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The Daily Grind and a New Direction

As with New Year, I use my Birthday – which is happily situated in the middle of the year – as a time to reflect on things past, and things future: What have I achieved? How is my health? Where have I been? Where will I go? Am I happy? Those and more besides, I’m sure you all know the drill.

Anyway, it’s bloody lousy all around at the moment.

A Typical Day

Upon reflecting, I feel that I spend a hell of a lot of time on my computer, and though I make a living online so a certain amount is expected, I find myself pretty much glued to the screen all day long.

Now that would not be that bad if I was productive, but this is not really the case.

I find that out of 12+ hours spent staring at the computer everyday, I probably only get three or four hours work in. So what of the other time?

Well a lot of it spent searching for something to do!

I’m sure you know the score, go to twitter open all the interesting posts that people of like-mind have written – being a member of the Dynamite Circle (DC) and following people such as Dan Andrews, Taylor Pearson, and the like, always gives me a good hour or so of reading (or procrastination) – especially when I start reading sources to the material written – and then on to Facebook, usually just for a few minutes; next to the Dynamite Circle, read every post –regardless of if it is of interest to anything I do – perhaps give a reply if I can be helpful. What next, shall I work?

Mmh, maybe see if there is a new tweet first, oh cool an article on how to live on the cheap in Chiang Mai – that is so relevant to me, I used to live there! Who knows I may live there again some day, though I feel that it past its prime a few years ago. Anyway I read the article, I know all that’s been written, but you know the author doesn’t seem to know half as much as I do, best add a comment or two. I mean, how the hell can they not know about that fantastic Basil chicken place on the corner? Why do they recommend a touristy place that costs twice as much and tastes half as good – this is gonna be a long comment; we are talking about Basil chicken here.

Strange, Basil chicken was something not anywhere near my mind before I started reading the post. Man, I’m hungry now; this Internet stuff is hungry work, staring at a screen all day, trying to earn a living.

I will just check up on the DC to see if anyone has replied to what I commented on, oh yes, great reply Travis, oh look, looks like David and Doug have just launched a podcast I will have to download that, give it a listen after I’ve had lunch. Oh, Corey has just got back from Japan and wrote a post about living there as a bootstrapper, always wanted to go to Japan. I will give that a read while I eat my lunch, damn time is flying today, best do some work.

WORK

Well, got about twenty minutes done on a growing guide to some obscure plant genus I’ve never heard of. MOZ gives it a keyword difficulty score of 35% and it gets a thousand visitors a month, so over a year it might make me a couple of quid. That’s the thing with making sites; you always need to be thinking long-term about anything you do, no instant payday in my line of work. I often think how nice it would be to offer SEO services, do some consulting. Mmh, maybe I’ll just put a spreadsheet together of how much money I might make if I was to take that route. I’ll do that now. Yeah, that looks feasible, wonder how to find clients…

LUNCH

Push the computer back a foot so I’ve room for my plate, read that Corey article while I feast. Mmh that Sushi looks good, why the hell am I eating a club sandwich again, I’ll have some BBQ fish later to make up for it health wise.

Browsing the net

Actively wasting time by browsing the internet.

Well that hit the spot, carbs made me a bit tired, I’ll have a coffee while I listen to the podcast, do a bit of multitasking here browsing through Twitter and Facebook in case I missed anything important.

WORK

Podcast got me really motivated did a couple of hours straight installing this new plugin and customizing the site, still not added any new content to the WWW today. Oh well, Rome in a day was not built, three year plan and all that – 1000 days to the successful business they say – I wonder if that is full on everyday? Or is it three years like this.

Damn, I’m bored now, will repeat the twitter, facebook, DC cycle. I’m sure the web is bigger than this, yeah, I remember…

Techcrunch, ah start ups; I wonder why they don’t just call them small businesses anymore, not as cool I suppose.

I have an health related App, I wonder if that makes me a Start up, according to Bizspark it does, well they let me join and gave me loads of goodies. Spent about 200 hours on that project, the MVP made me about $20, I’ve not touched my ‘Start-up’ for a while.

I will return to it one day as an interest project, because it is useful to people, maybe I should just give it away. I tend to do that a lot, spend hundreds of hours on MVPs that seem good ideas but slump, still at least I’ve not spent thousands of hours on them – mmh lets check on Google Play, no, no more sold. Damn I really liked that idea. Maybe, I will use it as a learning project; – I’m learning to code for iOS now that I’ve got a Mac, piece of shit that it is, where’s my backspace button FFS.

Actually, there is a lot I like about the Mac, even though I spend far much time looking for ways of doing things such as finding out how to find my hidden .htaccess files, oh I need to alter something via command prompt, I thought people liked macs because everything was easier, let my right click have some useful options FFS, I’m a big boy now I promise I won’t format the hard drive or delete iTunes…

WORK

Finish up, check emails again, didn’t mention that before, tend to delete them straight off my phone nowadays. Star the important ones, expect a reply within a week, can’t you see how busy I am.

WALK

Check the Internet, as above

DINNER

COMPUTER TIME

At last, do what I want to do now, just check the DC, two hours later, watch GOT/Fargo or similar. I only watch quality TV shows, cause watching TV is such a waste of time and I seem to have so little of it…

Wow, been on the computer 14 hours now, three hours work done. Oh, got a freelance editing job coming in, there’s the next three days gone, won’t be able to get work done on my own stuff for a while :-(

Still at least it brings some pennies in, my stuff doesn’t seem to anymore, don’t know why? – I spend all day working at my computer…

The Future: Making Changes

It never used to be like this. I’ve always been an hard worker, when I was doing my PhD I thought nothing of doing 14 hour plus days; when I was working in a factory saving up to go travelling for the first time, 12 hour shifts seven days a week were not a problem; when I first started doing my own websites and making Apps, 12 hours plus days of solid work were routine. But nowadays, I find a lot of the things I need to do are so repetitive and dull that it is easy to slip into the procrastination cycle waffle that I described above.

Anyway, if you managed to get through that waffle, which is similar to quite a lot of my days nowadays, then you will realise that something needed to change. To get myself back on track. Here is my new schedule.

7.02

Wake up, snooze, get up, bathroom duties, 10 min exercise.

Go to the café, order a coffee. I have until exactly until 8 o’clock to browse the Internet.

8 – 12 WORK

This is mainly writing at the moment, there are key articles that need to be done, that should bring money in.

I start by writing an article for one of my sites, usually about 1200 words, takes about three hours including research. Feels good to add some quality content to the web each day.

I then do some code-editing, site-enhancing, SEO etc. for an hour or so.

(Ok, it’s 12 of the clock, and I have done as much work as what I previously did all day long; that is it, I’m not going to do anymore work, I want to do four super-productive hours, if I do (much) more then I am pretty sure I will slip into days of procrastination, because the things that need to be done to make money are not the most interesting things on Earth TBH).

12 – 1 LUNCH

I relocate to the place by the beach, a 10 min walk, it’s 38 degrees outside, any further would bring on a sweat. Order food, listen to music/podcast/browse the web on the iPad (not the computer).

1 – 5 LEARN

I love learning new things. At the moment my main focus is on objective-C and iOS development (yeah I know about Swift). Now I’ve got a Mac I want to put out some IOS apps, hopefully they will make money, but to be honest this is more about the intellectual challenge.

So great to have a block of time dedicated to learning new things.

So great to have a block of time dedicated to learning new things.

Other things can go into this ‘learn’ time-period, maybe its time to learn Japanese, improve the guitar skills, go take some photographs. Anyway, the main thing is that I’ve set aside a chunk of my day specifically for this.

5 – 6.30 WALK

The temperature has normally dropped to about 30 by now, great time to walk down the beach and reflect on life.

6.30 – 7.30

LOUNGE AROUND

Do that pointless computer browsing that I used to spend all day doing, shoot off an email or two.

7.30 onwards, DINNER/Out with Friends

Usually take the iPad with me, read a book as I eat. Depending where I am, meet up with friends, go to the cinema, or just eat, read, then return home.

From this point on the computer is not allowed on other than for watching TV/Movies, SKYPE calls home, or listening to football.

READ/CHAT/SOCIALISE

Of course this is my schedule at the moment. I am currently at a quiet spot in Vietnam by the beach.

When I’m in the cities, I will often meet up with friends for co-working or just for a chat. The first one usually stimulates work so is ok, the second one doesn’t involve me staring at a computer screen so although not productive is also ok.

Days Off

I was thinking when the last time I had more than three days off work. Two years ago. I quite often work or work/procrastinate (as described above) for days on end, then do intense freelance editing, then get burnt out.

This has got to change, I will probably introduce ‘no computer days’ once a week; I’ve done that in the past, works better if it is not a zillion degrees outside and you can go outside and do a hobby, go walking, cycling etc.

Will have to see how that fits into my new schedule. Anyway it’s time to turn the computer off….

Tschuß

Fighting Pandas – Trying to get a site out of the grasp of Google’s Panda

There is nothing cutting edge about this post, but it may be useful to others who have been penalised by the Google Panda updates and feel like they are banging their heads against a brick wall. I have not gone into linking methods, mainly just on improving the sites themselves.

Google Panda

Pesky Panda, looking so cute but causing so many headaches

I’ve been hit by Panda three times Panda 2.0 (April 11th), Pandas 2.2 (June 16th) and 2.5.2 (October 14th); all of my content is unique, though some is short (thin).

I feel that the 2.5.2 update is the hardest for me to understand as it has sent a lot of very bad sites (not being envious here, I do mean bad sites; broken links, scraped) and content farms (Hubpages especially) to the top of the sites. I am sort of hoping that they have made a mess of the 2.5.2 and it will be altered back some way and are therefore continuing with the steps that I was taking after 2.2, which seemed to have recovered a lot of my traffic until recently; I’m probably clutching at straws, but it is really hard to know what google wants anymore.

Maybe their aim is to have it that SMEs need to advertise to get seen in the SERPS? It sure as hell ain’t to get rid of content farms as eHow, Livestrong, Hubpages etc. seem to be back with a vengeance.

Perhaps the saddest side-effect of the Panda updates will be to force the smaller players into trying out spammier methods in order to maintain a living; this is not a good thing for the web, but I know that many people are now considering different methods in order to stop from going under.

Anyway on with a few things I was doing to get out of Panda, and which showed improvement until the last update; some of these are specific to my sites which are quite old.

1.  Move site to a new server; give it an independent IP address. I was previously with bluehost, this had the disadvantage of most of my sites being on the same IP address, but worst still with a popular firm such as Bluehost, it was also shared with a 1000 other sites that I had no control over and could have been on any subject imaginable.

2. Go over the site (+1500 pages) and identify problems, ideally start with your thinner pages, but in my case realize that there were a lot of problems (site started in 2005, the search game has changed a lot since then) so I needed to go through things systematically.

3. Add Images to every page.

4. Add video too. Google loves youtube (wonder why).

5. Do a spell check (makes things more professional/trustworthy both in Google’s and your visitor’s eyes).

6. Fire up dragon naturally speaking or Word, add a few hundred words of fresh content, keep on topic and fairly high quality, try to make all of those articles 600 words +

7. As above but write even higher quality, longer, linkable articles. I try to do this for most pages, but for a site of over 1000 pages , it is a bit of a waste of time on some of the articles that are unlikely to get many visitors anyway (step 6 will suffice).

8. On page SEO, tidy this up, (remove any KW stuffing or similar SEO from years ago), look to improve the Title, Headings etc

9. Remove Links. I had lots of links to my other sites, now gone.

10. Add Links. Do a search using site:.edu, site:.ac.uk, site:.bbc.co.uk on terms related to the page, add a references and further reading with a few good sites as references.

11. Remove/add links: Internal, concentrate links towards the money pages, use better anchor text, link to related topics only.

12.  Go through your Google analytics or use Hitail , for each page identify any long-tail KW opportunities, write these into your page text, but only if you can do it in a none spammy way that is useful to the end-user.

13. Reduce number of advertisements.

14. Now your pages should be looking sleeker, longer, and hopefully read better, fire up the website analyzer  and take a look at the readability scores, these will be high if scientific, technological based, but can you make the page just a little bit more readable?

15. Now that you are happy with the page, let Google and indeed BING know that it has changed/improved by using Ping-o-matic.

16. Take a look at your site and see how related the content is to other internal pages; in my case I am considering splitting the site up into two.  By keeping the sites more focused I am hoping that my main site will not be seen as a content farm (it isn’t, but can an algorithm see that is the case).

17. My site is fairly old, uses a lot of tables, the htm code seems to have become ugly over the years: time to update to HTML 5 (as with point 16 this is a time consuming job, but it is in process).

Well those are the main things that I am doing to improve my sites, as you can imagine these are very time consuming, and I thought that I was going in the right direction until Panda 2.5.2 minor update (I think they used the term minor as it mainly hit the sites that were not major).

So a few things on my mind post Panda 2.5.2.

1. Analytics/Websitetools. Google makes great tools but it knows everything about you. I have installed GetClicky for a trial run.

2. Removal of affiliate advertisements. Google openly claim they are after affiliates, and on the recently leaked Google reviews paper they use a CJ link as an example of someone who is using a sneaky redirect! How they can signal one of the major players in the internet advertising business as being a sign of spam is beyond me, but they do. I have therefore decided to remove all the CJ and similar redirect links (clickbank) from my main site to see if it has an effect.

I hope that you find my approach to improving my sites to fight off the Panda updates useful, I thought that I was taking the right steps until 2.5.2, but I guess that only time will tell.

Deano

A return to Bako, and a return to photography

As many of you who have previously read my blog will know, I have a soft spot for Borneo. It therefore gave me great pleasure when my nephew Dan (of reptileexpert.org fame) told me that he would like to carry out the final project for his masters in biological photography at Bako national park, and would like me to come along to give a little help and advice as this was his first time in Asia.

Dan and Dean in Bangkok

I have therefore had the pleasure of spending three weeks in Bako national park in Sarawak, and as Dan had a spare DSLR camera with him, I got to play about with a proper camera for the first time in about 25 years. I used to have an Olympus OM10 when I was a teenager, but due to the costs of film and developing, my hobby never really got off the ground. Here are some of the results of my return to photography, which I think are pretty good for three weeks experience with the Canon EOS 350D.

Well the first picture is actually took with the camera on my HTC legend (No HDR), the rest of the pictures of Bako park and it’s animals are taken on the Canon.

Bako Sunset

Sunset at Bako National Park in Borneo

jumping proboscis monkey

Proboscis Monkey jumping between the mangrove trees in Bako

pit viper

Male (small) and female Waglers pit viper

bako-mangroves

Looking out from the mangroves

Bako one clawed fiddler crab

Fiddler crab doing a mating display

crab-eating-macaque

Crab eating long tailed macaques

bearded pig

Bearded pig

flying lemur

Flying lemur

baby-silver-leaf-monkey

Baby silver leaf monkey (still orange so less than four months old)

Paradise Snake

Paradise Snake

Dragonfly

Dragonfly

sitting-proboscis monkey

Proboscis monkey taking it easy

mangrove skink

Mangrove skink taking a peek around

Silver leaf monkey

Silver leaf monkey and baby at Bako national park

Large stick insect

Large stick insect found on one of our regular night walks

diving proboscis monkey

Proboscis monkey taking a dive into the water

proboscis monkey water

Proboscis monkey about to land in the water, I love the position of the monkey in this picture

Hope you enjoyed the pictures of the Bako animals as much as I enjoyed taking them.

Deano

Today’s Workplace – Nam Khai Cafe – Mui Ne – Vietnam

Starting the day with a cheese baguette, black coffee and a listen to Dan and Ian’s podcast.

Nam Khai Guest House

Nam Khai Guest House, Mui Ne, Vietnam

Next will be some Joomla………

Loving the feel of Mui Ne.

Deano