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Understanding, Defining, Owning – Blog Evolution

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Change Is Never Simple – Evolve

Agent Genius underwent a major site overhaul this past week, and I’ve had many many offline and online conversations since about the changes and what we’re attempting to accomplish. So now that I have some time, I thought I would dive into them because I think they’re important even in your own business.

I had a conversation yesterday with someone who acknowledges that from a blogger’s perspective, they just didn’t understand the layout, but was interested to know what I was telegraphing with a change away from forward facing content.

It’s Pretty Simple

Someone finding our content via longtail in relation to blogging have probably already been exposed to a blog, they’ll land on a blog page they’ll understand. But what about those folks who have never seen or used a blog, have no idea what it is, nor what they would be searching for in the first place? What about those folks in your office who ask about blogging, learning more, who are maybe not that savvy about internet things? What type of front facing content might they be most comfortable with?

You can essentially narrow this thought down to your own market. If you’re in the Midwest, chances are, a consumer locating your answer via longtail looking for homes, and landing on a content (blog) faced website, may be lost, take the information, and continue to skim google until they find a site face (probably static) they’re more accustomed to.

The same thing rings true for Agent Genius. You as a blog consumer already understand a blog’s basic fundamentals, but if our intent is to grow the audience, teach those that have no fundamentals, then obviously, a Ferrari may not be the best road test for a noob.

So What Have We Accomplished?

A landing page that a curious 1.0 agent has a fighting chance of navigating. It’s straight forward, it answers directly to the skimmer, it forces the author (including myself) to follow our own advice of a great title, a great lead in paragraph, and if those two things fail to grab the skimmers interest, it entices the reader with related imagery, and it also forces us to remember context and to build the story for newcomers. To discount any of these things when presenting material for some moral reason is simply a disregard for marketing philosophies, that to be honest, may be over the head of a few critics- as smart as they are.

Navigation

Much of the content at Ag is timeless, it is within context of the overall conversation when it comes to coaching, training, agent tools, and discussions about some of what I just mentioned. This created a need to better present navigation options to those that are use to traditional websites. It was a shame when a great post turned the page on Ag, and this layout provides an opportunity for that content to become new once again.

The Sidebar

Moving the traditional sidebar inside the content also serves this need, it allows a deeper access to content, authors, and current articles that might be of personal interest. It also frees up the sidebar for some very cool things upcoming in the near future- it’s a lot of real estate that can be better harnessed, sideblogs are very cool and straight forward, and can make visible content that is just too valuable to hide. You’ll begin seeing new things appear there over the next week or so.

Color & Imagery

Someone somewhere said something the other day about us being pretty, but it was more sarcastic than anything else. I’m going to take that as a compliment, but not for the reasons this person intended (as it was not their intention), but more because the purpose of presentation goes without argument, and if you’re arguing it, it’s not Ag with the problem.

The Amount of Content

In addressing the issues of content turning the page, with this layout, we’ve essentially doubled the amount of content we’re able to display in a single page load.  Twice the articles, twice the <h1> tags, and twice the keywords.  Add to that the sideblog forthcoming and you begin to finally see how this format adds to the audiences ability to consume content, or direction, and do it in a way that is not overwhelming, or slow page load which was a real issue in the previous format.

Some Overalls

The site looks alive to the untrained eye. It’s stimulating, vibrant, and it looks open for business even at 3am. One of the basic issues I’ve always had with walls of text is that if you’ve read every article on the front page, then there’s nothing new to it. But if you really study, I mean really study the AG front page, you can understand how you find more and more things to get into. It isn’t busy, but it is alive, even if there hasn’t been a post in an hour or two. We want that, you want that in your own website!

Getting Started With Evolution

I’ve been making the case for some time now with folks to delve into their own demographics and it’s about time you start doing it. It you’re looking at conversion as a means to get business, then you must look at every page turn as it’s own conversion.

Constantly Evolve With These Questions:

  • Is my website ahead of my market?
  • Is my website behind my market?
  • Does each page ask a consumer to do something?
  • Am I enticing them to actually do it?
  • Am I speaking over the head of someone with a simple question?
  • Am I defining context in my content or speaking as if they’ve read for years?
  • Will my content have context in a year?
  • What is the point of the content I’m producing?
  • Is my content answering to that same point?
  • Can I make my site more mainstream, but keep my 2.0 philosophies?
  • Am I discussing politics where I eat?
  • Am I limiting my own audience by doing so?
  • Am I willing to do anything about it?

The bottom line is that we’ll continue to experiment with wordpress as a CMS, take advantage of new strides and studies in content management, adapt to new ideals in design, develop new ideals based on the success of others outside of real estate, and blend as many as we can.  We’ve not gotten to where we are in one year because we sat still in someone else’s definition, we got here by constantly asking ourselves more and more questions- and then setting out to find the answer.

I hope that some if not all of this helps you in your own journey with your own sites, and heck it may just reaffirm your own belief in your own techniques.  I know of some very very successful local sites with forward-facing content, but never let that fool you.  Those same folks succeeded by their own trial and error experiments- watching them may give you some insight, but I’ve warned in the past of imitating your competition.  Follow the ball, not the player, and your likely end result will be success if you remember to ask questions of your audience but also watching what they do, and then repeating that success even if you may not look like everyone else.

We’re very excited about the future in our space, and at the prospect of bringing new faces into the conversation, and just this week we’ve approved a few handfuls of new commenters, and we’re seeing action on older material as we expected- we welcome all of the new faces and thank all of our regular ones. 

If you find any kinks, feel free to click Submit Tip in the top nav and drop me a note.

Benn Rosales is the Founder and CEO of The American Genius (AG), national news network for tech and entrepreneurs, proudly celebrating 10 years in publishing, recently ranked as the #5 startup in Austin. Before founding AG, he founded one of the first digital media strategy firms in the nation and also acquired several other firms. His resume prior includes roles at Apple and Kroger Foods, specializing in marketing, communications, and technology integration. He is a recipient of the Statesman Texas Social Media Award and is an Inman Innovator Award winner. He has consulted for numerous startups (both early- and late-stage), has built partnerships and bridges between tech recruiters and the best tech talent in the industry, and is well known for organizing the digital community through popular monthly networking events. Benn does not venture into the spotlight often, rather believes his biggest accomplishments are the talent he recruits, develops, and gives all credit to those he's empowered.

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12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. Missy Caulk

    November 3, 2008 at 9:49 am

    Benn, thanks for the explanation. I’m all for driving more readers to the blog. I remember Lani saying in a post the traffic had gone up since the new change. You’re right most of the posts are timeless.

  2. Ken Brand

    November 3, 2008 at 9:51 am

    Thanks. Money quote: Follow the ball not the player.
    Go long, I’ll heave it as hard as I can, you catch and run like Boltz. Thanks, Rock on Benn

  3. Benn Rosales

    November 3, 2008 at 9:57 am

    Missy, even more, avg time on site has gone from 7 to 9 minutes avg which is amazing.

    Ken, gracias, partner!

  4. Laura Cannon

    November 3, 2008 at 11:00 am

    “Can I make my site more mainstream, but keep my 2.0 philosophies?” –this line really struck me.

    I’ve been thinking about this issue for some time, but I haven’t acted on it. I think AG has effectively responded to this dilemma with the new site. The new site is more readable, easier to navigate, and yet it is also seems more sophisticated, i.e., more cutting edge. I had sort of decided that this couldn’t be done or more accurately that I couldn’t do it. Clearly it can be done! And, AG has done it extraordinarily well!

    It will be interesting to see how blogs will be changed by this. I am already thinking about how I can tweak my blog to better respond to mainstream readers. I didn’t know where to start, AG has provided some grounding.

  5. Daniel Rothamel, The Real Estate Zebra

    November 3, 2008 at 1:56 pm

    Benn,

    This is a great explanation. I totally get where you’re going with this, and I applaud you for doing it. You’ve got a plan and a vision, just execute.

    I know you’ve gotten some flack for the change, but I also know you’re smart enough to know which criticisms matter.

    Keep up the good work.

  6. Ricardo Bueno

    November 3, 2008 at 5:50 pm

    All in all, I’m really diggin’ the new redesign! It took some getting used to at first but I love it now. It’s easy to navigate and catches your attention (it’s not overwhelming; at least in my opinion).

    Redesign = Success!

  7. Ryan Hartman

    November 3, 2008 at 6:53 pm

    Yay to WordPress as cms. I also spent the last year evolving PhiladelphiaRealEstateHub.Com into a similarly styled “magazine” type monster blog that feels more like a modern news type site.
    It’s pretty exciting to see others going through the same process, exciting enough that I’m actually checking out the design on a real computer and commenting (as you’ve been instructing me to do on my iphone feed reader for months 🙂

    If I may…Our last theme switch, one that was similar to what you’ve done here, did real wonders for our overall page views. I wonder, do you have any plans to add a similar/related posts plugin? Also, –(maybe you’ve already done this?)–are there any plans to vary the sidebar as you switch to different sections within the site? We found that doing both also did wonders for our stickiness and overall seo effort….[Sorry for the long comment, just excited to talk a little about this stuff 🙂

    [Oh, yeah…is the page nav at the bottom of your pages some kind of plugin?…thx]

  8. Benn Rosales

    November 4, 2008 at 9:06 am

    Hi Ryan, thanks for the comment.

    the navigation plugin we use is wp-pagenavi, we’ve always had it, it’s just restyled for our site. As for sidebars, you’ll just have to wait and see, and same with related.

    We’re still tweaking where we are now and will add as our list shrinks. Overall, we expect another full week.

  9. Paula Henry

    November 5, 2008 at 7:58 am

    Benn – I love it! Since we have spoken about this very thing, it is exciting to see it in action.

    Looking forward to the enhancements and tweaks!

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Social Media

Google takes a shot at competing with TikTok, Pinterest videos

(SOCIAL MEDIA) We all love to sit and watch short videos, be they humorous, reactionary, or weird, but here is Googles attempt to get educational with Tangi.

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Tangi screenshot

It’s happened to anyone who’s ever been looking online for how-to help… you click on a likely-sounding YouTube video, only to be greeted by an ad you can’t skip, a whole lot of introductory chit-chat, and three minutes of build-up before you finally see exactly what you need to do to handle your would-be DIY hack.

But what if you could get your answer in 60 seconds or less? It’s the concept behind Tangi, a newly released Google app created in the company’s Area 120 incubator by developer Coco Mao.

Variously described as short-form YouTube, video Pinterest, or TikTok for makers, Tangi was inspired by Mao discovering that her “smartphone challenged” parents were using their devices to watch photography and painting tutorials—and developing new hobbies as a result.

She came back to Google and worked with her team to develop Tangi as a place where such how-to inspiration could be more easily found and taken advantage of. “The name is inspired by the words TeAch aNd Give,” she explained as she introduced the app at the end of January. “’Tangible’—things you can make.”

The philosophy behind Tangi means this is hands-on how-to for the crafty club. The time-lapse heavy videos “could quickly get a point across,” Mao said, “something that used to take a long time to learn with just text and images.”

Videos fall into categories of art, cooking, DIY, fashion and beauty, and lifestyle, and are often accompanied by links to recipes or the maker’s blog or Instagram for more information. Some makers don’t quite have the format down pat yet, but most manage to provide a good balance of visual inspiration and a little more information.

And like Pinterest, Tangi can turn into a time-lapsing rabbit hole of its own. I started with a mere 10-second clip on propagating succulents (I’ve been doing it wrong), which led to a minute on “when succulents stretch” (“etiolation” — new vocabulary word!), which led to a succulent cake which led to a conversation heart cake and before I knew it, 20 minutes had gone by and I was watching an exploding heart science Valentine and had washed up at “Yoda one for me.”

While the app has only been out for about a week … and is only available on iOS and the web … it’s already well populated with content from makers and lifestyle bloggers who partnered with Mao’s team during the development process. And though it’s still in closed-beta mode for content creators, users can apply to be on a waitlist to be invited to upload their own work.

There are a few question marks still. No word on when it will be available on Google’s own Android platform, for one thing. While a couple of intrepid contributors are reviewing education apps and dispensing startup advice, its philosophy as stated by team lead Mao may not extend much more beyond the maker and creative fields to include technology and workplace input. And Google doesn’t always support its apps for long.

But it’s fun, simple, and easy on the eyes. As a place to find quick inspiration and direction, Tangi could carve out a niche.

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New Reddit policy on impersonation mimics other social media giants

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Reddit is the latest social media company to change their policy to protect against deepfake impersonation, because of the harm they can cause.

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impersonation with deepfakes

Reddit is the latest social media company making updates to their rules and policies ahead of the 2020 election. Companies like Facebook, Twitter, and now Reddit are all trying to make the social internet a safer place to receive information.

Reddit’s new policy officially bans impersonation with the goal of handling “bad actors who are trying to manipulate Reddit, particularly are issues of great public significance, like elections.”

Deepfakes have become a key topic of conversation the last few years. In the wake of the mass spreading of misinformation during the 2016 presidential election, users have grown wearier than ever of the information they see online. Deepfakes are no longer a niche subject, but an everyday pain point that technology companies are scrambling to control.

In a statement made on r/redditsecurity, Reddit informed users of the change to website policy stating, “Reddit does not allow content that impersonates individuals or entities in a misleading or deceptive manner. This not only includes using a Reddit account to impersonate someone, but also encompasses things such as domains that mimic others, as well as deepfakes or other manipulated content presented to mislead, or falsely attributed to an individual or entity.”

The platform isn’t trying to make a mass change to it’s often humor driven culture. Parody and satire are still allowed forms of impersonation so long as the joke is obvious. Reddit has vowed to always take context into account when looking at cases of user impersonation.

It’s a good sign for society when popular social platforms start taking their role in controlling the spread of false information seriously. Companies like Reddit are in a position to create real change in the way we spread and consume information about major global events.

What’s unclear is how much man power these companies are putting behind their policies. Reddit ends their statement by pointing users to a report form that users can submit if they or someone else is the victim of impersonation. The question users should be asking is how long would it take to get a response or see action on these reports?

Policy changes are great, but if companies are simply throwing them onto their fine print with no resources behind enforcement then it’s not social change, it’s just legal jargon to protect their ass.

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Image size is a vital factor into usability of your brand

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Keep all of your social media profiles and products looking their best with the social media image size cheat sheet for 2020.

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image size matters

We can safely say that the one thing social media will assuredly do in 2020 is only get more powerful. As such, it’s important to keep up with the sizing information for social media images to keep all of your profiles looking fresh. Make A Website Hub has the official rundown in their annual Social Media Image Sizes Cheat Sheet.
Twitter:
• Profile Photo: 400 x 400 pixels / Displays at 200 x 200 pixels (a maximum 100 KB file size)
• Header Photo: 1500 x 500 pixels (a maximum 10 MB file size)
• In-stream Photo: 440 x 220 pixels (a maximum 5 MB file size for photos and 3 MB file size for animated gifs)

Facebook:
• Cover Photo: 820 x 310 pixels (a preferred maximum file size of 100 KB)
• Profile Picture: 180 x 180 pixels
• Shared Image: 1200 x 630 pixels
• Shared Link: 1200 x 627
• Event Image: 1920 x 1080 px (Shows in feed: 470 × 174 pixels)
• Highlighted Image: 1200 x 717 pixels (appears on profile at 843 x 504 pixels)

Google+:
• Profile Image: 250 x 250 pixels
• Cover Picture: 1080 x 608 pixels
• Shared Image: 497 x 373 pixels

Instagram:
• Profile Picture: 110 x 110 pixels
• Photo Size: 1080 x 1080 pixels
• Video to Stories: 750 x 1334 pixels
• Photo Thumbnails: 161 x 161 pixels

Pinterest:
• Profile Picture: 165 x 165 pixels
• Board Display Image: 222 x 150 pixels
• Pin Sizes: a width of 238 pixels (with scaled height)

Tumblr:
• Profile Image: 128 x 128 pixels
• Image Posts: 500 x 750 pixels

YouTube:
• Channel Cover Picture: 2560 x 1440 pixels (for desktop), 1855 x 423 pixels (for tablets), 1546 x 423 pixels (for smartphones), and 2560 x 1440 pixels (for TV)
• Video Uploads: 1280 x 760 pixels

LinkedIn:
• Personal Page
o Personal Background image: 1584 x 396px
o Standard Logo: 400 x 400 pixels
o Profile image: 400 x 400 pixels
• Company/Brand Page
o Background image: 1536 x 768px
o Standard Logo: 400 x 400px
o Business / Career Cover Picture: 974 x 330 pixels
o Square Logo: 60 x 60px
o Business Banner Image: 646 x 220 pixels
o Standard Logo: 400 x 400px

Ello:
• Banner image: 2560 x 1440 pixels
• Profile image:360 x 360 pixels

WeChat:
• Profile Photo: 200 x 200 pixels
• Article Preview Header: 900 x 500 pixels
• Article Preview Thumbnail Image: 400 x 400 pixels (Displays at 200 x 200 pixels)
• Article Inline Image: 400 px x Any size px

Weibo:
• Cover Image: 920 x 300 px
• Profile Pictures: 200 x 200px (Displays at 100 x 100 px)
• Banner: 560 x 260 px
• Instream: 120 x 120 px
• Contest Preview: 640 x 640 px

Snapchat:
• Geofilter: 1080 x 1920

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