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Work Experience

17 Oct

ok ok ok, I never thought I would be looking for work experience again after the whole ‘Year 9. 2 weeks work experience to decide what you want to do with your life’ unfortunately I am, and that 2 weeks in year 9 has definitely not been useful.

So I thought I would share or rather rant a few of my problems so that if any of you out there can help me . . . please do.

Companies always seem to want experience, but you see theres a problem with that as that is the reason you are contacting them in the first place, to get experience. So how do you get around that?? I have countless pieces of work on my here and other sites, even sites to help get freelance work. No one seems to be interested unless you have experience…. help!!!

Internships, why is it that all internships seem to be on the other side of the country?? I know it is probably the industry I want to go into, but there has to be design companies closer to me than London?? I mean why don’t you get apprenticeships for design courses? Why can’t established companies offer to train you up to their standards, that way you would get experience along with a qualification. It would make it a lot easier than 25 of the students in my class all emailing the same companies to get work experience.

So yes anyone out there who can shed some light on this or maybe suggest companies to write to who can help me, it would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you for listening to this rant 😀 and I’ll get back to posting design stuff


Taking Photoshop’s Curves Beyond Highlights and Shadows

13 Sep

I dont know about you but I have never been able to get to grips with curves. Artist’s produce amazing pieces using curves and mastering them. Here is an article I sought out for you guys and me, to help us get our heads around them and what they can do. Hope it helps you 🙂

Taken from

photoshop curves control

Photoshop’s Curves is a flexible control that can brighten or darken parts of a layer based on the layer’s luminosity.

Editing tones in an image—not just grays and not always photos—can do more than fix highlights and shadows.

Curves can be used to edit photos, masks, graphics and even hues. But using it requires a little know-how and imagination.

Read on for more details about what Photoshop curves are, as well as how to use them properly for your designs.


Making Tonal Adjustments

Curves is found near the top of the Image → Adjustments menu. Its most obvious use is to adjust contrast in an image, and it is intuitive enough that most users need to study it only for a minute or so before catching on.

examples of simple tonal adjustments

Above: Drag a point on the curve line up to make the image brighter and down to make it darker. But what does that mean?

Curves uses a grid that shows before and after. The horizontal axis indicates original tones, and the vertical axis indicates how they will change. A diagonal line bisects the grid. Dragging points away from the diagonal line will brighten or darken highlights and shadows depending on where the change happens.

diagram of Curves grid, before and after

Above, the curve turns shadows into bright highlights, muddies mid-tones and turns the original white point into middle gray. The further the curve moves away from the diagonal line, the more extreme the change will be. It also means that the angle of the curve changes the image’s contrast in a given range of tones.

examples of how the slope affects contrast

Above, blue denotes which tones most of the pixels use. Red denotes the slope.

  1. Most of the tones are just to the left of mid-gray, so creating a steep angle in that area would give most of the image more contrast.
  2. The opposite—giving the mid-tones a flat slope—lowers the contrast.
  3. Creating a steep slope away from the popular tones creates extreme contrast: many shadows, some highlights and few mid-tones.


Choose Tones to Change With Curves

Unlike Levels, Curves allows changes to a select range of tones. Not only can shadows, mid-tones and highlights be changed, they can be changed independently.

examples of selective tonal changes

Two variations on the photo above show how Curves can affect different areas. In the center photo, pixels brighter than 50% are all brightened. But only the highest highlights—and darkest shadows—are brightened in the right-most image.

To add a point to the Curves line, simply click the line. To remove a point, drag it off the grid.

The Curves control isn’t limited to photos. For example, the logo below has a subtle texture—but what if “subtle” isn’t the right look?

example of a logo with more contrast via Curves

Above, a change in Curves brings out the texture in the disc and amplifies the sheen on the bolt. Knowing that Curves can be used beyond fixing tones and can be used in photos is the first step to grasping its hidden features.


Playing With Color

The Curves control hides many features in plain sight. One of these is the ability to color-correct (or cross-process) any digital image.

illustration showing where the RGB options reside

Above: with a drop-down menu above the grid, the user can edit one channel (red, green or blue in RGB images) at a time.

example of using Curves alter a photo's color

The photo above was given a color cast by warming its shadows and cooling its highlights. Specifically, red is removed from the shadows but added to the highlights, and vice versa for blue and green.

example of using Curves to tint a photo

A grayscale version of the same photo becomes a duotone when we use Curves to adjusts its channels. Above, extra red and green warm the highlights and mid-tones, while the shadows take on a bluish tinge. In Curves, channels often don’t require major changes to alter an image dramatically.


Improving Selections

Selections and masks in Photoshop aren’t simply on-or-off features, but rather a range of values—much like a gradient. And masks, like gradients, can be manipulated with Curves.

step-by-step 1

We want to screen the red image behind the black text but leave details at the edges. We start by adding a mask to the photo with the layer (above). A layer mask controls the layer’s opacity without erasing its pixels.

step-by-step 2

With a reflected gradient, the mask hides the center of the photo. In layer mask terms, light means more visible and dark means less visible.

step-by-step 3

We make the gradient “shallow” using Curves. If white areas of a mask are visible and black areas are invisible, then the gray is somewhat hidden.

step-by-step 4

The result (above) is a photo that is screened behind text but still visible at the edges. However, the text is still difficult to read.

step-by-step 5

Every time Curves opens, it looks at the mask anew. Above, we lower the white point to make the mask darker and thus less visible.

step-by-step 6

The result is a gently screened photo that fades into the text (above).


Secrets of the Curves Control

Curves is full of shortcuts and hidden features. Here are a few useful tidbits:

diagram of hidden features in Curves

Still, the fundamentals haven’t changed since Photoshop 1.0 first arrived on the scene. Many possibilities arise from this simple control.”

How to Optimize Content When You Don’t Know Jack about SEO

13 Sep

Ok so here are some more tips on mastering the art of SEO 🙂 hope it helps

Taken from

“Knowing how to optimize content for search engines is essential, but often easier said than done. After all, mastering the art and science of search engine optimization (SEO) is no small feat.

Frequent updates to Google’s search ranking algorithm — notably Panda and Penguin — only complicate matters. Although such updates go a long way toward enhancing the quality of search results by, for example, discounting the high volumes of low-quality content produced by content farms, they also mean that the best ways to optimize content are constantly evolving.

Simply put, you’ve got to stay on your toes. Fortunately for those of us who aren’t in the habit of analyzing search engine algorithms but still want to optimize content, there are some basic tips that are easy to follow.

In the interest of full disclosure, let me make it clear that I’m in no way, shape, or form an SEO expert. If you’re looking for the definitive word on the subject, there are far more comprehensive resources on the subject (such as this guide by SEOmoz). If, however, you’re new to SEO and are looking for some simple techniques to optimize content for search engines, written in plain language, read on!

How to optimize content: The 411 on keywords

At its most basic, SEO is about tinkering with your content to make it attractive to search engines. One way of doing this is by selecting the right keyword — the word or phrase that people would be most likely to enter into a search engine if they were looking for your content — and then using it throughout what you write. When Google indexes your website, it detects the keywords you’ve used and how you’ve used them, and ranks your content (in part) on that basis. That ranking is what determines if your content shows up on the first page of results when you google the keyword or on the fifty-first.

Of course, not all keywords are created equal. You’ve got to take care in choosing the ones that you’ll have the greatest chances of ranking well for. Many are highly competitive, so vetting your options is essential. Plus, what seems like the right keyword to you, may not be what people actually use to search for content. After all, what good is using “early stage companies” if most people are searching for “start-ups.”

Not to worry. You are not alone in your quest to optimize content. You can consult the free Google Adwords Keyword Tool to get some insights. Type in a potential keyword and the site tells you how many people are searching for it in a given month and how much competition there is, based on advertising spend for sponsored links. Armed with this data, you can do a reasonable job of picking a keyword.

Take this article as an example. Although I’m writing about “search engine optimization,” the keyword tool quickly reveals that it’s not a good choice.

optimize content, keywords, CMI

With more than 600,000 global monthly searches and a competition rating of high, I’ve got no chance of ranking for it. Looking at who is ranking on page one for this keyword — big names (SEOmoz), with sites that drive huge traffic — confirms that assessment.

After experimenting with other options, I discover that “optimize content” is a much better option. It still gets at the same idea as search engine optimization, but has a low competition ranking and garners about 1,900 global searches a month. While there are still some pretty big names on the first page of results for the term, my chances of winding up there too are much greater using “optimize content” than if I selected “search engine optimization” as my keyword.

Now you may be thinking that 1,900 hits a month is nothing compared to 600,000. True enough. However, if you can rank on page 1 for those 1,900 hits and consistently drive a portion of them to your site, you’re going to be much better off than if you rank on page 51 for the 600,000 hits and never get found.

Importantly, it was only after I had “optimize content” as my keyword, that I began writing this article.It’s much easier to create content with a keyword in mind than trying to retrofit it into something you’ve already crafted. All the more so because, as with any keyword, I need to use “optimize content” in context, not just willy-nilly, in order to help my ranking.

For reference, I’ve highlighted my use of my keyword optimize content throughout this article to show you how I used it. Some of the things to keep in mind when incorporating a keyword are to include it in:

  • The title of your content
  • The first sentence of your first paragraph
  • At least one heading within the content
  • The page’s URL
  • The page’s meta description
  • The alternate text field of any images you’ve included

Ultimately, you want to use your keyword enough for it to catch the attention of search engines, while still being sensible. Expert opinions vary, but the general rule of thumb is to aim for a keyword density — the percentage of times the keyword appears in your content compared to the total number of words — of between 1 percent and 3 percent. The keyword density of this article, FYI, is 1.23 percent.

Tip: To learn a lot more about keywords, check out “Better Keywords, Better Customers: A Business Guide to Keyword Generation.”

How to optimize content: other factors

If you’re creating your content in WordPress, consider using the SEO Yoast Tool, which analyzes how SEO-friendly your content is. The tool gives you ratings of green (good to go), yellow (hold up, you can do better), and red (stop, you’re off track!) across a variety of content optimization dimensions. In addition to telling you your keyword density, it checks to see if you’ve included keywords in the places noted above and if you’ve met a host of other guidelines.

The tool also checks out some other important factors that you need to bear in mind as you look tooptimize content. Namely, it looks to ensure that your content:

  • Is at least 300 words in length
  • Contains outbound links
  • Has a relatively short URL
  • Is easy to read, with concise sentences.

When I ran this article through the tool, I got the following result:

optimize content, yoast results, CMI

Overall, I’ve done a good job of optimizing this article for search engines. There are a couple of things I could adjust, but the mostly green lights tell me I’m ready to publish.

To be clear, there is a lot more to ranking well on search engines than optimizing your content. Google also looks at how much your content is shared, how many inbound links it has, and much more with its algorithm. That said, if you don’t know Jack about SEO, the tips above will go a long way toward helping as you look to optimize content!”

Lead from Within: 10 Strategies to Become a Successful In-House SEO

13 Sep

Obviously everyone’s goals are to be the best and at the top of what they do. Especially in the business world. If you like this article I would definitely recommend having a look at the website which is full of successful SEO’s willing to share their knowledge.

Taken from

“Let’s start by level-setting expectations right away: this post has very little to do with actual SEO implementation. You won’t find any performance tips, analytics hacks, or war stories with technological terrors and the people who engineer them in this post. If that’s what you’re looking for, there are severalother sources you can peruse.

Instead, we’re going to focus on how you can become a leader within your organization by building a positive reputation for in-house SEO. In doing so, we’ll cover how you can elevate your personal profile by using productive strategies and value-oriented tactics as well as focus on ways to untie your hands so that you can get more great work out the door to your customers. According to this post (scroll way down and see slide #20 in the presentation), about 15% of SEOmoz community members are in-house SEOs along with 28% of PRO users – that’s the niche audience I’m writing for, as well as for folks who are considering a career as an in-house SEO.

So let’s get down to the Good Stuff: the art of being a successful in-house SEO and making a difference for your organization and your customers, constituents, and users. As you may know, I recently left the SEO field to focus on information strategy, but with the past 11 years of in-house SEO under my belt, now’s the right time to pass on my best in-house SEO secrets.

But beware, this is complicated, challenging stuff: hic sunt dracones!

Who's Awesome? by John Sloan, on Flickr
Photo © John Sloan (creative commons)

#1: Be the best person to work with at the office

Attitude matters. I’ve known so many SEOs who are cantankerous SOBs who seem to hate their jobs, their colleagues, and their work. When they enter a room, they steal all of the energy away from everyone with their dour attitude, woe-is-me approach, and overall negative vibes.

But you’re smart and can do better than that – don’t be that guy or gal! Instead, apply the tenets of inbound marketing to your relationships with co-workers. Nothing’s more important for building a positive reputation for yourself and for your SEO work than being a great partner to your team, your colleagues, and your leadership. To be successful in these areas, it’s not enough to just drive great results – you need to drive great relationships and experiences, just like you would for your external customers and users. Your partners should walk away from their encounters with you not thinking about how smart youare, but how smart and empowered they feel after talking with you.

I’ve achieved great results with this approach by:

  • Researching what my colleagues and leadership care about, both at a high level as well as in specific, granular details
  • Listening to their concerns about SEO before spamming them with my philosophy and approach
  • Tying my strategies and tactics back to the specific goals expressed by leadership, using their exact vocabulary whenever possible
  • Always seeking to provide value and new learning with every interaction, especially where other people can see that you’re learning from them
  • Making SEO as easy as possible by being patient and learning to compromise and iterate over time
  • Volunteering to help out wherever there are priorities or crises, even when they fall outside of SEO
  • Never standing in the way of anyone else’s work even if they stand in the way of yours
  • Constantly praising the successes of others before accepting any praise or kudos for my own work

That last point is the most important. The secret to success as an in-house SEO is simply this: don’t be a rockstar. Or a guru. Or a ninja. Those titles set up divisions between you and your colleagues and they place you on too high a pedestal from which you can easily be knocked off when you don’t hit traffic/sales targets, or when Google introduces a new algo update. Instead, when people introduce you as “Our SEO guru”, quickly (but politely) correct them. You should re-frame your role and yourself as being more of aservant leader who provides services to others, even if you’re not in management.

Many of the above points are things I learned from studying non-violent protests when I was in college (who knew that Gandhi and the Civil Rights movement in America could provide so many useful tactics for SEO?). But in the name of TAGFEE (more on that below), I also want to share some times when I wasn’tsuch a good partner… and the negative outcomes of those actions.

The following are real, actual mistakes that I made over the span of my career. You should avoid doing these at all costs:

  • Publicly comparing a colleague’s constant “let’s wait and see…” attitude about SEO to (and I can’t believe I’m sharing this) the blood banks in the 1980s that refused to test their blood supplies for the HIV virus even though there was clear evidence that they were infected.
    Outcome: no support for SEO, a negative review, and about a year before we started talking again. Clearly not my finest moment – I still feel really bad about this one because I let my frustration get the better of me, which is always a poor decision.
  • Not compromising on a set of rigid SEO standards for the implementation of a new site feature by our development team, even when the stakeholders were willing to include a handful of small SEO fixes.
    Outcome: the feature was built anyway, but without any nods to SEO whatsoever. So I could have had a few optimizations built into the product, but I lost them because they didn’t satisfy my vision of “perfect.”
  • Copying senior leaders on an email of essay-length about why we needed to stop the all the presses to fix an SEO issue with a major release that was about to go out the door.
    Outcome: two entire divisions of pissed-off colleagues. The release went out anyway without the SEO fix and nothing bad happened – there was no discernible SEO impact whatsoever. I’d obviously made a big deal out of nothing.

Ha, I told you this was TAGFEE, right? What you can learn from the micro-stories above are the values of empathy, partnership, humility, and patience (not to mention assessing a situation before jumping into it). There’s also a strong lesson here about disregarding perfection, which I’ll speak more to below. But your most powerful tool as an in-house SEO is your ability to admit transparently and authentically that you don’t know everything.

PRO-tip: when you get that funny feeling in your chest like you’re about to explode in rage at a colleague… go for a walk outside instead. Breathe deeply and then count to five. It does wonders for your body and mind while building resilience for the real priorities at hand. Then go back in and find a way to either “negotiate to yes” or to move forward productively without doing damage to your relationships.

I won’t lie to you: being the best person to work with is hard. It’s a constant challenge and I must acknowledge that I have not been entirely successful in achieving it. But it’s the best way to pursue long-term, sustainable in-house SEO… or anything else in life that matters to you.

Aleyda Solis and Fabio Ricotta hang with Roger MozBot
Photo © Rudy Lopez/SEOmoz (used with permission from SEOmoz)

#2: Always talk about SEO from the perspective of people, not robots

Face it: besides you, no one cares about robots. And even when people do care about robots, they still have great distrust for them. And can you blame them? Robots aren’t like us, they have no emotions, and they’re typically depicted in films and books as being our post-apocalyptic enemies (Asimov is just an exception proving the general rule). Only us SEOs and sci-fi geeks love robots more than people.

Think about it – here’s a summary of the attitudes that you’re up against with your employer:

  • Robots don’t have credit cards (yet?) and can’t buy anything from us
  • Robots don’t use our services online or at our local brick-and-mortar branches
  • Robots don’t donate their time to our volunteer activities or other non-commercial aspects of our mission
  • Robots use make requests of our servers, which has the potential to make our site slower and reduce capacity for human customers
  • Robots crawl our content and replicate it elsewhere without our consent
  • Doing work on behalf of robots takes up human resources that we would have spent on human customers

So robots get a bad rap, even though as SEOs we know that robots are consumers of our content and that they act as way-finding agents for humans who are trying to find our content and products. People use robots every single day as they go about their basic activities, but most folks don’t realize that because they conceptualize the robot’s activities as being services for people. See what just happened there? Our anthropocentric bias has shone through once again.

I’ve found that it’s quite hard to change people’s minds about robots, but it’s far easier to hack their understanding of SEO so that they can see how it focuses on human users. This is a lot easier than you might think – here’s a couple ways that you can get started:

  • Focus on customer journeys instead of the robot’s crawl. For example, go through several SERPs with your partners – including those where you perform great along with those where you don’t – and talk about the customer experience of researching the results and choosing to click through on one versus the other. This approach helps humanize SEO by focusing on customer behavior rather than the intricacies of information retrieval and indexation. Furthermore, this elevates your role for your colleagues; you’re not just a technician any more, you’re going to be helpful in decoding customer behaviors and intent. What drives human decision-making here? It’s not just rank; it’s everything from readability to catchiness to your word choice to your unique value proposition. See Dan Shure’s great guide to click-worthy titles to get some good ideas (and note that he never uses the words “robot” or “crawler” even once in this post).
  • Focus on wins for customers that also happen to be wins for robots and search crawlers. Web site speed tuning or web performance optimization is a great example of this because it improves the experience for your users by saving their time as well as drives increases in crawling activity. For example, we saw huge wins for customers and crawlers (see slide #60 for results) as we made site speed enhancements. Another great example is reducing true-duplicate and near-duplicate content, which is a poor experience for people that also acts as Panda-bait.

Photo © puntxote (creative commons)

#3: Don’t rely on data to tell your story for you

We all know that it’s essential to work from data and place data, facts, and figures at the core of our business cases. But what we often forget is that, as SEOs, we’re probably the most data-literate people within our organizations. Which is to say that speaking about statistical significance, or basis points versus percentage points, or even VLOOKUPs in Excel can actually frighten off our colleagues and lead to distrust – especially in an organization where people have historically “cooked the books” or otherwise used data in misleading ways.

So we need to use data to tell the story of our work and – most importantly – to show our colleagues and leadership the positive impact that we have on customers. Our key tools here are story-telling and data visualization. As content marketers, we all know the powerful roles that these two tools play in our work to engage customers… so why not leverage them internally with your colleagues? Again we see the value of applying inbound marketing competencies to your work inside an organization.

How can you get started in this? Conrad Saam recently showed us how we can improve our reporting with scattergraphs, which present data in a visual format. My director, Samantha Starmer, talked about the value of storytelling (and how to tell a good business story) on the Slideshare blog. Rand prepped all of the MozCon speakers with a Whiteboard Friday video on the mechanics of creating great presentations.

This isn’t just a trick you can use at conferences; it’s something that you should do in all of your presentation decks, especially ones that you make inside your company. After seeing deck after deck of bad fonts and bullet points – not to mention speakers who just read the text on their slides without bringing any additional value to them – you’ll come across looking professional and polished, someone who’s both trustworthy and believable. In essence, you’ll earn your colleagues’ attention, just like a good inbound marketer should.

I'll help you down
Photo © Kristina Alexanderson (creative commons)

#4: Help your colleagues meet their goals before asking them to support yours

When I first started doing in-house SEO work, I had no idea how to perform the “Inception” trick of getting partners to do SEO on my behalf as if it was their own idea. So I blindly stumbled along, asking – and later begging – for favors. Soon I wasn’t getting any support at all because I was pitching SEO assomething extra that everyone had to do on top of all of their other responsibilities. Worse still, even when I did get support, I would often destroy the relationship by producing reams upon reams of documentation and insisting that every detail be perfect.

Don’t do that – relying on altruism in a stressful and fast-paced environment is generally a losing proposition. Instead, start with an open, honest, and most of all direct conversation about what really matters to your colleagues. Do this with as many individuals as you can, not just at a team- or group- level. This is where you splurge and buy people coffee, tea, doughnuts, take them out to lunch, bring in pizza, or generally do whatever it takes to set people at ease and get them to open up. You should be just as literate in your colleagues’ goals and objectives as you are in the latest Google Panda iteration.

So your goal is to figure out not just what they’re doing, but why they do it in the first place. How does it impact users or customers? How is their role incentivized to perform? What metrics do they use to judge their work? What are they reviewed on by their management? And beyond the office, what are they trying to achieve with their lives? Learning these key data points will help you construct a strategy and workflow for SEO that helps them succeed at their goals. And if you can do that, then you’ll find that they’re much more willing to help you out. That’s why I always refer to organic search traffic and sales as being “your impact” or “everyone’s impact” rather than “my impact” – and this goes a long ways toward securing support from others.

Bottom line: you don’t look good unless you make your colleagues look great. Seek to elevate them and to serve their needs before your own. Here are some resources to get you started with a values-based approach to relationships:

We have achieved so much. And now,...into the Woods!!
Photo © Andreas Metz (creative commons)

#5: Build a professional development plan

It’s hard to steer your ship – let alone your strategy for SEO and inbound marketing at your organization – without knowing where it’s headed. And if you find that you’ve stopped learning and that your days are filled with nothing but ranking reports, then your ship has clearly run aground.

One way to solve these problems and keep yourself focused is to build a professional development plan for yourself. Elements of a strong plan include:

  • A vision and set of goals for what you want to achieve for yourself
  • Realistic timelines – short-term (1 year or less), medium-term (1-2 years), and long-term (2+ years) – that lead incrementally (and perhaps iteratively, depending on your needs) up to your goals using small steps along the way
  • A list of your mentors and other supporters who can help you reach your goals and overcome obstacles
  • An outline of “known unknowns,” or the areas where you realize you have an experience or knowledge gap that you’ll want to fill in
  • Resources (events, trainings, schools, books, blogs, networks, etc.) that can help you learn and grow
  • Methods for measuring your progress and holding yourself accountable for continually making progress

It was the act of building a professional development that helped me realize that I wanted to go back to school and switch the focus of my career from SEO to information management and strategy. It wasn’t until I put this plan together that I realized how much I enjoyed story-telling in business settings, which gave me confidence to start pitching SEO and Internet marketing conferences for speaking opportunities.

Want to find out what you really want?  You can get started with this great guide for EduCause (PDF) that includes worksheets, templates, and journals.

PRO-tip: Use gamification to keep yourself invested in your long-term development. For a while, I was mentally giving myself what I thought of as “experience points” (yeah, I grew up playing D&D – what of it?) for overcoming particular challenges, whether it be commenting on someone’s blog, submitting a pitch for a conference, or getting some optimization out the door to customers. You could take the next step by documenting your own experience points in an Excel, or placing them on a big chart on your wall, or even creating physical representations for them to give yourself a more in-depth awareness of your progress.

Having trouble coming up with a vision for your career or work? Try checking in with a career counselor near you who can help you learn about yourself, your goals at work, and inspire you to construct language around what you want to achieve. You may have the opportunity to undergo tests like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator or the Strong Interest Inventory to learn more about your interactions and passions. I’ve known several people who have taken this approach and they’ve all enjoyed the experience, considering it money (and time) well spent!

HMKC AKC Spring 2008 Agility Trial
Photo © SheltieBoy (creative commons)

#6: Go Agile

Go back and look at what we’ve covered so far; none of it has focused on technology, implementation, or code. Rather, we’ve focused on people instead of systems; listening and understanding needs instead of acting blindly; using data to tell stories and work toward goals; and being a great colleague/servant in order to build strong teams. These are all tenants of Agile Marketing – which is so clearly the way of the future that it’s all I can do to not shout it from the roof-tops. Mark my words: all marketers and especially SEOs will be working this way in the future.

Why? First of all, Agile has an excellent track record of success in the world of software development. Devs have been using this process and methodology for nearly two decades and marketers should learn from their experience in order to solve common problems that we always see in our work, such as:

  • Too many unproductive meetings
  • Too much documentation and status reporting, not enough action
  • An inability to take in new knowledge from the outside world and apply it quickly
  • A lack of focus on (and collaboration with) our customers
  • Long delays in shipping new campaigns and marketing innovations to customers
  • Too much marketing structure and not enough learning from “crossing the streams” of our disciplines

Do these sound like realistic descriptions of the problems you face in doing your job as an in-house SEO? Agile marketing helps us solve these core institutional challenges, allowing us to get closer to our customers while reducing time to market with our campaigns and optimizations.

Get started now by following these steps:

Photo © Jukka Vuokko (creative commons)

#7: Break down the silos to work across channels beyond just SEO

Here’s a question to ask yourself: what do you think customers do when they’re not conducting searches and clicking on results? It turns out that they’re real people (!) who are active in the world, have families they care about, live in communities, pursue their dreams, resist the fears and challenges that get in their way, snack on their favorite junk foods (in case you’re wondering, I’m a fan of Frito-Lay® TOSTITOS® Restaurant Style With A Hint Of Lime Flavored Tortilla Chips), and so on.

So why should we treat customers as if they’re just a collection of one-and-done organic query strings? Why should we just focus on their last organic click that either leads to a conversion (or doesn’t) instead of trying to understand the bigger picture of the customer’s journey? Well, of course you shouldn’t do those things.

Repeat after me: “MY USERS ARE GREATER THAN THE SUM OF THEIR KEYWORDS.” Note: this is a helpful motto to keep in mind as we approach year two of “Keyword (not provided).”

Instead, use multi-channel attribution measurement with a longer attribution period than you might normally employ (say, a 30-day window instead of just same-day or even seven-day attribution) in order to get a better sense of the customer’s actions online. Mike Pantoliano from Distilled recently spoke about attribution modeling at MozCon, showing how you can get started quickly just by using Google Analytics. You’ll see some really exciting, inspiring phenomena when you do this:

  • Organic search probably converts better than your company thinks it does. SEO doesn’t just drive new customer acquisitions, but also provides “assists” to most other programs (paid search, e-mail, social, etc.). You probably already have a great ROI for organic search showing how each click costs just a tiny fraction of a penny, but this makes it an even better investment. You can use this data to build a model showing why your company should invest more budget and resources in your program.
  • Driving support for other programs and channels… also drives SEO! For example, when we increased our paid search spending on top-of-funnel head terms, we saw a lot of those same people return to our site through branded organic search later on (see slides #10-17). So rather than operate in a winner-take-all, zero-sum game when it comes around to budgeting season at your workplace, partner up with your colleagues to show them how strategic investments in their programs can also have the impacting of building organic search traffic. This gives their investments far more bang for the buck, increasing their ROI while giving them additional reasons to partner with you on your initiatives.
  • Your organic search customers are interacting with you off-line. In my case, they’re not just using mobile devices and tablets, but they’re also going into physical retail stores. But even if you don’t have stores or other brick-and-mortar interfaces, you can start to divine off-line intent based on your customers’ mobile queries. Not only that, but you can begin to encourage incremental off-line behavior from the online channel by testing new messages in your calls-to-action, landing pages, and <meta> descriptions. If you have physical stores or other real-world places where customers can interact with you, then driving additional people to visit them will help you win the support of SEO from those location managers.

On that last point, it’s pretty hard to measure your customers’ activity when they jump from the online to the off-line world (and back again). Unless you have lots of expensive hardware, software, and a non-creepy way of tracking your individual customer’s behavior, it’ difficult to assess these sorts of multi-channel actions with any degree of accuracy.

PRO-Tip: to get at this figure, we assigned a revenue estimate to online actions that signaled off-line intent (see slides #12-15). You can set up Google Analytics goals to measure these events and then multiply by your revenue figure. A more complex model would also factor in off-line conversion, abandonment, and average customer spend to come up with an even better estimate of true customer behavior.

Taking this approach allowed us to establish a series of KPIs that we could measure ourselves on and optimize against as we made enhancements. Is it perfect? No way. But it let us get started on work without losing time to “analysis paralysis“. Even Avinash admits that it’s going to be awhile until we have truly reliable measures of online/off-line jumps and real-world customer activity. So my advice is to stop waiting and start testing.

Want to learn more about multi-channel attribution and get started in your analysis? Start here:

DSC08662 - report card
Photo © Violet Blue (creative commons)

#8: Stop. Chasing. Perfection.

As I’ve mentioned above, trying to be perfect in all of your actions tends to lead to more liabilities than benefits and more problems than solutions. A summary of those issues includes:

  • An increase in anxiety and fear driven by an inability to live up to impossible standards
  • Huge delays in getting optimizations and campaigns out the door to your customers
  • More time and energy spent on documentation and reviews and approvals than on building things for customers
  • “Analysis Paralysis” that acts as a bottleneck to your team and others within your organization
  • Unsustainable increases in extra work that is not required to meet customer goals
  • An inability to build big things or ship large projects; conversely, an over-focus on low-value minutiae, artifacts, and maintenance

The secret that SEOs (and pretty much everyone) need to learn is that we can’t be perfect. It’s not because we’re not smart or talented or don’t know what we’re doing; rather, it’s because things change in our industry far too quickly. “Perfect” today equates to “ZOMG! This is totally wrong!” tomorrow. Don’t believe me? Look at the homepage and count the number of disciplines and tactics that you need to know just to be minimally proficient in search marketing, let alone a completely up-to-date expert. If you waited until you were an expert in everything before doing anything… well, you’d never do anything at all.

So here’s the solution, direct from Agile development: instead of trying to release complete products, campaigns, or optimizations, break them down into a series of small iterations that span from a minimum viable product (or “MVP”; in marketing terminology, this would be a minimum viable campaign) up to a final release of finished work. By adopting this principle of ongoing, iterative, continuous delivery, you can avoid the need for perfection and provide awesome features, tools, and content your customers right now instead of making them wait for six months or a year.

As Steve Jobs once said, “You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new.” So if we drop our notions of perfection in SEO and inbound marketing while ramping up our ability to make small, quick implementations, we’ll deliver what our customers need to be successful in their goals. If you make a mistake or get negative customer feedback, that’s OK because you can fix it during your next release cycle, which might be just a week or two away (or sooner – has multiple releases going out daily) instead of half a year later… or longer!

Furthermore, by adopting a Build-Measure-Learn workflow, we can ensure that each new iteration is better than the last by making use of one of your core talents as an in-house SEO: your mastery of data and analytics. You can leverage those skills to show your partners and leadership the clear impacts of your efforts. Crunching the numbers from each release of your campaigns or optimizations provides the data you need to demystify SEO for your colleagues, which in turn builds trust and more robust support for your efforts.

So don’t chase perfection – chase speed and frequency of releases instead!

TAGFEE poster by SEOmoz
Image © SEOmoz (used with permission from SEOmoz)

#9: Hack your organization – and our industry! – with TAGFEE

TAGFEE” stands for Transparent and Authentic, Generous, Fun, Empathetic, and Exceptional. You’re probably aware that these tenants are the core guiding principles for SEOmoz as a company. About a year ago, I got several Mozzers, associates, and members of the wider community to write about what TAGFEE meant to them and how they’re using it in their daily lives. And like I said in that Q&A post, I still believe that TAGFEE is just as much an innovative tool for our work as SEOs as Open Site Explorer, the Keyword Difficulty Tool, or even Excel.

Here’s why: think about how much time our industry spends on myth-busting all those falsehoods about SEO. Consider how much distrust there is about what we do, why we do it, and even who we are. Think about how many times you, personally, have had the white-hat/black-hat conversation with your colleagues and peers. Remember every time that someone’s sighed or rolled their eyes when you bring up SEO. And don’t even get me started on how many times SEO has died.

So you’re well-aware of how the public misunderstands our work, but also consider how they perceive ourcommunity: blackhat SEO forums were recently mentioned as being the fifth most disturbing online community on the entire Internet, right up there with child pornographers, online hit men, and suicide/self-harm groups. Think that these perceptions don’t affect you? Think again: when you want to transition to a leadership role, when you interview for a job at another company, or when you want to make a move to another industry, you’ll be challenged with these questions and misunderstandings about the work you’ve been doing.

I honestly believe that TAGFEE is one of the ways that we can bring our role within an organization – and, at the macro-level, our industry – out of the slimy gutter of snake oil. If we want to change the perception of SEOs in our own organization as well as in the public space, then we all need to hold ourselves responsible for acting.

Here’s how you can make TAGFEE work for you right now in your in-house SEO job:

  • Transparent: be upfront about what you know, don’t know, and are still learning. Never be afraid to admit your ignorance and ask for help rather than pretend that you understand something you don’t. Cite your sources, show your data, and be clear about how/why you’re interpreting it. Actively take the blame when things go wrong and productively document your plans for making them right. Be honest and direct in your interactions with others. Along with positive outcomes, share negative results when they occur instead of trying to hide them or distract attention from them.
  • Authentic: like I state above, be the best person to work with at your company. Don’t shy away from revealing your loves, hobbies, or personal passions. Likewise, seek to understand your colleagues and partners (and, most of all, your customers!) as whole, complete human beings.Become a brand ambassador for your company as well as for your own personal brand. Don’t lie about who you are, what you do, and what you believe even when the world is constantly incentivizing you to do so. Remember that authenticity is much like accountability: it’s a warm blanket to wrap yourself in, not a cudgel to use against someone else.
  • Generous: help your colleagues meet their goals before asking them to support yours. Seek to understand what people need to be successful in their work and fulfilled in their lives and support their progress toward those goals. Make sure that the first thing you do during a crisis is to ask “How can I help?” rather than say “It’s not my fault!” Give before you take, and don’t hoard your staff or other resources – share them where they’re needed the most.
  • Fun: employ the concept of gamification for your personal tasks and within your teams; an in-house SEO I met at SMX last year told me about how he set up a scoreboard awarding points and trophies for top partners. Always celebrate your successes as well as your learnings from failures. Don’t emphasize rigid processes or formal settings ahead of productive activities and relationships. Stop fearing chaos and embrace the need for individuals to express themselves and work in their own ways. Don’t just provide expertise on your subject area; be friendly and approachable as well to get others excited about it. Party like it’s 1999!
  • Empathetic: follow The Golden Rule; when a concept crosses over pretty much every religionever, it’s worth some consideration. You can best accomplish this by actively listen to your colleagues and seek to understand what drives them, what their concerns are, and what challenges they’re facing. Place people and relationships far ahead of processes, business goals, and standards. Support your colleagues during both professional and personal crises. And for (Dr.?) Pete’s sake, stop gossiping and placing rants or sarcasm above providing utility and value within all of your relationships.
  • Exceptional: always seek to do your best and maintain the highest level of quality in your work, but not at the cost of violating the other TAGFEE tenants (e.g., chasing perfection for its own sake as I state above). Looking beyond yourself and your personal work, endeavor to create exceptional teams and relationships as well. Consistently challenge yourself to learn something new and raise the bar. Surpass goals when you can, but not to the point of a breakdown in sustainability, work-life balance, or to the detriment of other people and their efforts.

Next steps: apply these learnings in your personal online brand and other external channels. Blog about them, talk about them at conferences, build stories around them and become an advocate for radical transparency, authenticity, generosity, fun, empathy, and exceptionalism in your everyday life. You’ll know that you’ve got it right when you start to see positive changes in your relationships, your conversations, even your use of language. Not to mention better sleep at night.

Furthermore, if you want to come up with your own code or your own guiding principles, that’s great! You can (and should) iterate on SEOmoz’s solution to make your own set of personal tenants that help guide your way through your own organization.

Photo © Travis Isaacs (creative commons)

#10: Don’t just listen to me – learn from others, too!

A number of other folks have told great stories with actionable tips for optimizing the in-house SEO experience. Here are a few of my personal favorite resources to help you continue your journey:

An App That Helps Freelancers Put A Price For Their Services

13 Sep

This looks like an amazing app for all us freelancers out there. I know I always struggle when someone asks me to design something for them as to what to charge them, as I have little experience in the field. But by the sounds of it, this app does all the hard work for you and advises you roughly what you should be charging. I will definitely be looking for this app!!

Taken from

“As a freelancer, some of you may find it quite difficult to give reasonable quotes to clients for your services—if the quote is too high, you’ll lose a potential client—too low and you’ll end up making a loss.

To help freelancers tackle this problem, a new iOS app called ‘MyPrice’ helps them calculate how much they should charge for their services—by taking into account factors such as education, work experience, the nature of the project, client and location.

With MyPrice, the app will provide freelancers with an estimate and reasonable figure of how much they should charge for each project—whether it’s on hourly rates or a per-project basis.

As a cloud-based software, the app allows users to save previous templates of their past projects for future references.

It even provides tips on how they can further their career as a freelancer.

MyPrice is currently free for download on the iTunes Store.”








Seven things your website needs to get right!

13 Sep

Not everyone knows how to design a website, but if you are going to have a website for your business the  you need to know what to put on it. Here is an article I found outlining 7 things your website NEEDS. As a designer, I think these are good points to consider, and will make your website better.

Taken from

7 things your website needs to get right

“As a journalist I spend a hell of a lot of time looking at corporate websites. I see maybe 40 a week.

I have noticed that a staggering number don’t fulfil their basic functions. Nothing to do with aesthetics. They simply don’t address some obvious business requirements.

So let me frown in silence no longer: I give you my quick checklist for your corporate site. None of these should take your website administrator more than a few minutes to put right.

1. High resolution images

Journalists – and clients – may need to download high resolution images of your products and staff. So host them! is brilliant at this. They store every conceivable image at an easy to find location, no registration required. If you wonder why Firebox gets such amazing coverage in the press – well, now you know.

Protip: Corporate headshots are worthless. Get in a professional and have them shoot something like this.

2. A detailed “About Us” section

Think about it – if a user is clicking on the About Us tab it is because they want to know more about you. So tell them! You need to include biographical information on the founders and senior staff. When I see a great business like Eat Natural cereal bars fail to state any of this I despair. The founders actually have a wonderful story. Why don’t they tell it?

Protip: Include a CV of the founders. The press, and customers, want to know the people behind the business.

3. Maps

Where are you? If I want to find your office then I’d like a proper map. Which means one I can scroll, zoom in and out of, and print. Some, like the Old Crown on New Oxford Street, don’t even include a map in the Find Us section. Why?! Link to Google Maps. You can also include a large photo of your front door – this really helps first time visitors.

Protip: Have the map open in a new browser window. Keeping users trapped in a 200 by 100 pixel embedded box is preposterous.

4. Know how your site looks on a smartphone

A poll of 400 small business owners by software firm Serif reveals that 74 per cent have not designed a mobile version of their website, and 86 per cent have failed to produce an iPad compatible version. Almost half have never considered how their site looks on a smartphone.

Protip: Watch out for “default to homepage”. When a browser navigates to a particular page on your website using a phone they may be whisked over to the mobile version, which inadvertently transports them to the homepage, rather than merely converting the page they wanted to view.

5. Flash, image-texts

It is not 1995. You should not be using flash layouts, wire-frame, Java icons or any other craptacular gimmick.

Protip: Take a look at Web Pages That Suck. Read. And learn.

6. Individual contact details

People who want to get in touch are potential customers. So make it easy for them. List all the people in your firm, complete with email and direct phone numbers. This will include your accounts department, who the press should contact and the bloke who orders the stationery.

Protip: Don’t use a webform. It prevents the sender keeping a copy on their email system. And the sender has no idea who the message will be read by, so will annoy them.

7. Be comprehensive

Your site should tell customers everything you do. In clear language (you are not a “solutions provider” unless you actually sell chemical solvents). Your site should list every product, every service, and be retrospective. If a customer bought a product in 2003 they will want to find the PDF of the manual in three clicks or fewer.”

A 40-Minute Crash Course In Design Thinking

13 Sep

Ok so I know this video may be slightly long for most of you, but this woman really knows her stuff. She will teach you how to look deeper at the things around you, opening up a whole new world of vision. So if you have the time, please watch this, you could learn something you never knew about.

Taken from


Inge Druckrey has been teaching design for more than 40 years. But what she has really been doing is teaching people to see. “You really learn to look,” she says in the opening lines of Inge Druckrey: Teaching to See, remarking on the benefits of an education in art and design. “And it pays off….Suddenly you begin to see wonderful things in your daily life that you never noticed.”

The 38-minute film, chronicling her work as a graphic designer and an instructor of design, was directed by Andrei Severny and produced by statistics wizard Edward Tufte, Druckrey’s husband. Rather than retreading Druckrey’s biography–she was born in Germany in 1940, worked as a graphic designer in Switzerland in the mid-1960s, and has since held teaching posts at Yale, the Rhode Island School of Design, and the Philadelphia College of Art, among other institutions–Severny tries to capture the essence of Druckrey’s magic as a teacher. Through interviews with former pupils, as well as surveys of her own graphic-design work and those of her students, the film shows Druckrey’s gift for teaching others to see the world through eyes both critical and curious. Teaching to See lets us, too, become her disciples.

You don’t walk away from the film with a single penetrating insight; it’s more of a grab bag of Druckrey’s practices, ideas, and projects. Little lessons crop up at every turn. In one sequence, Druckrey describes designing a concert poster for the Yale Symphony Orchestra’s performance of a piece by Beethoven. Her first idea was to use the contrast of light and dark, evoking some of the turmoil of the composer’s own life. A large abstracted B, made from a page of notation from one of Beethoven’s manuscripts, dominates the piece visually. Druckrey explains that the idea for the B was there from the start. Next, she used staff lines to create a letter E in the negative space adjacent to it. But she wasn’t sure where to go after that, so she stared. It’s important, she narrates, “to give yourself time to stare at it and see what’s there, what does it want, what’s possible.”

Throughout the film, these kernels of wisdom come not just directly from Druckrey herself but also secondhand from the recollections of several of her former students. One recounts how exacting Druckrey was as a drawing instructor–“I remember drawing a juice bottle and the constant correction, the constant back and forth; it could be very trying at times,” he says–but admits that when he finally began to see what she was trying to get him to see, namely the relationship of the ellipses and other shapes that made up that bottle, it was nothing short of a “revelation.”

These interviews underscore another central point of the film: Druckrey is a designer whose influence will not only live on through her work but also through the work of the countless others she guided throughout her career. The film is about Druckrey as an individual and the unique way of thinking–and seeing–that she instilled in so many others.

But the film did not begin with these grand ambitions. One day, Druckrey showed Severny and Tufte a short clip on type design that she had produced for the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. They thought they could do better, and over time, a much greater project emerged. The challenge became how to most effectively represent not only the finished products but also the processes and philosophies behind Druckrey’s work and instruction.

“I normally write and direct narrative films with actors and fiction stories,” Severny told Co.Design, “so making something out of a lifelong collection of still images by Inge Druckrey and her students and colleagues was a bit of a challenge. Since you have control over stills, it’s important to remember that every movement should have a purpose.

“We have used a lot of type and captions on the screen, which increased the information throughput and made the film more coherent,” Severny says, speaking like a true Tufte collaborator. “Just like good design is seamless and invisible, good editing should be invisible, too, leaving all the emphasis on the content.”


A particularly thoughtful sequence, one that brings to life Druckrey’s dictum about seeing wonderful things you never noticed, has her narrating a student’s attempt at developing a typeface. Severny lets the student’s capital letter R take up the whole screen, fading from one version to the next as Druckrey narrates the refinements taking place before our eyes. For those who don’t think much about type on a daily basis, it’s a two-minute crash course in “really learning to look” at letters, a glimpse into the interdependent system of angles, connections, and stroke weights that make some typefaces just feel right.

Severny hopes Teaching to See will be illuminating to both laypeople and those already familiar with Druckrey’s work. The film, he explains, “follows the good Edward Tufte tradition of focusing on ‘forever’ qualities and not following any current trend, which should make this documentary valid in 10, 20, or 50 years from now.”

Tufte, Severny, and Druckrey have made the film available for free, in its entirety, on Tufte’s site and allowed us to embed it here. For information on screenings and to read some brief reviews from some noteworthy designers (including many former students), head over to Teaching to See.