8 Tips on Writing from Kurt Vonnegut

I was introduced to this video via Tim Ferris’ always awesome newsletter called 5 Bullet Friday.

I’m actually not familiar with Kurt Vonnegut, but supposedly he’s an amazing writer. And the tips in this video make me believe that he was too.

You don’t need to be a fictional writer to benefit from these tips. If you write non-fiction, copyedit client blog posts, or develop YouTube videos, these tips will help you.

Here’s my own summary:

  1. Don’t leave the reader feeling like they wasted their time
  2. Give the reader a character to root for
  3. Every character should want something, even if just a glass of water
  4. Every sentence should either reveal character or advance action
  5. Start as close to the end as possible
  6. Make awful things happen to your leading character, no matter how sweet and innocent they are. This shows the reader what the character is made of.
  7. Write to please just one person, not the world
  8. To heck with suspense. Give readers as much info as possible as soon as possible. Readers should be able to surmise the ending of the story if they end up not finishing it.

What’s a Bad Bounce Rate and How To Improve it

This is something I wrote a while ago and send to my clients whenever they ask about bounce rates. I thought you might find useful too.

What Is Bounce Rate?

The bounce rate is a percentage of bounces that occur on pages of your site. A bounce occurs when someone visits your site and leaves without any engagement with the page they land on. Or if they stay on the page but don’t interact with it within 30 minutes, it also counts as a bounce.

Here is what Google says about bounce rates

Is Bounce Rate a Good Metric?

One of the most common mistakes I see people make is looking at overall site bounce rates in Google Analytics. This is a very poor metric because just a few poorly performing pages can totally throw off the numbers. Instead look at related types of pages or individual pages at a time.

Also, bounce rates are not always a bad thing. For example, someone may visit a page of your site, find what they need, then leave. For example, they might read an article and learn everything they need to know, they might look at your service page and call you, or they might write your business address down and visit your store in person later. This would be considered a bounce in Google Analytics, but these sessions could result in conversions later, which would obviously be a good thing.

Another metric to consider in conjunction with Bounce Rate is Time on Page. If people are leaving a page on your site immediately, there may be an issue. But if people are spending a decent amount of time on the page (however much time it takes to read most of the content), your page has likely provided value to the visitor.

If you want to take this analysis to a more advanced level, check out this awesome post from Glenn Gabe on using scroll depth tracking, adjusted bounce rate, and time on page to determine content quality.

What is a Good Bounce Rate?

According to RocketFuel, a bounce rate:

  • Between 26%-40% is very good
  • Between 41%-55% is average
  • Between 56%-70% is a little high, but could be typical for your site or industry
  • Anything over 70% is bad (unless it’s a blog, news, or event)

In regards to blog posts, high bounce rates are common because people read blog posts to learn. This is one of the first steps of the conversion funnel. They may come back again later.

How to Improve Bounce Rates

There are many ways to improve your bounce rates.

  • Adjust page titles to be more descriptive of the content
  • Adjust meta descriptions to be more relevant, while also enticing readers to click
  • Show users the page content they expect to see when they land on the page
  • Add more content to the page if necessary. Readers should have their questions/concerns addressed
  • Headers and subheaders should guide visitors to your CTA
  • Make your Call To Action prominent and relevant
  • Improve page load speed
  • Use internal linking to move visitors through the site
  • Make sure your site is mobile-friendly

You should also make your content easily digestible

  • Avoid walls of text
  • Use images and bullet points
  • Shorten paragraphs
  • Use subheadings
  • Use bold for key points

Is SEO Necessary For New Business Owners Anymore?

I came across a forum post on DMOZ quite some time ago with a new business owner asking if SEO is necessary anymore. Why this person was asking for this type of advice from DMOZ, I have no idea, but one of the forum moderators chimed in stating that SEO was not necessary. He said that hard quality work is all it takes and that utilizing meta tags is pointless. This is all the “advice” he provided. There really is a lot more to SEO than meta tags.

I do agree that doing hard quality work is very important and is what really counts when building your website, but although meta tags are an extremely small part of SEO, they can still provide value.

When it comes to ranking, these fields are generally useless, which the Google guidelines will tell you, and although Google is the most well known search engine currently, they aren’t the only one available to use, and many other search engines don’t go by the same rules.

If you place the appropriate keywords in the meta keywords tag, it can help a site stay away from a duplicate content filter. This tag can normally be avoided, but it’s a nice fallback, just in case. And as previously mentioned, some search engines may still be using it. Heck, it only takes a couple of seconds to fill in anyway. One thing to note though is that if you utilized the keywords meta tag, you leave your research open for competitors to find.

The description meta tag will not help in rankings, but with the right description, you can entice visitors into coming into your website. Also, if you’ve ever noticed from doing a search in Google, your search query will appear in bold in the description. This is proven to draw the eyes of the user into that listing. I think that makes the Description Meta tag fairly important.

Ok, so those are my thoughts on meta tags, but there is much more to SEO than that.

Keyword Research

  • High Volume
  • Low Competition
  • “Buyer” keywords

On-Page Factors

  • Title tags
  • Meta tags
  • Alt attributes
  • Internal linking
  • Header tags
  • Keyword emphasis (bolding/italicizing)
  • Page load time optimization
  • Broken links
  • HTML and XML sitemap
  • Custom 404
  • Robots.txt
  • Canonical Issues
  • Site architecture analysis

Competitive Analysis

  • Domain age
  • On-page factors
  • Visibility
  • Traffic
  • Incoming links
  • Paid search campaigns

Off-Page Factors

  • Analytics review
  • Incoming backlinks
  • Citations
  • Local optimization

A lot of this may not fit into some peoples definition of “SEO” but would instead call it “SEM” or search engine marketing, but the inexperienced don’t really care about semantics and only want their site to bring in more money. This is why I lumped it all together into the somewhat outdated term.

To answer the original question of the new business owner, no, search engine optimization isn’t absolutely necessary, but if you ever plan to have a successful online business that brings in enough money to put food on the table, then yes it is.

How Long For Indexation After Migrating to a New Domain

If you’re a regular reader here, you may have noticed that a few months ago the domain has changed from SEOHats.com to alexjuel.com.

I did this because I felt like SEOHats just didn’t make any sense. It was one of those spur of the moment purchases, I quickly put an SEO blog up and wrote a few posts over the years.

Towards the end of July 2009 I started to think that it would make more sense, and be more professional, to use my own name as my site. I already owned my name domain and wasn’t doing anything with it, so that’s what I decided to do.

If a client ever asks me do something like this I almost always recommend that they don’t or they can lose valuable links, authority, domain age, etc., but because I don’t use this site to bring in business (I work for seOverflow) I didn’t feel it was the wrong decision.

On Saturday August 1st, 2009 I completely moved WordPress to another domain, which was a bit of a pain, but not too, too bad. I’ve done it once before, so the move wasn’t as horrifying this time around.

After getting the domain all up and in order, I decided to take action in getting my new domain indexed in hopes that I wouldn’t lose too much traffic. I don’t use any rank tracking software for this domain, so I’m sorry that I can’t tell you how my rankings faired, but traffic is really the important measurement anyway.

The first thing I did was go into my Google Webmaster Tools account and added my new site, verified it and added the sitemap.xml file. Then I went into my old site in Google Webmaster Tools and used the “change of address” feature to tell Google that I’ve completely changed the URL.

The next day, I began the process of trying to get the site indexed quickly. Keep in mind that the tactics I’ve listed are NOT for building backlinks, but instead to get the search engines to find and spider the site quickly.

The first thing that I did was create a Google Base account and submitted a listing with my URL in it, mentioning that I was offering an SEO product.

Over the next two days, I went through a great list of quick indexing tips put together by local SEO guru, Andrew Shotland. There are 18 things on this list, so you’ll have plenty of work to do. I wasn’t able to complete all them, but I did most.

Last of all, I submitted my site to more “site profile” types of sites. Once you do a search on these sites, the profile is turned into a page on the site, which the search engines often pick up. In the list below, just paste your own domain in place of mine.


And that’s everything I did within the first couple of days.

Here are the stats:

On the very first day, before migration, this is what the major search engines had indexed from SEOHats.com.

Google: 64 pages
Yahoo: 96 pages
Bing: 136 pages

I don’t have 136 pages on the site, but for some reason, BIng had my css, trackbacks, login page, category pages, etc.

Two days later on the following Monday, I saw one post had been indexed on Google, Bing had only my sitemap.xml file and Yahoo had nothing.

I wrote a post at about 10 a.m. that morning to add some fresh content.

On Wednesday, August 5th Google had a total of 5 pages indexed, Yahoo had one page indexed and Bing had two pages indexed, the XML sitemap and the home page.

I checked the search engines throughout the month:

Thursday, August 6th
Google: 9 Pages
Bing: 3 Pages
Yahoo: 6 pages

Friday, August 7
Google: 16 pages
Bing: 3
Yahoo: 5

Sunday, August 9th
Google: 35 pages
Yahoo: 11 pages
Bing: 3 pages

Monday, August 10th
Google: 38 pages
Yahoo: 12
Bing: 4

I added my XML sitemap to Yahoo SiteExplorer and Bing Webmaster Tools on the 10th to see if it would help.

Tuesday, August 11
Google: 43 pages
Yahoo: 15
Bing: 4 pages

Wednesday, August 12
Google: 43 pages
Bing: 4 pages
Yahoo: 15 pages

Friday, August 14
Google: 44 pages
Yahoo: 17 Pages
Bing: 4 pages

Tuesday, August 18th
Google: 44 pages
Yahoo: 15 pages
Bing: 4 pages

After August 18th I stopped checking all together. It was going slowly in Bing and Yahoo, but Google had most of my site indexed.

As of today, it seems that most or all of my site is indexed in both Google and Yahoo, but only 7 pages in Bing. Hmmm… There are still 42 pages from SEOHats.com indexed in Yahoo, two in Google and none in Bing.

It doesn’t look like it affected my traffic much at all. Just going off of a basic statistic, I had 157 visits in July before the migration and in August I had 193 visits.

There are two things I know I could have done better to make this process move much faster; write more content and build links. I was just too busy to do either of them. I don’t use this site for business use or anything like that, so it wasn’t that big of a deal to me, but if you do this for a site of your own I would definitely recommend you have plenty of content ready to publish on your site and a link building plan in place.

Analyzing Your Competitors Metatags Quickly

If you’ve ever wanted to do a little competitive analysis, you’ve probably had the misfortune of having to view the page source of many pages on a particular website. Searching meta tags isn’t the best way to find the right terms to target for your own website, but it’s a good indicator of what other people are targeting and it’s a perfect start for your keyword research.

You’ve probably done this before, and realized how tedious and boring checking pages of one site can be, so after searching the web for something more automated and not finding anything, a coworker mentioned a program called GSiteCrawler. It’s works fairly well actually.

Note: If you are using Microsoft Vista, you have to right click the program file and choose “run as administrator” or the program won’t work properly.

Here’s how to set it up:

a.) Set up a new project by clicking the “Add” button on the bottom left corner of the screen. Use the New Site Wizard and hit Next on the next screen.
GsiteCrawler Screenshot

b.) Enter your website URL and give your project a name and click Next.
GsiteCrawler Screenshot

c.) On this screen, you can leave everything as is, or you can choose the check box next to “URLs are case-sensitive” if you’re on a Linux server. Change anything else if you wish, but I left the rest the same. Click Next.
GsiteCrawler Screenshot

d,) This program was created to be sitemap generator so the next step offers to upload the sitemap file to your website via FTP. Just skip this and click next.
GsiteCrawler Screenshot

e.) You can read through all of the options on the next page, but I just checked them all. Click the finish button and the program will begin to scan your website.
GsiteCrawler Screenshot

There are lot of cool things this program can show you, but for the purpose of this tutorial, we’re only going to look at the Titles and the Meta tags of the website.

Once the scanning is complete, you can navigate to the “URL list” tab on the main screen and then click the “Refresh List” button to show all of the URLs that the program found.
GsiteCrawler Screenshot

You can click on any of the URLs and it’ll show you the URL, Page Title, Description, and Keywords for that page. The one downfall is if the Title, Description, or Keywords fields are too long, it’ll just cut it off, so you won’t be able to see the whole thing on some sites, but it’s still a good tool for some quick analysis.

Toolbar Page Rank Update

If for some odd reason you are still looking at Toolbar Page Rank, people are reporting that Google has updated it. So check your sites to see. Not that it matters, and I definitely recommend against using it as a quality indicator of site value…but there are still people out there who seem to think it’s important.

Google Maps Gets Even Better

Google has been making so many great updates to their services, it’s hard to keep up, but of course, they’ve done it again. The service of interest this time is Google Maps.

Google has now added some new functionality to their already awesome app, Google Maps. If you do a search, you may find the results showing Google Book search results, photos from Panaramio (if they have been geo-tagged), and even videos from YouTube. I’ve also noticed photos being pulled from credit.net which is owned by InfoUSA, so if you don’t already have a listing with InfoUSA, which you should, I definitely recommend you do that right away.

If you want an example of the photos from Panoramio, go to Google and make sure you are zoomed way out so that they don’t make the results localized. Then do a search for “Irelands biggest waterfall”. I pulled in a result for Irelands biggest waterfall.

Photo Results in Google Maps

If you want to see how they are using video, do a search for “sky diving in Greensboro”. If you watch this video, you also get an awesome bonus song that is sure to put you in a happy mood.

YouTube videos in Google Maps

On a post on the Google Lat Long Blog, they mentioned that you can find book results by searching for “Christmas books in Jerusalem”.

Book Results in Google Maps

As you can see, the photo results and video results need a little work, but it is brand new, so you can expect Google to fiddle around a bit before they get it to a more usable state. With options like saving your own maps with custom locations, sending maps to your phone, the ability to change the marker of your business to the exact location, “Street View”, traffic info, and now these new abilities, I just can’t imagine how much more Google will pack into this great service in the future.

Google Making Street View Anonymous

In an attempt to protect the privacy of those who have been captured on Google Street View doing something embarrassing, Google has announced that they will be blurring out all faces in the service, along with license plate numbers. This will start when the Street View service launches in Europe and they have stated that they are thinking about doing the same with the U.S. version.

Google Street View Gif

That will take the fun out of sites like Street View Hotties. I guess I can make that kind of comment until I’m caught doing something embarrassing. What am I saying? I don’t do anything that could get me in trouble. Heh.

Flock: The Social Web Browser in Review

Anyone who uses the internet knows that social media is growing exponentially and can also be vital in bringing in new traffic to your website. Not to mention a great way to network. So anyway, Flock is a new social web browser and can be used as a regular browser if you want, but to get the most out of it, you need to use it for what it was created for. To connect everything you do in the world of social media.


Once you download the browser to your computer and open it up, you’ll be brought to a page called “My World.” Here you have a collection of all of your favorite sites, which already includes Myspace, Flickr, YouTube, and several more. Then there is a section for your feeds. This area is also pre-filled with several RSS feeds, mostly news related. The third section on this page is for your favorite media sites.

Flock Extensions

You can also add extensions. Most Firefox extensions seem to already work in Flock, but of course some don’t…yet. Just download your favorite extension and see if works. People are already creating Flock specific extensions, so you can be sure that your favorites will be included at some point.


One of the coolest features of Flock, is the ability to right click on a web page and select “Blog This” in the menu. A little editor will pop up that will give you the ability to type something up real quick, add tags, and preview your post. All you have to do is hit “Publish” and you can select from a drop down list of hosting services, which include sites such as Blogger, LiveJournal, and WordPress. When you are done, it will add your post directly to your blog and will take you to your site to preview it.

There is just so much stuff in this browser it can be a little daunting at first, but once you start poking around and checking things out, you can see just how useful this browser can be. Keep in mind that it is still in the very early stages of development, but I seriously recommend trying it out now and watching it grow more and more useful.

Private Domain Registration Is Ok In Googles Eyes

It has been debated that private domain registration may affect your ability to rank in the search engines, due to the fact that you may be a spammer and might be trying to hide something. Many people won’t do it because they think that if you are a legitimate business, you don’t have anything that needs to be hidden from prying eyes.

Well, if you take a look at the signup page for Google Apps, one of their bullet points mentions that they will give you private domain registration to protect you from spam at no extra cost.

So basically, Google thinks that private domain registration is ok. By the way, I’ve used Google Apps domain service, and I think it’s absolutely horrible. No freedom and customer service is non-existant, at least for me it was.