As of May 20, I really don’t like pandas anymore. Even seeing them on TV makes me shiver. Because May 20 was when I got hit by Panda 4.0. Those who got hit with me can probably spell this now famous tweet by Matt Cutts word for word. Matt is the head of spam at Google, and his tweets are feared by many.
A little bit of background information
So what’s the deal with these pandas? Well, Google is obviously inspired by the zoo for coming up with cute animals to name their algorithm updates after. Panda updates are used for flushing low quality sites (content farms) out of the search results. There’s also Penguin, which does the same for low quality backlinks.
Originally intended to improve the overall search results quality, nowadays the Panda updates are mostly used to fix previous mistakes.
So what makes Panda 4.0 so special?
First of all, a fairly high number of sites got hit. About 7.5% of English queries were affected, which is a lot. Previous updates were around 1-2%.
Time is money, right? That’s why there are few things more important to your bottom line than tracking your time.
That’s were time tracking tools come in — and there are tons of them, good and bad. Let’s separate the wheat from the chaff and find out which ones are worth your while.
All of the reviewed tools include these features:
- Easy tracking anywhere: you can use timers on both desktop, iOS and Android devices.
- Extensive reporting: both in clear numbers and in graphs.
Some of these apps also include:
- Project and client management: directly assign worked hours to a specific project or client, with specified rates.
- Invoicing: convert billable hours into an invoice for your client.
- Desktop monitoring: keep track of which applications are used or which sites are visited.
Let’s have a closer look at each of these tools, and see what makes them unique.
Harvest is a popular time tracking tool. It offers all of the features listed above, except for desktop monitoring.
Harvest is perfect if you are running multiple projects with different contributors, tasks and rates.
Harvest comes with a limited free plan, but a more useful unlimited plan comes at $12 a month for a single user.
So, why Harvest?
Being a developer, chances are you probably aren’t very fond of doing your accounting. I’m not either. Luckily, modern tools can help out in many ways. It will still require some time, but in this article I’ll introduce you to several tools which aim to reduce that admin time to a minimum. All of these tools are geared toward freelancers and small businesses.
All of the reviewed tools come with:
- Invoicing & Expenses: the foundation of bookkeeping.
- Import bank transactions: tll allow exports, and some even use automated imports.
- Reporting: sales reports, expenses overview, tax summaries, and so on.
- Free trial or free account: you can try all of these tools for free for 14 or 30 days, without a credit card (except for LessAccounting, which does require a credit card).
Some of them also offer:
- Time Tracking: often in combination with invoicing to send a bill based on collected hours.
- Estimates / Quotes: send prospective clients a proposal, and convert it to an invoice when successful.
- Payroll: keep track of your employees or hired freelancers.
- Mobile: some offer apps for scanning receipts, others for time tracking and bookkeeping.
To keep it interesting, none of them offer all of these features in one product out of the box. So it’s up to you decide what you find most important, or where you want to dedicate extra time.
I will take a look at what features are included and how much it’s gonna cost you (hint: some of these tools are free). More importantly, I will look at the distinctive features of each product. When five products are so similar, it all comes down to usability. Let’s see how they compare.
When you have just a few clients, it’s easy to keep track of them in an Excel document. But as your business grows, it becomes harder to track your communication, sales efforts and project progress. That’s where Customer Relationship Management (let’s call it CRM from here on) tools come into play.
Even if you consider yourself a small business, you can benefit from these tools — and it doesn’t have to cost you a fortune (in fact, 3 of them have a free plan).
Almost all of these offer mobile apps and Outlook integration, so consider that covered. In this article I will focus on each product’s unique features.
The leader: SalesForce
Let’s start by looking at the company that indisputably changed the CRM market, SalesForce. These guys made CRM accessible to practically anyone, with plans starting at just $5 a month for one user.
The “Contact Manager” is their entry plan, and offers some pretty decent CRM features. If you choose the “Group” edition you also get lead and opportunity tracking, compelling features when you’re chasing new clients.
Contacts / Leads
For each contact on your list, you can enter basic information, schedule tasks, view contact history and browse attachments.
You can connect Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts for the specific contacts and see their social media updates within SalesForce.
You can also keep track of sales opportunities for each contact. These are kept in the opportunities tab, and are automatically attached to the relevant account or lead. This may seem a bit redundant, but it means you can’t easily lose crucial information.
The “Leads” section (in the Group Edition) looks the same as “Contacts”, but allows you to differentiate between current and (hopefully) future customers.
The Accounts tab is basically the aggregation of your contacts and opportunities for current customers, with the addition of a visual sales funnel.
Opportunities (Group Edition)
This is where you keep track of your sales progress. The information your enter here is all linked to the deal itself, for seamless tracking.
Reports / Dashboard
SalesForce comes with a whole number of reports, which give your very precise insights into the data collected in the above-mentioned sections. You can drill down till you’re sick of it — or until the numbers become meaningless! You can also create custom reports, if you’re after something the standard reports don’t show.
But we all know numbers can be a bit boring, so SalesForce also lets you create dashboards. These add a bit of visual interest, but they aren’t as precise as reports. Good if you need to quickly update someone else on your progress, but not great at giving you actionable information.
So Why SalesForce?
SalesForce certainly knows how customer relationship management should be done, and this is a great tool. It works very intuitively — you basically don’t need any help to get started. They really set the standard for CRMs. Now If only the dashboards were a bit more fancy…
SalesForce offers a free 14-day trial.
Now let’s have a look at some other contenders, and find out what makes them unique.
As of April 2014, Google’s new Universal Analytics is out of Beta release. It’s been in public Beta since March 2013, and upgrading the code on all Google Analytics properties will soon be mandatory. Since it’s not an automatic upgrade, you have a choice: Upgrade, or have a good look at some Google Analytics alternatives. […]
Who wants to limit himself to one computer nowadays? Say hello to online editors, where you can login in anywhere you want and start (or continue where you left off) right away. And some of these editors come pretty close to advanced text editors like MS Word. In this article I will show you what’s around.
This is the one I am using right now. StackEdit is a very easy to work with editor (the tool) for making documents in Markdown format, which my editor (the person) prefers. Markdown separates style and content, and with the right plugin allows for effortless copying into your favorite CMS.
You can connect StackEdit to Google Drive or Dropbox, and use auto-sync as a backup. And, you can publish from within StackEdit to WordPress, Tumblr, Github etc. You can also use it for making PDFs, which is a nice addition.
It uses shortcuts via a GUI, offers advanced settings for templating, and (very important) is really convenient when you have an unreliable connection because of its offline functionality. Also, you don’t need to register and you can start working right away.
The only downside of StackEdit is that it doesn’t have an integrated spell checker that works properly. It underlines misspelled words, but relies on your browser for correcting. But this is a known issue they are working on so we may see an improvement some day.
In the end it’s a great product, not only for the Markdown format but for general use as well. And I love the way it displays the final article on the right and if you scroll either of the two views, the other view will follow to scroll to the correct place as well.
Markable is another MarkDown editor, but this one is more suited for those who still prefer to code in Notepad. It offers a very clean interface, but there are no shortcuts, so unless you are familiar with the Markdown syntax you might want to use their cheat sheet or have another cheat sheet handy. It does allow you to see the results of your work on the right of your screen.
In my recent article that covered Google Analytics alternatives, someone asked a question in the comments about A/B testing. In response, two tools were mentioned: Optimizely and Visual Website Optimizer. In this post, I’m going to review these in addition to another one called Google Analytics Content Experiments, which offers simplified (but free) A/B testing functionality as part of the Analytics suite.
If you’re new to A/B testing in general, I recommend Kerry Butters’ articles Are Most Winning A/B Test Results Misleading? and The Designer’s Guide to A/B Testing, both of which include more basic info on what A/B testing is and why it’s important.
Now let’s go on to the reviews.
Let’s start by looking at Optimizely. They offer a decently priced entry plan with 2,000 visits per month, which is enough to run a few tests (or one large test). Optimizely requires you to insert a snippet of code in your header (which gets confirmed by email, which is nice) after which you can use their dashboard. You just add a new experiment, and a guide takes you through all the necessary steps.
I prepared an experiment to test whether Google Adsense link units should be put below (how it currently is) or above the navigation links. You can see the real page here to get an idea.
I can easily select the related code and make the switch. This is just a test, but if it was a real analysis I would also need to generate new Adsense code to measure the impact in earnings. But for now it’s the concept that matters.
If you run a very popular site, you can add one or more conditions to filter your traffic (like coming from a specific URL), as shown below:
After looking at 5 Great Google Analytics Alternatives in a previous article, we thought it would be useful to look at services that allow you to enhance your existing Google Analytics data.
It is quite easy to connect your Analytics account to a third party app, and to look at your visitor data in a different way. This can be useful for SEO purposes, or for a deeper drill-down into your visitor data.
To show you what can be done, I’ve selected 5 services that allow you to enhance your Google Analytics data — all you need is a working Google Analytics account.
It’s been a while since I did my last Magento comparison, and the sad thing is: Nothing much has changed since then. Magento still looks and works the same, and in this industry standing still is the same as moving backwards.
True, Magento has moved on from version 1.7 to 1.8, but that was mostly rolling out bug fixes. And it still has some serious flaws which haven’t been addressed. Any real progress seems to be stalled while awaiting for Magento 2.0, the version rumoured to be heavily influenced by eBay, its new owner. This should be a real leap forward and should make Magento the top dog again. But the fact remains, 2.0 is still far from being ready.
And then there is X-Cart 5. While it technically follows up on X-Cart 4, it is a rebuild version of this decently successful shopping cart. Basically X-Cart 5 is to X-Cart, what Magento 2.0 should be be to Magento 1.8. And with X-Cart having a rapid development cycle, this could mean X-Cart 5 takes the lead – at least for small- and medium sized business, which is where X-Cart is at its best.
If you manage a website, there’s a good chance you are using Google Analytics (GA) to keeping track of your visitors, or you are considering using it. GA is an excellent product, and given the fact it’s free makes it a very viable and attractive solution to many website owners.
But it has its flaws and imperfections, some of which are:
They already know so much about you, should they know your web site stats too?
GA does have a feature to view real-time stats, but it could use some improvement so it can be more than just a fancy counter.
Time spent on page
GA can’t really keep track of time spent by a visitor unless he or she moves forward to the next page. This means, according to GA, if a user closes the browser tab, the visit length counts as 0.