Comparing 4 Most Popular Blog Engines – Which one is right for you?

Original posted on Relevanza, Inc. Site

Which Blog Software is right for me?  How do I get started? Who can help me?

These are all valid questions!  And there are no easy answers.

Most of the time your decision will depend on a few variables you will need to consider. And, sometimes, after writing (blogging) for a year or so you may decide your original assumptions are out of date or have changed.

What does one do then? Start over? Shell out more money to convert your original site?

Our team deals with a variety of different software writing/blogging packages – and we’ve tried many more. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. The world of Internet communication is filled with trade-offs.

So let’s get started…

My number one software for about 3 years is WordPress. It lets you start out as a small site, get up and running fast and keep growing. With the help of the community of this open-source platform, you are able to grow and increase the features set and sophistication of your web presence.

In 2012, there are 60 million websites built on top of WordPress. Fifteen percent the new domain names (URLs) set up last year use WordPress. It’s an easy choice when you have a new business and need a website: build it on top of WordPress, self-hosted.

But what if you have had a website and don’t have the time or funds to convert the site?  Using a subdomain (blog.yourdomain.com) with any of the free services will get you started. When the time and circumstances are right, you can migrate the whole site into one content management system.

WordPress.com & WordPress self-hosted (WordPress.org

WordPress.com & WordPress self-hosted (WordPress.org) come from the same stable of open-source developers and migration from one to another is easy when your site matures.

We published last week an info graphic by WPBeginners that illustrated the main differences between a WordPress.com and a self-hosted instance of WordPress for your website. Read more here:

So the two top spots, in our view, are taken by WordPress self-hosted (WordPress.org) and WordPress.com.

Blogger/BlogSpot

There are two more free services that have a long history as well as a lot of users. One is Blogger, the blog engine run by Google, which just recently received a total overhaul and is now equipped with small business level features, like integration of AdSense and site analytics as well as some great layouts.

Blogger was, a long time ago, the distant cousin in Google’s software family. It’s one of the oldest blog engines and has had a large following, especially among individuals and personal blogs. Only recently with the arrival of Google+ has it experienced a major feature upgrade and was integrated with other Google services. Various themes are available but, of course, not as vast as for WordPress.com or Tumblr. Whoever stuck it out on blogspot.com has been rewarded with an interesting upgrade. For serious businesses, connecting it with a domain should be obligatory.

Tumblr

Tumblr - Follwo the world's creatorsThe other free Blog service that made it onto this list is Tumblr which had its greatest year in 2011 when it went from 11 million users to 90 million users. Tumblr is a blog engine with a restricted set of features but what it lacks in options or integration it makes up for with social network integration, ease of use, mobile integration for visitors and contributors and search engine visibility. The themes are mostly customizable with a few clicks and settings. The range of out-of-the box features allows for a fast set-up and wide distribution over the social webs. It also has a great array of social features called like”? and “reblog”? to spread the work.

Yes, you can integrate it with your own domain name or subdomain of your exisiting website. Our Social Media Bootcamp blog is built on Tumblr and helped us assess the blog engine in a real life setting that requires rapid updating from various locations.

Compare 17 individual features to find the right solutions for you.

All four blog engines allow you to update and post via mobile applications, be it from your smartphone or tablet. That feature is important these days and, for us, is a serious qualifier for this list.

Below, you will find a list of features, an overall comparison of the four engines. We have the three onsite free services stacked up against the WordPress self-hosted installation.

A comparison table features/ advantages and disadvantages for Blogger, WordPress, Tumblr. If you see the symbols, (++) ,next to a feature, it means you shouldn’t start a blog without it, even if you work with your web developer, who might have a different preference. When you see this link, (How?), the link will take you to a page that explains how to implement a particular feature on the blog platform. I didn’t research all features for their ease of implementation but I was curious about a few and checked them out. Underneath the feature matrix you’ll find brief explanations for each feature listed.

Compare Features across Blog Engines

Feature WP.com Self-Hosted WP (WP.org) Blogger Tumblr
Account Costs free hosting fees $8 – $35month (or higher) free free
RSS feed/
Category feeds (++)
yes/ yes (How?) yes/ yes (How?) yes/yes (How?) yes/no
Own Domain (++) $12 – 24/year ~10 – $40 per year 10 p.year + GoogleApps yes (How?)
Subdomain Existing Domain $12-24/year n/A Y-Integration of GoDaddy free of charge yes, no mention of cost. (How?)
Multi-author w/ WP.com profile yes w/ un/pw from WP instance yes /w google account yes/w.tumblr.com account
Multi-Blogs  w/ WP.com Profile no w/ google account yes/ w/tumblr account.
Post via email (++) yes yes yes (How?) yes
(How?)
Auto-post FB/Twitter FB/Twitter no Twitter
Mobile Version (++)  Yes Yes/via plugin & theme yes yes
Export/Move content yes yes no/yes via customized import/export scripts no
Adsense/Adserver integration no, you will see other people’s advertising with your content yes on any network, with selection of theme Google Adsense account yes, via customized Theme.
Social Features on site yes no yes yes
Share Buttons(++) yes yes, plugins available yes, yes
Spam Filter for Comment (++) Yes Via plugin (Akismet) Auto-system yes
Allow 3rd Party comment system no yes, via plugin no yes, w/ Theme

Import blog yes, WP from Tumblr (How?) yes, other WP yes, Blogger blogs only.
(How?)
from Blogger (How?)
Post via Mobile Apps
iOs/Android/others (++)
yes/yes/yes/ (How?) yes/yes/yes/ (How?) 3rd party apps yes/yes/no more..

What do the features listed entail and why they are important?

Account Costs

The costs mentioned here are the initial set-up fees. Depending on your level of comfort with configuring your own account settings and the settings of your blog, you still might need to hire a professional for the initial set-up. The costs referred to here are only the initial costs to have an account and start a blog. Some of the other features mentioned in this comparison chart will incur additional charges.

RSS Feeds:

Are essential and needed to reach the widest possible spread of your posts around the internet. Either your integration service set-up will use them or your readers will use them. Around this blog and on Above the Noise we have a whole series of RSS related posts. On your blog, you will need to have categories in smaller groups to help your readers find relevant content. (++)

Own domain/subdomain:

As a business owner, you need to make sure that all your online activities support your brand and market your domain. Even if you use one of the free systems, you should invest in your own domain and connect it to your blog on WordPress, Blogger, and Tumblr. (++)

Multi-Author:

A Blog becomes much richer if you include others from your staff and or associates as authors on your blog. The burden of coming up with new content can be spread around and for your readers the experience is so much richer when they can hear multiple sides of an issues or different ways for problem solution or just different opinions. All blog software allows for multi-author set-up. All you need is an account, either on the service or on your self-hosted WP, for example. ‘

Multiple Blogs

Most people won™t have a need for multiple blogs. It’s hard enough to fill one blog with good, relevant and engaging content. But, sometimes as a business owner in a niche market it might be useful to team up with strategic partners and create a multi-topic blog and be great resources to each other’s customers. It also is helpful when you are part of a networking group with a decent online presence that you can guest post on the networks site, i.e., also on the same system.

Post via Email:

Sometimes it’s just easier to think about writing an e-mail than posting to the web where you have to login, get accustomed to a new interface, when technology distracts from the thought you want to jot down. WordPress programmers recognized this very early on and built in a way to post to our blog via e-mail. (++)

Auto-Post:

In order to make posting to social media less of a chore after you posted to your blog, you might be able to add your twitter account and your Facebook account to the settings page and authorize your site to post as you to the social networks.

Mobile Version:

By the end of 2012, it’s estimated over 50% of mobile subscribers will have smartphones, it’s imperative that your website/blog is recognizes when a mobile device is used to access your site and presents a different view of the site, optimized for mobile viewing. (++)

Export/Move content:

The big advantage of using free and low cost services is the feature set includes provisions to pack-up and leave when you find a more viable system or when you reach the point that you move on. In our 10 year experience as web consultants, the biggest hurdle to successfully moving on is the difficulty clients have in untangling content from the stronghold of hosting services or web developers. Setting up initially on WordPress.com and, later, moving to WordPress/self-hosted (WP.org) is definitely the easiest transition path. The export from the Tumblr, or Blogger will have its challenges.

 Adsense/Adserver integration:

At first it might not be all that interesting for small business to have ads on their website. But it might prove beneficial if you participate in affiliate marketing or for a publishing company that decides to monetize parts of the site.

Social Features:

As a user on the networks of WordPress.com, Tumblr.com and Blogger.com you can follow other users, like their posts and re-blog their posts with a few easy steps. You will not be able to recreate easily this kind of on-site connectivity with a stand-alone self-hosted wordpress site or other content management systems.

Share Buttons:

A row of icons on the bottom of each article that allows for on-click sharing on the most popular social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and also some of the lesser known ones like StumbleUpon, Reddit or Delicious. (++)

Spam Filter for Comments:

Your blog won’t be able to survive long without enabled comment spam filter. This can be accomplished with a built-in feature or by allowing a third-party service to monitor your comment section or prevent spam from being posted. (++)

Allow third-party comment system:

For a richer comment administration, you can consider using an external service for your site. Disqus.com, Livefyre, IntenseDebate are the most popular systems, and provide their own community of people engaging on different kind of sites.

Import Content:

It’s the opposite side of moving between the worlds. One part is the export of existing content and then you need the new software to have mechanism to import your content from another system

Post via Mobile Apps:

Your site might benefit from real-time posting while you are on the road or at an event. Mobile apps on the smartphone or tablet platforms will make it possible to post photographs right from your camera to your website/blog.

Please make sure to post your questions and thoughts in the comment section and what your experience is using any of the mentioned systems. Are features missing? What else would you need to know?

Get control of your non-profit with Salesforce.com

(or, how to tame an 800 pound gorilla)


If you manage a non-profit organization, you are, without a doubt, juggling multiple tasks on a daily (if not hourly) basis. Staffing, managing a volunteer base, seeking out and soliciting donors and donations, planning fund raisers, maintaining an online presence (i.e., website, blog, e-newsletter, Facebook, Twitter, etc.), planning and executing mailings, all compete for a spot on your agenda. So, who has time to track all of this activity, and, better yet, how is it going to get tracked?  And, if I find a system that will allow me to reign all of this in, how much will it cost to implement, (as if resources aren’t already stretched to the breaking point)? No time and too much money, right? No need to despair, the 800 pound gorilla just got a little easier to tame.

Salesforce.com is probably the most widely used Customer Relationship Management (CRM) on the market today, and includes a package specific to non-profits, who, by completing a very simple application process, can qualify for 10 free Enterprise Edition user licences. Through Salesforce.com Foundation, eligible organizations receive not only the initial 10 licenses free, but steep discounts on all future licenses, to ensure non-profits can stay in the game and focus their efforts where they count the most“- fundraising and community outreach! Salesforce offers almost unlimited customization possibilities, along with scalability; as your organization grows, Salesforce will keep up with your evolving contact and donation management activities and requirements. In fact, according to their website, more than 10,000 non-profits and higher education institutions of all sizes are using Salesforce.com to improve their organizations’ impact and further their mission and vision goals.

In the “Cloud”

You’ve probably heard the term, “cloud computing”?, but, what is it? One of the most attractive aspects of Salesforce.com to a burgeoning or fund-challenged non-profit is that the Salesforce application “runs in the cloud”?, so users can access it anywhere via an internet connected computer or mobile device. This eliminates the need for your organization to purchase and maintain costly hardware and software –Salesforce.com deals with those headaches for you through its secure technology infrastructure, (including scheduled upgrade releases throughout the year). This also means you can be up and running in a shorter period of time, depending on your customization needs, etc. Bottom line, you’re free to give undivided attention to your non-profit’s mission. What a concept, right?

Manage Your Mission

Speaking of mission, perhaps over time you’ve found that your non-profit has had to take on a broader range of responsibilities, and provide a wider scope of services for the constituency it serves. Certainly, in these tough economic times, many businesses and organizations can relate to that scenario. And, in the case of non-profits, it means doing more with fewer donations and government funds and subsidies. Salesforce.com can be the mission-critical piece you need to make it easier to build and maintain valuable relationships with donors, and keep the lines of communication open. And, more regular and consistent communication with your constituents means more funds in the coffers. You and your organization will have the ability to work smarter (not harder):

  • create and update donor, board member and volunteer profile and contact information“ everything you need to know about them, so you can keep them in the know about you
  • manage each phase of the donation process from monetary to in-kind pledges to actual collection and posting, (including recurring donations)
  • target and track campaigns, programs and events
  • configure and send customized and automated e-mail communication and reminders to your constituents from within Salesforce.com itself
  • create automated follow up reminders and tasks to volunteers and staff tracks all opportunity-related data including milestones, decision makers

To make the jump to a technology solution even simpler, (for those non-profits with more fundamental needs, and who just want to get up and running), Salesforce.com’s ‘Nonprofit Starter Pack’? allows for an even easier implementation with a pre-built data structure, but with loads of customization options.

If your curiosity has been piqued, see if Salesforce may be right for your non-profit.

 

Next time, I’ll explain how non-profits can use Salesforce.com to manage and track workflow, donations and communications.

 

Gorilla image courtesy of uganda.safarisgorillas.com.

Facebook Business Pages: A Primer

If I build it, they will come — maybe? 

So, you’ve jumped into (or, are thinking about jumping into), the social media fray to expand your business or organization’s online marketing horizons, by creating a Facebook business page. Good for you! You’re on the right track, so congratulate yourself. A lot of small business owners or organizations don’t even bother to create a page — they’re simply not on? Facebook, (or online, for that matter).

Formerly known as a fan? page, a Facebook business page can provide greater visibility and interaction amongst your community of users, members, customers, fans, etc., and expose your organization to an even broader audience. But, just because it’s there, doesn’t necessarily guarantee your page will garner the attention it needs to thrive. With that in mind, rather than detailing the mechanics of creating a Facebook business page, this post will talk about some of the expectations you should set for the launch of your page, and building the momentum. (In case you are interested in the mechanics of creating a business page, you can check them out here.)

It’s a process.

Getting people to like? (or, become a fan) of your page, isn’t as easy as it may seem. Just because you’ve created a business page doesn’t mean people are going to automatically flock towards it in droves and like? it, as soon as it hits the airwaves. In fact, quite the contrary may be the case. Disappointing, right? Think about it another way. Hopefully, in your other business-building efforts, whether they be developing a website, e-mail marketing, blogging, using other social media outlets, etc., you’ve had a plan to launch and grow each one of those efforts. 

Your Facebook business page is no different. In order to flourish and become the hub of activity you want it to be, you need a plan, you need to work that plan, and incorporate it into your ongoing marketing processes. Make sure your core audience knows about your Facebook page, and invite them to it, encourage them to like it, and start spreading the word. People need to be lured to your page.

Assuming you have an opt-in e-mail list, definitely send out an invitation to your subscribers via e-mail (do this several times, over time) letting them know about your business page and encouraging them to join or “like”. Ideally, provide them with a description of the page and an incentive to join. Be sure to have the Facebook logo/badge appear in your e-newsletters. And, don’t forget to include a link to your business page in every e-mail you send out.

Invite visitors to post their comments, links and photos. Remember, users have to like? your page in order to interact with your page in this way.  Pay attention to the folks who are visiting your page on a regular basis, posting comments, and tagging you on other pages.  These are the folks who will get the word out.

Appeal to your core audience — those who know you.

When embarking on the launch of your Facebook page, remember that you already have a cheering section, or a core audience — every group (hopefully!) does! These are the people who are or may eagerly become active in the quest for change, for leading related efforts and initiatives, and for getting others excited and spreading your organization’s message. Reach out to these folks first, and get them involved in talking about your business page.  And, build your promotional army by hand selecting the major players, (i.e., sponsors, endorsers, major donors, advertisers, etc.), sending them messages thanking them for their support, and then telling them that you need their help. Make them feel important and like they’re a vital force behind  whatever you’re doing. Get them talking about you and tagging you in other places on Facebook. These types of actions increase trust in your “brand” and build your credibility, (in other words, it gives you “street cred”).

Keep in mind that these folks are usually the ones with very large social networks on sites like Twitter or Facebook. Ask them to use Facebook’s Suggest feature to suggest? that their friends “like” your page.  BUT — don’t forget to reciprocate; it’s not all take and no give.  Help your organization by showing a willingness to help your fellow warriors who are on a similar quest.

Make your business page a forum.

Bottom line, no one wants to join a group where they don’t have a voice. They want to interact with others who have a similar passion — and, feel like they’re being listened to. One of the best ways to get people to “like”your page is to use it as a forum where you ask and listen to your audience’s advice. Let your customer, donors, volunteers, etc., lead by turning your business page into a place where users can express themselves — talk about what they don’t like, and things like they’d like to see you do in the future. If you have an upcoming campaign, initiative or product you’re working on, encourages people to offer their input. If word gets out that your Facebook page is where you go to get ideas, suggestions, feedback and opinions, people are going to want to be a part of that. Make your page the place where your audience  can go to get heard.  Remember, the more “eyeballs” seeing your page, the better!

 

Image courtesy of smallbiztrends.com.

 

eBook: How To Use Facebook to Spread Ideas – Sharing 101

This eBook: contains four articles on central sharing features and tagging on Facebook. Articles we posted over a period of time, on Above The Noise newsletter and blog. Many people are still very fond of printing and ready on paper in magazines, and books, we provide a compilation of our work in eBook format and you are able to print them on your own printer. 

 

It’s also the content of my part of the  “Interactive Workshop: Social Media in Less Time Than You Think” I partnered with Sandy Lender, fantasy author, publisher and friend on February 10,  2010

 

Please click here for download.

 

 

Online Round Table: How To Set-up and Maintain A WordPress Site

 

Tomorrow’s ORBIT we will discuss what you as a business owner would need to know about WordPress as your website platform.  What decision you need to make and what options you have. What you need to do yourself and how to delegate specific tasks.  How to produce content and how to prepare it for the web. Delegate posting or writing.

 

WordPress is a powerful website platform, with a unique way to support your needs from the vary basis online presence to a full blown social media ready content hub. The site grows with your companies skill levels.

 

Join us to morrow for a unique way to look at web site hosting, content management and continuation of a great communication tool to reach your audience.

 

Register here

 

Digging for gold with MailChimp’s Analytics360

Data mining the MailChimp way

Now more than ever, it’s essential that business owners get the biggest bang for their buck with regards to marketing efforts. Doing so requires digging in, and doing some data mining, (searching stores of data for patterns and trends, to better understand customer behavior and preferences), to determine the success or failure rate of those efforts.  Web traffic is measured to see the popularity of web sites (your online “door”) and individual pages or sections within a site.

Obviously, the ultimate measure of success is driving more traffic in the door.  But, what if there is no door, per se? What if we’re talking about driving traffic to your web site? Your web site is a critical piece of your overall marketing strategy, and, chances are, so is some sort of regular e-communication with your target audience. So, it makes sense that tracking and analyzing traffic stats, (mining that data “gold”), and how your e-communications are influencing that traffice,  should be a going concern of your day to day operations. But, you may be stumped as to “where do I find these all important stats?” and, ” what do I do with them once I’ve got ’em?”.

 

In previous posts, I’ve talked about our love affair with MailChimp, and all it’s feature-rich glory. And, in its quest to be your one-stop-shop for all things e-marketing related, they offer a great (and, free) tool called “Analytics 360”,  that allows you to pull and consolidate stats from your website traffic tools (such as Google Analytics) right into your MailChimp campaign reports page. Of course, the only prerequisite to activating Analytics360 (aside from being a MailChimp user), is making sure you have your Google Analytics account setup for your website, (easy as pie to do), and that it’s setup to track conversions.

 

Upon clicking the Analytics360 link, MailChimp goes to work for you pulling in your website stats, and displays them on a one-stop-shop page. You can see not only how many people might have opened your message and clicked on links, you can also see site traffic, site traffic by geographical region, top referrer sites, and top content viewed on website.

 

Right off the bat, you can see at-a-glance data, including an activity  timeline, showing you the peaks and valleys related to your web site traffic, as it pertains to the timing of campaigns and associated Twitter “tweets”, including how many visits were generated by both, (represented by dots or nodes on the timeline).  Analtyics360 allows you to view the timeline display based on traffic to the site generated by e-mail, referral sites, organic referrals, (i.e., coming from search engines or directories), and all traffic combined.  You’ll be able to determine which campaigns were successful in elevating your message and delivering more visitors ot your online “door”.  And, by analyzing the content of the most successful campaigns, you’ll be able to pick up on trends, that will allow you to hone and target future communications.

 

Data related to content on your website is also tracked and compiled, (including average time spent on a particular page), and gives you insight into what pages and content are a hit with your visitors, (i.e., your visitors find the content engaging, interesting, and relevant), and those pages or content that are less engaging, thus indicating an overhaul may be in order.  For example, a page may have a high number of views, but a relatively low average time spent on that page. This may be a clue that, although visitors may drawn to that page initially, once they get there, the content is not relevant or compelling to them, and they move on.  Conversely, a page may rank lower on the list of the most viewed, but visitors are spending a longer average time on that page. Yet another clue you need to pay attention to, as your visitors are “telling” you that they find the content relevant to their needs, and most likely would like to see more about that subject, initiative, product, whatever. Remember, your e-mail campaign may get them there, but the content needs to be up to snuff to keep them there, (and, coming back).

 

Other things to consider if certain pages are not garnering a higher number of views, perhaps you may need to review your site navigation, or other design issues, that may be hampering visitors’ ability to  access  those pages and the content you want them to see.

 

Your website and e-marketing efforts should work hand-in-hand, telling your story and driving more people to your online “door”, so they can get the rest of the story.  MailChimp’s Analytics360 provides you with the tools to dig for marketing gold.

Man/PC image courtesy of www.diamond-head-associates.com.

OJR: Are you wasting space on your homepage? How you can learn about your scrolldown rate

What better proof of a worthwhile information and knowledge sharing activitys, then when participants share reflections and spread it to a much larger audience.

Gerry StorchOurBlook.com and participant of our December ORBIT* Session, wrote about his take-away from  Google Analytics webinar with fellow journalists at the site “Online Journalism Review, focusing on the future of digital journalism.” 

Am I the last website editor on Earth to have found out what scrolldown rate means… and that scrolldown rates are apparently very low… and that this is terrible news for anyone publishing a site? I don’t know if it was a big techie secret that few if any journalists were let in on, but the light dawned for me when I attended (virtually) a recent webinar put on by my friend Birgit Pauli-Haack, who runs Pauli Systems, LC in Naples, Fla. Birgit demonstrated it via Google Analytics on two attractive real-life sites. I was jolted, and appalled, to discover that one site had a scrolldown rate of 5 percent, the other 6 percent. This means that of the readers who call up the first site, only 5 percent bother to scroll down from the first screenful they see.

Gerry Storch, has several lessons for publishers, news sites and others to learn from this…. Click here to learn more

* OrBIT – Online Roundtable for Business Owners on Internet Technology

NewsPress: Blogging as marketing tool to be discussed

Update January 24, 2011:

The presentation has been posted to slidehare.net


Online Resource: NewsPress Business Briefs
The Southwest Florida Small Business Resource Network will address blogging in relation to social media marketing at “The Best” series event January, 20 5:30 – 7pm at Holiday Inn Fort Myers Airport at Town Center.

Attendees will learn tips and tools for blogging and the benefits of it.>

Guest speaker is Birgit Pauli-Haack of Pauli Systems, an expert in the field of Web strategy, Web development and Web 2.0 integration.

The event, sponsored by Florida Gulf Coast University’s Small Business Development Center, is from 5:30-7 p.m. at 9931 Interstate Commerce Drive in Fort Myers.

Register now!  sbdcseminars.org.  The cost is $15 for members, or $20, which includes refreshments.

Following the presentation is the network’s monthly “Network After Five” social event, where members exchange ideas for growing their businesses.

For more information, call 745-3700.

 

Update: January 24, 2011: The presentation has been posted to slidehare.net

MailChimp + Salesforce: Get Integrated!

E-mail marketing and contact management come together…sort of

Last week, I talked about Pauli Systems’ designation as an approved MailChimp Expert, (people and companies who know about e-mail design, coding and programming), and why  MailChimp has been our preferred e-mail marketing vendor for some time now.  This week, I follow up with our experience, to date, with MailChimp + Salesforce integration.

 

Salesforce is probably the most widely used Customer Relationship Management (CRM) on the market today, and includes a package specific to non-profits, who, by completing a very simple application process, can qualify for 10 free user licences. Salesforce offers almost unlimited customization possibilities, along with superior scalability — as your organization grows, Salesforce will keep up with your evolving contact management requirements.  

 

So, we were excited to hear when MailChimp announced last year that integration with Salesforce was available, albeit, with limited functionality.  At the time, we decided to “test” the integration, using one of our non-profit clients as our “guinea pig”.  In this case, the client was already using MailChimp for his e-marketing needs, and had recently decided to add Salesforce to his arsenal of marketing tools, as his contact management system of choice.  Perfect!

 

At the onset of our testing, it became obvious that the integration primarily allowed for a one-way flow of data from Salesforce to MailChimp, i.e., you can import your contacts from Salesforce into a MailChimp list, so you can send an e-mail campaign to them. (Note to self: in future releases, they’ll introduce functionality to sync data both ways.?) On the MailChimp side, you are able to activate an advance tracking option that allows you to track and send basic campaign stats back to Salesforce,  (track opens, clicks, etc), that are captured in the “Notes” section of the contact record. Based on our initial run-through of the functionality, we could easily select and send contact records to our MailChimp list, but the campaign tracking feature was hit or miss; a record might be generated and passed back to Salesforce, but the open and click data was not updated on a consistent basis. Also, there’s no way to customize the data you would like to capture from a campaign and send to Salesforce, (let’s say I included a survey in my MailChimp campaign; currently, there is no way for me to configure the data tracked, so that I can see who completed the survey and their respective responses).  So, there’s still quite a lot that needs to be developed before we can say there is full integration between the two applications.  Baby steps!
MailChimp Connector for Salesforce
Through our designation as a MailChimp Expert, we were  able to participate in an online user community, MailChimp Jungle, and in weekly webinar sessions, hosted by MailChimp, to foster interaction within their expert pool, and to ask questions and share ideas, best practices, likes/dislikes, etc. As a result of these interactions, we learned that MailChimp is ramping up its efforts to complete development of the integration with Saleforce, (due to popular demand!). We shared some of our findings, based on our experience testing earlier in the year, and were then asked if we would be interested in participating in the requirements gathering, and eventual beta testing of the beefed up functionality. We said “you bet!”
At this time, I have had the opportunity to speak one-on-one with the development team leading the effort to provide a more full integration between MailChimp and Salesforce, and it was encouraging to hear that other experts are chiming in and providing similar feedack about the features their clients need, and are expecting to have at some point in the future. And, the future of MailChimp + Salesforce integration will hopefully arrive sometime in early to mid-2011.  Stay tuned…
Puzzle piece image courtesy of i5starsolutions.com.

Web Analytics Demystified – December 30, 2010 Online Roundtable

What exactly are Visitors, Page Views, Bounce Rates, Exit Pages, Click Maps, Traffic Sources, and more.

How are these metric terms defined? What are the real life applications? What are actionable parameters? How does integration with online marketing tools work?

Again, we’d like to invite you to our monthly online business owners’ roundtable, ORBIT, designed to help small businesses like yours blast their online presence into the future.  Please join us!

ORBIT provides a fun, informal and congenial online forum for business owners (beginners to advanced) to openly discuss any and all web and technology-related issues specific to their small business.  Maybe you have a question about search engine ranking, or how to integrate e-mail marketing into your existing online presence, or maybe you just have a general technology problem or question that you’d like to “put out there” for feedback. Bring your questions and you’ll receive concrete feedback on how to make the web work better for you and create a web presence that rocks!