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How Long Should a Blog Article Be?

You have 96 seconds, so make it count!

The length of a blog can vary drastically, and the optimum length of a blog has created some heated debate over the years. The bottom line is, you can only retain someone’s attention span for a limited amount of time. Industry standards vary, and the more specific a blog, the longer an individual will spend reading it, but on average we are looking at just over a minute and a half.

Think about how you yourself read a blog. You may scan over the introductory waffle, you may read each section in painstaking detail – the motivating factor is usually why you are reading it in the first place.

When I read a blog, this is generally how I engage with it.

  • How to guide – skip the waffle, get to the step by step guide.
  • Industry news blog – read the introduction, make a decision on whether to keep reading the blog in detail, skim the rest, or move on.
  • Lifestyle blog – look at the pictures, read the titles, make a decision on whether to keep reading the blog in detail, skim the rest, or move on.

Obviously that doesn’t either represent a benchmark for all blog consumers, nor is it a complete list, but hopefully it should get you thinking about why people are reading your blog.

From an SEO (search engine) perspective, the length of a blog also carries some weight. Too short, and there simply isn’t enough information for Google to value its content. Too long, and the key terms get watered down to the point of little usefulness. While experts argue over the exact methods Google uses to rank a blog article (or any content), most would agree that the content at the start of the page is given more weight than that at the bottom. Therefore, the length of the blog is fairly crucial – there comes a point when the time needed to write the blog outweighs the benefit of the content from a search perspective.


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Adaptive web design…

With the plethora of internet enabled devices in our very homes, it has become increasingly important to consider how an adaptive (responsive / variable – the names change but the theory stays the same) website can help boost your online presence. Now I will make a bold(ish) statement from the get go. Adaptive web design is not necessary for everyone. While it doesn’t need to change the structural aesthetics of a good 960 grid (the best practice width for website design) website, it’s also probably fair to say that some websites are rarely viewed by mobile devices.

Having said that, if you can develop to an adaptive grid, you may as well. iPhones, Android phones, iPads, tablets and PDAs – depending on the device you use to browse the web, you will be subjected to a certain screen width. An adaptive website basically fits to the screen size, and ‘adapts’ to display a different layout, tailored to the device you are using. It’s different from a mobile friendly website, in the sense that while an adaptive grid looks great on a smart phone, it changes to the screen size, not specifically to the device. The easiest way of understanding how an adaptive grid website works is to view some of these great examples below.

http://sasquatchfestival.com/

http://colly.com/

http://www.alistapart.com/

Change the size of your browser to see it in action.


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thumbnail Quick draw always wins… pictionary zoom
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A guide to keeping Twitter simple…

It’s fairly easy to understand the potential benefits of Twitter, both personally and for a business. But, like the rest of us, you may well be short on time and think that social media is a nicety time doesn’t allow. The truth is, Twitter should be a fairly fundamental part of any social media strategy, and understanding how to manage your Twitter account effectively can help you develop this strategy, without letting it overtake your life.

The great thing about social media is as a phenomenal shift in the way we communicate, it has been embraced by some great technology companies who have done all the hard work to make our own lives more simple.

Introducing TweetDeck…

TweetDeck is a desktop app that allows you to setup segmented twitter feeds, LinkedIn and your Facebook account (and others) all in one. It uses fairly simple columns to segment your interests, mentions, direct messages or general friend feeds at the click of a button. TweeDeck

My columns are fairly simply setup, with a feed with all friends tweets on the left, any mentions following that, direct messages, my LinkedIn news updates and finally Facebook feed.

It means I can keep an eye on the basics. It lets me know when someone has retweeted what I have said, so I can return the favour at a later date. Or if someone has asked me a question, I can reply promptly, without having to be reminded by Twitter that I have a message.

As a desktop app, I can leave it running in the background (with noise notifications setup) so I can be aware of what’s happening, without having to keep a constant eye on it. I can quickly switch between what I am working on and Twitter without any fuss. Most importantly, if I have something to say, I can flick it up, and, using one of the integrated Twitter tools such as TwitPic, YFrog, bit.ly etc, tweet anything from pictures to videos all through the same tool. It saves me time, and allows me more flexibility in my tweets.

For those of you with lots of followers or are looking for more advanced management, try playing about with the global filter under preferences. This tool will create a column with updates surrounding certain terms, so if you’re an IFA and someone mentions #pensions, you could jump right in and message them with some advice. You also may wish to segment your friends into groups, so you can keep an even closer eye on those people who influence you, as we all have them, rather than shifting through hundreds of micro-blogs that may not be relevant.

Introducing Twitterlator…

So, while you’re at your computer, use TweetDeck, but what about on the move, in theory one of the most powerful uses of Twitter, instant micro-blogs. Well, Twitterlator is another great tool. Available as a free or paid app, Twitterlator offers an easy means of keeping up to date while out and about. Much like TweetDeck (which coincidentally also has an iPhone app) it segments things into general tweets, mentions and direct messages, and allows easy use of third party tools for the on the go photo or longer message. Coupled with TweetDeck, it means you can easily stay on top of your tweets, without taking up all of your time. There are plenty of other android and iPhone apps that achieve fairly similar things, I just happen to use Twitterlator, but find one that works for you and use it, and let’s start some #intrigue. @rjpalmer


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Who doesn’t like cookies… the ICO’s PECR doesn’t

Perhaps I should clarify, I don’t mean the wondrous Frisbee shaped sugar filled melt in your mouth treats, although I’m impartial to a good cookie at the best of times. No, I mean browser cookies and the fact that today (possibly yesterday by the time I finish writing this) marked the introduction of a new regulation within the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003, aptly hyphenated to ‘PECR’.

Now let me (briefly) outline what a cookie is. The Information Commissioner’s Office, the body tasked with introducing and policing the revisions define a cookie as, “a small file of letters and numbers downloaded on to a
device when the user accesses certain websites. Cookies allow a
website to recognise a user’s device”. Fairly nondescript I’ll admit, but it kind of sums up what could otherwise be a long winded and boring topic. In essence, a web cookie stores information about you and talks to a web application in order to provide a more personalised user experience. Every time you add an item to your basket in an e-commerce shop, it is saved in a cookie. Every time you revisit a website and it says, “Hello Fred” (or your name more likely), it is because it has stored a cookie in your browser.

The new Regulation now demands that users be given clear instructions as to what a cookie will do, and requires them to ‘opt-in’, allowing one on your browser only after full understanding and acceptance. Now I’m all in when it comes to consumer rights and privacy, but this is taking things a little too far if you ask me.

Admittedly, I haven’t explained that there are also such things as ‘persistent cookies’ that can last for many years (even if you upgrade your browser) that track your movements across sites to display more relevant ads and can even analyse search patterns. Sound scary? I’m not entirely convinced it should, as even these are in theory design to help everyone. Yes of course, help the media companies and advertisers, but who likes seeing ads for tenner ladies when your a 27 year old bloke.

Some may argue that cookies can be misused both by site owners and malware, but most cookies these days are encrypted to protect your information, so if the agenda here is to protect user privacy, then that’s a good place to start.

My biggest problem is the user experience though, after all, that is what cookies are designed to improve. How does the ICO expect web designers to get ‘meaningful consent’? They suggest not to use a pop-up, but unless you shove in people’s faces, they won’t see it (and while they advise against pop-ups, they don’t give a decent alternative, which means they haven’t thought of one). And what do you write? I’m sure you’ve probably seen a pop-up before stating, “This site requires the use of cookies, please enable cookies in your browser.” or some such. But do they really expect to see, “This site uses cookies. Here are the 192 reasons we use cookies, each individually explained and referenced with links to relevant parts of the website….”. Cods wallop, much like T&Cs, we’ll just click accept and move on.

To summise, placing the need for ‘informed consent’ on every website is ill advised. Users won’t read them, but will get frustrated with them, web owners will need to pay for them, but not benefit from them, and web developers will spend a long time developing the best solution for something that browsers will undoubtedly replace in the future.

If you are worried about the impact these regulations may have on your website, please call our dedicated hotli… yea right – follow this link. A few good suggestions for preparation, although most small e-commerce owners will not enjoy the cost of this. Alternatively, just ignore it, and hope that Google or Firefox step in and pave the way for all browsers to solve the problem for you – except Internet Explorer of course, that would be asking too much.


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