A slick, fast-sounding in-ear headphone that won’t break the bank

The Good The Sennheiser Momentum In-Ear looks slick, is quite affordable, and it delivers exciting sound with strong bass and good clarity. It has an integrated inline remote and microphone for making cell phones calls (both iOS and Android versions are available) and a nice carrying case is included.

The Bad The top end (treble) is a touch brash, and also, while the headphones look swanky, the housings are mostly plastic.





The Bottom Line The Sennheiser Momentum In-Ear doesn’t measure up to the high standard set by other more expensive headphones in the Momentum line, but it still has a lot going for it for the price

The Momentum In-Ear is the latest addition to Sennheiser’s well-regarded Momentum family of headphones, which are designed for use with today’s mobile devices. The original Momentum is one of our favorite premium headphones and we also liked the Momentum On-Ear. This new In-Ear is the most affordable Momentum headphone yet, coming in at $99 (£90 in the UK or AU$169 in Australia), an attractive price point.

There’s a lot to like about it. It looks slick, is lightweight and comfortable, and has a flat cable design with an integrated iOS friendly remote and microphone. A separate model is geared toward Samsung Galaxy owners, though its remote functions also work with LG, HTC, and Sony and other Android phones and tablets.


Give your old smartphone a smart home overhaul Read on to find out why you shouldn’t toss your last-gen smartphone in the junk drawer just yet

The smart home market is expanding. The Dropcam-Nest contingent, SmartThings, Wink, and others have captured a lot of the early attention, but some plucky startups are taking a decidedly more DIY route.

Instead of presenting a polished finished product, these folks want you to use the out-dated smartphone or tablet you already have at home (and probably forgot about long ago) to create a functional security camera, smart thermostat and more. Naturally, borrowing key features from an existing product is much less expensive, and the makeshift smart home devices that result even hold their own against some retail-ready devices.

Colin West McDonald/CNET

Manything iOS app

Manything is a free app that turns your old iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch into a security camera. Once you download the app, you’re just a few minutes away from having a decent live streaming device, complete with motion sensing capabilities, email alerts, push notifications and an IFTTT channel. The Manything IFTTT channel makes it possible for you to create recipes for your new security camera and other IFTTT-compatible devices, like Belkin WeMo products and Philips Hue LEDs.

Read CNET’s full review of Manything.


MindHelix Rico

Rico is a cuddly-looking device that happens to have motion, temperature, smoke, carbon monoxide and humidity sensors built into its unassuming puppy frame. You can also stick an old Android or iOS device inside Rico and it quickly transforms into a pretty solid home security system. In addition to Rico, MindHelix also has plans for Belkin WeMo-style smart plugs called Smart Sockets. The startup successfully completed a Kickstarter campaign for Rico and Smart Sockets in October and expects to send out its first production units in November 2015.

Read CNET’s first take of Rico.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

People Power Presence iOS app

The Presence iOS app is very similar to Manything. It also takes your out-dated iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch and gives it DIY security camera powers. Although it doesn’t have an IFTTT channel, it does offer in-app rules that let you schedule Home and Away modes, receive alerts if your device gets unplugged and so on. It also has an online store with stuff that’s particularly well-suited for integration with Presence, ranging from phone stands to gizmos that translate info from your electric meter to help you better understand your energy usage and possibly save you money over time.

Read CNET’s full review of Presence.

Wise Labs

Wise Labs Bemo

Bemo won’t turn your phone into a DIY security camera like Manything, Rico or Presence, but it will use your spare Android, iOS or Windows device to create a touchscreen thermostat display. We haven’t reviewed one of these yet, but it appears to be as simple as removing your old thermostat, hooking up your thermostat wires to Bemo’s enclosed baseplate unit and mounting your old phone to the baseplate. Wise Labs also intends to introduce an app with features on par with traditional smart thermostats.

Are you ‘fit’ to be an entrepreneur? 3 ways to get mentally charged

Callum Laing is the CEO of Entrevo Asia and the founder of Fitness-Buffet, an employee fitness business in 11 countries.

I’m always intrigued when I meet successful people, entrepreneurs or otherwise, to understand their fitness habits.

Over time this has lead me to identify three different types of fitness activities that serve three very different but important functions to an entrepreneur.

Before I jump into those, let me preface this and say that if you’re ‘too busy’ to exercise or just can’t be bothered, I’m not going to try and convince you otherwise. Because I can’t be bothered.

But if you are already interested in doing more exercise then hopefully these approaches will give you some ideas.

1. Autopilot

The first type of exercise is anything that can be done without consciously thinking. Typically this might be something like running, swimming or cycling.

Social Entrepreneur Masami Sato calls these both ‘Mindful and mindless’ activities. A quasi meditation which can either give you the opportunity to focus exclusively on one problem or to let your mind wander.

I normally give myself one or two topics to ponder during this activity and it invariably kicks up some new thinking and useful ideas.

2. Competitive sports

Another type of exercise I engage in is for the complete opposite effect. Like many business owners, I am occasionally prone to becoming completely obsessed on a problem/opportunity within the business. Playing with my kids, out for dinner with friends – the lights are on, but my mind is locked in a stupid spiral of over-thinking.

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This has never once ended in a positive result, so I have learnt the way to force my brain out of this badly-coded loop is to play competitive sports. For me it is 5-a-side football, touch rugby, squash or even kickboxing.

The point is, when you’re in that environment, it forces your brain to be in the ‘now’ which gives you a much needed mental break. For 60 or 90 minutes, I have no phone calls, no messages and no thoughts about anything other than chasing the ball. It gives my brain a much needed break!

3. Bodybuilding / body manipulation

Don’t worry, I’m not talking about covering yourself in baby oil and putting on a mini bikini – unless you really want to. I am talking about understanding, and then being able to ‘manipulate’ your own body. Bodybuilders, of course, do this well – they can add or drop a few kilos each month depending on what their goals are.

So why is that important for entrepreneurs?

Despite your best intention, there is a whole world out there that might acknowledge your vision, but has other plans. It’s not personal, but as an entrepreneur you can find yourself on the wrong end of a bunch of stuff you can’t control. Staff leaving for better jobs, the market crashing, investors ditching your sector, Google giving away your product for free.

It is not hard, especially if you are on a run of these decisions, to feel like you don’t have any control.

In the past when that has happened to me, I decided that since I was doing such a bad job of influencing the rest of the world, I was going to focus on something closer to home. Building muscle or losing body fat were things that were 100 percent totally under my control. No excuses. No blaming the economy. This was all on me.

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It was both scary and empowering. But ultimately, once you have learnt this and tested it a few times, it is great to know that you have full control over what your body looks like. Full control over whether you can push your body further this week then you did last week. (PS, the bible for understanding this stuff better is Tim Ferriss’ book, The 4 Hour Body.)

So those are my tips for getting fit for entrepreneurship.

You’ll notice that I haven’t once mentioned the physical health benefits of these exercises. The reason is that I don’t really care. Intellectually, I understand that they’re good for me – but being healthier in 30 years’ time is just too abstract and far off to incentivize any behavior change.

For me, there are two underlying principles that motivate me to go. The first is that it has to enjoyable, the second is that I need to see an immediate payoff. For the first one, pick activities that you enjoy (rather than things you think you should do). For the second, focus on the above three concepts to get your immediate psychological returns.

Mac app deals roundup: Save big on apps for Wi-Fi optimization, personal finance tracking and more!

Do more with your Mac for less with our special offers on a bunch of quality apps here at TNW Deals!

Get over half off on programs to help optimize your Wi-Fi network, rip and convert video, rein in your personal finances and manage your time efficiently.

Here’s what’s in store:

NetSpot Pro: analyze and troubleshoot your Wi-Fi network

NetSpot 520x284 Mac app deals roundup: Save big on apps for Wi Fi optimization, personal finance tracking and more!

The first step towards getting the best performance from your network, is surveying your coverage to find dead spots in your environment. NetSpot Pro lets you analyze your network quickly and easy, to find optimum locations for placing hotspots.

Tune up your network with NetSpot Pro, for only $19.

MoneyWell: an elegantly designed personal finance app

MoneyWell 520x344 Mac app deals roundup: Save big on apps for Wi Fi optimization, personal finance tracking and more!

Money management can seem overwhelming even before you get started, but the right tool can help you make light work of taking control of your finances. MoneyWell connects directly to your bank account, and implements the tried and tested Envelope Method to help you monitor your expenses, stay within budget and keep debt at bay.

➤ Get your finances in order with MoneyWell at half off – just $24.99.

The MacX DVD Video Converter Pro Pack

MacX 520x330 Mac app deals roundup: Save big on apps for Wi Fi optimization, personal finance tracking and more!

Copy and back up your video with total freedom and flexibility, using these powerful tools from Digiarty Software. MacX Video Converter Pro lets you convert videos to and from multiple formats for mobile devices and external storage, and even grab videos from YouTube; use MacX DVD Ripper Pro to rip DVDs to a variety of audio and videos formats in no time.

➤ Get both these great apps and take control of your video content for only $17.99.

Time Doctor Lifetime: Track and save time for optimal productivity

Time Doctor 520x355 Mac app deals roundup: Save big on apps for Wi Fi optimization, personal finance tracking and more!

Organize your tasks, schedule your projects, track your progress and boost your productivity with this clever all-in-one app. Time Doctor helps you monitor your app usage, avoid distractions, and manage your projects efficiently. You can even use companion apps for Android and iOS to see how you’re doing, and breeze through your tasks daily. With Time Doctor, staying on track is a snap.

5 best practices for e-books and guides to generate results

This post originally appeared on the Evergage blog.

B2B marketers know that online audiences are driven by two motivations: 1. a strong desire to learn and 2. a desire to generate results for their companies. That’s why business leaders are investing so heavily in content development as a key demand generation best practice — to bridge the gap between customer education and sales.

According to a report from the Content Marketing Institute, 93 percent of B2B marketers are investing in demand gen resources like infographics, blog posts, whitepapers and videos. What’s happening, as a result of this rapid proliferation of content, however, is an overload of information, with B2B audiences feeling overwhelmed with more resources than they can possibly consume.

The smartest marketers are skeptical about their efforts — suspecting that their content programs are falling short in generating real results. According to the same Content Marketing Institute report, only 42 percent of B2B marketers believe that their content programs are effective.

That’s a problem — but it’s one that marketers can resolve by following five simple steps:

1. Focus on the right goals

The challenge that many marketers face is that they’re targeting the wrong stages of the conversion funnel. Instead of using ebooks and whitepapers to ramp up their demand generation strategies, they’re focusing heavily on early-funnel opportunities to ‘break through the noise.’

The most successful marketers aren’t fighting noise or looking for ways to break through — instead, they’re outsmarting it. Recognize that personalization will will help you craft a more impactful content program.

2. Prioritize relevance

Content campaigns are exponentially more effective when tailored to specific user interests. Instead of bombarding audiences with a ‘one-size-fits-all’ resource that may — or may not — be relevant their specific interests, you can fine tune your messaging to specific user behaviors.

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For instance, you may want to target users based on specific pieces of content that they’ve read. You may also reach audiences that have specifically requested more information in a particular area of your business.

The more focused you are, the better-positioned you will be to develop a 1:1 relationship with your prospects. Each piece of content will, as a result, generate lower viewership numbers — but you’ll likely see higher conversion rates.

3. Be smart about targeting

Audiences are bombarded with information — and often, marketers will attempt to strengthen connections with their prospects by being more aggressive. What ends up happening; however, is the opposite effect. Users start to feel spammed by pop-up windows and sales pitches that are disruptive, rather than helpful, to their browsing experiences.

It may sound counterintuitive, but B2B brands should limit the frequency of their messages — including ebook offer downloads — to once per user visit. It’s also important to vary your marketing messaging so that audiences don’t see the same information repeated.

Remember that online audiences are highly research driven. They’re learning as much as they possibly can before reaching out to your sales reps — a process that takes time. These audiences are well-aware of your marketing tactics, so don’t try to pressure them into a sale. Take a step back, and give them the space to browse your website.

4. Track segment performance

Smart marketers know that some leads are more valuable than others. But still, they’re driven by team-wide goals to ramp up immediate conversions — a view that stifles marketing performance over the long-term.

Marketers can more effectively gauge the success of their ebook and whitepaper campaigns by looking at the full demand generation picture. Create goal segments to calculate the number of users who have signed up for a free trial for a product — or reached out to your sales team for more information, for instance.

Look beyond leads to start quantifying demand.

5. Reach audiences across platforms & devices

We live in a cross-device, cross-channel world — and this trend is only going to become more prevalent. In addition to connecting with audiences on your own website, you need to reach them on other platforms as well.

Facebook Custom Audiences and Google AdWords; for instance, allow you to target your exact users based on specific actions that they have taken on your website.

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With the right technologies, you can stay connected to your audiences, no matter where they are — to always ensure that your value proposition is top of mind.

Final thoughts

Reach the right audiences with the right messages at the right time. This principle is the heart of the most successful demand generation strategies. If you’re not sure where to get started, just take a look at your existing audience and growth levers. Focus on opportunities to add value — the conversions will follow.

How to hire a Web designer or design company

Paul Jarvis is a best-selling author and designer. He writes weekly for his popular newsletter and runs an online course on becoming a better freelancer.

Hiring a Web designer or design company can seem like a daunting task. Too many speak in nerd and the good ones never seem available to take on new work.

I realize that maybe your cousin is a Web designer who builds websites on the side. Or your friend’s brother in college once updated your Tumblr in exchange for a case of beer. Or that you can, quite easily, figure out Web design, programming and WordPress yourself, but you just haven’t found the time.

Web designers hear these types of comments a lot (possibly second only to “make the logo bigger” on mockups). While there’s nothing wrong with learning new things or having hobbies, for the love of whatever god you believe in, hire a professional to design and program your website.

Professional, as in someone who does Web design full-time, as a job that they get paid money to do, and has done so for a while.

How do you find the right professional Web designer?

Do you walk into a hip coffee shop and look for plaid shirts, tattooed fingers and Apple laptops?

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While that would probably work, it makes more sense to start by looking at websites you enjoy visiting, and that appear to have a good community and engaged following. Does it say at the bottom of the website who designed and programmed it?

If not, send a brief email to the website’s owner, asking who they used and if they were happy with their designer.

Make a shortlist of designers (two or three) you want to work with (from looking at those sites you like and asking who built them). What are their portfolios like? Can you get behind the tone, aesthetics and presentation of their own websites and other websites they’ve done? Are their project sizes (features, functions, what the site does, etc.) similar in scope to yours?

Make the first move

Contact these Web designers and actually talk to them on the phone (old school, I know). You want to make sure you understand how they communicate, since they’ll be responsible for visually communicating your online business. Do they talk in technical jargon or Star Trek references (although the latter could be a bonus)? Are they clear about what they can provide for you? What is their process?

Ask for references and actually contact them. Ask each reference what it was like to work with the Web designer. Find out if they delivered on time, on budget, and if the client could honestly recommend them.

There’s no industry standard for pricing a website

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They can cost next to nothing to well into six figures. Since you already have a good idea of your budget, see what the designer’s average project typically costs to determine if your budget fits into that range. If the two numbers are way off, it’s best to find out early to avoid wasting anyone’s time.

Chances are if you’ve found a Web designer who’s responsible for a popular website, they’re fully booked for a little while. Most good Web designers are slammed, sometimes months in advance.

Find out when they could start a project with you and how long projects typically take. There’s so much you can do before a project starts, and waiting a while gives you a chance to do your own homework on what you need to provide the designer in terms of colors, aesthetics and product purpose.

Be prepared to adjust time and money if none of the professionals you want to hire can work with your budget or timeline – maybe that means waiting a little longer or saving up a little more. That just gives you more time to focus on your business idea, products/services and value.

Here’s a list of important questions to ask before you hire anyone:

  • Can you provide a list of five references I can contact?
  • Do you do this full-time and how long have you been doing web design?
  • What is your process?
  • What is the typical budget range for your projects? how are payments broken down for projects?
  • What is the typical turn-around time for your projects?
  • When can the project be started?
  • What do you need from me before we start?
  • Do your clients see a return on investment? Do you have proof of increased conversion rates or goals being achieved after you’ve done a redesign?
  • Does the price include making the site mobile friendly?
  • Will the site be supported by retina screens?
  • Do you custom design or use templates?
  • Who will own the website design when it’s paid for?
  • Do you offer maintenance or training or post-launch support?
  • Who is the contact person and who is doing the work? is anything outsourced or subcontracted out?

As important as any of these questions is understanding and communication. Do you understand what they are talking about when they are describing what they do or what they can do for you?

Ease of communication is key in any project, especially a Web design project, where things can get confusing or misaligned due to jargon or tech speak.

How quitting email helped my company communicate better

Max Nalsky is the founder and CEO of Pyrus, the workplace communication platform.

We operate in a world of inboxes. Everyone has his or her collection of points where other people can touch them — email, Facebook, Twitter, Skype – the list goes on. It’s easily overwhelming, and we are cursed with options when it comes to communicating with people nowadays.

We can’t get rid of these various means of interaction, and we can’t even choose just one. But we can choose a default that we pay the most attention to.

For most, this default inbox is email. After all, email is effectively a social network that’s three times the size of Facebook — nearly everyone with internet access has an email address, if not multiple.

It’s dead simple, it’s free, and you don’t need to “find” someone before communicating with them. You only need to provide someone’s unique ID and you’re set to interact with that person instantaneously.

But email’s convenience has been hijacked by marketers and careless workers. It stopped being useful somewhere between five and ten years ago, and it’s been a problem ever since. Even if you don’t count all the spam messages sent every day, the 3 billion of us with internet access are still sending and receiving more than 180 billion emails on a daily basis.

The average office worker receives 110 messages a day and spends 28 percent of his time handling email. Imagine how powerful it would be for your organization to reclaim that lost time!

Can we truly get rid of email?

It’s easy to see why Y Combinator’s Paul Graham calls replacing email a “frighteningly ambitious startup idea.” And why shouldn’t we replace it? It has problems baked right into it, automatically including the text of all previous replies below your current reply, back and forth forever.

If you’ve ever made an embarrassing reply-all mistake, you certainly know the downsides of email. In fact, Nielsen got rid of the reply-all button for its internalemail under the guise of requiring employees to be more mindful about who they include on a message, but smart money says the decision was only made after an Executive Vice President replied all (to every single Nielsen employee) with a rather arrogant note intended for one person.

Killing email for your organization absolutely implement positive changes. When Thierry Breton, CEO of Atos, estimated that a mere 10 percent of his workers’ emails were actually useful and productive, he instituted a zero-email policy.

“We are producing data on a massive scale that is fast polluting our working environments and also encroaching into our personal lives,” he said. Since instituting the policy, the company’s culture is forever changed and is more collaborative.

I still use email, but it’s never for anything pressing or important. Multimillion dollar deals or urgent approvals simply don’t appear there. When I give people my business card, roughly half will connect on LinkedIn, half will communicate via email. There is no urgency.

If you’d like to institute a new email policy that will save time for you and your workers, here are some ideas.

Try software or apps that have your organization generating less email from the start

If you know you’ll be using a lot of short-form pinging, group communication utility Slack sets you up with as many chat rooms as your company might need. If people can instantly connect with each other there, then this makes for less inbox clutter for everyone.

For larger, more mature organizations I would think about solutions that provide a lot more structure – HipChat and TigerText. Some companies have also opted to build their own solutions, like we have for task and workflow management.

It really comes down to how your company communicates: journalists tend to constantly ping each other with ideas and very short questions, and thus Slack’s adoption within reporting has been huge.

A large organization, however, might over-communicate in a different way – has this document been done? Can I see a revision? Just following up on that email…generally not an efficient nor structured way to do business at scale.

Set a company-wide policy as to what merits sending an email

This is drastic, but it quickly sends the message that you’re reevaluating what will and won’t work for your company’s productivity. Confirm for people that email is not “chat,” and it’s not for pinging your colleagues for updates on project statuses. Whatever you decide should and shouldn’t be an email, outline the characteristics clearly.

Intentionally quitting email is for brave CEOs only

No other person in the company can take responsibility for this kind of decision, and you need to be brave and forward-thinking, since quitting email requires certain discipline. But in the long term, it’s very valuable for the company to implement such culture change.

The no-email strategy has already been adopted by Bud Selig of the MLB, Janet Napolitano at the Department of Homeland Security, and Hank Paulson, former secretary of the Treasury. It sets the type of tone that demands a response in how your people do their jobs.

If you’re one such CEO looking to make this kind of shift in the workplace, you should search for a tool that would help you manage your people transparently and without formality. It’s quite obvious that we can still do big and important work without needing to lean so heavily on email.

We put on a man on the moon, for example, without having to sign into Gmail a single time.

7 indispensable (and free!) website graders and content scores

You can audit your content in many ways—be it a quick-and-simple social media audit or a full-scale blog review. You can take the time to run the numbers yourself (a useful exercise!), or you can plug a URL into

I’m the type to always plug our Buffer blog URL into a tool to get feedback. If it’s free and simple, count me in.

I’ve bookmarked several of my favorites and dug up a handful of other useful graders and tools to come up with the 12 website graders, content scores, and social media ratings that you see below. Take them for a spin, and let me know which ones are most beneficial for you and your content!

1. Hubspot’s Marketing Grader

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Enter your blog’s URL and your email address, and press go. Marketing Grader will give you an overall score for your website, based on five categories:

  1. Blogging
  2. Social Media
  3. SEO
  4. Lead Generation
  5. Mobile

Each section has a checklist of items as well as grades for individual aspects of the category. For instance, Marketing Grader will check your blog for social share buttons, an email signup form, and an RSS feed, then it will grade the most recent five posts according to social shares.

Useful takeaway:

As part of its lead generation score, Marketing Grader measures blogposts and tweets that link to forms. The thinking is that the more opportunities you give a reader to clickthrough to an optimized landing page, the better off you’ll be for growing your list and collecting leads.

Recommendations for the Buffer blog:

  • Use @media queries or a mobile stylesheet
  • Set up marketing automation

2. Nibbler

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The free Nibbler test looks at a laundry list of site and blog characteristics—more than 24 high-level items—spitting out an overall score (on a scale of 1 to 10) and a list of improvements ordered by priority.

Useful takeaway:

The heading word cloud at Nibbler shows exactly which words we’ve been using most often in our headings and titles. We’re aiming to be a blog about social media tips, so it’s great to see “social” and “media” rank so highly.

It’s also neat to see what other words we’ve been getting mileage out of without even knowing it (“minutes” and “good-looking” come to mind!).

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Recommendations for the Buffer blog:

  • Make our Facebook page and Google+ page visible from the blog
  • Offer an easy-to-print option
  • Provide a local presence by submitting the blog to local web directories
  • Fix code validation errors
  • Choose descriptive anchor text

3. Woorank

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WooRank’s free tool tests seven aspects of your site—SEO, mobile, usability, technologies, social, local, and traffic. They’ve got just about everything covered here. The final result is a score on a scale of 1 to 100 and a report that you can download as a pdf or slides to share with your team.

Useful takeaway:

WooRank analyzes the keywords on your site and whether or not they appear in important places. The top five keywords are checked for appearing in the site title, site description, and heading tag. It’s useful to see at-a-glance the opportunities for quick wins with optimizing your most important keywords.

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Recommendations for the Buffer blog:

  • Connect the Buffer Twitter account to the page
  • Fix the code errors
  • Hide email addresses to avoid being spammed
  • Customize the 404 error page
  • Redirect non-www to www

4. Quick Sprout Website Analyzer

The free Quick Sprout tool lets you pull a little competitor research while grading your website, social media, and content. When you begin your test, you can add up to three other sites/blogs from your industry.

The report will score all four sites (yours, plus three competitors) and rank them from first to last, with a breakdown of traffic score, SEO score, speed score, and social share score.

Here’s how Buffer compares to some of the sites we most admire:

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Beyond the comparison scores, you also get a breakdown of your most popular content, and you can run the test for other websites, too, in order to see which content has been most highly shared on other blogs.

Useful takeaway:

Inside Quick Sprout’s main report, you can drill down into details on each factor. SEO, for instance, shows you recommendations on what to fix. Specifically, Quick Sprout recommends that h1m headings are between 15 and 65 characters and that all images have descriptive alt tags.

Recommendations for the Buffer blog:

  • Use top keywords in title tags
  • Improve the load time on the page
  • Add a meta description to the blog homepage

5. W3C validator

The previous graders on this list have been full of helpful, high-level marketing tips. The W3C Validator gives you straight-up fixes to make.

Run your site through W3C Validator, and see exactly which code errors appear on your website. The validator tool tells you the specific line of code in which the error appears. After the must-fix items, you also receive a series of warnings that could be worth checking into also.

Useful takeaway:

Many of of W3C’s warnings come across as helpful guidance. For instance, W3C recommends that each page have only one h1 tag. This will typically be the headline of a blogpost or title of a page, and then other information—like calls-to-action or email signup forms—can take h2 or h3 headings instead.

Recommendations for the Buffer blog:

  • Double-check the way we add utm parameters to links
  • Fix an alt tag in our email signup form

6. Shopify’s Ecommerce Store Grader

Ecommerce sites can get quick feedback on SEO, store usability, content, social, and technical aspects by running the store URL through Shopify’s grader (you don’t have to have a Shopify store to run the free test).

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As you scroll down the results page, you can see all the areas where you succeeded or failed, how to fix the parts that are missing, and why each is important.

Useful takeaways:

Two items that Shopify identifies in its report are free shipping and a phone number. Free shipping, according to Shopify, can increase conversion rates. A phone number helps with phone orders and increasing customer trust.

Sample recommendations:

  • Add an XML sitemap to the store
  • Add alt tags to images
  • Include a privacy policy
  • Place a link to your Pinterest page on your homepage

7. Clarity Grader

Most of the above tools look at various marketing and technical aspects of your site. Clarity Grader checks the words themselves.

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The report details the language you use on the site, analyzing 20 pages to come up with some incredibly sharp linguistic insights.

  • Percent use of passive language
  • Readability score
  • Spelling mistakes
  • Cliches and jargon

(Note: When you run the tool, you also sign up for a free seven-day trial of Clarity Grader.)

Useful takeaway:

The “cliches and jargon” test at Clarity Grader has a ton of interesting insights. It’s amazing how often I’m tempted to use words that appear in this list.

common cliches 520x608 7 indispensable (and free!) website graders and content scores

In addition to the cliches and jargon, you can change the “bad language” dictionary to show your score versus Complex Words, Legal Jargon, and Sexist terms.

How to keep your remote employees accountable without playing Big Brother

Often times, budding entrepreneurs think the hardest part of starting a business is just that: Starting it. The simple act of biting the bullet and going it alone. Yet with most good businesses come future employees; and with every employee comes management and mentorship challenges and opportunities.

Today, the challenges of simply managing employees are compounded by the ubiquity of working remote. How many entrepreneurs wake up to notices of employees deciding to work from home or letting you know that they’re “online… but sitting in traffic”?

Most employees don’t abuse the privileges of mobility, but what do you do when you have employees that are no longer engaging with their team or not handling their assignments at the levels needed to help your business scale simply because they’re not always in the same room?

The challenges of remote management

Not only is mobility leading to the employee falling short of expectations, a non-responsive team member can put a huge damper on the productivity, efficiency and creative output of those that have to work with them.

We’ve all been in the scenario where you send an email and your only option is to wait – it’s not a proactive situation. When you can’t turn to your employee, or stop by their desk to get the answer in a timely manner you are swiftly ushered out of the driver’s seat of your own productivity.Telephone Thing Listening In Jamie Anderson Flickr 520x344 How to keep your remote employees accountable without playing Big Brother

Infuriating as that is, it’s only made worse with the ever-present “just following up” note, subsequent phone calls, even a text message as a last ditch effort. The real problem with these situations is that with every touchpoint, a few components are heightened: your need for an answer and your irritation with their lack of responsiveness.

So how can you respond when your employees don’t?

I’m a firm believer that this workplace problem is solvable by ensuring channel and message alignment. For example, email, while distributed and somewhat magical, is not the right channel for a question where a word or two will suffice. It’s also not the best channel to send a message for which you need an answer stat.

The most successful organizations I interact with offer employees professional solutions for the three most common forms of messages: email that’s always-on but appropriate for longer form or official communications, quick chat-like messages via mobile app or IM that require immediate attention from an individual, a team or your whole company, and group calling.

With those options and colleagues positively influencing one another’s behaviors, you’ll see the right messages start to funnel towards the right platform to ensure speed of response and thereby productivity across even the most lackadaisical distributed team.

Consider this common challenge: I need to get a hold of my co-founders, right now. One workflow towards a solution is to send an email to ask if they’re available, wait for them both to confirm when they’re free, send an email or calendar invite with a dial-in, ensure everyone dials in to the right number at the right time when we’re all often in different time zones.

Ever tried to call into a dial-in from your mobile device? The back and forth of looking for the login code while you’re dialed in – it’s crazy that people still operate like that.

One game-changing solution we employ at Lua is two-touch conference calling meaning that I can initiate a call with them and their phones ring simultaneously – no dial-ins. By directly reaching out to people you’re reducing the barriers to a given interaction and getting things done with speed, accuracy and ease. Two quick taps of the screen beats several emails and a conference bridge any day.

Time-to-action can also be accelerated via the right kind of messaging to an individual, a team or a whole organization. Obviously, the enterprise messaging space is blowing up with Slack becoming the latest startup to hit a billion dollar valuation.

There’s also HipChat, Cotap, TigerText, Avaamo and others on the block competing with legacy players from Microsoft Lync to Salesforce Chatter.

The question should be, what do I need my messaging solution to actually do? We often hear in technology that you want to “do one thing exceptionally well” and messaging is important enough of a channel to warrant focused solutions. However, 100 integration partners later and a solution can become just as much of a time sink as it was a value-add.

Have backup options

I genuinely believe that most employees want to do a good job. They want to support their teammates and they want to feel productive and that their contribution matters to their organization. Email alone is not enough to enable efficient workflows anymore.

That’s not to say it’s not incredibly valuable, but it needs to be freed of correspondence that is best suited to another channel. By providing the right solutions to deliver the specific types of communications that your team is reliant on to get their jobs done, you will see the response rate increase both on those new channels and on internal emails as well. That’s a promise.

New perk for Amazon Prime members: Unlimited cloud photo storage

Amazon Prime members are in for another nice perk in addition to free two-day shipping and instant video/music streaming: unlimited photo storage.

The company announced a free service called Prime Photos on Tuesday, through which users can upload and store photos and access them at any time in Amazon Cloud Drive. It’s unclear whether users will be able to store videos via Prime Photos as well, but the company said it is compatible across multiple devices and platforms, including iOS and Android smartphones and tablets, Macs, PCs and Amazon’s new Fire TV Stick.

While some may already be storing their photos in the cloud with other services, it never hurts to have more options, especially free ones. This is also a larger effort from Amazon to build up its ecosystem and get people hooked on its various product offerings (and renew their Amazon Prime accounts year after year).

However, for now, the service is only available for U.S. Prime members, who pay $99 (that price was bumped up from $79). Previously, only Fire Phone users had access to unlimited photo storage with Amazon.

Atop free two-day shipping on 20 million items, Prime subscribers get access to instant streaming of tens of thousands of movies and TV episodes via Prime Instant Video, more than a million songs through Prime Music and access to over 600,000 books through Kindle Owners’ Lending Library to borrow.