Jan 29

What to Do with A Vinyl Music Collection

Equinox Album Cover by Styx

Here’s one of my favorite album covers. It’s the “Equinox” album by Styx. (1975)

I’m trying to clean out stuff I’ve been saving for years in boxes and plastic totes, and I’ve unearthed my vinyl record collection. My Facebook friends advise me the albums are, for the most part, worthless.

I can’t vouch for the records’ quality. I have a record player that I bought in 1978, but I no longer have the amplifier I got at the same time. That means I can’t listen to them to hear what they sound like.

Some have gotten plenty of use. I bought most of them during my high school and college years between 1970 and 1978. There are some others they I bought in young adulthood. Embarrassingly, there are a few “disco” albums among those.

Whether a function of my age or the times, I don’t listen to music the way I did in my youth. I recall spending hours on lazy weekend afternoons listening to Elton John’s “Honky Chateau,” Deep Purple’s “Made in Japan,” or Neil Diamond’s “Hot August Night.” Those are album names, not necessarily song titles. Even after I started working after college, I would occasionally light a couple of candles and relax just listening to music — no reading, no TV. Just me and the tunes. The pressed vinyl may not be worth much today, but the memories and feelings evoked by the music are precious.

I don’t listen that way anymore. Although music is in the background every day while I work, and I’ve even got a playlist running as I write this. But I can’t remember the last time I just sat back and listened, just for the enjoyment of hearing the melodies, harmonies and rhythms.

I’m sure the change of habit has something to do with sharing a house with somebody else. It’s easier to watch a TV show or read a book than it is to agree on something we’d both like to listen to at the same time, even though our musical heritages and tastes are similar (except for her fondness for country music). It’s always easy to purchase just the songs I like and put them into playlists, and “albums” don’t seem to be constructed to listen to all in one sitting.

Anyway, that still leaves the question of what to do with the albums. Some of them have fantastic artwork. Others have fun liner notes to go along with the lyrics. I’m thinking about framing some of the covers, and I’m scouring Pinterest for other ideas. Let me know if you have any suggestions.

In the meantime, here’s the list of what I’ve got:

 

Neil Diamond

Hot August Night

George Carlin

Class Clown

Robin Williams

Reality … what a concept

Robert Plant

In The Mood  (EP)

Donna Summer

Bad Girls

Bee Gees

Spirits Having Flown

Amii Stewart

Knock on Wood

The Section

Fork it Over

Ten Years After

A Space in Time

Bad Company

Run With The Pack

Deep Purple

Made in Japan

The Doobie Brothers

What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits

Grand Funk

We’re An American Band

Neil Diamond

Jonathon Livingston Seagull

The Mistletoe Orchestra

Happy Holidays

Chicago

Chicago

Assorted artists

A Christmas to Remember

Barry Manilow

Barry Manilow Live

Duran Duran

Rio

Neil Diamond

The Jazz Singer

Pablo Cruise

A Place in the Sun

Eagles

Their Greatest Hits

Outlaws

Ghost Riders

Seals & Croft

Diamond Girl

The Knack

Get The Knack

George Harrison

Thirty-Three &1/3

Pink Floyd

The Final Cut

Lionel Richie

Can’t Slow Down

Styx

Kilroy Was Here

Joan Jett & The Blackheads

I Love Rock-n-Roll

Pat Benatar

Benatar  Live from Earth

Genesis

Genesis

Bryan Adams

Reckless

Pat Benatar

Crimes of Passion

Crosby, Stills & Nash

CSN

Heart

Dog & Butterfly

Heart

Passionworks

Styx

The Grand Illusion

Men At Work

Business As Usual

Supertramp

Breakfast in America

Ted Nugent

Cat Scratch Fever

Stevie Nicks

The Wild Heart

Elton John

Ice on Fire

Yes

Going for The One

Jerry Goldsmith

Star Trek: The Motion Picture

Billy Joel

52nd Street

Billy Joel

An Innocent Man

Jefferson Starship

Red Octopus

Boston

Boston

Billy Joel

Songs in the Attic

Alice Cooper

Welcome to My Nightmare

Kansas

Point of Know Return

Billy Joel

The Nylon Curtain

Rush

Permanent Waves

Various Artists

Miami Vice soundtrack

Rick Wakeman

Journey to the Center of the Earth

Rick Wakeman

The Six Wives of Henry VIII

Royal Liverpool Philharmonic

Handel: Messiah

Jeff Beck

There and Back

Jeff Beck

Blow by Blow

Elvis Costello & The Attractions

Armed Forces

Huey Lewis & The News

Sports

The Alan Parsons Project

I Robot

The Alan Parsons Project

The Turn of A Friendly Card

Rush

A Farewell to Kings

Supertramp

Paris

Bruce Springsteen

Born to Run

Phil Collins

No Jacket Required

Neil Young

Comes A Time

Simon and Garfunkel

The Concert in Central Park

Supertramp

Crime of The Century

Herb Alpert

Rise

The Police

Synchronicity

Pink Floyd

The Wall

The Who

Quadrophenia

Queen

Jazz

Styx

Equinox

Supertramp

Even in The Quietest Moments

Blues Brothers

Briefcase Full of Blues

Chicago

Chicago 16

Sep 19

Why You Need Landing Pages with Your Search Marketing Ads

Why Landing Pages MatterA few months ago, a customer who runs search advertising through Google Adwords asked, “Why do I need a special landing page if I’ve already got a website?” It’s a great question, and one that exposes an inconvenient truth about search advertising — it’s simple, but it’s not easy to use it successfully.

No doubt you’ve heard of Google ads, and if you run a business, small or large, someone has suggested you use Google ads for marketing. Search advertising can be cheaper than print or broadcast, and Google actually measures how many times and ad is shown and how many times somebody clicks.

In my experience, the landing page part of the search advertising equation is rarely discussed.
In case you’re not used to the lingo, a “landing page” is the web page where you end up — “land” — after you click an online ad like a Google search ad or one of those ubiquitous display ads for LendingTree.com (at least they used to be everywhere).

My Baby Boomer brain compares a landing page to a bricks-and-mortar storefront. After reading a newspaper ad or watching a TV commercial that inspired us to go shopping, our generation visited the advertiser’s store. If the store was attractive, well-kept and prominently displayed the product that was advertised, we made the purchase. It helped if the price was prominently displayed and it was easy to find the checkout counter.

A landing page has the same function.

  • It’s attractive and easy to read.
  • It displays the product that was advertised.
  • It makes it easy to check out or purchase the product.

That’s the “gee whiz, that makes sense” answer to the first part of the question, “Why do I need a landing page?” What about the second part, “… if I already have a website?” It’s true, your business website should be an online version of your storefront (if you have a physical business address.) And if your website is perfect, you already have pages within your site that will serve as excellent landing pages. I could write a series of blog posts about building a perfect website, but that’s for another time. For now, if your website is perfect, raise your hand: you’re excused from the reading the rest of this.

If your website is typical, the odds are against your ads and your landing pages aligning for the best possible success. Google has taken that “gee whiz, that makes sense” list and baked it into the platform. If your landing page content is relevant to the content in the ad, the ad will appear higher on the search results page and you’ll pay less for each click on the ad.

Let’s say you’re a financial planner and want to advertise your estate-planning services. If your ad mentions estate planning and your landing page talks all about estate planning, Google will favor your ads with higher positions and a lower cost per click. If, however, your estate-planning ads link to your financial planning home page, which also talks about wealth management, investing and retirement planning, your estate-planning service information might be lost, or at least harder to find amid all the other information. Google, and potential clients, will be disappointed.

‘Displaying Your Product’ with Keywords

Now we have to dig deeper and look at how Google “knows” whether your landing page talks about “the product that was advertised.” The answer, of course, is that Google looks for keywords. Does the page specifically use the phrase “estate planning” in the page headline and in the text? Does the text include other keywords people are likely to use when searching for information about estate planning — wills, inheritance, trusts, etc.?

Here’s the main point. When the keywords in your landing page text and in your ad text match the keywords you bid on in Adwords, it’s as if the moon is in the seventh house and Jupiter aligns with Mars. It’s the Age of Aquarius, baby.

Here’s a real example, which took me less than 10 minutes to find, of a law office falling short in its choice of a landing page for its Google Adwords campaign. Here’s the ad: “Competitively Priced Divorce Lawyer in Pittsburgh. Call Us Today!” Clicking the ad takes the reader to the firm’s home page, where divorce law is listed among many areas of practice. The better choice for a landing page would have been this page, which outlines divorce-related services but focuses on just one related keyword, Pittsburgh divorce attorney. Other related phrases, mentioned just once each are “divorce your spouse,” “failed marriage,” “file for divorce,” “dissolve a marriage,” and “irretrievably broken.”

Even so, the keywords on that page don’t quite match the keywords for which the firm is bidding. A little research on SpyFu.com tells us the firm bids for these top five keywords: “cheap divorce lawyers,” “divorce attorney pittsburgh pa,” “divorce attorney pittsburgh,” “child custody legal advice,” and “divorce lawyers pittsburgh.”

Notice that the most prominent keyword phrase on the potential landing page, “Pittsburgh divorce attorney” is not matched exactly in the top 5 keywords on which it bids. “Divorce attorney Pittsburgh” is close enough in my book, but this firm should include some of the other keyword phrases on its landing page. (In case you’re wondering, this also would be good SEO advice.)

So, is it OK to use an existing page on your business website as a landing page for your Adwords campaign? Clearly the answer is yes, it’s OK sometimes. But that decision needs to be made after considering what information should be on the landing page. If an existing page contains all of the information you need, go for it. If it doesn’t, you’ll either need to revise the existing page or create a new page, unique to your search ads and the campaign.

Making it easy to check out

Search ads are most effective when they are used to encourage action. You want the ad clicker to buy, subscribe, read, enter a contest or somehow engage with your business and your products. To draw that action out of your potential customer, the ad and the landing page must work together. If the pages on your website don’t encourage action, you will be better off designing landing pages specific to your ad campaign.

Appropriate “calls to action” would be a button that says “Buy Now” and links to a checkout page, or a an e-mail form that is completed with a “Subscribe” button. It could even be a prominent phone number or prominent directions to a store if a visit is the action you want.

Let’s say you run a local furniture store and want to advertise a Labor Day week sale on easy chairs. Instead of just sending ad clickers to your living room furniture web page, create a landing page with photos of the chairs on sale, include the discount prices, make sure the phone number is prominent and include a map of the store location. Keep the landing page focused on a single action — shopping for an easy chair.

Some experts advise against linking landing pages to other pages within your site. There’s a middle ground. A landing page should have navigation to your home page, but if possible, avoid full navigation to other parts of your site. Keep potential customers focused on one thing. If they want to explore the rest of your site, funnel them through the home page.

How can you tell if Google thinks your campaign has reached “Aquarian” status? It uses a metric called “quality score.” The score uses a 1-to-10 scale, with “1” being the worst score and “10” the best. When you’re in your Google Adwords account, Google will display the quality score with your overall campaign results and with each keyword. If you’ve bid on a keyword that shows a quality score of “1,” that means Google doesn’t believe your landing page is related to that keyword at all. You can either stop bidding on the keyword or, if it’s relevant to what you’re advertising, add it to the landing page.

Quality score is important because it can also help determine where your ad ranks on a search results page and how much you pay per click. Above all else, Google values relevance when delivering both search results and search ads. So, when two advertisers bid the same for a particular keyword, Google will favor the advertiser whose ads are more relevant to the search term. In fact, a highly relevant ad with a low bid may even rank higher than a less relevant ad with a much higher bid.

I know this has been a long answer to a short question. But without an easy-to-read, product-oriented, action-driving landing page, an online advertising campaign (yes, this applies to Facebook ads, display ads, Bing ads, too) will not reach its potential. I think it’s so important that when someone considers any online advertising campaign, I recommend starting first with the landing page. Then you can build the ads and the keyword bids around it.

If you want to read a little more, here’s Google’s explanation of why landing pages are important.

 

 

Jan 02

My Three Words for 2016

Three Words 2016
Start. Practice. Create.

These are my three words to live by in 2016. The Three Words practice is an alternative to New Year’s resolutions. Instead of listing goals, I’m choosing three words to guide me, to act as themes for projects throughout the coming year. There’s nothing wrong with goals, but choosing themes creates a framework for setting goals in both work and personal life. It also allows adjustments that need to be made when “life happens” and personal needs change.

In selecting and announcing my three words, I’m following a trail blazed by author, marketer and business servant Chris Brogan, who started his three words practice a decade ago. Since then some of my favorite digital thinkers have adopted the process, and I have, too. I didn’t accomplish what I had hoped with my three words for 2015 — read, write, share — but by writing those three words, I planted some seeds that may yet grow and mature.

I chose “start” a few weeks ago. The word is already written on my small office whiteboard. It’s there to encourage me to stop thinking about doing something and just start. Overthinking might be one of my worst habits, and it often gets in the way of beginning a new project, whether it’s the next item on my daily to-do list or the Great American Novel (yep, it’s still on my list). When I remind myself to just “start,” I get more done. I considered “begin,” but “start” seems more immediate, more urgent. I need that.

“Practice” joins my 2016 list thanks to the YMCA yoga class I began last spring. Our teacher is careful to remind us weekly that the class is practice, so there’s no need to worry if we don’t execute downward dog or tree pose exactly right. The idea is that if you do the best you can one day, there’s a good chance you’ll do better the next.

So this year, I intend to approach life and work as daily practice. The roots of the word practice come from the ancient Greek “praktikos,” which meant”fit for action, fit for business; business-like, practical; active, effective, vigorous,” according to the Online Etymology Dictionary (http://www.etymonline.com). The root goes even deeper to “praktos,” which means “done; to be done,” and to “prassein, prattein” — to do, act, effect, accomplish.

Every accomplishment is the result of practice, and every accomplishment then becomes part of the practice toward the next one. To compare it to baseball, players practice throwing, catching and hitting to prepare for games, and although the games “count,” no matter the outcome a game once completed becomes practice for the next and the next.

My third word is create, which comes from the Latin “creare,” which means “to make, bring forth, produce, beget,” and is also related to “crescere” which means “arise, grow.” My creativity is usually centered around writing. During 2015, however, I found myself occasionally drawing pictures and making videos. I still intend cowrite more for myself, but I also want to let myself be creative in other ways, whether it’s writing poetry rather than prose, working on video or even coming up with some music using software like GarageBand.

It may have been subconscious, but after I chose my three words, I realized how well they fit together. “Starting” is something I can practice, as is creativity. Each word easily fits with the others. “Practice” and “Create” will join “Start” on my whiteboard to guide me through the next year.

What are your three words for 2016?