Pivot tables. Graceful degradation. UX/UI. Bounce rate. Caching. Plugins. HTML5.
For business owners striving to eke out a living online, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the technical jargon bombarding you from every side. Banner ads spout off about email marketing. TV commercials shout at you, “We’ll build you a website AND submit your website to Google, FOR FREE!” SEOs are trying to sell you their backlink service. It’s overwhelming.
No single person can manage all the intricacies of running a business in the modern world. This is why we recommend working with freelancers and virtual assistants: they can take on many of the more technical and time-intensive aspects of your business without the heft of hiring full-time employees.
This trade-off comes with a cost, however. Freelancers are not employees, which means their goals are not always the same as those of your business.
It’s important that you, as a business owner, are able to understand the tasks so that you can assign them to the right person in the right way. You don’t have to become the expert – that would be counterintuitive and a waste of time. But you do have to become knowledgeable enough to know that the job is done correctly, that the correct job is done, and that you aren’t getting ripped off.
In other words, you need to speak the lingo.
My job with LKR is to handle all the behind the scenes, technical details. Everything from WordPress to InfusionSoft, from managing our server to programming. Below are a handful of the blogs I follow to keep up with some of these more “technical” or just niche topics that don’t get so much airtime here on the LKR blog. These blogs aren’t so technical that the average business owner can’t understand them, but they should help you understand the basics of a few technical topics. That way you can run your business smoothly, work better with freelance specialists, and in general, be awesome!
In addition to the blog, Smashing Magazine has a library of over 60 ebooks on similar topics.
I follow Web Designer Depot primarily for their monthly “What’s New For Designers” feature. These are long lists that highlight new and interesting web apps, tools, and resources that are almost always related to web design. Many of the items they dig up are useful to anyone with a website.
Some of the February items include: a free set of racy icons, a tool to help check if your website follows Google guidelines, an online vector graphics editor, and social media cheat sheets.
If you run your website on WordPress, this is (almost) the only WP blog you need to follow. It’s a news and article aggregator, picking out the best WP articles so you don’t have to sift through so much. The topics range from beginner to advanced.
I say ManageWP is almost the only WordPress blog you need to follow. Tidy Repo is the other. ManageWP aggregates WP news and articles, while Tidy Repo writes about only the best and most reliable WordPress plugins. I follow this blog to learn about new plugins, and I go there first when trying to find a specific one. If the plugin is on their site, it’s most likely a good choice for your website.
Excel. That black box of complicated data, formulas, and pivot tables. In all honesty, Excel is the single most powerful tool in a business toolbox. It’s the Leatherman that never leaves my hip. If you avoid spreadsheets like the plague, go to Chandoo.org and work through the Basic Excel Skills section. Then subscribe to his blog. Once you figure out what you’re doing in Excel, you’ll question how you got through life without it.
Here’s one of the many (hundreds) of ways we use Excel: Infusionsoft, our CRM and ecommerce program, lets us tag people when they interact in a certain way with our website. We can then download a report on when each tag was applied to someone. But it doesn’t let us filter by tags – it’s one massive report of every tag ever applied. When we want to answer a question like, “How much time does our average customer spend on our list before making a purchase?” we download the whole report, load it up in Excel, add a pivot table, throw in a couple filters, and have our answer.
Google Analytics is my second favorite tool, edged out only by Excel. It tells you nearly everything you could ever want to know about how visitors interact with your website. And a lot more that you never knew you wanted to know.
Avinash Kaushik literally wrote the book on Analytics. (And it’s worth the buy.) A lot of people set up GA on their website, then stare at it blankly because they don’t know what to do with all that data. Kaushik’s blog helps you know what to do with it. He provides the most down-to-earth, practical, applicable posts on GA.
Analytics helps you make important business decisions. Recently we noticed that nearly all of our referral traffic (visitors coming from other websites, and not search) is from natural, organic mentions on other websites. We were surprised that we didn’t get more traffic from links we built through guest blogging, interviews, or affiliates. This helps us decide where we should focus our efforts – creating great content on our own site that others want to link to versus deliberately building mentions on other sites. All because of Google Analytics.
Excel and Google Analytics – put the two of them together and you’re unstoppable.
Those are a handful of the more technical blogs I follow. What are some blogs that you couldn’t live without? Technical or otherwise, Team LKR is constantly on the prowl for great stuff to read, so make sure to leave your favorite links in the comments below!