Predictions for Google’s 2012

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Last year’s predictions weren’t that great (the predictions for 2010 were better), but predicting the future is an addictive game, so I’ll try again. Here are my predictions for 2012:

1. Oflline Google stores that will sell Chromebooks, Android phones, Google TV boxes, Google-branded shirts and more.

2. Google Music will become a subscription service.

3. Google will focus on improving the quality of Android apps. It will offer better tools for creating consistent user interfaces, it will review some of the new apps and applications will be able to request additional permissions after they’ve been installed.

4. Google Games – a new service for multiplayer games that will combine the best games for Chrome, Android and Google+, while syncing your data, ranking users and allowing you to challenge your friends.

5. A new music editing online service that will only work in Chrome (and probably other Chrome-only services).

6. ARM Chromebooks (notebooks and tablets) and ARM Google TV boxes will be cheaper and more successful.

7. Google+ will have at least 300 million users at the end of 2012 and will incorporate many existing Google apps. Google will aggressively promote the service and will even integrate it with Chrome.

8. Google Instant Answers – an improved OneBox that will offer some of the detailed answers that are available in Wolfram Alpha.

9. A virtual assistant for Android that will be more powerful than Siri and it will also be available in the desktop Google interface as an upgrade for voice search. Google will get better at supporting natural language queries.

10. Google’s navigation menu will be customizable and the notification box will support new services.

11. The first Google-branded Motorola phones and tablets.

12. Google search results personalized based on information from your calendar, Google+ posts, the apps you install etc.

13. Google Doodle Creator – a service that lets you create a doodle and share it with your friends.

14. Image Search will be able to analyze images and recognize multiple objects and people.

15. Chrome Web Store apps and extensions for Android.

16. YouTube’s HTML5 player will become the default player.

17. YouTube’s new TV-like channels will combine some of the best videos that are available.

18. The largest fine in Google’s history.

19. Blog commenting service powered by Google+.

20. Google+ Answers service replaces Aardvark.

21. An online Chrome dashboard will let you access your data (bookmarks, passwords, apps) even when you don’t use Chrome.

22. Better Google Docs for tablets, Google Drive – a new name for the Google Docs list, apps for syncing files and more free storage.


December 31st 2011 Uncategorized

The chance of a lifetime

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A friend asked me the other day, “…given the sorry state of so much in the world, what’s possible to look forward to?”

The state isn’t sorry. It’s wide open.

Interest rates are super low, violence is close to an all time low, industries are being remade and there’s more leverage for the insurgent outsider than ever before in history.

The status quo is taking a beating, there’s no question about it. That’s what makes it a revolution.

I said this nine years ago and I stand by it. In the years since I wrote this essay, people have started social movements, built billion dollar companies, toppled dictators, found new jobs, learned new skills and generally made a ruckus.

Go!

Hindsight is 20/20. People are already looking back on the 1990s and wishing that they had had more courage. When you look back on the 2000s, what will you have to say for yourself? [The following is reprinted from 9 years ago].

Here’s a question that you should clip out and tape to your bathroom mirror. It might save you some angst 15 years from now. The question is, What did you do back when interest rates were at their lowest in 50 years, crime was close to zero, great employees were looking for good jobs, computers made product development and marketing easier than ever, and there was almost no competition for good news about great ideas?

Many people will have to answer that question by saying, “I spent my time waiting, whining, worrying, and wishing.” Because that’s what seems to be going around these days. Fortunately, though, not everyone will have to confess to having made such a bad choice.

While your company has been waiting for the economy to rebound, Reebok has launched Travel Trainers, a very cool-looking lightweight sneaker for travelers. They are selling out in Japan — from vending machines in airports!

While Detroit’s car companies have been whining about gas prices and bad publicity for SUVs (SUVs are among their most profitable products), Honda has been busy building cars that look like SUVs but get twice the gas mileage. The Honda Pilot was so popular, it had a waiting list.

While Africa’s economic plight gets a fair amount of worry, a little startup called ApproTEC is actually doing something about it. The new income that its products generate accounts for 0.5% of the entire GDP of Kenya. How? It manufactures a $75 device that looks a lot like a StairMaster. But it’s not for exercise. Instead, ApproTEC sells the machine to subsistence farmers, who use its stair-stepping feature to irrigate their land. People who buy it can move from subsistence farming to selling the additional produce that their land yields — and triple their annual income in the first year of using the product.

While you’ve been wishing for the inspiration to start something great, thousands of entrepreneurs have used the prevailing sense of uncertainty to start truly remarkable companies. Lucrative Web businesses, successful tool catalogs, fast-growing PR firms — all have started on a shoestring, and all have been profitable ahead of schedule. The Web is dead, right? Well, try telling that to Meetup.com, a new Web site that helps organize meetings anywhere and on any topic. It has 200,000 registered users — and counting.

Maybe you already have a clipping on your mirror that asks you what you did during the 1990s. What’s your biggest regret about that decade? Do you wish that you had started, joined, invested in, or built something? Are you left wishing that you’d at least had the courage to try? In hindsight, the 1990s were the good old days. Yet so many people missed out. Why? Because it’s always possible to find a reason to stay put, to skip an opportunity, or to decline an offer. And yet, in retrospect, it’s hard to remember why we said no and easy to wish that we had said yes.

The thing is, we still live in a world that’s filled with opportunity. In fact, we have more than an opportunity — we have an obligation. An obligation to spend our time doing great things. To find ideas that matter and to share them. To push ourselves and the people around us to demonstrate gratitude, insight, and inspiration. To take risks and to make the world better by being amazing.

Are these crazy times? You bet they are. But so were the days when we were doing duck-and-cover air-raid drills in school, or going through the scares of Three Mile Island and Love Canal. There will always be crazy times.

So stop thinking about how crazy the times are, and start thinking about what the crazy times demand. There has never been a worse time for business as usual. Business as usual is sure to fail, sure to disappoint, sure to numb our dreams. That’s why there has never been a better time for the new. Your competitors are too afraid to spend money on new productivity tools. Your bankers have no idea where they can safely invest. Your potential employees are desperately looking for something exciting, something they feel passionate about, something they can genuinely engage in and engage with.

You get to make a choice. You can remake that choice every day, in fact. It’s never too late to choose optimism, to choose action, to choose excellence. The best thing is that it only takes a moment — just one second — to decide.

Before you finish this paragraph, you have the power to change everything that’s to come. And you can do that by asking yourself (and your colleagues) the one question that every organization and every individual needs to ask today: Why not be great?

December 31st 2011 Uncategorized

Thank you, 2011

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(Top post for 2011, Polaroid iPhone Dock Concept)

The one concept I was preparing for as the last 2011 post couldn’t be in time. Sorry.

This is the second year since I started freelancing. Here are what I’m doing now and it could be an excuse for the fewer posts for this blog than last year.

Software

  • NCDC: working closely with this Japanese company for iPhone/iPad/Android apps
  • 1 Android related software everyone can use (and love?) and more in 2012 also on iPhone
  • A few other GUIs for some interesting futuristic platforms
  • A fashion website to go live soon

Hardware

  • A few thrilling smartphone concepts + tablet devices
  • Graphic designs for smartphone cases for 2 companies
  • Smart city architecture concepts

Business

  • Highly secret company with some unbelievably big-names

Others

I can tell 2012 will be one of the most exciting years in my life. Strongly believe many people around the globe will have chances to see what I make (not just concepts). Just can’t wait to introduce all the above products/services as soon as I can!

Thank you all for reading this blog. I’ve restarted blogging in Japanese on Blogger. I use Facebook for casual talks and Twitter for inspirations.

I wish you all the best in 2012!

December 31st 2011 blogging, Design

Best of Search Conferences 2011: Day 3

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Best of Search Conferences 2011: Day 3 was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

Day 3 of our “Best of Search Conferences 2011″ is upon us, and this post wraps up the series here on our blog. Looking through the coverage, one thing we can say for certain is that there are a ton of enthusiastic, brilliant people in the search marketing community who have a passion for sharing ideas. Thanks to all of them, and special thanks to the conference producers who offer a vehicle for these people to share knowledge with the community. Today’s Day 3 coverage is all about exploring thought-provoking topics in the areas of understanding your audience, holistic marketing, online reputation management and branding, plus cutting-edge topics from this year’s search marketing events. Check out Day 1 and Day 2 if you happened to miss them. And, here we go!

Keynote

SEOs Get Social – Wappow Hawaii 
Speaker: Bruce Clay

Search and Social Hawaii: Keynote with Bruce Clay

Top Takeaways:

  • The evolution of search has progressed from being 10 blue links on a search engine results page (in the beginning) to behavioral and personalized search for a better user experience. Google now tries to determine the most relevant results based on prior search history, and social search is the next wave of personalization.
  • It’s becoming harder as SEOs to report rankings when behavioral search comes into play. Bruce Clay, Inc. has found the Google API to be inaccurate. Predictions are that Google is going to dominate the SERPs at an individual level, personalized to each searcher, and confuse the user to the point where he/she will not know whether it’s organic or paid results.
  • In the social search world, there are many factors that remove fear, uncertainty and doubt in shoppers and make people accountable for the content they share. Review sites move shoppers to buyers; social sharing of content makes a person more careful with what they endorse – bad content does not get links, good content does. If we are socially involved, and do it right, the links will come.
  • Social media communities feed people better than just “alerts”; there’s an increase in people who prefer social media for information consumption over browsing. Almost half of the people who access social media sites do so via mobile. And it’s not that people are spending more time on mobile; it’s time they wouldn’t spend on a computer that they are now spending on their phones.
  • Some social media signals for ranking include: authority of the sharer, how quickly and how often the content is shared; the share text (what it says); what personas are doing what sharing; and the concept that Facebook“ likes” are the new links in search.

Video shared at the Wappow Hawaii keynote:

Understanding Audience

Top Takeaways:

  • When building a social media community for a brand, listen to the community and the customers before coming up with a strategy. They might want something totally different in a community than what is being provided. It’s important to do an assessment of the brand, the industry and the conversation surrounding it first.
  • For search and the U.S. Hispanic audience, blend offline efforts with online search marketing; studies show more than 75 percent of the U.S. Hispanic audience searches for more information from something they saw on TV – with Google being the favorite search engine. And mobile search is big within this community. Use Google Insights to compare Spanish queries to the general market to find opportunities.
  • Analytics tips for the Latino audience includes using needs-based segmentation – security, power, esteem, change, for example – which is harder and less obvious to target than language segmentation. Use psychographics profiles for online purchasing segments to figure out who the real decision makers are and reduce assumptions about the audience. Allow for Web navigation and ads in both Spanish and English to reach this market.
  • Personas are an important part of the search marketing process; there’s a difference between a searcher persona and a product persona, and one person can morph into different personas throughout the cycle of a search. Personal data mixed with keyword data (how the person searches online) creates the ultimate persona. Know what your business goals are before the SEO strategy in order to best tap into personas.

Best of Conference Posts on Understanding Audience

Building Communities – Wappow Hawaii
Speaker: L.P. Neenz Faleafine
Focus Latino – SES New York
Keynote speaker: Mark Lopez
Analytics for the Latino Markets – SES New York
Panelists: Fernando Rodriguez, Paul Lima, Armando Rodriguez
Use Searcher Personas to Connect SEO to Conversion – SMX Advanced
Panelists: Tamara Adlin , Vanessa Fox, Dennis Goedegebuure

Holistic Marketing

Top Takeaways:

  • Don’t chase the newest, shiny toys in search marketing. You need a mix of tactics, but content is where you need to put your efforts to be successful. Approach search, social and content with the audience’s needs and preferences in mind to secure wins. Produce content that fulfills all areas of the buy cycle that any given audience goes through so no opportunities are missed. Start thinking like a publisher to be good at content marketing.
  • The evolution of Internet marketing has left us to believe that it’s not about what’s happening on websites anymore – it’s what’s happening outside of them in social networks that matters. But, not everyone has time for social media upkeep, so apply an 80/20 rule – 80 percent automation and 20 percent personalization. You can do this with the right tools and strategy.
  • Facebook use spans international borders, with 70 percent of Facebook use outside the U.S. This presents a vast opportunity for marketing globally through Facebook. Other tips for sharing information and content in a social world includes creating a digital cloud around your connections, then your connections’ connections and so on, and use this to create the strategy to help decide what headlines, language and images to include, for example.
  • In mobile search, trends uncover opportunities for mobile marketing, including what people are looking to accomplish when using their mobile devices to do something online. This includes marketing for the location of the user and the time of day for relevancy; allowing the user to complete a task easily; and giving the user opportunity to save money through mobile offers.

Best of Conference Posts on Holistic Marketing

The Convergence of Search, Social and Content Marketing – SES San Francisco
Speakers: Aaron Kahlow, Arnie Kuhn, Lee Odden 
Facebook, Twitter and SEO – SMX East
Speakers: Horst Joepen, Jim Yu, Michael Gray 
Global Opportunities in PR, Social Media and Mobile – SES San Francisco
Speakers: Anne F. Kennedy, Kristjan Mar Hauksson 
Mobile Apps and How They’re Revolutionizing Search – SMX West
Speakers: Andy Chu, Anil Panguluri, Angie Schottmuller

Online Reputation Management and Branding

Top Takeaways:

  • Use search to protect a brand’s presence online by applying what’s called search engine reputation management. This includes using traditional search marketing tactics to create strategies that will create an online experience that’s synonymous with the brand.
  • SEOs and user experience engineers now have to work more closely than ever before to survive Google’s mission to make search better for users. To figure out what metrics matter to Google, put yourself in the shoes of Google, this likely includes things like the Google G-Bounce rate (return to the search result and then the following actions as well), query behavior after a G-Bounce, average time before a G-Bounce, click-through rates and repeat visits.
  • To create a social media program that works and protects the reputation for large companies, there needs to be a training and on-boarding process that starts with defining what social media is to that company and how it fits into the brand, and refresh the training annually, ensuring it goes to employees, partners, vendors and execs.
  • White Hat SEO builds marketing value because it’s aimed at creating a strategy that fulfills intent. Many Black Hat SEO tactics can be transformed into White Hat tactics; it just takes some fresh perspective to eliminate the risk factor and turn it into something that provides lasting value.

Best of Conference Posts on Online Reputation Management and Branding

Protecting Your Brand Online – SES San Francisco
Speaker: Andy Beal 
Google Survivor Tips – SMX East
Speakers: Mark Monroe, Alan Bleiweiss, Micah Fisher-Kirshner
Socially Satisfied – Wappow Hawaii
Speaker: Becky Carroll
Black Hat vs. White Hat SEO – SMX Sydney
Speaker: Rand Fishkin 

The Cutting Edge

Top Takeaways:

  • Mobile barcodes (QR codes) present an opportunity to track things we may not have been able to before, like print media, and it also gives opportunity to blend online and offline efforts. A good QR campaign serves a business objective, creates a valuable user experience and provides contextual assistance around the campaign, so users know exactly what to do and how.
  • This year, Bing rolled out adaptive search, which is essentially behavioral search on crack [those are my words – Jessica]; it learns from a user’s behavior beyond just one search session. But personalized search does not mean SEO is dead. On the contrary, it makes the SEO’s job easier. See, a business doesn’t have to be the “best” at one thing; it just has to be the most relevant for the query and who is looking for it.
  • The main language of the Web is HTML. With the advent of HTML5, it goes hand-in-hand with what people are doing, seeing and wanting from the Web. And search engines like Google are totally behind it. HTML5 is usable, but don’t be afraid to experiment and fail – it’s still a work in progress – but there are many benefits to implementing it.
  • Daily deals companies are growing in numbers, but they aren’t as profitable as one might think. In order to make a daily deal offer work as part of the marketing plan, there are some things beyond the deal that should happen. Because the purchase is at a low margin by the customer initially, it requires high customer lifetime value to make up for that initial purchase. To help this along, offer a quality product people will want to come back for, and use aggressive social marketing to retain those customers.

Best of Conference Posts on Cutting Edge Topics

Search on Mobile Devices, QR Codes, Mobile and Social: The Next Frontier – SES San Francisco
Speakers: Terry Rodrigues, Angie Schottmuller 
The Current State of Personalize Search – SMX East
Speakers: Jack Menzel, Stefan Weitz
HTML5: A Cowpath on a Cliff – SES San Francisco
Speaker: Karl Dubost
Doing Offers Right – SMX East
Speakers: Dan Hess, Jim Moran, Prashant Puri, Benny Blum 

Live Conference Episode of SEM Synergy

Search and Social Converge – Wappow Hawaii
Host and co-host: Bruce Clay, Jessica Lee
Guests: Gillian Muessig, Ian Lurie 

Top Takeaways:

  • Social media signals allow for the greater personalization of search, and the confusion surrounding ambiguous queries has been alleviated, as have many ad-targeting problems.
  • Rankings in the search engine results pages are affected by social signals as well as click-through rates, with reports showing Google +1s displayed alongside results have been shown to impact it.
  • Google will be using social media as part of an ever-developing way to make sure results are becoming more and more relevant to users.
  • While many Web marketers have been using social media marketing for some time, the understanding and adaptation of it across big and small businesses alike still has a ways to go. The good news is, social media marketing used to be considered a soft science, but is now measured in terms of ROI with hard-number values assigned to it.
  • Looking at social media as if it were something totally new and unmanageable can make it seem more intimidating than it needs to be. The truth is, social media is just an evolution of the way people have been marketing for years, but now allows a two-way conversation between a business and its audience.
December 31st 2011 Analytics, bing, Facebook, SEO, Twitter

Social Media for Small Businesses: Best Practices for Engaging with Your Connected Customers #smb #smallbiz #socialmedia

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2.0Meet “Customer 2.0”—a highly social, increasingly plugged-in and incredibly powerful breed of customer who probably knows more about your brand and products than you know about him.

In today’s wired business landscape, customers can use the power of the internet, specifically social media and consumer reviews, to find the information that helps them spend their dollars more smartly. In fact, over two-thirds of customers say that they use online tools to help them decide which products to buy, and nearly half share their experiences on social networks.

But that doesn’t mean that small businesses are helpless against the powers of the social web—in fact, understanding how customers use social media can help your company engage more customers and provide the service that “Customer 2.0” expects.

Customer service goes social

Social media tools like Twitter and Facebook have proven to be an ideal place for customers to share personal experiences and information about the products they use every day, especially when they are negative.
This online trash-talking may seem like a headache for brand managers and marketers, but in reality, negative reviews represent a customer service opportunity for small businesses, especially considering 58 percent of customers say that when they post a bad review, they expect the company to respond.

Social media for small businesses

Smaller businesses may have an inherent advantage engaging customers through social media, since there is often less red tape to get through and customers are more likely to be speaking with a higher ranking employee than in large conglomerates.
So what do you need to know in order to use social media to your advantage? Here are some tips to start:

  • Listen first. In order to address customer concerns, you have to know where to find them. Free or cheap social mention tools such as Tweetdeck or HootSuite can help keep tabs on and consolidate what people are saying about your company, based on keyword searches.
  • Make the conversation personable. Customers don’t want to deal with a faceless company; they want to deal with a real live person. Create a personality for your online profile and give your business a face that your customers can relate to.
  • Choose your battles. Understand the difference between a customer who has a frustration with your product that you can solve and someone who is ranting without any due cause. Addressing the former will often save you a customer and build positive word-of-mouth, while confronting the latter may lead to more profanities and negative exposure.
  • Social is not a magic bullet. It’s important to remember that while addressing customers via social media might be effective for some, it’s not an end-all-be-all. Instead, use social media to complement your existing customer service vehicles and strategy.
  • Know the gatekeepers. If you have limited resources and can’t respond to every mention, learn to identify the customers that are most active on social networks. Chances are that if you alleviate their concerns, they’ll spread their positive experience with the rest of the web.

Understanding the value of customer reviews

Social media streams are great ways for customers to see what their friends, family and coworkers are buying, but when it comes down to the greatest influence in making your customers click “Buy now,” customer reviews are king.

  • In a recent survey of online shoppers, 29 percent of respondents said ”positive customer reviews” were the most influential factor in their decision to purchase, second only to ”price” at 38 percent.
  • Not all negative reviews are bad—70 percent of customers trust a source more when they can see bad reviews as well as good.
  • “Customer 2.0” craves content; a major reason why adding customer reviews to a website can double a visitor’s browsing time.
  • Time is money, so don’t make customers search too far to find reviews about your product; 47 percent of customers prefer reviews to be found on the website that they are buying from.

Simply put: if your small business doesn’t already provide a way for customers to post reviews on your website, you should. At the very least, you need to be actively trolling popular customer forums for reviews on your products. Every piece of feedback is valuable, whether leading to a customer service opportunity, providing insight into customer viewpoints or pointing towards influential thought leaders.
As with all social media endeavors, you won’t fully know the rules until you jump in. Explore social networks, post on customer review sites, and search for your most common product or services names and see what pops up. As a small business owner or marketer, the only way you can learn how to better serve “Customer 2.0” is to be a more plugged in and social customer yourself.

For more information about building customer relationships and utilizing social media for your small business, check out the following 367 Addison Avenue posts:

· “Social Media: Does it Fit?

· “Building Customer Relationships Starting Right Now

· “LinkedIn and the SMB: Tips for Success

Thanks for reading,

Melissa Zieger


Melissa Zieger (@HP_SmallBiz) is the editor-in-chief of HP’s SMB blog, 367 Addison Avenue and a worldwide public relations manager for HP’s Personal Systems Group.

December 31st 2011 adcenter, advertisers, Social Media

FDA’s Social-Media ‘Guidelines’ Befuddle Big Pharma

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If you're a pharmaceutical marketer waiting for specific social-media guidelines from the FDA, keep waiting. Some guidance issued this week in the Federal Register is far from comprehensive — and by design, it may never be.


December 31st 2011 Uncategorized

My Top 9 Online Organizational Tools for Business in 2012

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It’s no secret… organization has never been my strong point. For a long time, I’ve been able to try and convince myself I just need to “accept” that I’m not “the organized type”.

But, during 2011, as my businesses kept continually increasing in size, I no longer could look the other way when it came to my organizational dysfunction.

It was time to take some action. Luckily, I figured out that a lot of my disorganization was curable – with the right apps and services.

Below are the business productivity and organizational tools that I find to be not simply good – but incredible – in helping me keep myself (and my businesses) organized, in no particular order.

Skype Premium

skypeI know, I know. Skype. How “groundbreaking”. But as an virtual employer of multiple telecommuting employees, I find Skype to be invaluable. One on one video and audio calls and audio conference calls are free with the service – in addition to the obvious text based chatting.

But, Skype Premium also includes group video conferencing (with up to ten people), which I use to hold company meetings with all of my staff. I pay for the service annually, which gets me a 50% discount, making my cost of Skype Premium for the year less than $55.

This allows me to have group meetings with my staff based in Texas, Florida, New York, Michigan, Canada and everywhere in between. It saves me time because I only have to go over everything once and gives my employees a sense of “company unity” even though they’re based all over North America, because they get to “see” each other regularly on calls. Skype Premium also allows group screen sharing as well, so I know we’re always on the same page when covering the meeting agenda – literally.

*Edited to add, for more in depth information, you can check out my review of Skype Premium on It’s a WAHM Thing.

Dropbox

dropboxDropbox is an online storage solution that allows you to share documents and transfer large files with anyone, anywhere, as long as they have a Dropbox account. And in spite of their horridly inept and uninformative splash homepage, Dropbox has become an incredibly useful part of my business in the last year.

Their base plan allows you up to 2GB of storage – and it’s FREE. If you eventually find that 2GB is not enough storage space for you, they have paid plans starting at 50GB for $9.95 a month.

I especially like that I can segment everything into folders and choose to give other Dropbox users access to only specific folders. My infographic designer and I share one folder, my employees and I share another, my new transcriptionist and I share yet another. I even share a folder with my husband to aggregate our pictures of the kids for easy access.

AND any changes you make to files can be undone or undeleted (I found this out when I accidentally deleted a file – and was thrilled when I was able to get it back). Additionally, I love the fact that I get a little pop-up notification anytime someone has edited or added to a file that I share access to.

I was admittedly a bit nervous about storing files “in the cloud” in the beginning. My infographic designer was who first caused me to sign up for the service. But I’ve found it to be secure and have yet to experience any downtime. It’s been a huge time saver and kick-ass organizational tool.

TripIt

tripitI admittedly just recently discovered TripIt. But I honestly don’t know how I ever traveled without it. It’s well known that I am likely one of the most disorganized travelers on the planet. I book my airfare with less than two weeks until the date I need to leave.

I never know what time I’m speaking at the latest conference I’m attending, can never remember when and where each conference party is being held and have been known more than once to tweet “anyone know what the conference hotel is?” as I’m in a cab line at the airport – only knowing that I’m booked at “the conference hotel”. I’m constantly digging for emails and texting friends to try and get pertinent details I need when traveling. And then I found TripIt.

As an example, I’m headed to Last Vegas next week to speak at Affiliate Summit (sold out). I booked my travel on Expedia and then forwarded my Expedia confirmation for my flight and hotel to TripIt’s email address. They automatically input all my flight and hotel details. I then took a look at the Affiliate Summit Parties Schedule and decided which events I would be attending and entered them into my Las Vegas trip screen – complete with times and addresses of the events. I then added in my session and two dinners I have scheduled with friends.

Now I simply open my TripIt app on my BlackBerry Torch, click “Las Vegas” and BOOM. My entire trip schedule is right there. And it took me 15 minutes to input it all and will likely save me (and anyone traveling with me) hours in aggravation. And I didn’t even get into the cost calculating it does for the trips. Best of all? It’s free. FREE!

Amazon Gift Organizer

amazon gift organizerIf I was organized enough to file something (baby steps people) I’d file this one under, “Who knew?” Basically, the Amazon Gift Organizer allows you to add people you’d like to send birthday gifts to via Amazon. I use this in a customer/business contact relations aspect.

I click on “Add New Recipient” and it presents me with a screen that allows me to add their name, birthday (or to apply it to more generic uses, you could add the anniversary a client began with you, an employee’s anniversary with the company, etc), gender, their relationship to you and tick off things “about them” that will help generate gift ideas and any applicable notes. You can also edit their profile to set a reminder to remind you about their birthday (or other special occasion you designate) anywhere between “the day of” and 30 days before (or all of the above).

The Gift Organizer will then make recommendations to you based on the information you’ve provided. See something you like in the recommendations or already know what you have in mind for the recipient? Just visit the product page and click “Add to Wishlist” and choose the person you have in mind.

On the dates you specified to receive reminders, you’ll get an email doing just that – reminding you – that the event is almost here complete with the gift ideas you’ve specified along with a list of recommended gift ideas based on either the gift ideas you’ve specified or the boxes you ticked about the person’s personality when creating their profile (or both).

I was able to take an hour or two (after that initial input I just update it whenever the need arises to remember a new occasion), add everyone I needed to and now the Amazon Gift Organizer acts as my personal “important occasion reminder” secretary. If you receive gifts from me this year from Amazon? Totally ignore everything in this section. 😉

Raven Tools

raven toolsI run multiple affiliate based websites, as well as an SEO agency. If you don’t do either, you can skip this section. I’ve been in love with Raven Tools since the day I first used them. I reviewed Raven Tools in regards to how I used them as an in my link building efforts for the affiliate sites produced by my website publishing company. But once I began to use them from an agency perspective, especially to organize our link building services clients? I loved them even more. And my Marketing Specialists do too.

We often have anywhere from 3-5 people working simultaneously on the same link building campaign and it quickly became obvious that we were going to step on each others toes – and a lot – unless we found a way to make those simultaneous efforts as rigidly organized as possible. Enter Raven Tools. We use the Link Manager all day, every day. Forget the ranking reports and SERP trackers. The research tools, the Link Manager and the ability to integrate Google Analytics and compare that data to our link building efforts to measure campaign success – THAT’S where it’s at.

While Raven may not be the “cheapest tool on the block” (plans start at $99 dollars a month), you get what you pay for. And I gladly fork over the money for my Raven subscription. My publishing company utilizes the Pro account while The Sugarrae Agency side of things uses a white-label of the Agency level account. They also offer a 30 day free trial and will also give you one month free if you pay for your service a year in advance (which I do for both accounts).

Shoeboxed

shoeboxedMichael Gray loves when I have to say he’s right about something. Well, he was right about Shoeboxed. I am an accountant’s worst nightmare when it comes to receipts. Horrible. But even I can keep receipts organized with Shoeboxed. Why? Because it’s painless and requires almost zero effort. Whenever a receipt comes in, I simply forward it to my unique Shoeboxed email address and they scan it into my account.

They also attempt (with about 60/40 accuracy in the beginning) to categorize the receipts for me (but their accuracy is improving over time and as they learn what I classify certain receipts as). I can email forward receipts, upload receipts, mail in receipts… whatever works for me. Being online, most of my receipts are emails, so forwarding works best for me. My only gripe is that every PayPal receipt is classified as PayPal and I have to manually change them to the actual vendor that I paid via Paypal.

They have a free DIY version, but I have no experience with that, so I have no idea if it is as awesome as the paid plans. Paid plans start as low as $9.95 per month and they offer a 30 day free trial. I started on the Lite plan but quickly updgraded to the Classic plan (which is $29.95 a month). They also offer discounts if you pay for your plan annually. I never knew how many receipts I had slipping through the cracks before Shoeboxed.

As an aside, I think my accountant nearly cried when I informed him I’d signed up for the service – and because it was so easy, I was actually USING IT. 😉

Basecamp

basecampI don’t know exactly when I started using Basecamp, but I’ve been using it for years now. While Raven Tools tracks our agency clients and all of the link building efforts for my publishing company, Basecamp helps me track pretty much everything else when it comes to my affiliate marketing sites.

Plans start at $49 per month (they offer a free 30 day trial so you can test it out), but I’ve found it to be money well spent. Each of my sites is listed as a separate entity and I’m able to pick and choose which employees and contractors have access to each. We store everything pertinent to each site via Basecamp.

We’re able to set deadlines for site tasks (such as implementing a new design or uploading new affiliate creatives) via their calendar and keep tack of WHAT needs to be done (and by who) to meet those deadlines via their “Todo” list function. And the Writeboards allow us to keep listings of information everyone working on the site might need access to.

A lot of things that used to “slip through the cracks” when tasks were being emailed back and forth no longer do. There’s no question as to who is responsible for getting each task completed. And the Basecamp “reminders” feature makes sure we all keep on track with getting it done – on time.

Gravity Forms

gravity formsGravity Forms? An organizational tool? For me, the answer is hands down yes. I went pretty in depth about this WordPress plugin in my Gravity Forms review so I will try and keep this short and sweet and let you read the review if you want more in depth information.

Between the Sugarrae blog and the agency, I used to get a lot of contact emails. A LOT. So a while back I moved to having a contact form instead via Gravity Forms. Now, not only do emails not get lost in my massive inbox (because I can view them in an online dashboard at any time) but I also set up the form to categorize them and give users conditional messages as they’re filling out the form before they even hit submit.

Plus, the dashboard allows me to enter notes about contact forms if I want, so I know which ones I’ve replied to, referred to other people or still have to get to. What used to sink into the heap known as my inbox now remains segmented and available for easy access when I have time to sit down and sift through them. And it’s cut way, way down on the spam thanks to the Captcha feature.

Quickbooks Online

quickbooksFist things first, Quickbooks is confusing as hell. It definitely does not win any awards with me for usability or simplicity. But, the fact is that Quickbooks is used by most accountants, integrates with most banks and can collaborate with Shoeboxed. And all three of those things are extremely important aspects for me.

However, unless you’re into reading technical manuals, I’d highly suggest that if you use Quickbooks Online, that you schedule a “Quickbooks set up and training session” with your business accountant (or you can search for a Quickbooks ProAdvisor here). It’s not super expensive and will save you a ton of time and heartache.

Now the good news is that once your Quickbooks Online account is setup and you understand how to use it, it will seriously streamline your business finances. And you’re able to give your accountant their own access and login to your account for free.

Plans start as low as $12.95 a month, but if you’re looking to integrate with your bank, you’ll need to sign up for the $26.95 per month plan at minimum. I personally use the “Online Plus Plan” ($39.95 a month) because I wanted access to all the cool budgeting features Quickbooks has.

At this point, I couldn’t do without Quickbooks (and heads up, they also offer a free 30 day trial). While my accountant does all management for my account, I’m able to log in at any time and check pretty much any financial aspect about my company, run budget reports, see who owes me money, see who I owe money – everything related to my company financials – with ease.

Organize Your 2012

It’s the beginning of the year, so it’s the perfect time to up your organizational business game in 2012. What products do YOU find indispensable when it comes to your business organization and productivity efforts? I’m definitely open to adding to my new-found arsenal. 😉

The post My Top 9 Online Organizational Tools for Business in 2012 appeared first on Sugarrae.

December 31st 2011 Uncategorized

New Year’s Resolutions From the Link Ninjas

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Last year around this time I did a post for Search Engine Journal about Link Building New Year’s Resolutions. They were some pretty general goals that any link builder can achieve. This year, surrounded by a team of Ninjas, it seemed like a great opportunity to get a little more specific.

If you’ve ever wanted to get into the mind of an in-the-trenches Link Ninja, here’s a look at what a few of us aspire to in the coming year:

My goal for 2012 is to learn more about landing page optimization. – Ninja Laura

This year I would like to improve my conversion rate. I would also like to master some new skills and learn more about programming. I would love to be a part of the SEO Blog. – Ninja Chrissy

My 2012 IMN New Year’s resolution is to learn to be a better listener, encourage my co-workers to achieve their goals, and keep my desk organized! – Ninja Ashley

Get more links (always the goal!)and more creative links.
Along with events committee, hold even more motivating events
Learn more about SEO in general- see the bigger picture
And write my first blog post!
– Ninja Anna

I want to expand my usability knowledge and become an expert in the area.
I want to become certified in Google Analytics
I want to become a regular contributor to the IMN Blog
-Ninja Karina

I would like to work on more effective communication
-Ninja Darci

Since I’m fairly new, I want to kick off the New Year with getting lots of links! Other than that, I want to keep up more with SEO, obtain my Google Analytics and AdWords certifications and perhaps dabble with Twitter a bit! (now say that 3x fast) – Ninja Francis

I want to get better at Google Analytics and insights, and be more organized – Ninja AJ

My New Year’s Resolution is really general, but I resolve to learn as much more about SEO as I can this year!  – Ninja Dan

My resolution is to spend more time finding and trying out new social media tools. There are so many awesome tools out there – I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface! – Ninja Suzy

I resolve to run my Brain Task Manager more often and kill the stalled processes – Ninja Sean

To be the eyes and ears of our clients’ social media “face” so we can build larger and more engaged communities! – Ninja Melissa

My New Year’s resolution is to read and learn more about Social Media Analytics.- Ninja Annie

As a new ninja I’d like to be more confident in my SEO knowledge by the end of the year by learning as much as I can and hopefully be able to contribute new ideas the more I learn! – Ninja Erica

Wake up earlier! – Ninja Eric

My New Year’s Resolution is to learn more about the Business of SEO and Usability. – Ninja Kevin

My resolution is to become the best Link builder in the history of the company! – Ninja Sivan

I resolve to help shape this blog into a powerful SEO resource that reflects the collective voice of Internet Marketing Ninjas – Ninja Jen

So, it seems we’ve got a pretty ambitious group of Ninjas. But we know that the changes we’ve seen this year are only the beginning. There’s going to be a lot more to come, and with this group, anything is possible.   Have a safe and happy New Year’s weekend and we’ll see you in 2012!

December 31st 2011 Uncategorized

20 Bloggers to Watch in 2012

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This year, I tried to go outside of the social media echo-chamber and focus on people who are expanding beyond their blogs. As Michael Stelzner said at Blogworld, “You’re not a blogger, you’re a publisher!”

These are 20 people who stood out to me this year. There is no ranking, nor is there a competition. If you are after more variety, I’ve included links to other round-ups at the end of this post.

Do you know of someone that has really stood out in 2011? Let us know in the comments, or create and link to your own list post. Enjoy!

Maria Popova

Maria Popova describes herself as “interestingness curator and semi-secret geek obsessed with design, science, storytelling and combinatorial creativity”. She is the editor of the much-loved Brain Pickings, which she described as a “a destination for indiscriminate curiosity.”

I love Maria’s work because talented curators are needed in this cluttered blogosphere. Maria goes beyond the collection of links and ideas, and provides a narrative that just enchants you. In the aforementioned interview, Maria said that “curation is all about pattern-recognition, seeing how various and diverse pieces of content fit together under the same taste umbrella or along the same narrative path, so the guiding principle has to be the sole storyteller with a strong point of view.”

I think Maria will be an influence on curators for years to come.

Kristi Hines

Kristi Hines is a freelance writer, online marketing consultant, and social media enthusiast that blogs at Kikolani. She has  become famous for her weekly resource posts, Fetching Friday, and is a prolific guest poster on many high-profile sites. Her work is highly regarded in the social media community and she was recommended multiple times in the comments section on last year’s list.

Her book, Blog Post Promotion, is extraordinarily in-depth for a book at its price point, and is something I’d strongly recommend to those who need help getting more attention for their posts. You guys may also enjoy her post about making money online through blogging and writing.

Corbett Barr

Corbett Barr is someone I’ve been watching for a few years. He had a popular blog, Free Pursuits, but focused on creating a legacy rather then just being a blogger. He started Think Traffic in 2010, and quickly built a solid reputation for building quality content. In 2011 he created the Million Dollar Blog Project and launched his case study blog, Expert Enough.

I like Corbett because he’s one of the people who evolved with the challenges that blogging presented, rather than giving up. Some of the best discussions of 2010 came from his blog and I believe that the Million Dollar Blog Project will result in a few more bloggers to watch.

Marcus Sheridan

Marcus started a swimming pool company in 2001. Thanks to his blog, and inbound marketing, it grew to be one of the biggest companies of its kind in the world. Marcus had amassed a large amount of knowledge about content marketing and created The Sales Lion to teach others about the power of community.

I love his blog. He isn’t a pseudo-guru testing his theories—he only teaches about stuff he’s personally experienced. He also has a talent for community engagement. Many of his posts contribute to the conversation surrounding many facets of our industry, which encourages related companies to adjust their model to serve bloggers better.

Hands down, Marcus is one of the coolest guys online. He helps so many of us when he already has a successful business and doesn’t need the social validation. I hope we’ll see a lot more of him in the coming year.

Alexis Grant

Alexis Grant is a publishing powerhouse. She describes herself as a “journalist, blog & social media strategist and a budding entrepreneur.” She has been experimenting with digital products and micropublishing, such as her popular eguide on building a Part-Time Social Media Business. She’s also the managing editor of the Brazen Careerist blog.

I’ve had the pleasure of being friends with her for past few months, and it’s been fascinating watching her grow. She has a unique work history, starting out in traditional journalism and evolving until she landed a job editing a popular blog. I think we will learn a lot from her experiments in digital publishing, especially during the latter part of 2012.

Colin Wright

Colin Wright intrigues me. He runs a popular blog, but I wouldn’t called him a blogger. I don’t think anyone really knows what to call him. Every four months, his readers vote on the next country he’ll move to. He has an everlasting ebook called Exiles, runs a T-shirt shop called I Have No Shirt, and has published six ebooks.

I like Colin because of his constant experimentation with micropublishing and entrepreneurship. He closed eBookling because he’d achieved what he had set out to do, despite having a profitable model. He was one of the first in my community to experiment with Kindle publishing. He’s a genuinely cool guy with a thirst for knowledge, and a desire to improve on existing creations. I think that’s an attitude we all can benefit from.

Torre De Roche

 

Torre De Roche is the Fearful Adventurer. While overseas, she “fell for a 31-year old Argentinean man who had a humble sailboat and a dream to set off exploring the world.” She accompanied him on his trip across the South Pacific which led to her blog and later, a book about her journey. Within two months of self-publishing her book, she landed a big publishing deal. Her book, Swept, will be out in 2013.

I think that Torre will be one of the writers that will really stand out over the coming years. She has such a natural talent, yet is still a bit of an unknown in the blogosphere. I’m confident that will change over the next year and I think that we are in a fortunate position to watch her evolve.

Deb Ng

Deb is an accomplished blogger. Previously she was the founder and owner of the Freelance Writing Jobs network of blogs, as well as the community manager for Blog Talk Radio. Now, she is employed as the conference director of Blog World Expo and has released her first book, Online Community Management for Dummies.

In 2012, she’ll be just as busy. She’s authoring her second book for the Dummies brand and planning is already well underway for Blogworld in New York.

I love her work, and her contribution to the industry. I especially enjoy her blog, Kommein,  where readers are fortunate enough to get an insight into the work of someone whose career spans multiple areas of the blog industry.

Jen Bishop

Jen is mostly known as the publisher and editor of Dynamic Business magazine in Australia. Part of what makes the magazine so successful is its prominent web presence, which feature a wide range of bloggers. But I’m not including her because of that.  I’m watching her based on her work at her new blog, Interiors Addict.

Interiors Addict is a blog that curates a lot of the best information her passion, interior design. She’s leveraged her skills as a journalist to get access to industry news and interviews, and has turned her hobby blog into a very prominent force.

One of my favorite trends this year is how journalists are dabbling in creating their own digital presences. I believe they enjoy a lot more success, and learn more, when their blog is based on an obsession rather then just their personal brand. I’m also enjoying how Tumblr is aiding bloggers that focus heavily on curation.

Derek Halpern

Derek runs Social Triggers, a site that “breaks down psychological research and business case studies into simple, actionable steps that can help you improve your online business.” His content isn’t the reason I’m watching him, although it is high-calibre and he only publishes his best work. No, the reason he’s gotten my attention is because of how he got noticed.

Early in 2011, he did blog reviews of popular sites such as Chris BroganThink TrafficSmart Passive Income, and David Risley. He showed both the blogger and those who watched the videos how they could increase conversions, which resulted in massive word of mouth from both the readers and his peers.

2011 was the year he spent working hard, and getting attention. I’m curious to see how he leverages his brand in 2012.

Jenny Blake

Jenny Blake is an authorblogger, life coach, and sought-after speaker who helps others “Wake up, live big! and love the journey.”  Jenny recently took her own great leap by leaving Google after five and a half years to pursue her passions full-time.

I’ve enjoyed watching Jenny evolve as she released her first book, Life After College, and expanded her digital offerings. She is fast approaching the end of her first year of self employment, and I think she’ll really start to shine during the latter half of 2012.

Yasmine Surovec

Yasmine is the creator of the popular web comic Cat Versus Human. She documents the everyday realities of living in a multi-cat household via a series of hilarious drawings. In late 2011, she released her first book, Cat vs. Human.

I read a lot of web comics, and I enjoy the fact that they don’t do many of the things that bloggers typically recommend. She has a cat’s bottom in her sidebar, a self-deprecating about page and a contact page that had me hunting for tin-foil. I think that we can all learn from her example and poke more fun at our work, while maintaining a growing brand.

Molly Mahar

Molly Mahar is the founder of Stratejoy, a positive corner of the Internet that provides thousands of women the tools, strategies, and camaraderie to lead authentically joyful lives. There are many career blogs targeted at people in their twenties, but hers is focused on helping people through their “quarter-life crisis.”

I think her blog is fantastic. She invites a number of people to blog for her for a “season,” so that readers can follow their journeys over a five-month period. It’s a great way to build community, encourage new voices and make sure her content is always interesting to that demographic. I’ve heard so many good things about her blog, and how it’s helped people.

Kristin Glenn and Shannon Whitehead

Kristin and Shannon started {r}evolution apparel, a sustainable fashion company based in America. They came up with the idea for their fashion line but knew they had a lot of work before it could reach the market, so they decided to blog about their journey. Thanks to their blogging and networking efforts, they’ve had massive success with their fundraising to launch their first product. At the time of writing, they have reached double their target for their kickstarter campaign and still have a week to go.

They focused on building their community while building their business. As a result, they had a lot of people willing to help them when they asked for support. Their story shows that you don’t need to wait until your product is ready to get your message out there.

Young House Love

Young House Love chronicles the story of two DIY dorks who are turning their house into a home, and sharing every detail as they learn. The content is great, but what I really loved was how they delved into their personal lives and shared the personality behind the bloggers. Their stories are compelling and somewhat harrowing, such as the details of their daughter’s traumatic birth.

I love how they’ve transformed a personal blog into an amazing resource. Look at how they changed the sidebars for the mood board section. They are incredibly savvy. Their work highlights the potential to build your brand beyond a blog, and shows how you can leverage your archives.

I’m embarrassed that it took me this long to discover Young House Love. I plan to spend many hours delving into the archives after finishing this post.

Lingerie Addict

Treacle is the founder of The Lingerie Addict. She started her site in 2008 because she couldn’t find any resources for people like herself—women on a budget who wanted honest, objective lingerie advice, reviews, and suggestions. She has since turned it into the #1 resource in her niche, attracting over 100,000 readers a month. In October, she quit her job to offer her consulting services.

I think Treacle has done an amazing job empowering women to embrace their body shape and buy underwear that makes them feel gorgeous.

Nerd Fitness

Steve Kamb is the founder of Nerd Fitness: a community for nerds, desk jockeys, and weekend warriors looking to level up their lives. He built up a strong following and has since expanded with Nerd Fitness Message Boards, a clothing range, and several useful products. He is a natural leader—just look at how he doesn’t pressure people to join his rebellion.

I enjoy his work because he is incredibly savvy, yet has a very friendly/casual tone on his blog. He makes new visitors feel very comfortable in a niche that can feel rather alienating.

Sarah Peck

Sarah describes herself as a storyteller who communicates ideas through words, pictures, and other visual media. Her blog, It Starts With, started as a column about making the transition to the professional world and finding out what’s important for you and your career. It has evolved into a blog on business, generating ideas, entrepreneurship, management, and design. She also leverages blogging for her professional work, and is the founder and editor of Landscape Urbanism.

Sarah emerged in the blogosphere early in 2011 and is shaping up to the one of most unique and inspiring voices online.  Her content is always thought-provoking and will force you to confront the challenge of executing your best ideas. She studies where great ideas come from and help individuals and businesses do great work. Every blogger has a tipping point and her post on 28 in 52 Notes made Sarah a blogger to keep an eye on 2012.

Tara Gentile

Tara Gentile is the editor of Scoutie Girl, a daily zine with the aim of getting you thinking about your creative life and the changing world around you, and the owner of a boutique web design business. She quickly built a reputation as a DIY lifestyle design expert. She has transitioned to consulting and writes about the philosophy of the new economy, creativity, social media, value and meaning, and wealth.

I really resonate with Tara. She has empowered a huge segment of the creative community to take pride in the marketing of their work. Her work has affected an entire industry. I can’t wait to see what she does in 2012.

Joel Runyon

A year ago, Joel was just a guy with an inspiring blog. He wasn’t satisfied with that. He expanded his original blog to create Impossible HQ, a hub that incorporates a separate motivational community, a T-Shirt line, and a manifesto. He also created a separate site, NerveRush, to cater to the adrenalin-seeking segment of his audience.

I think Joel is just getting started with what he has to offer. He is always adding new ways for his community to engage with his site and, as a result, is creating an increasingly passionate readership. I’m really excited to see where he takes the ‘Impossible’ brand in 2012.

More bloggers to watch

Want more? Take a look at these blogging round-ups:

And don’t forget to give us your suggestions in the comments!

Originally at: Blog Tips at ProBlogger

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20 Bloggers to Watch in 2012

December 31st 2011 Uncategorized

How To Track Emerging Search Engine Blekko In Web Analytics Systems

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More than a year has passed since search engine upstart blekko launched, yet Web marketing analysts using digital media measurement tools like Google Analytics won’t have seen any traffic attributed to blekko in organic search marketing reports. Instead, traffic supplied by blekko will show…

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December 31st 2011 Uncategorized