Live Website Analysis at RISE Austin

by Julie Gomoll on March 29, 2012

RISE LogoOn Friday, March 30, I’ll be holding another session of live website analysis during RISE Austin. I first held “Room for Improvement” at the last BlogathonATX. It was such a hit, I’ll be doing again at the next BlogathonATX, and have done another at a recent B2B Meetup. Read the comments to see what people had to say.

People love it, and I love doing it!

Room For Improvement: Live Website Analysis (logo)

Here’s how it works: If you’d like some advice on your website, whether it’s regarding design, user experience, SEO, information architecture, messaging, or marketing, submit your url here, and I’ll choose 3 sites to review live. I promise you real, substantive, actionable advice. And be sure to register for the actual RISE session (it’s free).

So come join me. I guarantee you’ll learn something (and I probably will too :)



Commentary on Logos from a 5-year-old

by Julie Gomoll on January 31, 2012

She’s pretty damn perceptive! And I have to admit that it never occurred to me to think of the McDonald’s logo as an M “made of french fries.”


How to Make your Header Clickable in Thesis for WordPress

by Julie Gomoll on January 23, 2012

Thesis 1.8 (current version is 1.8.2) introduced a great, easy header image uploader. No more messing with code to get a custom image for your website banner.

Unfortunately for some folks, switching to this method rendered their header image not-clickable. I had a hell of a time figuring out how to make it clickable again.

Turns out it’s really easy :)

First, remove any custom code for your header image from custom.css and custom_functions.php so you don’t have to worry about conflicting information.

Second, upload your header image via the header image uploader.

screenshot of the header image uploader in Thesis

screenshot of Thesis design options with "show site name in header" selected

Third, make sure “show site name in header” is selected in Thesis > Design Options.

That’s it! You have a clickable header!


How to Fail at Customer Acquisition in One Easy Step

by Julie Gomoll on January 12, 2012

This is not an “I hate this app” post. Far from it. In fact, I really, really like this app. But I almost didn’t bother trying it.

A while back my friend Nando Tweeted the following: “Seriously, best productivity tool. Ever. WorkFlowy.” Nando has shared some great links in the past. I respect him. So I was very motivated to check it out. I clicked, and this is what I saw:

Workflowy home page with only a signin box

I was immediately skeptical. What is this product? Who makes it? Why should I hand over my email when you’ve done nothing to instill trust in me?

So I closed the tab, and responded to Nando saying I wasn’t willing to sign up for something I knew nothing about. He pinged me the next day and asked me (I’m paraphrasing) if I’d gotten over myself and tried it. He said he’d been using it for months and loved it. He also mentioned that there was a short intro video if I’d only scroll down a bit.

Sure enough. There’s a video. But it’s below the fold, and there’s nothing indicating there’s more on the page. Yes, this page is perfect for mobile, but that’s no excuse any more — there are other ways to handle that.

A simple link saying “what’s this?” or an arrow pointing down, implying there’s more on the page would help a great deal. I was motivated to explore this product and I left without learning a thing. Yes, I signed up after additional prodding, but how many people come to this page and think “nope, not going there.”?

The Good News About Workflowy

The good news is this really is an awesome app. Remember when wikis were gaining a bit of traction, and we had this idea that you could just start entering info and it would sort of “organize itself?” Yeah, that turned out to be wishful thinking.

Workflowy inevitably works the way your brain works. It’s drop-dead simple and flexible. There’s a really simple, intuitive tagging system, and it works just as well on your main computer as it does on your mobile devices.

And as much as the initial experience is flawed, the tutorial once you’re in is excellent. A couple of minutes with the walkthrough and you’ll totally get just how useful this tool can be. Like Nando, I’ve been using it every day ever since.

One screen from the Workflowy walkthrough

One screen from the Workflowy walkthrough

But really, Workflowy — with some simple tweaks to your home page, I’ll bet your user acquisition numbers would skyrocket.


Allthis: Fraud? Or Just More Lame Than Others Like Them?

by Julie Gomoll on December 20, 2011

Allthis logoI’ve long been intrigued with the idea of selling or trading small bits of time. Back when I was doing LaunchPad Coworking, I wanted to have a BrainBank for members. The idea was you could deposit x of your own hours, and withdraw hours to get time with people with whom you wanted time.

And after running the hugely successful Room For Improvement at BlogathonATX, I’ve been thinking more and more about how to monetize brief, info-packed consulting sessions that lots of people hope they can get for free over lunch. In fact, I’m about to launch a “Pick My Brain” experiment to do just that.

When a friend introduced me to Allthis a few weeks ago, I thought “Cool! Someone’s figured out how to do this on a grand scale!” They were boasting something like 600,000,000 “members,” whose time you could buy, and I wondered just how this site had managed to escape my notice. Mashable gave Allthis a nice writeup in October, and seemed quite oblivious to the sleaze factor.

Back then, you could look around at profiles to see how much their time was going for. There were all sorts of luminaries listed — Mark Zuckerberg, Esther Dyson, Larry Ellison, Kathy Sierra… Right then, something felt wrong about the site. I read the “how it works” section, but couldn’t find anything that explained how or why any of these people would agree to chat with some random person for 10 minutes.

Well, it turns out they wouldn’t. And some of them are pissed off.

Rob Beschizza of BoingBoing posted a short, indignant post telling Allthis to knock it off. He explains exactly what his experience was in the comments.

screen shot of Rob Beschizza's comment on BoingBoing

Amy Hoy of Unicorn Free is says Allthis is “at best, copyright infringement, and at worse, fraud.” And Joel Houseman focuses on the copyright issues surrounding scraping public info in his post, “This Week in Douchbaggery: Allthis“.

Is fraud really what’s going on here? Is what they’re doing all that much different than other sites? There are all sorts of “profile” sites I seem to be listed on that I never signed up for — Intellius, PeekYou, BusinessCard2 seem to have found their way onto the first couple pages of search results for my name. And there are new ones sprouting up all the time.

Hell, Facebook pushes the privacy and copyright envelopes all the time. The unveiling of Seamless Sharing (or Frictionless Sharing) has all sorts of unpleasant ramifications. And we all know how easy it is to inadvertently opt-in to oversharing. Personally, I won’t use Facebook as an OAuth login, because I simply don’t trust them.

So why is Allthis inspiring all this acrimony? Because they imply that all these people have opted in when they haven’t. Mike Monteiro’s succinct Tweet sums it up nicely:

Does @allthis realize the hostile interaction they set up between me and someone who “bought my time” feeling I owe it to them?

Allthis vision slide, from the faq

Does Allthis really think "Literally Anyone" will appreciate unsolicited bids on their time?

It’s entirely unacceptable IMO. But is it fraud? Or is it just a clueless group of people making some really, really bad business and product decisions? Personally, I have a hard time believing they don’t know exactly what they’re doing. I think they’re being intentionally deceptive, and trying to grow a community without doing the hard work of actually building that community.

But I’m willing to be proven wrong. Anyone out there willing to try to convince me that Allthis is a good idea?



Meta Keywords: Good, Bad, or Indifferent?

by Julie Gomoll on December 16, 2011

screenshot of source code with "meta keywords" written over itNobody questions the value of most metadata in helping with SEO. Every SEO 101 article will explain the importance of page titles and meta descriptions. And for a long time meta keywords were considered a must-have. For the last year or so, though, the value of meta keywords has been questioned and debated. Even Google has publicly stated that they don’t use meta keywords in ranking.

A common conclusion is “well, they might not help, but they don’t hurt providing you don’t abuse them.” I reached that same conclusion, and have expressed that very sentiment to my clients.

Not any more.

Definition of Metadata

While metadata actually encompasses a huge range of values (see the Wikipedia definition of metadata), for the purposes of this article, I’m referring to Meta Titles (also referred to as Page Name, Custom Title Tag, or Page Title) and Meta Descriptions.

The Meta Title of an article is what appears as the primary link on a Search Engine Results Page (SERP). It may or may not match the actual title of your article. The Meta Description is the brief paragraph that appears on the SERP right below that link. Without an explicit Meta Description, what will appear are the first 150 characters or so of your post.

(click to embiggen)

Screen shot showing Title of Post, Meta Title, and Meta Description

Notice the title of the post is different than what the SERP shows, and that the meta description on the SERP is not the first 150 characters of the post.

If you’re using WordPress, you can modify these using a plugin like All In One SEO Pack. If you’re using Thesis (as I do on this blog), you don’t need a plugin — it’s built right in. For me, the fields for SEO details appear right below the text editor, and look like this:

screenshot of SEO details fields in Thesis for WordPress

Why I Won’t Use Meta Keywords Any More

Yesterday I read this excellent article on conducting website audits on Tamar Weinberg’s blog casually mentioning the fact that Bing flags all pages using meta keywords as spam.


So I did some digging. And the evidence began to pile up. When I saw that Danny Sullivan at Search Engine Land talked with a senior product manager for Bing webmaster outreach who confirmed that meta keywords are basically a bad idea, I was convinced.

There’s no need to panic here. It does seem that Bing, like Google, penalizes you for using useless keywords more than anything. But if the mere presence of keywords is a signal for possible spam, it seems best to err on the side of caution.

So. No more meta keywords for me.

Are you still using them? Does the Bing news change your mind on the issue?


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Ossify Wall Street

by Julie Gomoll on November 4, 2011

drawing of skeletons wearing suits & ties, slogan: Ossify Wall Street

The slogan is mine, but the original art is by vhm-alex.


I’ll be on the Hot Seat at the Austin Content Marketing Meetup on Friday, June 24 (noon, at the Flying Saucer in the Triangle). Several folks have asked what I’ll be talking about. This particular meetup isn’t a “talking about” kind of event — it has a much more interesting format. Basically after a brief intro the attendees can ask me anything.

Facebook post about Julie Gomoll on the Hot Seat at the Content Marketing MeetupI’ve been immersed in the online world since 1993, when I built my first websites. And I’ve been immersed in some flavor of marketing, social media, and content marketing since 1996, when I sold my company, Go Media, to Excite. I’m a generalist, so I know a little bit about a lot of things. Some of you might be wondering what might make a good question for me.

Here are some of the things I’ve done, and what they mean in the context of content marketing. Hope this gives you some ideas :)

I’ve helped 3 microbusinesses and 2 small businesses achieve national recognition in under a year.

Things I got really good at as a result:

  • multi-channel marketing strategy (get the word out in the right places)
  • Users/goals assessment, information architecture & wireframing (provide the right content for the right people in the right format)
  • Creative, organic traffic-building

I started a new blog, Queen of Points, a few months ago. After only 6 weeks I was appearing on the front page of Google for significant keywords and phrases.

What I learned/did right:

  • I SEO’d the shit out of this blog. Turns out it’s not rocket science.
  • Best practices for categories, tags, and meta-data
  • Best practices for using images to boost SEO
  • How to use Google’s tools — Keyword tools, speed test, webmaster tools
  • All sorts of great apps & plugins helped a lot

A few other areas I know pretty well:

  • illustration of a chair on firegraphic design
  • project management
  • social media
  • web development

Did I miss anything?

Looking forward to the Hot Seat tomorrow. I’ll take any and all questions :)



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Use your voice to text: HeyTell is what’s next for text

by Julie Gomoll on February 24, 2011

HeyTell logoI was looking for an iPhone app that would let me use my voice to send text messages when I came across HeyTell. I was actually searching on behalf of a friend, so I was surprised and thrilled to come across an app that is changing how I use my iPhone and how I interact with friends.

HeyTell does one thing, and does it well. It lets you send instant voice messages to other users. Think of it as a kinder, gentler, warmer alternative to text messaging.

Screenshot of HeyTell app showing contact name and large "hold to speak" buttonThere are so many uses for Heytell:

  • Use it while you drive. Wait, no! Don’t! Um… We’ve all heard about the dangers of text messaging while driving, yet many of us (most of us?) still do it. HeyTell lets you send a voice message to other HeyTell users with the touch of one button. And if you leave the app open, you can hear the response without so much as a glance at your phone. Try it as a passenger, please.
  • Use it as an alternative to voicemail. Sometimes you know ahead of time that your going to get someone’s voicemail when you call. And you know you’re going to have to listen to an annoying, dispassionate voice  give you directions for leaving a voicemail as though it were 1980. HeyTell is super-fast. Hold the button, talk, let it go, and your message is there.
  • Use it if you’re blind or visually impaired. Or if you have trouble with the technology or text size for any reason. You can even assure your grandma that this is not a scary app.
  • Use it to connect with your friends in other countries. Phone calls are expensive, and you can’t always manage a Skype call. With HeyTell you can leave a free voice message without having to worry about the time zone. You can leave a message for your mom letting her know you’re safe so she hears it before she wakes up and hears about the latest natural disaster or cultural revolution!
  • Use it as an alternative to texting to save money. Tired of sms overage fees? Don’t want to spend the money for your kid to have an unlimited plan? HeyTell is free. Really.
  • Use it because you’re all thumbs. Fat fingers? HeyTell is a graceful option :)
  • Use it for random acts of kindness. Make someone’s day. Leave a HeyTell message for your friend just before she has to go into an important meeting telling her how much she rocks. It’s a nice thing to do.

Screenshot of HeyTell app showing map and large "hold to speak" buttonA few things to know:

  • HeyTell looks to your phone contacts for people to voice message.
  • You can connect it to Facebook. Almost scary note: when you invite a Facebook friend to use the app, it posts the invitation to their wall. It will look to you as though it’s public, but it’s not. Other users don’t see the post on your wall, nor do they see it on the invitees wall, even if they’re a friend.
  • You can opt to show your location to people you’re messaging. A toggle button turns the top half of your screen into a map. Be sure to turn this off if you don’t want to broadcast the location of your home, or of the place you happen to be at that moment.
  • When the app is open, you get a relatively unobtrusive “ting” noting an incoming message, and the message plays automatically. If the app is not open, or completely closed, you get the same ringtone as you get for a voicemail (This is on the iPhone. Might be different on Android)

HeyTell is free, and available for iPhone and Android. If you’re not convinced, go watch the ~1-minute demo on their website.

In-app extras for purchase at $1.99 each include Message Wipe, Emoji (extra icons), and Voice Changer. (Fun for kids. Yeah, kids. Ahem.) Group broadcast is also available for $2.99.

Available on the iPhone store badge with linkAvailable on the Android Market badge with linkBe sure to check out the reviews. Then try it out — let me know if you think this could be a game changer too.

Thanks to Susan Price for the most enjoyable test session!


Promo for TypeitType It! is a new iPad app that promises to turn your photos into beautiful typography.

I don’t believe you, Type It!

As a huge iPad fan and type geek, I’d normally buy this app without a second thought. Sadly, this epic fail of a promo not only lost the developer a sale, it flagrantly bolsters the stereotype of coders being inherently bad at design.

For starters, Brush Script?! Brush Script has to be one of the ugliest typefaces out there. Comic Sans would be an improvement! Ok, maybe not, but it wouldn’t make it any worse.

And what’s with the double primes instead of real quotation marks? On top of that, this slogan doesn’t need quotation marks. There was absolutely no need to make this typography 101 mistake.

The sample picture? This isn’t typography. There’s no way to make a painting transform into type. This is a photo with a bunch of typographic characters on it. I think. I don’t know what most of those characters are, but they’re not a typeface I’ve seen anywhere.

Lastly, “beautiful” and “typography” are not a proper nouns, and do not require capitalization.

(Yeah, I’m feeling kinda bitchy this morning.)

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