Category Archives: blog

Why all the fuss over SEO?

Just about every savvy company thinks they need an SEO manager or SEO expert.  After all, SEO is the key to being found on Google and other search engines.  I understand the need to be found on page 1 of search.Best place to hide a dead body  I realize that that the best place to hide a dead body is on page two of a Google search.  However, the question I wonder about is why are people so focused on the unique skill of SEO? Should SEO be afforded its own byline on a job description the way computer literacy once was? Is it such a unique skill that people need to be sought out for their mastery? Or, as I am beginning to think, is SEO literacy more akin to mastery of Microsoft Office?

Now, before I go any further in proffering up what I think is important, I’d like to tell you that I’m not the only one out there who is saying that most SEO is straight forward stuff. When I first started thinking this way, I thought that I was contemplating heresy.  My feeling was that the task of SEO, while requiring some knowledge, is not especially complicated. You simply have to pay attention to a given number of variables over the pages of your website.  In my angst, I posed my heretical thoughts to several individuals who work with SEO on a daily basis and most (surprise?) agreed with me. Moreover, they decried the individuals who try to make the simple look complicated in the name of job security. What these professionals know and I am learning is that there are some basic rules to follow when implementing SEO. So what are these golden rules?  Here is a shortlist:

Develop a keyword list

As Rand Fishkin’s moz.com notes, “[i]t all begins with words typed into a search box.” Think about what words people will use to search for you or your product. If you are selling a dog walking service then people will probably use terms like dog walker, dog walking, dog care, dog daycare or dog exercise when they are thinking about having someone walk their dog. So, make a list of these words and use them in your content.

how to create a keyword search
From ppc.org

You can also use Google’s Webmaster tools to see what terms people are using to find your site.  Look under Search Queries to find this information. If folks are not finding you based on the terms you think they should then you need to rethink your keyword strategy. Also, if they are finding you based on terms you didn’t think were relevant then consider how you can better incorporate these terms into your search.

Also, if you are a local business, make sure your content focuses on local content.  According to Search Engine Journal, “[i]n order for small businesses to reach their target audiences, which are often geo-specific, they must ensure that they are ranking high in these local searches.” That means you need to associate your content with the physical location. For example, a dog walker in Boston might want to include references to the Boston Common.

Create good, quality content so people will want to visit your site

This brings me to the second golden rule of SEO which is to create content that people want to read. Going back to the dog walking service, you can think of numerous topics that will interest dog owners. For example, you can have pages that discuss what type of exercise is best for dogs.  You could write about how far or for how long you should walk your dog. Also, you could write about how much exercise is needed at various ages for an animal. By answering these questions, not only will you be creating content that is relevant to busy dog owners but you’ll give them an opportunity to know and trust your product.

Create quality links and share

One of the most important ways to get found on search is by having quality links to your site. If you are a dog walking service, having other businesses that cater to dogs linking to your site is really important. You can imagine that there are dog daycare centers or dog grooming businesses that would want to better serve customers by letting them know about these additional services.

Also, sharing content on social networks is indeed important. Most businesses are aware of the importance of social networks for distributing their content. While best practices on social networks are a whole separate blog article, it is key that businesses choose the network(s) that are most relevant to their audience and become active on them. Rather than choosing to attack all networks at once, it makes sense to choose the one or two networks where your customers are likely to live and start posting content on them.

Build a beautiful website with clean, spiderable HTML

Have you ever seen a website that looks like it needs to attend a beauty shop? What was your reaction to the site? Stay or leave? Most likely you chose to leave. Why? You left because the site was unattractive or perhaps it didn’t answer your questions. Now think about a really attractive site. Maybe Nike.com?  Now, I know that very few individuals could afford to build a site like Nike’s, however my message is simply that you choose to spend time on the site because it is attractive. So hire a graphic artist to improve your site; it will be money well spent.

IMAGE NOT FOUNDIn addition to beauty, you need to make your site intuitive and easy to follow. If it’s easy for humans to follow then search engines will have an easy time combing your site as well. Make it clear to the user how to get to the information they want to find.  Also, avoid using Flash files, Java applets and non-text files. If you have lots of your content as images then search engines WILL NOT be able to find the content.  You want to use text generously throughout your site.

You might have heard that it is important to use appropriate tagging on your site. It used to be that all SEO was about having the appropriate words in your <meta> tags. This is no longer the case. There are a couple of straight forward techniques that a company should follow here such as ensuring they have filled out the <title></title> tags appropriately, including  appropriate meta <meta> descriptions and  making sure images have <alt> tags included. Today, SEO is much more about having appropriate content and much less about tag management.

Don’t be that guy – avoid black hat techniques

The last point here is to avoid what experts call “black hat techniques”. This is a fancy term for keyword stuffing. Essentially, you should not use devious tactics to include keywords on your page. These tactics include using the same keyword multiple times on your page even when it seems redundant and unnecessary.  Another example is using a keyword multiple times on the page in a color that makes the words not visible to the reader but visible to the search engines. There are probably other tricks but in the end they are all spam. DON’T USE THEM!

Conclusion

What I have written here is just a primer. It is not meant to be exhaustive. Before implementing any of these techniques, I recommend reading a few (not a hundred) more articles on best practices for each. In my reading, I have found Rand Fishkin’s MOZ,  Search Engine Journal and Google’s own self-starter guide to be quite helpful.

The good news though is that if you follow these rules you’ll be able to achieve your SEO goals without needing to hire a dedicated SEO specialist.

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Between the Conception and Reality: Real-time Marketing

Every website is an educational vehicle that strives to educate us, as users, on how the site should be used.  The site provides us with symbols and colors that indicate certain actions we should take. Colored text on a website often indicates hypertext we should click on. Cog-like symbols indicate drop down menus that we should explore. At this point in the web’s history, we don’t even stop to question this language but instead accept it as the language of the website. Inevitably, these symbols and colors encourage a particular typical traffic flow for the site. Look at the Visitor Flow (under Audience) menu on Google Analytics and you can view how the language of your website ushers traffic across your site.

Site traffic flow in a perfect world
In a perfect world, the path we take and the path web designers would like for us to take would have a high correlation.  Unfortunately, this is often not the case. Often the pages that are key conversion points or landing pages on the site are buried under four pages of product promotion. In this case, the likelihood of us seeing these pages becomes quite small. The page or pages that a company wants us to see might never be seen.

Site traffic flow in the real world
The diagram below provides a graphical explanation of how website traffic flows. This can be at odds with how designers want the traffic to flow. 

Traffic flow on Google vs. where you want your customers to go

So, the path customers take across your site is not the path you want them to take. But is it only because the relevant pages are buried? Do we only fail to convert because we don’t know how to get to the correct page? There are clearly other explanations. The answer could be that we left the site because it didn’t provide the answers we were looking for. It could be that the wrong signals, colors and symbols were provided to us and thus, we were sent down the incorrect path.  The problem could be that the site was too static and didn’t provide sufficiently interesting content to keep us reading. Unless a site grabs our attention in the first few minutes, we are likely to abandon it.

Real-time marketing: bringing the ideal and the real closer
In essence, websites must reflect a relevant and compelling point of view from the get-go in order to ensure that we users stay on site and interact with it.  An attractive and well designed site goes part of the way towards achieving this goal. The other and more technical solution though is found through interacting with the customer while they are online at your site. Rather than leaving them to take the actions that they see fit, the marketing and web teams need to consider the messages they are providing to users in real time in order to drive them to take the desired action. This task is achieved through real-time marketing.

While the definition of real-time marketing has gone through iterations over the past decade, real-time marketer Evergage notes that it has come to “define a process of marketing to your audience in real-time with dynamically personalized content and offers.” So imagine that you can interact with your site user by providing real-time response, personalized content and messages based on behavior, and interaction across the sales funnel.  With these dynamic interactions, your customers are driven to the pages you want them to see.  Customers take the actions you want them to take, whether that is filling out forms, reviewing blogs or commenting on new content. Viewing content is no longer left to luck.

Why real-time is the total customer solution
The case for real-time marketing also engages with a fundamental understanding of how customers want to be treated by your site. Customers don’t often want to be treated as anonymous visitors. If they have engaged with your site in the past through blogs or short forms, their eyeballs should be rewarded. In this instance, eyeballs want to receive the customer loyalty that is often given to frequent customers at any brick and mortar establishment.  Real-time marketing allows marketers to talk to customers and offer them a reason to stay on-site either through , for example, coupons or through express service.

Furthermore, digital media is in large part based on the concept of creating relationships on the web. Marketers also attempt to achieve this goal through social media channels. Marketers engage in social media so that they can create relationships that will in turn create loyal and engaged customers. Clearly, websites cannot be immune. If marketers don’t want customers to churn through their site and leave then they must engage in real-time marketing solutions.

To quote Evergage, “compelling engagement happens when you take into account the full picture of who someone is …. That is real-time marketing.” And that message is one we need to better teach web designers and marketers.

Is it Guest Spamming or Guest Blogging?

Work for linksIn January of this year, Google engineer Matt Cutts wrote an article on his blog entitled The decay and fall of guest blogging for SEO in which he argued that guest blogging had become a spammy, uneffective way for blog sites to get links. Cutts’ response is based on requests like the one he cites in his blog as well as numerous questions I assume he has received on the matter.  Cutts concludes that “guest blogging” [is] really “paying for PageRank”.  Yet many of us have certainly read well informed guest articles on blogs at Business Insider or Harvard Business Review. Clearly, the educated voices on these publications are not spam. These voices are authoritative and provide us with a reason to return to the publications because we know we will hear a myriad of interesting and well considered opinions.  In short, voices like the ones we find on authoritative blogs are adding to the conversation and providing the reader with further insight. However, given my recent consulting experiences, I cannot help but feel that Cutts’ remarks might not be too far of the mark.

But Google can’t algorithmically differentiate between guest blogs and other kinds of articles. They can differentiate however between good links and bad links. Bad links come from spammy bloggers. Good links come from quality bloggers.  So, let’s ask a basic question: what is the purpose of blogging and what is the purpose of guest blogging?

1) Create authority: Blogging allows you to build your brand in an authoritative way by authoring content on what you know best

2) Provide relevant content:  A good blog provides information to your readers and followers that answers their questions about your brand as well as actionable data that they can take away. Guest bloggers can provide in-depth expertise on their topic

3) Increase PageRank: Show up higher on Google search

4) Improve SEO:  You include relevant key words in your content and promote it through social media, podcasts and other pages on your site.

5) Community building: You are able to build a following of people who are interested in your brand and the content you are pushing out. Guest bloggers can bring their community to the brand as well

These points were nicely summarized by Everett Sizemore of seOverflow who wrote in an article, “Our goal these days is to find the influencers in any niche and pay an expert to write expert-level content, no matter where it gets placed, to help further our clients business goals, primarily through online customer acquisition driven by good content.”

The problem though is that in a race to push out content, quality gets sacrificed and quantity becomes king. At one consulting engagement I found the head of marketing was eager to have filler on the blog although the company didn’t have relevant blog content ready. This was not actually that surprising, since blogging took a back seat compared to other social media content.  Moreover, what passed for relevant and important content was not quality content.  Here is one post on Facebook by a guest blogger used at this company who was trying to use social media to promote her blog on the company’s site:

social media cut

Grammatical problems aside, I am not sure a company should want this level of sloppiness and its minions. Are these really the people who will spend money for the company’s products? Probably not.

Thinking this equation through a bit further, it is important to note that while high-profile individuals might attract readers, these are not really the people you care to have attracted to your brand. I am trying to argue that content and relevance should be the key arbiters of whether a guest blogger’s content gets posted – not their looks, money or title.

So, here are the questions I beg any marketing decision maker to ask themselves before bringing on a guest blogger:

1) Relevant point of view: Does this guest blogger have one? Does the guest blogger provide content the couldn’t easily be created in house?

2) Sales funnel: Are the followers of the guest blogger potential buyers of our product? By reading the blog, will this audience convert from top-of-funnel to middle-of-funnel

3) Affinity: Does the writing of this guest encourage brand loyalty and will readers come back to see other parts of the website

If the guest blogger does not prove a resounding yes to all three points, then get rid of the writer. As noted in a recent blog post on Forbes, “Google’s algorithm … doesn’t mean you should stop [guest]posting altogether. It means that you need to put effort into posting content that’s valuable in publications that reach the right audience. ” To that, I say ‘Amen’.

How to Find A Job: The art of fittinging in and STANDING out

red puzzle pieceIf you are like most people looking for a job, you do a couple of the following smart things:

  • Find a job listing on LinkedIn that sounds like a position you would like to do
  • See if you have any connections to the company
  • Send a cover letter and resume to your connection (if you have one) or directly to HR
  • Hope you have a bit of luck and that they call you

While this is a decent strategy, the problem is that it’s the SAME strategy that everyone else is following. If you want to get a job — and believe me, I found this out the hard way — you have to do more than just show you can fit in with the company. You have to stand out! dr_seussSo what does this mean in practical terms? Well, let’s give an example. Let’s say you are applying for a specialist position at a digital marketing firm.  This digital marketing company helps its clients by providing blog content, email marketing, on-line promotions and video content. Say this digital marketing firm has a number of clients in the food industry.  Well, knowing that if you get the job, you could be working with a number of these firms, you could set out to develop a digital marketing portfolio that  mimics what you would do in the job.  For example:

  • You could create a blog about the hip foodie events happening in the city that week
  • You could also make a top 10 list representing who you think are the best chefs in the city and why
  • You could do a video of the top outdoor markets in the city

I would recommend creating a few of these so that you could mention them in a cover letter. What better way to catch a recruiter’s eye than by showing them that you are serious about the job from day one? Think this is too much work? Well, then ask yourself how much do you really want the job.  If you cannot find it within yourself to take the extra couple of hours to needed to create this content then you probably don’t really want the job that badly. Companies are going to pick the best person for the job. Prove to the company that you are the best by taking that extra effort from the beginning and demonstrating it at every interview along the way. If you are focused on a particular industry such as app marketing or website development, then it makes sense to create content during your downtime and then tailor it to the specific company as needed.

Of course, you will need to pass the other check-points along the way in order to get the job. These are the ways to show that you will be able to fit in.  You need to read over the company’s website, know if the company has currently been in the press, know the company’s main products and know who the company’s directors are. Know who the company’s main competitors are and what challenges the company faces.  Knowledge of these points will demonstrate your interest in the company and that you want to know more about them. Also, be familiar with the LinkedIn profiles of the folks who will be interviewing you. It is quite appropriate to ask the individual coordinating your interview who you will be meeting with and what will be the focus of the interview. Specifically, as you get later in the interview process, the questions and expectations will be more directed where as the first few interviews will be a test of whether you have the skills the job demands.

Just imagine though how much easier those first interviews will be if you can demonstrate from the beginning that you do have the skills the job demands. The interviewer will know it because you have already demonstrated as much with your online content. Even if what you have to show isn’t digital, you can showcase your craft with pictures on pinterest or slides using slideshare

It was Sun Tzu who wrote “Know your enemy and know yourself, find naught in fear for 100 battles”. While a potential employer is not an enemy, Sun Tzu’s message is appropriate none-the-less. By standing out with your work, you show that you know your enemy. You already know yourself. Make sure your prospective employer is aware of your knowledge as well.

How Boston Can Think Like A Better Entrepreneur

mass_challengeThe Rappaport Institute at Harvard’s JFK School of Government and MassChallenge teamed up yesterday to provide a lively discussion on how the City of Boston can foster growth.rappaport_inst There was a range of discussions, as you might have guessed, over how to provide help for start-ups and Boston start-up companies.

Personally, while I thought that Ed Glaeser, a Professor of Economics at Harvard’s Kennedy School, had many interesting points to offer on how zip code clusters foster innovation, I don’t think anyone sent him the message that this was not an academic conference. The people in the audience – like yours truly – were looking to find out what other entrepreneurs think needs to happen to make Boston a more inclusive, start-up city. Glaeser had a McKinsey-consulting length PowerPoint document and only 15 minutes worth of time for delivery. The result was a rushed and hard-to-follow presentation. However, I am sure if Professor Galeser had slowed down I might have some interesting take aways.

A birds-eye view of Harvard
A birds-eye view of Harvard

Outside of having more Boston start-up events, what needs to happen so that Boston doesn’t just live off the laurels of its great universities? How does Boston become a dynamic city like San Francisco and New York, which seem to have entrepreneurs – real and aspirational – flocking to their city gates?

Jennifer Lum of Adelphic Mobile
Jennifer Lum of Adelphic Mobile

As Jennifer Lum of Adelphic Mobile put it, when she lived in New York or San Francisco, there were at least 9 social activities going on every night that she could participate in. In Boston, it’s not that easy. In Boston, you really have to work to find that night life and make a community. In essence, Boston needs to be more than about start-up business ideas. It also needs to be about fun and how to attract an interesting night life to the city.

For me, though, the most inspirational words of the day were brought forth by former Gemvara CEO Matt Lauzaon. I told Matt after his talk that “while some of these guys have PhDs in sciences and liberal arts, you have a PhD in life.” So practical were Lauzon’s words that they touched me.  Matt made many fine points and I am not sure this blog will do him justice. However, here are two of  Lauzon’s messages that made an impact on me:

1. Make sure the city provides PAID internships

Lauzon noted that when he was a college kid at Babson College, he was a didn’t have the means to have his parents support him through the summers. During those summers, he had to work. So the concept of an unpaid internship was a non-starter.work_for_free He needed money to pay off loans and save for his expenses. Thus, Matt said that companies should really think about what type of message they send when they offer unpaid internships. Do they really only want kids applying for those positions whose parents can afford to support them? Probably not.

Payment would not be a great hardship for these companies. Also, just think of the type of opportunities they would be offering students from lower-economic strata backgrounds?

2. We need to encourage growth in EXISTING businesses
While many exiting university want to be founders of the next Facebook or Microsoft, the

Foster growth
Foster growth

reality is that they don’t often have the skills or fully formed ideas to make this a reality. Instead, the city should encourage more growth in existing businesses. So, rather than trying to feed every start-up – which is unsustainable – focus on nurturing the 15 and 20 people start-ups and try to make them successes.

I don’t think Lauzon was advocating that we cut the lifeline to incubator stage businesses. I think the existence of institutions like MassChallenge and TechStars ensures that won’t be a reality. However, I think Matt makes of point of where the City should also think about putting its resources

Perhaps I was moved by Lauzon’s words because I have been to so many start-up events in Boston but have never heard an entrepreneur say these messages so clearly and succinctly.  My thought to the city of Boston: find more men like Matt Lauzon to be in charge.

Can PRISM listen to my phone calls? Please!!

Gleen_Greenwald-140 Here’s a picture of the man who broke the report in the U.K.’s The Guardian newspaper. Reporter Glen Greenwald reported earlier this week that top-secret PRISM program had “direct access to servers of firms including Google, Apple and Facebook” and was “collecting phone records of millions of Verizon customers daily.” Perhaps like many other Americans, you too feel conflicted by the government’s actions. Like you, I too want to feel safe in my society and know that I must give up some measure of liberty in order to ensure that reality.

At the same time [and this is where I think many Americans get weary] you and I feel uncomfortable allowing the government to police itself in this regard.National Security Agency seal The 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) requires a court made up of a small group of judges appointed by the chief justice and located inside in the Justice Department to decide whether the NSA’s request for eavesdropping are warranted. According to press reports, FISA approves almost all requests.

I am debating this topic with my husband and friends, trying to figure out how I feel about the governments actions. In the meantime though [and I hope I have the right SEO words here: Google, terrorist, NSA], I hope the NSA will listen to my phone calls as there’s some stuff that I really want them and the rest of the government to hear.

For example, I want you to hear my shopping list.  women return to work You see, this week I have a number of calls to be on and a lot of work I am trying to get through so if you could please pick up a gallon of milk on your way to listen in on my calls, I’d be greatly appreciative. You see, my grocery shopping list just keeps on growing while my free time keeps getting smaller. Get it? Also, can you tell me if I get a better price shopping at Stop and Shop or Shaws

Also, while you’re at it, can you tell me if I am really getting a better deal with Verizon or should I switch to Sprint? I mean, as long as you are checking peoples’ calls couldn’t you also check their bills? This is the least we could ask for. Personally, I am ok with switching my provider every year or so in order to get the best rate.

And by the way,are you the reason I am getting all those dropped calls? Look, if it is some annoying group wanting my opinion on politics or a newspaper wanting me to renew my subscription then I am happy to have my calls dropped. In fact, please drop them. But, if I am speaking to my kids or my spouse then I’d prefer to know what they are saying.

And that’s about it. No more snarky comments for now. But I do want to make a final comment to the NSA: Eric Holder is a weenie. So lacking in conviction and ability, he’s a real detriment to the president. Get rid of him.

Dell Meets (at) Innovation

Takeaway: Technology is like A Hammer – They’re both tools or Destructive

Cambridge Innovation Center
Dell Women met here on Tuesday March 5th

I had an auspicious beginning to my day this past Tuesday. On the train into Cambridge to attend the Dell Small Business Thinking
On Tuesday, March 5, a small and influential group of Boston based entrepreneurs, founders, small business owners, startups and local leaders gathered at the Cambridge Innovation Center together for a half-day of listening, collaboration and dialogue.

Personal Inbound Marketing: Making HubSpot’s Executive Playbook Personal

How to bring people to you? Effective social media
How to bring people to you? Effective social media

I went to a great seminar held this morning by HubSpot out at Boston’s lovely Westin Copley hotel. On paper, the seminar was designed to increase executives’ understanding of the interplay of sales and marketing. Yet, the longer I listened to the great muses on stage expound how you (I’m lookin’ at you) could improve your conversion rate through the effective use of sales and marketing, the more I realized that the messages being drawn up by Head of Enterprise Marketing Jessica Meher, CMO Mike Volpe and VP of Enterprise Sales Phil Harrell could be taken as messages for all of us who are looking for jobs. In short, following the rules of inbound marketing campaigns offer a profound recipe for how to make ourselves into someone employers will look at, love and hire. 

Message Number 1: Be what employers want to consume

If you have been searching for a job for a while then you have probably heard those dreaded words:”well, you’re just not the right fit.” mvolpe_tweetMeaning, you’re not the right tool for the job. Nothing personal, mind you, but your skills aren’t the ones needed to get the job done. So, think about it then: what skills ARE needed to get the job done?  How do you optimize your profile? Do you need computing skills, writing skills, programming skills or presentation skills? The reality is that without knowledge in these areas it’s hard to get a job as more than a barista. Now mind you, people skills are really important, too. But, in order to be effective at the job search you need to *be* what they want to consume. So if you see job titles that resonate with you be ask for skills that you don’t have then find a way to get them. Go to a local university or on-line school. In this sphere, there’s no reason not to find a way to learn what you need to.

Message Number 2: You don’t find employers. They find you
Message two might seem counter-intuitive to job seekers. Isn’t looking for a job all about putting your best foot forward and pounding the pavement? Well, the answer is both ‘yes’ and ‘no’. Let me explain.

First, the ‘no’ part. Many searches conducted on LinkedIn and other job sites are based on keyword searches. Even if you have a lead into a company and get your resume forwarded to HR by a friend, the recruiter is still going to look for those key words in your resume that align with the responsibilities found on the job posting. So, while it seems like a pain in the bottom to constantly tweak your resume to reflect the language in the posting it is the difference between getting found and getting recycled.

As to the ‘yes’ part, you still need to do your best to network and make connections so that you have the opportunity to get in front of the recruiter. But, as any executive coach will tell you, getting in front of HR is only half the battle.

Message Number 3: Optimize your social media

I met a contact today who is a friend of a friend of a friend. Did I get that right? I think so. In any case, this new friend of mine did an actual inbound marketing campaign on himself. Pretty incredible. He created a website called http://www.hirejoesmith.com (joe smith is not his real name). On his site, he told the story of why he’s interested in social media and what he feels he can do for your campaign. He had a link to his blog, twitter feed, writing samples, resume and contact information. This new friend told me he even created an app that allowed for a mobile ready presentation of this information.

You might say my friend is a bit hard core with his approach. I think his approach is brilliant. Guess what, he now has a job in social media that puts him just where he wants to be.  But even if you cannot be as aggressive as my friend, you can still have the time to blog or write or comment or peoples’ articles who are experts or notables in your field. I keep on

You need to juggle your social media profile
You need to juggle your social media profile

chiding myself for not being more active in social media. Here’s my attempt at drinking my own medicine.

To HubSpot’s point of optimizing social media, you need to use Google’s keyword search to make sure your content is filled with key words and that you are sharing material and following best practices. These are mainstays of B-to-C social media as well as B-to-B.

Message Number 4: Fill the funnel

One of the key points of effective social media, is to use tools such as blogging, SEO and demand generation to create leads which fill the top of the funnel. In searching for jobs, it might not be clear what the analog is here. I think though that the analogue is to constantly be on the lookout for opportunities. Find ways to provide value to potential employers either through short project work or through an internship. Tell the potential employer that you have read up on their company and have some ideas on what you can do for them. All of these are opportunities that get put into the top of the funnel. Some of them will work out and some won’t. The biggest take away is do not get discouraged.

___________________________________________________________________________

So, I don’t know what Darmesh Shah and Brian Halligan would say of my take on inbound marketing. Maybe they would get a laugh or a chuckle. More importantly though, I hope you find value in these words. Whether they are words of wisdom or not …. well, that’s up to you. Clearly though it is important to be in charge of your own social media management.

What color is your memory?

I am burdened by my imperfect memory more frequently than polite company will allow me to admit. Often I imagine taking out my vengeance on myself with a voodoo doll because I am so frustrated by my inability to brainremember important dates or histories or even names from a book I just finished reading. I heard about Josh Foer’s book Moonwalking with Einstein from a friend and thought that he might have taken pity on my poor memory. Was he really telling me that my imperfect memory needed help? Or, was he just passing on his recommendation for a good read. Really, I cannot tell you which he was going for. I just can’t remember.

Memory puns aside, Foer’s book is a fascinating read and for more than the obvious memory tricks and tales the book recounts. For me, the take away from Foer’s book was encapsulated in the message it gave about the untapped potential of our minds. Writes Foer in a follow-up interview to the book, “there’s far more potential in our minds than we often give them credit for. I’m not just talking about the fact that it’s possible to memorize lots of information using memory techniques. I’m talking about a lesson that is more general, and in a way much bigger: that it’s possible, with training and hard work, to teach oneself to do something that might seem really difficult.” If you are like me, you think you possess an intelligence that is limited by your ability to remember and learn. But, if you take the lessons of Foer’s book to heart, you will take the words as impetus to start to learning something brand new.

memory palaceThe art of memory is described as an ancient art beginning with the famous Greek poet Simonides. The tale goes that in the 5th Century B.C., Simonides was able to remember the exact seating arrangement at a vast banquet after the hall had crumbled and all occupants were sadly killed. Simonides had created a memory palace of the seating arrangement. The memory palace (known as method of loci in Latin) relies on memorized spatial relationships to establish, order and recollect memorial content. Per Foer, anyone can create a memory palace similar to Simonides. Each person’s palace is different as it is constructed based on personal memories and associations.

Yet where is the link between creating a memory palace and training your brain to learn something new? While creating elaborate memories might be an interesting bar trick, how do these memories mesh into creating the logic and thinking processes needed to learn a difficult new skill? If I put this onus on myself, I would say it would be really difficult or impossible for me to learn to become an effective computer programmer. Yet my programming friend Andrew who went to MIT and has been a programmer for over 20 years wrote to me that “ there are two steps to writing a program: First, in the abstract, think about the approach that you want to take to produce the desired result. Second, figure out how to express that in the language and environment you’re using. Decades of experience (and one class at MIT: 6.001) have taught me how to think about problems. And every few years I learn a new language for expressing my answers.”

Foer supports Andrew’s description when he explains how memory works. Writes Foer: “Mastering a specific field breeds a better memory for the details of that field.”

Yet I wonder if there is not some greater purpose behind pushing our brains to constantly achieve a new task. While famed psychologist and writer William James’ theory that we only use 10% of our brain at any time is considered a falsehood by today’s psychologist and scientists, it does seem true that we often do not push ourselves and test our limits. Popular blogger and author Whitney Johnson has written extensively about the benefits of pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zones. She describes the safety of the harbor as the comfort we seek. But in the harbor, we do not push ourselves and we do not excel. Only when we are ships out in the water do we go far. Only when we go out of the harbor do we take our dreams and make them into actions.

So going out into the harbor is not easy. Our stay out on the water might be long and dangerous. Like Odysseus in Homer’s The Odyssey, we will encounter suitors and trouble but we will also encounter odysseyadventure. Perhaps more than adventure is the personal growth we achieve by pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zone. Only by acting outside of this comfort zone do we achieve success (maybe) and personal growth (definitely). For Mr. Foer, the adventure of training his memory to an incredible level pushed him well beyond the normal beat of a reporter. In the process, he wrote a great book that has brought his career to a new level and gained him much recognition.

So, as I think about my next steps, I need to start getting busy with my plans to learn computer programming. I need to get a bit uncomfortable. Just give me a few minutes to get out of my EZ chair.