Conquer Google with these SEO Tools & Resources For Bands & Brands

SEO is something, that as an artist or a band or record label, you may not have had time to consider, or, maybe you thought that SEO was something that didn’t apply to your website, or it couldn’t help (or you didn’t have a clue how to implement it).

Well, what prompted a ‘need’ for this post for me was the absolutely bewildering array of information, services and resources (good and bad) I found online, infact search Google for SEO and they will return upwards 0f 800 Million results. Phew.

SEO (Search Engine Optimisation, to none believers!) is something you really should be thinking of for your bands blog or website just so you can make sure your website is on the first page of search results, if not at the very top (better).

I had to get my arse in gear when I discovered that my artist blog, 99th Floor Elevators, wasn’t appearing until the second page of Google results (and no-one looks beyond the first page right?) for some search terms, which meant, crucially people looking for official MP3 downloads were finding illegal file sharing lockers instead of my download page (and more about DMCA takedowns in another post!). So.

Do this, Google a few search terms for your band/label and see what the results throw up. Search for “your band name mp3”, “your band name, best known song MP3” and even “your band name” that kinda thing. If you’re not at, or pretty damn close to the top of the search results, you have some work to do. Thats where SEO comes in……read on.

Learn To Love The Google

Fittingly, it isn’t an SEO company that returns the top result either but the Wikipedia entry for SEO, followed by Google’s own  ‘Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – Webmaster Tools Help‘ guide.

What else? Well, I sifted through a whole bunch of good and bad stuff and came up with a pretty effective reading list for those of you who either want to set about doing your own SEO, or, read up on as much background as possible so you’re not completely bamboozled when that SEO guru you were recommended tells you how quickly he can dominate Google’s SERP’s.

Call it your very own SEO bullsh*t detector if you like. And when you think of SEO results, think long term not short term gains, there’s a few SEO horror stories that’ll make you think twice (or should make you think twice!) about using any ‘black hat‘ methodology or any kind of the more nefarious short cuts.

Here’s some quotes pulled directly from Google’s own SEO for webmasters page.

  • Be wary of SEO firms and web consultants or agencies that send you email out of the blue.
  • No one can guarantee a #1 ranking on Google.
  • Be careful if a company is secretive or won’t clearly explain what they intend to do.
  • Choose wisely.

Where To Start With SEO

SEOMoz SEO Expert Quiz.75 Questions

OK, its a little bit geeky and it will test you to the limit, but definitely worth a try is the SEOMoz SEO Expert Quiz. According to SEOMoz, “The SEO Expert Quiz has 75 action-packed questions and takes 30 minutes to complete.” It was pretty tough and I missed the ball with several answers in my rush to finish but the great thing is there’s a post-score analysis where they tell you where you went wrong. Brilliantly useful and educational.

Google SEO Guide for webmasters. Free PDF

Needless to say, all webmasters should heed to the ‘law of the Google’  and a good primer on what you should be doing and shouldn’t be doing to help position your website as high as possible in the search results is both Google’s own  webmaster resources  page and this PDF download on the basic’s of SEO, from choosing the right title tags, improving the structure of your URLs, Optimizing Content and even SEO for mobile phones.

Bing also have a thriving webmaster resources page, including detailed instructionals on SEO best practices.

Another bulging arsenal of SEO resources is from SEO Book and their Search Engine Optimization Tools page which features a pile of free and premium SEO tools from Firefox extensions through to web based SEO tools including things like a keyword suggestion tool and meta tag generator.

SEORGY

The authorative Search Engine Watch have the concise guide, ‘Back to Basics – SEO 101‘ whilst SEOMoz get a little more indepth with their ‘The Beginners Guide to SEO‘ which digs deep into every corner over ten very extensive chapters which you can follow in the web based version or hand over your email for the PDF download. Superb.

Free Beginners Guide to SEO

Other essential and detailed resources include, ‘SEO 101 Resources: Beginner’s Guides and Tutorials‘ from Search Engine Journal, which is a roundup of the best resources from around the web (and which mirror’s some of my choices here).

ArtDriver.com have another brilliantly curated list of tools ‘38 Free Online SEO Tools‘ which put me onto the Screaming Frog SEO Spider Tool. Basically a killer little desktop app which, to quote the website itself:

“spiders websites’ links, images, CSS, script and apps from an SEO perspective. It fetches key onsite page elements for SEO, presents them in tabs by type and allows you to filter for common SEO issues, or slice and dice the data how you see fit by exporting into Excel.”

Very handy, oh and there’s a great free version too (actually I’ve concentrated on free resources all round in this piece). Very simple and straightforward to use.

SEO Glossaries & Title Tags

If you’re baffled by the terminology and search engine definitions (hell, I still am) then SEOBooks, ‘The Search Engine Marketing Glossary‘ should be a massive relief as should be the HighRankings  ‘SEM/SEO Glossary‘ A to Z.

Dont forget the importance of your title tags with this ‘Title Tag SEO Best Practices‘ guide from SEOMoz either. Search Engine Watch also have a brilliant guide, ‘How to Write Title Tags For Search Engine Optimization‘ and sum things up well here:

Title tags are part of the meta tags that appear at the top of your HTML inside the < head> area. Think of title tags like the title of the chapter of a book. It tells people and search engines what your page is about.
Title tags are also part of what makes people decide whether to visit your site when it shows up in the search results. The title tag should contain important keywords to help the search engine determine what the page is about.”

Desktop SEO & WordPress Tools

A few more desktop based tools that are worth trying are the browser extension/toolbar SEOquake which is available for Firefox (where it holds top spot for most SEO downloads), Chrome, Opera & Safari.  SEO Doctor is another popular SEO extention (for Firefox only), there’s a detailed overview here.

There’s full lists of SEO extensions for Chrome here and Firefox here.

If you’re using WordPress (and millions are) then the ‘Best WordPress SEO Plugins For 2012‘ guide from iBlogZone is a great roundup, there’s even a ‘Part 2‘ and it covers all those SEO plugins you’ve heard of and some you haven’t. Nice.

Of course Yoast have one of the best and most popular WordPress SEO plugins around and their official SEO guide is equally as comprehensive, ‘The Definitive Guide To Higher Rankings For WordPress Sites‘.

SEO Audit Checklist

And, where would we be without an infographic . Search Engine Journal have a ’20 Minute (Or Less) SEO Audit Checklist’. Put together by  Inmotion Hosting.

The 20-Minute (Or Less) SEO Audit

The guide is broken into the following components:

  • Adjusting your browser
  • Evaluating your homepage
  • Testing the site’s global navigation
  • Reviewing category and subcategory pages
  • Checking for optimized content
  • Analyzing your site’s off-page SEO

And finally (phew!) from Kunocreative.com is their neat PDF printout ‘The Search Optimization Cheatsheet‘.

Kunocreative.com SEO Cheat Sheet
PS. Just as I was finishing, came across this,  ‘33 Free SEO Tools You Should Know About’ from WebGnomes. Great stuff. As always, please leave recommendations for all those hundreds of things I’ve probably missed in the comments. Enjoy!

Further Related Reading

 

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for Musicians (Ryan Tanaka)
SEO for Musicians Who Feel Like They’ve Been Left Behind (CD Baby)
SEO for Musicians: Understanding Search Engine Optimization and How It Leads to Sales (CD Baby)
SEO For Bands: Tips to Use Google to Increase Fans and Book More Shows (LinchpinSEO)
SEO For Musicians: Handout PDF  (Music Marketing Manifesto)
A Musician’s Guide to Search Engine Optimization (SEO) (DiscMakers)
Link Building Guide: 26 methods to help boost your search engine rankings in 2012 (Dave Cain)
SEO, Why You Are Doing it Wrong (Search Engine Watch)
The Power of Keywords (SEO Book)
Five Common SEO Mistakes (and Six Good Ideas!)  (Google Webmaster blog)
Free SEO Advice & Marketing Tips for the Music Industry  (SEOMoz)
Some Key SEO Tips From The Top (Area239.com)

The Complete Pinterest Guide For Power Users

    OK, so you’ve fallen for all the Pinterest hype and you’ve signed up and got started, now what? I hunted down some of the better resources, tools and how-to’s from the interwebs and sorted through the avalanche to target the best and most useful that’ll help you get the most out of your Pinning.  Just in case you’ve been slacking, here’s the official FAQs page  if you’re still playing catch up.

The Buzzsonic Music Industry Pinboard on Pinterest

 If you want to know how musicians and labels are using Pinterest you can see some great examples of execution via features at Read Write Web,  Hypebot,  MTV Hive,  Metablocks,  Make Use Of  and Billboard.

Also another more recent addition to the visual pinboard is the ability to directly pin tracks from Soundcloud. I added one of my own here.

 

99th Floor Elevators on Pinterest via Soundcloud

Soundcloud Unmutes Pinterest

“Pinterest is completely visually driven. Unlike other social networks that are focused on what you’re doing right now, Pinterest concentrates more on what you want to be, where you want to go, what you want to build in the future”. Thought  Matrix

First Things First. Tune Up Those Images

One of the main things to remember, and one of the ‘rules’ you should  stick by is the (my label!)  attribution  etiquette rule, that is, giving credit to where you  sourced that pinned image from. That means it shouldn’t be as lazy as doing a Google image search and lazily pinning what you find from the search giant. Credit the source!

Mashable recently published  ‘How to Make Images Stand Out on Pinterest’  which has a great infographic on how best to present your pinned images and optimise them for everyones benefit.

Pinterest Image Optimisation

Pinterest Image Optimisation

Pinterest Browser Extensions & Plugins

A  browser plugin (for Chrome) I swear by, which streamlines my image searching ten fold (at least) is the Tin Eye reverse image search tool, which works by adding an extra search option when you right click on any image in your browser. Click search and off it goes to find alternate sources and sizes of the image you’re looking at.

Pin Search is another simple but extremely useful browser plugin which adds an extra button onto the Pinterest page you’re browsing. ‘Search’ appears underneath the default three options of Repin, Edit and Comment when you hover over an image in Pinterest, zipping off to search Google images to dig out more options on the image you’re interested in.

I always try and remember to click through directly to the source of the pinned image before re-pinning just to make sure it doesn’t take me off somewhere it shouldn’t  (spammy framed redirect-affiliate links was a recent experience).

The Pinterest Pin It button (from Shareaholic) is another essential I use daily and if there is something sleeker and more feature packed, I have yet to stumble across it. It does what it says on the tin, “the easiest way to send images from any website to your pinboards”. Either click the button or right click on the image. Simple’s

One more on the Pinterest browser plugins that I use.  Share As Image Pro (until recently known as PinAQuote) lets you highlight text anywhere on the web and easily convert it into an image and post as a nicely coloured Pin. So, good for all those classic inspirational quotes and snippets of wisdom we all love so much. The ($2.99) Pro version lets you customise the text and background colours you pin. Worth it.

Share As Image Pro Browser Plugin

Share As Image Pro Browser Plugin

There’s an increasing amount of Chrome browser extensions for Pinterest and you’ll find all the official Pinterest tools on the Goodies page. These include a simple browser bookmarklet, follow and Pin It buttons for websites and the official iOS Pinterest App.

Calculate Your Pinfluence !

This is probably as irrelevant as Klout scores (CNN Money had a piece called ‘ Why Klout scores are possibly evil’ last year) but Pinreach is actually a quite useful mixture of ‘influence’ and analytics. The fledgling service analyses your popular boards by using repin numbers and shuffles the data from your boards via repins, likes, followers, pins and comments. You can also get data on your most popular repins.

Its great for gaining some quick insight and stats as to what is working best on your profile and for calculating which board needs more work.. You get a PR (Pinreach) score out of 100 (much like Klout) though I found Pinreach to be of much more  relevance  than Klout.

Pinreach Pinterest Analytics

Pinreach Pinterest Analytics

If you want to get more indepth on the analytics and what traffic Pinterest is sending to your website, Mashable have a very useful guide on How to Track Traffic From Pinterest in Google Analytics.

Pinerly I haven’t yet got access too, but Mashable have  (natch) and it ploughs a similar furrow to Pinreach but with more onus on running Pinterest marketing campaigns.  Pinpuff is another of what they’re calling Pinfluence tools, along the lines of Klout, with the promise of ‘pinperks’ but other than that looks very similar to Pinreach.

 Pinterest, Meet WordPress

Pinterest WordPress RSS Widget

When I last looked there was already 86 different Pinterest plug-ins for WordPress bloggers to add to their websites. Naturally, one will be enough for your site, which one depends on your own preferences but the majority of them simply give you the ability to display activity from your Pinterest account either in your sidebar with a drag n drop widget or via short codes, which let you add activity to pages and posts.

I looked and tried a few here on Buzzsonic.com and settled on the ‘Pinterest RSS Widget’ which enables you to display thumbnails of your Pinterest general feed (or a specific pinboard) in your sidebar and also the ability to add feeds to any posts and pages using short-codes.

Pipped into second place was ‘Pinterest Pinboard Widget‘ which displays some very nicely laid out thumbnails in your sidebar of your activity but unfortunately (as yet) no ability to display from specific pinboards which was the clincher for me. If you just want to display action from all your boards in one neat looking display this is the way to go.

‘Pretty Pinterest Pins’ was my weapon of choice initially but display size options were limited with no thumbnail square option which meant the pins took up much more space in the sidebar. Other than that it allows you to choose from specific pinboards, item count etc.

The neatest (at least for me here) social sharing WordPress plugin at the moment is Digg Digg, which gives you several options to share content, including ‘Pinning’. You can display buttons above or below content or choose the floating social sharing bar (which you can view next to this post). Similar to the one used by Mashable no less. Easy to set up, modify and looks great.

One service I nearly missed but stumbled on via Make Use Of minutes before finishing this post is Pinstamatic which is an insanely useful shortcut to posting things directly to any of your Pinboards. You can add website screenshots direct from a URL, post quotes, sticky notes, tracks from Spotify, your Twitter profile and a bunch more. Insanely addictive.

Pinterest, Where’s The RSS?

The Sociable  have a great guide on how to pull in RSS feeds from specific Pinterest Pinboards so I wont ramble on repeating what they’ve done so well.

” Following a specific board created by a user via RSS is less obvious. If you visit a user’s Pinterest Board you’ll see that there are no links to subscribe to that board’s RSS feed. But you can still generate a feed for it. To do this, first open the board (e.g. Felicia Day’s Geekin Board), then, Remove the last “/” from the URL and add .rss – your end URL will look like http://pinterest.com/feliciaday/geekin.rss ” read the full post at The Sociable…

12 More of the Most Useful Pinterest Articles from this Year

13 ‘Pinteresting’ Facts About Pinterest Users:Infographic (Mashable) Who are these feverish pinners? According to full service agency Modea, the majority are female mothers — 28 percent have a household income of $100k+.

Shopify Survey: Pinterest Users Spend 2X More (PinnableBusiness.com) Ecommerce store platform Shopify just released numbers on the profitability of Pinterest for their shop owners. They looked at over 25,000 Shopify online stores to see how Pinterest drives sales. The results are dramatic.

The Ultimate Guide to Mastering Pinterest for Marketing (HubSpot) As with any hot new social network that comes onto the scene, marketers are chiming in with, “Can I use it for marketing?” “…and, how?” The short answer? Absolutely. The longer answer? Read on to find out how.

20 Awesome Tools Which Will Have you ‘Pinteresting’ Like a Pro (The Next Web) With such an active community, it’s no surprise that there are a ton of other interesting tools, apps, and sites which aim to enhance the Pinterest experience beyond the Follow Button and Pin It button which can easily be installed on any website.

Proof That Pinterest Drives Sales, And Its Fans Spend Big (Fast Company) Pinterest users not only buy the products they pin, but spend more on average than their Facebook counterparts, according to new data from Shopify.

16 Ways Educators Can Use Pinterest (Infographic) (Mashable) OnlineUniversities.com have put together an infographic, which details how teachers can use Pinterest to organize lesson plans, distribute curricula, collaborate with other faculty, and even encourage student participation.

56 Ways to Market Your Business on Pinterest (CopyBlogger) Think those inspiring vision boards don’t result in referral traffic to websites and blogs? Think again. In January 2012, Pinterest drove greater traffic to websites than LinkedIn, Google Plus, Reddit, and Youtube — combined.

Infographic of the week: Pinterest Marketing Strategies (Populate Digital) The infographic gives you 64 marketing tips and tactics that you can apply to your Pinterest account now, to help give you a head start.

Pinterest Marketing Tips & Tricks to Drive Targeted Traffic(Search Engine Watch) Having little experience beyond personal playing around on it, my view was that Pinterest was shaping up to be a fun toy, but had little value for marketers. Of course, I love to be proven wrong when someone can bring the numbers to back up their experience with a new “toy.” Steve Gerencser from Steam Driven Media did just that.

How local businesses can do research and gain an edge with Pinterest (SmartBlogs.com) Sure, it’s easy for big brands such as Whole Foods to be successful but what about small and local businesses? The good news for local businesses is that Pinteret’s search feature makes it incredibly worthwhile for local businesses to be on Pinterest.

Why Online Marketers Better Get An Interest In Pinterest, Fast (Forbes) A few months ago I wrote of the need for brand managers to get “pinterested” due to the fact that women, AKA the one responsible for the majority of household purchase decisions has “developed an affinity for the latest and greatest social media platform.” It would also appear that those in the e-commerce world better also get “pinterested” if they have not already.

The Ultimate Pinterest Guide for Your Online Store (Shopify) The whirlwind of excitement that surrounds Pinterest provides online store owners a great opportunity to leverage it’s popularity (and overall awesomeness) to bring attention to their online store. Whether you’re already setup on Pinterest or you’re a complete newbie, this is a guide that will teach you the basics, and also help the more experienced pinners get the most from this popular social media platform.

Happy Pinning!

And don’t forget to connect with me on Pinterest OK and dig into some of my most popular boards too: Social Media, SEO & Digital Marketing  and the Buzzsonic Music Industry Board for starters.

Follow Area239.com on Pinterest

20 Killer WordPress Resources For Bands, Artists & Developers

I’ve been using WordPress since 2005 and I swear by it these days, simply because its so versatile, infinitely customisable, robust, oh, and its free too.

My early experience with content management systems was with PHP-Nuke, then Mambo, Joomla and B2Evolution (B2/Cafelog, was the precursor to WordPress).

But there has been incredible development on WordPress in the following years and I really couldn’t see myself using anything else, such is the support, the plug-ins and the adaptability of the platform.

Its something you never stop learning too, learning about plug-ins, themes (free and paid), how to tweak themes, add text widgets….

There’s also a whole raft of plugins that are aimed at musicians and bands, everything from gig management, to Soundcloud shortcodes, to download monitors (and all points in between). I’ll be covering this subject much deeper with an up to date list of killer WordPress plugins for bands, artists and labels within the next few days here.

Anyway, I’ve collected a whole box load of very useful resources over the years and really that’s the thing, if you’re prepared to read a lot you can turn yourself into something of a WordPress ninja with a little patience.

Remember that old Chinese proverb:

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

I’m not saying this is the definitive list of WordPress resources but its a great starter kit and will save you a lot of time should you be considering whether to go it alone with your own install, or whether you’d prefer to let someone else do the heavy lifting for you!

Getting Started Resources

Getting started with WordPress

Getting Started With WordPress from Tasty Placement is a great instructional that holds your hand with writing and editing webpages on your WordPress site and shows you the basics on how to manage WordPress, including logging in, posting new articles and pages, uploading images, creating and editing menus and widgets and some more advanced features.

Another good easy to navigate WordPress starters guide with easy to understand instructions is ‘A Simplified Users Guide to WordPress’, which, according to the authors is intended to be a simple guide to using WordPress for those new to managing a WP powered site. In particular those who’ve had their WP site set up for them by a web designer or developer.

And another worthwhile guide,if you had any lingering doubts, is from WPBeginner, called ‘Why You Should Use WordPress?’.

WordPress Mentor has a very handy WordPress setup checklist which runs through five difference stages and checklists to tick off. Install: The basic WordPress installation. Secure: Hardening the WordPress installation. Configure: Adjust WordPress settings. Connect: Connect WordPress to online services.Optimise: Adjust WordPress performance. There’s the HTML version or a much neater PDF download which you can get free for an email address. Worth it.

As if that wasn’t enough to read, Tentblogger has a huge series of blog posts under the umbrella, ‘The Ultimate Guide to Launching a WordPress-Powered Blog’. Sit yourself down, strap yourself in, there’s 55 posts on everything from WordPress security settings, SEO tips and tools, recommended Plugins,  setting up Google Analytics and all points in between. Brilliant.

Not forgetting the help pages from WordPress themselves, which of course are very detailed. There’s also support forums and a repository of Themes and Plugins.

Serverpress.Wordpress Desktop-Server

Another useful tool that is aimed squarely at developers, is DesktopServer from ServerPress, which basically enables you to have a server on your desktop machine (PC/Mac) so you can test and develop your WordPress install locally without publishing online until you’re quite happy with the results.

There’s a basic free edition which allows you to create up to three websites, or the paid version which has unlimited website projects. There are several other similar tools for Devs, like Bitnami, Instant WordPress and WampServer (and the Mac equivalent MAMP).

Now We’re Up And Running.

Things to consider after your WordPress install is up and running. Content writing tips, SEO and tech tools.

Ready-Set-Write-The-Ultimate-Guide-to-Blogging.Free PDF download

‘Ready, Set, Write: The Ultimate Guide to Blogging’, is a free PDF guide to getting the most from your blogging experience. Put together by the Content Marketing Institute, the 37 page guide runs through everything from developing your blogging voice and strategy, tips for writing really amazing content, getting your content seen and shared, measuring your impact and ensuring success. There’s a host of tips, case studies and tools here you can use to build and maintain a successful blog that benefits you and your business.

Ways To Create Compelling Content:Infographic.

Ways To Create Compelling Content:Infographic.

And, a really handy infographic on finding inspiration for great content, which today, a lot of the time means re-imagining other people’s ideas as infographics, but, seems to work for many. The title of the piece says it all, ’22 Ways to Create Compelling Content (When You Dont Have a Clue)’. 

And more content ideas from the Content Marketing Institute. ‘12 Things to Do After You’ve Written a New Blog Post‘ , ideas that I’m going to have to put into action once I’ve finished writing this blog post! But basically the post delves into ideas on how to spread your content successfully using social media, RSS and forums. Its basic stuff nowadays, but if you need some kind of bullet list you could do worse than start here.

Windows Live Writer

Windows Live Writer. Compose WordPress Posts Offline

You don’t always have WiFi when you’re on the move, despite this utopian dream of always on, everywhere, that’s hardly the case for most unless you have bottomless pockets! So, if I get the urge to write offline, Windows Live Writer is my weapon of choice. Why not just use Open Office, MS Office Word or a text editor?

Well, the advantage of Windows Live Writer is that as long as you sync it up with your WordPress blog (or multiple blogs) when you first set it up, it formats everything just like it would in WordPress and it has a preview function. You might even like it so much you could bypass going into the WordPress admin all together and use Live Writer from your desktop. Excellent tool.

Performance & Plugins

How To Speed Up WordPress And Boost Site Performance

How To Speed Up WordPress And Boost Site Performance

Here’s a really cool infographic that lays things out in easy to digest nuggets with instructions on ‘How To Speed Up WordPress And Boost Site Performance’, which kind of speaks for itself and looks into problems and solutions, like database cache and maintenance, javascript and stylesheets. Unashamedly geeky.

More geekiness (I guess!) from DBS Interactive who have an awesome WordPress reference guide, which basically is an online handbook ‘WordPress V3.0+ Template Tag Reference Guide‘, which guides you through the various template tags (obviously!) and is one of the best reference’s I’ve seen of this nature, comprehensive, well laid out and extremely useful. Naturally if you haven’t got to the stage where you want to get your hands dirty with coding then fair enough, but if you do….

And finally a couple of SEO resources.

The first is from Yoast, ‘The Definitive Guide To Higher Rankings For WordPress Sites‘. Yoast know a thing or two about WordPress SEO, being the people behind the super popular WordPress SEO Plugin and this is one of the most complete SEO guides you’re likely to see. Essential. And if you want a second opinion, DIYThemes have an equally essential, self explanatory guide, ‘WordPress SEO for Everybody’. An ongoing tutorial which the writers say, “in it, you’ll learn how to use ethical, legitimate ways to get your WordPress blog ranking higher in the search engines.” Good enough, and it certainly is.

That should be enough to keep you going for weeks I hope. If you have any further tips and resources I’ve missed out please mention them in the comments and we’ll keep this thing updated.

Related Reading

WordPress Now Powers 22 Percent Of New Active Websites In The U.S. (Techcrunch)
How to install and test WordPress on a local server (CNET)
7 Ways to Build a Business Around WordPress (Mashable)
The Reason You Should Draft Your Blog Posts Outside WordPress (Tentblogger)
WordPress Support Forums (WordPress.org)
The Many Advantages (and Secrets) of WordPress Sites (Blueglass.com)
Manage All Your WordPress Sites From One Dashboard (ManageWP)

Download this article as a PDF.

 

How to Become a News Ninja Using RSS

RSS has been much maligned of late but still remains one of the easiest and most convenient ways of keeping in touch with breaking news and subscribing to new content on your favourite websites and blogs.

My Overworked Google RSS Reader

Social Media Today, summed up RSS very well here: “using RSS in combination with Google Reader can be a very powerful option if you do content curation or disseminate information to a determined audience. I use RSS very actively as my primary channel for receiving information instead of having to remember every site I have to visit every day to get news.”

RSS Still A Killer App

There has been talk that Twitter and Facebook are replacing RSS as a key broadcaster of news, but thats something of an over statement, RSS is still a key app for me as I curate/read an extensive array of news feeds daily and Twitter is still way too ‘noisy’.

Subscribing to a specific RSS feed in Google Reader is still the best way, at least for me, to stay on top of any key developments in my field of  choosing and certainly in the Music Industry, Tech and Social Media field there isn’t a key name out there that isn’t blogging and syndicating that blog with an RSS feed. Fact.

RSS enables me to skim hundreds of article headlines in minutes enabling me to click only on those that are of key interest to me. This would highlight the importance of writing those killer article titles too!

My RSS Toolbox of Choice

I use the Chrome browser pretty much exclusively these days and there’s a couple of browser extensions I use that enhance my usage of RSS and my content curation in general.

RSS Subscription Extension adds one-click subscription to your toolbar and shows the familiar orange RSS subscription icon when a RSS feed is detected on the website you’re browsing making it an easy click and go to subscribe to a feed.

Postponer Manager is a pair of extensions that add extra function to Pocket (aka Read It Later). The Postponer Adder adds an icon next to every article in your Google Reader to add it to your reading list.

So, if you’re short on attention span or time you can simply click on the Adder icon next to the article you’re interested in, in your reader and the post will be saved automagically on your Pocket page for you to return to and read at leisure. Lifesaver! Sign up free here.

Postponer Adder Chrome Extension

Postponer Adder Chrome Extension

Feedly is basically a news curation plugin of sorts and syncs with your Google Reader to become your ‘Social News Reader’. Basically it does what services like Paper.li and Twylah do to your Twitter feed, turns them into personalised newspapers from content you’ve collected yourself (in this case from your collection of RSS feeds).

My Social Media RSS Feeds via Feedly

My Social Media RSS Feeds seen thru Feedly

You can use Reeder iOS app to sync your Google Reader account to your iPhone or iPad too.  For more tips there’s a great post from last month at Lifehacker that digs around for resources to customise your Google Reader experience here: ‘Supercharge Google Reader with Styles and Extensions’.

I’ve kind of moved away from desktop RSS readers simply because my reader is so busy it was using 70% of system resources at times and slowing everything else down! Not everyone is an ‘info freako’ like me and if you do want to read offline too then Feed Demon is about as good as it gets and syncs with Google reader too. Brill.

Your OPML Starter Kit!

Acronyms you’ve never heard of? We got em! OPML is, in laymans terms is a portable data format with  the most common usage being to exchange lists of web feeds between web feed aggregators. So.

Here’s a quick and easy lesson in how you can use it to move your collection of feeds around (or indeed back them up). I try and export my list of feeds from my Google Reader account monthly at least, then if for some (unlikely) reason my reader settings get corrupted I can simply re-import my original list.

To export your OPML list of feeds (which is actually a very small text file so its quite practical to share via email) in Google Reader go to Reader Settings, then the Import/Export tab then right click and download under OPML download (natch!).

Downloading your RSS feeds as an OPML file in G Reader.

If you have a specific category and want to grab just that collection of feeds, you’d click on the subscriptions title then ‘Folder Settings’, scrolling down to ‘Create a Bundle’ then save. You can see my collections below with several sharing options.

You can grab the OPML and download, email to your friends, get the HTML to post your collection as a widget in your blog or simply add the bundle as a link on your website.

RSS Bundles in Google Reader

Getting Started With Stuff to Read!

Lets assume you already have a Google reader account (and if you use GMail then you do). Here’s three OPML (XML) files for you to download from my own RSS reader account.

Search and SEO (right click and save as..) 36 different feeds,
Social Media  30 different feeds
WordPress  21 different feeds

After you’ve saved one or all of the files, fire-up your reader of choice and go to reader settings, then Import/Export and it’ll ask you to import your subscriptions, select an OPML file>Choose File>Upload and done. You’ll now see your categorised folder in your reader and you have more to read now than you can possibly manage!

Do comment below if you use any particular reader, RSS tool or browser extension that hasn’t got a mention here (and there is many!).

 

Related Reading

Supercharge Google Reader with Styles and Extensions (Lifehacker)
RSS is dead… long live RSS! How to replace your Google Reader shared feed (SocialMediaToday)
Replacing your RSS reader with Twitter + Hootsuite (ItsWorthNoting.com)
The War On RSS (Vambenepe.com)
Will Twitter Replace RSS? (Twitip.com)

Adding Music to Your Blog with Spotify in 60 Seconds

Spotify recently added Play buttons to their expanding list of viral functions, which basically means people like me and you can do this:

In all of 60 seconds. How so?

Go to your Spotify desktop app, right click on the track you want to add to your website like this.

Spotify for your website

I chose the brilliantly moody ‘Panoramic’ by the Stereoscopic Orchestra from the soundtrack to the Hughes Brothers underrated ‘The Book of Eli‘.

Go here and paste in the URL you just grabbed.

Grab the embed code and paste it into your site, blog, social profile, widget, where ever…

Pretty damn neat. You can use the compact widget like I have above or include artwork.

How to Press Up a Vinyl Record and add Instant Kudos to Your Music

This is a repost from a Buzzsonic post four years ago incredibly, all I’ve done is update the dead links and its all still of relevance, probably even more so now as the vinyl resurgence continues and with it being Record Store Day this weekend. UK and USA.
There’s a more indepth update due later this month.

OK then, its nothing short of amazing that today, theoretically you can have your music on sale, worldwide in one of the biggest music retailers stores on the planet. Without a tour, without a manager and even without a record deal. You can be based in Brighton, UK (for instance) and someone in Alaska or Australia or Russia or wherever can download your music without leaving the house. You don’t have to leave the house to get it on sale either.

Also, if you signed up with a good distributor, you’ll be keeping around 75% of the retail price too.

I must admit, when I first saw my music on sale on the iTunes store it was exciting, as it was another ‘career landmark’ for me. Still, as music career landmarks go it really was no comparison to the day I walked into the Virgin megastore on Oxford Street, London, the day of its original release in 1996 when the original version of the 99th Floor Elevators ‘I’ll Be There’, went on sale.

There it was, prominently displayed in a rack with all the other big 12 inch releases of the week. And there it was in the big HMV just up the road too. More importantly to me, there it was in stock and in the top 10 buzz chart in Trax Records in Soho, ten minutes walk away from the glare of the west end. A few days later ‘I’ll Be There’ had gatecrashed the national pop charts.

I used to spend a lot of money in dance music specialist Trax back in the days in the late 80s when I had to travel 160 miles by coach from my home in South Yorkshire to seek out those elusive Euro imports and Belgian New Beat gems that only Trax had.

And there is the point of this article. In a world where you don’t even have to leave the house to get the latest 12 inch remix or latest indie release or even pay for music anymore, how do you as an artist make a difference when everybody is a digital record label and everybody can sit next to Elton on the virtual record shelf?

“Further hinting at physical music format’s dismal future, a new study shows 48 percent of U.S. teens did not buy a single CD last year. This means not ‘Graduation’, not ‘Kala’ and not even anything from that Soulja Boy guy. It means literally not a single one.” Brock Thiessen from the Exclaim.ca article, ‘Teens Not Buying CDs Anymore?’

“I think the time is not too far off where some releases come out on vinyl and MP3 only — no CD. But who knows.” Josh Maddel, Other Music on Wired.com, Jan 2007

If you’ve more than a just passing interest in the state of the music industry you may have noticed a recent surge of interest and press on the apparent vinyl revival. Recently a representative from Sony BMG, mentioned that his parent company is working on releasing its entire back catalog on vinyl. Even Warners interest in the format has been revived.

“It’s not a significant part of our business, but there is enough there for me to take someone and have half their time devoted to making vinyl a real business,” says John Esposito, president and CEO of WEA Corp., the U.S. distribution company of Warner Music Group, which posted a 30% increase in LP sales last year.


So, there’s no vinyl pressing plants left anyway right? Very wrong. There’s a handful of pressing plants across the USA, UK, Europe and even two active manufacturers in Australia.

“One thing we took away from the talk that I feel is pretty important is pressing size. Some efforts are getting to the point where the records aren’t going to hit store shelves anymore. We‘re past the point where it can be difficult to move 300 copies. You folks making vinyl should strongly consider even a slight increase in the number of copies made available. The demand is there as well as the infrastructure to handle it. In addition, increasing the number of available copies should do well to keep the eBayers off for a while. If you can do 300 copies, you might as well do 500. If you know you can sell 500, it’s very likely you can sell 1000. ” Tonys Tales of Texas BB discuss the Vinyl Revival panel at SXSW.

Pressing up a release on vinyl is undoubtedly more expensive than CD but as a limited run single or album its more of an event and even a great PR exercise. Safely Meeting Record label boss Carlos Wells sums it up best here. ” The vinyl, it’s more of an event. If you throw on a CD, you can almost toss it in from across the room. A record, by contrast, is a process.  In 20 or 25 minutes you’re going to have to go over, take the arm off, flip it over. You wind up paying more attention.”

Creating a record is a complex process, but essentially breaks down into six separate steps.

Taken from the (now defunct) Quick Press website.

1. Mastering: A mastered DAT or CD is brought to a vinyl press. Two main changes must occur to begin the process of audio mastering, tonal balancing and level adjustment.

2. Cutting: Once the mastered version is finished, the track will be cut into lacquer. A digitally created track will be converted into an analogue wave for the cutting lathe. Transferred through an amplifier, the wave travels down the arm of a diamond-cutting stylus and onto a rotating lacquer disc.

3. Stampers: The lacquer or vinyl master is delivered to the pressing plant. The plant completes the following steps:

a) The vinyl master is covered with a thin spray and dipped in a bath of electrolyte. A current is passed through the solution and the silver-sprayed lacquer becomes coated in nickel which creates a negative image of the vinyl.

b) A second generation negative is created and the nickel plate is peeled from this lacquer to become the stamper. The stamper represents a negative image of one side of the vinyl.
c) Two stampers are needed to press up both an A and B sided record.

4. Test Pressings: With both stampers in place, a “puck” of vinyl is introduced into the press. Two labels are placed above and below the puck and the press is closed. In order to flow seamlessly into the grooves of the stamper, the vinyl is heated up to 200 C.

It is then rapidly cooled so that the vinyl can be immediately lifted out of the press. This whole process takes approximately 25 seconds. Normally, a short pressing of 10 copies is made first. These “test pressings” are sent to the record label for approval.

5. Labels: Many people are under the misconception that a “white label” is much cheaper than producing a professionally designed four-colour label. The real expense, however, comes from having the label incorporated into the vinyl. The colour of the label really makes no difference in this process.

6. Artwork: Image is key in almost every industry, making the music industry no exception. Great consideration should go into the label and its packaging, as well as the marketing accompanying its promotional push.

For a rough guide as to how much music you can fit on a vinyl record Nashville veterans UR Pressings have a useful FAQ and quick reference here:

7″ – 4:30 minutes per side @ 45 rpm; 6:00 minutes per side @ 33 1/3 rpm
10″ – 9:00 minutes per side @ 45rpm; 12:00 minutes per side @ 33 1/3
12″ – 12:00 minutes per side @ 45 rpm; 18:00 minutes per side @ 33 1/3 rpm

And there’s more record manufacturing tutorials here and here.

California based Rainbo Records have several short run vinyl pressing deals which start at $1329 for 500 12inch singles and $829 for 500 7inch singles. Things like picture sleeves would add to that cost.

Some pressing plants, like United Records Pressings in Nashville are offering vinyl + digital package deals which includes a secure digital music hosting service, custom digital download coupons with unique one-time-use codes, packaged together. With the popularity of new USB turntables kids can plug their vinyl straight into their computer and rip to MP3 anyway.

In the UK (quotes taken from Curved) expect to pay around  £850 for 500 12inch pressings and around £600 for 300 7inch singles (+VAT!). Take into account that there is a huge amount of variables/possibles and generally speaking the more you have pressed the cheaper the amount per unit. Also, if you need a repress then you wont have the expense of having plates to make up, which are the biggest single outlay in the whole process.

As for vinyl distribution, well for these short runs a band or DJ would be better served selling discs at gigs and via mail order using Paypal and publicizing things on their Bandcamp profile and own website.

Such is the fragile nature of the vinyl distribution business that many of the once thriving vinyl specialists have disappeared, leaving a narrow selection of ultra niche companies and major label offshoots.

If you have a release in Florida you don’t want to be trusting your stock with a distributor thousands of miles away in California. DIY for short runs. Vinyl record mailers you can get here or here in the USA. Here and here in the UK.

“In the United Kingdom, where the CD single is basically dead, there is such a resurgence in vinyl that retailers can’t keep up with capacity. In the U.S., figures as high as 22 per cent are being floated about the growth in vinyl record sales.”
(National Post : March 2008)

If you want to see what your tracks would sound like on vinyl you can get a one off 7″ cut for around $50 from Custom Records (in the US), who’ll even go as far as pressing it in colour vinyl and giving it a picture sleeve for an extra $58! In Europe you can find these ‘lathe cuts’ at Dr Dub in Austria and Dub Studio in Bristol. There are a few more, including legendary lathe cutter Peter King in New Zealand.

USA Pressings:

Archer Record Pressing (Detroit, Michigan)
Quality Record Pressings (Salina, Kansas)
Erika Records (Downey, California)
United Record Pressing (Nashville,Tennessee)
Morphius (Baltimore, Maryland)
Alpha Record Services (Plantation, Florida)
RecordPressing.com (San Fransisco, California)
Trutone (New Jersey, NJ)
Record Tech Inc (Camarillo, Califronia)
Bill Smith Custom Records (El Segundo, California)
Musicol Recording (Columbus, Ohio)

European Pressings
Key Production – London, UK
Curved Pressings – London, UK
JTS Studio – London, UK
MPO – France
The Vinyl Factory – London, UK
Record Industry – Netherlands
GZ Vinyl (Czech Republic)

Related Reading

Return of the Record: Vinyl Sales on the Increase (Amoeba.com)
Amazon Vinyl Store (Amazon.com)
Teens Not Buying CD’s Anymore? (Exclam.ca)
Hard to Find Records (HTFR.com)
Vinyl Gets its Groove Back (MIT via Time.com) pdf file. Slashdot response
Vinyl Maybe Final Nail in CD’s Coffin (Wired.com) Digg response IndieHQ response
Putting a New Spin on Vinyl Records (NPR)
How to Reissue a Record (Classic Records)
The Making Of Vinyl (Random Good Stuff)
Vinyl vs. iPod (The Huffington Post)
The CD is Dead… Long Live the New CD ? (LAist)
The End Of the Music Biz As We Know It (Forester Research)
The Inevitable March of Recorded Music Towards Free (Techcrunch)

How Vinyl Records Are Made

This post first appeared on Buzzsonic back in 2009 but I thought seeing as its Record Store Day here in the UK and in the USA and elsewhere, it was worth a repost. Seems more topical now than it did back then actually what with all the renewed interest in vinyl and increase in sales and manufacturing, so…

In support of my recent post, ‘It’s Official, Vinyl Not Dead Shock’ and my older more detailed look at getting vinyl records pressed, ‘How To Press Up a Vinyl Single and Add Instant Kudos to Your Release’ , I dug around YouTube and found a bunch of instructional videos that should fill in the blanks for bands and artists looking for the inside look on vinyl pressings, cutting and mastering.

Having said that, Vimeo came up trumps with better quality instructionals but its also worth looking at this YouTube video of Detroit techno cutting engineer and producer legend, Ron Murphy who passed away almost a year ago now.

If you play Detroit techno and have played records with the letters NSC etched into it, you’ve played music that has been mastered by Ron. In fact most of the records that have come out of Detroit have been mastered by him.

Related Research

Vinyl Pressing Plants Listings  (Lathe Trolls Wiki)
Long Live Vinyl (Mastered and Manufactured) In Detroit (LX7.ca)
Vinyl Pressings (YouTube.com)
Everything You Need To Know About Vinyl-PDF (Tunecore.com)

People Click The Strangest Things….

I knew that charity shops were doing a great trade in old vinyl, Domino Records have even had Arctic Monkey’s exclusives via the Oxfam store, but I was quite taken aback at the flurry of activity from this Tweet:

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/Buzzsonic/status/192159967460073472″]

The RT’s continue to accumulate and after an  hour the link (using Bit.ly analytics) had already got 165 (and rising) clicks. Well, obviously those aren’t server melting stats but an eye opener for me as to what you’d think was ‘link bait’ and what actually is!

bitly-oxfam-vinyl-store

Related Reading

Charity Shop Vinyl Challenge Pt2 (Sabotage Times)
Generation Why (Oxfam)
Shop the Beatles at Oxfam (Oxfam.org.uk)
Charity Shop Classics (Mixcloud)

 

How To Follow an Interesting Twitter Conversation (On One Page)

An interesting question. I posted this Tweet

[blackbirdpie id=”191088423925317633″]

from @Mark_Mulligan which had a bunch of responses which involved a lot of clicking and timewasting if you’re reading via Twitter’s web page. A quick search via the Goog came up with 445 million possibles but thankfully Brad McCarty at TheNextWeb hit paydirt with the top result, a useful run down on ‘how to follow a Twitter conversation’.

Which basically lead me to Aaron’s Twitter Viewer where you add that long number at the end of the Tweet URL and bingo, you get this:

Aaron's Twitter Viewer, helped Buzzsonic view a twitter conversation

  How cool….

EDIT..

I noticed the conversation on Aaron’s app seemed to get cut off along the way so I’m continuing my search. I tried Twitter’s own search using my user name but that sends back the flow from all interaction including none related streams.