Some Thoughts From Life’s Halfway Point

Well I don’t feel any different.

I’ve turned 40 today and I feel pretty good overall.

I don’t have any major health problems, life is going decent in general and I have lots of great family and friends.

I really can’t complain, and yet here I go!

Just kidding, but I do want to touch on a few topics and generally ramble on if you’ll permit an old man. ;)

Healthwise, turning 40 isn’t all that different from 35 or 30. It’s just that little tiny things keep creeping up on you. A creak here, a pain there, the ability to recover from a drinking binge keeps lessening. Overall your mutant healing power keeps on reducing.

I suppose I’m rather lucky and I thank the gods for my genes. I have most of my hair (allow me to knock on some wood) and people tell me I’m holding up rather well. I guess I have to thank my Dad’s side for some of that, although the Monahan family has a tendency to start balding rather young. The Kerns side is where I get the head of hair apparently.

But hair is a small thing in the grand scheme of things. Many of us have to deal with much more problematic stuff like, oh say, dying. There are so many people I know that have kicked the bucket before their 40th year.

I lost a really good friend last year and it was tough. It was a gut punch that hit me hard. But it was also sort of a wake up call. A lesson that I need to appreciate everyone in my life and to spend my time wisely.

It just goes to show that life is short. If you’re not doing stuff that makes you happy right now, what are you doing with your time?

What are you put here on earth to do? As Andy Dufresne said in The Shawshank Redemption, “Get busy living or get busy dying”.

But overall life is going great for me.

I have lots of great family. I’m lucky and count my blessings frequently that I don’t have a lot of assholes in the family. I have lots of people that I truly love to spend time with. There’s also lots of people I can go to for advice and guidance.

I also have lots of great friends and I’m not sure what I did to deserve them. Boy do I have them snowed over! If you asked me the main reasons I have so many great friends, it’d be because I try to espouse the virtues in books like “How To Win Friends and Influence People“. Really it boils down to being completely honest, being nice, and genuinely wanting to help people. That’s it. Being a complete goofball, well that probably helps by keeping the riffraff and ones with the sticks up their butts at bay.

That’s another piece of life advice. Keep those people who are so serious about life at a distance. They’re no fun and will bring you down. Stay childlike at heart and having fun, because well, it’s just more fun that way.

About my wife, well she’s just amazing. We’re not married by the governments definition and that’s ok because screw them and their rules about marriage. But we’re partners in this thing called life and she’s more than I could have ever asked for. We always have fun and are great for each other. We’ve learned to minimize our arguments and quickly forgive each other. (Another piece of advice there: you’re GOING to have arguments with anyone you live with for an extended period of time, so get used to it and get over them quickly!)

My job is going pretty well. I work freelance and can set my own hours. I can pretty much call the shots, which is all I’ve ever wanted. I’ve made some stuff I think is really cool, and I have at least 9 more months of savings to keep at it. Hopefully I’ll find ways to make more money and extend that out further and further, but if not, I’ll find a job where I can learn a bunch about something new.

I don’t have kids and I’m ok with that. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely LOVE kids and being around them. But I don’t need my own kids to raise. There are plenty of other kids around that need love. Also I’m “Uncle John” to a great many children and I barely have the time to spend with all of them. If I had kids my responsibilities would grow and it would subtract from all the other stuff I want to do. If I go through this life without having kids, that’s fine. I spread my wisdom and thoughts in other ways that will outlast me.

Looking at myself in the mid-point of life from my teenager perspective, I’d say I’m rocking it out pretty well. I’m living by my own standards, able to forge my own destiny and design the sort of work I want to do. That’s pretty cool.

I’m a lucky guy, and if I were to die tomorrow I’d have no regrets. Of course, I have a ton of stuff I want to do so I hope I’m healthy well into my 80s!

Of course 40 is nothing more than a number, a mile marker, and no one can make you feel old so don’t let them. But it’s nice to be wise and take all your failures and everything you’ve learned and apply that with a fervency to life. I suggest that everyone do that. Constantly be learning and open to new things. Constantly examine your life and how you’re spending your time. And if you’re not doing what you want to be, then figure out just how in the hell to get there.

A heartfelt thanks to everyone in my life for being there! I love you all.

Now let’s head to Beedubs and have some drinks!

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Site Case Study: A Great Example of SEO Success

A friend of mine made a really nice site. He’s a younger guy and had to make something for a final project before graduation at Full Sail University.

The site is kickasshumor.com:

Screen Shot 2013-10-29 at 10.27.56 AM

The content is fairly straightforward – some adult humor that might be considered unacceptable by some. Me, however, I love it :)

For instance:

When the zombie apocalypse finally happens, I’m moving to Washington D.C. I figure the lack of brains there will keep the undead masses away.

It’s the content that drives the site, but that’s not really what I want to talk about.

The point is that you could build a site like this around anything and be successful with it.

This site is all custom-coded because my friend was learning as he did it. But you don’t have to do that. There’s so much out there to give you most of what you need to build a similar site in content management systems such as Drupal or WordPress.

Once you have it built, you’d have to promote it a bit. He had some links to it from YouTube which helped to jumpstart it.

This site works because it’s a clean and simple design, it loads quickly, and it’s very specific. People get what it’s about at a glance. If you like dirty, funny jokes then you instantly know this site is for you.

Speaking of “funny jokes”, that’s one of the keywords the site ranks really well for. People don’t really search for “kickass jokes” that much, but at least the “jokes” keyword is there in the title. Nowadays having the keyword in the domain doesn’t matter as much (ever since the exact match domain update) but it’s still kind of nice to have part of the keyword.

He does pretty well on traffic and ads as well. However – one big warning here is that site content matters.

He was originally using Google Adsense. Adsense is pretty picky about the sort of content that the ads go on, and apparently they didn’t like some of the nasty jokes. (Yes, Google is smart enough to tell racist & insulting jokes!)

So after being banned from Google Adsense, he switched to a different ad network, one that works on all sorts of sites, even porn sites. (I think he said that sometimes the ads get a little risque, so that could be good or bad depending on your audience.) The new ad network does ok but it doesn’t make nearly the amount of money that Adsense does.

Also, the recent Google Hummingbird update cut his traffic into a third. What I think is that Google devalues little bits of content – all he has are short jokes. Users add jokes all the time, so it’s getting fresh content; it’s just little one-liners or one or two paragraph things. Also, it’s possible that these jokes aren’t unique – that they exist elsewhere on the web, and that the site doesn’t really have that much unique content. That might’ve been ok before Hummingbird, but now “The Algorithm” is smarter.

One thing I mentioned to him is that he could add several blog posts of related content about jokes and see how that helps out. As we know, Google loves good, fresh, related content.

That’s it! What would be some other types of content to build a similar site around? Have you had similar successes or failures? What else could be done to improve this site?

 

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You Have To Build Backlinks In SEO

For a long time I’ve promoted the fact that content was the most vital part of SEO. It’s true that it’s very important, but my views on it have changed as of late.

Obviously everything goes together in the mix, in the ghoulash of stuff that makes up your search rankings. Content, the way your site is built, and backlinks are the big three.

But none of these can work on their own apart from the others. And content is no more important than the others. In fact, if I had to pick one that was most important, I’d say it was backlinks.

I wish that it wasn’t. If Google was doing their job right, then a kick ass site with awesome content should rank well without having ANY backlinks. But you can have a site with great content (and tons of it) and not get ANY rankings in Google for years if you don’t have backlinks.

It sucks. And you’ve got to play the game to compete with other SEOs. You’ve got to do backlinking if you’re doing SEO.

You might be lucky and be working on a site that already has a lot of backlinks, is an established site already. In that case, great – you don’t necessarily need to build any more backlinks, you can focus on content and site tweaks. But you’ve GOT to have those backlinks.

It’s a sort of proof for Google, but it’s a double-edged sword for them. They’ve sort of painted themselves into a corner in saying that backlinks count as votes towards your site. Now they have the unenviable task of figuring out which of those votes mean anything.

And we who do SEO are left to build backlinks the best we can. Whether the methods we use are completely white hat, black hat or somewhere in between is for each of us to decide, but build backlinks we must!

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Tornado Activity Map – And Where To Live!

This is some really cool stuff. This graphic shows the tracks of tornadoes over the past 56 years. You can see that they mostly originate starting in the midwest.


Perhaps the winds/jetstream across the US needs some room to really get going, or maybe something about being near water on the West coast limits the amount of tornadic activity.

Also, check out southeast Ohio. That’s where there’s lots of hills and forested area. Then look at Buffalo, NY – it’s right at the northeast part of Lake Erie. We don’t have info from Canada, but you can see that tornadoes don’t hit to the east of Lake Erie. It’s likely that the lake itself protects Western New York from tornados. Just south of the lake in the southern tier there’s a lot more activity.

Also, in the hilly, mountainous regions, mainly the Alleghenies, there’s little tornado activity. Now you can plan where you might want to live if you’re afraid of tornados!

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An SEO Keyword Research Tip Using Google Analytics

If you’re doing keyword research, sometimes it can be really tough to find a good keyword to start with. Some industries are really competitive and others it’s very hard to find a keyword that has enough searches done to make it worth targeting.

Whatever the case, one tip is that you can find some keyword ideas in your Google Analytics. (If you don’t use Google Analytics to track your site’s visitor information, other software will work too.)

Log into Google Analytics and go to Traffic Sources -> Search -> Organic. (If you get a lot of searches, you’ll probably want to change “Show rows” to 250 or something higher so you can see a ton of results at once.)

You can comb the incoming search terms used to find you to find interesting terms or to give you ideas. The idea here is that there may be some terms you hadn’t really thought of that your site is already being ranked for. They may be high-quality terms that you can increase your search rankings on. For instance:

 

What I do is make a list of keyword phrases from Google Analytics, then tweak them with variations. I.E. if I found “bike shops in Ohio” I might add “bike shops ohio” and “Ohio bike shops” to my list. Then head over to the SEOmoz Keyword Difficulty Tool and plug in 5 terms at a time there. I usually look for something under 40-45% difficulty with decent traffic. Sometimes you can find some gems in the 20-30% range that you know you can rank for pretty quickly, like within a week or two. The big bonus here is that you’re obviously already ranking for this term, you just need to do better at it!

There are many ways of brainstorming keywords and otherwise doing keyword research for SEO, but combing your Google Analytics is a very helpful method!

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Some SEO Keyword Research Brainstorm Ideas

Keyword research is a crucial component of doing SEO work. You’ve got to narrow down and find the best keyword phrases to target before you really dig in to doing any other SEO work.

SEOMoz’s Keyword Difficulty tool is great for determining the difficulty of ranking for a keyword as well as the amount of traffic (roughly) that keyword gets on a monthly basis.

However, the most difficult part of keyword research can be brainstorming the actual keywords. Compiling a big list is a start and then you can throw them into the Keyword Difficulty tool.

I also like to look at competitors and look at what META keywords they have (if they still use that tag). You can also plug a competitor’s URL into Open Site Explorer  (another SEOMoz product) and look at the keywords in the backlinks.

Yet another way to brainstorm keywords is to plug a couple of your main, more generic keywords into a Google search. Down at the bottom you might get a “related searches” – if you do, these are usually some great ideas to research further. For instance:

In my case, this helps me refine & get more variance for my "iso 13485" keyword. Now I could plug "iso 13485 certification" into the Keyword Difficulty tool and see if that would be a good target or not.

Hope this helps! Do you have other ingenious ideas to do keyword research brainstorming?

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Google’s Penguin Update Punishes Spammy SEOs – Yay!

So Google rolled out a new algorithm change on April 24th called “Penguin”. It was geared towards providing better search results (always their goal) but more specifically to punish spam sites that over-optimize and do things like keyword stuff content & submitting spun articles to various places around the web.

Awww... idn't he cute?

The update affected around 3.1% of all Google searches, which is a ton but still not as big as the Panda update. Even so, tons of people are PISSED about their sites dropping in the rankings.

To which I say, “Pbbbbbrrrrrt!”.

I have one site that jumped up in the rankings pretty well on the day of the Penguin update. I’d been adding custom content for a long time and working hard at it. Now, I’d also been submitting some spun articles to gain backlinks as well – which is something that’s on Google’s Penguin shit list.

Apparently I either didn’t do enough spammy backlinking or I did it well enough that they couldn’t discover it. In any case, The Algorithm now likes that site much better than it had.

None of my other sites (work or personal) seemed noticably affected. Perhaps that’s part of the reason I hadn’t even heard of the Penguin update until now (a week after it went live).

Ok, this has got to be my favorite penguin of all time. Click the image if you don't know about Opus.

I think the moral here is this:

You can still do a little bit of grey hat spammy SEO – just so long as you’re not overdoing it. If you keep adding fresh, good, relevant content you will do good in the SERPs.

Google’s “Do No Evil” rep has lost it’s tarnish, but I think this update at least is a good thing. Screw the SEO spammers & reward those who are creating good content. When that happens, the searchers are happy and the people making good content are happy. Everybody happy! Except the bastard spammy SEO people.

And hey, I can be a spammy SEO guy at times, but it’s only because I’ve been forced to do so just to compete with the other guys. I’m perfectly happy if that game gets diminished somewhat and the winners are the good guys.

Good on ya, Google. (This time.)

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How To Make A YouTube Embed Link Autoplay

If you’re embedding Youtube videos or linking to them using something like Thickbox or Lightbox, here’s how to have them autoplay.

Basically you need to add the code: autoplay=1

So consider a link like this:

<a href=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/xcgn7SLp-RA?autoplay=1&keepThis=true&TB_iframe=true&height=315&width=560″ …

The autoplay=1 needs to come DIRECTLY after the Youtube link. What this is saying is that the “?” means there are variables coming. Then the variables are separated by “&”. So it’s the link, then the ?, & (or “and” a variable), & and another variable and so on.

Note that autoplay=true will not work – it neesd to be autoplay=1.

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The Basics About Ron Paul And Libertarianism

What follows is an overview of what Ron Paul is all about and what Libertarians are in a nutshell. Gary Johnson also fits the description below.

(It was originally for a friend’s classroom of kids but I wanted to post it here as well. Feel free to re-use or repurpose it as you see fit)
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I guess the main thing is that Dr. Paul’s political positions don’t put him exactly on the Left or the Right. Some might say his positions are all over the map, but that’s only because they don’t understand where he’s coming from. Ron Paul’s views all come from the Constitution; he didn’t just think them up on his own. (You could even call Ron Paul and people like him “Constitutionalists”.)

Our Constitution is a very simple document that limits the power of government. It outlines what government (mostly central, i.e. federal government) can do for us and can’t do *TO* us. Back in the day we were very afraid of a monarch ruling over us so our Founding Fathers went to great lengths to make sure government could never do that again.

Our Founding Fathers believed that, without control, government would grow like a beast to seek more and more power, which would mean more taxes, more departments and more money for those in Congress (sound familiar?)

They knew that there are really only 2 forms of government, a Republic (rule of law) or an Oligarchy (rule by a group or family); all other forms of government are temporary and eventually morph into one of these. The Constitution was a document intended to keep us a Republic for as long as possible.

Once you understand these things, you can see that the views of a Constitutionalist all adhere to the same thing. Another widely held view is that the Government doesn’t do things efficiently; it spends money like it grows on tree and has many layers of unnecceasry beauracracy and waste. Ron Paul believes that the private sector can do things more efficiently and the role of government is to foster a fertile ground for the private sector to flourish.

Now here are some more specific things that someone like Ron Paul would do:

  • Eliminate or drastically reduce funding from different Federal government departments like the FDA, the Department of Homeland Security, the EPA, the CDC and more.
  • Eliminate the Income Tax and abolish the Internal Revenue Service
  • Cut the Department of Defense’s budget by 15% or more
  • Bringing overseas troops home immediately and only fight wars that are Constitutionally declared by Congress
  • Eliminate foreign aid (the belief is that most foreign aid doesn’t help the people it’s intended for but instead goes to the rich or those who control that country)
  • Stop the war on drugs and instead regulate and tax a drug like Marijuana
  • Eliminate governments role in Health Care (This is a complex issue and it’s hard to get into every issue in-depth here – but check out http://www.ronpaul.com/on-the-issues/health-care/ – the gist is that private entities can do a better job for cheaper than a government-mandated system that covers everyone for everything.)

Some things that are interesting and very different about Paul are his personal views versus what he would do. For instance, he is personally against Abortion, however he thinks that the Federal government shouldn’t mandate an anti-abortion stance across the country. Abortion is a very sticky issue for many people with layers of complexity. Therefore it’s something that should be decided at the State level. (Some issues are so tricky that they can be pushed even more locally and decided at the city or town level.)

Early in our Republic, the idea was that the different States would be a sort of testing ground, and each one would have their own laws and would only very loosely be governed by the Federal government. That way if you didn’t like guns, or abortion, or wanted a State that had no taxes, you could live in that State. And if a State lost a huge population, they would have to “correct” the laws that made people leave in order to entice people to come back. The Federal government was there mainly for defense against other countries and dealing with them.

Another huge part of Ron Paul’s views are that of sound money. Our money used to be backed by the gold standard, but as of 1971 our money is essentially worthless (known as a “fiat currency”). We used to be able to take our money to a bank and trade in a dollar for a dollar’s worth in gold or silver. Nowadays, a dollar is worth… well, whatever we think it’s worth. This allows our Federal Reserve to print more and more money which devalues the money we have. And the Federal Reserve is not a Federal entity – it’s actually a private bank!

So whenever you hear about “ecomonic stimulus”, when a President is trying to kick the economy into gear, it’s really just the Federal Reserve getting the printing presses going and giving the money to banks at the highest levels. They hope that it trickles down and gets loaned out but there’s nothing that proves this works. It does, however lead to massive inflation and reduced purchasing power of our dollar.

Ron Paul believes that the ONLY way to have a good economy and reduce our deficit spending is to go back to a system of sound money; one that is backed by a commodity like silver or gold. The first step is to get a thorough audit of the Federal Reserve. (Would you believe that we have very little accounting of how much money they’re even printing?) If you control a nation’s economy, you can control that nation’s government, and this is perhaps THE fundamental issue facing our country right now.

So to sum up, Ron Paul believes in limited central government and the cause of Liberty. Stolen from someone else (http://www.lewrockwell.com/paul/paul734.html):

“Liberty means to exercise human rights in any manner a person chooses so long as it does not interfere with the exercise of the rights of others. This means, above all else, keeping government out of our lives. Only this path leads to the unleashing of human energies that build civilization, provide security, generate wealth, and protect the people from systematic rights violations. In this sense, only liberty can truly ward off tyranny, the great and eternal foe of mankind.”

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Further reading: What Would Really Happen If Ron Paul Were To Be Elected President?
http://www.lewrockwell.com/sardi/sardi192.html

 

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The ONLY SEO Guide you will ever need!

Here it is, are you ready for it?

1. Publish great content.
2. Repeat step 1.

This is obviously tongue-in-cheek, but you could do much worse. Sure, you can do a lot more but if you don’t know SEO, don’t have the time to research it, or the money to pay an SEO expert, then publish great content, day after day. The search engines will reward you.

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