Coca Cola’s ‘America the Beautiful’ Super Bowl Commercial: On Point, or Out of Line?

As a blended Portuguese American marketer director aspiring to work with global brands who married a Scottish Native American all I can say is…

How dare the third largest global brand suggest that the country I call home is beautiful after we washed ashore a few hundred years ago to steal it from its rightful owners!

Perspective, like America, is indeed beautiful. <opinion>Suggesting that a global audience viewing one of the largest International sporting events should accept bigotry though, is not. </opinion>

Which leads me to wonder this:

(h/t to Jordan Kasteler)

What was your take on the Coke commercial and the #FuckCoke reaction across social media?

First Time Attendee Tips for SMX East 2013


Yesterday I learned that a former colleague is attending his first SMX conference when he’ll travel to New York in October for SMX East 2013. Having attended a number of SMX conferences in the past as a speaker, attendee and member of the press – I wanted to share some tips with him to help him get the most from this impressive lineup and agenda.

So, in no particular order – here are my first time attendee tips for SMX conferences:

Book Early

It may be too late in the game to have this apply to SMX East 2013, but booking early has some distinct advantages. Aside from saving up to $200 on registration, you can also get a jump on others and ensure that you can stay in the conference hotel. There are many meetups that will start (or end) there – which means you’ll have plenty of chances to make new friends, share a taxi, etc.

Pack a Power Strip

If you’re hammering out notes during a presentation or simply following the social conversations of the events in real time – battery life on your laptop or phone will become an issue at least once. Be prepared and help others out by packing a lightweight power strip that you can bring with you in your bag. It’s a great way to meet new friends, help others out and make sure you’re fully charged and ready to go at all times.

Dress in Layers

With 50+ sessions across nearly a dozen venues you’ll be on the go and walking frantically from place to place to make sure you’re on time and have a great seat. In the process you’ll encounter rooms with heating or AC issues, break a sweat or just need to get more comfortable. Be ready for it all with some lightweight layers to keep you comfortable and tuned in.

Pack Snacks (& Caffeine)

Everyone is pretty amped the first day but as the conference continues through the week it’s easy to feel tired, run down or mentally exhausted. Pack some snacks like almonds or trail mix and if it’s your thing – some caffeine. You need to be prepared to hear some great information at all times, so make sure your body and mind are ready to soak it all up.

Get Social

Between hashtags and streams, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook action will be at an all time high. Subscribe to the feeds, get yourself out there and connect with others. In a large conference like SMX there are plenty of first timers and veterans willing to meet up and talk shop with others who express interest and passion in the industry.

Provide Feedback

As a speaker at a number of SMX events in the past I always wanted to know how I performed. Did I share enough information? Speak too quickly? Skip over key details? Attendees are provided with a number of ways to provide feedback… use them. It helps speakers to improve their presentations and it helps Third Door Media to run a better conference. The goal here is to have you attend more conferences in the future, so everyone wants to make sure as a first time attendee, your experience is a solid one.

Diversify Your Agenda

The sessions in SMX conferences are often divided into a series of “tracks” including Boot Camp, SEO, Mobile, Paid Search, etc. It’s my advice to jump tracks and hit some varied sessions to make sure you’re getting fresh information all of the time. It’s quite common within a particular track to have exposure to the same recurring themes, tips or advice from speakers and panelists. That’s not a bad thing, but when you get back from the conference – everyone will want to learn about all of the things you took away from the event. Having more to share is an excellent way to make sure you’re covered to attend more events in the future.

Meet the Speakers

If there are opportunities to ask questions, meet the speakers or you catch them in the hallways in between sessions – talk to them. Make an introduction. Be respectful of their time, but let them know that you were there, paying attention and interested in what they had to offer. It’s validating for the speakers and you’re much more likely to get some customized tips off the cuff from industry experts.

Plan Time for the Expo Hall

Collecting little tchotchkes was never my thing, but the SMX Expo Halls are swarming with people willing to give you free stuff in exchange for a little of your information. Bring some business cards, practice your “No, thank you…” but be on the lookout for software demos, free account access or takeaways that can help you to be a better search marketer.

Readers Recommendations?

Use the comments area below to help spread the love and show others how to make the most of SMX and similar Internet marketing conferences!

“Sorry, I’m Late…” & Other Overused Phrases in the Workplace

Earlier this evening, Andrew Clarke, a fellow Associate Director at d50 Media shared an article with me via email. The article is actively passed around on LinkedIn and is showing up in a number of feeds – so perhaps you’ve already seen it.

if you haven’t, it’s called Stop Using These 30 Phrases At Work! – and includes a number of gems, including these (my favorites of the list):

  • It’s on my radar
  • No brainer
  • Best of breed
  • Think outside the box
  • At the end of the day
  • Across the piece
  • All hands on deck

As is always the case though, I thought the list was missing something that’s super important… (Warning: ranting Eric in 3…2…)

“Sorry I’m Late…”

In the world of business phrases like “time is money” are thrown around all day long. I don’t care that those phrases are overused, but I do care when people fail to realize that time is the most valuable resource in business. It cannot be returned once it has expired. It’s simply gone. Forever.

There are few things more frustrating than running a meeting. You start with finding a time that works for everyone, then you schedule an appropriate time and place, invest in working hard to run and hold an effective meeting… only to have it all crumble in the first 10 minutes when committed invitees aren’t there, are ill prepared or simply don’t communicate that they won’t be attending.

It all builds off of common courtesy. And I’ll be the first to admit, I’ve certainly been late to far too many meeting in the past… and that’s something I need to change.

The Concept of Integrity

When you accept a meeting invite you are committing to the sender that you will be present and prepared at the time and place submitted to you.

That’s an important concept to fully grasp if you haven’t been.

Accidents happen. Things change. Interruptions will… interrupt. When you build a habit of coming to meetings late though you’re demonstrating a lack of integrity and showing the host (and other attendees) that you have things that are more important than their time. And that time is something you can never give back to them. That line of thinking is far from new, too. Here’s an article from 2004 that sums it up well for me:

Being late for anything — a business meeting, a luncheon, an appointment with a client — suggests a gross lack of integrity. Being fashionably late is neither fashionable nor profitable. It’s inconsiderate, discourteous, and often, insulting.

Be considerate. Be respectful. Demonstrate integrity. Be where you you said you would be, and dammit… Come prepared.

3 Common Issues Found in Recent SEO Audits

I have worked on building my SEO Audit and Site Review business over the past year. In doing so, I have had the opportunity to work with everyone from entrepreneurs trying to run a company themselves, right on through to Fortune 500 companies.

Amazingly, many of the mistakes or issues I come across are consistent across the board – regardless of who’s responsible or how large the site is.

Three of the most common issues I’ve found so far in 2013 include:

robots.txt Typos

The robots.txt file is an incredibly powerful resource for site owners. For SEO purposes, it also serves as the instruction set (well behaved) bots and crawlers should follow. With the ability to open up or close down entire sections of your site, you really need to be careful about what directives you place in there.

One client was having tremendous difficulty with having their content spidered regularly. When I took a glance at their robots.txt file, I found that they had implemented a crawl delay and layered on a value of 3000. When I uncovered this and brought it up for discussion, they told me that they wanted to delay crawling of more than 3,000 URLs on their site per day.

Unfortunately, what they had done was told GoogleBot and other spiders listening that they could only make one request every 3,000 seconds. If you do the math, that meant that crawlers could get one page every 50 minutes… or about 29 pages a day. That’s a far cry from the 3,000 they were looking to have grabbed.

Another time, a robots.txt file introduced wildcards against all pages with a .html extension as the CMS being used was rewriting those pages with vanity URLs. Unfortunately, those vanity URLs also dropped canonical URLs that pointed to the .html pages.

You can probably imagine the difficulties that created both for SEO as well as for tracking link values.

Lack of Webmaster Tools Integration

For some reason, people love visitor analytics… But don’t care much about domain analytics. Webmaster Tools (both for Google and for Bing) are incredibly useful. From diagnosing crawler or indexing issues to controlling key display characteristics of your content in the SERPs, Webmaster Tools is your friend.

When it comes to integration though, no one takes is seriously – and if they do, it’s because they’ve adopted the Ron Popeil approach to SEO… “Set it and forget it.”

WMT interfaces are real time statistical centers of information you need to use to ensure your site is performing as it should. More recently, too, we’ve seen Google improve the messaging features in the wake of Penguin 2.0 to help police unethical link profile development.

Building Exclusively for Engines

At the risk of sounding like a broken record here, we should all be clear that content needs to be created (and attributed) by someone… And it should be created for a real reader – not a robot or algorithm.

The number of sites I’ve seen over-engineered for SEO is almost ridiculous. Some recent examples include:

  • Learning of a CMS that whips together Mad Libs style page titling and heading creation. Best of all? You can’t change those variables… You can only toggle them on and off. Need a real H1 with actual content? Sorry. Not possible. Need one that jams in your targeted keyword phrase, physical location and nearest DMA? Sure, that’s just a toggle away.
  • A “Search Engine Friendly Redirects” module in a homegrown CMS. The module was fantastic if you ever had to edit your content’s URL. It would allow the old URL to exist, apply a 302 to the new page once, then 302 back to a “node/xyz” style URL, and then drop a 301 back to the new URL with a canonicalization reference against the old, changed URL. I’m glad you were trying to get a 301 in place from the old to the new, but you can’t really just make this stuff up as you go. It’s got to work, kids.
  • Automatic internal link dropping… Listen, internal links are great. Necessary, even. But having a tool that scans your content and drops internal links across every single instance of “keyword 1″ and points to “URL” with link titles matching the content title is a little excessive… Particularly when you’ve managed to identify keywords like “technology” and magically end up with some 300+ internal links (some of which are looping from current pages to themselves) with zero diversity.

At the end of the day though, I love audit work. It keeps me on my toes. Helps me understand things that don’t initially make sense, and when you make the connection with someone who’s really limited by their existing web presence – it’s very rewarding.

Q&A: If you could do it all over again in SEO, would you?

Reviving my blog and making a commitment towards building new content means that I have to contend with an all too familiar problem:

I never know what to write about next.

As tends to be the case with blogs lacking new content for years at a time, my regular audience has waned a bit. When these times hit, I tap  social networks and look for suggestions from friends and colleagues who I know will (hopefully) take the time to read what I have to offer.

Earlier tonight night I posed a simple question to my Facebook friends: What would you want for me to write about next?

Despite some interesting responses from Chris Hooley (a fellow veteran SEO) and Tom Carr (aka: Tommy AK, from the Las Vegas punk band The Quitters), a third friend chimed in with something I knew I could write about.

The question was asked by Dan Murray, Account Director at Corporate [IT] Solutions as follows:

Hindsight is 20/20 knowing what you know now would you go back in time and tell the young an impressionable Eric to follow the same path in SEO or choose another?

I’ve known Dan for about 25 years now and while we’re both professionally absorbed in technology, our personal paths have been quite different… Which is probably one of the many reasons he might have asked this.

The short answer? Yes.

The long answer? Well, here goes…

As I wrapped up my senior year in high school I had a series of incredible opportunities laid out in front of me to pursue my passion for computer art and animation. I could have attended the Georgia Tech, University of Indianapolis, Marist College or Emerson College. I know a couple of those schools still have a little bit of my money, but I never attended a single class at any of them.

In hindsight… that sucks.

Instead of heading off to college I worked full time as the production manager for a graphic design and print shop. I did all of that while earning an Associate of Science Degree from New England Institute for Technology. In other words, I became addicted to caffeine while dropping about $30k on a piece of paper and the chance to “graduate” from 13th grade.

Suffice it to say, I lacked the “traditional” college experience by leaving for work before 7AM while being “lucky” to be home from classes by about 11PM.

By age 20, though, I had accumulated a degree (that meant nothing) and debt that I was personally responsible for… And that is pretty damned motivating.

So I did the same thing any aspiring artist did in 2000 with some computer experience… I took a job as a web designer.

Just to make sure I had a solid challenge to motivate me, the job I had required that I design web sites for artisans and gallery owners attempting to sell $20,000 works of art from a 300 pixel wide images on said websites.

It all failed miserably… That is, until we spun our little Providence-based startup into an SEO shop riding the coattails of a Johnson & Wales intern, Andrew Gerhart, who helped Brett Tabke maintain the Search Engine Promotion forum on WebmasterWorld.

Over a period of about five years we turned entrepreneur clients into millionaires, jobs into careers and colleagues into lifelong friends.

In hindsight? That kicked serious ass.

Like all good things, that era came to an end. I’ve since gone on to help run SEO within Fortune 500 organizations. I’ve left all that and jumped back into agency life (twice) where the challenges come fast and furiously. In the midst of it all, I spent a few years and hit “the circuit”, speaking at conferences, authored about 800 articles for the SEO industry and bought into the delusion that I could grow a personal brand and cash in on it all simply because I was well connected.

In other words, I’ve learned many, many lessons along the way.

And those lessons are ones I don’t just throw out there all the time. Some are rhetorical. Others are closely guarded. But all of them have helped me to define who I am, how I approach each day, and why it is I wouldn’t have changed a single thing along the way.

Today, I don’t see myself as an SEO. Defined purely by my title at d50 Media, I’m an Associate Director of Digital Content. The reality of being responsible for content strategy is that I’m maintaining SEO, public relations and social media in a developing acquisition marketing agency. That’s a really exciting, frustrating, stressful, energizing, engrossing position.

None of that would have been possible though if I hadn’t taken a few punches throughout my career.

So, yes, Dan. If I had to do it all over again… I’d let it play out precisely as it has. It’s been an organic path, and at times the path hasn’t been all that visible. But for where I am today, with where I’m headed and looking to get to – it’s the only place I’d ever want to call home.



5 Things I’ve Learned as a Job Jumper

Aside from Hurricane Irene, August of 2011 was just an ordinary month capping off an otherwise ordinary New England summer.

Little did I know, it was the last month in which I had full control over my career.

Living in the suburbs midway between Boston and Providence, I visited my job’s home office in Southern California quite often. For three years I flew out every other month, and for me – it was the perfect setup.

Being the lone guy on the East Coast meant that I’d often get a jump on the day. The work? Amazing. There was always something new to do, a new person to meet, a new project to tackle, and new challenges to overcome.

And best of all, I was working for two of the most successful people I had ever known…

And it all simply clicked for us.

The details were quite simple. We were kicking ass and taking names. We had gotten the company to a true tipping point, and it was time for me to go all in. Time to pack it up and make the move some 3,000 miles across the country to continue building our dream…

And then it happened.

I quit.

I fucking quit.

I let myself down. I backed out from the commitments I had made to the best employers I had ever known. And in that moment, less than two years ago, I felt like I had ruined my career.

In the two years since, I’ve worked for three separate companies, holding five different positions. Jumping from job to job, opportunity to opportunity, I’ve learned some hard lessons learned along the way, including…

  1. Proven Skill Can Trump Education 

    While the economy is rebounding a bit and the job market has improved, employers are still after proven talent. If you’re looking at career opportunities, you’re almost guaranteed to see an employer state that a bachelors in this or a masters in that are required degrees.Only, they’re not.

    Real world experience and failed coursework in the school or hard knocks is far more valuable than an MBA from the latest online college or university.

    At the very least, if you see a solid opportunity that you know you would be a good fit for — pursue it. Aggressively. You’ll often find that many of those required credentials are nothing more than lines from a job description template.

  2. Identifying Problems Isn’t Enough 

    Problem solving skills are no joke. When you’re experienced, it’s easy to spot problems because you can just tell that something isn’t right. At these moments your experience will help you to articulate all of the ways in which something is fundamentally wrong.That’s great, but one hard lesson I’ve learned (and continue to struggle with) is that if identifying problems is good, solving problems is way, way better.

    If you’re solving problems, you’re likely investing yourself in becoming part of the solution. That leads to far more stability in your role, more confidence in the organization, and more opportunities for you to grow towards becoming indispensable.

  3. Time Isn’t On Your Side 

    At 33 years old, I’m a dinosaur. I’ve watched kids come into the search marketing industry and simply dominate from the word, “go” time and time again… And that’s not about to change.The simple fact is, I’m not getting any younger. None of us are.

    Young adults are learning more in a faster paced environment and are finding ways to excel at the same things that have taken me years to figure out.

    Technology, the same element that I’ve built my career on, is both a blessing and a curse.

    I’ve found that there is a point – and I only know of it because it’s firmly in the rear view mirror for me – that youth is no longer a weapon in your arsenal. Leverage your experience, but relax a bit with your ego… There are plenty of young professionals out there who can run laps around you.

    Respect that.

  4. Your Core Values are Invaluable 

    It’s really easy to take a job when the salary looks good. It’s even easier when the money, commute and healthcare benefits all magically add up for the killer compensation package.But once you’ve budgeted that new paycheck and have settled into your commute, it all fades away. Stress can and will mount up. People can wear on your nerves. Your dream job suddenly feels much more like work – particularly if you’re not doing something you truly love to do.

    No amount of money can provide you with a true, deep sense of happiness or enjoyment unless you’re settled in your work.

    Trust your instincts – and don’t be so quick to take that offer if things don’t completely feel right.

  5. Pain is Temporary; Quitting is Forever 

    The hardest lesson of all is one that I’ve known and felt before, all too well. I’m not one to throw around Lance Armstrong quotes all day, but this one is a powerfully true statement…Pain is temporary, quitting is forever.

    If you’re in a position that you don’t enjoy – make sure you see it through to a point that you’re truly at peace with.

    Quitting too early, especially when it feels easy, is unacceptable. You may not feel it immediately, but you will in time.

    And when you do, you’ll know that there’s no turning back.