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There is so much critisism over this term that I had to put my two cents in. Yes marketers are using this frequently and yes it makes sense. I looked up the wikipedia definition, which was something like this “Growth hacking is a marketing technique developed by technology startups which uses creativity, analytical thinking, and social metrics to sell products and gain exposure.” It’s still a little unclear why people give you weird eyes when you tell them that you use growth hacking techniques to get traffic.

That is a great definition, but if I was to break down what I thought it was it would go something like this “growth hacking is figuring out any possible way you can get visitors or actions to your website.” Is SEO part of growth hacking, well yes. I generally think of SEO as its own channel though and don’t think that there is something uniquely done. I want to share what I think would be an example of a growth hack. Students are prime targets for retailers. They are of upper middle class and fall within a very lucrative buying age range. Did you know that most Universities assign independent emails to students when they join?

For the duration of their college years they are forced to check two emails. Their person one and their student one. Can you imagine how valuable this email would be if you could get a hold of it? You would be able to have their direct attention for a few seconds to market whatever you wanted. Here is the growth hack. Get into the school database with the list of names and emails. You would have something like maybe 35,000 emails. Setup a mailchimp account and create the best marketing email you have ever written. Then blast to all 35,000. Boom, you just flooded your website with traffic and potential users or sales. Also students are extremely viral with their sharing.

They are more plugged into the social networks then anyone else. If you can get them to share your content, you could have some serious gains. There would be a few really important parts to pay close attention to in this equation. Pay very close attention to the email that you write. I would not recommend sending anything more then two sentences. It will be seen as spam if it is not super short. Also I would not recommend putting a link in there. Spam filters will grab it and many people will be annoyed.

There are so many of these techniques you can pull to drive large amounts of traffic to your websites, you just need to be creative. Get out of your normal routine of marketing and think really hard. I like to ask myself a lot “What would I click on?” or “Why would I leave?” Hopefully this can help with the process. There are a ton of great articles out there and videos as well. If you want immediate tips and tricks here is my class

Stay creative and keep “Growth Hacking” you growth hackers.

I have been working with ruby on rails recently and wanted to make a cheat sheet for all the command lines that need to be ran in order for me to get my development environment up and running. To run your server of course is rails s and to run console is rails c. I am using a background task gem called resque that requires redis to be ran and a rake task to be ran as well. The last thing I have to run is another rake task that handles delaying a worker for me. This uses resque delayed. Hope this helps you guys!

Run redis Server
redis-server /usr/local/etc/redis.conf
resque-webxs
add /resque to the end of the url to view dashboard

Run Resque Delayed Rake
LOGGING=1 INTERVAL=10 rake resque_delayed:work

Run Resque Scheduler
resque-scheduler

Run Resque Rake Task
rake resque:work QUEUE=’*’

Run Rails Server
Rails s
Rails c

Postgres start database
pg_ctl -D /usr/local/var/postgres -l /usr/local/var/postgres/server.log start

Ultrahook 
ultrahook stripe http://localhost:3000/stripewebhook

macsWhat is an accelerator? I wasn’t exactly sure what this meant, so I went looking it up online. From my understanding there are companies out there that help beginning stage startups prepare for the big dog investors. They are there to mentor and even make small investments in your startup. They sometimes will invest in about 15% of your company. It appears that many of these investments are around the $20,000 range. In researching about these accellerators, the name Y Combinator kept coming up. They are a silicon valley acceleartor that invests a small amount of money 14k to 20k in a small number of startups, around 52.

The first thing I did was go to the website to check them out. Wow, they definitley need help in the design department. They obviously don’t care about the look of their website and have gained street credit else where. I guess it helps that Paul Graham is well known in the area. They still could have someone help them out with their design. If you plan to apply they have two deadlines. One for the winter session and one for the summer. Their program takes three months and has had many successful businesses come out of it.

Recently they just finished their summer session and added all their pitches to youtube. I noticed that a ton of these companies have been receiving money for their startups on websites like Wefunder and Angel List. Some of the stand out companies are Asseta, One Month Rails, Sound Focus. Ycominator has come a long way since the begining of the company in March 2005.

One difficult obstacle that I thought of is what if you get accepted and you don’t live in the silicon valley? You have to be there for three months for the program and the friends and collegues that you will meet, most likely will live there too. I guess that would be a good problem to have though.

There is a lot of extensive information on their website about what kind of things go on in the program. There are dinners where established founders present and talk about their past experiences. There is also the very big demo day at the end. Investors flock to this demo day to see what kind of websites are coming out of the program. It is almost like the draft for a sports team. All the big guys are there and willing to dish out some money.

Also through the program each week there are small presentations done to show the progress that you have made and what cool features you have created. Another important fact that I am interested in is if they give you money while you are there. We all have day jobs and need to support ourselves. I couldn’t find anywhere that talked about helping financially while you build your startup. It should be really cool to see what comes out of this acceleartor for the winter session. I wonder if the summer or winter programs produce better startups? Only time will tell.




startupsThat is correct! September 23rd the law went into effect that allows startups to advertise their businesses to accredited investors. What does this mean for the startup community? Well it means that you can be seen by angel investors if you have the dough to be front page. Most startups don’t have a lot of money to begin with, so it should be interesting to see if this will be a great help.

There are some great websites out there that help you connect with these such investors. I ended up taking a good look at Crowd Funding Website Wefunder. First off I really enjoyed the color scheme and layout. It is a very clean design with soft blues and greens. There is a big call to action button to signup right at the top, which made it easy for me to signup. The home page displays some startups that have been raising money. Many of them look like they have done a very successful job at raising a good amount of investment.

After your account is all setup, you have the option to continue to fill out your profile. If you plan to invest in some companies you are required to give banking information and tax id. I did not go as far as this, so I am did not get to see the whole funding process. Many of the companies on WeFunder require a minimum of $1000 investment. They have a detailed area that talks about the legal and recommended way to handle the online investment process. I guess that is not the best practice to except investment from many different investors. So they created a consolidation of all the investments in one package that you can get from WeFunder.

One sneaky thing that they do that I did not like is they don’t discuss the fact that you have to front some money to begin the process. They have you create a profile and go through the long process of setting up your startup and then tell you after you are done. Their pricing seems a little steep if you go the consolidating route. If you go the other route, I believe it is $99 plus $26 each investor. Not too bad if someone puts a big chunk of money into your business right?

You can create a profile and setup your startup without accepting investment, but good luck making it to the first page. The website is probably very selective about who they choose the top startups. If you go to their faq page then on the left side go to curration, they have a list of things you can do to help your chances.

Another good website out there if you are looking for investors is Angel.co. It has a very similar concept, but has more of a social interaction. Investors can ask you questions and create updates. You can create a cool company profile that investors can come and look over. One cool thing about Angel List is that they have a large database of startups. You can look through all the great ideas people have and how they are getting funding.

It has been awhile since I have done a review on some sweet websites out there. Let’s begin. The first one is Maily. This creative website is designed so little kids can learn to send emails. The email interface is as kid friendly as you can get. Have you seen how good kids are with ipads? I guess that is why these guys thought the next natural step would be able to send emails as well. They can add images draw with their fingers and easily send to whomever they want. To send an email they just click a really big send button and choose the picture of the person they want to send to.

Sounds pretty easy right? I haven’t downloaded the app just watched the video, which I placed below. Check it out and let me know what you think.

For those of you out there who like to get away from the computer, tv, and everything else urban. All trails is a good website for you. It is a user based website that lets you view marked out trails all around the world. There is a cool rating system that lets you see how well liked a particular trail is. There are really good details given like how long the hike takes and distance. One cool feature is that people can add photos in different parts of the trail so you can know exactly what it looks like.

I am a little conflicted on how much I want to know about a the trail before going on it, but I am sure that this would contribute to less people going on trails they are not ready for. Another great aspect of this website that they don’t promote as much is that you can meet others who share the love of the outdoors.

There is a member section where you can view all the members in your area. They also display who has hiked the most trails and who has hiked the most distance. Funny how you would turn this into a competition. They too have a video and here it is.

The last website that I am going to recommend is Squiggle. Working remotely is becoming much more popular, but you loose some of that face to face interaction. These guys have created a platform that allows you to work together as if you were in the same room. You can talk, share screens, or even work on code together. I am guessing that it is not as good as working next to someone, but through the demo I was still pretty impressed. You can message each other and share code super easily. It all goes through a feed which is nice so you can view past comments. After all, it is nice to go back and let your co worker know that he actually said something totally different.

squiggle

The price is pretty reasonable at $9 per month per person, but there is not that much information to lead to a commitment for this. They do offer a free trial, but very little information on why squiggly is better then say a skype or other similar website. Will keep an eye out for these guys and complete another test run. Please let me know if you guys have good or bad experiences with them.

 

Last but not least is an av estimating software program called jetbuilt. They help cut your av generation of proposals in a quarter of the time. The design is very well done and the thing is fast!

 

Looks like wordpress is here to stay. There has been a battle on which is the best CMS system out there and wordpress has kicked everyone else’s butt. If you have tried Joomla, you will know that it is convoluted and backward to use. The whole purpose of a cms is so that someone can control the website who is not from a technical background. It takes hours and hours of tutorials for clients to understand how to use the backend and even then, I am left with puzzled looks and disappointed faces.

Don’t even get me started with uploading themes and plugins. Updating is a nightmare and navigating through the directories is very time consuming. This article is not suppose to be a bash on all the other CMS systems out there, so lets continue talking about wordpress plugins.

One thing you have to keep in mind is when something is free, it doesn’t always work. WordPress plugins are no different. There are great plugins out there, but there are so many bad ones. Checking the star rating with the downloads number helps. You should always check these out before using one. Also take a look at the description. If there isn’t a well written description, chances are the creator didn’t take the time to create a good plugin either.

Here are the top 5 that we found to be really great!

1. Contact Form 7

This plugin allows you to use a simple shortcode to insert any type of contact form you are looking for. It is very versatile and easy to use.

contact_form_7

 

2. WP-Maintenance

Many clients need a block screen to stop people from accessing their new website. This plugin does just that. You can also change the settings to display a countdown time to website launch.

wp-maintenance-mode

 

3.  Social Media Mashup

Allows you display feeds from all the major social media websites.

social_media_mashup

 

4. Disqus Commenting System

Disqus is a 3rd party commenting system that has great functions. Not only does it look really clean and uses advanced javascript for realtime effects, it also allow people to comment on your website if they already have an account. This helps to limit stupid spam bots that are trying to farm links.

disqus_comment_system

 

5. All in one SEO Pack

Allows you to name each post and page with title and meta tags. It also can autogenerate keywords and description if you like. There is a new function that allows you to edit custom posts as well. The function appears at the bottom of the meta data boxes and is super easy to use. Also plays nicely with other plugins.

all_in_one_seo

 

I am always on the hunt for better wordpress plugins. Leave some comments below with your favorite!

 

grow_websitesWe finally did it. After many (and I mean many) attempts to setup a meetup group we finally got approved! Let me first start off by telling you how difficult it was to get my meetup group approved and launched. Setting up a meetup group is pretty straight forward. They have a step by step process where you fill out the information they ask for and mildly add some design touches to your group.

One thing that they don’t let you know is that after your meetup group is all done and you have spent an hour or two setting it up, it will go through a very tight review. These review guys are border line insane. I submitted my meetup 3 times before my 4th one was approved. The rejections were pretty much the same each time. They would send a generic

“Unfortunately, we’re unable to pre-approve groups for announcement. I recommend that when you re-create your group, you utilize your group’s description and welcome message to clearly convey that the group is intended to be a community. For more information, you can consult our group community guidelines here:”

Then they provide you with a link that you probably have already read. Just thinking about it gets me agravated again. So, I wanted to post this tip to help those of you out there that are running into the same problem. Here is what I did.

  • On the group description they provide some examples of a good description
  • Copy one of these and make it make sense for whatever your group is about
  • Make sure there are no promotions or name dropping of any kind.
  • You are asked to write a short bio for yourself. Keep it light and don’t drop any names, like where you work or anything like that.
  • This is important! After you submit your group, send an email to support@meetup.com and explain in an email that you are not sure why your group has not gotten approved and you just submitted one that follows all the regulations. Make sure to give them your full name and email address for your account so they can look it up.

That’s it! Hopefully they approve your group. Mine was approved the next day, which I will talk about.

Growing a website is very difficult. There are so many places that we can improve and  I am not just talking about marketing. I started OC Growing Websites to get together with website owners who are running into the same struggles. We just had our first meeting and it was a great success. We had about 20 people attend and got to hear from everyone. There were some really good suggestions thrown out and I am excited for the next meeting. If you are in the Orange County area, please join us and learn how to grow your website.

teachinsight2Let us first talk about video tutorials in general. The way that people are learning has been changing for quite some time now. If you are web designer or software developer or anything to do with computers you know that traditional schools in not the way to go. Often this type of structure takes to long to set up, resulting in old lesson plans and outdated methods. The best developers out there are also way into opensource. Many post tutorials on the web and are happy to help each other out for free.

This content comes out in many forms, through blogs, and forums, and yes you guessed it, video tutorials. I learned through reading tutorials on web design in the beginning. When video tutorials came out, WOW! I really started to accelerate learning web design techniques and coding skills. Video tutorials have a great combination of using visual demonstration, writing, and audio. They touch all our senses, which not only reaches a wider audience, but helps with understanding a concept better.

Free video websites like youtube and vimeo offer some great tutorials, but they are so hard to find! It would be great if you searched and you had a list of video tutorials that were all high quality and had a rating to go by. Well there is a website called TeachInsight that offers amazing video tutorials in this kind of format. There isn’t much to choose from in ways of tutorials, but we have a feeling that it will start to fill in once people notice the potential. Becoming a teacher is not that difficult of a process. Looks like you sign up then take a 10 question quiz. Once you pass that quiz you are able to submit your video tutorial for review.

If the tutorial is approved it will appear on the market place. The goal is to have the website feature it, so you can be seen in front of everyone. Right now they are running a promotional contest where you can win a free Kindle. It’s a pretty good technique to get some extra signups. To enter, all you have to do is signup for the website. At the end of May one winner will be chosen. They said that they are going to do a follow up interview with the winner, which is pretty cool. The wordpress tutorial looks like it has sold the most. Like I said before, doesn’t look like there are too many to choose from, but lots of subjects that talented people could fit into. Looks like there member count is right around 117, which is up from when we last checked at under 100. Will keep an eye out to see how fast they grow.

We have made some video tutorials in the past. Some skills don’t even need you to record your face. They are called screencasts. It is pretty cool when you can demonstrate a program through allowing someone to follow along with your computer screen as you talk.

website_designI have been hearing a lot of buzz about this new website building platform called Square Space. I really like using gui programs to make websites come alive, but always skeptical of them at first. Websites are frustrating because they need code to display and are not so graphical interactive as one may think. One simple function like a having a tab slide from one place to another requires lines of javascript code. Arrghhhhh!!! Sometimes I really wish that this wasn’t the case.

So my first impression of square space was really positive. The website is beautifully designed. They stuck with a very contemporary grey scale color scheme and incorporated some super clean transitions. I particular enjoyed there sign up process. When signing up you are taken through a great funnel that asks you to select from very elegant templates. After you have chosen the template for your new website, they ask you for your email and password.

So far so good. I really enjoyed the create account section that uses a dark opacity with very easy to read sign up inputs. After you are allowed registered they create a subdomain for you, which I didn’t like. I want to be able to choose my own subdomain in the sign up process. You are brought to the backend interface where you can edit your website.

A quick tooltip tour goes over some basic functions that was somewhat useful and you are left ready to design your new template website! I was so excited after the sign up I began trying to changing out the photos. I first tried to move one photo from one area to the other. That didn’t work. I then tried to edit some text and move it. That didn’t work. I then tried to just change the picture out that was being used. Guess what? That did not work either. The worst part is the website froze on me and I had to close chrome down and restart from the beginning.

The backend is not very intuitive to use and really difficult to change anything. I was really disappointed because they presented the idea in such an elegant an interesting way, that I think I was overly optimistic for the product. Even with my expectations high, they fell far short of anything that I would ever use to build a website with. I would have to hire someone just to help me use square space. That kinda defeats the whole point in using it right? They demonstrated that they know how to web design, but what about us!

weddingsAhhh beautiful spring/summer is approaching and love is in the air. Chances are you going to attend a wedding sometime soon or be in one! There are so many details that are involved with a wedding it can stress people out big time. One way to help with all the questions is to have a awesome and very informative website.

Many people are very traditional and want to send out invitations and save the dates. I don’t know about you guys, but I get these in the mail and say “oh that’s nice” and throw them away. It might be because I am a guy, but I am thinking that there are others like that as well. I recently found out that those invitations can cost hundreds of dollars and hours of time.

There are some free wedding websites out there like the knot and ewedding that offer some good resources for getting started with your wedding. We don’t really recommend using them for your website because they only offer templated out do it yourself designs. That would be cool if they used nice templates, but they don’t. They are pretty tacky, take some time to create, and not so elegant. Another great resource for inspiration is Pinterest, as you probably know. A lot of wedding coordinators will ask to view a board that you have created to get an idea of what you like and your style of the perfect wedding.

wedding_website

Why not send an email for save the date and have a website for your invitation? Here are a few benefits.

  • It’s saves a lot of time and money. You still have to get everyone’s email address, but shooting off emails gets pretty easy when you have the full list. 
  • People are connected to their emails! Most out there nowadays have their emails connected to their phones and get an update as soon as it is received. They will see your save the date almost immediately after you send it and mark it down in their calendars.
  • RSVP. On the website you can create a  a form for all your RSVPS’s. Use google docs to keep an online spreadsheet of all your guests info. You can create a column for name, email, number attending, and rsvp. No more sifting through return cards and writing in everything.
  • Helping the environment. Saving paper makes us feel good and helps the environment. Save a tree.
  • There are those who don’t have an email, but most likely they are pretty old or not tech capable. In that case give them call directly. Most likely you would have had to call these people anyway to remind them about all the dates and RSVP. The number should be below 10.

With all this said. Dreaming Blue is offering an amazing deal of $1200 for you wedding website. This includes:

  1. An incredible home page with a great transition slideshow
  2. Information page that has all the wedding details. People will not be calling you to ask “where is it? or what time does it start?”
  3. Elegant visual links to your registry
  4. An RSVP contact form that sends an email to you instantly after someone fills out there information.

We hope you choose us to help create the website of your dreams for your special day.