I came across a good post on Reddit that got me thinking about what some of my goals are for 2014. I’ve already got some fitness goals (first triathlon) as well as personal goals (done with an office job by August). But, being a fairly avid reader when time allows, I thought this was a good idea:
The goal is to read as many books as you can written by authors from different US states.
An author’s state is the state in which he was born; Hemingway lived in Florida and Idaho, but he was born in Illinois.
Here are the achievement levels, based on number of states “visited” in 2014:
Turn Off the Television: 1-5 states visited
Homebody: 6-10 states visited
Budget Traveler: 11-15 states visited
Frequent Flier: 16-20 states visited
Pathfinder: 21-25 states visited
Lewis and Clark: 26 or more states visited
In a best-case outcome you would read 50 books, roughly one per week. If you don’t think that even 26 is an achievable number, remember that’s just one book every 2 weeks. And consider the following partial list of novelists and their home states:
Ernest Hemingway – Illinois
Tom Perrotta – New Jersey
Mark Twain – Missouri
F. Scott Fitzgerald – Minnesota
John Dunning – New York
Dan Jenkins – Texas
Robert B. Parker – Massachusetts
Marisha Pessl – Michigan
Carl Hiaasen – Florida
Stephen King – Maine
Jim Butcher – Missouri
John Steinbeck – California
Dean Koontz – Pennsylvania
Dashiell Hammett – Maryland
John Grisham – Arkansas
Sue Grafton – Kentucky
Laura Moriarty – Hawaii
James Thurber – Ohio
Ray Blackston – South Carolina
S.E. Hinton – Oklahoma
Flannery O’Connor – Georgia
Keep in mind that each state only counts once; Mark Twain and Jim Butcher are both from Missouri, but if you read the entire Dresden series and Tom Sawyer it only counts as one state visited (even if you detoured into Kansas in between). But this also shows the flexibility of this challenge: fans of the classics and fans of Sci-Fi/Fantasy both have options in Missouri.
I doubt I’ll find the time to get myself up to 26 or more, but I’m going to aim for 11-15 – and I’m going to include short stories. Being part of a reading club helps, and although I don’t always end up falling in love with new readings, I’ve found it helpful to branch out into different authors and subject matters. You never know where it will end up affecting your life!
As I was researching some local results for SEO services in the upstate area, I came across a wide range of services and quality. It was a little scary to think of a business owner wading into this, although my instinct is that most people would go with a service recommended by an associate or business partner.
For some of the smaller areas in upstate NY I came across SEO “firms” on the first page of results that were offering package directory submissions for hundreds of dollars per month – not a bad gig if you can land it, but certainly not a way to make your client rank! I’m fairly sure that some of these firms are just sites that no longer do much work – anyone still submitting massive directory blasts for a client will have some real issues – and fast.
Anyways, this made me think of how to educate clients and business owners. This is always a double edged sword – you can make someone dangerous with knowledge, but the lack of understanding can be just as bad. All things being equal I would rather my clients understand the basics and the current landscape – after all, it’s a function of marketing and they have a vested interest in being on top of what is going on in that segment of their industry (and in general).
As far as SEO and other forms of online optimization go, I usually see Moz referred to as a good place to start. I haven’t looked over their beginner’s guide in a couple of years, but I suppose that it isn’t the worst place to begin. I have this feeling that someone (but, who?!?) could put together a decent guide for business owners as a guide to online visibility. I use that word, visibility, since it isn’t always search engine visibility – if you can find quality traffic from a forum, social media, or other outlet, then great – go for it!
Something that would encapsulate perhaps the top 10-ish ways to gain visibility – onsite and offsite SEO being 2 of those. Off the top of my head I would think that several other topics would be:
Email collection / targeting (build a list)
Semantic markup (schema.org)
That’s the short list off the top of my head – from there it’s a matter of coming up with what might be the most important. I think I’ll end up taking the list of what matters the most to my clients and write it up into a short PDF for use as a freebie incentive on my services website. Couldn’t hurt, and it would be so much better for them than coming across one of these relic SEO firms that will submit their site to search engine Hades…
I’m glad I came across this article in Search Engine Land today – I’ve seen tons of forum posts, articles, and heated debates about whether or not duplicate content will negatively affect your site or rankings.
The actual value (25 to 30 percent) seemed high to me, but is not really surprising when you take into account summaries or curation (what the next part of this article is!), product descriptions, and general distribution of information.
Here is the relevant part of the article on duplicate content:
Matt [Cutts] said that somewhere between 25% to 30% of the content on the web is duplicative. Of all the web pages and content across the internet, over one-quarter of it is repetitive or duplicative.
But Cutts says you don’t have to worry about it. Google doesn’t treat duplicate content as spam. It is true that Google only wants to show one of those pages in their search results, which may feel like a penalty if your content is not chosen — but it is not.
That is pretty unambiguous – and makes a lot of sense when you think about it. Why would Google be penalizing the distribution of information? However, that is not to say that blatant copying is ignored:
Matt Cutts did say Google does reserve the right to penalize a site that is excessively duplicating content, in a manipulative manner. But overall, duplicate content is normal and not spam.
From my point of view, this isn’t groundbreaking, but it is good to see it clearly laid out. Many people fret about their information appearing in many sources – but if you have information to share then that’s exactly what you want to be doing. Keep in mind this does NOT refer to having duplicate content on your own site.
Video On Duplicate Content
If you’d like to hear it from the horse’s mouth – here’s a video of Matt talking about the issue:
There is an interesting question that I have seen asked in several locations without a clear answer – what is considered overuse of Schema.org markup? For example, would a local business owner be in trouble with search engines if their NAP was marked up in the footer of every page of their site?
My initial reaction is that this is ridiculous. It’s common, and sensible, for business owners to have their contact and location information on their pages.
So, at the very least you wouldn’t want to endanger converting actual customers to appease search gods – right?