Are all Forms of SEO the Same?





If you’re on the hunt for a digital marketing agency, you may have come across some firms that have specializations.

Agencies come in a variety of sizes.

Some of them are even run by a single person who outsources the majority of the work that isn’t in their individual field of expertise. This is common for both content creation as well as link building, while the agency itself works on creating reports and analyzing data.

But isn’t all SEO the same? Yes! And No! What? Keep reading. I’ll explain.

Expertise

There are a few reasons why certain agencies specialize in various sectors of industry.

You see a lot of agencies that specialize in attorney SEO as well as medical SEO. Why? Let’s think about it for a second.

These fields require a lot of education. Therefore, it’s reasons to assume that everyone who is a doctor or an attorney is at the very least a decently smart individual. Meaning above average. Some may be the creme de la creme, but overall, it’s safe to assume all of them are above par.

Why does this matter? Because they’re smart enough to know there is a need for SEO. They need help and they’re wise enough to know they don’t have the skills or time to do it themselves.

People in these fields are also usually well-compensated for their services.

Lawyers, on average, make close to $140k a year, while doctors earn closer to $200k every year. The thinking is that these individuals, who are often self-employed, can afford SEO services and also need them to grow their business. Doctors and lawyers are not marketers or website designers, they doctors and lawyers, right?

It’s not like they teach SEO in med school and you don’t need to know anything about social media analytics to pass the bar.

Secondly, once you have success with SEO for one of these industries, you have a formula that can be duplicated. Being able to repeat success is not just going to bring in new business, but it’s going to make your team more efficient because you’ve done this time and time again.

The Flip Side

SEO is SEO at the end of the day. Sure, it may take a non-specialized team a bit more time, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

When a large digital marketing agency takes on a new client, they go above and beyond, using tried and true methods of figuring out where you’re failing and what you’re doing well. They also have their own set of formulas that work on every website.

Google doesn’t throw shade on individual industries. Actually, that’s not completely true. Gambling, porn, drugs, those things receive a bit of shade from Google. But I’m assuming you aren’t in these fields, as they’re fairly niche and most of them don’t need SEO help simply because their products market themselves.

So in all actuality, what works for one website should work on another. There may be tweaks and testing here and there, as there should be, but for the most part, SEO is just SEO.

Some Final Thoughts

No matter what industry you’re in, you need to focus on your own website.

Specifically, content creation and social media. It doesn’t matter if your business is new or old, small or large, these two factors can help off-set low organic rankings.

However, with time and patience, a digital marketing agency can help you next level your website with marketing strategies that bring in traffic and convert prospects.

How Do New Businesses Get Off the Ground?





Most entrepreneurs focus on their product or service. They don’t know how to scale, when to scale, or anything about marketing.

When a new business first starts, solopreneurs quickly get an accountant and an attorney, which is smart. But there is a lot more to it than creating a product, a business plan, and getting funding.

It doesn’t stop there, even though most of the content on the web usually ends at that point. They tell you has to get the business started as far as getting money and making yourself look good for investors. But what’s after that?

When do you build a website? When do you hire employees? When do you create a second product or expand your list of services?

The problem is each individual business needs to figure this out on their own. This is why there isn’t much content on the topic. But knowing when to do them is also helpful and it’s what I’m going to cover in today’s post, so keep reading.

When to Create a Website

The second you have a service or product ready for sale is the second your website should be live. There are easy ways to set up ecommerce these days using WooCommerce or Shopify.

As a new business, should you be doing anything that’s different from what an established store is doing?

Maybe. It depends. If you want to start marketing campaigns to get some potential customers walking in the door, you could always do a social media giveaway or coupon. Established businesses usually do this through email marketing, but as a new business, you don’t have an email list yet!

Social media is a great way to promote anything you’re trying to do. Brick and mortar stores typically do well with Facebook. You can use your personal network to get the word out and you can also use Facebook ads to help with any promotional activities.

While you’re at it, you need to make local SEO an early focus. Make sure that when someone is looking for your store, they can find it.

If you’re unfamiliar with local SEO or SEO in general, now is the time to do some research. You want support from your community, even if you want to do 50% or more of your sales online.

Your friends, family, and neighbors are going to be way more willing to help promote your products and help with your online reputation than complete strangers who find your store through a Google search.

When to Give Things Away

When I talk about giving things away, I’m not talking about “stuff”. I’m talking about time and money. As a new business owner, you likely don’t have much of either, right?

Yet, these expenses can be invaluable in promoting your business.

It can be something as simple as volunteering and showing up wearing a t-shirt with your business name and logo printed on it. Talk to people wherever you go. Don’t just hand out business cards, but definitely look for a reason to give them out.

Sponsor youth events and community festivals. Your logo and company name will be mentioned in the advertisements for the event. Not only that, but you now have an excuse to help promote the event using your social media channels. This helps to show both your community as well as everyone on the internet that you care about a cause and you’re willing to spend time and money on it.

These are the kinds of things that can help next level a young business. You can promote without looking promotional, and this is something that younger people especially like to see in a brand. They will remember it and if it comes down to doing business with your company or a company that doesn’t do anything to help make the world a better place, they’ll likely do business with you.

This is public relations at its finest.

When to Hire

As a solopreneur, you probably hiss like a vampire in the sun when you think about having to spend money unnecessarily.

However, facts are facts. And if you want to scale your business, you need to hire people. Start by utilizing cheaper labor for things like running a cash register or working a festival. As a business owner, your focus should be on the tasks that you do best, handling sensitive information, and growing the business.

As mentioned above, an accountant and an attorney are expenses that are both important and unavoidable.

Secondly, you need to realize your strengths and your weaknesses. If you’re weak in a part of the business that is vital to revenue and growth, then spend your money hiring someone who is great at this part of the job.

You can definitely outsource a lot of this type of work. Virtual assistants, web developers, and all manner of content creators are all over the web. This method of hiring is going to be substantially cheaper than hiring traditional employees.

When to Rest

Too many people work themselves too hard. While starting up a new business isn’t easy and required a ton of work, you need to know when to call it a day.

If you want to be able to work at your best, both physically and mentally, you need a proper amount of rest. Not only will it help you work better and be more productive, but you’ll be healthier and less stressed.

Having your own business is going to be stressful, even when things are going well.

It’s more important than ever to be healthy, get plenty of rest, and try to make some downtime for yourself to spend time with your friends and family.

Wrapping It Up

The only thing more important than knowing the “when” is knowing the “why”.

This is something traditional employees never have to worry about.

Why are you doing this? Why should anyone care? Why is your product or service better than the competition?

Answer these questions, show your customers the proof, and know when to do it all. This is the mission of every entrepreneur who wants to have a successful business.

Some Grey Hat SEO Techniques that May or May Not Work





In classic westerns, the bad guys and the good guys were easy to identify. The good guys wore a white hat and the bad guys wore a black cowboy hat. But if you wanted to add a little mystery to your characterizations, you would have your cowboys wear a grey hat. Their motivations would be extremely ambiguous. And their actions might only benefit themselves.

In SEO, we have white hat and black hat methods. With white hat methods, you’re toeing the line. You’re following Google’s rules as closely as possible to gain better ranking on Google.

In black hat SEO, you’re trying to circumnavigate Google’s rules and hoping those methods will help you rank. Often, black hat SEO is consider a shortcut method. You’re buying aspects of SEO that you might have otherwise worked hard to attain. And often these shortcuts result in backfires.

And then there’s grey hat SEO. This isn’t exactly a mix of the two other categories. It’s more akin to the ambiguous category of grey hat cowboys.

From the outside, you can’t tell if a grey hat method will be beneficial or not. Google’s guidelines might not even touch on these methods. Thus they are grey areas and should be used with caution.

1. Text Spinning

Re-wording content is risky. You essentially need to completely re-draft content to make it palatable for Google’s algorithms. And you’re going to get penalized if you leave every section in the same order as the original article.

But you can re-use content cross-sites if you’re extremely careful and are talented at rewording content.

One thing you should probably avoid is a text-spinning program. There are dozens of free ones out there. But they aren’t exactly great at re-spinning content for re-use.

You risk anything from run-on sentences to major grammar errors. These inconsistencies and errors will tank you ranking and tip Google off about your blatant self-plagiarism.

2. Linking Back From Old Underused Domains

There are hundreds of dormant domains out there. They may have been popular and exceedingly useful places at one time. And their DA is a gold mine. But the owner probably made their money and is on to better things.

If you can contact these people, you might be able to get a link on their site. It would take very little work on the part of the owner, and you’ll get some of that link-juice coming back at you.

The only problem with this method: you never know when Google might realize the site is dormant. If you’re paying someone to place your link on a dormant site, you might be risking money.

If Google notices this site, you likely won’t experience a drop in your own ranking, but you won’t continue to get the boost you hoped for.

3. Cloaking

Sorry Star Trek nerds, this has nothing to do with the Klingons. But it does have something in common with Klingon technology.

It would be beneficial for some websites if they could keep good ole’ Google’s sniffers off their site for a while. This is especially true if they’re decently ranked but want to do something a little grey-hat-ish.

But anonymity in the world of the internet is hard to come by if you are a legitimate site. And that’s especially true if you want your site seen by customers and users.

But there are some grey/black hat ways to get around Google’s crawlers or at least keep them at bay. It’s essentially a way to show content to the user and different content to the Google Bot.

Apparently, deceptive trolls out there used cloaking to trick users. They’d show Google’s bots a page with cartoons using various cartoon keywords. But they’d show the user porn.

People thought this was a funny trick to play on people, but it muddied Google’s search products. Google now has a way to catch these kinds of practices.

4. Link Purchasing

I’m not entirely sure how Google would find out that you’re purchasing links. But link purchasing is considered a gray hat tactic only because most sites you’re getting a link on don’t know they’re giving you a link.

A lot of companies that sell links utilize writers who are trying to sneak links into a site. And when a site finds out, they aren’t always the happiest.

But you can also trade links with other webmasters and that’s something Google almost expects its people to do. You’re always going to be linking to your buddy’s pages anyway.

Just remember, that if you do purchase links, the link is naturally placed. Don’t accept a poorly placed link. Make the company you’re buying from re-place the link.

5. Social Media Automation

This isn’t fully SEO related. But it’s considered grey hat by many social media companies such as Twitter and Instagram. I’ve actually dabbled in social media automation and haven’t had a ton of success. I’m better at just publishing content each day as I remember.

My problem with social media automation is this: most sites figure out pretty fast you’re automating your post. Especially your automation software is using some sort of link-shortener.

If they figure out that’s what you’re doing, they won’t even rank you at all. It’s like shouting into outer space where nobody can hear you scream.

A Young College Student’s Plan to Change His Life





You can do a thousand and one things to make money. Most of the time, people just don’t know how to start out. They’ll just “come up with an idea” and run with it. And they have no clue if their business idea will actually work.

Of course, there is always some uncertainty when starting a new business. This is why a majority of startups fail. But you can mitigate that risk by doing a few wise things.

Pulling a business idea out of your derriere is the last thing you want to do. It takes observation and research.

I’m going to tell you about a student I recently met who plans to do just that.

1. Find a Niche Nobody Has Filled

This can backfire, of course. You could have found a niche nobody has filled and no customer would ever respond to. Then you really are wasting your time.

But if others have thought about it and customers have asked about it. It’s time to jump on it before anybody else does.

This is what my friend is doing. The Student owned and operated cafe only sells coffee and tea. Students have to go a block and half away to the local bakery for baked goods.

Others have asked the cafe about doing this, and they were willing to sell baked goods, but nobody followed through.

My friend is more than willing to follow through. He also has the baking skills to back up his interest.

2. Do the Preliminary Research

In the State of Washington, you can get a cottage license to sell home-baked goods out of your own home. You can sell them directly to consumers. And since the university cafe is student owned and operated, my friend might be able to secure some shelf space to sell his baked goods directly to customers.

He still has some research to do. For example, he doesn’t know if running sales through the cafe register will invalidate his cottage license. He still needs to survey what kinds of pastries and baked goods students will buy. And he needs to learn tax laws.

But he’s already done the requisite preliminary research. There is a demand and he is willing to meet it.

3. Freedom From an Ordinary College Job

Most of the students I mentor applied for your typical ten-twenty hour drudgery. They’re doing stewardship work on the grounds or working at the local grocery.

They’re slaves to their employer’s schedules. But when a student decides to build their own small business, their schedule is their own. Of course, to make money, they’ll have to put a certain amount of time in each week.

For a while, that time might be more than a typical part-time college job. But soon, once they master whatever processes are involved, they’ll be able to make their own schedule and carve out time for their homework and social life.

If you’re a college student, you should consider starting a small business even if it’s selling a small product line or drop shipping. You’ll have to understand things like data tracking and logistics for some, but once you know an understand your niche, it’s easier than you think to continue making money.

New Spins on Traditional Marketing





Marketing can be a tough nut to crack. Fifteen years ago, digital marketing took over the world. Now, there are almost as many agencies as there are clients.

The funny part is that many of them are successful. Once you master digital marketing and you stay on top of updates and changes in the game, you’re pretty much set.

These agencies push email marketing and SEO because the ROI is proven. The strategies work.

But traditional marketing can still work as well. You just need to put a spin on it and try new things. Here are a couple of ideas.

Smartphones

No matter where you go, you will see people sitting, walking down the street, and driving. As bizarre as it is, it has become common to see people doing all of these things while using their phones.

Why not capitalize on this?

Not everyone checks their emails and many people don’t bother to even check their various emails, much less reply to them. Text messages are a much different story. In fact, 97% of people check their text messages regularly and 90% of them are doing so within just a few minutes.

When people fill out your opt-in form or make a purchase in the store, you can and should be getting their phone numbers. Sending mass text messages is a great way to communicate a flash sale or a special coupon or discount for certain users.

As long as you have a way for people to opt out of these messages, you’ll be fine and see a rise in sales.

Twitch

Streaming is starting to replace television. It’s free to watch and Twitch is currently the biggest platform, with two million streamers and 15 million daily viewers.

If you’re looking to get your ads in front of some new eyeballs, this can be a good place to do it.

Other platforms that show ads include YouTube as well as Sony Crackle, which is a streaming video service similar to Hulu. It’s completely free and ad-supported.

These ads are typically short and geared towards a younger crowd. If this sounds like something you’re interested in, you should jump on the opportunities now before these platforms blow up and the ads become too expensive.

Wrapping It Up

Marketing is always going to be hard.

However, those who are willing to be pioneers and try new things can be rewarded handsomely.

I definitely recommend making room in your budget for innovation. Getting your brand in front of new sets of eyes can be an easy steal as far as new markets and customers.

Going Full-Throttle as an Internet Entrepreneur Part 1





If you’re new to trying to make money online, then you probably don’t know what I’m about to tell you. Because it’s not something other entrepreneurs mention casually.

It’s not really a secret. Most people just assume that the new guys will figure it out eventually.

But a lot of people don’t figure it out or don’t figure it out until it’s too late.

So I’m just going to go ahead and throw the information out there. You need to build multiple income streams for any money-making endeavor. If you’re starting an online business, you definitely want to keep reading.

The Basics

If you’re building an online business, your website is your main attraction. This could be a blog you want to eventually monetize, a store that sells physical products through affiliate marketing or drop shipping, or your own company’s products or service.

No matter what you’re doing on your online business, the main focus should always be to keep your focus on what you’re doing. What I mean by that is that no matter how many income streams you want to build, you need to remember what you set out to do. If you’re a blogger, focus on the blog and creating content. If you’re running an affiliate marketing store, make sure you focus on the products your selling as well as introducing new products.

One of the worst things you can do is try to build too many income streams too fast.

In fact, you’ll probably find out how to build extra revenue in the pursuit of increasing sales for your original items or idea.

For the first six months to a year, focus on your main income stream. You want to build out a nice website, create great content, promote on social media, etc.

This will give you time to not just build your brand identity, but you also figure out how to tweak things and fix mistakes you make early on. For many people, this is marketing. They don’t understand how SEO works and they get frustrated when they don’t see results instantly. You can go to this website to discover more.

Mastering the OG Stream

Now that I’ve mentioned marketing, I want to stress how important it is to either outsource this aspect of owning a business or become a master of it.

No one makes money instantly. It takes time, patience, and hard work.

If you want to make money faster, then you need to master marketing. This includes social media, link building, and SEO. You also need to start a blog. This is huge and I’ve written on it before on this very website. Aside from running your business, marketing is the next thing you need to work on. It’s your #2.

When people say you need to “flesh out” your new business, this is likely what they’re talking about. On top of this, you can actually turn marketing methods into new revenues streams.

YouTube

Creating a YouTube channel solves a lot of your problems as a new business. Creating new videos is another type of content that will reach new customers and also gives you something to share on social media besides blog content.

Written and Video content have a lot in common. Most importantly, they need to have value. Not just an ok amount of value. You should strive to create content that is better than everyone else’s. This is a legitimate marketing strategy. You wait for the competition to make a certain piece of content and then you make a piece that’s better. It’s pretty simple in theory.

This is where things start to get a bit convoluted, right? You start stacking content on content, sharing content everywhere. You can’t tell right from left and up from down.

This is why it’s so important to focus on your main income stream first, hammer out all of the kinks, and then move on to bigger and better things.

And YouTube is just one example of a bigger and better thing. If you can amass a ton of subscribers and views, not only will you bring attention and sales into your business, but YouTube itself can become a viable income stream.

Example

Let’s break this down a bit to give you an idea.

You start a niche website. It has a couple of affiliate links throughout the content. The other pieces of content on the site all have internal links to the pieces that have affiliate links. But for the most part, they’re just there to create lots of value.

Next, you make appropriate social media pages and start to promote through them. You share your own content as well as other blog posts and videos that you think your readers and customers will enjoy. Then you create a YouTube channel. You start to build an audience, once again, through social media. You place links to affiliate products and to your website in the video descriptions.

Your audience grows on YouTube and social media, which in turn creates more traffic and sales for your website.

Then you place ads on your website and your YouTube. And this is where we’re going to stop for today. Let’s count the revenue streams.

  1. Main product or service
  2. Affiliate links on YouTube
  3. Ads on YouTube
  4. Ads on website

That’s four income streams right there. All you did was create an amazing website with great content and then created more great content on YouTube. Then you placed some ads. Then you promoted all of your content. And in doing so, created a total of four revenue streams for yourself.

Conclusion

None of what I wrote about in this piece is easy. It is, however, simple.

It comes down to creating a business and then scaling it, but scaling it in a much different way.

Creating so much content and a great website, coming up with business ideas, etc. takes time. So have fun with it and do your best.

3 Benefits of Marketing Automation





There are a ton of marketing tools out there. Everything from apps to software and they all do many different things.

The unfortunate truth is that marketing teams are always on a budget.

So how do you go about getting the most bang for your buck? The answer is marketing automation. It’s a powerful part of any marketing strategy with 82% of marketers seeing a positive ROI.

The purpose is to put some of your strategies on autopilot. This will help your team to operate with more efficiency and they can stretch their budget and still meet goals.

Efficiency

Cold-calling and other traditional methods can eat up your team’s time and the ROI on these old-school methods is fairly low. Opt-in forms and other types of information gathering should all go into one database. You can buy software that makes decisions once it hits a certain threshold of information.

Once you have x, y, and z info on a customer, your software will send out a piece of content or relay a specific tactic to the prospect to help push these qualified leads down the funnel.

And that’s another thing. Old-school lead generation techniques don’t bring in honest data. Catching people off-guard or being too pushy can make leads say whatever you want to hear. But at the end of the day, they really aren’t interested.

The internet has helped to thin the herd, so to speak. People will consume content and come to you when they’re ready. This is the beauty of creating content that’s better than the competition.

So when your software is sending out emails or making other forms of contact, you will have a much better chance of converting your leads.

All the Things

You can automate almost every aspect of marketing, especially when it comes to Adwords. This is why I tell people to start automating your Google Ads campaigns.

Google, thanks to the combination of Adwords and Analytics, had made the process even easier.

You can track traffic and conversions with these tools, find out which strategies are working, and alter your automation processes as necessary.

Cost Reduction

When you read posts online about marketing automation, you will typically see figures saying you should spend anywhere from 2-5% of revenue on it.

This probably boggles your mind, as it did to me when I first started seeing these figures. Then I realized why.

Marketing automation has the power to significantly reduce staffing costs. And the reason for this is simple. Automation does most of the work. Your marketing team can set up any kind of data gathering they want and then just press a button. They can track any metric they want and make changes immediately. You no longer have team members sending out emails one at a time to leads.

The Takeaway

Innovation needs to be part of your marketing strategy.

To accomplish this goal, you can’t have your marketing team tied up with mundane tasks.

It takes money to make money and setting up automation now will not just save you money, but in the long-term, it’s going to substantially increase your revenue.

Making Money as a Blogger





In one of my recent posts on Shoemoney, I wrote about the importance of creating multiple income streams for your online business.

I gave a short example of how you can diversify your income streams.

With today’s post, I wanted to elaborate and give readers a much clearer view of how bloggers make money and what they do to “get there”.

Hold on to your britches, folks. This is going to be a wild ride. Let’s go!

Birth

How are blogs born? And why? What’s the purpose?

Believe it or not, the most lucrative blogs never started out to become cash cows. It was something that just kind of happened. Now, roughly one million people create blogs every year and then abandon their blogs a few months later when they realize that blogging is not a get-rich-quick scheme.

The most successful blogs are born because someone has something to say. It’s something they can write about at length. It’s something that can be updated on a regular basis with fresh content.

This is why parenting blogs are so successful. Parents can talk about their kids for a long time. And these types of blogs often turn into lifestyle blogs with a parenting focus.

Most blogs turn into a lifestyle blog after a set period of time, especially websites that start off in a limited niche, such as personal finance. You can only write so many posts on “How to Save Money on X”, right?

There are a million tutorials out there on how to start a blog with hosting and theme information. I’m going to break it down. It doesn’t matter. Personal preference is fine when you’re just starting out. After a few months, if you don’t like something, change it. The only thing that’s permanent are the blog posts. Nothing is ever truly deleted once it’s on the internet.

The Terrible Twos

Most bloggers will tell you there is no point in monetizing a blog before the year two mark. They are two reasons they say this:

  1. Personal experience
  2. They’re right

When you start off with a blog, it’s going to take a while to find your voice. It’s going to take months, unless you’re a professional writer, to be able to hammer out one valuable blog post after another with consistency.

On top of creating great content, you need to find people to read it. Social media is the best place to find readers for a new blog. The most successful bloggers did all of their own social media work.

To be a great blogger, you have to be friendly, approachable, and willing to put yourself out there, especially when it comes to social media.

Social media is a great opportunity to make new friends within your blogging community, learn from them, engage with their readers, and then they’ll likely do the same for you. Having a solid online presence as far as social media is how modern blogs get off the ground. New blogs are not simply found through organic search.

People who read blogs on a regular basis are on the look. They will snoop around to find your affiliate links. While most of your readership won’t care, it’s easy to overdo it, which will turn off your readers and they’ll stop visiting.

It easily takes two years to find the magic formula for your own blog. Where should I place ads? What social networks are the best for my blog? There is no set template. It all depends on you as an individual, your niche, and how much time you’re willing to put into the project.

Time for School

Knowledge is money. If you want to get into blogging long-term and turn a profit, you need to soak up as much knowledge as you can. Read books, listen to podcasts, and learn from other bloggers.

Knowledge is such a powerful tool that it has become a large income stream for many bloggers. They create their own courses and sell them to newer bloggers who want to get on the fast-track to earning money through a blog.

What new bloggers need to learn is marketing. It’s hard for professional marketers, so you know it’s going to be tough for someone who has never had to do it before they started a blog.

Social media is a large part of marketing these days, but there are also other aspects you need to pay attention to if you want to be successful. Specifically, link building and SEO. But you should really learn it all, everything from email marketing to online lead generation.

The more you learn, the more you know. And the more you know, the more you can teach. Teachers get paid. Online courses are a great income stream for bloggers, as they get way more of a cut than they acquire from ads and affiliate marketing.

Adulthood

You’re going to learn a lot your first couple of years blogging. You have the time to fix mistakes and tweak your site as you see fit. Your readership will be small enough that most people won’t even notice.

However, the earlier you find your voice and get into treating your blog as a way to make money, the better off you’ll be. You don’t have to monetize, but you do need to treat it as a potential income stream early on. This will help you to take the project seriously from the jump.

Blogs, just like wine, need to mature to increase their value. Once it has matured to the fullest extent possible, you will be ready to monetize and turn your blog into something that can replace part of your income and eventually, all of it.

Conclusion

Blogging isn’t for everyone.

If you don’t have years to spend on development, then don’t waste your time.

You need to have infinite patience and a desire to learn and apply new things to stay on top of your niche.

It’s not easy, especially in 2018, but it can still be done.

What Your I.T. Department Can Learn From the I.T. Crowd





We’re in a dark and dank dungeon. It smells of sweat, drying milk, and ozone. A server ticks and hums one room over — did you hear something rustling in there?

You get a call from “upstairs.” Before they have a chance to tell you what’s going on, you say, “have you tried turning it off and on again?”

This probably sounds familiar. Not because I.T. departments actually look, sound, smell, and taste like this, but because it sometimes feels like that.

So, let’s take a look at the ultimate parody of the I.T. department and find out what Moss, Roy, and Jenn can teach us about running an I.T. department.

1. People Are Absurdly Predictable

It’s now such an old-hat joke it’s not even funny anymore. “Did you try turning it off and on again.” But it’s really the go-to fix for a lot of computer problems.

We all understand how a memory cache works and 99% of devices use one. Even if a client doesn’t understand the *how*, they still know to try restarting.

But for some reason, it escapes literally everyone’s mind.

This is why it’s most efficient to use a bot to free up 90% of your time dealing with I.T. problems in a business.

Roy’s solution was a taped recording. Comedy gold. But we now have the technology to outsource common Q&A to a machine. Simply set up a bot chat program on every computer and your clients can fix the simplest problems through that. This will leave you plenty of time to catch up on the last season of Mr. Robot.

2. Nobody in Your Office Understands the Network

You’re probably like Ross in that you get frustrated when people mess with the settings on their workstations turning off their “bloody firewalls” and such. But you’ve got to remember: most people don’t understand the network and how it works.

You’ve had education and experience in network services. Few others have.

You’re of course not going to convince a Jenn doppelganger that some black box is the internet, but you can explain why certain things are necessary in simpler terms. If you want people to follow network hygiene protocols, you have to explain why they’re there. And you have to do it in a way people will understand.

If someone doesn’t have a reason for a rule, they’re less likely to follow the rule.

3. Don’t Be a Giddy Goat: Fix Problems Early

You may think a problem is small. Deal with it later, you tell yourself. But often a small problem in the network might be indicative of a flaw in the process.

If you don’t examine the whole system and fix the bug now, it could become a larger debacle down the line. The whole network could go down or you could find yourself with a mess of corrupted data or local storage drives.

Also, don’t just fix the problem, figure out why it happened. Always source to the root of the problem.

Five Coffee Facts to Impress Everyone With on Coffee Day





Did you know that more than 1/3 of all Americans drink coffee. And they spend more money on coffee each year than they do on investments.

I personally could take a lesson from that last stat. Imagine how much money you might have if you put your coffee money into investments each year.

Suffice it to say, coffee is a booming industry. Over the past ten years, coffee culture has gone from mere fru-fru Starbucks lattes to single-origin obsession.

If you’re investing in the coffee industry or write a blog about coffee, you might note that tomorrow is Coffee Day. So, in honor of Coffee Day, we bring you five fascinating facts about coffee.

1. Instant Coffee is Old

Instant coffee appeared in 1771. The problem was, it would go bad pretty fast. Most likely due to the fact it was merely dried coffee.

But about 100 years later, David Strang came along and invented a “soluble dry coffee powder.” It created a thick and nasty brew most people detested. Sound familiar?

2. Move to Finland if You Love Coffee

If you read any story set in the northern countries of Europe, you’ll quickly realize that coffee takes a central role in their culture. But no place takes coffee as seriously as Finland.

Findlanders drink 12 kilograms of coffee per person per year. That’s 26 pounds of coffee.

3. The Brazilian Olympic Team Used Coffee Uniquely

When nobody, especially your corrupt government, is going to help you achieve your dreams, it’s time to do something about it. And that’s exactly what Brazil’s Olympic team did. They sold coffee on their way up to the Olympics in L.A. to pay their way in 1932.

All 69 athletes helped load up and sell 50,000 sacks of Brazilian coffee. And they successfully made it to the Olympics. Now that’s entrepreneurial spirit if I’ve ever seen it.

4. Women Tried to Ban it in Great Britain

People get some silly ideas in their heads sometimes. But I guess you’ve gotta add meaning to your life somehow, right?

Well, a group of women in Great Britain must have had some fairly meaningless lives, because they tried to ban coffee on the grounds it turned their men into “useless corpses.”

The truth is less silly, however. Coffee houses might have been linked to political ties and, as well, they were the men’s clubs of the 1600s. The Women’s Petition Against Coffee was satire and it probably had very little to do with actual coffee. But it’s an interesting connection nonetheless if you want to investigate further.

5. You Can’t Poison Someone With Coffee

You can put poison in someone’s coffee. But it’s impossible to overdose on coffee.

Your heart might flutter after a few cups. But your body will eliminate the caffeine faster than you can drink enough of it.

It takes about 70 cups of the witch’s brew to kill an average 150-lb human being. You’d literally have to inject that much coffee into a person to accomplish this.

So, whether you sell coffee, drink coffee, make art with coffee, don’t forget to make a cup tomorrow in honor of National Coffee Day.

Four Freelance Productivity Tips That Will Have You Slaying Work Projects





It’s the eternal struggle with working from home. You could call the dentist, watch the show you’ve been meaning to watch, clean the bathroom. Even the most mundane things can seem more interesting than another article about search engine optimization.

But there’s no excuse to slack off at making money as a freelancer. There’s plenty of work to be done. Your e-mail is probably full of opportunities right now.

It’s time to don the headphones and get to work. Here are some ways you boost your productivity while working as a freelancer.

1. DO NOT DISTURB

I had to have a talk with my wife a few months ago. I’d be deep in a project. My door was closed. And she would burst in after her 9-5 was done and just start talking about her day.

I made it clear that she needed to ask if I was at a stopping point. My concentration is fragile. And if I get interrupted when deep in a project, I’ll get lost in something else and decide to put off work.

Look at what’s distracting you during your day. Is it your phone? Are you compulsively picking it up, mindlessly opening Facebook and then realizing what you did only minutes later?

Put your phone in Do Not Disturb mode. Or better yet, leave your phone in another room charging. You’ll be surprised at how little you actually miss when you leave your phone elsewhere.

2. Even the Type B Personality Can Use a List

I know people who make lists just to make lists. They think it’s fun. They color code everything and keep an extensive calendar with them at all times.

I’m not like that. Even my fiction tends to be fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants. No outlines for me.

We’ve seen an uncanny effect with lists, however. When you have a long list in your head of things to do, you will inevitably experience analysis paralysis.

Your list will seem overwhelming. You won’t know where to start. But once you write it down, you’ll feel better.

You’ll realize what you have to do isn’t nearly as much as you thought and you’ll dive right in.

3. Do Similar Things Together

Say I have five orders for articles about baby products. While utterly droll, my mind will work faster if I stay in the world of baby products for an extended period of time.

When coming up with another topic, it will be easier if I’m still thinking about baby products and not entrepreneurial case studies. Those are two entirely different headspaces.

Group similar projects and tasks together. Schedule them in blocks.

4. Don’t Forget Breaks

I actually struggle with the opposite of this one. Give me a break and I’ll find something to distract myself with for entirely too long.

But some people out there aren’t as ADD as me. And some people enjoy planning out their day.

If that’s you, then plan your breaks out. Plan out what you’re going to do during your breaks.

When I worked a desk job, I would plan push-up breaks. It was my answer to smoke breaks.

The key to boosting productivity is searching for weaknesses. Shore up places where you’re losing time. Disavow activities that are eating up your life.

What Comes After the Cloud? The Future of Cloud Computing





Before 2007, cloud servers for businesses and consumers just didn’t exist. Yeah, we had accessible servers all over the world, but the way we do cloud computing wasn’t a thing.

In just three years, the number of cloud providers went from nothing to 550,000. We entered the age of cloud computing full tilt.

But now that cloud computing is ubiquitous and most people don’t even think twice about storing and accessing data on the internet, something else must be coming.

Well, sorta.

Cloud technology isn’t going to disappear any time soon. It’s like the internet and computing technology. We merely build on what we’ve created and then call it something different.

Machine to Machine Interaction

The cloud facilitates much more than we ever dreamed possible. But one area we’re seeing explode recently is the realm of the independent machine.

We’ve talked for years about “The Singularity.” A moment in time when machines become conscious and have the capability of outwitting us.

While what’s happening around us at the moment isn’t a Skynet moment yet, we’re slowly marching down the path of machine independence.

The internet of things has been a hot topic for a few years now. And consumers see it most clearly in their smart home products. When you connect a bunch of devices a local network and they can talk to each other, you’re creating a local network of things.

We’re creating incredible machine learning algorithms that can intelligently sort through massive stores of data. They can do so much faster than we can.

But the one thing slowing everything down is latency. We just can’t get things to communicate faster than light.

Even the promise of quantum entanglement as a new way to communicate is a fool’s pursuit.

So, what’s the answer? Edge computing. Or semi-local storage.

Especially in a highly populated area such as a metropolis, you could build a data-center and have devices store data and communicate over a semi-local network.

Real-Time Data

We’re a long ways off from storing most of our data on local drives and tapes. But even local could be faster at times than cloud services. This entirely depends on the network and the service you’re connected to.

If your data center is close by, you’re going to be able to access data faster. For an internet of things, especially a system as complex as a self-driving car traffic system, you’re going to need lightning quick data storage and analysis.

And our digital world is complex. If we were to connect all of the electronic devices we rely on in everyday life, the load on the network would be massive. This, in turn, would slow down network speeds.

The answer to all of this is semi-local edge computing. It will take some time for the real-estate to build and infrastructure to catch up. But I guarantee this is the next step beyond cloud computing.

How Does Search Engine Optimization Actually Work?





Prior to 2016, I had no clue what SEO was. I used the internet oblivious to the fact Google meddled in our search results.

Honestly, if you’d asked me in 2015 how Google worked, I’d probably say “magic.” I type in a question and out comes an answer. Who cares, right?

Since then, I’ve become a wise SEO wizard. But if you’re here right now, you’re probably befuddled by SEO. So, I’ve set out to give you a simple and quick cheat sheet on SEO.

What Is SEO Anyway?

Simply put, search engine optimization is the constant adjustment to hundreds of factors on a website Google might be monitoring. We do this to hopefully increase our ranking for various search terms.

If you Google search engine optimization, you’ll see topics like keyword targeting, site speed, mobile optimization, etc. Many SEO topics deal with on-page factors like content, keywords, and links.

If you’re just starting out in SEO, these three things will be your opening salvo. You’ll determine what kind of content you want to share with your audience, what keywords you’ll use, and where you’ll link out to.

You’ll eventually learn about WordPress themes, HTML tags, etc. You’ll learn how to keep track of website metrics and eventually, you’ll become an obsessive SEO like the rest of us.

But until then, let’s delve into some basics.

A Few Things to Avoid

Since 2012, Google has filtered results and these filters, when new, wreak havoc on website ranking. Sometimes, you’ll think you’re doing absolutely nothing wrong and suddenly your ranking will drop.

Google has no obligation to warn us when this will happen or to tell us what is going to change. But here are a few things we know will keep you from ranking on Google.

Link Buying

Actually, if done right, this can be extremely beneficial. But you must find a company that knows how to place links naturally.

If your link is to a car parts sales page and you buy a link on an editorial site about animal cruelty law, you’re likely wasting your money. Even if the site you’re linking back from is highly rated, Google will sniff out your spammy link and cut you down.

The best way to gain authority on Google? Earn those links. Create incredible content and get it shared and used.

Keyword Stuffing

Keywords almost don’t matter anymore. Of course, they somewhat matter, but they must be so natural even you don’t know you’re using a keyword.

Instead of focusing on keywords, focus on contextual subjects. Whatever your topic, it will show up naturally as a keyword in your content.

Unoriginal Content

Don’t copy other people. Plain and simple. Google will flunk you faster than you can say Matt Cutts.

There’s More to It Than Content

You could get a free WordPress account and create a ton of incredible content and get nowhere. Do your research. Pay a little bit of money. And then get cracking.

Good SEO takes a lot of work. Cutting corners poorly will often wreck you.

Five Vacation Rental Website Mistakes That Will Ruin Your Business





There are more than 23,000 vacation rental companies in the United States. Because of crowd sharing sites like Airbnb and VRBO, the market is becoming extremely saturated.

Small towns and cities are cracking down on crowd shared rental houses and imposing silly regulations. And if you aren’t careful, you could wind up on the bad side of your local city council.

The market is competitive and any mistake you make could sink you. Here are a few things you shouldn’t do if you want to succeed with your vacation rental website.

1. Neglect Your Regional Expertise Section

Even if you won property where you rarely visit, people want to stay in the homes of people with local expertise. Local information is valuable to any tourist and even if your information is second hand, you should have something to offer.

Local restaurant gems, oft-missed side attractions, and really anything the tourists might miss if they only did cursory research of the area.

Pick a favorite pizza place, breakfast place, cafe, etc. What’s great for families to do, what’s great for couples, and where can singles go to mingle. Learn to be an expert even if you aren’t.

2. This Picture is Too Small, This Picture is Too Blurry, This Picture is Just Right

I tend to pick my rental hoes by features and reviews rather than by photos. Photos are easy to doctor.

You can make a place look bigger than it really is by simply getting into a corner and taking a wide angle shot of a room from near the floor.

But most customers will use the photos in on a rental web page to judge the rental. If they can’t tell what it actually looks like inside and out by the photos, they’ll likely skip over your rental.

3. Neglect On-Page Content

It may not seem like content would be important for a vacation rental website, but it’s actually one of the easiest ways to stand out from the rest on Google. The most basic tenant of search engine optimization is that content is king. And if you don’t have a blog on your vacation rental website, you’re not going to rank above your competition.

Search engine optimization for vacation rental websites could be as easy as building a blog and sharing important local information. The more your content gets shared, the more valuable your site becomes to Google.

4. Wait…You’re Just on Facebook?

This is the most atrocious mistake you could make as a rental company. Even if you only have one house or apartment, you need a website.

Facebook is becoming a quickly outdated mode for businesses to advertise. The internet will persist beyond Facebook and once FB disappears, you’ll have to create a website anyway.

And the upcoming generation isn’t even using Facebook anyway. Get a website, plug into Airbnb and VRBO and stay ahead of the curve.

5. Forget to Personalize With a Bio

People want to know who they’re staying with even if nobody will be there. With an influx of accusations of privacy violations and weird schemes in the rental sphere, it’s even more important you seem personable and good-natured.

Include a bio and a realistic picture of yourself.

It’s Time to Next Level Your Content





We all know that content is important. But just how important is it? I mean, really, it can’t be that big of a deal. Right?

Wrong.

One of my clients recently ran an experiment on their website. They went from posting occasionally on their blog to posting as much as 20 posts per week. They ran this experiment for two months.

What they saw threw even me for a loop. They received an increase of 10 DA points. For those of you who monitor factors like domain authority, you know this is huge.

So today I’m going to be talking about content and how you can take yours to the next level.

Know Your Audience

What’s most important with your content strategy is to know your audience.If you haven’t done so, you need to come up with buyer personas for your product or service. You can read more about them on this website.

Once you have your buyer personas developed, you need to write content with those personas in mind. Then, you need to break your content strategy down even further.

You need to think about where they are in the sales funnel. So you should be writing content that hits persona number one at points A, C, and D. Persona number two should look at content at points A, D, and E.

Ideally, you want content that hits all of your personas individually at each point, although this will cause some overlap in content and may not be necessary.

Dot and Cross Everything

The biggest concern with increasing the amount of content on your website is going to be quality.

If quality is a concern, meaning you only have one writer, then less is more.

However, I recommend hiring more writers or outsourcing to independent contractors. Freelance writers are everywhere these days and freelancers, in general, are going to make up the majority of the workforce within the next ten years. So use them and use them efficiently.

Spend your company dollars on a legitimate and experienced editor and content manager. This can be one person or two, it doesn’t matter. But you need to be really clear about your expectations.
Your content needs to be stellar. If you can get 20 posts a week on your site and it’s all baller, then absolutely go for it.

But there is more to just creating amazing content as well. It should all be SEO friendly. If not, then what’s the point? A blog needs to please readers as well as search engines.

This includes eye candy like gifs, YouTube videos, and images. It also includes internal and external linking. Your blog is your hub and you should treat it like one. Make sure you can funnel repeat customers and prospects to where they need to go. And where they need to go is where you want them to go. Take control of your content and what it can do.

Promote Your Face Off

I recently read a piece of content about how Nerd Wallet has really gone above and beyond with their SEO strategies. A big part of what they do involves creating content that’s so awesome that everyone wants to link to it, including their competitors.

But another big part of what they do is really slick. In the content I read, they referred to it as “ego bait”.

So what Nerd Wallet will do is create a really amazing piece of content called something like, “The Best Cities/States to Live in for X”. Then, they get in touch with the webmasters of the city or state webmasters and give them a cute little badge. It’s an award, essentially. Like hey guys, thanks for being awesome. These badges have a link going back to Nerd Wallet.

A lot of websites try this strategy but none have had the success that Nerd Wallet does, because they aren’t stroking the ego like Nerd Wallet does.

If you don’t want to give out silly badges, then don’t. That’s not even the point. The point is that they created content and then promoted it by letting important people and websites know about the content. Links from a .gov site are the creme de la creme of link building.

And all Nerd Wallet did was write content and then tell people about it.

Don’t let the magic stop there. Promote on every channel that is relevant to your company. While there are major channels like Twitter and Instagram, you may also want to take a look at some of the smaller, more niche networks as well.

This includes being a part of forum communities and any other online avenue where prospects and customers may gather.

What is the Point?

Customers and prospects care why you do what you do? Your content is a great way to help show and explain to them why your company exists.

It can show them how it helps them with a problem.

Sometimes prospects have no idea they had a particular problem that your product or service can solve. It’s your job to put yourself out there and show the world what you, your company, and what you offer can do. And you can do it without being overly salesy and pushy.

The Takeaway

When you’re producing content, it can make you feel like you aren’t in control of your own business.

You can’t look at it this way. You should be thinking of how you can help people. And how your content can provide value to people who don’t yet know you exist.

If you want to have a profitable business, you have to put your customer’s needs ahead of your own.

It starts with your content.