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Is Fear Ever a GOOD Thing?

We’re about to have goat babies. Each morning, I glance out the window apprehensively, wondering if today’s the day Daisy gives birth. I’m not sure when D Day will be, because we kept our buck with the does instead of carefully planning conjugal visits. Our two other does gave birth over the past month, so it feels like Daisy is behind schedule. It’s a mental hang up, but it’s hard to shake. Read more

This Website Is For You If

…You are concerned about the direction our culture has taken. You try to avoid current events because the bad news never stops. You focus your thoughts and dreams on what you might do to provide for your own family under many different scenarios.

You don’t want to live in fear. But you don’t want to be a fool either. So you keep on building, working, planning. But you ponder. What if? What would we do? Is there more that we could do now?

Yes. There is. There is more. You can create. And in the process of creation, you can provide. You can supply. You can protect. You can build rather than horde or destroy.

It is time to become a more capable human being. Time to become a person with REAL skills. And to, in turn, pass those skills on to a new generation. A generation who will never know the latchkey tv babysitter world.

The next generation will be competent, capable, and aware. They will be free, independent, and capable of making the decisions that must be made to return our region to the freedom it so ungratefully used to know. But this new generation will not just be free. They will be able. They will be creative. They will be skilled. They will be wise. And we are their fathers. We are their mothers.

And through the process of our actions and our changes in course, we create new neural pathways to a future that was formally impossible, but is now become possible. New neural pathways. New social pathways.

We will, because we must. And we must, before all is stripped away.

If this is you, sign up for the newsletter today. Stay in tune. And stay in touch.

Blogging is More Than Formulas

I’ve spent years reading, studying, and writing blogs to fit formulas in search of the golden ticket. And I’ve recently had a cathartic moment of truth when I realized my bloglife had to change.

Money is great. It pays bills. It feeds families. But I can’t blog anylonger with money as my chief goal. The message has to be AUTHENTIC, from the heart, and free of gimmicks. Much love to all the “how to blog” blogs out there, but my #1 goal is to write content worth writing. Read more

The Risk of Not Committing vs Cost of Wrong Choice

Have you ever told yourself it’s better to wait and see than to commit too soon to the wrong path? And has that waiting period ever turned into months or even years of nothing? Maybe it’s a new blog. Maybe it’s a small business.

I spent my twenties full of angst, insecurity, and indecision. I spent a DECADE following bad advice and obeying my fears and generally accomplished very little. It was like sweat detoxing without the cleanse.

Straight out of college, the dream was to become… a writer. Not just someone who writes. No. To become the next C.S. Lewis. To write today’s Narnia. That was the dream.

But then came college graduation day. And you know what, the next day, I had nowhere to live. I ended up sleeping on a friend’s couch in an apartment so full of smoky incense I stayed away as much as possible.

The Moment of Decision

I hope that, unlike me, you make the better choice during a moment of discomfort and uncertainty. It took m years to undo the years of stagnancy. And while dreams evolve as time passes, you can never get back the opportunities you never took. No matter where you are in the process, choose the better path today.

It took Jeff Goins years to finally call himself a writer. After pressing through the painful process of choosing without guarantees, Jeff offers us this timely advice:

The risk of not committing is greater than the cost of making the wrong choice. Because when you fail, you learn. But what happens when you don’t commit, when you choose to not act? Well, nothing. When you pause without intent, when you stall due to fear, you don’t learn a thing. ach wrong choice grows your character and strengthens your resilience, readying you for what comes next. Failure is a friend dressed up like an enemy.

– Jeff Goins, The Art of Work p. 27

Face the Next Step

Consider this your loving nudge out of the nest. You’ve sat there debating and contemplating for far too long already. You can wait to be chosen, but you’re living in the wrong period of time for that option to be effective.

Usually when we say ‘it’s your turn,’ we mean that it’s your turn to be picked, to be the next one, the person who fits in more than any other. The next pop star on the cover of Seventeen, the next news anchor, the next plant manager. Or the next customer at the deli. This is the model in which you wait for change to happen to you.

– Seth Godin, What to Do When It’s Your Turn

Whether you’re waiting to be picked by God, your boss, or some random editor or producer, consider the fact that you’ll never get back the years lost, when you could be out there giving, serving, learning, and doing something to establish the skills and experience you’ll need to be the person other people can count on. Or, as Seth Godin puts it,

Another model of ‘your turn,’ though, is the model of the person who makes change. We seek the change that is interesting, the change for the better, and most of all, the change that connects us to someone else. This is the freedom to make change, and the willingness to seek out the tension it brings.

So dust off your courage and let’s try something new. You can MAKE the change you have been waiting for, one tiny step at a time. Remember, “when you stall without intent… you don’t learn a thing.”

Make this season a learning experience AS you move forward.

Gary Vaynerchuk Rocks Lakewood Theatre In Dallas

Last night, Gary Vaynerchuk of WineLibrary.comDailyGrape.com, and VaynerMedia.com spoke to a full-house in Dallas’ Lakewood Theatre at an event called GaryVeeinBigD.

Guest speakers included John Keehler, Cory Levy, Mike Yavonditte, and Bill Boebel. It was an exciting event because Gary brings so much passion and energy as well as a unique perspective on what it means to achieve success in marketing.

The theater was filled with entrepreneurs and digital marketing professionals, all hoping to catch a whiff of the magic that has made Gary the online success that he is.

According to Gary, while Content is King and Marketing is Queen, Context is what will deliver the goods in the future. Gary started the evening by sharing some context of his own, telling how he got started in business as a child and what lessons he learned that still affect him today.

“When I was six, I had seven lemonade stands. I put all my friends to work. Do you guys remember Big Wheels? I used to ride my Big Wheels and pick up my cash at the end of the day like I was Tony Soprano or something. Where’s my money?

“It’s amazing what you learn at such a young age. Two major things… I fundamentally believe that every person in this room is in the eyeballs and ears business. And the reason that we’re so obsessed with mobile is because you guys are looking at it right now. That is unbelievable. We’re in the eyeballs and ears business. No matter what your business, that is what you should be focused on. No matter if we’re B2B or B2C, i really don’t care. We want to story tell. If we’re good, we convert.

“…I literally would sit down on the corner of the street… I would just sit there for hours, trying to figure out as cars were driving by, what signs and what trees to put the lemonade signs on to figure out where their eyes were going and how to convert them.”

Adapting to the Times

This story illustrates the need to adapt strategies to what is, currently, rather than what was. Whereas all the marketing dollars have been spent on television, radio, and print advertising pre-1994, a shift was made toward banner ads. And now, another shift is happening. Gary says that today’s teens and pre-teens have grown up aware of the typical placement of ads on a website. Studies show that teens completely ignore the right hand side of any website and cannot recall any details of that right hand side due to the expectation that it contains advertising.

Gary is convinced that the next major move in business is headed towards 1-0n-1 relationship marketing. That’s where broadcasting a message, even on social networking channels, is no longer effective. People learn to tune out the spiel and instead choose to bond with brands who reach out and speak and show gratitude to them individually. To make them feel special and important. That’s something that can’t be faked by mass marketing tactics.

Say Goodbye to Soap Operas

Perhaps the most compelling story of the night was about Guiding Light, the soap opera that began on NBC Radio in 1937. In 1952, Guiding Light made the impressive transition from radio to television. Gary noted how remarkable it was that the writers and producers realized that the eyeballs and ears, and therefore ad dollars, were transitioning to television, so they made the questionable leap.

Again, in the mid to late 2000s, the eyeballs and ears were shifting once again. Only this time, shows like Guiding Light couldn’t (or at least didn’t) make the transition. Studies showed that during premium soap opera hours, the female demographic most likely to watch had moved from soap operas to social gaming on Facebook. Games like Farmville had stolen the audience away, which resulted in stealing the ad dollars as well. Advertisers began looking at ways to implement their brands and products into online social games rather than television, and Guiding Light was forced to end its 72 year run in September 2009.

Gary used this story to illustrate the importance of, once again, knowing where the eyeballs and ears are. Regardless of what’s comfortable, success comes in the form of being early to the party and getting to know EVERYONE.

Most companies argue that its not scalable to contact and build relationships with every customer or potential customer when the target demographic reaches the hundreds of thousands, millions, and beyond. Gary offered an excellent practical answer to this problem: take the millions you would have spent on a Super Bowl commercial, hire 80 new employees, and place them online, engaging with every single customer and potential customer through channels like Twitter SearchFacebook Groups, forums, and Quora.

The Thank You Economy

Everyone in the building received a free copy of Gary’s latest book, The Thank You Economy, which furthers his belief that the true winners in the next five years will be brands and companies who “can prove they care about their customers more than anyone else. The businesses and brands that harness the word-of-mouth power from social media, those that can shift their culture to be more customer-aware and fan-friendly, will pull away from the pack and profit in today’s markets.”

After the session, Gary signed books for all who waited and then joined the crowd to watch the Mavericks game at Sfuzzi, a local pizza restaurant and bar in Uptown Dallas.

Google +1: Did google just socialize search?

The Web is about to get a whole lot more social. Yes, MORE. And it’s beginning today.

If you think that’s impossible, consider that Google is finally beginning to socialize search results, which will effectively socialize the largest non-social corner of the Web.

Google introduced +1, Google’s answer to Facebook Likes. Soon you will see 
+1 buttons beside Facebook Like buttons all across the Web. And when you click +1, you have the power to influence your friends, coworkers, and connections. 

Imagine the possibilities when word-of-mouth and search join forces. Rather than depending upon Google’s impersonal algorithms to deliver relevant info, you’ll have the recommendations of your peers to help guide you.

Check out the video below.

Does +1 Change the Order of Search Results?

I haven’t seen Google divulge whether the number of votes will simply show up beside search results or actually influence the positioning on the page. If no: if your network of social friends haven’t visited any of Google’s top ten results for your search, you simply won’t see their votes until you click back further into the results. If yes: search results with the most votes will rise to the top for your network of friends only. This seems unlikely as an immediate roll-out, but could be in the plans for the future.

What Could Stop Search from Total Socialization?

1. This is all predicated upon one simple factor: personalized search.

If you don’t use Gmail, Google Analytics, AdWords, or AdSense, chances are you aren’t logged into your personalized Google account when you start searching. If not you’re signed on as a Google user, you won’t see +1 recommendations from your network. Google hopes you will log in, because doing so creates a greater opportunity to personalize search results and thus increase conversions (clicks to ads on Google makes Google money).

2. A potential ghost town.

Even if you ARE logged into your Google account, the majority of your social networking friends probably aren’t in your Google network.

Who Is in Your Google Network, Anyway?

Since Google isn’t exactly a social network, you might be wondering which friends you’ll be seeing +1 results from. Fair enough. For now, it looks like Gmail, Google Reader, and Google Buzz contacts will make up your network. If you’re like me, the majority of your Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter friends are NOT connected to you through any of those Google properties.

What Does This Mean for Marketing?

First, what WILL happen is that Web marketers like me will suddenly expand their network as large as they can. They’ll invite everyone on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn to connect so they can influence more people with their +1s. This rapid increase of networking will provide Google a Twitter-like network infrastructure from which to increase the popularity of +1 worldwide.

Get ready for the conditional statement.

“If” enough people join in and remain logged into Google for the benefit of +1 recommendations (both to influence and be influenced), SEO will finally have to compete with social media / viral marketing for most impactful passive marketing tactic.

Influencing people will be all the more important, which will make influential social media accounts, viral videos, and blogs all the more important in every company’s strategy. Sensationalism will play a huge role in +1 votes just like it did for Digg, Reddit, StumbleUpon, and the rest.

Companies who opt out of establishing an effective social presence will lose ground to those more open to the hip, the viral, and the social.

How JC Penney’s Public Penalization Affects SEO in the Future

The dust has settled, and the topic of JC Penney’s public SEO reprimand is already a thing of the past. You might think that the recently announced logo redesign for Penney’s or the recent Oscar advertising buzz are intended as a quick diversion from the recent reputation crisis suffered at the hands of Google. As one expert says, “You don’t want to use a logo change as a Band-aid.”

No worries. While on the outside it might look like peculiar timing, JC Penney has actually been in the process of redesigning their website and brand for months. The two events are completely unrelated.

But I want to revisit the public embarrassment and discuss what this means for SEOs and search marketing strategies going forward. 

What Exactly Did JC Penney Do?

Before we get into my prediction, you need to understand precisely what we’re dealing with. JC Penney (and their then-current SEO vendor SearchDex) either bought links from other websites or created hundreds of artificial websites from which they posted links to JC Penney. Or both. SearchDex allegedly created websites for the purpose of creating additional links to the JC Penney site. Whether all the links came from sites created by the vendor or from purchasing links from external sources, the results were incredibly good rankings for several months… until someone called them to task.

While it may seem unlikely that JC Penney would rank #1 for everything from dresses to area rugs, it IS possible. What hurt their cause in the eyes of Google was the total irrelevancy between linking site and JC Penney page. Links from World of Warcraft sites, nuclear engineering sites, bulgarian property sites, etc… These links came from sites totally irrelevant to the products JC Penney offers.

Had JC Penney’s vendor stuck to buying links / building sites that were actually relevant to the pages they linked to, such a public investigation may have never seen the light of day. There was still no proof of where the links came from, and so Google made a quick and dangerous assumption: if the artificially gained links benefit JC Penney, then JC Penney must be the culprit. 

There WILL Be Consequences for Google

I’ve read through many of the articles and sifted through opinionated comments about JC Penney, link buying, Google policies, and what not. I was searching to see if anyone else was predicting what seemed blatantly obvious to me: this public embarrassment of a nationally recognized brand will do more harm than good. And I don’t think that Google is prepared.

Anyone Can Buy Links Or Build Spammy Sites

The simple truth is that ANYONE can do the things Penneys was penalized for. Not only that – ANYONE can create spammy content with links that point to ANY website. So in theory, one of JC Penney’s competitors could have bought spammy looking links and then tipped someone off in hopes of getting them penalized.

What proof does Google have of purchase? None. You “might” be able to find a connection between the ownership of some spammy sites and Penney’s SEO vendor. I’m not saying there’s a connection, but it’s about the only connection Google could make.

Houston, We Have a Problem

Everyone assumes that either J.C. Penney or their vendor were in the wrong. But there’s no proof. There are only links on completely unrelated external websites which could have come from anywhere.

Which leads us to the ominous prediction of the post… Dun dun dun!

Spammy Link Buying Is about to Skyrocket

Some agencies and inhouse marketing teams will shy away from buying links because they fear the wrath of Google. That’s to be expected. But what concerns me is how easily it will be to get your competition penalized*.

If a penalty consists of more than nullifying the benefits of bogus links, we’re about to see blackhat link building practices skyrocket. Think about it. If you can spend $10k on links for your biggest competitor(s) and then report them for bogus link building practices, you’ve just faked your way into the top spots.

There’s been a similar problem in Online Reputation Management for years. How easy is it to create a fake profile impersonating the leadership of your competitor and make horribly offensive statements which earn them a bona fide reputation crisis? If public opinion can be swayed by an impersonating commentor/twitterer, then a ton of money previously allocated toward self-promotion may be re-allocated toward the much less-dangerous (and perhaps more fun) approach of damaging your competitor’s reputation.

In the world of search, things could get much uglier before they get better.

*NOTE: I have not seen any mention as to what precisely was done during the manual Google update affecting JC Penney’s rankings. Perhaps they simply nullified the benefits of each bogus link. If so, then the naturally reduced rankings for JC Penney are well within accepted responses. If, however, Google simply penalized Penneys a particular number of rankings, then the penalty is based on the assumption that JC Penney is indeed responsible for the bogus links, which cannot be proven.

CHRISBROGAN.COM – POPULAR With Room for Improvement

It’s easy to become enamored with a rising star. A person who is constantly praised for his insight, expertise, and authority. It’s also easy to drink the koolaid before you’ve checked the ingredients.

Okay, I’m going to be totally honest. The worst part about this blog design is the logo. I mean, Seriously? A white “B” in a red circle? What about that says Chris Brogan?

Read more

SEOMoz Blog: Kings of Style

At SEOMoz.org, my eyes are immediately drawn to the combination of a killer black banner, the faded imagery within the banner, the contrast between banner, body, and background, and eventually the way it all makes the blue “moz.org” stand out as the most important thing on the page. Upon closer inspection, I see the Seattle space needle, street lamps, and an artsy sense of downtown life. At first, however, I don’t identify the faded images at all. I just find their shapes appealing and my eyes move on to the next thing: the logo.

While this is THE BEST looking SEO services / tools website I’ve ever seen and the logo matches the color scheme of the site, I still find myself a bit confused by the logo. What is that, exactly? A star? A flower?

In that moment of indecision, the brand has lost a bit of my respect. This starflower looks a bit like glorified clip art. My can be regained, of course, but to my subconscious, the nondescript image says, “we don’t know who we are”.

Short-Lived Negativity

Those negative feelings are instantly squelched by the next thing I see… the beacon. Call it an antennae, call it a tower, call it what you wish. To me, the image is bold and says, “HERE is the beacon. The signal heard round the world. The tower to which all men are drawn.”

And, in a very real way, this imagery holds true. You don’t get very far into the informed SEO universe before you hear about the most popular brand on the block, SEOMoz. Rand, if you’re reading this, the beacon should’ve been the logo. Just sayin’.

Long before the days of Outspoken Media, SEOMoz was successfully pulling in tens of thousands of visitors to a blog that wasn’t the homepage. It was a products / services website that just happened to have a blog. Okay, not really. The blog and the people behind the blog (Rand Fishkin, Jane Copland, and Rebecca Kelley) are what made the brand. The services were only in demand because of the proficiency shown in the blog (and the combo of trust and relationship built with others in the industry at every single SEO conference under the sun).

My Biggest Complaint

Ever since the beginning, I’ve disagreed with ANY blog that requires membership to comment. Because, honestly, there’s no blog I NEED to comment on so badly that I’m going to waste time signing in. Either I get the instant gratification of commenting on the fly or I don’t.

Why Memberships Suck

First of all, I don’t like terms such as “fans”, “followers”, and the like. I don’t like any brand coming across as the definitive source, with all its readers as lesser-than fans or members. The time spent signing in is exactly the amount of time it takes for me to go elsewhere and participate in a different conversation (if I happen to be feeling chatty that day).

Why SEOMoz Gets a Pass

In the end, I begrudgingly give Mozzers a pass on this one. It’s a judgment I couldn’t have made from the beginning. I guess blog memberships are amoral – neither good nor evil. It all depends on what you do with it. And over the years, SEOMoz has integrated members into the site in a more thorough way than most.

Voting Comments and Posts

I love voting. With the SEOMoz, it’s largely been an opportunity to kiss ass. Everyone wanting to make friends kisses ass by voting comments up. In an industry where companies thrive based on the reputation of their blogs, it’s no wonder that so many have tried to align themselves with the popular kids. It’s like watching Survivor and Big Brother in type.

However, I’m such a fan of the right to vote, because it gives the reader the power to show his/her opinions on content that isn’t theirs. It also allows the community the capacity to self-regulate. A very rude person who is rude regardless of cause can be voted down by the community and eventually blacklisted.

YOUMoz Is the Coolest SEO Blog Idea Ever

Essentially, there are two blogs to be found at SEOMoz: the SEOMoz blog and the YOUMoz blog. Any member of the site can contribute to the YOUMoz blog. Some sports blogs have this functionality too, but it’s not as pretty. The best submissions are promoted to the SEOMoz blog. How cool is that!

And this is why, ultimately, SEOMoz does not suck for employing memberships onsite. Don’t try this at home unless you can actually make membership a benefit and a privilege. It’s a judgment call I questioned from the very beginning because it looked like an ego play. While all the other SEO blogs were free to comment, this ONE blog required membership. This is why you never know what will succeed until you test (shameless A/B Testing plug).

Whiteboard Fridays

If nothing else, stop in on Fridays for video whiteboard sessions. Rand Fishkin is nothing if not a communicator. He spells out concepts in simplistic ways so that ANYONE can understand. Tune in and see what he and his crew have to say each week.

I’m sure you’ll find most of the content on this particular blog to be worth reading. A part of me hates to admit that, but it’s true. In an age where Hamlet Batista, SEO By the Sea, and Blue Hat SEO no longer contribute on a regular basis, you can count on SEOMoz to maintain a level of ongoing quality found on only a couple SEO-focused sites.

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