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Why You Win At Pub Trivia, Even When You Lose

As of late, I’d use any word except “consistent” to describe my life (new position at Pure Visibility, new apartment, the list goes on).  What does remain an unwavering constant, however, is my time spent attending trivia at a local bar every single Wednesday.  There are those that would deem this quite low on the priority list.  To my team and I, however, it feels like a necessary part of the week.  (Ironically enough, we show up week after week but still can’t decide on a regular team name.)

To clarify up front: I am abysmal at trivia.

So why am I even writing about it? I believe it takes someone who is truly horrendous at something to really appreciate the value they get out of doing it.  In other words, I clearly find trivia enjoyable for reasons beyond “I’m good at it”.  Over the years I’ve started to realize certain skills applied in this game can actually be attributed to your everyday business life.

1)   Collaboration
This goes without saying, but pub trivia is a team effort.  There’s nothing I love more than individuals putting their brains together and thinking up a storm; it combines the complexity of Jeopardy with the silliness of Family Feud.  While you might have that team member who is the “sports guy” or the “history buff”, it’s always surprising to see who actually comes up with some solid answers.  Where trivia gets really interesting is the process for choosing the right answer.  Our team will throw out potential answers to each question with a confidence level; the more confidence the team member has about the answer, the more likely we are to choose it.  We encourage every team member to express his or her ideas, even if it’s based on just a hunch.
Having this experience under my belt came at a perfect time.  Pure Visibility is a very open-minded company that encourages any and all brainstorming.  Throwing marketing ideas off one another at meetings feels like I’m back in that bar stool.

2)   Solidarity
Before rallying your company together to do those eye-roll-inducing trust falls and team building exercises, consider joining a trivia league.  Even though I was already very close with all the members of our team before starting up weekly trivia, there is undoubtedly something different about the bond we share now.  It’s like being a part of a fun joke – each trivia night gives us something to discuss later that week.  What’s more, you work as a team to reach a common goal (even if that goal is only $10 worth of bar money).

3)   Critical Thinking & Strategy
If collaboration is the bread and butter of pub trivia, then think of strategy and critical thinking as the knife; it’s the tool you need to make the most of your answers.  To give some context, pub trivia is based on a multi-point system.  Depending on the trivia company, you can usually wager multiple points for each question.  How you choose what point values to wager is based on that confidence level I mentioned before: 1 point wagers are for those “what the hell is that?” questions, and 10 point wagers are for those “I would bet my car and first born child that I’m right” questions.
It’s thrilling to watch these assessments take place within just 2 short minutes.  Luckily most businesses have more than 2 minutes to evaluate their strategies, but the concept still applies: taking big risks can be a higher pay out or an unfortunate bust.  How confident you are about your actions lead to that decision.

While it can be a tad bittersweet pouring 2 hours of your life into a game that you ultimately end up losing most weeks, there’s more learning behind the scenes of bar trivia that you may not realize.

Just make sure not to drown your sorrows with alcohol or you really will feel the pain of losing the next morning.

The Start of a Journey in Digital Marketing

One year ago I was a business student vaguely interested in digital marketing. I had been reading many ROI success stories in various business journals where companies used Search Engine Marketing and wanted to know more. I had worked with social media in the past, but I was interested in enhancing my knowledge in other sectors of digital marketing.

At this time, I was not entirely sure how I was going to do this until I was recommended to take a series of Search Engine Marketing (SEM) courses that Eastern Michigan University (EMU) offers.

During these courses I had the opportunity to work with:

  • A professor who is well known for his work in digital marketing field
  • Two non-profit organizations
  • A $10,000 monthly Google Adwords budget
  • Multiple Google Analytics Accounts
  • A fairly large network of potential future employers

These courses introduced me to the art of digital marketing, earned me a position in the final Search Marketing Practicum class, and also an internship at Pure Visibility.

During the Internship and Final Practicum course I had the opportunity to…

  • Work with two non-profit organizations
  • Work on various tasks for multiple client accounts
  • Attend multiple client check-in meetings
  • Learn a bit about Business Development
  • Give suggestions for overhauling an email campaign
  • Rebrand my online footprint (Twitter, Google+, personal website)
  • Attend multiple in-person networking events
  • And much more…

So far, if I had to sum up what I have learned in Digital Marketing it would be:

  • Technology causes things to always be changing
  • All of the sectors work together with one another in more ways than one.
  • Having a good network will help with the growth of your career.
  • Staying open minded will help advance your knowledge
  • It helps to always accept new tasks and challenges
  • The best way to learn is to do it yourself

I must say, I know quite a bit more now than what I did one year ago, but I still have much more to learn until I’m satisfied.

Women and Girls in the Tech Industry

Although we’re a woman-owned business here at Pure Visibility, we’ve historically had more men than women working here at any given time.  However, the tables have begun to turn.  Just two months ago, our staff had reached an even balance of men and women; now, as we happily welcome two new project managers to the team, women make up the majority of our staff.

I’m highlighting this detail simply because it is a first here at PV, which piques my interest.  It raises the question: is our small PV employee sample a reflection of a greater developing trend in our industry?  Or is the growing number of women at PV just a fluke?

There’s no doubt that the tech industry has been traditionally male-dominated.  The male “computer nerd” persona in TV or movies is stereotypical, sure, but rightfully so; men continuously outnumber women in the digital realm, from web designers and online marketers to computer science degrees.  This disparity has been receiving increased attention lately, and there is a push to get young girls interested in the tech world – specifically, coding.

Girls Who Code, a nonprofit organization, and Made With Code, a program launched by Google, are two of the largest pioneer projects.  Girls Who Code works to inspire and educate girls through immersion programs and clubs designed entirely for them.  It has grown from the first program, launched in 2012, and now boasts a total of eight programs in five different cities, all focused on teaching web design, robotics, and mobile development.

made with code

In June, Girls Who Code partnered with Google to create Made With Code, an initiative that seeks to spark girls’ interest in technology by celebrating “cool” jobs that use coding (think clothing designers and dancers) and by offering real projects that girls can complete to learn basic coding.  Users can design unique bracelets to be shipped to them for free, create their own avatars, or mix personal beat tracks – all through code.  Google has received vast support for the program and is partnered with Chelsea Clinton, Mindy Kaling, Girl Scouts of America, TechCrunch, MIT Media Lab, and more.  According to Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code, “This is more than just a program. It’s a movement.”

While, in truth, we don’t do a ton of coding here at PV, we’re still a part of the greater tech industry.  We operate within the digital world, and as a result, this issue pertains to our search engine marketing realm as well.  As the industry numbers currently stand, it looks like the new female majority at Pure Visibility is an anomaly.  However, if programs like Girls Who Code and Made With Code are successful, there’s a good chance that this changing demographic could become the “new normal” in the near future.

Internship Defined

Some of the first thoughts that came to my mind when I thought “internship” just a few short months ago included, making coffee, scanning papers, running errands, job shadowing and unnecessary busy work. These negative connotations I associated with that ten-letter word came from the movies and TV shows I watched while growing up. It seemed as if interns were not given much to work on besides memorizing their boss’ order at Starbucks, or knowing the quickest way to scan a stack of papers, and when they were given work it was menial and unnecessary.

Intern

After receiving the title of intern at Pure Visibility I was hoping the experience here would challenge and change my personal definition of internship, and in a few short months my old definition was thrown onto the streets of Ann Arbor and a new one took its place. While at Pure Visibility, I was able to learn and do so much. From the early stages of training, designed to help me understand more clearly what digital marketing is all about and how SEO, PPC and analytics are the driving tools behind this industry; to being able to work with a client on my own project.

Tackling my own project with a new client was the highlight of my internship here at PV. I was able to meet with the client face to face to understand what they’re all about and what they were looking for from us. I then went on to research them and their competitors to come up with a base in order to create a social media strategy. Their goals were to raise awareness and increase sales for their small creative business. After I had a strategy planned out, I was able to go ahead and present my ideas to the client as well as my boss and coworkers. This was very exciting because I could show the skills I acquired and see the client’s reaction to my ideas. Soon, I will be able to implement the strategy for this client and see some real results from my planning.

Being able to go through the process from beginning to end with a client was really stimulating and allowed me to think outside the box. I was able to learn about the client in detail, and it also allowed me to use the knowledge I had gained throughout my internship and apply it to something tangible.

As the summer and my time at Pure Visibility come to a close, I am able to define internship with a list of positive connotations: worthwhile, a learning experience, thought-provoking and an insight into the field. As for a closing note, I still have yet to learn what my boss’ order at Starbucks is.

Grey Hat SEO Part 1: Building Links from Wikipedia

Whenever I give a seminar on linkbuilding or construct an off-site strategy for a client, invariably the topic of getting links on Wikipedia comes up. And with good reason – Wikipedia is clearly one of the most visible websites in the world, with a mountain of content and Brobdingnagian domain authority.

“BUT WAIT,” you say, “those links you place on Wikipedia are no-followed!” And you’re absolutely right. The links on Wikipedia don’t directly pass on “link juice” in the way that followed links do.

However, it’s become quite clear that Wikipedia is one of the places that people writing content go to research topics. And it’s very convenient for that, as Wikipedia provides a list of sources. Being included in that list of sources dramatically increases the chances that a content writer will link to you – and their link is most likely going to be followed. And of course, this is all in addition to the more immediate benefit of getting a boost in referral traffic from Wikipedia. Just make sure to take credit for it when you write up your next monthly traffic report.

Wikipedia References List

Sample Wikipedia references list (none of our built links included!)

So the fun part about Wikipedia linkbuilding is that, generally speaking, Wikipedia and it’s editors/moderators don’t want you to do it. All else being equal, deliberately modifying an independent source of information to promote your private business can be unethical. Thankfully though, there’s a smarter way to do it that can be a “win” both for your company and for Wikipedia’s readers.

The key, as always, is to add value. For instance, one of our clients is a highly specialized industrial manufacturer. They have case studies, white papers, and dozens of pages about specific applications of the material components that make up their products. This information could be incredibly useful, but was previously almost completely invisible, buried deep within their massive website. Wikipedia could be one (of many) ways to help bring that information to the surface.

So what did we do? We brainstormed a list of all the kinds of articles where the content they had generated could add value. Then, over time, added snippets of information to Wikipedia where it was hyper-relevant and respectfully cited a source. The text we added was in no way promotional, it simply stated objective facts. Lo and behold, the editors saw nothing wrong with this, and the links “stuck.”

But it’s a little bit more complicated than that. Even if you are adding value, most editors won’t look favorably on an account that is just going around adding links to one private business. Even if you are adding value, there’s a good chance someone won’t approve of such blatant tactics. So here’s where the real time investment comes in: you need to build up an authentic Wikipedia account. That means spending time on a regular basis creating and editing articles that have nothing to do with your company or your clients. I spent hours, over the course of months, writing articles on musicians, local cities, movies, history, etc. Once you have a healthy portfolio of edits under your belt, citing a source to a private company now and then doesn’t look suspicious at all.

So that’s how you use Wikipedia to drive rank and traffic, while not being too unethical about things (and in fact, maybe even contributing something valuable to one of the most amazing resources the Internet has to offer).

HabitRPG: Level Up your Productivity

So as you might be able to tell from some of my previous blog posts, I’m kind of a productivity freak. I’ve tried every to-do and goal-tracking app on the market. But somehow I missed the one that has become my new favorite and borderline obsession: HabitRPG.

So what is HabitRPG?

HabitRPG is an open-source project that operates on a freemium model. It’s primarily a habit-building (or breaking) system that also features a todo list. But what distinguishes it from other such applications is the gamification element of classic RPGs, in which you have a character/avatar that “levels up” and gains loot as things are accomplished. In the context of HabitRPG, this means that whenever you complete a habit or a todo, you earn experience points, gold, and potentially a new item. On the other hand, if you fail to do a daily habit, or if you do a “negative habit” (i.e. smoking, eating something with more than 500mg of sodium, etc) you lose health. You can level up your character by reaching a certain number of experience points, but you can also have your character die (and lose a level) if your health runs out due to becoming lazy in your habit building.

Why do I like it so much?

I previously swore by a website called DayScore because it was very simple and addictive – just click on what you managed to get done and earn points for the day. HabitRPG does that, but it also shows cumulative progress via your avatar leveling up and getting “cooler stuff” (new armor, a mount to ride, etc). Furthermore, it incorporates a better social element in that you can team up with your friends to form a party and go on “quests” that serve as additional motivational tools. This creates a situation in which you and your friends are working together for self-betterment, and of course there’s also a subtle competitive element there for who can level up the fastest.

Screen Shot 2014-05-22 at 1.47.56 PM

…Does it work?

In my case, absolutely. I found myself eating better, exercising more, and getting more done. But I should note that how effective it is seems largely dependent on how “nerdy” you get about RPG-like gamification. Four co-workers and I formed a party in HabitRPG to work together. In the end, about half of the group really progressed, while the other half rapidly lost interest. All things considered, a 50% adoption rate isn’t bad when compared with other motivational systems, especially considering that these users weren’t seeking out a system at all.

Closing Thoughts

I think what surprises me most is that a free, open-source tool far surpassed any of the more expensive apps that I’ve tried in terms of user experience, completeness, and results. Other than a simple calendar, this is the only productivity tool I use now. There are some areas I’d like to see the tool expand into though. While the tool automatically rewards more experience points for tasks that take you longer to complete, there really isn’t a sufficient goal-tracking system in place. But with a name like HabitRPG, it’s expected that the focus to be more on habits than on goals. Secondly, I think the game simply needs to be expanded to accomodate continued, heavy usage. After using the system for about a month, I have already managed to purchase all the of cool stuff (armor, weapons, etc) that my character could use, and so that motivational component is no longer existent.

In the end, HabitRPG is a fun and free alternative to more “serious”-looking productivity/habit apps, but don’t let it’s price tag or whimsical approach fool you – it’s super effective, and I highly recommend it.

 

Mindfulness and Project Management

Mindfulness and Project Management   

Most project managers’ job requirements start off with “able to handle multiple priorities” or “able to wear different hats” or “able to meet multiple concurrent deadlines independently” – sounds like managing a three-ring circus with a smile on your face delivering quality performance; on time and on budget, of course! It isn’t just project management that requires a bit of juggling, it is everyday life pretty much – all of us seem to do it. And, so did I.

Somewhere along the way, to adapt to a project management role and to handle a working parent’s responsibilities, I started adopting different time or task management tips to derive more efficiency and productivity out of every waking hour. Even though I was more productive, I didn’t have the satisfaction of having done much at all and I wasn’t sure what was missing. Recently, like every professional in his/her 30s, I mentioned ‘stress’ and ‘anxiety’ to my doctor; I almost wanted to take it back as I imagined I’d be advised to practice meditation or deep breathing. But, this time, I heard ‘mindfulness’ instead.  Though I’d heard of it, I hadn’t paid much attention to it, nor had I explored it much.  After a brief introduction from my doctor, I read a lot more about it and it seemed simple enough. My main take-away about mindfulness – one thing at a time and that done well; quite like the motto we were taught as kids but something we ditched as it didn’t seem to fit our adult lives anymore.

MindfulnessI started applying it slowly – having my morning coffee by the kitchen window without looking at emails or reading the news. Just drinking coffee. One action. Drink. Surprisingly, it only took me four minutes to finish coffee; usually I’d need about 12 minutes. Perhaps because I’d get involved in working through my emails as I tried to relish tepid coffee. Well, having saved 8 minutes from my busy morning spurred me on to apply this to my PM role – what if I did one to-do at a time, worked through it until I finished it before I tackle my next to-do?  Can I handle not checking my email as I am notified of a new message? Can I sit through not checking my texts as I work on a report? What if my daughter needs me and I ignore the phone call? Nerve-racking questions, surely!

One thing at a time? You must be off!

As a geeky project manager, I put together my to-do list on paper in 25-minute chunks for my first trial day! For obvious reasons, I chose Tuesday for a start day; only a brave soul would tinker with a new tool on a Monday! I used 25-minute chunks, based on the Pomodoro technique: just so it was short enough to feel like I can still check email/phone/whatever in 25 minutes and yet it was long enough to handle some of my to-dos.  I just set a simple timer on my computer to beep gently at 25 minutes. If I had finished my to-do, I’d tick it off my list (proudly) and move to the next, else, I’d give another 25 minutes to finish it off. At the end of the first day, I felt like I’d been productive in so many years and finished through my list! My job or my responsibilities hadn’t changed but it was just the satisfaction of finishing tasks off instead of having a bunch of “in progress” items that got moved to the following day.

egg-timer-154763_150

As a safe measure, during the first few days, I did silence my phone and put it face down during those 25-minute sprints.  Keeping one browser window (project you are working on) open, closing your email application, and muting Instant Messenger also help with minimizing distractions. To further ease my willpower, I used ‘SelfControl’ app to curb any temptation to wander off. [For the productivity technique, you could use any of the ones you are comfortable with, not just Pomodoro.]

 

 Mindfulness: Give it a shot!

I have probably practiced mindfulness at home/work/life for over 4 weeks now – it does help me cherish interactions and relationships; even chores don’t seem quite so bad!  My next step is to enroll in a class/lesson in mindfulness meditation; in the meantime, I will be using these techniques to live one day at a time. Give it a try; you have nothing to lose (except 25 minutes, I suppose!). This article helped get a good and gentle start!

Pay Per Click Essentials

The results of launching a paid search campaign can be seen virtually instantaneously, making it an easy marketing investment for many businesses. Having a basic understanding of how pay per click campaigns function is essential for making sure ad dollars are well spent and deliver results in line with your business’s marketing goals. We’ve put together a short list to get you started on the right track:

Pay Per Click Essentials from the Pure Visibility Team

 

 

Book of the week: Thinking, Fast and Slow

Integrated digital marketing is an ever-changing field. Our field is competitive, and technology, competitors, and a kaleidoscope of tactics keep us all on our toes. And we wouldn’t have it any other way. “Learn and Teach” is one of Pure Visibility’s core values, and someone who wants to work on our team without a love of learning will not fit nor will that individual succeed.

I’ve been doing a fair bit of reading recently, including books on mobile content strategy, and yet Thinking, Fast and Slow (Amazon affiliate link) stood out to me as the work I’d most recommend. Although I might be a little late to the party (it came out in 2011), it feels fresh. Its content on how people make decisions will help us be better content strategists, integrated digital marketers, persuaders, and thinkers. Oh and the Kindle version is inexpensive ($2.99).

The book’s unifying theme is exploring how we think. Essentially our minds have two systems – one which operates automatically and unfiltered, for the other we allocate focus to more complicated thinking tasks. The first might be broadly called intuition or even innate prejudice and the second we identify as our reasoning self. Yet they are interconnected and inseparable, relying on the second system for most decision-making would be tedious and take too long, so basically we are not as reasonable as we imagine ourselves to be.

An image of a page of text after being shredded

Shredded, the inverse of legibility.*

So applying this insight in the chapter on “Cognitive Ease” Kahneman writes “how to write a persuasive message” in which there is really one recommendation that takes many actionable forms. That recommendation is Maximize Legibility. It’s forms include:

  1. design for readability (if the message will be read),
  2. promote audibility of your message (if in a spoken or recorded setting),
  3. “keep it simple…”,
  4. make it easy to remember (think of the mnemonics you used to cram for exams – make it rhyme, for example), and lastly (most surprising to me)
  5. make sure your words are easy for your audience to pronounce!

Yes, it makes common sense, yet common sense isn’t always applied. The concepts in this chapter and throughout the book are a great refresher, and sometimes surprising, and little tidbits like these would make a great checklist to review before sending that client email, drafting that paid search ad, and/or revising that blog post.

Let’s make acquiring this book an easy decision for you:

Make a quick decision to learn about fast and slow thinking. How can you go wrong?

* Photo made available via creative commons license via Flickr user Daniel Kulinski.

Pure Visibility greens our Commute with GetDowntown

Here in Ann Arbor, MI, Pure Visibility benefits from the GetDowntown program. Among other perks, GetDowntown gives us low-cost annual bus passes for our employees to help them get to work in a lower-impact way than driving, avoid the hassles of parking downtown, yet still enjoy the benefits of our downtown office.

GetDowntown also has two annual challenges – the Commuter Challenge in May, where teams from different companies compete to save more CO2 emissions and trips downtown by logging alternative methods of commuting (including commuting via a walk, a bike, a bus, and a carpool). All count. In January, just to further inspire us, GetDowntown sponsors Conquer the Cold! which encourages winter commuting. As a part of this, they offer classes on winter bike commuting, and host another competition for companies to see who has the hardiest alternative commuters.

Here at PV, we love participating in the Commuter Challenge and a few hardy souls participate in Conquer the Cold as well. We just got our Commuter Challenge statistics from last year. Here are some highlights – we logged more miles, saved more CO2, and had more employees participate in 2013 compared to 2012. However, we logged fewer total commutes, so we have a goal for 2014!

graphs for Pure Visibility's participation in the Commuter Challenge

Pure Visibility’s Commuter Challenge stats for 2012 and 2013.