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Why My Love Affair with Alcohol Is Over

For as long as I can remember, alcohol has played some part in my life. My parents moved to a pub when I was very young, forming my earliest memories, and the school I went to was formed by a charity for publicans. House names were named after breweries and many of my friends were also from publican backgrounds.

Anyone that knows me, will likely be aware that I enjoy a drink. When I became of legal drinking age (definitely not before…) I would regularly be found in pubs and clubs at weekends. Truth is, I was always quite a shy character and it helped me a lot in social situations. In my old age, I became rather fond of quaffing the odd craft beer, fine wine or quality spirits.

So what’s changed? It’s been a gradual realisation over time. There isn’t one single reason for the change of heart, more a combination of various factors.

He Drinks What He Wants

It became more apparent as I became older and my tastes matured. As I’ve already alluded to, I genuinely enjoy the taste of certain alcoholic drinks. The problem is, despite the rise of craft beer, in the majority of social situations I find myself in, I’m unable to find alcohol that I do actually enjoy, rather than simply tolerating.

I love going to watch rugby and live music but the vast majority of venues only offer the alcoholic equivalent of McDonald’s. You know, the global, mass-produced, piss water that you find in horrendous chain pubs that pop up all over the shop.

Speaking of which, in other situations, you can’t always choose where you drink. Many of my friends simply have no interest in drinking anything with real flavour. Their choice of venue is dictated on other factors, such as ratio of male to female or proximity to where they live. I used to tolerate it and drink regardless, but my tolerance levels have dropped significantly and I ask myself, what’s the point? If you don’t enjoy something, why continue to do it?

Talking of Tolerance…

Perhaps the most obvious point; another thing that comes with age, is a lower tolerance of alcohol. Now, I’ve actually been very lucky when it comes to hangovers. I’ve escaped with far less than I deserve on numerous occasions. When I do get a hangover however, it’s usually the sort that completely ruins you for an entire day. The frequency with which these days occur, has increased considerably and I’m getting too old to waste entire days in bed.

It’s not just about the day after either. I’ve been known to be able to handle my alcohol pretty well, comparatively at least. I have played rugby and I am of a good size, so it kind of comes with the territory. Having lost about 3.5 stone this year, drinking less frequently and just being older, I find my tolerance levels and decision making skills suffer considerably.

It’s All About the Money

Living in London, inflation and being over generous after a few drinks, means that social nights out are really expensive! The days of 50p vodkas at the student union are long gone. Add in to this the cost of an Uber to the arse-end of North London and a night out ends up upwards of £100 each time.

Damaging More Than My Wallet

I mentioned earlier that I’ve lost over 3.5 stone so far this year. This is something that I’d like to maintain. I’ve been overweight my entire life and alcohol has undoubtedly contributed significantly to this. I’ve always been in the all or nothing mentality with it too. I can go weeks without a drink but then generally kick the backside out of it when I do. This quite clearly isn’t going to do me any favours in the long run.

It’s not just my physical health either. I’ve never made this publicly known before and it’s by no means debilitating like it is for others but I suffer from depression. Only a handful of people know this and I won’t dwell on this point, but increasingly alcohol has been a trigger for this and it not only increases the frequency but the length of time I suffer.

It’s Not You, It’s Me

Finally, I simply don’t NEED it any more. I’m not the shy kid that I used to be. I don’t feel awkward in social situations, I’m much more confident in my own skin and more in tune with who I am as a person. Don’t get me wrong, alcohol still works as a social lubricant. I’m undoubtedly a little more loose-lipped and you’re unlikely to persuade me to get up on the dance floor without it, but I think a lot of that is a confidence thing and something I can look to improve within myself, permanently, rather than temporarily.

Alcohol…what have you done for me lately?

It’s now been 2 months since I last had an alcoholic drink and quite honestly, I haven’t missed it at all. At this time of year, it certainly hasn’t been through a lack of opportunity either.

While 2 months isn’t a terribly long period of time to abstain, the ease of doing so is what has surprised me most. My willpower normally lets me down but saying no has been easy. Maybe I’m just getting more mature and I’m more aware of the impact it has on me. There will likely be situations in the future where the social pressures are stronger but hopefully those around me will understand my reasons why and support my decision.

The overwhelming feeling for me is that the benefits of drinking alcohol are now far outweighed by the negatives and like any relationship, when that happens, it’s time to say goodbye and move on. There have been some good times and there have been some bad. There has been laughter, there has been tears but it’s onwards and upwards from here on in.

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SEOProSco 4

Last night I had the pleasure of speaking at the 4th ever SEOProSco meetup. It was pleasing to see how the meetup has grown from the 2nd to the 4th event (I unfortunately missed the 3rd). Scotland has been lacking something like this for some time and I would highly encourage others to get involved. A massive thanks to Andrew Marshall and Nick Duddy for organising these events and for asking me along to speak.

My good friend and go to man for all things Social and Viral (marketing, he’s not riddled…) Andrew Burnett gave an excellent talk on ‘Why SEOs need to rethink what a link is, and, why Social Media bods need to forget about ‘engagement’ as the panacea social metric and start thinking like linkers. ‘ Some thought provoking stuff, particularly about how linking is not a new concept. Also a few laughs from the various images of links that were irrelevant to the links we immediately think of as SEOs, particularly the links sausage picture.

My talk was on using APIs and improving efficiency. It was mostly talking through my personal experiences but was hopefully of use to those who were watching. Here are the slides, though they are a little vague as I find it easier to talk with a cleaner slide deck. Andrew and Nick filmed the talk and it can be seen below:

Slides aren’t visible in the video but can be found here:

I also agreed to give a link to Mike Briggs for buying me a beer, so here it is 😉
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Market Samurai Tutorial

It’s perhaps not for large agencies, but the tool is great value for smaller outfits, including freelancers and affiliates.

Here’s a short tutorial highlighting some of the features along with a few examples. Note, my theme is pretty narrow, so just click the images for a bigger version.

When you start up the software, you’ll be presented with the following:

As you would expect from any tool, you can create and save projects, fairly standard. When selecting a new project, you have to provide a few details as to what your project is about. The keyword refers to the primary keyword that you are targeting for your project, the title is a description of the project and you define the language and region and whether or not you want to include adult content:

In the example above, I’ve chosen my target keyword as Hotels in Edinburgh (old habit from my first agency where we had plenty hotel clients) and the target language and region as English / UK. Once I hit create, I’m taken to the main part of the software with its different modules:

In case you’re wondering about the StomperNet logo, the software used to be offered for free to the StomperNet community, which wasn’t the cheapest to join in the first place. I’m sure a few old skool SEOs will be aware of it.

Rank Tracker

The first module, Rank Tracker, is fairly self-explanatory. As mentioned before, you get 50 keywords for free, which is pretty good for the service offered. There is a button to create a new campaign and again, you have to set a few options:

The region and language will be set automatically based on the global settings of the project, the only other option is which of the three major search engines you wish to track and also if you’d prefer to use Majestic SEO’s fresh, or historic data for backlink data.

Once this has done, you then need to add in domains and/or URLs that you wish to track and keywords, using the respective add buttons. Purely as an example, being a former client and the first domain that came to mind, I’ve added the domain www.apexhotels.co.uk and three keywords relating to “hotels in Edinburgh”.

Once added, Market Samurai then heads off and does its thing:

So there we are, it appears Apex aren’t doing as well as they were when I was in charge but that was over 4 years ago 😉 You are left with the current position, ranking page and the number of links to that page based on Majestic Fresh/Historic data, depending on which you chose. These keywords will then track over time in a set and forget manner, updating once a week.

The final, neat part, is you can see the history of each keyword in terms of ranking and backlinks over a set date period:

Obviously as I’ve just added this, there’s not much to show. 50 keywords may not be a lot, but the price plans for more are very reasonable and don’t forget the offer includes a lifetime discount on the various keyword tracking plans.

Keyword Research

The second element of Market Samurai is probably my most used feature and that is the keyword research functionality. The module uses the Google Adwords API and provides an extremely pain free way of using the Google Keyword tool. Provided you link it to an account that has Adwords, you’ll be able to get much more out of it than the regular Adwords keyword tool.

One neat feature is the permutations function, which will automatically add your keyword in all possible orders, i.e. if your seed keyword were Edinburgh hotels, it would add hotels Edinburgh.

You can limit the keywords by phrase length using a min/max between 1 and 10, which is very useful for finding popular long tail keywords, or indeed restricting it to head terms.

As with the Adwords interface, you can include additional keywords in the search, or only include those close to your original search.

Finally you can add positive and negative keywords to ensure your keyword generation definitely matches those you want to see. This is all illustrated below:

You’ll notice that I’ve added cheap and 3 star to the negative keyword list, which removed 52 from the list. For now, you can continue to filter out the keyword list as you so desire. As well as negative keywords, you can also include only those that match keywords in the positive column. In both cases, these can be added in a broad/phrase/exact match manner, which makes it extremely easy to filter down your list to only those that are relevant. Once you’re happy, you move on to the Keyword Analysis using the button in the bottom right.

Here, you can whittle down your list even further with a huge number of metrics to filter by:

Each one of the boxes in the top can be used as a filter. You can quickly reducee down the list of keywords to the most valuable with these filters. The current filters are the “Golden Rules”, a default filter in the module which include the filters set above, (i.e. minimum Local SEO Traffic of 1521 etc.) but you can create your own filters based on various min/max settings of all of the boxes above. Some metrics may not mean much and I’m not going to explain them here but it’s equally suitable for PPC people, as well as SEO. Among the more useful filters are competition filters, which compares the searches to the number of results for that term, which can include how many are targeting the term intitle.  You can also change the Match Type for search volume and whether the figures are per day, week, or month. Pretty powerful stuff, I’m sure you’ll agree.

While you’re restricted to the Adwords keyword tool limit of 800 keywords (or 100 if not logged in), you can use the Keyword Analysis part of the tool with a greater number, which makes it a very convenient way of gathering the estimated search volumes for > 800 keywords very quickly. Of course, your lists can then be exported to a CSV file for further analysis, should you desire.

Domain Finder

One feature I adore about this keyword tool is that it also has a built in exact match domain finder. Once you’ve selected the keywords you want, you can then click the find domains button. From here, your seed keywords will be added to the Domain finder tool. You can obviously go straight in to this tool and put in your seed keywords manually but you’ll likely want to see how valuable they are first of all. There are 3 filters that you can use. The first of which is domain variations, where you can add prefixes and suffixes that will be appended to your seed keywords to help find less obvious variations:

The second filter is a TLD filter, which is fairly self-explanatory:

Finally, you can choose whether or not to include domains with hyphens.

Once you hit Find domains, it goes off and looks to see what is available based on your filters. It will also give you a density based on how close to the original seed keyword it is:

Edinburghhoteldeals.co.uk isn’t the worst domain ever if anyone wanted it!

SEO Competition

Another incredibly useful function of the tool is the SEO Competition tool which will do a search for your target keyword and give useful information on the sites that are ranking in the top 10 for your target term:

The column headings are all explained at the top. This will give you an instant snapshot of how competitive a search term is with data from Majestic SEO (again, both fresh and historic are available). As you would expect, you can use the tool with custom URLs to compare against more direct competitors and also export the data to a spreadsheet.

There are four additional modules in the tool but if the four tools already described are well worth the entry fee alone. I’ll give a brief rundown of the other modules:

Monetisation

This allows you to search keywords within various affiliate networks, including Amazon, ClickBank, Commission Junction and PayDotCom with or without an account. These networks are obviously US centric, which is why I’ve not found much use for it.

Find Content

Search for content about your key term. Essentially a pretty quick way to find images, video and pre-existing textual content from article sites, Wikipedia, as well as Yahoo Answers and others. Not the most sophisticated scraper in the world but for the money you pay, not bad.

Publish Content

Push content to your WordPress blog direct from the tool…I’ve not found much use for this.

Promotion

Find places to put links to your content/site based on your target keyword. Essentially searches a variety of sources to place backlinks:

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Top 10 SEO Blog Posts of 2011

Yes, it’s that time of the year where everyone feels the need to publish lists of their favourite blogs and blog posts in the vain hope that someone will give them links/tweets/kudos. So without further ado, here is mine:

  1. Big Brand SEO – Campaigns, Integration and Extended Brand Keywords
  2. To Build or not to Build
  3. ?
  4. ?
  5. ?
  6. ?
  7. ?
  8. ?
  9. ?
  10. ?

Additional positions available at a cost of £100

And I think we’re done here 😉

 

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An Open Letter to the Music Industry

Dear Recording Artists and Record Labels,

Reading articles like this really gets on my nerves. Spotify, believe it or not, is actually trying to help the music industry, not hinder it.

Road signing directing to the future

Get with the times!

People don’t always require the need for a physical copy of music, or indeed like sifting through files and ensuring they have enough space on their computer. Spotify isn’t just a cheap way of getting music, it’s also convenient. It’s probably not for everyone and a lot of people I know wouldn’t do without a download or even a physical copy of the music but for me, it’s perfect. Further to this I probably experiment a lot more with music on Spotify than I normally would, meaning I’m more likely to listen to more artists who I may not otherwise have heard of.

Let’s get down to the maths:

Artists reportedly earn 20cents for every iTunes download and 0.3cents for every play on Spotify. You may get more initial revenue from iTunes but in 67 plays of a track, you’ll have earned more.

Over the course of a lifetime, I’ll likely listen to your track more than 67 times and will be less inclined to acquire it illegally. In fact, there are plenty of tracks I’ve listened to more than 67 times already from looking at my last.fm stats. Back in my student days, I may have acquired a few albums by dubious means but since Spotify, this has reduced to 0. Support it or just fail miserably.

Note, I don’t actually care about Coldplay or Adele. I’d rather poke myself in the eye than listen to that miserable so-and-so or warbling, overplayed, woman.

Love from,

Richard