Be Wary of FREE

Free isnt always Free
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I like free things just like anyone else, but in my 34 years of living on this planet I have learned that with Free there is always a cost. Anytime a business offers something for free there should be a financial incentive for them to do so. A Lawyer offers a free consultation knowing that a percentage of those consults will become customers. A car wash offers free gas with purchase because they have offset the costs.

Be Aware

These are obvious examples of where the business is incentivising potential customers with a Free offer so that they can grow their business. Other times it can be more subversive and more difficult to identify where the business is getting a benefit.
This morning as I perused the daily deluge of email newsletters for online advertising I saw this “New [PPC Management Company] tool to map keywords for performance”. The article talks about Wordstream’s new service which analyses your Adwords account and tells you all sorts of neat things about it. Seeing as how I like Free and also have many AdWords accounts that can always use more analysis I went to the [PPC Management Company] site to learn more.

The first question in my head is: “How will [PPC Management Company] be able to see what is happening in my Adwords account?” This was quickly answered when they asked for my Adwords username and password. Naturally I am not going to be giving that info over to anyone without some type of contract in place to keep them from going to town on my account and credit cards. In order to get the Free analysis you have to give them the keys to your business. Big red flag moment.


The lesson learned here is to always be interested in Free offers but be just as wary of what you have to give up. In this case while you might get a free analysis of your PPC campaign you are also completely opening up your business to severe damages. If you need analysis of your business I suggest talking with a person rather than blindly handing over the keys and hoping for the best.


As a footnote here the WordStream page that asks for your very sensitive Adwords account information is not even HTTPS. This means that you are sending a 3rd party access to your Adwords account with zero encryption so anyone who wants to watch the packets from this page can also gain access to your Adwords account.

Since [PPC Management Company] is an Adwords certified partner, as indicated all over their website, I would think that Google would have a problem with this practice. What do you think about Free offers like this one?

Finding your everyday Creativity

A common struggle that myself, my colleagues, and my clients have is to find new ways of being creative on continuous and daily basis. This struggle lies in the reality that we have busier schedules and more channels of distraction vying for our attention on a continual basis.

The key to finding new ways of being creative lies in streamlining our daily routines and choosing to ignore or filter various distractions. Leaving us with the time and space to focus on new and creative ideas. As we continue to build the information economy we need to understand that our creative drive is going to be what sets us apart in the marketplace. A chef who video blogs their specials each day is showing us that they love food. A lawyer who give us analysis of local events is showing their ability to communicate clearly. A marketer who talks about their techniques is going to get their foot in the door without having to pitch anything.

The more we understand that creativity is what makes us unique the more we will enjoy what we do for a living. In this article I want to review some ideas for finding the space and getting to our creative side by reviewing daily routines and various distractions.

The daily routine jailhouse

Every day we wake up and we begin some sort of routine. Whether it’s immediately hopping in the shower, getting coffee going, starting breakfast, checking e-mail, etc. You name it and there’s any number of routines that we begin as soon as we wake up. For the rest of the day we fall into some sort of routine. We go to our job, we go to lunch, we go out after work, we go to dinner, we read a book, we watch TV, and we go to bed. Inside of this entire routine and process there are gaps where we can either choose to stick within the routine or find a space to be creative and get out of the routine.

Personally I find that my creativity levels are highest in the morning, unfortunately I am not a morning person. One thing that I have found is that I need to set aside time in the morning to focus on writing an article like this one before getting into the daily routine. I do find that doing some sort of exercise such as yoga or running or riding my bike before the creative process is very helpful.

For some people the morning might not be a good time. If you have children or have an early job you’re not going to be able to assign time in the morning for this. Where else can you be looking? At lunch hour maybe you eat quicker at the beginning and then you have some time after eating where you can sit and you work on your writing. Same thing goes in the evening: rather than reading that book or watching TV instead you take the time to do some writing.

SADD: Societal Attention Deficit Disorder

We live in the age of cable TV, online video streaming, billions of websites, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and the iPad to name a few. Our attention has never been more easily distracted before and consequently our ability to find time to focus on creative endeavors has become that much more difficult. As a society we have a large emphasis on what’s on TV what happened on the show last night or did you see what the latest crazy celebrity did. To put it bluntly this is SADD and acceptance is the first step to recovery.

My suggestion would be to take a notebook and track through your day when you are finding yourself distracted.
For example:

  • When are you logging into Facebook or Twitter?
  • When are you going to to look at the latest news?
  • When are you going on the Netflix?
  • When are you turning on the television?

All of these are distractions and sideshows that are keeping you from focusing on becoming creative. Take a week of tracking down these activities and see where are the different places that you’re allowing your attention to be drawn and how much time you’re spending with each one. The results will shock you. The amount of time that you are spending on nonproductive activities is going to be higher than you probably suspected.

Focusing your creative time

Once you’ve found these gaps in your daily routine and in your SADD where you can plug in your creative endeavors you need to focus on what you want to be creative about. Just as our attention is easily diverted by any number of distractions so can our creative focus.. Personally I love shiny things. Meaning I enjoy philosophizing about everything and anything under the sun and especially if it has nothing to do with what my business. By looking at my creative time with a specific intent i will be able to create articles and videos that apply to my business. This in turn will allow customers to see the variety of things I bring to the table and give me a call.

Look at your business and create a list of what sets your company apart from the competition. If you have a hard time with this then look at your competition and see what they do well and not so well. Create a list of those things and then how you might do them better or different. Then use those lists to create content that will capture your customers attention and get them to call you.

You have more time than you think to be creative. Find the time and then focus on what you want to be creative about. If there isnt an immediate business application thats okay too. The key is to build your confidence in your creative capabilities and see where it takes you.

What do you think? How do you find time to be creative? Has it helped?

Become a Google Analytics Master, or at least a Good Grasshopper

Google Analytics is your Map for Online Success

Google Analytics is your Map for Online Success
Google Analytics is your Map for Online Success
If you don’t know about Google Analytics and have a website then consider yourself on alert. Even if you have an analytics program installed on your website it probably doesn’t do anything nearly as impressive as what GA’s startup page does. Considering that its free and super easy to install and use you should be kicking yourself for not knowing what it is or having used it for the last 5+ years. From a practicality standpoint GA gives you not only the ability to see what is happening on your website, it lets you interpret it into something meaningful from a business perspective.

Recently I started reading Web Analytics 2.0: The Art of Online Accountability and Science of Customer Centricity and had my eyes opened. For at least 5 years I have been using GA but was barely scratching the surface of what it had to offer. Then WA 2.0 introduced me to Segmentation which is to process of breaking down user activities by various actions. For example if I only want to see what traffic to a blog is going I can create a segment that only looks at traffic going to and from there I can analyze just Blog Traffic for things like keywords, most popular landing page, etc. I cannot recommend this book enough, go and get it now! (Disclamer on the link above: If you buy via that link I may make a nickel or two.)

Another GA topic I was recently introduced to is Alerts. In GA you can create Alerts to shoot you an email when various things happen on your website. Things like: surge in traffic, drop in traffic, drop in Google traffic, etc. This allows you to stay focused on new things while having a nice safety net in place in case things go wrong. A great article from Rebecca Lehmann on SEOMoz last Month gives you 7 excellent alerts and super easy links to add them to your GA account with.

How about you? Do you have any special secrets that everyone else should be using for Google Analytics?