The ideas Entrepreneurs DON’T follow up..

While I was swimming this morning I was wondering about something.. I have loads of ideas, so so many, and I think that lots of other people do too. Most of these ideas just sit in my head, or maybe I have a conversation about them a few times, but mainly they don’t get acted upon.

I am not saying that all these ideas are good. But what if some of them had some legs? I have always been a creative person and I also have a great deal of start up business experience as well as industry specific experience. One thing I have found, after many ideas fizzling out, is that you really have to only focus on one idea. Use all of your creativity and energy to make this work. It is so incredibly difficult, after a hard days work, to take time away from your hobbies or partner, just chilling out, or whatever, to then start launching a new idea or project.

Yet, entrepreneurs are both creative and know how to get things done, so their ideas/ visions are probably worth something. I think there is a good opportunity here for a re-think into “business as usual”. This area is where real collaboration could be encouraged. Whether it is between entrepreneurs and students, or through some great on-line networks. Or maybe something else. Maybe some kind of internship scheme where entrepreneurs get free labour to support people to run their ideas. Creating some kind of trickle down of ideas as well as skills.

If something that solves this problem exists already, I would love to hear about it. I will gladly throw a few ideas in the pot.

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What is your on-line influence?

Klout.com is really interesting. It is trying to give every person on-line a score about how much impact they have. How much klout. When you access it and link up your social media accounts it tells you who influences you and who you influence.

It is obviously not using a good algorhythm as it says I am influenced by people I’ve never even heard of – and my top 3 terms am influenced by are “games”, “iPads”, and “queens”!!???- but maybe thats because my activity is so low I barely register. I weigh in at 42 (.26).. Which is 2 above the median level. So basically I hold no sway at all 😦 (Tell me something I dont know).

If you have a klout of 70 or above thats really strong. 80+ and you is da’man. 90+ you could more or less run for government and stand a good shot a the top job. In terms of popularity at least.

I have heard stories about klout- such as people going to hotels in the US and being upgraded because they have a high klout score. These people will say good things about the hotel and lots of people are willing listeners.

I am doing some research on who are the influential people in my social network for a campaign I am about to run and have found it captivating. It must be not accurate- as from my example- but it does show that if you always click on the most influential person from someones “influencers” and repeat, eventually you get up to some massive on-line presences like O’Reilly Media (80), the NY Times (99), and on to Mitt Romney (91) who I was surprised to find takes most of his influence from Barrack Obama (99). Obama takes his from Joe Biden and also FLOTUS. She takes hers from Beyonce among others.

So yeah, its not accurate and doesn’t represent real influence over a given time period but in general terms it does show influence. And it is very addictive and fun.

Fact and fiction, going bezerk and Invincible Lions

I wrote a blog for my company website today. I try and stay away from blogging on there as I am not the most clued up about history – other than knowing about what we produce through seemingly endless proof readin. But I thought I would throw one out there and see what people think. 

I passionately believe that to be the best you have to become the master of your realm (I have previously blogged about the difficulty in knowing what your realm is and the opportunity of Who am I). My realm is the weird world of history education. I am slowly learning a huge amount about world history via osmosis from our TimeMap of World History, and Topic TimeMaps. “World History” is like studying the framework on which local history sits. It is the overview, the context, the general brush strokes and trends of how the dynamics of countries changed, inventions had huge impacts, or civilizations rose or fell. So I don’t know too much about what the Roman’s ate, but I know what the main processes were that led to them create a vast and powerful empire, and why it subsequently collapsed. 

In order to catch up in my learning and attempts at having a grasp of my realm, in a way that doesn’t feel like I am working in my leisure time, I have started reading historical fiction books. The one I’ve just read was about the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses. In a nutshell, this guy was a decent bloke and had a massive pet lion. After a while he went to war with the Hittites who were big into going to war. During the fight he went bezerk which is a real life technical term for getting a almost godlike power and managing to slay loads of enemies. He nailed loads of them. But how the war ended is open to interpretation. 

Anyhow, here is the link and it might provide a decent read- TimeMaps History blog

(Nefariously Cute) Google Panda Help Sheet – SEO

Panda

Google is clever. They use names like “Ice Cream Sandwich” and “Panda” to make us think they are cute. And then make us into slaves that are forced to work hard on the way our content is presented to fit in with them – never mind the initial concept or quality of the content.

I blogged recently about how lame Google is for dealing our fair search engine results.

I have since found out that Google basically recognised that fact and have included big changes in the way it ranks websites. As usual it has not done a good promotion job to those webmasters who are not selling commercial products (directly) by not making this information widely and easily available, unless you are totally on the pulse about SEO, which most people aren’t because of how ineffective “search” has previously been for them.

The new updates, “Panda” (awww your so cute Google how can we despise you for being rubbish and ineffective when you have make names like Ice Cream Sandwich and Panda or -____- as my girlfriend would put it), is attempting to implement usage statistics such as time spent on the website, pages per visit and bounce rate to effect search rankings. This is expected to raise the quality of sites in their results based on user engagement. Hopefully it will be it seems to me to be just as easy to game and will be even better for established companies who get masses of direct traffic to benefit from.

Google has created a list of guidelines for webmasters that can be found HERE. I suggest you take a look or you will be penalised for not spending massive amounts of time tweaking your website.

Note: I am very sceptical in this post and being very sarcastic (am pretty irked at Google at the moment but am usually more upbeat – infact, this was just an off the cuff blog but I did a good one earlier which I will post later. I actually think it is the best one I’ve written to date..), but all this being said I do understand that a top rank for a well typed search term is highly sought after due to its impact of being like a marketing campaign ran for your site every day. I also believe that the extra power that search offers is that people find you, which makes them think that they are in control, as opposed to being cornered by telesales or other direct marketing campaigns. My main concerns are the nature of how difficult it is for small businesses to compete with the large budgets of corporations. In order to be competitive we have give up our time to hone our website in-line with a single companies web guidelines, which in the end take your bright concepts and make them dim.

Google inhibits innovation and Search is not a strategy for small businesses!

Don't be evil, just don't be good either?

Our company receives about 30-40,000 visitors per month to its website. The vast majority of these, about 75% come from search engines. Our top ranking key word brings us about 450 visitors, which is about 1.75%! And that word is, you guessed it – the name of our website: timemaps. Pffft – according to Google we are only good for appearing near the top of the search engines for the name of our website. The rest of the search traffic comes from long tail results.

The next highest words that bring us traffic are “world history timeline“. This brings us 0.63% of our traffic; about 180 visitors. Using Googles Keyword Tool I can see that there about 27,000 monthly searches for these words and using Webmaster Tools I know that we have appeared 6,500 times in it’s results and have a click through rate of 3%. So we are near the bottom of the page, underneath the fold.

The problem I have with Google is that we easily have the best world history timeline on the internet. Surprise surprise, Wikipedia is number 1 and barely contains anything, rather it just directs peoples away to further content. There are a few wall charts you can buy in the other top slots – who will be undertaking highly targetted SEO work to ensure people find them; and there are some very old websites that contain list of dates and events – these will have many old websites (the older the better for Google) linking to them who have accumulated a strong page-rank over time.

We knew all this from the outset so we created a highly innovative product that provides a visual way of looking at world history. Since we set off on our journey 4 years ago, the web has changed significantly and people have stopped creating websites, and now more often contribute to others (web 2.0), or just curate the content of other sites (social bookmarking) . But none of this provides enough strong link content to individual websites to appear high in search terms.

OK, the obvious point I have to deal with here is that, maybe our website is just not good enough to make it go viral. But infact we have got significant traffic and every now and again someone adds us ta social book marking site such as StumbleUpon or Reddit and we get thousands more extra users. But the small number of actual links created from peoples own domains are is not enough to improve our position in the search engines. Our website IS awesome. We were invited to present our website to the National Council for Social Studies in the US due to how useful it is for education, and one other factor that makes me believe we have a good website is a story from my friend. He was in Thailand working as a teacher. While at a random beach party he overheard some people having a conversation about history and the name of our website occurred. He spoke to them to ask if he heard it correctly, and was told from this guy about how amazing our website is. We get comments like this all the time from all around the world.

CONTENT IS NOT KING ANYMORE!

Recently, an SEO company called me up to offer me a free report. After they had taken a look at the competitive landscape they ran a mile. They said it would take a year of constant sustained effort to begin to rank for the terms we are suitable for – they knew we couldn’t pay for that. What is the answer here, Google?

I know very well that some very inferior products to ours make 6 figure sums each year from adverts alone by ranking high for the search terms we want – one of these sites was even featured by Google as a success story. They plough in enough resources to maintain these positions, and should everything change, then with all this profit, they could innovate over the top of us.

In a nutshell, Google fails small businesses. More precisely, “search” is not a business strategy for small business as Google inhibits innovation with their current search ranking mechanisms. Google – who’s motto is “don’t be evil” – is really, actually, not that good!

The Opportunity of “Who am I?”

who am I

A picture from a science museum that has no relevance to this article other than the image which is good. But maybe if its still on you should try the museum.

I hang out on Twitter a lot. I can’t say I am that bothered by it but I like to put myself out there, get involved in interesting chats and be considered as someone who is well respected within “my realm”. It would be great to be thought of as someone who can offer help and advice and interesting resources to someone who needs my expertise. The only thing that is holding me back from this is that I have not yet worked out what “my realm” is or what I specialise in. I think that this is often the case with startup founders as we have to become master of everything: product design, marketing, building relationships, strategic thinking, bootstrapping, administration, what else is happening in your field, and much more. I could claim I am a master of startups but I am sure that as soon as I tried to make that claim mine would collapse beneath me.

I used to be the guy who held the flag and said “come with us, this is going to be amazing, sign up here!”, but now I work behind a computer screen and am dwarfed in my industry by experienced pro’s – historians, history teachers and education technologists – who I could not pretend to be like. Or are they really that good? Maybe they just like to appear that way infront of social media? I never understand how they can spend so much time on Twitter when doing such meaty work as I am? Also, does Twitter and social media in general not really mean it matters less what people claim to be as there as so many more voices involved in the discussion? Could social media really expose the facade or reputations that people really claim to have?

I plug away doing what is needed to make our products awesome and to get people to consider them. It is my only aim within my business and it involves many complicated procedures. Maybe there is an opportunity for a business that walks people through the process of “who am I?” so that discussions on social media have more context? There are some attempts, such as about.me, but do they go far enough? I reckon one day this will all be automated. An avatar connects to your life: education, social network, career, interests, sports and more granular information within these things so you don’t need to do anything. Then it would be more clear about who you were dealing with and what they were all about.

Don’t know how all those words came out anyway, I only wanted to point out this resource – http://show.mappingworlds.com/world/ – which is awesome! It visualises the world based on statistics rather than land mass. Very interesting.

Good things that happened today

Good things that happened today:

1) I beat the code I have been working on for ages. It has been a slog but now I know I have got it right, I can farm it out to someone else to add into our other products. How happy I am about this cannot be understated. It is a big update that we believe will attract interest.

2) Although I did not eat any breakfast or lunch, I have had abundant energy and for some reason have been hyper productive all day. I don’t know whether it is because I have recently eaten like a pig and now my body has had a chance to burn it all off without having to deal with my current load, or what.. but it has felt good.

3) Because of this extra energy I won an argument with a guy who I usually loose the argument with because he is so slow and boring I get tired of listening to him and just want to get off the phone. Using my extra energy I talked him into doing some work that will be hopefully be of great value.

4) This evening I went to the judo club that I set up with my mates before I moved to London. It is going incredibly well and they are both making money and have got excellent players on the mat. We worked so hard at this for years and all that is now paying off.

5) I discovered lots of awesome music on soundcloud.com .