separate, then don’t mix them; don’t put them on the same site. For the most part, because my products are separate, each of them has their own separate site that I sent people to. I get a little traffic that people like go to Little Stream Software and they click through to those sites, but I think most of that is just that they’re exploring to see what I’ve already done, more than actually like put into a customer’s realm as products.
CHUCK: Yeah I kind of like that where it makes sense to have sort of a different funnel especially where yours are so varied. I mean you’ve got something for people that want to use red mind, you’ve got another one for people who want to learn how to refactor beyond Rails, and so those are different markets. You know Chirk is its own thing. So yeah, I mean it makes sense to just split it up and then just keep a consistent message on the one site that you know kind of a directed toward that one thing. Have you set up any landing pages? For example a landing page for Ruby on Rails development? Or do you just kind of expect people to come on the front door on littlestreamsoftware.com?
ERIC: Let me look real quick and see. Okay in the past I thought about doing landing pages like that and actually I broke out my services to be a lot more like that. I’ve consolidated a lot of stuff and got rid of them. I think just because I was actually maintaining landing pages and they kind of got outdated a little bit. So right now, I have a few landing pages but there must be around, like if I do like a webinar or events, they’re centered around the signing up for the webinar and then like the thank you page, and then if there is a recording, the recoding of the webinar. So no, I would say I’m not using landing pages that much except for like webinar-type stuff; and even that, it’s very little. It’s a good idea if you can do landing pages and keep them up and you have a real clear purpose to them. They’re great! I mean landing pages are just mini homepages that you can create for free, but I just haven’t used them an it could just be volume or I just don’t think I have the time to really sit down and create one.
CHUCK: Yeah. What kinds of things do you put on landing pages that don’t go into your main site?
ERIC: What I talked earlier about like what the homepage you want it to be pretty single focused, but you’ll have kind of some things at the footer, maybe one or two different calls to action. With the landing page, you want headlines, sub-headline, maybe a bit of text about what it is on that page, and then your call to action. That’s it. So it could be sign up for the newsletter to write, to learn about Ruby on Rails refactoring tips. And then in this newsletter, you’ll learn about X, Y, and Z, and then the newsletter sign up link. And that’s it. Like you don’t have who wrote it, you don’t have a link back to your homepage, or your blog, or your latest tweeter feed. It’s — landing pages are supposed to be very bare bones and give people the minimum amount of information they need to take the action you want them to do.
CHUCK: Yeah, that makes sense. I’m wondering because some of the landing pages I’ve seen kind of seem to be the whole pitch that you get through the whole pipeline at the same time. And so the call to action is literally “hire me”. And I’ve seen other ones where it’s a landing page and the pitch is “sign up for the newsletter”, so it’s “take the next step”. Do you think one is more effective than the other? Or does it just depend on where people are at?
ERIC: I’d say both. I mean it’s going to depend on who you’re targeting, like what kind of industry? It’s going to depend on how well your landing pages designed overall. And it’s also going to depend on like what your funnel looks like. I mean if you have a simple funnel and it’s basically someone should contact me and we should be talking about getting hired, the next step then maybe that kind of harder sell of “click here to contact me to book a project” is the kind of landing page you want. Or if you kind of have a longer cycle like say, you have an e-book product and then maybe a training course or whatever, and then maybe at that point you kind of have like the larger custom development stuff. You might want to actually pitch more of a newsletter a soft sell approach and get him on the newsletter and then slowly work — have them work their way all through every different products. And also the other thing is, I mean this is the kind of thing that you have to test. And it could be that doing a hard sell and asking for someone to buy your high end product is actually the better thing for you business wise. That’s the problem I ran into; I don’t have enough volume to really test this stuff and to know if it would work for me or even the market I’m in.
CHUCK: If you wanted to test, are there AB testing plugins for WordPress? I know there are plenty for Rails and stuff. But –
ERIC: Yeah I bet there are. I mean the one I use — it’s okay, I got a good deal on it. Optimizedly, don’t even try to like search for it; it’s going to be really hard to get it spelled right. I think it’s a white combinator start up, but basically it’s AB testing and you got a “what you see is what you get GUI” in their site, and you end up just getting a little job scripts that you put on your page. And so I have that across, I think almost all my sites. And so when I do an AB test, I just go into their site, click some stuff around. I think they use jQuery, so you can use kind of jQuery and stuff to do a little bit more advanced changes and just run a test that way. You can also use, I don’t know if Google still has theirs, Google has done some weird stuff with theirs; but there’s another one. Can’t remember the name of it, but it’s something I was thinking about buying because I did AB testing, heat maps, click tracking, a whole bunch of stuff. And realistically, I don’t think you really need a plugin or do something custom. You could just get something off the shelf and for most consultants; you’re going to be on the low volume tier no matter what. So it’s not going to cost all that much.
CHUCK: Right. Do you look much at analytics?
ERIC: I do too much analytics, and that’s just because I like numbers. I think a lot of people in the audience are probably going to be in the same camp as me, but yeah I look at analytics. I try not to drill down anymore because it’s a rabbit hole; you get stuck and try to figure out. I look at the amount of visitors kind of over whatever time period I’m looking at, and I might glance to see if there’s any kind of spikes and if there’s like a big spike. I will see where that spike came from; if it was from hacker news or a popular blog linked to me. But other than that, no, I’ll give my numbers and then kind of try to get out of the analytics system and then just put that into my own metrics I track.
CHUCK: Yeah that makes sense. I’m just thinking of anything else that we have or haven’t covered. One thing I didn’t see on your page was an “about” page.
ERIC: Yeah, it’s there at the bottom. It’s not I could have won, but yeah like if you click to a second page, you’ll see at the top like my homepage because I try to slim it down; I hid the main navigation on purpose. So you kind of like get to it from the bottom and then once you get into an interior page, the “about” page is there. And it’s, looking at it, it’s almost basically a re-hash of the homepage, it’s not really anything new; except like some of the personal details about me and where to find me.
CHUCK: Yup. Makes sense.
ERIC: Yeah. And realistically, I was going to say like your About Page doesn’t have to be that complex. Like talk about — if there’s a back country or company talk about that, talk about yourself. Big thing I mean, across your side is think about what potential clients want. Like don’t think about like “I do Rails, I can help you do this I, I, I”. Think about what the person coming wants. Like “Do you need business automation? Do you need to have routine be more efficient or more effective in development software?” Target at that way; talk to whatever problems your client might or potentially might have. It’s standard copywriting advice.
CHUCK: I like that approach. Your website, your project, your team, you, your business. It’s what people care about.
ERIC: Yeah. And actually this is something that you didn’t mention, but a lot of people worry about is, if you look at a lot of corporate websites, it’s like “we are the best, the leader, and whatever X, Y, Z, and we do this, and we do that”. And a lot of freelancers — when it’s just one person, saying “we” is kind of awkward. And I know of some people get away with it, but if it’s just you and if you’re trying to show that you’re a small company and you’re very agile because of that, use “I”. Like if you look at my site when I’m talking about me and stuff, I’m saying “I”. Like if I say “we”, that’s actually a mistake, I should fix it because I don’t want to make my image pure that I’m a bigger company than I am. Because part of it is like if someone is talking to me, they can talk to me. I’m the decision maker. I don’t have to pop it up to a PM to ask if we can do something else, I can make a decision on the fly. And so that’s something to think about. If you’re wanting to be kind of a small business freelancer and really focus on the personal touch, use “I” on your website. If you want to be kind of a big business agency style, use “we” but back it up. I mean if you’re just a single person in your garage working on stuff then you’re using “we”, I think it’s kind of fake at some point. So just be careful on that and think about what the person is actually reading, and what they’re thinking, and what they are going to feel.
CHUCK: Yeah makes sense. So are there any aspects of this that we haven’t really talked about? I guess we didn’t go into SEO. Do you play much with SEO? Or you’re more relying on like word of mouth?
ERIC: So my business website, I’m not that big on SEO, I don’t do that much. I’ve spent some time upfront to get a good title tags and make sure stuff isn’t bad for me, but I don’t really do much with it. I just kind of — I link to it if it’s appropriate, if I don’t link to it it’s not a big deal. I have it in my email subject [inaudible] I have it in my email signature line; I don’t know if anyone actually ever clicks it, but it’s there. And I don’t really do any promotion, like I said, couldn’t have a blog on this. So it’s really not much new content or reason for me to share links on this site with people because it has a very low SEO impact, very low footprint. My blog on the other hand is a complete different beast. And that’s — I do a bit of SEO work on there just because it’s such a larger thing and it has a higher volume site.
CHUCK: Now, does your blog reference this website? So maybe in the footer of the post or whatever it says “This was written by Eric! And he’s awesome! So go over to littlestreamsoftware.com and hire him”.
ERIC: Kind of. So on my company website, basically my main nav has a blog link that just goes directly with my blog. My blog has, in its main nav and the designs almost identical so some people don’t even notice they switched sites, but on my blog I have a “hire me” and a “contact me”. Hire me goes to my main homepage on my main site, contact me goes back to that contact form I’ve talked about. And so that’s where the blog with the higher volume, I try to send people over to my site directly where I want them to be. I’m pretty sure in the footer or whatever I have something about “yeah you know what, I run Little Stream Software and this and that”. But I don’t really talk about it that much inside of a post, unless it’s actually on context like when I’m talking about something I’m doing while I’m working on my own business. But the fact that my designs are almost identical, I know a lot of people kind of get confused and like I had someone say “Wow! I’m on your main site! I like this blog post in it.” I looked at the URL and they actually jumped over to the blog and didn’t realize it. So I wouldn’t recommend that if you don’t have either a blog or a site. Just put your blog on your main site, don’t split it across domains, but I’m not going to go back and try to fix it.
CHUCK: Yeah makes sense. Alright well, I dont know if I have any more questions. Are there any other aspects to this that you want to cover that you think would help people?
ERIC: So one thing I would say, I did this for a little bit, was trying to put every project I could on my portfolio. And unfortunately for me, because a lot of my stuff is open source, I can’t talk about a lot of my projects, at least from the codes stand point and like the tools used. And so I ended up — I started on a project to put, I think all hundred open source plugins I had into my site. And as you can imagine, that’s basically creating a hundred pages…300-500 paragraphs of content, 100-300 screenshots, and completely overwhelm myself. And so I’m hoping eventually to get some time to go back through and just pick out like the “top 10″ projects I have and just have that as my portfolio, and then have a “comment” of 99 more portfolio items available upon request. But don’t go overboard on your portfolio. I mean put your best stuff upfront and then if you have stuff that’s kind of in this level not the greatest work, but just to show you have a high volume stuff. You can kind of just say “I have 65 other projects that you can talk to me about over email” and threw on that contact link. That might be all you need to get a conversation started.
CHUCK: Yeah. It’s kind of like in the front page of your blog; you don’t put a list of all of the blog posts you’ve ever written. You can put the most popular ones in the side bar, and people go click those. But yeah, you don’t need the full catalogue. If somebody wants the full catalogue, they’ll go look for it. And otherwise then you’re just — you’re fine.
ERIC: Exactly. Yeah you don’t want to overwhelm someone and so it’s, I don’t remember the term for it, but it’s you basically revealing little bits of information overtime and trickling that out slowly so they can kind of absorb this piece of information if for next one comes. I screwed up on that, having a hundred different portfolio items they can’t tell what the good ones are and they’re just not going to look at my portfolio now.
CHUCK: Yup. Well they’re going to see a big long list, they’ll scan it for anything that looks interesting, but yeah you kind of want to guide them to the ones that are kind of shine. So, anything else that we should go over? Or should we just wrap the show up?
ERIC: No, I think that’s good. All I say is start simple; if you can get a basic site ups and contact information, if you can get contact information, a contact form up that would send you an email, maybe a testimonial or two, and maybe like a short description of like what services you can provide for a client like I think that’s kind of a pretty good start. Like that’ll put you head and tails above of a lot of other people, and then at that point it’s like you’re going to build out a full site if you want to go to the next level. You might not need to. Like I think I prematurely optimized my site and I didn’t all these pages and all these content, but that’s what I did and that’s where I ended up at.
CHUCK: Awesome. Alright well, let’s go ahead and wrap this up then. Do you have any picks that you want to share?
ERIC: Sure. So I’ve been using this pick for I guess a couple of months now, since October 21st. It’s the “Arkon Portable Fold-up Stand” for the iPad. I was going to pick it a while ago but I want to actually test it, I haven’t use it. It’s basically a piece of plastic stand that folds out. And I have my iPad on my desk and I use it as my media player. And so I have it right next to my speakers, it’s standing up, I can see what’s playing, I can pause and do all that stuff right there. But the nice thing is it’s plastic so it actually folds up. It’s about the size of like half my hand, and it’s so lightweight that I actually took it when I traveled a little bit. So I can go — if I go to coffee shop, or if I left the State and fly out somewhere, I can take this out and actually have my iPad at a level where I can type on an extra keyboard and would use it as a monitor. And it’s really inexpensive and I think it works with almost every tablet. It’s just piece of plastic, no amount of tin or anything. So I actually recommend that if someone has a tablet and they kind of [inaudible] it up or they have a stand that’s not very stable or they’ve kind of unsure about because $400-$500 electronic on something that could fall is really not a good combination.
CHUCK: Yeah sounds good. Which version of the iPad do you have?
ERIC: I’m pretty sure it’s the second version or the second generation, just WiFi at 16gig, nothing fancy. Basically I just needed a tablet to do some web stuff and then also this is basically where I put games on. Instead of having like a Wii or an Xbox or any of that stuff, I got this.
CHUCK: Cool! Alright well, I kind of have an anti-pick because Dropbox freaked out on me and I had to re-synch it and it’s catching up. It’s going to be another before it gets all caught up which means that podcast episodes might be late and stuff – which makes me unhappy. The other thing that’s making me crazy is the new iTunes. I hate it. So let me pick something that I like, I’m kind of in a sour mood. My kid’s been sick [inaudible]. I did get some cool stuff for my birthday and for Christmas which is kind of funny because neither have happened yet this month. My birthday is in about a week and my Christmas isn’t about two weeks. Anyway, our van died. And what happened was the alternator went out. And the alternator, I don’t how auto-repair savvy the rest of our audience is, but it has a voltage regulator in it that open and closes depending on how much of voltage it needs to push through to keep your battery charged, and that was faulty. Sometimes it would be fine and sometimes it wouldn’t be fine. If it left it open for too long, then the batter would get ran down; my wife almost didn’t make it home one day. So anyway, I had to replace it and my wife went and gotten me for my birthday, she got me a creeper. It’s just one of the things you lay on your back and has wheels on it so you can slide it under the car. And it’s really low to the ground which is nice because it gives you a little bit more clearance between you and the car, and it has these big honking wheels on it which means that if you got bolts or whatever lying around, you can still kind of roll over them. She got it from Harbor Freight, and I’ll put a link to it in the show notes. The other thing that I want to pick is something that I actually bought for myself for Christmas. The story is kind of funny and we have a few minutes so I’ll go ahead and tell it. But my wife was bugging me about what I wanted for Christmas, what should she get me and I’m just like “I don’t know, I don’t know”. And so I started thumbing through the Black Friday ad and I came across the Sears ad and started looking through it. And I was like “well, you get me some of this or some of this”, this different tools. And one of them was a hydraulic jack, it’s a quick-rise jack so you don’t have to pump it as many times to get your car off the ground. [laughs] And it is so nice to be able to just slide it under the car, jack the car up in a few minutes, and you’re ready to go. So between the two, I was able to change the alternator up in about two hours. And the dash screen caravan is not terrible because it’s just kind of ride in the front there but…Anyway, I did managed to do that, and it was — I’m actually pretty proud of myself because that’s the first auto-repair in or outside unlike changing the oil and stuff or changing brake pads that I’ve done on my own without my father in law or somebody else helping me out. So anyway, I was super excited about being able to get that done. So yeah, those are my picks. The hydraulic jack and the creeper, and I got them both at Harbor Freight. I believe you can order them online if you really want to. So I’ll put links in the show notes and then if you have one near you, then you can go get it. If not, then order it if you want.
ERIC: Yeah I’d expect shipping to be kind of killer on the jack, but I’ve used to do a lot of work on my car back in the day. One thing you might want to look in to is you can get ramps and so instead of having to jack your car, you can just drive your car at the ramps. You do that and then block out the back and that works really good for like oil changes or kind of quick stuffs. Then you don’t have to worry about the jack and putting jack stands and all that stuff. And I actually had a Nouvo that — that’s what we had to get because in our old jack, part of the car was so low and our jack was so high that we couldn’t get the jack under the car without going through like the wheel well and kind of sneaking it in. And so we got ramps to get the car off the ground and then jack it up to put on jack stands to get it higher.
CHUCK: I’ve thought about doing that, getting the ramps. I remember when I was a kid that’s what my Dad did when he had to change the oil and whatever. So he just pull it on to the ramps, slide under, you take the knot off at the oil pan and let it drain, and then take the filter off. So yeah he didn’t have to get under, put jack stands on there, he just pull it up on there and then pull it back off, and it’s done.
CHUCK: Alright, cool! Well, I think we’re done for this week so I’m looking forward to talking to you again next week, Eric.
ERIC: Yeah! Take care!
CHUCK: And we’ll wrap this up! We’ll catch you all next week!