How to serve a TimelineJS iframe over a secure HTTPS connection

A minor niggle, but one that it took me an inordinate amount of time to find the answer to today – if you’re using Knight Labs’ excellent Timeline JS plugin to power an interactive timeline on your site, you’ll find the iframe loads over a standard HTTP connection – so if your site HTTPS, the iframe won’t load and you’ll be left with a giant void where your lovely timeline would have been.

Unfortunately Knight Labs themselves don’t offer an option to serve the timeline over HTTPS, so you need to be a bit sneaky and use the full URL of the embedded widget which, thankfully, is hosted on an Amazon S3 bucket and can be accessed over a secure connection.

Basically – and it’s actually a really simple fix – you need to append https://s3.amazonaws.com/ to the source URL in your iframe code. The provided address for the embed is:

http://cdn.knightlab.com/libs/timeline/latest/embed

Which you need to edit to become:

https://s3.amazonaws.com/cdn.knightlab.com/libs/timeline/latest/embed/

So simply do a find + replace for “http://cdn.knightlab.com/” to “https://s3.amazonaws.com/cdn.knightlab.com/” and you should find your timelines loading over an HTTPS connection with no problem.

The same rules apply for other Knight Labs tools, like StoryMap or Juxtapose, meaning you can serve things like before and after pictures of your dog’s haircut…

…over a secure connection.

You can see the full, annoying-to-find-on-Google discussion thread on the issue here.

How to get unlimited free Facebook Likes on any post

Excuse the rather spammy title. This caught my eye today – some academic research into how companies can game Facebook Likes to beef up their social stats. It reminded me of something I discovered about Facebook Likes when putting together this piece about social share counts – there’s a fairly ridiculously simple way to game the system and create infinite (note: I have not tested this theory to infinity) Likes on any page.
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The case for deciduous (or seasonal) content

Evergreen content is the best. It delivers boatloads of good, regular traffic the whole year round. A good content strategy doesn’t rely on one kind of traffic alone, though, and it’s essential to supplement your evergreen traffic with other sources.

Viral and social traffic is usually considered the other primary source of unpaid traffic. Where evergreen content is reliable, regular and a little bit boring viral traffic is unpredictable, sexy and has the potential to be exponentially bigger.

A great inclusion you should consider in your content mix is seasonal content – or deciduous as I’m calling it to continue the tree theme. This type of content – tied to regular events throughout the year – can deliver big traffic spikes when it’s relevant, but nothing at all when it’s not “in season”. This kind of material could be seen as the halfway point between evergreen and viral traffic. It has the dependable regularity of evergreen content, but the spiky traffic pattern of a viral hit. It can deliver traffic peaks as big as a healthy viral hit, and do it every year.

It’s a content mullet – business in front and party in back. It’s a lady in the streets but a freak in the sheets. It’s… well, you get it.

The most obvious example is Christmas – trees, wreaths and all kinds of festive crap fly off the virtual shelves for a month or so, then are all-but ignored for the rest of the year. Most industries will have their Christmas – gyms have the January rush, florists have Valentines Day, and Asian confectioners have Pepero Day.

And, in the same way Christmas Tree growers spend all year cultivating and pruning their products to make them as appealing as possible when the big day arrives, you must tend your deciduous content so that when it’s in season it attracts as many customers as possible.

1. Don’t reinvent the wheel

Many people pump out fresh content every year for their seasonal traffic peaks – this seems like a waste of effort to me. A years-old, authoritative landing page will beat new content every day of the week. Rather than release new content every seasonal cycle, consider investing your time in polishing what you already have. Invest time in tentpole content and use each seasonal trough to tweak and refine what you have to make sure you’re in the best shape possible when demand is highest.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t publish new stuff when demand is peaking – but consider publishing around a static hub or landing page that you can build over time.

2. Know when your search volumes peak

Don’t be fooled into thinking all the searching related to your seasonal event happens close to the event itself – some people out there plan ahead and search volumes can pick up surprisingly early.

Taking Christmas as an example again, searches you’d expect like “Christmas cards” and “Christmas trees” peak in December, but searches for company Christmas parties actually peak in September, while the search for venues (notoriously hard to book as the holidays approach) begins in May.

 

♦ Corporate Parties ♦ Party venues ♦ Party ideas ♦ Christmas Trees

Note: Volumes are normalised

3. Build links and optimise in the off-season

A good content strategy is a long game, and the best thing about deciduous content is you have the majority of the year to prepare for the seasonal onslaught. When demand picks up your time could very well be better spent on social campaigns, PR, and other short-lead-time promotional activities. The rest of the year, therefore, should be spent on bread and butter content strategy and SEO stuff.

Internal linking, keyword optimisation and outreach should all be done on a regular basis. Monitor your search rankings with something like Authority Labs (or just do it manually in a spreadsheet if you’re only monitoring a handful of terms) and extrapolate forward to see where you’ll be sitting when the seasonal rush begins.

The time between seasonal peaks is a gift not enjoyed by plenty of industries, so make the most of it.

4. Need to forecast? Use Google Trends

Google trends is a surprisingly accurate forecasting tool for regular, seasonal events. Just download the Google Trends graph for your keyword of choice (Menu button on the top right -> Download as CSV), grab the organic page traffic from Google Analytics for the same time period and normalise the two – here’s the traffic for this Self Assessment post (green) overlaid with the Google Trends figures (grey).

 

This is a great forecasting tool if you need to justify putting resources into “off-season” content to make sure you grab as much traffic as possible when demand is highest. If you can achieve good search positions you can basically guarantee certain amounts of traffic by combining Google Trends data with your own visitor numbers. Tie this in with PPC prices and conversion rates and you have a pretty straightforward cost / benefit analysis of whether it’s worth your time to shoot for some organic rankings.

5. Page one means nothing

It’s always nice to break onto page one for a competitive term, but that placement could go right out the window just as you enter your period of peak demand. I speak, of course, of the scourge of the “In the News” boxout.

If you’re in position seven or above you should be OK, but if you’re eighth, ninth or tenth be prepared to be unceremoniously dumped off page one if your seasonal event makes the news. You could also be shanghai’d by the new-ish “In depth articles” boxout.

Look at all the additional content the organic results are having to compete with in this search for bacon sandwich warrior Ed Miliband.

Ed Miliband

This means you need to work that bit harder to get a “safe” position.

Go forth, seasonal businesses, and make the most of your content.

How to get to Twitter’s ad dashboards without entering your credit card details

We’ve been playing with Twitter ads for a little while and, because we have a few accounts, I noticed an odd disparity. On the Crunch Twitter account we were able to access the full suite of Twitter ad products (Analytics, cards, website referrals, conversion tracking etc.), but on the Freelance Advisor account we couldn’t get to any of that, and were prompted to enter credit card details before we could access anything.

This is, obviously, very annoying. I shot Twitter support an email and a very nice lady called Marta told me that:

Twitter regularly runs experiments offering different features to certain groups of users.  As a result, the user experience and availability of features may differ slightly across individual accounts from time to time.

You must be a Twitter Ads customer to gain access to analytics. Please note that it may take up to 24 hours to see your analytics after you have entered your credit card payment information.

So basically our accounts were A/B tested into different buckets, and there’s no way to get out of them. Some people have full analytics access without entering credit cards details, some don’t. I’m not the only person to be annoyed by this.

However, you actually don’t need to enter your credit card details to access the full Twitter analytics suite. The pages aren’t blocked – they’re just hidden from the menu. You can append the correct information to the ads.twitter.com URL and you’ll be straight in.

The URL structure is:

https://ads.twitter.com/accounts/AccountID/page

Your account ID will be a random string of letters and numbers. Add the correct page after the Account ID slug and you can access the hidden pages. The URLs are (you’ll need to edit the bits in italics to match the information in your account) –

  • Account Dashboard – https://ads.twitter.com/accounts/AccountID/campaigns_dashboard
  • Tweets – https://ads.twitter.com/accounts/AccountID/tweets
  • Cards – https://ads.twitter.com/accounts/AccountID/cards
  • Followers – https://ads.twitter.com/accounts/AccountID/follower_dashboard
  • Websites – https://ads.twitter.com/accounts/AccountID/websites

There are two other analytics dashboards with slightly different URL structures –

  • Tweet activity dashboard – https://ads.twitter.com/user/Username/tweets
  • Card Analytics – https://ads.twitter.com/user/Username/twitter_cards

Happy tweeting!

How to add websites and apps to your Chrome OS shelf

Here’s a handy tip I picked up the other day. Adding bookmarks to Chrome is pretty damn easy, obviously, but for some reason Google haven’t added the ability to put them on your Chrome OS shelf yet (the shortcut bar at the bottom of the screen).

However, this feature is being built by Google and with a little under-the-hood tinkering you can make it happen!

Step 1

Visit chrome://flags/ on your Chromebook (copy + paste into your address bar – WordPress doesn’t like these links) – this is the page where all work-in-progress features of Chrome browser and OS are kept. Have a look around – there’s some fun stuff in there.

Step 2

Find the entry called ‘Enable experimental streamlined hosted apps’ (or paste this into your Chrome address bar – chrome://flags/#enable-streamlined-hosted-apps) and turn it on. This gives you the ability to turn normal websites into “apps” (they need to be apps because that’s what are kept on your shelf).

Step 3

Visit the page you want to add to your shelf – lets say The Guardian. Open the Chrome menu, go to More tools -> Add shortcut to this website…

AddAppShortcut

Step 4

There isn’t really a step 4; that’s about it. The website is now in my shelf. You can drag it around or put it in a folder, just like a normal Chrome app.

App Shelf

Ta-da!

Happy 10th Birthday Facebook; you’re dead to me

The media is packed to the gills with swooning coverage of Facebook’s tenth anniversary today, which is lovely; they’ve built a highly successful tech business and deserve all the accolades they receive. However, for small publishers out there it seems Facebook has never been more useless.

More and more Facebook is artificially haemorrhaging audiences across the board, leaving many to up sticks entirely in the face of miniscule post reach, despite huge Page followings. Facebook has indirectly addressed these problems, basically placing the blame on the Page owners for not being engaging enough and regular Facebook users for sharing more stuff and drowning out Page updates.

The real story, of course, is that Facebook wants more people usings its advertising products, and now seems to assume paying to reach people (who have already opted-in to updates from you) forms a normal part of a publishing strategy –

“Page owners should continue using the most effective strategy to reach the right people: a combination of engaging Page posts and advertising to promote your message more broadly. Advertising lets Pages reach the fans they already have and find new customers as well.”

Lest we forget Facebook also advises Pages to use their advertising products to accumulate more Likes – you pay once to get a Like, and you pay again to (maybe) have that person see your update. It just doesn’t work.

Here are Freelance Advisor‘s Likes and Post Reach numbers – as you can see, the problem has become dramatically worse in recent weeks.

Facebook reach

 

In 2013 an average post reached 18% of our following, so far in 2014 we’re averaging 6% – Facebook has taken away two thirds of the audience they were giving us before, and expect us to pay to get it back.

The Facebook Cart, it seems, is firmly before the Horse. It’s an advertising network now – the social part comes second.

We’re not upping sticks just yet, but we’re damn close.