What does it take!

What does it take to make me blog regularly?!! Should I give myself an incentive, a reward for every week I blog in? Or should I punish myself for every week I have not posted on the blog? Still thinking!

Meanwhile, here is some data on how I have fared so far!

Blog entries - yearly graph
Blog entries – yearly graph
  • 2008 by far has been the most productive year.
  • And 2010 the least productive year.
  • 2014 is looking good and I can still work towards making this year better.
Blog Entries - monthly graph
Blog Entries – monthly graph
  • I am usually lazy at the beginning of the year.
  • Towards the middle of the year, I wake up and feel that I have been ignoring the blog for too long.
  • The enthusiasm does not stay till the end of the year.

Web developer

I have been struggling to find a web developer for the past 1.5 months. The requirement is not too fancy. 3+ years of experience with knowledge of HTML5, CSS3, JS, Jquery and responsive web design. Might seem pretty standard for a web developer. But I have been through 30+ candidates taking telephone interviews and sending exercises, without finalizing on anybody.

Most of the resumes have all the required terms in them. But when one goes deeper and starts asking about specific things related to JS and jquery, there is total ignorance. And the samples that these candidates sent as part of their resume were also not great. I was looking for responsive websites done without wireframes like Bootstrap. The quality of most websites were pathetic, shoddy, half-jobs even for websites as small as 8-10 pages.

The project I have is for converting http://www.flatworldsolutions.com into responsive and further maintenance of it in future. How could I trust these candidates with a website that has 800+ pages! The responsive has to be near-flawless and done from scratch, tested well on multiple devices, and compatible from IE8 and above.

Could have also been a budget issue too. So I have now raised the bar and increased the salary budget. Have to wait and watch!

Guest blogging is no more!

Sorry SEO people and SEO strategists, Matt Cutts says that “Guest blogging is done”.

One smart guy emailed Matt Cutts asking if he could write a guest blog on Matt Cutt’s blog with one or two links pointed at his own site. And promised to pay too….. That’s the funniest thing I have heard. And here in his blog, Matt Cutts explains that guest blogging is not a good SEO strategy anymore. Read more on Matt Cutts blog on guest blogging.

Here is why I think guest blogging wouldn’t work for the person who is allowing the guest blog.
1. You are passing on your hard-acquired page rank to websites that wouldn’t care too much about their quality.
2. Most of the guest blog posts would be using article spinning or low-quality content that could affect the quality of your blog too.
3. The recipient of the link can change their website after sometime into some other topic and without you realizing it, you are linking to a totally unrelated website.
4. The monetary benefits, if any, are not enough to compensate the damage that the link would do to your website.

Here is why I think guest blogging wouldn’t work for the person who is requesting the link.
1. You would have to approach many many webmasters until you are finally given permission to post your guest blog somewhere.
2. The webmaster allowing your blog post can edit your post to remove the links at a later point of time.
3. If the blog that gives you a link is penalized for some reason, your website ranking can also be affected.
4. Unless you get a link back from a high-ranking website (which is extremely difficult), the result is not worth the amount of time you would spend on writing the article, approaching webmasters, and co-ordinating with them.

So, it is time to forget about guest blogging and move on in life. Write good, relevant content on your website and the search engine is going to be happy.

Top 10 Stock photography websites, and my take on them

Anybody who has tried creating a website or a blog knows the value of stock photos and stock photography websites. There are a million of them out there, each having a million photos in them. Here’s a good list of websites you can buy images from. I have used a simple test of searching for “office room” to figure out the options available, quality and price on these websites.

1. Getty images (www.gettyimages.com) – One of the best and most expensive stock photography sites, they offer high-quality images and an elaborate search with many filters. The results are good, but I had to answer more than 10 questions to know the price – what would I use it for and how many times, what is my target industry, what size I need, what page would I place it on and so on, before it gave me a price that was a little shocking. Get used to it, high quality comes at a price.

Getty images

2. Istockphoto (www.istockphoto.com) – This one is my personal favorite and was easy on the wallet till a year back. The search results for “office room” gave me some really good pics. And the pricing is available immediately, in credits or USD. Beautiful usability.


3. Bigstockphoto (www.bigstockphoto.com) – I like these guys. They are not very pricey, they show good results on searching, they have decent filters, and pricing is immediately available. See the search results for “office room” below. The interesting fact is that a lot of photos are common across websites. So dig around till you find the best at the lowest price.

Bigstock photos

4. 123rf (www.123rf.com) – If you have found them multiple times while searching on Google, there is no surprise. They are advertising quite a bit on Adwords these days. Pricing is their key selling point, and they are offering great images at surprising low prices. A search for “office room” gave me decent results and prices starting at 1 credit. Smiles all around.


5. Thinkstock Photos (www.thinkstockphotos.com) – This is owned by Getty images, and offers same old complicated system for pricing. I had to check out plans and pricing and packs and subscriptions before they could tell me how much an image would cost. And I did not like the results for “office room” much. Thumbs down!


6. Dreamstime (www.dreamstime.com) – I have downloaded quite a lot of images from this website in the past. Somehow, there is a lack of clarity in images, a lack of beauty that is pushing me away these days. The prices are reasonable, the collection is decent, the search for “office room” gave decent results… but the images look dull and lifeless. The design of the website, which has stayed the same for ages, is also not very confidence-inspiring.


7. Shutterstock (www.shutterstock.com) – Quite expensive and refuses to reveal the price easily. Their collection of images is good, but not as good as istockphoto.com. Best for those who need high resolution images for printing.


8. Fotolia (www.fotolia.com) – Pretty standard, a little dull and grey, pretty reasonable in terms of price. That sums of Fotolia for you. If you did not find your image in any of the above websites, why not try them too. Here is the results page I got.


9. Stocksy (www.stocksy.com) – They blew me away with their website design, and got me interested. But my search for “office room” gave me more people than I asked for. It was more like the results for “people working in office”. The photographers are given due credit, and prices are slightly on the higher side. But it is a beautiful site to visit. And who knows, the one photo you were looking for could have been here all this while.


10. Canstock photo (www.canstockphoto.com) – Just when you thought there couldn’t be any more websites with the word “stock” in the domain name, here comes another. And that is what it turned about to be. Just another website with pretty standard photos, and reasonable pricing.

Canstock photo

Along with these, I researched a few others too while writing this blog.

1. Natgeo Creative (www.natgeocreative.com/ngs) – I think they should stick to the magazines. They have some amazing photographs, but the search is horrible, the results are almost non-existent. There are broken links, empty galleries and no clue about the pricing.
2. Corbis images (www.corbisimages.com) – The website looked horrible and refused to load. And that’s when I closed the window.


We are using the services of Answerfirst.com to attend phone calls on our websites. We are based out of India, but our customers are in the US. Answerfirst has agents placed in US picking up the calls 24*7. They will provide you with a number, toll-free or local, for which there is set-up charge of $20. And then the billing is for agent time.

We have provided that number directly on our website, but you can also use your own number and forward it to theirs. A good script is of utmost importance so that you cover all scenarios that a caller might be looking for. They will also assign you a client relationship manager, with whom you have to work continuously at improving the script, improving agent quality, resolving technical issues etc.

For now, we are quite happy with the services. Except for a few call drops, and script corrections, it has been going smooth.

Thank you, Answerfirst.

About us page infographic

The whole online marketing team was excited about infographics. So we decided to do our “About us” page like an infographic. The design was complicated enough, the HTML was even worse. After making the website responsive, HTML has become even more complicated. But finally, we completed it and let us run for 2-3 weeks before checking performance.

Not good, not good at all!
Bounce rate doubled, exit rate went up 80% and time on page came down. It was disappointing and disheartening. But we decided to bite the bullet and revert back to our previous design.

So much for our excitement with infographics. The whole world is raving about it, but we fail to see why. Which makes it really important to test, test and test any change that you make on the website.

Heard about RWD?

Responsive web design(RWD) is going to change the design world on its head in the coming years. Websites moved from fluid layouts to fixed layouts the past decade. And now we are moving back to fluid layouts, and how!!

We were planning to do an “m.websitename” last month, and I started reading up on Google guidelines. That is when I came across this page, http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.in/2012/06/recommendations-for-building-smartphone.html. Google gives three options, the most recommended one is where you render the same webpage regardless of the device, modify just the CSS to render it correctly on different screen resolutions. The second option is where the webpage is the same, but the HTML is modified to suit the resolution of the device. The third and the least preferred option is “m.websitename”.

The reasons are pretty obvious

  • deciding which pages to publish on different versions
  • getting Google to rank the mobile version on mobile devices
  • maintaining 2 different websites instead of 1
  • web analytics for 2 websites instead of 1

Now that the benefits are clear, we are embarking on a mission to make our website, www.outsource2india.com responsive. We decided to outsource the code part, and started searching for vendors and for good websites that have already implemented responsive web design. My personal favourite is www.bostonglobe.com. Open the website and try reducing the screen size by dragging the edges. It works like music, very smooth, very seamless.

See the 20 best responsive designs here.

We are in the process of identifying vendors and designs. See our designs soon on http://www.outsource2india.com.

About us pages

We are planning a redesign of the website and I was researching some of the best About us pages online. I liked this link on http://www.blogtyrant.com/best-about-us-pages/ and most of the pages featured there, ranging from the weird, http://www.andrewreifman.com/ to the very long, http://www.seomoz.org/about, to the nice ones, http://twitter.com/about.

Here I am still undecided on what best to portray on the about us page. The 5 Ws looks like a good starting point. Five boxes of text each featuring the answer to each of the questions.

about us outsource2india

Still working on it…..


We are going to add phone number to the website using Twilio. Not bad. They have full-fledged API integration with our software so that each phone call can be captured as a lead.
That was one problem we had for a long long time. How do we get proper record of incoming calls and then follow up on them. Now, the call comes on the Twilio number, get added to a dababase and goes to our sales force software from the database. Sounds pretty complex! It’s pretty simple and smooth. And gets our job done beautifully.

Planning to take about 10 numbers. Local numbers come at $1 per month + usage charges, which is not very high. And toll free numbers come at $2/month + usage charges.

The primary reason for adding phone number to the website is to impress Google into giving us better rankings. Have to wait and see whether it works:)