Monday, February 28, 2011

Google's Recent Algorithm Change Resets Playing Field

As a web marketer, I know the value of ranking high in Google's search rankings.  A simple shift in position can result in the loss or gain of tens of thousands of visitors a month.  Hence, a lot of time is spent by companies to optimize their sites to appear higher in Google search rankings.  This is difficult as Google doesn't share the specifics of their algorithm, and while Search Engine Optimizers know things like number of inbound links will be good for them, they don't know most of the hundreds (thousands?) of variables like the optimal numeric use of keywords on a page, for example. 

Google has been active in changing their algorithm in the past, and made a major change last week in an effort to drive better results for their users' searches.  Unfortunately for some sites (The Huffington Post being one of the more higher profile), their SEO activity was penalized in Google's most recent release.  Likewise, two major retailers (JC Penney and Overstock) were found to be acquiring inbound links in a fashion that Google deemed inappropriate and contrary to their Webmaster Guidelines, with both being issued Google's "death penalty," - both have basically been buried in search results. 

This action will literally cost each company millions.  Some in the SEO and business community bemoan Google changing their algorithm, as even slight shifts can have massive impact in website performance.  To them, I say "tough bounce."  The Webmaster Rules are fairly clear, and should you choose to tread into a grey or black area, you'll eventually be found out and punished.  As you're not paying Google for the service of appearing in their natural rankings, they owe you nothing, and you'll be the one that needs to explain to your stockholders what happened (and in JCP's case, blame all of it on their agency while unbelievably disavowing any knowledge of how their SEO rankings got so good so quickly).  Those of us playing the game correctly by building our content appropriately will ultimately leapfrog you in the rankings, and will ultimately reap our rewards.      

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Rockford Hideaway

The city of Rockford, IL has taken advantage of their notoriety as the home for coward and negligent politicians and turned it into a great opportunity to talk about their location from a tourism perspective.  And Rick Nielsen steals the show

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Summit Brewing Company Beer Dividend

My dad, for a portion of his career, was a very successful investment banker. He helped companies in their merger and acquisition activities, and also helped to take private companies public. Many times, as a form of compensation, dad received equity in these transactions. At times these became worthless, as the companies didn’t thrive and failed, but sometimes things worked out extremely well. 

One such instance was capitalization of Summit Brewery. The stock of this company is now privately held and employee-owned, and dad maintained his stake in his portfolio ever since the initial transaction. Prior to dad’s passing, this stock was transferred to mom, and she’s held it ever since. 

About a year ago, mom let me know that as a stockholder, she has access to two free cases of beer from them every month, as a “beer dividend.” She wanted to know if I was interested. Uh, free beer? Strike that, free Summit beer? Yeah. I’m interested. 

I asked the details behind the whole situation and found out the history. So for years and years our family had access to this benefit, and I just found out about it. Unbelievable. Dad was never a beer drinker, so I’m sure such a dividend meant nothing to him, thus it was easy to forget. Had it been for brandy, Irish whiskey or something like that, he’d have been all over it. Alas, the dividend was also “use or lose,” so there was no option to recover all of the years that we missed. The only thing I could do was to take advantage of it as much as we possibly could. 

I was recently in the Twin Cities for a research project, and my time happened to coincide with a dividend day, so I paid a trip to my favorite brewery.  As it was President's Day, I called ahead to make sure that it was indeed dividend day (their schedule can change due to holidays.)  The nice receptionist informed me that yes, it was that special day, but unfortunately all they had was Pilsener.  You can read the reviews here

Only Pilsener, huh?  It will be hard, but I guess I'll be able to make due.  

Thanks, dad.  While you were a decade or so late (hello - your son likes beer) I appreciate the fruits of your hard work nonetheless.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Ever Wanted to Fly Like a Bird?

Check out this incredible footage.  The life that resides here on this planet is remarkable.


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Revelations from the Battle of Madison

The situation in the capitol of our newly adopted state is totally in flux.  The Battle of Madison is the first skirmish in what will be a war to reign in unsustainable entitlements.  And what have those for continuation of our economic demise shown themselves to be?   

First, hypocrites. 

Second, with the prevalence of the “sick out,” liars. 

Third, abject frauds.

In no other job in the private sector can you have a fully funded pension, a fully funded heath program, job protection via tenure regardless how horrible your performance, and the ability to skip your work, lie about it, and commit a fraud all without fear of reprisal. 

How is this fair?  Anyone in the private sector that did this would be fired in a New York minute. 

Keep it up, unions.  What you’re really about is on display for the whole world to see, and those of us that pay your salaries have had enough.  Soon you will be welcomed back to the real world with the rest of us.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Jeopardy's Watson Computer Kicks Butt

Watson, the IBM computer currently competing on Jeopardy, is doing some amazing stuff.  This is especially significant when you consider the storied histories of its human competitors. 

The competition (quickly turning into a rout), has propelled Jeopardy to their highest ratings in years.  Indeed, it is a sight to see.

Here's a really good background on the technological competitor:

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Restaurant Reivew - Lotus Asian Restaurant, Green Bay

I love Thai food.  More than that, I LOVE Pad Thai.  The only problem is that a Pad Thai recipe is a lot like a Bloody Mary recipe - when it is good it is outstanding, but when it is bad (which is more often than not), the disappointment lessens a nice time out. 

When I was here in Green Bay on my own last fall, I ordered take-out Thai from a local restaurant (which will remain nameless), and the Pad Thai I received was nearly inedible.  I began to wonder if Green Bay had a good solution for Thai food, when I happened to drive past the Lotus Asian Restaurant off of Military Avenue. After cajoling my wife for a couple of weeks (she's not a fan of very spicy food), I finally got her to agree to go there to dinner with me last night.  Judging by other reviews I've read on the place, I held out hope that this would be my Thai restaurant solution in Green Bay. 

We started with an order of Thai Spicy Wings, which were the prefect combination of spice, heat, crunch, and flavor.  Just these alone were worth the trip, but for me the true test was ahead.  Fortunately, the Pad Thai more than passed the test - it was outstanding.  Not the best I ever had, but easily in the top five.  Just a great mix of spice, heat, and a hint of sweet.  I also ordered the Pad Prik Khing, a spicy green bean dish, which was done perfectly, with the green beans retaining some crunch, while making my nose run due to the spicy heat.  My wife ordered a traditional Chinese meal of Cashew Chicken which was also very, very good. 

Portions were large (we came home with two containers that will be at more than one more meal for two), and the service, while a touch slow, could not have been more friendly.  It felt great to be in a place with such welcoming, happy, and friendly folks.  The restaurant itself is a touch small, but well appointed, complete with a small bar and flat screen TVs for the sports fan.  Also, they do deliver, so that's an option as well. 

Overall, it was a really nice evening out, and will likely be added to our restaurant rotation.     

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Vikings 2010 Ultimate Embarrassment

Pictures speak louder than words:

What the hell happened to my once-proud franchise? 

Minnesota better find a way to get a stadium deal done.  They need only watch what happens to Minneapolis again this summer when the Twins are in town for any fortitude they need to invest in a source of economic gain and civic pride.

This just turns my stomach... 

Friday, February 11, 2011

Our Last Chapter "Closed" (and Not a Moment Too Soon)

We finally got word that the sale of our house has closed.  The odyssey of my job change and our move has finally closed its final chapter. 

And not a moment too soon. 

The StarTribune reports today that Twin Cities home prices continue to free fall.  Here’s an extract:

During the quarter, home values fell 12 percent in the Twin Cities metro area compared to the prior year, and Zillow said it was one of the worst quarters since it started tracking real estate trends in 1996.  "It almost seems like what you'd see in Florida," said Mark Vitner, a senior economist for Wells Fargo Securities. 

We definitely took a financial hit by selling out home in the midst of this economic maelstrom, but feel lucky that we were able to sell at all.  If real estate is the bellwether of our economic fortunes, there is still a long way to go.  Fortunately, we have our feet underneath us, the new job is going great, the company is doing very well, my wife has been on interviews, and we appear to be OK. 

If we still owned our home in Minnesota, that definitely would not be the case.  We got lucky, and we remain blessed.  

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Putting the Frozen in Frozen Tundra

I hate this time of the year. 

The Super Bowl is over, and it will be 6 months until training camp and fantasy football prognostication starts.  NCAA basketball is in mid-season, and we’re a month away from conference tournaments and the big dance.  NBA is hardly a sport anymore.  NHL is about the best thing going, but there’s a scant amount to be had here in hockey-less Green Bay.  We’re more than a week for pitchers and catchers, and full MLB squads about a week after that. 

So why are all of those spectator sports important?  It is -14 this morning.  Wind chill?  Oh, that takes things down to -26.  Here on the frozen tundra, we’re not going outside anytime soon, so TV is our great escape. 

Spring seems like an unattainable goal, and summer something that other people enjoy.  The weatherman is predicting a high Sunday of 36, and while we pray that he’s right, just doing the quick math means that it would be a 50 degree swing!

We’ll believe it when we see it. 

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Lost In Lambeau Land

It is official.  I'm living in a Twilight Zone episode.  

 We attended the Return to Title Town celebration at Lambeau Field today.  Here's a little video snippet of what it was like.  

On the way home, my wife suggested that if you would have told us a year ago that we'd be in the front row of Lambeau Field in February, freezing our tails off, in the middle of 50,000 Green Bay citizens, in the midst of celebrating a Super Bowl victory, we would have suggested that you put away the tequila as you'd obviously had enough.  But there we were, in some kind of surreal alternate universe.  Kind of like that Star Trek episode where Kirk beams onto an evil USS Enterprise (Episode #33, "Mirror, Mirror" for you nerds scoring at home).

But there we were. 

Here's my wife in the -10 wind chill. 

And here's Super Bowl 40 MVP Aaron Rogers, and the Lombardi Trophy, a mere 30 yards away. 

Some people have to travel the world to see stuff that they've never seen before.  We just needed to move to Wisconsin.

Monday, February 7, 2011

2011 Super Bowl Advertising Review

At $3MM a pop, a good Super Bowl ad can make ( or break ( a company.  So, how was this year's crop?  Overall, I felt there were a lot of ads that were just OK, with some strong entries, and a limited level of misses. 

Let's review the bad ones first: 

Doritos Finger Suck - This just flat creeped me out.  Like I need a shower kind of creeped out.  How it will create additional affinity for their brand via this ad is beyond me. 

Pepsi Max Blond Nailed with Can - This is actually one of two ads for Pepsi Max in which people got hit with cans.  At least the other ad went for the tried and true gag of the hit to the groin. 

Sketchers Shapeups - An ad for a women's product that was basically directed at men.  Come on. 

Groupon Tibet with Timothy Hutton - After playing things close to the vest, this is what they came up with?  Holy cow!  At least with this ad that they now have a worse mistake than not accepting Google's offer.  They were better off spending that $3MM on a sock puppet. 

Now, let's take a look at the good ones: 

Bud Light Product Placement - I felt the overall Bud Light offering was weak, but I did enjoy this ad. 

Bridgestone's Reply All - Still don't understand the connection with tires, but this gave me one of the bigger laughs of the evening. 

Teleflora's Boyfriend Pens Note - Great ad!  Completely targeted to their audience (especially by including Faith Hill), this was incredibly effective as well as funny. 

Etrade - Last year's winner has another strong showing. 

Best Buy with Ozzy - Really effective means of getting out the new technology trade-in policy.  Very entertaining, and very well done. 

Pepsi Max Internal Voice - Elicited a very good laugh.  As much as Pepsi spent (between Max and Doritos), they needed one. 

But there is one standout champion, and it is no contest.   Living Social took on rival Groupon, and developed the ad worthy of all of Groupon's hype.  Benefit driven, clear, and funny as hell.  See for yourself: 

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Decemberists Concert Reivew Milwaukee Riverside Theater

We attended The Decem-berists concert in Milwaukee last night, and it was a really mixed bag.  I'm too tired to post the full set list - you can find it elsewhere, but here are some points of review:
  •  The venue, the Riverside Theater, was sold as general admission, despite being a old time theater like the State in Minneapolis.  I thought, since everything was GA, that we'd be attending something like 1st. Ave.  Could not have been more wrong.  Hence, by the time we finished our meal and headed to the concert for the curtain at 8:00, the place was packed.  Our seats ended up being 6th row from the back in the balcony.  Why you'd choose to hold a GA show in such a venue is beyond me.  I bought these tickets months ago, and would have gladly paid a premium for good seats.  Fail.  
  • Opening act was Mountain Man.  Their high harmonies and sparse accompaniment were beautiful and quirky.  Not my kettle of fish, but enjoyable.  
  • The Decemberists were very strong.  There was great interaction between frontman Colin Meloy and the crowd, the band executed very well, and the setlist was fairly strong.  Overall a good effort.  
  • Sound in the balcony was beyond horrible.  The hall's acoustics were very bad, and the band's sound crew didn't help by forcing their small stacks into the main level.  I've attended over 100 concerts, and these acoustics were the worst I have experienced.  Had I not known the song, I never would have been able to tell what they were singing.  
  • Highlight of the night was an impromptu presentation of In the Air Tonight, complete with the whole urban myth presentation about the song.  Total hoot.  
  • Best song had to be The Rake's Song.  All of the bad was on drums save for Meloy and Nate Query on bass.  All were totally into it, and it is the one song that was acoustically the least muddy.  
  • Two different couples, both within five rows of us, got into very public arguments with their dates.  This all went down during This is Why We Fight, and unfortunately they were too angry with each other to recognize the irony.  
The bottom line was that the band was good, the sound horrific, and I couldn't help but feel like a chump for driving four hours round trip to sit in the nosebleed seats with the total drunks and the people that couldn't have cared less about what was going on up on stage.  Not a good experience, and not recommended.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Fox Bans Obscene Super Bowl Ad

Adult concepts below.  Keep the kiddos away from this installment.

I'm sure you've heard about the ad that Fox has banned from being broadcast during the Super Bowl.  You haven't?  Well then, YDP reader, prepare thyself to be offended.  Here it is. 

Heaven forbid that such an ad would taint commercial breaks that contain wholesome stuff like yet another Go Daddy ad featuring Danica Patrick in her 17th installment of a faux lipstick lesbian porn episode. 

Gang, I'm not a prude.  Sex sells, and always has.  I get that.  But there is zip wrong about the first ad, especially juxtaposed against the annual Go Daddy nerd titillation. Someone has some significant issues discerning "offensive."  But, more likely, they don't have the guts to take the "politically correct" heat for daring to air a religious message in front of the world's largest TV audience. 


Friday, February 4, 2011

A Vikings Fan's Report from Behind Enemy Lines

It has been amazing being a Minnesotan, especially a Vikings fan, living in Green Bay during this Super Bowl run.  I’ve learned a lot about the people of my new home; some confirming, but most enlightening.   

Here are my observations, fresh from behind enemy lines.  
  • We know Packer fans are fanatical.  But have you ever really talked to one?  Odds are good that they know an encyclopedic amount about football.  Men, women, kids, doesn’t matter.  And not just about the Packers.  This city knows a shocking amount about the NFL.  It’s astonishing.  Remind me not to join a fantasy football league while I'm here.  
  • While this city wants to win the game (check that, there’s a palpable feel that they’re going to win), there is an overarching aura of pride that will gracefully (and correctly) accept this season for what it was – an improbable and incredible run for a team decimated by injuries.  
  • Added corollary: there are no detractors here.  None in the media, none on your street, none at work.  Zero.  It is like living in a state full of Sid Hartmans. 
  • I’ve counted just about every Sunday, and the ratio those wearing Packers attire to church is one in six (that ratio will likely be destroyed this Sunday).  As a retailer in the region, I can attest to the popularity of green and gold apparel, accessories, anything. I've been in retail most of my career, and I've never seen anything like it.  
  • The economic activity of what has transpired these past playoff weeks is massive.  If you retail anything in Green Bay - liquor, food, clothes, gear, beads at the gas station, you name it - your numbers are up a missive amount from the same time in the previous year.  As we're privately held, I can't get into work details, but trust me when I say the impact this team has had on our financials these past weeks is shocking.  You've heard of Black Friday and Cyber Monday?  Suffice it to say if the Packers win, it will likely lead to a Green Sunday.
  • Those unfamiliar with Green Bay assume that since it is an NFL franchise city, it must be significant in size.  You couldn't be more wrong.  Green Bay is 105,000 people soaking wet.  Imagine your own example of a city of similar size, then imagine plopping your favorite NFL franchise smack dab in the middle of it.  That explains a lot of the pride and fanaticism.  
The bottom line to all of this is that, yeah, Green Bay fans are certifiable, they're also loyal (win or lose), learned, and while it is hard to admit, endearing.  I know that will likely get me kicked out of the Jared Allen fan club, but it's the truth.  
As a Vikings fan, watching the whirlwind of what happening all around me, I can't help but be a little green as well.  
Unfortunately, my green is from envy.    

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Thanks for Firing Me

Five years ago today I was called into the office of my boss and fired pretty much because CMO’s can do that kind of stuff. At the time it was unfair, uncomfortable, and borderline illegal. 
And it turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to my career. 
Here’s to blessings in disguise.

Dads Get No Advertising Respect

In the latest article from eMarketer, dads bemoan the fact that ads are not speaking to or directed at them:
Few dads in the Yahoo! study felt ads in many consumer goods categories spoke to them, despite being the primary or shared decision-maker. For instance, 66% of dads felt ignored by apparel advertising, yet 57% of dads claimed they are the primary decision-maker and an additional 37% shared decision-making in the category. With child and baby care, 57% of dads felt alienated by ads, yet 80% were either primary or shared decision-makers.

Surprised?  You shouldn't be.  Watch your TV tonight and see how the middle aged white male is treated in commercials.  He's always the clueless idiot, the bumbling fool, the butt of the joke.  Women, kids, minorities, or anyone else is rarely reflected in a poor light. This has been happening for years.  My wife and I now keep note of it, and call out the "men are dumb in commercials" examples when we see it.  It happens at least once every commercial block.

This tactic, while politically safe, is serving to drive a wedge between advertisers and a significant share of their potential customers.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Al Gore Grasps at Straws

Our esteemed ex-Vice President claimed in his latest blog post that the recent heavy winter weather activity was caused by, wait for it, global warming.   

Last week on his show Bill O’Reilly asked, “Why has southern New York turned into the tundra?” and then said he had a call into me. I appreciate the question.  As it turns out, the scientific community has been addressing this particular question for some time now and they say that increased heavy snowfalls are completely consistent with what they have been predicting as a consequence of man-made global warming:
In fact, scientists have been warning for at least two decades that global warming could make snowstorms more severe. Snow has two simple ingredients: cold and moisture. Warmer air collects moisture like a sponge until it hits a patch of cold air. When temperatures dip below freezing, a lot of moisture creates a lot of snow.”  “A rise in global temperature can create all sorts of havoc, ranging from hotter dry spells to colder winters, along with increasingly violent storms, flooding, forest fires and loss of endangered species.”

This is quickly becoming a pathetic exercise for the Goracle.  Basically any weather that isn't absolutely average is because of man's burning of fossil fuels.   

The man is in the middle of his Wizard of Oz moment, with a normal (albeit hard) winter tugging at the curtain of global warming and revealing the charlatans behind.  He's watching his integrity, reason for adulation, and even his personal fortune erode with every additional inch of snow that falls.   

I was thinking about this demise as I was snowblowing my driveway this morning for about the 10th time this year (a personal record).  While I'm sure it is painful for him, it's still insufficient for the fraud that he's perpetrated (and continues to push) on the world. This tool is due for a significant comeuppance.  Like maybe shoveling my driveway.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Annual "Hunting with Kin" Trip

We just returned from our annual hunting trip to the bayou. The ducks didn't cooperate as much as we would have liked, but I'm not sure we had a better time. Here are some photos: