A Lesson in Behavioral Economics, Courtesy of Starbucks’ Trash

Behavioral economics play a huge role in the business and marketing world. Heuristics, framing and market inefficiencies are all extremely relevant – even today. Perhaps most interesting is the idea that our personal biases can help influence decisions and actions in our lives. This concept is called loss aversion.


Some may argue that the concept single-handedly decides how successful a business is. That is because most people tend to work much harder to avoid losses than they do to achieve personal gains. Even when losses are much fewer than gains, people still do their best to avoid them.


By keeping this concept in mind, you can ultimately influence the decisions your customers make and so much more. Starbucks and their paper cup dilemma is a perfect example of this.

Behavioral Economics and Starbucks

The infamous chain café, Starbucks, produces about 4 billion cups per year, regardless of market trends. Not only is that a lot of money going to waste, but it’s also not “green” or good for the environment.


In comparison, that number adds up to about 12 cups for every man, woman and child in the United States – all of them going to waste. Needless to say, Starbucks has a problem with their cups. The issue has escalated to a point where images have surfaced pointing out “branded trash,” which is another way of calling the company wasteful.

Starbucks Trash


The company has recently been working on a way to recycle these cups, or to implement some type of system where they can recoup their losses. Unfortunately, they don’t realize there’s a great way to do this – and they already have a system in place.


Currently, Starbucks offers customers a 10 cent discount if they bring their own mug. It doesn’t matter what beverage you decide to order, if you have your own mug, cup or container, you get ten cents off the total price. Starbucks reveals this information quite vaguely on their website:


Join the movement. Bring a reusable travel mug and get a 10 cent discount on any Starbucks beverage, anytime.

One person can save trees, together we can save forests


While this is a great plan, the company could actually see a greater effect if they flip-flopped the idea.


Make Customers Work Harder to Avoid Loss

It would make more sense for Starbucks to charge ten cents extra for all of the customers who do not have their own mug or cup. That doesn’t mean  they need to raise their prices ten cents, but  they simply need to discuss the idea differently.


For instance, let’s say the normal list price of a coffee is $1.70. Customers that bring their own mug or cup are instead charged $1.60. So what if they changed the list price of the drink to 1.60 instead? For everyone else that doesn’t bring their own cup, Starbucks could charge the normal price of $1.70, or ten cents extra.


In other words, they wouldn’t really be changing any of their prices — they would simply  be changing how customers look at them. Customers are more apt to avoid a loss and supply their own cups if they know they’re paying extra for a new one each time.


Of course, there are always buyers who don’t want to bother carrying around their own mug but that’s exactly why that extra charge exists – they don’t have to if they don’t want to.


Will This Will Work?

While Starbucks is struggling with their cup problem, this behavioral economics idea is already being used. In Prince George County Maryland, residents are  being charged a tax when they use plastic grocery bags. This has  encouraged customers to bring their own bags to avoid paying the associated fees.


Originally, customers were offered a five cent bonus for bringing their own reusable bags. However, the campaign didn’t perform as well as the district had hoped. Naturally, they flipped the idea and now impose a five cent tax on customers who ask for grocery bags. Needless to say, people don’t want to pay the tax, leading to a major reduction in the use of grocery bags in the district.


This all boils down to the concept of loss aversion in behavioral economics. The way people look at the cost, or the subjective value, is much greater when it’s coming out of their own pocket.


With the Starbucks example, the original plan makes customers feel like they are earning ten cents instead of losing it. With the flip-flopped example, it actually appears as if the ten cents are coming out of their pocket – resembling a loss. This encourages customers to avoid the loss even if it’s on an even keel with the original model.


How to Make This Concept Work for You

Personal bias and the way things appear equally affect decisions that your customers and employees are making. After all, there’s a valid reason that professional golfers perform much better when trying to save par as opposed to making a birdie.


The concept can directly influence investment behavior, advertising, marketing strategies, education campaigns, and much more. Most successful companies  employ the use of loss aversion, even if they don’t refer to the concept as that exactly.

Cashback Consumer Psychology


Try to remember that people tend to do anything to avoid a loss, and it goes both ways. From a business standpoint, that means you may be less likely to dump a risky investment, because it would mean admitting a loss. Look at each situation objectively, and decide the more beneficial route. When it comes to customers, use it to your advantage.  Offer sales items and coupons that help frame purchases as risk averse items.  Memolink’s cashback promos frame sale items not with a monetary value, but actually with points therefore taking any attention from the consumer away from a loss of money but more as an accumulation of points.  This gamified strategy is very effective in making something risk averse customers try to avoid, into something they feel they are benefiting from…winning points.


In the case of Starbucks, the company is too worried about how customers might react if they change policy. Jim Hanna, environmental impact for Starbucks said “it comes down to the relationship that we’ve built with our customers over the past 40 years.”  They don’t want to risk irritating customers who would have to pay the extra ten cents for a cup.


In other words, Starbucks seems to be more worried about the loss than the gains they could experience. As a result,  it’s making them avoid the risk altogether. Avoid falling into the same trap yourself, at all costs.

Web Design for the Way Consumers Think

Content is king.


This phrase has shown up on web marketing and social media blogs everywhere over the last couple of years. But what should really be said is: well-designed content is king.


What are your customers thinking when they visit your website? Can they find the information they’re looking for, or are they leaving? Are they distracted by too much content?


Even the most beautiful website will repel visitors if it isn’t functional. And tons of content and multi-media has no purpose unless it’s presented in an attractive way. A well thought-out design can increase your sales, as well as your customer base — let’s take a look at the power of visual context


Keep Options Limited


Imagine shopping at any department store or big box retailer. The options seem limitless, and so many items can easily distract you. If you’re casually shopping around, this might be fine. But if you’re on a mission for one particular item or in a hurry, a department store is the worst place you could be.


Your website isn’t a department store, and most customers are visiting your website with a goal in mind. Visitors are either looking for information on a product or service, or they’re wanting to make a quick purchase. Having too many options presented can frustrate customers and cause them to run away.


Inspired Mag cites a study by Sheeya Iyengar that gives valuable insight on consumer behavior based on different option amounts. In the study, Iyengar set up a jam display at an upscale grocery store. One Saturday she offered 24 flavors. On another Saturday she offered only six. On which day do you think she sold more jam?


If you guessed she sold more on the day she offered 24 flavors, you’d be wrong.


As it turns out, limiting options helps customers make quicker decisions before they become frustrated with the process of deciding.  Your website should mostly stick to having  main categories of content on your homepage, presented neatly and accessibly.

Let’s examine two approaches.  Cornell Jeweler’s offer a simple design that maximizes the use of white space.  But their greatest challenge in design is not the ability to focus on products here, but actually to take quick action on any one product.  Instead of highlighting individual products for fast sales, the brand is using all of the information above the fold to highlight the brands they carry.  While Cornell Jewelers may have some frequent clientele, due to the nature of their industry, most shoppers are visiting for special occasion gifts.   In fact, jewelry shopping continues to decline rapidly with the aging of the Generation Y’ers and the New Millenials.  Therefore they are not likely to be familiar with the many brands, and as a result care much less about the brands carried compared to the actual look of the product they want to buy.

Cornell Jeweler’s would be likely benefit by using that prime “above the fold” real estate to actually showcase some products with action calls to visit the product page.

Cornells Jewelers Home


Compare this home page to that for S & D Kids Clothing.  Their homepage takes a similar approach towards illustrating the brands carried by the uniform wholesaler.  However, S & D reports significantly higher conversion rates (Sorry, I am not taking into account industry in this) due to massive success with their clearance items.  Therefore it should come as no surprise that these successful clearance items are present in prime home page real estate above the fold.

S & D Kids

Modern consumers hate being sold to, but being vague about your ultimate goal isn’t the answer.


Consumers respond to bold content, such as large headers and call-to-action buttons. It’s easy and possible to let your customers know what you want from them without writing 400 words about why they should buy your product.


Website visitors also have a short attention span — about  8 seconds according to Statistic Brain. Let them know what you’re hoping for, quickly. Lay out your call-to-action buttons and headlines first, and then design the rest of your content and images around them.


Make Your Pictures Worth 1,000 Words


Humans are visual creatures and good at relating words and images and discovering patterns. That’s why telling your story with images works better than writing an essay. Images have a way of driving home a point that words can’t always do alone.


Show Your Customers Progress


If you’ve managed to get your customer all the way to check out, you can still use design in this arena, as well, to avoid cart abandonment.


This infographic by Visual.ly shows that a total of 39% of people abandon their carts due to lengthy checkout processes, such as registering for an account before checking out.


One effective checkout process design feature is a progress bar, showing customers how far along they are. Impatient shoppers despise the registration process required to check out as a new customer, but if they know upfront that checkout will only be a three- or four-step process, they’ll be more likely to complete the transaction.


Use Line of Sight to Guide Visitors

Human brains are easily persuaded by what they see. In fact, we process visual information faster than we can even think about it.


We love to see big, bold attractive faces. And when those faces are looking at your sign up form, guess where visitors are looking as well? That’s right –your sign up form!


This article by Inspired Mag cites Giovanni Galfano’s study on human reactions to gazes. The same study concludes that we react to arrows in the same manner. If there are features on your website you want to grab your visitors’ attention, consider using visual elements to direct them.


When it comes to building a website, you can’t ignore design. Not only are consumers persuaded by design more than context, but strategic designs and layouts can actually convert visitors to sales.


Do a Flip Turn Bucket List Idea

Master the Flip Turn in a Pool – Bucket List Idea #15 Athletics

Ok I admit it.


I’ve been slacking.



But I promise, it’s not what it looks like. I may not have been posting very much lately, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been working hard! I think my last bucket list post was about Kissing a Rock (if you’re curious why I was getting heated with a rock, you should read the post), and that was accomplished almost a year ago! Really, I have been accomplishing quite a lot, only unfortunately, all those of you in the blogosphere have been neglected.


And for that, I’m sorry.



Forget about it, we’re not here to talk about sympathetic board games. I’m not that sincere.  Really, I wanted to share my latest experience with you…

Mastering the Flip Turn in a Pool!



When I initially set out to create my  bucket list I knew that I was going to set some lofty goals.  But that can be extremely demotivating.  Aiming to “become an olympic athlete” may be a bit ambitious, but what’s the sense of a bucket list if you don’t get ambitious.  I mean, Olympics athletes have to keep themselves busy too, and in between eating my Wheaties,  shattering world records and outsprinting of the likes of Usian Bolt, I’ve got to do something to keep me entertained.  So I added a number of items to my bucket list that I thought would be great to keep me reaching accomplishments on a pretty frequent basis.  Not to mention, it’s helped to keep me focused.  So if any of you sitting on your bums reading this think “I think I should build a bucket list”, then try to keep that little tip in mind.


As a result, I’ve recently begun my training for my first triathlon which will happen next year.  When I made the call to do a Ironman 70.3, I knew I’d have to start mastering the sport of swimming. It started with a monthly pass to my local LA Fitness, then I got a super sexy “jammer” to show off my fine legs, and hit the water.  After a month, I was ready to take the next step and up my game, by adding flip turns.  You see, all ye aspiring endurance athletes, that it’s extremely important to control your heart rate with consistent and realistic expectations for your race.  If I’m taking breathes and a short break at every end of a 50m Olympic pool, then I’m cheating.  And I didn’t like that.


Time to learn how to do a Flip Turn in the Pool.


With the help of my lovely sister, Shannon, who is  a seasoned swimmer, I was able to master the flip turn by about the 3rd try.  Well, mastery is a little strong, but it was pretty damn good.  So I really recommend you don’t hold back and give it a shot.  But as I’m attempting to make my posts a little more educational, I wanted to put together a little step-by-step guide to doing a flip turn in the pool while swimming freestyle.


Step #1: Looking for the Big T

Screen shot 2013-12-29 at 5.49.11 PM

You know those big lines at the bottom of each pool lane? Well those aren’t there just for aesthetic.  They serve a very practical purpose in navigation for a swimmer.  If you listen closely enough, you can hear it yell “For Goodness Sake, Swim in a Straight Line!”


If you’re one for observation yo umay notice at the end of each of these pool lines, there is a perpendicular line that helps form a “T.” And while we’re giving voices to pool elements, since the line screams “‘Swim Straight!” the “T” yells “Don’t swim into the wall idiot!”  If it were nicer, it would simply imply that its time for the swimmer to begin the first movements of the flip turn.


As you your shoulders glide across the T, keep your left arm down to your side as your right arm finalizes it’s stroke.  Then tuck your chin into your chest and roll your body over.  In those final moments, kick your legs for a final thrust into the downward position of the flip.  Allow your body to follow through and roll your body into a ball.


Step #2: Flaunt those Curves

Screen shot 2013-12-29 at 5.50.00 PM

As you swing your body into the somersault, your butt should be coming out of the water.  Make sure to keep your feet and knees tight together and at a right angle (as if you were sitting in a chair).   By this time your body should be just about flipped from momentum.  Your body will almost be facing towards the ceiling, and from there you’re ready to push off.


Tip: A lot of people struggles (as I did) with getting water up your nose in a very uncomfortable way.  The fix to this was to make sure that I had a full breath going right into my turn, so that way I couldn’t possibly take anything in, and the exertion from the move naturally caused me to blow air out of my nose as I was flipping, therefore keeping water out of my nose.  Also, don’t flip completely vertically, putting a little corkscrew into your flip will solve this problem.


Step #3: Push off and Spin

Pretty much word for word with the subtitle of this section.   All that is left to do is to push off the wall and then as you glide away, spin your body into it’s typical down-facing position.  For speed, make sure not to pull with your arms, but rather to “dolphin” swim, which means you’ll propel yourself by keeping your arms forward and wiggling your upper body and allowing that motion to continue through to your legs.


Surface into your swim before taking a breath so that way you may conserve energy and more gradually come to surface.  Trying to breath at first surface will mean that you halt your momentom slightly, versus breathing naturally mid swim, you won’t have to take your face as far out of the water.


Step #4: Study Others.

Watch the video I put together of me mastering the flip turn in the pool as well as many others on the web.


Bill Gates Content is King

An Open Letter from a King of Industry: Content is King [Bill Gates Speech 1996]

Bill Gates @ the University of Waterloo

Just another reminder on exactly why content is king, from a king of industry. Even since Bill Gates delivered this short speech in 1996, not a whole lot has changed.  Sure technology has gone through drastic innovations, but the core principles behind the development of the internet are still the same.  Business are quick to exploit all of the fast approach tactics that the internet provides, but are again too quick to consider the longevity of their situation.  I’m a big proponent of efficient business, but I only believe in the ones that last the longest.  And to me, focusing on brand positioning for the long run will provide the greatest ROI hands down.

We have so many opportunities to provide compelling content, and build loyal fans, and even more amazing is how equal the playing field can be.  While Google DOES favor brands in its SERPs (wouldn’t be my blog without a little mention of SEO), you can win in other areas.  Especially since Google introduced rich snippets.  All of this points to one thing, that Bill Gates tried to warn us of over a decade ago.  Content Is King.  Nothing will change that.

Imagine where your company would be now, had you heeded those words when he spoke them 15 years ago.

Content Is King – Bill Gates (1/3/1996)

Content is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the Internet, just as it was in broadcasting.

The television revolution that began half a century ago spawned a number of industries, including the manufacturing of TV sets, but the long-term winners were those who used the medium to deliver information and entertainment.

When it comes to an interactive network such as the Internet, the definition of “content” becomes very wide. For example, computer software is a form of content-an extremely important one, and the one that for Microsoft will remain by far the most important.

But the broad opportunities for most companies involve supplying information or entertainment. No company is too small to participate.

One of the exciting things about the Internet is that anyone with a PC and a modem can publish whatever content they can create. In a sense, the Internet is the multimedia equivalent of the photocopier. It allows material to be duplicated at low cost, no matter the size of the audience.

The Internet also allows information to be distributed worldwide at basically zero marginal cost to the publisher. Opportunities are remarkable, and many companies are laying plans to create content for the Internet.

For example, the television network NBC and Microsoft recently agreed to enter the interactive news business together. Our companies will jointly own a cable news network, MSNBC, and an interactive news service on the Internet. NBC will maintain editorial control over the joint venture.

I expect societies will see intense competition-and ample failure as well as success-in all categories of popular content-not just software and news, but also games, entertainment, sports programming, directories, classified advertising, and on-line communities devoted to major interests.

Printed magazines have readerships that share common interests. It’s easy to imagine these communities being served by electronic online editions.

But to be successful online, a magazine can’t just take what it has in print and move it to the electronic realm. There isn’t enough depth or interactivity in print content to overcome the drawbacks of the online medium.

If people are to be expected to put up with turning on a computer to read a screen, they must be rewarded with deep and extremely up-to-date information that they can explore at will. They need to have audio, and possibly video. They need an opportunity for personal involvement that goes far beyond that offered through the letters-to-the-editor pages of print magazines.

A question on many minds is how often the same company that serves an interest group in print will succeed in serving it online. Even the very future of certain printed magazines is called into question by the Internet.

For example, the Internet is already revolutionizing the exchange of specialized scientific information. Printed scientific journals tend to have small circulations, making them high-priced. University libraries are a big part of the market. It’s been an awkward, slow, expensive way to distribute information to a specialized audience, but there hasn’t been an alternative.

Now some researchers are beginning to use the Internet to publish scientific findings. The practice challenges the future of some venerable printed journals.

Over time, the breadth of information on the Internet will be enormous, which will make it compelling. Although the gold rush atmosphere today is primarily confined to the United States, I expect it to sweep the world as communications costs come down and a critical mass of localized content becomes available in different countries.

For the Internet to thrive, content providers must be paid for their work. The long-term prospects are good, but I expect a lot of disappointment in the short-term as content companies struggle to make money through advertising or subscriptions. It isn’t working yet, and it may not for some time.

So far, at least, most of the money and effort put into interactive publishing is little more than a labor of love, or an effort to help promote products sold in the non-electronic world. Often these efforts are based on the belief that over time someone will figure out how to get revenue.

In the long run, advertising is promising. An advantage of interactive advertising is that an initial message needs only to attract attention rather than convey much information. A user can click on the ad to get additional information-and an advertiser can measure whether people are doing so.

But today the amount of subscription revenue or advertising revenue realized on the Internet is near zero-maybe $20 million or $30 million in total. Advertisers are always a little reluctant about a new medium, and the Internet is certainly new and different.

Some reluctance on the part of advertisers may be justified, because many Internet users are less-than-thrilled about seeing advertising. One reason is that many advertisers use big images that take a long time to download across a telephone dial-up connection. A magazine ad takes up space too, but a reader can flip a printed page rapidly.

As connections to the Internet get faster, the annoyance of waiting for an advertisement to load will diminish and then disappear. But that’s a few years off.

Some content companies are experimenting with subscriptions, often with the lure of some free content. It’s tricky, though, because as soon as an electronic community charges a subscription, the number of people who visit the site drops dramatically, reducing the value proposition to advertisers.

A major reason paying for content doesn’t work very well yet is that it’s not practical to charge small amounts. The cost and hassle of electronic transactions makes it impractical to charge less than a fairly high subscription rate.

But within a year the mechanisms will be in place that allow content providers to charge just a cent or a few cents for information. If you decide to visit a page that costs a nickel, you won’t be writing a check or getting a bill in the mail for a nickel. You’ll just click on what you want, knowing you’ll be charged a nickel on an aggregated basis.

This technology will liberate publishers to charge small amounts of money, in the hope of attracting wide audiences.

Those who succeed will propel the Internet forward as a marketplace of ideas, experiences, and products-a marketplace of content.


This essay is copyright © 2001 Microsoft Corporation. All Rights Reserved.
Harrisburg Heating Services

Everything Small Business Owners Need to Know about SEO

Harrisburg Heating Services

Search engine optimization (SEO) isn’t something a small business owner can focus on down the road. It should be an integral part of any online presence, whether on the company website, social media sites or review sites. SEO determines where a company is ranked on search results, and it can bring in new customers or drive them away. Not all SEO is “good” SEO, however — just ask the business that has numerous bad reviews pop up well before their website is revealed on Google.

There’s a good reason SEO professionals and companies are so popular. Just how does a person practice good SEO strategies to begin with? How does a company make it to the top of Google searches? Why isn’t the ranking of a site improving, even though the right SEO steps are being taken? Here’s the ultimate guide to SEO for business owners ready for a DIY approach, whether they’re brand new to the scene or veterans. So how does a small company with a local reach effectively market themselves online?  Let’s take a look with SECCO Home, a localized Harrisburg heating company, as a case study.

It Starts with the Right Words

SEO key words and phrases are at the heart of SEO. For example, someone might be looking to buy construction machines in Dallas. One keyword is “machines,” but that can lead to all kinds of websites. Most people won’t plug in a single keyword, and will instead Google “buy machines Dallas.” The unfortunate thing about human nature is we like to get rid of filler words like “the” and “in” when Googling things, making SEO writing a big challenge.

If you make “buy machines in Dallas,” that could also be a good SEO key phrase, but the original “buy machines Dallas” might garner more hits. Not even all professional writers have the skills to write SEO, so this is going to be one of your biggest obstacles. Utilize the best writer in your company and constantly update a spreadsheet of possible key words to include. Google Analytics is a free tool that can help you find new, related key words.

Then There’s the Writing

Once you have a solid set of keywords to include in the content, the writing aspect is next. Keyword stuffing used to be the go-to trick for SEO professionals, but that’s no longer a possibility. It reads as spam and can cause devastating SEO effects. Instead, completely original and organic content is required with the keywords included as naturally as possible.

Never copy and paste, never duplicate copy, and invest in a Copyscape subscription. There’s sometimes a thin line between plagiarism and sharing the same information. After all, the specifications of a certain machine can only be described in so many ways. Run all copy through Copyscape to play it safe and avoid any hassles.

Link Quality

Another great way to improve SEO is with inbound and outbound links. This includes the links you share on your site to a complementary site, as well as your URL that’s shared on other sites. Just like friendships, it’s quality and not quantity that matters here. If your outbound links connect to spammy sites, it will impact your SEO. If the links are broken, completely unrelated to your site (such as a pet store that links to car dealerships) or the outbound link is filled with ads, you’re not doing yourself any favors.

Once a month, check all links for quality because they can change. What was once a great link can become bogged down with banner ads, or the site might switch directions and it no longer relates to your business. This can be time consuming, but it’s worth the effort.

Avoid These Newbie Mistakes

You might think having duplicate websites is a great way to monopolize SEO rankings. This always backfires. If you have different URLS like MachineMaster.info and MachineBeast.info, but they both have the exact same content, that’s a huge red flag. Duplicate copy is a shortcut approach, and many sites get caught trying to improve their SEO this way. There’s no alternative to quality, original content.

Another big mistake is hosting too many ads. Unless ads are seriously driving up revenue, they’re better left off of the page. Ads read as spam, and spam is death to SEO. If you really want to try to make money with ads, start with one or two and play around with ad placement to optimize them. If they don’t deliver a decent profit, let them go.

The New SEO Tools

There was a time when infographics and videos did little to improve SEO, but those days are over. Infographics are just what they sound like: Images combined with text or information. Everything from a cat meme to a pie chart listing diseases in the US is an infographic, and they can vastly improve SEO rankings. However, they need to relate to the site, be high quality, and have viral appeal (so you need to make them easy to share).

Videos are on the same track, but you need to be careful when including them on websites. Not all platforms will support video loading, or maybe someone has a slow connection, so always provide content that describes the information in the video, too. Videos can easily catch someone’s attention, but if they don’t load properly, what’s the use?

How Design Impacts SEO

Your web designer should know the intricacies of SEO, too. Responsive design is a must so websites are easily accessible on any platform. The site should be designed so people can easily navigate it, and SEO content should be rich and included on most pages. Don’t get too creative with nav bar placement or using fancy fonts that are difficult to read.

If SEO sounds like a lot of work, you’re right — but it’s an integral part of succeeding online. Particularly for businesses without a brick and mortar shop, e-commerce is truly their only bread and butter. Utilize SEO wisely, don’t take any shortcuts, and monitor rankings regularly with a free tool like Google Analytics. Even if your site has been up and running for years, it’s never too late to take corrective action and get those rankings up.

Local SEO Census Data

How to Use Census Data to Improve Local SEO

Local SEO Census Data

Localized search engine optimization (SEO) is somewhat of a new kid on the block, and small businesses are hungering after maximizing it. What you might not realize is that census data, which is completely free, can be a game changer with localized SEO. Why not take advantage of this data to make the most of SEO for your small business? Here’s how to get started:

Census information is the mother of all big data, and it’s readily available for all businesses. Whether bought or found for free, try combining census information with big data for the best results. Let’s say you own an Amish outlet store in Pennsylvania. Census data can tell you a bevy of information about your local clients.

Get Business Intelligence

Business intelligence, or BI, is comprised of processes, methods and theories that transform raw data into actually useful information. You can get BI from software systems or hire a contract BI professional to comb through census data for you. One of the biggest problems with big data is that people aren’t sure how to parse and use it. However, it can be used to create SEO campaigns that improve your bottom line.

At the same time, census data lets you know a lot more about individual neighborhoods. You might think you know the town where you do business, but the reality is that you only know a portion of it. Look at what your business is targeting, and utilize census data to narrow down target markets by age, gender or other caveats. The data can tell you exactly where your ideal or new markets are located.

Whittle It Down Some More

Micro-local SEO is an even newer breakthrough in the world of SEO. However, with census data, you can narrow down your target market to a zip code, block or even one specific street. This is great for businesses that have extremely specific niches and need to know exactly where to focus their efforts. A door hanger campaign can be very effective when you know who’s picking up the flyers.

You can also compare the IP addresses checking out your website to broader information about that zip code. Do you want to know why a certain IP address is constantly on your website? You can find out more by cross referencing it with census data. It might be a good idea to market your products or services to the neighborhood where the IP address originates from.

Stay Informed

A new census poll is conducted regularly, so it’s relatively easy to have updated information. Unlike some big data collections, you can almost always rely on census information. It’s the biggest free data source in the US, so take advantage of it.

Whether you’re looking for improved localized SEO or to just know more about your potential market, start with what’s free. As long as you use BI to understand it, you’ll have a solid foundation to work from.

Bucket List Kiss the Blarney Stone

Kiss the Blarney Stone – Bucket List #25 Traveling

Bucket List Kiss the Blarney Stone


It was just like in a fairytale.  I went to an exotic land, rich with culture and heritage, and it was there that I fell in love.  I traveled the beautiful Irish countryside with them, working my way to Dublin, where I would aim to propose to my girlfriend.  But I never made it to Dublin.  Instead, an unlikely series of events occurred, causing complications, many of which my traveling companion and I experienced together.  Those trials and tribulations during our travels lead us to fall madly and deeply in love with one another.

Uhmmm…Wait….Wait a minute! Isn’t that the summary to that flop movie Leap Year?  You’re right.  What about it. That movie was way more romantic than my experience, and I feel like I was misled! I thought I was going to Ireland to meet some beautiful Irish girls and magically fall in love.  Instead what did I do?  I kissed a rock. And it was beautiful.

Your’e probably wondering why I rambled so much to introduce that to you.  I think it comes with the territory.  Whenever you kiss the Blarney Stone, you’re given the gift of gab.  Well that doesn’t seem very new.  I think I’ve always possessed that trait.

Let me get an AMEN if you think that’s always been true. 

What I’m really hoping for is the gift of eloquence that also comes promised with kissing the Blarney stone.  For all you non-literary folk (it’s ok sometimes I fall in this group too), eloquence is defined as having the quality of persuasive expressiveness.  So basically I was hoping it would make me more charming.  So I don’t have to keep kissing rocks and can take these luscious lips elsewhere.

Just kidding.  But if I don’t come out of this with an elegant swagger to my speech (definitely not. I just used the word swagger) then at least I shared a beautiful moment with Winston Churchill. Sort of.  Here’s a fact, Winston Churchill actually kissed the stone in 1912 and is today recognized as the greatest orator of the 20th century!

Winston Churchill Blarney Stone


The Blarney Castle: You Gotta Work For It but You Don’t Have to Pay For It.

I’ve been blabbing on about that romantic kiss, so I’ll get to the point of the blog post.  The Blarney Castle is located right outside of the city of Cork.  It’s towards the bottom of Ireland, so after spending a day in Dublin, my best buds, John, Joel and I all left Dublin to explore the country, making a point to see one of the most prominent tourist locations of Ireland.  So after about a 4 hours trip from Ireland’s capital, we made it down to the small town of Blarney.  Apparently we got there at the perfect time.  A large tour group was coming in through the gates at the same time, full of kids about the same age as us.  We walked up to the gate mixed in the crowd, and their guide rushed them through the gate.  Their tickets were already paid for.  We stopped to go through the booth, until he hurried us through and insisted we don’t fall behind! Obviously we didn’t argue, I kissed the Blarney Stone for FREE!


John, Joel and I Pucker Up

Kissing the Blarney Stone was actually a little bit of adrenaline rush.  You’d be surprised given that people old and young all do it, and so going into it , its just a rock you can easily kiss.  But truthfully, reaching far enough back, risking life and limb to lean over the battlements to kiss a freaking stone really mean you’ve fallen in love.  I wouldn’t do it for any other rock.

But they have you lay down, reach back with two arms onto the iron bars, and go back head first over a chute in the wall.  You can see in my first picture that the view is just straight down! At least they made the effort to clean off everyones kisses to make sure I didn’t get sloppy seconds.


Don’t Miss The Rest of the Blarney Castle

Anyways,  it was a hell of a walk up to the top of the castle, and the grounds were HUGE. I’d definitely recommend taking the time to walk around at everything.  The gardens were beautiful, and there was a gorgeous mansion within the grounds.  And the castle is also steeped in history.

But see it for yourselves! Here are only a couple of my MILLION pictures (Go here to see more Ireland Pictures!).  Taken so you could all experience it with me! 🙂


Joel Blarney Castle Walk

Joel didn’t like having to walk so far.


Blarney Castle Approach

I was plenty happy with everything.


So to pass the time. John and I danced. Pretty common.

So to pass the time. John and I danced. Pretty common.



We got just a little bit closer. It really puts things in perspective from this distance.  Everything is much more epic in Ireland.



Here’s a better view of what the castle looks like as you get closer.  It’s a gorgeous site.  Interesting thing is you can see a line go down the middle.  Apparently the second owner  of the Blarney Castle felt the size was not suitable for his needs and doubled it by adding directly onto the side.  That was after he killed a family member to get control of the castle.  Family meant so little back in those days…




Next we headed over to the dungeons (probably where we belonged) to have another photoshoot.  Why not.


Check it out! Side view!

Check it out! Side view!



Each level of the castle used to have a very large room at it’s central point.  But the floors of each level haven’t stood the test of time.  We’re seen standing here in the kitchen, which sat right underneath the Great Hall, which stood underneath the main bedroom chamber!



Once we got to the very top.  After a hundred steps up a spiral staircase we got to take in the quant town of Blarney flowing along the curves of the countryside.




The mansion from the top of the Blarney Castle.  You’ll see more of this epic architecture in a couple more pictures!


The Blarney Castle Gardens

You definitely don’t want to just take in the Castle.  There is so much more to see at the grounds then just kissing the Blarney stone.   Here’s what you’re missing if you don’t feel like taking a hike and exploring around the grounds.  The gatehouse was picturesque.




The Blarney Mansion




The Extras

The following picture is probably what everyone thinks of when they imagine Ireland.  Beautiful stone walls and mossy plants and small gateways.  That’s a lot of what we saw, and we found this gem of a shot at the very ends of the grounds.  It was definitely worth the trip.




Ben and Chris:

And with an amazing stroke of luck we met up with these two bozos in Blarney. Literally by pure chance! We didn’t plan on meeting them until later that night to get our party on in Cork.  But more on them later. Just look at them. LOOK.



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Bucket list win a race

Place in my Age Group at a Race – Bucket List #12 Athletics

Bucket list win a race

About two years ago, I underwent a big life experience, and in some ways it altered my perspective on life.  I wouldn’t ever say it was for the best or worst, but either way, it ended up with me having a lot more time to myself, especially to think about the path my life was taking me.  And I’m not one for having personal time of my own; I don’t like being alone, I like being surrounded by people at all times, and to be interacting with others daily.  But unfortunately that’s not always possible, so in order to cope, I found myself putting the majority of my efforts into running.  I poured my heart into it to distract myself from everything that was going on around me.  But this isn’t supposed to be a blog post about all that stuff.

The point is, running has become something that’s very important to me.  It’s no longer just a hobby, its part of my life, and without it, I usually feel very unfulfilled.  So over the past two years, I’ve run a ton of races, starting with my first marathon, the Bob Potts Rail Trail in York, PA.  And since then, I’ve been very pleasantly surprised by how well I’ve done in comparison to my peers.  That first marathon, I placed 5th in my entire age group (0 – 25 years old)! Not the hardest age group, considering most individuals who run marathons aren’t just 22 years old.  But still, runner’s are considered in their prime between 25 and 29, so I’d say thats not too bad!

Place in a Race - The Final Stretch

Bucket List Goal Almost DONE!

Since then, I’ve seen a pretty continual run of decent results, generally leaving me in the top 20 of my age group, but I’ve never considered pace an aspect of my training (well…too much).  I’ve just focused on running because it feels right, and to complete the distances I set out to complete.  But I’ve always known that I’ve only ever done so well in races because I’m one of the most competitive people you’ll ever meet.  It used to be that if you were to say you could juggle 20 kittens while riding a bicycle on a trampoline, I would make it my goal to juggle 22 kittens while riding a unicycle on a trampoline just to one up you.  And I’m very aware that this isn’t necessarily the most endearing trait, but it’s not something I actively do, it just comes naturally.  Fortunately, I’ve worked on it, and I think I can keep it under control most times, but in situations like a race, no matter what happens, I’m going to put my all into keeping up with you.

Anyways, I’m getting off track again, but basically, I thought it was about time to start taking these races more seriously.  I wanted to come out on top, and I wanted to set a goal to place in a race.  And just this past winter I pulled it off! On November 24, 2012 I finally placed 3rd in my age group and 5th overall!  

Bucket List - Before the 5k

Me before the 5k – IT WAS FREEZING

I had been running a lot of half marathons lately, so my pace for a 5k was not on par, but through a little desire, I managed to keep up with the race leaders.  The run, the 4th Annual “Lifting a Legacy,” was held in honor of two of the most genuinely friendly people I’ve ever met, Jon Quigley and Emily Trump, who had passed away in a car accident about 4 years ago (?).  I went to high school with both of these individuals, and grew up with Jon through boyscouts.  (If you want to donate to the charities in their memory, they go to “Stop the Violence” and Pink Hands of Hope.)

Anyways, here was my time, and proof of my finish! I couldn’t have been more excited, and I think my goal is to win next years! Wish me luck! And for those of you locals, I’d love to see you out there to challenge me for the title! 😛

Place in a race bucket list Race Times

Thanks for reading! Oh and thanks to Joel for running with me! He killed it too! 1oth place!!!

Joel and I after the 5k - Bucket list

Joel and I after the Race!

Joel Finishing his 5k

Joel Finishing his 5k


UPDATE: Progress is Everything.

So now that it’s been some time, and a New Year has rolled around, I’ve run a couple of events, and it’s felt good to get back to working on my 5k time.  I just completed a Tough Mudder so a little bit of focus was getting my distances back up, but that has all helped to improve my 5k time.  Great news is that just in April I managed to move on up from a 3rd Place finish, to a Second Place finish!  It was for a great cause to donate to cancer after a boy, Eli suffered from a fatal battle with cancer.  Thoughts go out to his family.

But on a more  positive note, I’ve got second under my belt, and it feels great!  Here’s the medal, first place here I come.  Oh yea and great job to my longtime running soul mate, Katy Mills for also getting second place for the ladies!


President Obama - Our 44th

Social Media Takes on The 2012 Election

President Obama - Our 44th

Picture courtesy of the Whitehouse.

I know this post is a little late to the game, but I figured I’d still share my thoughts on the matter, because President Obama continues to make many of the write decisions with his digital campaign.  

Many experts felt that Obama won the 2008 presidential election by winning the youth vote. He facilitated a highly effective grass-roots campaign strategy by which he was able to reach thousands. 

Popular social media platforms were the virtual conversion sites where Obama’s digital team advertised a plan for America to undecided voters. Appealing video speeches and Web tidbits advocating Obama’s plan for America helped to style the soon-to-be President as a political icon.

As with any campaign, it’s a numbers game; and with the 2012 Presidential election, nowhere is this more the case than in the social media universe. Long gone are the days when users logged on to the Web just to check inboxes, submit federal resumes to prospective employers or deliver  e-greetings during the holidays. Today, people look to the Internet to inform more life-altering decisions, including who will become the next President of the United States.


Obama on Reddit

President Obama participating on the Reddit Community – Ask Me Anything. From his Twitter Account.

Sounding Off The Social Media Way

Social Web accounts are soundboards through which users broadcast their boisterous opinions, sometimes with unwanted effects; the plethora of political rants are creating an “unfriending” epidemic. Nevertheless, political rants often introduce new or formerly disengaged voters to the candidates and their issues at large. 

Passionate political pundits, who are commonly suspicious of big news establishments, collaborate with online friends and associates to scrutinize statements and verify facts, hoping to change the political leanings of their friends and associates in the process.

Social Media Campaigning

It has become abundantly clear that effectively utilizing social media is no longer an option for today’s political campaigns; it’s a necessity. Having experienced tremendous success in this area, at the start of the 2012 campaign season Obama’s team swiftly moved to fortify their social media base with Web-specific content. On the other hand, Romney’s campaign has not been as engaged with social media tools, and his overall popularity numbers have suffered as a result.

2012 Presidential Ad Spend

Obama Spent More on Online Ads During the 2012 Election – Facts courtesy of Business Insider.

Obama Spends more Online

Obama Spent More Over Time. Images and Data courtesy of Business Insider

Win the Web, and You Win The War

The aftermath of the first 2012 presidential debate is proof that given enough social Web buzz, an unpopular campaign can turn around literally overnight. In spite of major media organizations attempting to declare an undecided winner, users took to social media platforms to voice an overwhelming consensus that Romney actually won the first debate. Conscientious observers took to fact checking, while thrill-seekers produced and devoured slapstick viral content that overwhelmingly showed a strong preference for Romney over Obama. 

Perhaps now the “Grand Old Party” will get hip to social media’s powerful ability to change the political game completely. Competitors may fear Obama for his oratory skills and appeal to Web-conscious voters, but Romney has unleashed a barrage of whimsical political zingers upon which the social media masses feasted and made viral to his benefit.

Exact Match Domains and Google

Exact match domains, or EMDs, are websites using a popular key phrase for a domain name. Simply by owning an EMD, a website owner has been guaranteed a high ranking in search engine results, even when other sites provide more valuable content.

EMDs have been a thorn in Google’s side for years, and with the company’s new EMD algorithm, it looks like the search engine giant has finally decided to pull the thorn. While not a huge change to Google’s search ranking system, the EMD algorithm renders a venerable SEO shortcut obsolete.

How EMDs (Used to) Work

Let’s presume you own a website offering certified translation services. Your onsite content is fantastic, and you’ve spent years building an organic and relevant link network. You have an established blog and social media presence, and you update both on a regular basis.

In spite of this, three or four document translation websites consistently outperform you on certain keywords, simply because their domain names match one of your important key phrases exactly.

In theory, an EMD website could back up its domain advantage with relevant content, but in practice such sites are often incredibly spammy and filled with affiliate links and ads. The intent isn’t to offer a service of value to readers, only to make quick money.

Google’s Solution

While it’s unclear exactly how the EMD algorithm judges websites with exact match domains, it probably factors in the three criteria that Google actively looks for: content, relevant links and social signals.

EMD sites are notorious for poorly written content with multiple misspellings and grammatical errors, and Google’s rapidly improving its ability to identify such warning signs. EMDs also tend to link out to spammy, low quality or suspect sites. In addition, a poor quality EMD tends to have little positive presence on social media sites.

Who’s Going to Get Hit?

If I had an EMD loaded with spammy links, I’d expect to see a significant drop in web traffic over the next few months. Other sites are unlikely to be affected. Matt Cutts, head of Google’s webspam team, estimates that the new algorithm will affect less than 0.6 percent of U.S. queries.

Exact match domains with good quality content shouldn’t see a drop in traffic. The EMD algorithm also factors in brand recognition, so if your company name is also your domain name, you won’t be dinged for making this logical decision.

Minimizing the EMD Algorithm’s Effects

Google announced it would only run the EMD algorithm periodically. This means domain names penalized by the algorithm won’t quickly filter out of the system, while providing windows of opportunity for sites to clean up their act and avoid further penalties.

Sites worried about the EMD algorithm have the same options open to all sites: add regular, relevant content to your site, improve your link network, and maintain a positive social media reputation.

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