Is it Wise to Own the Domain Name that is One of Your Big Keywords?

One of my philosophies in business is ‘once a client, always a client’.

This probably seems a little counter-intuitive.  Trust me – if nothing else this is quite unconventional.  I’ve shared this credo with many colleagues and industry professionals – which is typically greeted with a ‘bless your heart’ type of response.  The problem is, once a client stops paying, or declined to renew a contract, it’s all too commonplace to leave them in the dust and move onto the next prospect.  After all – everyone needs help with this stuff, and there is always another opportunity right around the corner.  The reality though is that the client may still need your guidance, even if they are no longer in a position to afford your fees.

It’s more than just a pitch – I actually mean it.  And occasionally I hear from a past client who has a question or needs a little assistance.  Such was the case last week, when out of the blue, I heard from ‘Jake’, whom I literally hadn’t spoken to in over a year.

*Slight modifications were made to the conversation to preserve anonymity.

Jake sent me an email out of the blue with the title ‘quick question’.  His question was “Is it wise to own the domain name that is one of your big keywords?”  He went on to provide an example of the domain he was considering for purchase.  He already has a 10+ year old domain and a site pertaining to his business.  Here is my response:

The answer to your question depends on what you’re hoping to get out of it.  There is basically no SEO value in owning a domain simply to redirect it to your main site.  It would be a good domain name to own if you’re planning on building out a site on it, or if you’re planning on moving your site to it (although I don’t know why you’d want to do that).

Another reason to buy it is so no one else can – even if you’re not planning on developing it.  Exact match domain names are a premium – I’m actually a little surprised that one is available.  I’d snatch it up if I were in your position if for no other reason.

Let me know if you have any other questions!

He followed up with:

I do not plan to change my name to the keyword in question but I was thinking about building an informative site about the topic and build links back to my site.  Is that what you would recommend?

To which I replied:

No I wouldn’t recommend that.

Creating valuable content is the best SEO strategy.  Publishing it on a separate domain dilutes the value of the content with respect to your site.  If you want to blog, do it on your main domain.

Search Engines like authority sites.  The more valuable content your site contains, the better this purpose is served.  The more your content gets liked and shared on social networks and such is also a big ranking signal.

Linkbuilding is a different game now.  Google’s latest algorithm change (called Penguin launched in April) has made traditional linkbuilding tactics such as directory submissions, forum participation, blog commenting, content distribution through article farms, etc. virtually irrelevant, and can actually have an adverse effect on your SERP rankings.  Anchor text is also something to be very careful of.

The best link-building tactics involve getting content to authority blogs and publications on the web with links back to your site.  This has to be done manually, and the good publications out there will likely ask for 100% original content and a period of exclusivity.  As you can probably imagine, this is extremely time consuming and challenging.  In other words, links for links sake is a bad practice – link-building in many respects is no longer a numbers game.  Focus on links from sites that are relevant to your site, and are likely to send some traffic because of their relevance to that site’s visitors.

Have  question about link-building, SEO or the like?  Drop me a line by using the contact form linked above – I’d love to hear from you!

So Long Facebook: 10 Reasons Facebook Will Fade Into Obscurity

So long, Facebook.  It was nice making your acquaintance.

No, I am not actually closing my account on The Social Network.  At least not yet anyway.  But in the next 12-30 months, we are going to see some major, unpleasant changes in the way the powers that be within Facebook conduct their business and treat their exponentially bloated user base.  After a nice conversation this week with Social Media Expert Christina Torri of Mindscape at Hanon McKendry, here are 10 predictions and observations that will be a direct or indirect result of the new IPO, which is going on as we speak.  If I turn out to be wrong, feel free to come back and call me out in 2015 :)

1. Facebook is now a For Profit Organization.  For the first time in their existence, they HAVE to make money.

2. Facebook was never inherently designed to make money.  If you’ve seen the movie The Social Network, or read the book on which the movie is based, The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich, you know the basic story of how the site came to be.  The original premise of ‘The Facebook’ was to allow college students a place to connect online.  Once it was made available to the masses, Facebook followed the ‘get as big of a user base as possible and then try to figure out how to make it profitable’ business model.

3. Traditional businesses measure growth based on revenue and profitability.  A car company like Toyota can only measure growth based on how many people are driving their cars if they turn a profit on each car sold.  Social networks measure growth based on usage and number of active accounts. This is fundamentally flawed from a business standpoint.

4. Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and Co-Founder of Facebook, by many accounts, is indifferent to money.  While this can be a noble personality trait, it is not a good quality to have for someone whose responsible for a company supposedly worth somewhere in the ballpark of $100,000,000,000.

5. This new immediate pressure to be profitable will force the company to more aggressively push ads and other revenue generating activities, which will be off-putting to a lot of it’s user base.

6. As a result, Facebook will lose some of it’s fringe users.  These are the people who aren’t really into the whole thing anyway – and probably comprise the bottom 10% of the registered accounts.  They won’t necessarily go anywhere else so much as they will just simply deactivate or quit logging into their account.

7. This will cause Facebook to be more aggressive with it’s ads and such to make up for the lost revenue.  The problem is that Facebook ads perform very poorly when compared to other online advertising models.  Facebook ads are generally considered to be among the worst in the industry in terms of conversion rates.

8. As Facebook becomes more ad-centric, it will become less appealing to more and more people.  Around this time a new social network will begin to gain popularity. It may be one that already exists today – or one that has yet to be dreamed up.

9. As the new social network gains more and more traction, Facebook’s users will begin the practice of maintaining an account on both networks. As the new network acquires users and becomes increasing more appealing than Facebook, it will become the hangout of choice.  People will use Facebook less and less as more of their friends use the new network.

10. Facebook won’t fade away completely.  Myspace has in a way found a niche in that the site is still very relevant to musicians.  Myspace in no way appeals to the masses as it once did, but will probably never die.  Facebook will always have a core user base, whether it is artists, photographers or some other niche or population segment.

(If any of that sounds familiar, it should – because that is similar to the story of how Myspace faded into ‘obscurity’ as people migrated to Facebook.  I use the work ‘obscurity’ sort of tongue in cheek – according to, it is still the 156th more visited site on the Web in terms of pageviews.  While that’s not exactly collecting edust in an ewasteland, it is a far cry from the number two spot they held (The same spot Facebook now holds, coincidentally) at their peak of popularity.  Myspace became bloated with slow-loading user pages and a really inconvenient and bulky user experience, whereas Facebook (at the time) had a clean, simple interface that was immediately easy to understand and operate.)

What do you think?  How does the IPO affect Facebook going forward?  Share your prediction in a comment.

Make Mistakes

What these things have in common is that kids will take a chance. If they don’t know, they’ll have a go. Am I right? They’re not frightened of being wrong.

Now, I don’t mean to say that being wrong is the same thing as being creative. What we do know is, if you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original. If you’re not prepared to be wrong. And by the time they get to be adults, most kids have lost that capacity. They have become frightened of being wrong.

And we run our companies like this, by the way, we stigmatize mistakes. And we’re now running national education systems where mistakes are the worst thing you can make.

And the result is, we are educating people out of their creative capacities.

-Sir Ken Robinson, from his iconic TED Talk ‘Do Schools Kill Creativity?

There are millions of names for it.  Fear of failure.  Fear of success.  Paralysis by analysis.  But whatever you call it, all you’re really describing is an excuse for inaction.

Make Mistakes - Internet Marketing Grand Rapids

Image: Phaitoon /

When was the last time you decided you might want to try something new?  I mean something complicated, yet intriguing enough to consider giving it a whirl.  Maybe it’s building a website for the first time.  Maybe it’s rebuilding an old Chevy 350.  Maybe you want to try learning a foreign language.  Why didn’t you go forth with your endeavor?

If you’re like a lot of people, perhaps you looked into it.  And the only thing you really learned about it is that you know nothing about whatever it is you were contemplating.  Ten pages into Websites For Dummies and you were toast.  Your brain has already been fried be countless acronyms and symbols and squiggly brackets that you just give up.  You throw your hands up in the air and you convince yourself that you can’t learn everything you need to know in order to get started.

Or you get interrupted.  Life has a funny way of altering your priorities.  But should that stop you?  If it were easy, everyone would be doing it, wouldn’t they?

Having been in this business for close to three years now, I am frequently asked is what would I do differently if I were just getting started.

My answer has evolved over time, but the one I’ve settled into is pretty simple: Stop thinking about everything you don’t know.  Things in general are only as complicated as you make them.  A great example is the fact that I don’t offer Social Media services.  I can give the basic advice and could probably run a successful campaign if I were motivated to do so, but the fact is I don’t have the interest level necessary to learn everything I’d need to know.  So instead of tackling those tasks, I refer the work out to professionals I trust.

I’ve also learned that I don’t have to offer Social Media services at all.  I also don’t build complex web applications.  Furthermore, I don’t create content on behalf of the client.  There are plenty of brilliant people to collaborate with for that.  I focus on what I know and what I am good at – and more importantly I focus on what I need to do to provide the best service possible for what I do.  That said, I know I will never know everything. I also know that’s ok to not know everything, and there’s no shame at all in saying “I don’t know the answer to that – but I will find out and get back to you.”

So the best advice I can give to anyone starting out is to get out there and make some mistakes.  Doing is the fastest path to learning.  You don’t need to be all things to all people.  If reading blogs and publications makes you feel like it’s impossible and you’ll never know enough to succeed, stop reading for a while.  Start putting a plan of action together and worry about execution later.  Very early on, I actually got so frustrated that I decided this wasn’t for me.  I was just burned out with trying to learn everything that I thought I needed to know.  So I actually sent an email to my mentor that I wasn’t going to pursue this and walked away from it for three days.  But I never stopped thinking about it.  That was probably the best thing that ever happened with my maturation process – because it made me realize that I wanted to do something after all.  So I created a plan, figured out what I needed to know as I went along and that was that.  After all – what is the point of learning a bunch of stuff you may never actually use?

The One Question Every Website Must Answer

Websites can be built to serve a multitude of different functions.  Some are designed to encourage the visitor to make a purchase, others are made to simply capture leads, while others are purely for entertainment purposes.  But, no matter what function a particular website is supposed to serve, there is one fundamental question the site needs to answer immediately, and failing to do so is the fastest path the having your site’s visitor click that evil ‘back’ button in the upper left hand corner of their browser window.

The question isn’t what the site is about, or who owns it, or anything that immediately focuses on the entity and not the visitor.  The one question that EVERY website must answer is this:

Who is This Website For?

Before you develop your site, have you considered who it is that’s going to be visiting your online space?  Have you considered their needs?  What information they might be seeking in the first place?

One of my newest clients, an internationally renown professional with 30-plus years in his field, recently contracted me to build out a new website for his business.  Upon acceptance of the proposal, one of the optional tasks I encourage clients to consider is to look around the web at sites they like for features they may want to incorporate into their own project.  In this case, the client sent me links to a handful of his colleagues for review.

With the business that my client is in, a prospect can’t buy his services over the Internet.  This is universally true across his profession.  For this reason, it is imperative that his new site illustrate his expertise in an easy-to-consume manner and encourage users to reach out by way of phone or email, whichever they prefer.

What surprised my client the most was the fact that many of his esteemed colleagues’ websites were very much self centered in the respect that they mostly focused on the owner of the site and not necessarily the benefit to the user.  Consider the following email I sent as a response to my client after reviewing a site he’d sent along:

“With a referral, your reputation precedes you – the prospective customer is already at least somewhat familiar with your work and your track record.  Call it a ‘warm lead’ if you will.

But consider the idea that someone who’s never heard of you finds your site.  What would you want them to know RIGHT AWAY?  That you’ve written books and dozens of articles and given countless presentations and are widely considered to be one of the most respected professionals in your field?

Or is the first thing you want them to know is simply put that you get it.  You understand their needs and you have the ability to resolve their problems and have a track record of success.  The truth is the credentials are important, but you win over a prospect much faster with emotional connections than anything else.  They’ll seek out the info about you and they’ll be even more impressed – and we’ll certainly make it easy for them to find that information.  The bottom line is that we will win them over with genuine understanding, which will be much more engaging than everyone else who just wants to blast the visitor with who they are and all they’ve achieved from an academic standpoint.  It’s as industry leaders Pete Brand, Rebecca Dutcher and the rest of the brilliant team at Mindscape at Hanon McKendry always preach:  In today’s age of the Internet and the instant gratification that goes along with it, the visitor really doesn’t care about you, they only care about what’s in it for them.  So with that in mind, let’s give them what they need as fast as possible!”

Truth be told, it’s tempting to design your website with content and information about who you are, what you do, past successes, etc.  This is doubly true if you have already had a lot of amazing success already.  But consider the needs of the visitor first.  Your business is the one that will give them what they need to be successful in whatever they’re trying to accomplish.  Demonstrating that is the surest path to a conversion.  Save the rest for your ‘About’ page

How Much Does SEO Cost?

As I’ve written before, SEO is not optional and should be included in virtually every digital marketing strategy in order to be successful.  Search Engine Optimization is as fundamental as the concept of having a website or a business card.  Bottom line:  You can’t not do it.

It’s always a challenge to answer the question accurately when it comes up in conversation because SEO is an ongoing activity and you’re never really ‘done’.  So much of it depends on the competitive nature of the online space in which the client is trying to compete.  For example, let’s say you’re running an ecommerce site in a fairly uncompetitive niche.  Getting a site to rank favorably in search engines for the handful of keywords that are relevant to your site would be challenging, but certainly attainable.  However, if you’re trying to compete in a much more saturated profession, such as a real estate agent or an attorney, then getting a site to rank well for the important keyword phrases is a considerably more difficult task.One of my business philosophies is to work within most any budget a client has at their disposal.  While most accounts consistently are within the $500 – $1500 monthly range, I also support those with more modest resources – which could be defined as less than $400 per month.  All diligent business owners are aware of the state of their financial situations at virtually all times – and the costs of SEO and Web Marketing services as a whole is always at the forefront of their focus when initially discussing these types of services.

In the latter example, it’s important to consider not only the amount of competition, but the level of optimization that those competing sites have attained.  In occupations where the average professional entity is rather financially endowed, they possess a distinct advantage in that they usually have the resources to invest in SEO and understand it’s importance and the nature of the activity.  This creates an uphill battle that can be very difficult to climb.

The biggest challenge in guestimating the cost of what it will ultimately take to achieve the desired ranking in Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs) is the fact that it’s impossible to predict how long it will take after a sustained effort.  I’ve seen results after only a few days and just a basic amount of optimization, and I’ve seen situations where continuous positive actions produced almost no favorable improvement for the most prominent keywords.

The problem is that there are many factors that are out of our control.  In all reality, there are a finite amount of spaces available and many more companies competing for those spaces. The amount of time it will take for search engines to index your content, the display in in the SERPs at all varies greatly and depends on dozens of factors.  To even attempt to predict what it will take to accomplish this and the amount of time it will take is unprofessional to the point that anyone who makes claims or promises about the behavior of search engines’ algorithms with respect to their efforts is someone to be wary of.

So how much does SEO cost?

I know what you’re thinking: 500 words into this post and you still haven’t gotten to the point.  Well here it goes: The cost of SEO is whatever your budget is, multiplied by how long you are willing to commit to the task in terms of months.  Honestly, establishing this is actually the easy part.  The difficult part is predicting what the results will be.  At the time of this writing, my billable rate is $50 per hour and a typical contract is 10-20 hours per month.  Generally, the contract goes as follows:

First Month: Keyword research and analysis of web presence to determine course of action for future months.  This varies greatly from one client to another.  Some clients’ web presence are so lacking in the fundamentals that getting those elements in place is an automatic place to start.  Others have already achieved some level of optimization.

Months 2 & 3: Implementation of tactics developed in month 1.  At the end of the first three months, analytics are evaluated, and the marketplace is re-examined to see what the results have been so far.  Usually by this point there will have been some progress.  Sometimes things are considerably more progressed than we anticipated, and occasionally we encounter a situation where almost nothing has changed since we started.

From this point we either stay the course or re-evaluate our strategy.  If we’re happy with the way things are going, we continue the activity as before.  If it looks like things are not working, we look at different tactics to implement to hopefully accomplish a better result.

Months 4-6 are generally spent either perpetuating the efforts from the first 3 months, or researching and developing new strategies.  At the end of the six months, we re-evaluate again to see where we’re at compared to when we started, look at what worked, what didn’t, etc.  From there we determine a course of action going forward.

So what about smaller budgets?  A quick case study.

Generally speaking, monthly retainers of 10 hours or more are mostly hands-off for the client.  For those types of projects, I typically handle everything and simply keep the client abreast of progress.  Like I mentioned before though, I try to work within most any budget because it’s my goal to help as many people as possible.  The biggest consideration for smaller budgets is that the less money you have to invest, the more you are going to need to handle yourself.

When I work with a client whose budget is smaller – or simply fixed, I take the following approach:

First, we establish a total budget.  We know that Search Engine Optimization is an ongoing activity and the amount of money a client throws at it initially isn’t actually as much of an influence on success as one would thing.  For example, during our initial discovery meeting a client told me he had $2,000 total to spend.  We decided the best approach was to spend $600, or 30% of his total budget to research keywords and develop a strategy.  Without researching how to get to where you want to be,  you first need to find out where you’re at.

From there, we looked at where the remaining money was best spent and what the client could handle internally in terms of tactics.  It turned out that he has a 19 year old son with enough web savvy to learn to implement some of the simpler, data entry types of tasks.  We decided that he should contract 8 hours for the following month to get things jumpstarted, then 5 hours for the next 4 months.  My role at first was to get the fundamentals established, then remain in place in a sort of coaching/consulting role to provide guidance until his son could take over completely.   It turned out to be the best use of his budget and he is doing quite well now.

For budgets that are more modest, I recommend that you try to learn as much as possible about doing this yourself because it is extremely unlikely to get any real results for just a few hundred dollars (or less).  It’s unfortunate but the truth is, SEO services can be as high as $750 an hour.  Even with more reasonably priced firms and freelancers, a few hours of retainer time doesn’t buy or accomplish a whole hell of a lot.

If you’ve got a budget such as that, you’re best bet is to either hire a consultant to give some basic advice and maybe do a little research as to how you can get yourself to the next level, or possibly invest in a conference or something like that.  Do whatever you can to get the most bang for your buck.

Is Working From Home a Deterrent to Credibility?

One of my biggest concerns when I was first starting out was the fact that I really didn’t have the capital or resources to go out and immediately open an office.  I had a decent base of people I’d done work for who were regularly sending referrals – so getting started from that standpoint wasn’t an issue.  But I had serious doubts and reservations over the fact that I worked out of my home and the practice of meeting prospective clients at coffee shops and the like seemed like a deterrent to credibility.

Turned out I was really, really wrong about this.

working from home

Image Source: Carlos Porto /
(No, this is not to imply working from home is an excuse to drink on the job) :)

The biggest hangup I had was that I was afraid that people would be apprehensive about being confident in the abilities and reliability of someone who doesn’t even have an office of his own.  This was influenced by having worked regularly in Mindscape’s office, which has a ‘wow’ factor like no other as soon as you get off the elevator.  Any inclinations that they might not be the real deal are immediately forgotten the very moment you see the spacious, colorful inviting atmosphere that is obviously the fruits of years of successful service and dedication.  Without such digs though, how could anyone take me seriously?

Over the past 2+ years, I’ve learned a lot about business, perceptions and life in general.  While I’ve since learned that my fears were completely unfounded, I was recently asked a similar question and it got me thinking that maybe there are a lot of people with similar concerns.  Here are a few reasons why working from home is not only not a deterrent to credibility – it can actually bolster confidence with your prospective clients.

When you work from home, and clients know where you live (because that’s where they send the checks), in reality this serves as a confidence booster for a couple reasons.  One,  a person who works from home is more likely to deliver than someone who works out of some fly-by-night office.  There are tons of extremely low cost office spaces around here and in most major cities.  These offices are single occupancy rooms usually on month-to-month leases.

While the fact that a freelancer or industry professional who works out of a small office doesn’t automatically imply that they are not trustworthy, it is much easier to have confidence in the fact that you know where to find the person you’re doing business with.  A small office can be abandoned by a shady individual at a moments notice, and finding the person who burned you would likely require more effort than it’d be worth.

Another advantage of working out of the home is that it allows you to keep operating costs down.  Without the expenses of office space, utilities, parking, etc., I am able to keep my rates at a level that is affordable to a wider group of prospective clients.

As business grows, employees need to be hired and working out of my home will become less and less feasible. Rates and fees will need to be increased to cover the expanding cost of doing business.  This is just a reality that every business owner faces – and in honesty it is a good problem to have.  It is certainly better than the alternative.

So if you’re considering opening a home-based business – don’t worry.  And you might just be surprised when you realize that many of your clients are working out of their homes too :)

If you’re a business owner, I’d love to hear your perspective on this.  Have you hired a freelancer who worked from their home before?  How did it work out?  Please share your thoughts in a comment below!

Why I do Web Marketing for a Living

One of the things I am asked the most is how I got into this line of work.  While most of the story is illustrated on my ‘about‘ page, one of the things I don’t really get to talk about is why I do web marketing for a living.

I began working independently about two years ago, when I saw the opportunities that were out there to help a variety of small business that clearly needed assistance with their web presence but weren’t necessarily in a position to invest thousands of dollars in the services of an agency.  Since then, I’ve had the privilege of working with owners of local restaurants, auto repair shops, a wedding dress designer, medical professionals, several PR and Social Media people, various e-commerce site owners, a manufacturer of custom electrical components, and too many others to list.

While I still enjoy and do occasionally take on projects for larger agencies like Mindscape – which is how I got my start – working with smaller type businesses carries a sense of purpose that is difficult to put into words.  For this reason, I wanted to share a card (along with a nice giftcard to Outback Steakhouse :) ) that I received out of the blue last November from the owners of West Michigan Transmissions, a transmission repair and auto repair shop in Grand Rapids, MI.  Mike and Leslie have been clients since last April or so.


The text reads: “Thanks Mike – For all your efforts and advice you have provided us in mentoring our web related <and then some!> issues. I want you to know that it hasn’t gone unnoticed and is deeply appreciated. Enjoy dinner w/ the fam on us. –Leslie and Michael

While the sentiment is very much appreciated, it also serves as a reminder to myself as to why I do what I do.  It isn’t for the money or even for the freedom of operating a home-based business – it’s for the fact that I get to work with businesses large and small knowing that my services will leave their web presence much stronger and robust than before they hired me.

The occasional steak dinner is a nice bonus though :)

Reflections on 10 Years as a Parent Part 1

(This is part 1 of a two-part series reflecting on 10 years of parenthood.)

I still remember the day I learned for the first time that there was a bun in the oven.

I was a 22-year-old kid working a full time gig in an automotive repair shop as a service writer.  Life wasn’t really moving at a snail’s pace – I had plenty of responsibility with a full-time job and car payments and a serious girlfriend all that jazz.  That said, life wasn’t exactly progressing, either.  That all changed in an instant.

I had planned on hanging out after work on this particular Friday night in June of 2001 when a last minute call to my cell persuaded me to ditch my buddy Dave and our typical Friday night routine.  There was urgent news from my girlfriend (and future (ex)wife) Laura that couldn’t wait.

So I made the last second trip to Grand Rapids to her apartment, which would become my permanent residence only a few weeks later.  It was obvious the news she had in store for me wasn’t guaranteed to be well received – and she was nervous as a result.

“Yeah so I took a pregnancy test…” Was the first thing she said to me after we’d exchanged greetings.

Lizzy and I

Silence followed.  My mind inexplicably went back about eight years to September 24th, 1994.  The Michigan Wolverines opened their season at home against the visiting Buffaloes from the University of Colorado.  The game, now known at The Miracle at Michigan, ended as the Buffaloes’ quarterback Kordell Stewart threw a 64-yard hail mary pass as time expired that was caught by Michael Westbrook for the game’s winning touchdown.  I have seen the highlight from that pass 50 times – and every single time I hold onto this irrational, desperate hope that somehow the outcome will be different than what I know is coming.

“OK…and?” Is all I could think of to say after a silence that spanned what seemed like 300 seconds but was probably only 10% of that.  I distinctly remember wondering how inappropriate it would be for me to express joy or relief if she told me it was negative.  Turns out that would be immediately rendered a complete non-issue.

“I’m… pregnant.”

I’m sure at that particular moment I was the spitting-image of Hollywood cliche, racking my brain with a befuddled look of complete panic trying to think of something intelligent to say.  “Are you sure?” is all I could come up with.

“Yes I took three tests.”  She said, unimpressed with my own version of the hail-mary pass.  Turns out that a false positive, even from an el-cheapo home pregnancy test is pretty uncommon.

I wish I could recall more about that night, but there probably isn’t much to divulge.  We talked through some of the logistics of moving in together – which we’d already discussed prior to this development.  Three weeks later I was gainfully employed and living in Grand Rapids.

The next day I met up with Dave, whom I’d ditched the night before.  We grabbed beers at a local watering hole and I told him the news.  “It seems my childhood has come to an abrupt end,” I distinctly remember saying to him.

The six months or so between the news of my impending parenthood and the subsequent birth of my child is pretty much a blur.  Between getting married, working a ton of hours, ultrasounds appointments, 9-11 occurring and just adjusting to everything that had and was about to change in my life doesn’t leave a lot of room for reflection.  On Friday, December 28th, 2001 my daughter Elizabeth was born a happy, healthy little girl.

The day I became a father for the first time.

The date 12-28-01 is not insignificant in and of itself.

Throughout the numerous doctor and OBGYN visits, every ultrasound test revealed the same thing: The baby was healthy and progressing normally.  The only issue is that she was breech

First Year in Hockey – 2009

the entire pregnancy.  That meant that she remained ‘butt-down’ the entire pregnancy instead of turning over.  Once the pregnancy entered it’s ninth month and it was apparent little Elizabeth wasn’t planning on turning over, we had to schedule a c-section to deliver the baby.  The breech pregnancy was significant for two reasons: One, We were never able to determine the sex of the baby as a result; and Two,  We had the option of scheduling the surgery any time within two weeks of the projected due-date, which was January 8th.  Laura was immediate excited that she could plan for a New Year’s baby.

At first I agreed – after all I had no preference.  But after a little deliberation, something very sobering occurred to me.  We can’t have a New Year’s baby – there’s a lot of football on TV that day!  I didn’t want to be celebrating my kid’s birthday on New Year’s Day every year.  So, with the tax benefits of the ‘Earned Income Credit’ as ammunition, I convinced Laura that the preceding Friday would be a much better day to schedule the c-section.

Yes, I actually planned my daughter’s birthday around football.  I am secretly counting on the spirits of Knute, Bo and Woody to keep me from going to hell for this.

The surgery was scheduled for 1 pm.  After Laura went in for prep, I was allowed to be in the room.  She was laid down flat, with a small makeshift curtain across her waist separating her already surgically opened lower half from  immediate visibility.  This did nothing to keep me from peeking around the curtain.

The fact that we were kept in suspense about the gender of the baby had me secretly hoping for a boy.  ‘Hoping’ was probably an

Lizzy: 9 1/2 years; Thomas: 6 months

understatement.  I was praying for a boy even though I am definitely not one to pray for predetermined outcomes.  Looking back, I don’t exactly remember why I wanted a boy – other than the fact that I knew I’d have no idea how to handle a teenage girl.  I guess being only shortly removed from my teenage years myself, I was predisposed to believe that out-of-control teenage girls are born straight from the womb.

Shortly after 1 pm that Friday afternoon, the doctor plucked the baby feet first from the opening in Laura’s abdomen.  “Looks like a little girl-butt,” was the first thing she said.

Sure enough, they turned her over, cleaned her up a bit and I leaned in to cut the umbilical cord.  Shortly thereafter, I was holding my baby girl.  From that point on, nothing else mattered.

Coming soon: Part Two – what 10 years of parenting has taught me.

Decide What it is that You Want to do

If you’re like me, you probably have a million ideas about the direction you want to take your business.  The biggest challenge?  Choosing a path and getting the show on the road.

internet marketing grand rapids

Source: ScottChan /

In the past couple of years I’ve started writing several ebooks, taken on client work for a wide variety of different entrepreneurs, explored several different partnership opportunities and countless other endeavors that attained some degree of completion.  The problem is that spreading yourself that thin can turn into a jack-of-all-trades-and-master-of-none type of trap.  I’ve learned through experience that you are better off picking a direction and going with it, making corrections along the way.  You can always abandon ship if that turns out to be the best course of action; but focusing your efforts on one particular area instead of trying to be all things to all people is a much better use of your energy.

So how do you know which direction to take?

The reality is that it’s impossible to know for sure.  Some things will work better for some than others.  The trick is to find something that will hold your attention long enough to give it a chance to succeed.  Here are a few tips to help you decide what it is that you want to do:

Ask yourself this: what is your ultimate goal?  If you’re like me, your goal is probably similar to mine in that helping people is your primary focus.  I help people succeed on the Internet with their business aspirations.  I provide guidance to make sure that my clients have the best chance possible to make things happen to achieve the things they want to accomplish.  Figuring out the best way that you can help people is always a great base for a business.

So what can you help people with?  That’s easy to figure out.  Just think of all the things you’re passionate about.  I guarantee there is something you know that someone else could benefit from.  Think about your interests, your hobbies, etc.  Think about past jobs you’ve held and the things you learned while you worked there.  Your pool of knowledge is only limited by your imagination.

If your ultimate goal is to make as much money as possible, that’s great too!  Financial rewards are what drive capitalism!  That said, maximizing your monetary ambitions with your passions might not be as feasible as we would like.  It may be difficult to make $250k a year by cashing in on a hobby like doll making – not that it can’t be done.  But if making as much money as possible is your goal, than you may need to focus on something that is more financially rewarding, e-commerce or affiliate marketing.

The common thread with all of this is to play to your strengths.  Spreading yourself too thin and trying to be all things to all people – while often admirable – can be a problem in the long run when your responsibilities expand at a faster rate than your resources allow for.  Stick with what you’re good at, pick a direction and run with it.

How to Choose an SEO Firm or Freelancer

By now, everyone knows that simply having a website is not enough in order to be successful in today’s digital world.  Whether you’re operating an ecommerce site like or, or if your site is more informational in nature such as, the build-it-and-they-will-come mentality is a sure-fire path to failure.  You need more than just a site; you need a presence.

Furthermore, you need to be visible to your prospective clients and customers.  Driving targeted traffic to your site is the single biggest challenge facing business owners today in the world of conducting business on the Internet.  Most people are aware of the assets that search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing can be, but few possess the knowledge or technical savvy in order to successfully acquire the traffic necessary from these powerful entities.

SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is the act of preparing a website and it’s pages’ on and off-page elements for favorable placement in the results pages of search engines for the keywords that are relevant to the content on their site.  And, while SEO alone is not enough to be successful on the web, it is fundamental to the point that you can’t not do it.  It is not optional.

The practice of search engine optimization can include but is not limited to:

  • Meta Information
  • Titles
  • Tags
  • Content
  • Keyword Density
  • Image Titles & Alt Descriptions
  • Internal Links
  • Inbound Links
  • Directory Listings
  • Etc.

There are people in this profession who would probably disagree with this, but the truth is that fundamentally, SEO is not difficult to understand.  Essentially, most elements of SEO come back to on-page optimization and inbound links.  Even the application of these concepts is not hard to implement once you wrap your mind around the central idea and gain a little experience with it.  That said, SEO can be a long process and can be very time consuming.  The truth is, your SEO efforts may show a quick dividend, or it may be months or even years before significant progress is made.  Every situation is different, and the amount of time and effort required depend on a variety of factors such as number of competitors, degree to which they are optimized, number of keywords targeted, etc.

While this is definitely something that can be undertaken in-house, you may not be inclined to try to tackle these tasks on your own.  That is certainly understandable and if you’ve decided to hire an SEO firm or freelancer, here are a few guidelines to help you make a good decision on whom you choose to do business with.  There are a lot of pretenders and scam artists out there, but luckily they are pretty easy to spot and avoid as long as you keep a few things in mind.

  1. Avoid SEO firms and individuals who promise immediate results.  The fact of the matter is, no one can predict how the pages of your site are going to be indexed in the search engines.  Anyone who promises results such as this is most likely engaging in tactics designed to game the system, which may or may not offer a short term benefit – but will most certainly incur a penalty from Google and other search engines when they catch on to what you’re doing.  That penalty can range from a ‘slap’ (having your link drop several pages in the rankings) to outright banning from the index.
  2. Don’t hire an SEO firm or freelancer who offers to build thousands of links to your site in a very short period of time.  Instantaneous spikes in the number of inbound links to a site is a red flag to search engines, and could result in a adverse effect to your rankings.
  3. Avoid people who promise a set number of links within a specified period of time.  Firms that make claims like 5,000 links in 30 days are almost certainly engaging in ‘black hat’ or unscrupulous behavior such as link farms and reciprocal link exchanges.
  4. If you have no keyword data, a quality SEO firm or freelancer will need to perform the necessary research to determine where the opportunities lie for your business.  This can only be accomplished once the data has been acquired.  If a firm simply asks you which keywords you want to rank for – or worse – doesn’t ask at all, that is a huge red flag that they should probably not be hired to manage your SEO efforts.
  5. Ask about the tracking methods they employ.  Google Analytics is the most common tool for tracking traffic and SEO efforts.
  6. Ask about past successes.  If an SEO firm or freelancer can demonstrate a favorable ranking they’ve achieved for a past client, ask about their methods.  Use the Yahoo Site Explorer tool to view the inbound links to their site, and see if there are an excessive about of links to their site from sketchy sources, such as foreign language directories, sites with no seeming relevance to their site, etc.  Generally, inbound links should come from sites that are similar in nature in one capacity or another.
  7. Look at the sites of previous clients.  Are they keyword stuffed?  Does the content appear to be written for humans or computers?  Are the page titles optimized to the content of the page or are they all the same across the entire site?

The unfortunate thing about this industry is that there is an abundance of free information available, and therefore it is relatively easy for someone with a rudimentary level of talent to get into the game and call them self an expert.  The truth is though that it is pretty easy to spot the pretenders if you know what to look for.  Hopefully now you have a good idea of what questions to ask so and what types of people to avoid so you don’t get burned.