When To Use an Ellipses?


ellipsisI will admit it, I’m a chronic abuser of the ellipses. Whether it’s in a blog post, a tweet, or a text…I use an ellipse a lot.

But am I using it correctly? Grammatically, yes I am. But it’s probably uncouth how often I use them, which is an entirely different discussion.

Let’s look at two scenarios when to use an ellipses and why you would use them.

1. Hesitation 

This is the primary reason why I use an ellipse. Usually it’s for some type of “dramatic” effect (but that’s just me). You can use an ellipse like this in formal writing, but it’s typically used in more informal settings. Like email or chat.

You can use an ellipse to indicate a pause in dialog, passing of time, insecurity in the speaker’s voice, to demonstrate an unfinished list, or denote a speaker trailing off mid-sentence/thought.

The killer was…Robert Durst! 

I remember playing in the field behind the school growing up. It’s the happiest…I can remember being as a child. 

2. Omission 

Using an ellipse as form of omission in formal writing and is the most common use case. You can use an ellipse to indicate that you have omitted words. This is popular to do with long quotes. (But you MUST be careful not to alter the meaning of the quote). If you’re on a word count or if the long quote is a bit redundant, then you can use an ellipses.

The king was used to overeating hamburgers, pizza, and cake all the time and that’s how he ended up overweight.

The king was used to overeating…that’s how he ended up overweight.

Using an ellipse in your writing is perfectly acceptable. It’s even preferable in certain situations. It can be very effective to demonstrate certain thoughts and feelings, but you must be careful not to abuse it. Otherwise you might become a little annoying…like me.

 

 

How Much Does It Cost to Run a Successful Blog?


via Business2Community

via Business2Community

At its core, blogging is free. You can sign up for a free blog via WordPress.com, Tumblr, or Blogger in just a few minutes. You don’t even need to buy a custom URL. You can just use a generic one. Then you just write some words and push enter. Boom! Free. But the best blogs on the internet cost money, lots of money.

So what are bloggers spending money on each month? And how much? Blogging is a relatively low cost endeavor. I’ve built blogs in the tens of thousands of visitors for less than $1,000 a month. But some of the top bloggers have been known to spend tens of thousands of dollars a month. That’s a lot of moolah. When you’re so used blogging for free, it’s hard to imagine a $20,000 monthly bill for your blog. So here’s what two bloggers are spending on their blog.

Let’s start with Jason Lemkin. Jason is a venture capitalist at Storm Ventures. He previously started and sold several companies, including Echo Sign to Adobe. His blog, Saastr is one the most highly read blogs regarding SaaS businesses. I’ve read many of his blog posts and Quora answers and learned a great deal.

Here’s a tweet he sent out the other week, shedding some light on his blog numbers.

I was unable to get any follow up information from Jason regarding the breakdown of his costs. I’d speculate that the brunt of his costs revolve around two things, hosting and email delivery. He’s not creating fancy infographics or guides. It seems like it’s just keeping up the infrastructure for the 1 million visitors.

Neil Patel is another blogger that I admire and read religiously. Neil has been an entrepreneur since he was 16 and has started two successful SaaS companies, CrazyEgg and Kissmetrics. A catalyst to both companies’ success has been the blog.

via Kissmetrics

Neil Patel via Kissmetrics

Neil is very transparent and has been gracious enough to share his costs openly on his blog. According to Neil, his blog generates over 700,000 visits a month. Here’s a breakdown of some of his costs (according to his blog):

Guides

Creating a guide is great marketing collateral for your company. Easily one of the top pieces companies use to entice visitors to give them their email address. But a guide is not cheap. According to Patel, he pays $4,000 to a writer, $20,000 for design, $2,500 for coding the design, and $700 convert interactive design into PDF. In total, that’s $27,200 for one guide! Sure, you can do it for much less, but you will still run into costs similar to these.

Here’s what one of Neil’s finished guides look like. You can tell he didn’t hire someone off Fiverr to complete this.

Writers

Neil doesn’t typically pay writers, simply because a guest post on one of his blogs is great exposure for your personal brand. But does state that they will pay writers who have strong networks for sharing purposes. These posts range from $150-$400 a post.

I have been paid $75-$125 a post (minimal distribution expectations). But I also have friends that command anywhere from $500-$1,000 a post. A variable that drives up cost (aside from distribution) is expertise. Like in any other industry, expertise comes at a cost.

Marketing Automation

Getting visitors to your blog is just half the battle. Converting them to customers is the other half. That doesn’t happen overnight. Once you get someone’s email address, like with a guide, then you can set up a drip marketing campaign (marketing automation) to send that person automatic messages to nurture the lead into a conversion. Neil’s company, Kissmetrics, uses Pardot, which costs them $2,000 a month. There are plenty of other options, like MailChimp, if you can’t afford $2,000 a month. Marketing automation in itself is a complex topic. It’s something that I’ll tackle on its own at a later date.

On average, Neil Patel states that he spends about $5,000-$6,000 a month on the Kissmetrics blog. This results in over 770,000 visitors and just over 5,000 leads. Let’s speculate that they only convert 2% of those 5,000 leads. If the average price of Kissmetrics software is $200 a month, that’s $20,000 a month in sales coming from the blog, or 4x what was invested. Granted, these revenue dollar figures are purely speculative (and I’d guess they’re low). But it’s clear that a blog can be expensive, but also pay off.

What does all this tell us? For one, top-notch content is not cheap. Second, it takes a solid infrastructure to handle a large scale blog. But most importantly, it’s clear that blogs are a great lead generator. That’s for sure. But that you also have to have a solid plan as to how you’re going to get a return on your money.

It’s fun to say you have a blog that has hundreds of thousands of readers, but what good does that do you if you lose $250,000 a year? There needs to be some return. If you plan on using your blog to generate leads, make sure you calculate potentially high monthly costs that go along with a successful blog.

[Featured Image Courtesy of Business2Community]

New Blog Topic: Growth Hacking


Growth-Hacking

via kasperrisbjerg.com

 

While this blog is still in its infancy, most of the content has been about writing, blogging, and marketing. Starting today, I’m going to add another vertical to the blog. Growth hacking. Based on feedback from tweets I send out, it’s something that more and more marketings are becoming aware of.

Growth hacking is one of those buzzwords that people are tossing around these days. It feels like how people were talking about “social media” in 2008. Buzzwords aside, growth hacking is very important to your business. It’s important to know because it’s what will ultimately help drive revenues.

I’ve been learning it for months and I feel like I learn something new everyday. Along the way, I’m going to share with you what I’ve learned.  Like when I first started B2B marketing for SaaS, I thought a funnel that went from the blog, to the website, to sign up would be easy. Ha! That’s not typical user behavior. It’s just wishful thinking.

When I was running my marketing agency, I learned a lot about generating top-level traffic for your funnel. But, I was never in charge of moving visitors through the funnel. My job always ended with visits to the site. That’s probably why I love growth marketing. There are so many new problems to solve!

Growth marketing involves so many moving pieces. It’s so data driven. It’s experimental. It’s awesome!

I can’t wait to share the different lessons I’ve learned and the tactics I’ve tried. It’s going to be a great learning experience for everyone. If you have any questions, feel free to ask me now or at any point down the line. Either comment below, hit me up on Twitter, or email me (jesse at prepare dot io).

[Image Courtesy of Kasper Risbjerg]

 

Interview with Gerald Tang


Have you ever wanted to write a book? I have. It’s not easy. The process is similar to writing a blog post. A really long blog post. Many people try, but few succeed. One of the few that succeeded was my friend, Gerald Tang.

Gerald used to be an old neighbor of mine. We were in our mid-twenties and both starting out in our careers. We shared a great many experiences together, both drunk and sober, trying to find our footing in the world. Since then, Gerald has published a book about life in your twenties.

His book, Tangalang: Your 20s Focused Through a Lens of Erratic Rationality is a humorous and pragmatic take on your twenties. It’s a great read with many laughs. Gerald’s seemingly hyperbolic stories (I can assure you they’re not) make for great story telling. I will bet you that you will laugh out loud within the first 100 words.

I highly recommend you read Gerald’s book. If you’re not convinced, listen to the TalkAnything podcast I recorded with Gerald and discover what it’s like to write a 57,000 word book.

The Idea For Prepare.io


DSC_0643

I consider myself a late bloomer. I didn’t catch the entrepreneurial bug early like some. Sure I had a lemonade stand in first grade. But it was terrible and never lead to anything else. (I remember when the trash collector bought two glasses and paid with a 50 cent piece. I thought it was the greatest thing in the world).

In middle school I remember my mother telling me she thought I’d be an entrepreneur, but I always brushed it off. Perhaps because at that age, you hate to agree with your parents.

Fast forward to college. I was at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, just coasting. I had no real direction. I hated my major and hated the classes. But not getting a college degree wasn’t an option for me. So I kept showing up and doing just enough to pass.

Around my junior year, my friends were thinking about their summer internships. Being the jackass I was, an internship wasn’t on my radar. After hearing enough about it, I figured I should create a resume and try and get me one of these internship things. I made my first resume, using Microsoft Word’s Resume Wizard. It basically had my name and address on it. My first resume made a business card look cluttered.

To beef up my resume, I joined a bunch of clubs. One was Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE). That’s where, for the first time I can recall,  I was surrounded by like-minded students and things felt right. Because of SIFE, I knew I wanted to get into business and I wanted to start my own company.

I know this is a long walk for a drink of water, but I’m actually going somewhere with this.

Go read my post “Prepare.io: Lightbulb Moment” over on my Medium channel, Building the Dream. There I explain how a college kid with the worst resume in the world eventually ended up getting the idea for Prepare.io.

[Featured Image Courtesy of eren]

Blogging Success Takes Time


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Early blog traffic.

 

We’re in the midst of a boom…the on-demand economy boom. We live in a society where we need want immediate results. Therefore we now have everything you can possibly imagine at our finger tips with the press of a button. Uber, Instacart, Postmates, Eat24, the list of on-demand app goes on for miles. When we want it, we want it now! No time for waiting. But even in this age of immediacy, there are not shortcuts with blogging. Blogging success takes time.

There is no “Blooger,” an  on-demand blogging service. If you want to blog (and successfully) you have no choice but to roll up your sleeves and get a little dirty.

If you look at the top screenshot, you see traffic numbers of an actual blog I managed. Look at how many months that line was near zero? That’s not because there wasn’t content. That’s what a normal blog looks like in its infancy.

Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 11.42.15 PM

When the blog starts to gain traction with readers.

 

Now let’s take a look at traffic on that same blog roughly a month later. You start to see more consistent traffic that adds up over time. Traffic to your blog doesn’t happen overnight. It takes months of blogging, even when it seems like you’re writing for no one. So don’t get discouraged.

I would suggest that for the first two months (maybe three), don’t worry about your traffic. This might seem illogical, but I’ve done this four times (and eventually went on to five figure monthly blog traffic). Just work on getting into a rhythm of producing consistent content. Start with one post a week. Then two. Up to as many as you plan on posting on a regular basis.

Use this time to find your voice. Yes, it’s harder with no readers, but just writing will start to iron out your writing style. Also use this time to determine your blogging guidelines and workflow. What’s your process from idea to publishing? What’s the editorial process? Get these questions answered while you’re in the beginning phases of your blog.

After this period of pure content creation, you’ll start on your blog distribution. We’ll get into blog distribution in a later post. But the focus of this post is understanding patience when it comes to the blogging process.

Odds are, you’re not going to write one blog post and your blog becomes a viral sensation. It’s nice to think like that, but that’s not the reality. Blogging takes months to gain steam. Often with seemingly no benefits. Constant output with no return. But your patience will eventually be rewarded. Keep your head up and keep blogging.

Building the Dream: The Story of Prepare.io


Screen Shot 2015-02-07 at 8.37.56 AM

For the few people who have kept tabs on Prepare.io, it’s been a long time coming. Since the idea was first conceived, to our first launch last year…it’s been a long, uphill battle. As we approach the re-launch of the new and improved Prepare.io, I’d like to share the story behind Prepare.io.

I am an outsider in the tech industry. I came from the agency services side and I’m not highly technical. I don’t have a deep understanding of backend infrastructure, and I have limited front end skills. I don’t relate to mega-billionaires like Mark Zuckerberg or Larry Ellison, who have highly technical minds and skills. Yet, here I am learning and building a software company.

I’m building Prepare.io because I want to make blogging easier. I think blogging has tremendous potential for individuals and businesses and I believe that many neglect to do so because they find it difficult. I’d like to make this process easier and encourage more people to write. That’s why I keep plugging away at Prepare.io.

To get to the point where I’m at today, I’ve gone through many trials and tribulations. Some of which my peers would never want to go through. It’s a fascinating story (if I don’t say so myself). That’s why I want to share it with everyone. Learn from my mistakes and know that you can do it too.

I started a new blog on Medium, dedicated to tell the honest truth about building Prepare.io. I don’t want to gloss over the bad times and only focus on the good. I want you to know what it took to get here. Along the way, I’ll share stories of other entrepreneurs who gutted through the journey to entrepreneurial success.

I’ll always share my Medium posts on this blog, but if you’d like to get notices of new posts directly, I encourage you to go follow my Medium production.

Read about my journey at Building the Dream on Medium.

Why You Need to Understand the Peanut Butter Manifesto


peanut_butterIn 2006 Brad Garlinghouse, a SVP at Yahoo, infamously penned an internal memo to all Yahoo employees, called the “Peanut Butter Manifesto.” The thesis of the memo was that Yahoo was spreading itself too thing, like peanut butter on a slice of bread. This lack of focus lead to Yahoo’s inability to dominate one vertical, causing it to fall behind with everything they touched. I encourage everyone starting a business to read this and take the message to heart.

Prepare.io is my second company. My first, Demeter Interactive, was a digital marketing agency. I’ve learned a great deal during my entrepreneurial years, but one lesson that resonates in my mind on a near daily basis is Mr. Garlinghouse’s Peanut Butter Manifesto. That’s because as entrepreneurs, we’re programmed to think big. We think that whatever we’re doing, can be applied to anything. Our focus starts to widen horizontally rather than narrow vertically. This is exactly what Yahoo suffered from, as to many young businesses.

When you’re first starting your company, you need to be laser focused. Instead of building a product that any industry can use, build a product that only one industry can use. Then, focus on dominating that one industry. Just that one. Once you’ve found success in that one industry, you can expand horizontally. But the worst thing you can do is start off in a much too general direction.

Amazon-Original-WebsiteA great example of this is Amazon. Today, we think of Amazon as the juggernaut that it is, absolutely killing it in every single industry. But don’t forget that Amazon started strictly as a book e-retailer. Amazon, purveyor of every type of good/service imaginable, was once only a book vendor. But they got really good at selling books before they started their expansion into everything imaginable.

Think about your company and how you can tighten its focus. Let’s say you’re offering social media marketing services. Social media marketing can be applied to any industry, and as marketers we often try to apply our skills to any industry. But wouldn’t it be better to solely focus on one industry? How much more business do you think you could get if you built a reputation as being a kick-ass marketer for the food industry? You will have repeated case studies with success in the food industry, instilling confidence in your skills. Sounds better than trying to market yourself as someone who can market shoes, food, technology, and retail? Narrowing your focus will make your business much stronger.

Not an entrepreneur? Well, let’s apply this philosophy to your marketing plan. There are tons of different marketing channels out there and there seems to be pressure to use all of them.  What’s the opportunity cost of not using Instagram or email marketing for your business? All of a sudden, you’re stretched too thin and none of your marketing works. Different companies have different growth channels. It’s all about finding your optimal channel and then going all in on that channel. Don’t spread yourself too thin!

The reason why I’m passing this information as a reminder to myself, as well as a lesson to you. The first version of Prepare.io has been very horizontal. It’s confusing and its value is not easily identified by users. This is why I’ve been thinking about the product, who its for, and where its going for a while. In the next few weeks/months, you’re going to see a lot of changes with Prepare.io. I’m currently adding some really useful features, while deleting some equally useful features. All in an effort to streamline Prepare.io’s value and make this a product that you’ll have to use on a daily basis.

Like always, feel free to email me your feedback. jesse at prepare dot io. I am the in the process of completely rebuilding the product and I can’t wait to show you the new Prepare.io.  If you have a feature you’re interested in seeing Prepare.io add, I would love to hear it.

Talk Anything Interview: Joe Matsushima


Prepare.io founder, Jesse Bouman, just started a podcast. Prepare.io sponsors the podcast so we’re going to occasionally share some of the episodes, if they’re relevant.

TalkAnything.FM is meant to inform. Jesse interviews up and coming professionals about their craft and their journey. You really get to understand the struggle these individuals experience and the knowledge they’ve accumulated in the different industries.  Since TalkAnything.FM is broad and Jesse will be speaking to professionals in different industries, we’re only going to post interviews that are relevant to you. If you’d like to subscribe and listen to all the podcasts, go to TalkAnything.FM.

In the third episode, Jesse chats with Joe Matsushima, co-founder of Denizen Company. Joe and his team are known for creating masterful viral videos. They have an impressive number of hits that have millions of views. Recently, Denizen Company and its content department Hello Denizen, have created the viral hit, “Tiny Hamster Eats Tiny Burritos” as well as the subsequent videos in the series.

Jesse talks to Joe about how he got into the viral video space, what makes a great piece of content, and the psychology of sharing. It’s a fascinating talk, especially if you’ve ever wondered how videos on the internet can get millions of views.

Slow and Steady Wins the Race


hamburgerDo a quick Yelp search for hamburgers in your area and you’ll most likely find hundreds of tiny hamburger joints. My search alone came up with over 600 places to get a hamburger. That’s a lot of places to buy a hamburger. No matter how gourmet you try and make it, a hamburger is a hamburger. So how can there be so many restaurants in business that serve hamburgers?

Nearly fourteen years ago Joel Spolsky wrote a very insightful post about business strategy. In his “Strategy Letter I: Ben and Jerry’s vs. Amazon” Spolsky outlines two very distinct strategies that every entrepreneur must make at the beginning of the company’s life; grow slowly, organically, and profitably, or push for a land grab, getting as big as fast as you can. This is a very important determinations for your business.

Image Courtesy of Warner Brothers (Please don't sue me)

Image Courtesy of Warner Brothers (Please don’t sue me)

Unless you’re building a cutting edge software or Internet company, like Amazon, you’re most likely going to be in the Ben and Jerry’s camp. Like the thousands of burger joints in the world, you are one of many, with little to distinguish yourself from your competitors. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be successful.

There is a lot of emphasis on building your company fast. Getting as many users/customers as you can, proving you have this hyper, month over month growth. It’s as if your company doesn’t exist if you’re now showing 400% growth month over month. If you get caught up in this strategy when your business doesn’t call for it, then you’re going to fail.

Slow and steady wins the race. Just as in the story of the Tortoise and the Hare, it’s not how you start, but it’s how you finish. Set small goals for yourself and start to achieve them, one by one. If your burger shack has two employees and you try and get 5,000 customers during the first week and 10,000 the next week, you’re going to be overwhelmed. Your customers will be underwhelmed and your business will die. But if you start with 50 customers this week and 70 next week, and 100 the week after, you’re on the right path.

Apply this advice to any aspect of your life. I truly believe it will help you. Think about the tortoise and the hare. Think about how many places serve hamburgers. Whether it’s your health, business, love life, or investments, things take time. Good things happen to those who are patient. Slow and steady growth will get you to where you want to be. Focus on being better than you were yesterday and you will go far.