Monthly Archives: June 2009

Google Webmaster Tutorials on You Tube

If you have a blog or web site, you have probably spent time trying to crack Google’s secret code.

You want visitors, so you want to rank well on Google. There are plenty of SEO’s ready to tell you exactly how to do that. Some are reputable, some are sleazy, some are incompetent. Then, there is Matt Cutts – the Google guy himself.

Matt has a series of short videos on You Tube answering questions about web site optimization. You can find out whether too many H1 tags will hurt your ranking, whether excessive use of no follow tags will hurt your ranking, whether great content trumps mediocre links.

The channel is called Google Webmaster Central and it is well worth a subscription.

Fair Use and Online Video

Of all the videos I have uploaded to You Tube, none has been as controversial as an innocuous demonstration of how to use You Tube’s Audio Swap. It has more views and comments than all my other videos combined. What’s so fascinating about that video?

Well, nothing, really. It’s the topic that has blood boiling.

You Tube sometimes yanks videos that violate copyright law.

Kids (mostly) want to use their favorite song as a soundtrack for their latest video, and record companies want You Tube to pay royalties or remove copyrighted material.

As a compromise, You Tube introduced audio swap – a limited (and admittedly feeble) collection of royalty free music that can replace your illegal audio track.

This is not popular with people who are heavily invested in their music.

However, if you are invested in your business rather than in your background music, you probably want to avoid Take Down notices and other copyright problems.

American University’s Center for Social Media has plenty of material that will help guide you through these stormy waters. They’ve just released an excellent new video called Remix Culture: Fair Use Is Your Friend and a Code of  Best Practices in Fair Use for Online Video.

Watch the video then download the Best Practices Guide.

h/t to WebUniversity Blog

Honoring Your Customer’s Trust

Stones Optional

Stones Optional

Do you shiver from a scummy feeling at the very mention of affiliate marketing?

Does the topic bring SPAM, ClickBank, and Satan to mind?

It doesn’t have to be that way.

Advertising and marketing are essential parts of selling – cheating and scamming are not. You can keep your integrity and make a few dollars by following simple guidelines (and you already know what they are).

1) If you wouldn’t promote it for free, don’t promote it for money.

2) Believe every word you write – don’t hype an affiliate product just to boost sales.

3) Be transparent – let your readers know you are an affiliate.

4) Don’t shill for products you don’t use.

5) If you would be ashamed if your customers, clients, readers or friends found out you were doing something – don’t do it.

I was inspired by Aweber recently when I visited their site. They were promoting a service that their subscribers could use. They had two links: one a clearly marked affiliate link and the other a bare link for those who didn’t want to use the affiliate link.

What a brilliant idea.

Is there a clearer way to say, “I would promote this even if I weren’t getting paid,” than to offer an unpaid link to the product?

Is there a clearer way to demonstrate that you have your customers’  best interests (and not your own monetary interests)  in mind?

Treat your clients with respect. Tell them the truth. Trust them to make a decision that can benefit both you and them.

If you do that, you won’t be making excuses – but you may be making money. Win/win.

Photo by seier+seier+seier Released under Creative Commons License

The Advantage To Being Small

Be Ready To Switch Strategies

Adapt While You Still Can

Change happens rapidly.

Sometimes you go along, very successfully, doing what you’ve always done – doing what has always worked – and suddenly – BAM! – the tipping point is reached.

Overnight, it doesn’t work at all any more.

You are too late and too big and too invested in what you’ve already done to change.

Instead, you keep doing what you’ve always done… and you slowly become irrelevant.

Change creeps up on you and you never notice until it’s too late.

You’re successful. Your competition is nothing but a pack of annoying, yappy dogs, sqarming around your ankles. No one can challenge your pre-eminence.

Until that day that the new market you thought was a fad becomes the only game in town. And you are so far behind, you’ll never catch up… because all your energy went into securing your spot as #1 in the game no one plays anymore.

You’re Small – Be Nimble

You’ve seen big businesses and mighty institutions fail. Not just banks, but more to the point – auto companies, newspapers, broadcast TV, downtown department stores, computer big box chains…. the list is long and frightening.

The one thing they have in common is an inability to adapt.

They captured their market and then they protected it from the armies they’d already vanquished. They were blindsided by the real challenge, which came from nowhere.

They were too slow to change, too big to adapt.

Never Get Comfortable

Although the hype and triumphalism around all things Web 2.0 can be hard to take, something different is clearly happening.

  • The mass media is doing a wretched job of covering Iran – but Twitterers are sending reports from every street corner in Tehran.
  • Major metropolitan newspapers are disappearing, while blogs proliferate.
  • Retail chains disappear, online shopping grows, but established online giants like eBay continue to lose market share.

You, as an independent small business owner or information product producer, are in the perfect position to benefit from the shake ups and the chaos, if only you are ready and can change directions in an instant.

No one really knows what will happen next year (or next month).

  • Will Google still rule the universe?
  • Will the changes they are making to their ranking algorithms lock out the little guy – or will they rocket you to the top?
  • Will blogging become so mainstream it’s boring and people stop reading?
  • Will Amazon turn into the online Wal-Mart or will some new business model take them down?

I certainly can’t predict – but I do know that trends are easy to spot if you are watching for them. And easy to exploit if you are not afraid.

Don’t be tomorrow’s CNN, forced to turn to some kid with a cell phone and a Twitter account to do your job.

When you see a trend, divert resources to it. Be ready to catch the wave as it builds. Learn, investigate, invest. Don’t just be the leader in your niche – be a leader.

Photo by Lin Pernille ? Photography Released under Creative Commons License.

WordPress 2.8 Officially Released Today

Time To Update Your Blog

WordPress 2.8 Now Available

WordPress 2.8 is officially available for download

The big news – Themes can now be downloaded and installed from within the Dashboard, just like plugins.

This makes WordPress even easier to use and customize. No need to download, unzip, and upload a new theme ever again. Just browse the theme gallery, pick your poison, and install it. Of course, the theme has to be available through the regular theme gallery. Custom themes, professional themes, and themes released by developers on their own web sites only will still need to be manually installed.

Widgets have also undergone a face lift and some usability improvements. You can now save inactive widgets, so all the information you’ve entered in text boxes, etc., will not be lost if you remove a widget from your sidebar. You can add more than one copy of a widget. And you can drag and drop widgets between sidebars.

For the adventurous among us, WordPress has introduced syntax highlighting in the code editor. This makes it much easier to see what you’re doing if you need to tweak your templates or style sheets.

I upgraded this blog without incident using the Automatic Upgrade that was introduced in WordPress 2.7. Before I updated, I did a full back up and I de-activated all plugins. Both of those steps used to be performed automatically by the WP Automatic Upgrade plug in. Since that plugin is no longer compatible with WordPress – be sure you do a manual back up and plugin deactivation. Both steps are crucial to a clean upgrade!

If you are interested in WordPress’s official announcement, the video below should give you a good overview of all the new features. (It stutters and runs in fits and starts if you have a slower internet connection.)

Plantronics USB Headset on Sale at

Plantronics .Audio 510 USB Ultimate Performance Headset - New in Poly-Bag

Plantronics .Audio 510 USB Ultimate Performance Headset – New in Poly-Bag

If you use Skype or Camtasia, you’ve heard that a USB headset is better than an analog headset. You may have even heard side-by-side comparisons of the two. But you’ve put off buying a new headset.

Me too.

My old Logitech analog headset has served me well over the last few years. It is subject to popping P’s and B’s, but the audio is acceptable and I didn’t want to spend $50.00 for a new headset.

Earlier this week, I got a newsletter from, touting the Plantronics Audio 510 on sale for only $16.99, with free shipping.

Plantronics is the brand recommended by Bill Myers, which is usually good enough for me. But the recent models featured a pair of analog mini-plugs with a USB adapter. I don’t know if that degrades the sound or not – but I wanted a true USB connection.

Like the one on the Audio 510.

So I jumped on the offer.

The headset arrived yesterday, and it is terrific. I’ve only had it for 24 hours, but I endorse it without reservation. The sound through the headphones is excellent, the microphone is sensitive without clipping, the windshield on the mic also seems to act as a pop filter, and the USB connection was recognized by my computers without a problem.

And, of course, the sound is noticeably better.

If you’ve been looking for a USB headset, this sale is worth checking out.

The link below this paragraph is an affiliate link. If you click the buy button, it will take you right to and I’ll earn a couple of cents. If you’d prefer not to use an affiliate link, here is a direct link to the order page, absolutely not affiliate commission or tracking involved. I’m not recommending this headset for the commission. I truly thought this was such a great deal, I wanted to share it:

Bare (non-affiliate) link:

There’s no telling how long this sale will last – so if you want it, go now.

Affiliate link below:

Plantronics .Audio 510 USB Ultimate Performance Headset - New in Poly-Bag

Plantronics .Audio 510 USB Ultimate Performance Headset – New in Poly-Bag

Enter a zone of pure audio extravagance, where plush, supple comfort and bass-enriched resonance redefine the multimedia experience. The .Audio 510 USB is ideal for gaming, music, Internet talk, video conferencing, and voice applications. It features 40mm speakers that convey music and gaming with dynamic bass response.


Get The Most From Every Experience

Look inside - the experience grows

Look inside - the experience keeps going

Do you suffer from tunnel vision? If you do, it’s probably costing you money.

Let me tell you a story about how you can turn one simple thing into a half dozen revenue streams.

Cindy Shebley, my partner at The Web Sellers’ Circle, recently went to a live auction in Edmonds, WA.  Among other things, the auction featured box lots of “new-old” camera equipment – stuff that had been sitting unopened in boxes since a camera store had closed its doors sometime in the 70’s.

Cindy sells camera equipment on eBay, as well as teaching others to sell on eBay. So that auction was one part fun (photography buffs love combing through boxes of filters and mysterious paraphernalia) and one part work (product sourcing).

Cindy bought some old cameras and some darkroom equipment, which has a good potential to at least double its value.

That’s where most resellers would stop. And that’s why tunnel vision leaves money on the table.

The auction provided a wealth of side projects well beyond items to sell on eBay:

  • Cindy wrote a detailed description of how she previewed and researched items before the auction.
  • She wrote a guide on how to prepare for an auction, how to determine your upper bid limit, and how to avoid getting swept away by the excitement of the moment.
  • She has incorporated the auction experience into her eBay classes – using real-life examples of attendees’ bidding to illustrate the psychology of both buyers and sellers.
  • She photographed some of the older, collectible equipment and placed the pictures for sale on stock photography sites.
  • She found a few old cameras that will make nice bookshelf decorations in the office as well as interesting props in future videos.
  • She made contact with potential customers (collectors) and potential dealers; this sort of face-to-face networking can’t be duplicated online.

When you begin a new project, don’t focus so intently on the goal that you lose sight of all the extra marketing and sales opportunities.

Experiences that are old hat to you are exciting and new to someone else. Turn every step into an adventure, and every adventure into a story. Document your preparation. Teach others what to expect. Take pictures, shoot a video, write an ebook.

Like a dozen clowns tumbling out of a tiny circus car or a set of Russian Matryoshki dolls, each “thing” you sell contains a dozen more things inside itself. Make use of them all.

Photo by L. Marie Released under Creative Commons License

Free Business Form Templates

Free Business Forms and Templates

Free Business Forms and Templates

Re-inventing the wheel can become one of the biggest time wasters in a one person business.

If you need something, and you have no one’s experience but your own to fall back on, you may end up building a spreadsheet from scratch when a template is already available – or writing a contract, designing a business card, creating an invoice, building a custom database… There are hundreds of daily tasks that someone has already simplified if you know wher to look.

If you are looking for basic business letters and forms in Word and Excel format, begin your search at Free Business Forms and Templates.

Site navigation is a bit funky. The collection of links on the front page isn’t a collection of links at all – nothing is clickable. To download the forms, click on the Download Forms button on the top navigation bar instead.

The few minutes you spend deciphering this web site’s poor design will be repaid in the hours you save not (re)creating documents.