• 64 Thoughts on How to build a Top Competitive Website that Google can Find

    I grew up in the age of Use It (ask your grandpa) and thus I have some very specific, minimalistic web design opinions. But most websites would rather look like their competitors / friends / admired websites, rather than simply 1) putting users first, and 2) considering what they’re even trying to accomplish.

    Since I moved on to do other stuff a few months ago, I’ve already been asked my opinion on how to put a website together. So I decided to put this brain dump down on paper so I won’t have to keep repeating myself :).

    I don’t claim that any of it is rocket science or that it is even non-obvious. It’s the anti-rocket science. But, as is usually the case in such endeavors, I suggest ignoring the professionals, and instead listen to the self-taught who use common sense and who pause to think whether things even make sense to do:

    I hope this post helps you. Your mileage may vary.

    In the order that things came to me yesterday while compiling this list, rather than a orderly cookbook:

    1 CELL PHONES: Design your website for cell phones. 60% of web traffic is from mobile devices.

    2 GOOGLE: Google spiders your website using the cell phone version, so the simpler that you can make your navigation and presentation, the better Google will be able to understand it.

    3 SIMPLE: Again, keep your navigation and presentation simple.

    4 LINKING: You should have strong internal linking. If one of your most important pages is how to start a recruiting firm, by golly have some internal links on your website that have proper anchor text that say something like “how to start a recruiting firm”. Internal linking should be tight and focus on what keywords/phrases are most important to you.

    5 WORDPRESS: Design your website in WordPress, if at all possible. Then you can pull plug-ins off the shelf to help you do things you’d otherwise have to write yourself, for example.

    6 ATTENTION: People use cell phones, tablets, et al. They have short attention spans. Your page might be viewed for less than a minute. Make that minute count.

    7 CALL TO ACTION: How do you make that minute count? If you have a call to action, it better be clear and it better be fast.

    8 FORMS: Make sure your submission forms work on your site and test them regularly. Don’t count on people emailing you, they would often rather submit information directly on your site.

    9 IMAGES: Use few images and the ones you use should be optimized for size and space. And don’t waste them: most or all of them should be faces. Landscapes may be pretty but faces convert.

    10 DESIGN THOUGHTS: Ignore modern design, it is all bullshit. Go try to find something on most professional, academic or corporate websites and tell me the inmates don’t already run the asylum.

    11 PROOF: The proof that what you’ve built is working is that you’re receiving what you need, in terms of inquiries and traffic.

    12 SPEED: Your site should load instantaneously. Not IN a second or two. INSTANTANEOUSLY. When you type your url in your phone or on your computer, no matter how weak or strong your wifi/cell signal, it should load in a blink of an eye and you should say to yourself holy shit that loaded fast. And it will do that if you do what I’m saying to do.

    13 KEYWORDS: Focus on your top 5-10 keywords/phrases and focus on those. And they will be those that result in the things that you would like people to do with your site, rather than just focusing on traffic numbers. Stretching your keyword optimization too thin will just result in mediocre results for most keywords.

    14 FOCUS ON USERS: The text on the website should be focused on the users rather than some search engine optimization. If you design for your users and make it simple, Google will notice.

    15 UH OH: If you aren’t on Google, you don’t exist.

    16 COLORS: Use basic colors so that they will load fast.

    17 FONTS: Use default fonts so that they will load fast.

    18 PROMOTE: Promote using LinkedIn / Twitter / Google and really microfocus on your audience. More on this later.

    19 PRIVACY POLICY: Have a privacy policy. Google looks for it. There are many automated places on internets that can write your privacy policy for you.

    20 RECOMMENDATIONS: List some recommendations / testimonials, don’t put hundreds or dozens of these, look for keywords and calls to action that are included or can be included with the kind words.

    21 LOCATION: List a physical location. It will help in conversion and it will help in search engine placement.

    22 MOBILE PLUG-IN: Use a mobile plug-in for WordPress, then you won’t have to design your website twice.

    23 RELATED POSTS: If you use the blog section of WordPress (you don’t have to, you can just use the Pages options), grab a Related Posts plug-in that will organically then promote strong internal linking.

    24 GIVE IT AWAY: Give something away. Make sure it is a resource that everybody is drawn to and that will help you convert traffic and build credibility. It should be something that other websites will want to link to directly on their own.

    25 CONTACT US: Your contact us form needs to be prominent. Remember that you may only have your visitor visiting for less than 60 seconds.

    26 DO IT BETTER: If there is something your competitors are doing or info they’re providing, that you can do in a better way, do it and do it loudly.

    27 TIE IT TOGETHER: Your pages’ text should tie in to the most important pages and have liberal internal links to those most important pages.

    28 SEARCH CONSOLE: Sign up for Google Search Console and study it.

    29 SITEMAP: Create an XML sitemap and submit it.

    30 SHORT TITLES: Keep your pages’ page titles short.

    31 SHORT DESCRIPTIONS: Keep your pages’ page descriptions short.

    32 BUILD LINKS EXTERNALLY: One of the easiest ways to do this is to build content that people want to link to.

    33 SECURE: Use https://

    34 SITE UPTIME: Use SiteUptime (or something similar) to monitor your website 24/7.

    35 WEB HOSTING: Sign up with a good web host. And if you’ve had good experiences, stick with them.

    36 URL’s: If you use WordPress, keeping your page titles and post titles lean enables the default URL’s that are created to be focused for SEO purposes.

    37 BROKEN LINKS: Be aware of building stuff that you have constantly be on top of to chase broken links. Chasing broken links is a pain in the ass and eventually falls to the bottom of priority lists.

    38 SYNDICATE: Automate sending your content externally to LinkedIn Twitter Facebook etc. using something like Dlvr.it.

    39 REINFORCE: Your tweets and LinkedIn and Facebook, etc., should reinforce the pages that you are trying to promote.

    40 MORE SYNDICATION: Click the external syndication buttons on Google ads and LinkedIn ads to get SEO link boosts from that syndication. Yes, Virginia, paid ads boosts organic.

    41 BORROW: Review your competitors’ websites and take the best parts of them (like if you like how they structured something), but avoid any bad stuff that they’re doing.

    42 DUPLICATE CONTENT: Avoid duplicate content within your website when you compare two pages from your site.

    43 ARCHIVE.ORG: I can’t stress enough what a wonderful resource Archive.org is, for seeing how your industry used to look like, and even for relearning things that need to be relearned.

    44 DO YOU EVEN NEED A WEBSITE?: Seriously consider whether it’s really just a Twitter account, or a YouTube account, or a LinkedIn company page that you actually need. Maybe you don’t need a website, don’t need that headache. Think about it.

    45 SIMPLIFY: The reason why your website will look different from established websites is that nobody simplifies stuff on the web when they’re building. They complicate. “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” – Upton Sinclair.

    46 UPDATE: Continually update your website. Your search engine ranking partially depends on frequent updates. But make it easy to update your site so that you don’t hate doing it.

    47 GARBAGE: Avoid keywords that are going to bring garbage visitors and garbage inquiries. You are aiming for quality inquiries.

    48 FLAT HIERARCHY: Don’t bury pages 8 layers deep, nobody will find it and Google will think it is unimportant. Figure out ways to flatten your structure out so that page rank is appropriately distributed.

    49 GOOGLE BUSINESS: Get a Google Business listing.

    50 BING: Set up Bing webmaster tools.

    51 ACTION: Focus on the most actionable keywords, not the most volume.

    52 SEO: Install an SEO plugin.

    53 FORUMS: Find forums focused on your industry and also LinkedIn groups, and post in them.

    54 NEAR THE TOP: Have your most important content of a page be near the top of the page, like the first 150 words. Think like a cell phone user.

    55 BOLDFACE: Use Bold or Italics to occasionally highlight keywords and phrases, but don’t overdo it. Don’t underline anything, it just confuses people into thinking it’s a link to click.

    56 AUTHORITY: Post links to authority links in your industry. If you’ve got a rock and roll website focusing on Chicago, post links to the top 5 concert venues, for example. Posting authority links increases your authority.

    57 ALT: Use, but don’t overuse, the Image Alt command to post appropriate anchor text.

    58 CLAIM SOCIAL MEDIA: Claim your brands on the top social media properties and have a minimum of relevant linking content there, these are easy ways to improve your links.

    59 VIDEO: Consider using video if it helps your business. Don’t host yourself, host elsewhere and link to it.

    60 RESEARCH: Do keyword research.

    61 ANALYTICS: Consider using Google Analytics. I am a fan, though, of studying one’s own referrer logs, rather than studying summaries. Referrer logs are like literature that you have to figure out where the stories are going.

    62 ACTION: Sometimes it is only by studying referrer logs that you have a better sense of what phrases are actionable. You can see people leave and then come back a few days later, and seeing how they got there and what they did, it’s an art not a science. Too many professionals try to make it a science.

    63 CONTEXT: Make sure that you are always keeping the user in mind when you are repeating keywords and phrases on pages.

    64 DOMAIN NAME: Choose either a really strong domain keyword name (PEANUT BUTTER COOKIES.COM) or choose something that doesn’t have anything to do with it but that people will remember (PURPLE HAIRCUT.COM). Don’t pick something mid, where you’ll be lumped in with everybody else. Either have it be really strongly keywordish or not at all.

  • 50 Steps on How to Start a Recruiting Firm for less than $10,000

    I woke up today with a tragic case of Dunning-Kruger. I mean, hell, I started one successful recruiting firm, and half-joked about recruiting for executive assistants, so why can’t I be qualified to opine on recruiting as a whole.

    Putting those very valid concerns aside, as an amusing intellectual exercise, this morning I wrote down 50 things that I’d do and think about if I were to start a recruiting firm today.

    This is the exact order that ideas came to me, but not at all the order that I’d do them in. These aren’t all necessarily things I’ve done already, these are just the things I’d do now, being older, wiser and far more dunning-krugeresque:

    1 LINKEDIN: Buy a LinkedIn Recruiter seat.

    2 NICHE: Pick your niche, singular, to go after. Make some handwritten charts on how that niche works so that it makes sense to you.

    3 CANDIDATES: Draw up some employee charts from data from LinkedIn Recruiter to get a better understanding of who works where and for whom.

    4 COMPETITORS: Look around at what other recruiters are in the space.

    5 GOOGLE: Go to Google. For each of the recruiters in the space, search for linksin:recruitingfirm.com and rank those recruiting firms. Also get a sense of who is known for what by paging through some of the search results

    6 QUANTCAST: Buy a Quantcast account and see how those firms are doing.

    7 INTERESTING: The niche that you target has to strongly interest you or else you will lose interest when things are tough and you will fail.

    8 SOCIETIES: Look up whether there are professional societies associated with that niche and investigate what information those societies can offer to supplement the LinkedIn data.

    9 DATABASE: Decide whether you want a 3rd party SaaS database or whether you want to build your own.

    10 ORGANIC: Grow organically, don’t force the business before you’re ready (in knowledge, time, confidence) to grow.

    11 ADVISORS: Get advisors (paid or unpaid) who know more than you do, either about the niche, or about recruiting in general, or about business in general, or operations, or at least something that you don’t already know all the answers.

    12 INCREMENTAL: Focus on quarterly incremental growth.

    13 HIRING: Figure out what you like to do. Eventually hire for what you don’t want to do or aren’t good at. As you grow, the same person(s) shouldn’t be doing big picture plus operations plus database plus recruiting plus generating business.

    14 STRUCTURE: Decide on your business structure: LLC, S Corp, C Corp, etc., when consulting with a trusted lawyer or accountant.

    15 GLOBAL: International recruiting is a pain in the ass, focus solely on your home country to start.

    16 PREMIUM: Avoid markets which are a commodity (supply = demand), instead you want to build premium knowledge and loyal clients where demand outstrips supply.

    17 EXPERIENCE: Don’t start a recruiting firm unless you have already worked as a recruiter somewhere, even if it just an internship or something. Recruiting isn’t what people think it is.

    18 RECRUITING: Recruiting is a mix of psychology, business sense, persistence, optimism, knowledge, empathy and intelligence.

    19 BEST PRACTICES: Your searches don’t have to be hard to be successful. Make your information the best practices, and your processes the best practices as well.

    20 FAST: Speed is king.

    21 BE OLD: Don’t chase big sponsorships, grow at the base level in the old-fashioned ways.

    22 SPEAK: Talk to people.

    23 C-LEVEL: Go to the top, you don’t generate business with middle mgmt. Go high or go low.

    24 READ: Read everything you can get your hands on. Become an expert in that field in some of the same ways the experts in that field are experts in that field.

    25 MARKETING: Ignore professional marketing techniques, focus on common sense.

    26 SOCIAL MEDIA: Build your LinkedIn and Twitter.

    27 SEARCHES: Figure out whether you are Contingent or Retained or both. Each require different skill sets and rules.

    28 TRENDS: Always look at macro and micro trends for clues about where your business is going.

    29 INFO: Develop niche info for your chosen industry. For example, there are sorts of surveys and summary charts that can be derived from public SEC documents.

    30 VALUES: Think deeply about your values. When times are tough or a string of bad luck comes, you will be able to lean on those core values and trust your process and yourself.

    31 NON-LINEAR: Nothing takes the place of old-fashioned conversations, that is how you learn nonlinear things, not by constantly emailing.

    32 WAKE UP: If you’re not waking up happy and aggressive, you’re doing it wrong.

    33 LISTEN: Hire before you have to, and listen to their ideas.

    34 ATTENTION: Pay attention to trends that you notice, you will see things before the industry does or the press does.

    35 PIVOT: Don’t be afraid to pivot.

    36 TRUST: Trust yourself.

    37 GET OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE: I can’t stress enough: talk to people, all kinds of people. A 10-minute conversation can be worth more than weeks of study.

    38 BE THE BEST: Your aim is to be the best in your chosen field. If you instead aim to be a me-too firm, it won’t work, recruiting eats up half-assed efforts.

    39 MEDIOCRITY: I once had a boss who said if you take your foot off of the accelerator just a little bit, and give it 80% effort, you will lose 100% of your business. That is how recruiting works.

    40 QUALITY: In your business, aim to place quality niche hires. If you instead aim for quantity, it will drag you down mentally.

    41 STUDY YOUR DATA: Once you have enough data of your own as you operate, focus on metrics to figure out what a call is worth, a resume, an interview, etc. But don’t be so wrapped up in them that you are always number-focused, but instead use them as a tool.

    42 WEBSITE: Make your website simple and easy to find. Half of your visits will be on cell phones — design for cell phones and ideally use WordPress.

    43 INQUIRIES: Respond to inquiries ASAP.

    44 GO AWAY: Ignore noise and time wasters.

    45 NO REALLY, I SAID GO AWAY: Don’t be afraid to cut potential clients or candidates in favor of having more time to pursue quality clients and candidates. It is a failure of human nature to spend time on things that require our time, instead of the things that deserve our time.

    46 YOUR DATA: Hire data entry to get all of that great LinkedIn data into database format. Use API’s when possible. Talk to data people who are more imaginative than yourself.

    47 PATIENCE: Give yourself at least 1 year to judge the business, don’t give up easily or pivot too soon.

    48 BE LOCAL: Ideally hire locally and see each other weekly to keep your optimism up.

    49 SPECIAL: Recruiting isn’t who you already know, because you will constantly have to build new contacts, it is about putting processes and habits in place that are sustainable.

    50 GRIND: People start recruiting firms all the time while thinking that their existing contacts will take them through. But they get discouraged when they realize that they have to make it up and grind every day, like every other successful venture.

    So there’s my Halloween brain dump!

  • US Public Domain Films are also a great opportunity

    So I already discussed that songs published before 1927 are in the US public domain.

    The same holds true for films. While many interesting 1920’s movies are already in the public domain, in my opinion it’s only in 2023 that we really start cooking.

    That’s because the first sound movies with significant dialogue started in 1927, and all of those 1,000+ movies will enter US public domain in 2023. Notable 1927 films include:

    Again, this is a rabbit hole I’m planning on investigating over the next few years.

    (Don’t forget that four Three Stooges shorts are already in the public domain. )

  • Recruit for Executive Assistants

    I discovered a steadily-growing area of US employment this morning: executive assistants.

    About a million people with the title and a solid 18-year Google Search history.

  • Creating NFT comic books based on NFT characters

    Non-fungible tokens (NFT) are a fast-growing business. “NFT art is digital artwork that is backed by a blockchain technology,” such as Ethereum or Polygon.

    Creating NFTs is a lot of work, a lot of heavy lifting. In addition to the art, you’re building a community around the art, and then maintaining that community. Many fail at it. Most fail at it.

    Kanpai Pandas is a recent example of success (I own no Kanpai Pandas). They built a 10,000 piece collection, sold out, and went to work developing the community.

    Now, because this is the blockchain, the holders of Kanpai Pandas are a public record.

    It is a lot easier, faster, cheaper and straightforward to plug into an existing NFT community than to try to build and maintain your own, at least in my little world of reason. You give yourself a better chance at success. So you find NFT collections where the copyright protections are favorable – in other words, for example, if you own some of those 10,000 NFTs, you can work those into your own creations – and partner with artists and writers to build unique creations like comic books that work your owned characters into the story.

    And then you give those creations back to the holders of the original art, or sell them. In the world of blockchain, you already know who holds the original art, and so it is very easy to mass distribute what you created. Theoretically, it raises the value of the original art because they’re getting something additional for holding the original art, and what you created will generate value, too, as people discover what they received.

    I’ve already seen this work, but I think it’s still an underutilized technique for getting into the NFT business cheaply with relatively low risk. There should be a lot more derivative works than there are presently.

  • Food insecurity on college campuses

    Part of the early purpose of 1000Startups.com is to doodle about the things and ideas that have interested me over the last several years. Theoretically, that process will then lead me to doing something about some of those things. That’s how I expect this to work.

    One such thing is food insecurity, specifically on school campuses. Until a few years back, I hadn’t even realized that food insecurity by college students was such a high percentage in some areas.

    Emily Frymark devoted her Bachelor’s thesis to food insecurity. It is a quality read. According to her, almost half of college students experience food insecurity in the Appalachia region. She describes the processes through which it is addressed locally through food pantries.

    She also says the wider US food insecurity figure on college campuses is somewhere in the 15-30% range, and the long-term consequences of it are rather long. Obviously it’s hard to think and focus when you’re hungry, but it’s so much more than that, that you end up carrying away with you for the rest of your life when you’re in those situations:

    “Previous research has demonstrated that people who experience food insecurity are more likely to have negative health outcomes such as: decreased nutrient intake, increased mental health problems and depression, diabetes, obesity, hypertension, poor sleep, and lower self-rated health. Additionally, food insecurity, hunger, or food insufficiency has been associated with lower academic achievement, behavioral and attention problems, and adverse psychosocial development among school- aged and teenage students.”

    When I return to this issue, I will look closer at some of the Google Scholar abstracts that I found devoted to food insecurity on campus and which caught my eye. For example, the University of Tennessee Department of Nutrition authored a study, “An Exploratory Analysis of the Lived Experience of Food Insecurity among College Students” that will open some eyes:

    “Another female graduate student described how financial burden associated with FI influenced her skipping meals and reducing intake: “I’m not even eating ramen noodles. I’m skipping meals, like there’s no access. So I’m like living on loans right now, which is also a really uncomfortable place to be”.”

    In Google Books, I found Experiences of Hunger and Food Insecurity in College, which studies the issue in Texas. A lot of other quality books just on the first page of the Google Books search, too. Take a look.

    I found the College and University Food Bank Alliance as an organization that has been tackling this problem for the last 10 years, and which Swipe Out Hunger acquired. Swipe Out Hunger has also been working on the problem, for the last 12 years.

  • Americans to spend $700 million on Pet Costumes in 2022

    Back in 2011, I used to joke that pet costumes was a business to get into. It was a $300 million/year business back then.

    Now, in 2022, it’s become a $700 million/year business. Healthy +8% annual revenue growth.

    So many wonderful angles to take that trend, if one were to enter this business. I don’t know that I’d try to sell direct, though. Instead, figure out a manufacturing strategy/source and offer private labelling.

    48 million US households own dogs. 32 million US households own cats. Seems like a great me-too business without worrying about market share.

    Dogs are the new kids.” That trend isn’t slowing down at all.

    My cavalier, Roxy, is going out dressed as an Ibanez acoustic bass guitar this Halloween. She’ll be easy to spot and she’ll sound great.

  • US Public Domain content represents a fantastic opportunity

    Musical compositions published before January 1, 1927 are part of the public domain.

    I compiled a list (below) of some popular songs that entered the public domain over the last four years. Songs you can do whatever you want with, repackage, remix, etc. It’s a rather strong list.

    Imagine in our 10,000 channel world that you create a game or musical that takes advantage of the built-in familiarity of this content. “Rhapsody in Blue”? “Fascinating Rhythm”? “Remember”?

    Get your hands on any analysis of all of the folk songs that Bob Dylan borrowed from. Interesting stuff.

    This is one of the rabbit holes I plan to go down over the next few years.

    1926Baby FaceBenny Davis, Harry Akst
    1926Birth of the BluesB.G. De Sylva, Lew Brown, m. Ray Henderson
    1926Black Bottom StompJelly Roll Morton
    1924California Here I ComeJoseph Meyer, Al Jolson, Bud DeSylva
    1923CharlestonCecil Mack, James P. (Jimmy) Johnson
    1926Dead Man BluesJelly Roll Morton
    1925DinahSame Lewis, Joe Young, Harry Akst
    1924Does the Spearmint Lose Its FlavorBilly Rose, Marty Bloom, Ernest Breuer
    1924Doo Wacka DooClarence Gaskill, Walter Donaldson, George Horther
    1924Everybody Loves My BabyJack Palmer & Spencer Williams
    1923Farewell BluesRappolo ~ Leon Rappolo
    1924Fascinating RhythmIra Gershwin George Gershwin
    1924I’ll See You In My DreamsGus Kahn Isham Jones
    1925If You Knew SusieB.G. De Sylva
    1924It Had To Be YouIsham Edgar Jones Gus Kahn
    1923Kansas City StompJelly Roll Morton
    1924King Porter StompJelly Roll Morton
    1925Milenberg JoysJelly Roll Morton
    1923Mr. Jelly-LordJelly Roll Morton
    1925New Orleans BluesJelly Roll Morton
    1924Oh Lady Be GoodIra Gershwin, George Gershwin
    1923PearlsJelly Roll Morton
    1925RememberIrving Berlin
    1924Rhapsody In BlueIra Gershwin, George Gershwin
    1925Shreveport StompJelly Roll Morton
    1926Sidewalk BluesJelly Roll Morton
    1926Someone To Watch Over MeIra Gershwin, George Gershwin
    1925Sweet And Low-DownIra Gershwin, George Gershwin
    1925Sweet Georgia BrownBen Bernie, Maceo Pinkard, Kenneth Casey
    1924Tea For TwoIrving Caesar Vincent Youmans
    1926Where’d You Get Those EyesWalter Donaldson, Abe Lyman
    1925Who?Jerome Kern
    1923Yes! We Have No BananasFrank Silver & Irving Cohn