Technology

I’ve been thinking about self-driving cars a lot lately.  It’s a fun topic to look into and there’ve been several interesting articles recently.  There’s been a lot of talk out there because the self driving car reports from California have come out for this year.  I agree with this article, however, which points out that these reports don’t really tell us anything except for which companies test on Californian roads.

But I’ve noticed something interesting.  In a lot of these articles, both the ones on the reports and articles on other aspects of the industry, there’s inevitably some prediction for the future and this prediction is usually contradictory to most of the other predictions out there.

Racecar on track
What do you mean “live action Cars” already exists?

Often it seems like we’re going to usher in a golden age of self-driving cars that don’t need humans and our dream of watching a live action Cars movie can come true.  (that’s everyone’s dream right?  Not just mine?)  Other times it seems like we’re about to utterly destroy civilization entirely and be left holding a single broken key fob.  With this in mind and after scouring the web for predictions on when we’ll have self driving cars I’m pleased to introduce a brand new initiative here at Panda Rose.  The Panda Rose Choose Your Own Prediction Adventure!  By following this simple quiz, you can easily come up with predictions to give to all your friends at your next cocktail party and even better, it doubles as a really cheap personality test.  Are you ready?  Alright, let’s begin!

Looking at the latest technology I am absolutely certain that we will have self-driving cars ______!

  1. before 2022
  2. after 2022
  3. the distant future
  4. never

When we get self driving cars they will ____

  1. usher in a golden age where no one owns their own cars anymore.
  2. usher in a dark age of traffic where everyone and their dog are driving everywhere
  3. not really change anything
  4. lead to the destruction of modern society and massive civil unrest.

The solution to all the problems stopping us from using self-driving cars is ___

  1. not needed.  Almost all our problems are solved already.  I’m already getting ready for my preorder.
  2. to put all cars onto rails and maybe change their name to ‘trains’.
  3. making it illegal to go near a road on foot.
  4. nothing.  There’s no solution.  We can only accept that it will never work.

Self-driving cars will eventually be as safe as ____

  1. whatever the safest thing in the world is.  I dunno. The Svalsgaard Doomsday Seed Vault maybe?
  2. a car driven by a really good human driver.
  3. a car driven by a contestant on Canada’s Worst Driver
  4. standing on the surface of the sun.

Self-driving cars are ___

  1. guaranteed to work correctly so I’ve sold my current car and invested all my money in all the companies.
  2. a good idea if they work.
  3. alright, I guess.
  4. the fifth horseman of the apocalypse which will lead to our destruction at the hands of our car overlords.

Results

Now it’s time to calculate your results.  Add up the numbers of every answer you chose.

If you scored 5 points, you’re an idealist.  Your view of the future involves you driving into the sunset in a beautiful sports car.  And when I say that you’re driving, of course I mean that the car is driving while you take a well deserved nap.

If you scored 6-19 points, you’re probably a realist.  Especially if you didn’t answer question #3 because you didn’t agree with any of the choices.  You think there’s a good chance that we’ll get self-driving cars at some point but life won’t really change all that much for us when that happens.  You’re willing to wait and see though.

If you scored 20 points, you’re a pessimist (or a Luddite perhaps).  You don’t think we’ll ever have self-driving cars but if we do it’ll be the end of us all.

If you scored 0 points because you skipped over all the questions, you probably think that you don’t have enough information to make a prediction and so you’ll keep quiet for now.  Well a noble intention, I’d urge you to reconsider.  Not having any information certainly hasn’t stopped the rest of us so why should you miss out on all the fun?

EducationSEOUncategorized

Understanding Local SEO

Local search engine optimization is a tool for local small to medium businesses that want to target a regional market.  The goal of local SEO is to make it that when somebody is searching for services you provide, you’re the one that shows up first.

Note: If you’re more of an auditory learner, you can also take a look at our Youtube video on this subject.

You’ve probably heard of local search engine optimization because you’ve received *that email*.  You know which one I’m talking about.  The one that says “I took a look at your search engine optimization and I’ve attached a report for you.”  It has performance, search engine optimization, and a variety of other different rankings and under SEO it usually says something like C- or D, sometimes it even says F.  Unfortunately, this is usually true because most people’s search engine optimization is not optimal.

example rankings from SEO reports
You’ve probably received a view reports that have something that looks like this…

However, the person who sent you that report doesn’t know much more than you from that report because he used an automated online search engine optimization report such as SEOptimer to generate the report quickly, print it out, and send it to you. He probably hasn’t even reviewed the report. In fact, when you look at the second page of the report, you’ll see a section that usually says keywords and in that section, you’ll see something like ‘5 PM’ or ‘clock.’ Now, unless you’re actually making clocks or watches, I’m pretty sure these are not your keywords. But when you run an automated report and it is not being reviewed with your business in mind, those would be the keywords that you would see. So, what does this all mean?

Well, for one: He’s right, your search engine optimization needs work. So you need to take a look at your website to make sure that the technical details there are correct so that Google properly ranks you for your business in your region. But you don’t want to spend your time on somebody who doesn’t care about your business or simply doing keyword stuffing to fool Google into putting you first.

Google wants your site, or anybody’s site, to show up first when it is the correct site for the search that is being done. So if somebody’s toilet is overflowing and they have a bit of an emergency on hand, and they search for “plumber my toilet is overflowing.” Google does not want to be showing them YouTube videos of hilarious toilets overflowing. What Google wants to show them is a local plumber they can call right away so that their toilet can get fixed.

sandbox with toys
It’s not quite as fun as when you were a kid

There is a type of SEO out there called Black Hat SEO, where the goal of it is to fool Google into putting you at the top regardless of whether you are credible or authentic to that industry. These are the people who recommend things such as keyword stuffing, paying for backlinks from blogs that have nothing to do with you, and investing in “link farms”. Sometimes these methods work for a while. That’s why black hat SEO exists. But in many cases once Google finds out that you are implementing these methods and trying to find a way around their system, you get penalized.  In the worst case you can get what’s called “sandboxed” in which case you don’t show up on Google at all until you can go through an appeals process.

So how to you show up on top legitimately?  Well, there’s over 400 different factors that we’re aware of that Google considers to determine its page ranking. This is why there are many SEO firms out who can help achieve these high rankings. That being said the three factors we’ve discovered over our many years of doing SEO are:

  1. How authentic are you?
  2. How credible are you?
  3. How appropriate are you to the keywords that are being searched for at that time?

Authenticity

If you are doing it correctly and since all of you probably own legitimate businesses, this would be the obvious way of doing it. You want to target both the authenticity and the credibility side as well as all those technical aspects. Now, what is authenticity? It’s things like:

  • How long has your business existed?
  • How can we know that your business is a legitimate business in the region?
  • Where is your business located?
Toy robot
Google’s a bit fancier than this robot though…

Google’s a robot. They’re not hiring people to go and check every single business, call every single number. They’re looking at existing directories and then from those directories determining whether or not the business has been around for a while, determining whether or not the business is established, and determining whether or not the business is well known. So if you want a good ranking on Google, you need to make sure your Google Business page is set up correctly. You need to make sure that you go through the verification process, where they send you a little postcard with a little code on it, you type in the code and now Google goes “Okay, you exist and you exist at this address. Awesome.” Sometimes Google actually will call you too, but that’s a different edge case.

Google also looks at these aggregators who look at all of those directories online to try to generate which companies are out there. These aggregators pull from other map sites. So once you have your Google business site set up correctly and verified, then make sure you have a Facebook page set up with the exact same address as your Google business site. That means if your address is 123 Someplace Street and you spell it out S T R E E T, then your Facebook page should say the exact same thing. It should not say St. It should say S T R E E T because while Google can compensate for minor differences, we have found that the closer to an exact match everything is, the better your ranking will be.  It makes sense.  Because if you care about your business, if you’re authentic, you’re going to make sure that all of your directory listings are the same.  This is especially important if you’ve moved because from Google’s perspective if it sees two completely different addresses, it doesn’t know which one is correct. You need to spend the time to make sure they match.

Once you have your Facebook page set up then I would recommend you set up a Bing Places page, which sounds silly. Why would Bing influence your Google ranking?  Because Bing gets picked up by the aggregators and the aggregators feed Google.  So it’s very important to make sure that page is set up correctly as well. It’s also worthwhile getting a Yelp page setup if you can.  They will call you endlessly trying to sell you advertising. You don’t need it for most industries. It’s not worth following through on. that’s just their business model. It’s a perfectly reasonable business model but just being listed on Yelp is the important thing.

Outside of that. There are hundreds of other directories that get picked up by these aggregators, including your local Chamber of Commerce, which, if you’re not a member of, I highly recommend you pick up your phone and give them a call. Join Chambers of Commerce, they’re awesome organizations. Once you have all that together, Google can go, “this is an authentic site..” for a lack of better words for that

Credibility

Next Google looks at your credibility. This is your Google reviews, your Yelp reviews, and your reviews on your Facebook page. Google aggregates all those and goes, “Is this a good business? Are a lot of people going to and reviewing it positively?” Interestingly, having a couple of negative reviews can actually help you a bit in this case, because there are a lot of people who will review stuff., that will give an unusually high number of stars for their review and Google goes, “well, that looks a little iffy. Maybe we’ll dial them back a bit.” If you have a couple of lower reviews, it looks more natural. Google isn’t worried about spam.

How do you get reviews?  In this case, it’s really simple: every time you do business for one of your clients, you can write them afterwards with the invoice and go, “Thank you for your business. Please, we would love it if you would review our business.”  You can put a little link to your Google page and allow them to review quickly.  If you want, you can contact us and we’ll show you how you can get that link quickly to send with your emails. This will allow you to naturally and organically get those reviews and help build up the credibility side of your page ranking.

Keyword Targeting

archery target

Now on the third side, keyword targeting, there’s a whole list of ways.  It’s a very intensive environment. But the most important thing to get everything working correctly, is to make sure your site is accessible by as many different devices to as many different people as possible.

If you have images on your site with text, Google doesn’t read that text because Google is programmatically going through your site.  So make sure those images with text either have proper alt tags so that the text has a programmably readable version, or you get rid of those images and make sure you have just plain text on your side at that point. This is very important, not just for Google, but for any potential customer you have because if, for example, you have a blind customer visit your site, they won’t be able to see that image either. So it’s absolutely imperative that you concentrate on making sure that your site is accessible by as many different people as possible, which will also boost your ranking.

Google also takes into consideration how well your site runs on a mobile app, on a mobile phone, which means you need to make sure that your site is responsive so that when somebody goes to your site on the phone, it’s readable, it’s usable, it works well.  Since so many people these days use their phone to look up a business; if they get to your site and they can’t find your phone number because it’s in tiny little text, it’s of no use to them.  So Google is not going to promote that site. Once you get these things done, there’s all sorts of other factors. But just those three things will make such a difference for your SEO that you’ll probably actually notice an increase in your organic traffic if you do this correctly.

However, you have a business to run. You don’t want to be spending all of your time doing the technical work. If that’s the case give us a call. We can sit down with you and figure out something that works within your budget so that you can concentrate on growing your business and we can concentrate on helping you.

EducationProductivitySelf-Improvement

high-five with cat

Well folks, that’s it. January has finally ended. And with that, most people’s resolve to meet their list of New Year’s Resolutions has also ended.

groundhog day
But hey! We survived Groundhog Day!

OK, maybe I’m jumping the gun a bit. It’s actually mid-February when most lose their resolve. But that’s not really the point here anyway.

The question is: WHY do people lose their resolve?

What are some of the things lots of people resolve to do on that Great Day of Resolution? According to Time.com, the Top 10 broken New Year’s Resolutions are:

  • Lose Weight and Get Fit
  • Quite Smoking
  • Learn Something New
  • Get Out of Debt and Save Money
  • Spend More Time with Family
  • Travel to New Places
  • Be Less Stressed
  • Volunteer
  • Drink Less

Do you see any problems with this list?

These resolutions are HUGE. They require major life changes.

Don’t get me wrong, I think these lofty goals are great, but trying to reach the height of that goal on day one is like trying to eat a 12-foot subway sandwich in one sitting. It’s just a really bad idea.

Seagull eating a starfish
Or this seagull trying to eat a massive starfish

It’s not impossible for one person to eat a 12-foot sandwich, though. How, you might ask? Well by taking one bite at a time, of course!

Now a more practical application: habits. In order to make a major change in your life, you need to create or change a habit. Trying to do that isn’t easy, but it can be done if you break it down into little tiny pieces. Let’s look one of the resolutions on the above list: Learn Something New.

Some people might jump to the conclusion that you should go out and sign up for a cake decorating course or take on reading a complex physics book and then force yourself to finish these regardless of whether you like to or not.

smoking lamb cake wreck
It’s OK, cake decorating isn’t for everyone.

But what if there’s a better way?

You want to learn something new, so why don’t you find a five-minute educational that you can listen to while you’re getting ready for work every day or before you turn the lights off for bed? Or how about you find a book full of interesting facts and read just one fact per day before bed? These are easy things to do and require very little effort, but they’re still steps on a journey of learning new things.

Gosh, this book would be a great start.

Every time you accomplish this task, give yourself a high-five, pat yourself on the pack, or any other kind of positive affirming message. Yes, I know this sounds cheesy, but it’s an important part of enforcing the good habit.

Do this daily and you’ll have created a new habit, and that itself the hardest part. Once you have the habit in place, you can increase the time you spend on it as you like.

high-five with cat
Don’t forget the high-five. It’s crucial.

There’s no timeline for doing this, you just move forward when you are ready, but you are still accomplishing a goal: learning something new.

I think at some point the 12-foot subway sandwich analogy breaks down, because no matter what, you’ll still (probably) never eat it all in one day, but I think you’re all smart enough to get what I mean.

submarine sandwich
It’s temping to try though, right?

If you want to read more about building better habits and breaking bad ones, check out this episode of Hidden Brain: Creatures of Habit: How Habits Shape Who We Are — And Who We Become. In fact, if learning something new DOES happen to be your New Year’s resolution, I recommend the whole Hidden Brain podcast series!