Be nice, it costs nothing

Can you put a price on being nice? The chances are you already have. When you go to a restaurant, do you sometimes tip a little bit more if the serving staff were extra nice/professional/helpful? When you shop somewhere and the assistants are nice (not pushy) and give good advice, you go back next time, right?

Although you cant always equate these experiences to exact amounts, it is easy to see the value in being “nice”.

Of course, sitting here with my coffee it is easy to say these things, and reading them you may well agree, but out in the real world, when we are running at a million miles an hour, it is not always quite so obvious.

We’ve all been there, trying to do 5 things at once, only to get an email or take a phone-call from a customer (or potential customer) with a question. That’s when we need to remember the value of being nice.

In actual fact, the value of being nice far outstrips the cost of being nice. If you go out of your way to be helpful the customer will remember it. Whether you reap the benefit of this now or later, either way it will be remembered.

The same can be applied if you are not so helpful, always remember that.

The actual cost of being helpful is zero, or close to it. If you can greet every request, every phonecall and every email in the same positive manner it really does not cost you anything, but the rewards can be immense!

So next time the phone rings or you hear the chime of a new mail arriving, remember the value of being nice, it’s worth it, I promise!

Forum modifications – worth it?

A week ago I got an email letting me know the forum software I use had released an update. As one of my sites runs on this software I planned to do the update this Sunday (today). I awoke at 8:30am and decided to crack on with it, but as I turned on my laptop I received another email… there was ANOTHER update!

“Great”, I thought!… oh… how wrong was I?!!!…

The problem was, the forum I run is quite a large one, with lots of members and a few modifications. As it is a worldwide forum there is a mod on there letting members display a little flag showing their nationality. This is a great little mod, and people like it a lot, but upon upgrade it broke! After the upgrade happened the flags were no more.

The problem

The problem is the way the forum software works is not very “mod friendly”. It’s not like WordPress where your mods are protected somewhat, modifying a forum required major surgery to the core files… not nice when it comes to upgrade time!

Anyway, all in all there were two mods that broke, the flags and the “quick reply” feature. The quick reply was an easy fix, as it only involved alterations to a single file, so fairly low maintenance, but the flags mod was a lot of work to find out what went wrong.

By the time I had finished with this fiasco it was well into the afternoon. This made me think, are these mods really worth it? Fair enough, if the version of the forum was fixed, great, but it’s not… there will always be fix released and bug patches going on, each giving the possibility of your mod breaking.

…and so…

I have learned a lot of the the past year or so, but I am learning that sometimes it is necessary to simplify things in order to give the reliability necessary to keep a site running, in order to maintain your own sanity, and not give your entire Sunday up in the quest to get “the little flags working”.

By the time I think about all the time I have spent making sure these modifications survive all the upgrades, these aren’t half expensive little flags!

Changing your post title can be a bad idea!

I posted recently about the importance of setting the correct blog post title. This made me think of something I came across a while ago. Once again it is something quite simple yet very important, that is getting your blog post title right, first time!

Here’s why…

If you blog like I do you may blog fast and furious manner, in a quest to hit that Publish button. You may or may not give a tremendous amount of thought to checking things like spelling (you should, but then it’s easier said than done) until after it’s published.

In the case of spelling it’s not the end of the world. Enter the admin panel again… manage… posts… select… edit… save… DONE!

Where things come unstuck occasionally is changing the title, or more importantly changing the permalink that goes with it.

Why is this?

Basically, under the hood of your WordPress installation lies the UPDATE section (under settings/writing). This contains something like http://rpc.pingomatic.com/ and means when you post a blog article it updates various feeds from Google to Yahoo to Technorati.

This is all well and good, but what happens if it updates them with your latest and greatest post, only for you go back in there and change the title and permalink? That’s right, it won’t be able to find it!

I would have thought it was intelligent enough to go back in there and update these services, maybe it’s supposed to, who knows? All I know is I have looked at my stats on occasion and found attempted visits trying to find the old page, only to be greeted by a 404 error.

There are plugins out there that will handle this sort of thing and maintain a list of old pages and their corresponding new ones. Personally I find it easier just to spend a little time hovering over the Publish button, checking the permalink is correct before I submit the post.

The benefit of taking time doing this is you can craft your permalink to take out the irrelevant words, leaving a short, accurate, keyword rich description of your post.

How important is a blog post title?

The importance of a blog post title is something I thought I had covered before, but looking back it seems I never posted it.  The title of a post is one of the most important aspects in terms of getting your post seen. The content of the post is actually more important in terms of the total post, but if you rely on visitors from search engines then they need to arrive at the post before they can read it, right?

There are several things that dictate how well a post is ranked by the search engines, some of the most important are:

  • The title of the post
  • The URL of the post
  • The title PROPERTY of the post (in the browser header)
  • The value of the headings
  • The amount of keywords in the body

The list does go on, but for the purpose of this post I will focus on the title.

If you are anything like me you will be quite enthusiastic about your blog post. When you write it you may be brimming with ideas, full of enthusiasm and excited to post. You write your post and come up with a great (sometimes funny) title to give the post the POW! factor.

This is a very easy trap to fall into, I have done this many times myself. It is easier to illustrate through an example.

Take this post… it is basically about the title of a blog post. Instead of naming it :

How important is a blog post title?

… I could have called it:

The risks of the POW factor

Ok, that’s not necessarily the best title in the world, but what I am getting at is I could use the title to make a newspaper headline type statement, to intrigue the reader and make them want to read on. There is an argument that actually that is the right way to do it, but we need to be aware that while a reader may be enthused by that, Google may not.

Of course, the holy grail is to combine the two, but in my opinion it is more important to optimise your post to allow people to find what they are searching for, not just from google, but from your internal search engine. If someone searches for this post 6 months down the line they may search for “post title”. This post will appear on the list, whereas it may not (or be lower down the list) if I gave it a funny title.

Some of this may seem like common sense, in that case great, but like a lot of these simple aspects to web design and blogging, it’s only simple once you know about it.

As always, comments (and other angles) are always appreciated.