Liz Merfeld | (608) 335 2363 | lizmerfeld at me.com |
We work with some of Madison’s most prestigious ad agencies and companies, yet love to help even the smallest of start-ups reach their potential. Shall we add you to our Client List?
Seven cyclists share why they ride, their favorite local routes and the joy biking brings them.
UW-Madison scholars offer a map to the net neutrality debate.
Maybe you’ve spotted it in your daily news feed in the last few weeks. Net neutrality — the idea that the Internet should remain an open, democratic, free-market medium for all people, regardless of how much the
y pay — is getting mainstream attention.
At the UW-Madison, Danny Kimball and Lucas Graves both study issues involving net neutrality. Kimball is an instructor and Ph.D. candidate in UW-Madison’s Communication Arts Department specializing in new media; net neutrality is the focus of his dissertation. Graves is a former Wired reporter and now an assistant professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications.
BY LIZ MERFELD
They are Syrian immigrants and Bhutanese refugees. Spouses of visiting professors from Pakistan and au pairs from Ecuador. Studious mothers of 12 from Somalia whose turn it is, finally, to attend class.
Some, highly educated in their home country, arrive with advanced degrees. Others have never set foot inside a school and struggle to read and write in their native language.
Step into an English as a Second Language classroom at Madison College’s downtown campus, and you’ll find learners from 10 or 15 countries, and as many stations in life, practicing together.
“The clock is on the wall.” “Epiphane is Akugbe’s brother.” Or in higher levels, “Had I known you like reggae, I would have invited you.”
BY LIZ MERFELD
For most of us, smartphones make life more convenient and fun. We route trips, game, buy things and share ideas on the go. But for blind users, smartphones can be survival tools. An app or web page that’s not accessible is more than an annoyance — it disconnects and disorients.
Kevin Jones is one such user. Blind since birth and a lifelong Madison-area resident, Jones is a technology evangelist and an emerging force in the local web and app development community. He’s on a mission to help developers understand how to make their content accessible to the blind.
If you’re having trouble imagining how a blind user navigates a smartphone, head to your phone’s accessibility settings, turn on the screen reader (VoiceOver on Apple iOS, TalkBack on Google’s Android platform), shut your eyes and try catching up on today’s news or tweeting.
BY LIZ MERFELD
My first piece for Madison Magazine, the April 2014 cover story:
“We’re excited to have you on our team! It’s not often we hand out cover stories to folks we’ve never worked with before, but our hunch that you were the best fit for our Best Places to Work project was a good one.” — Brennan Nardi, Editor
The Humanities Hackathon leads the UW’s entry into digital humanities.
If a paperback on your summer reading list was published anonymously, you’d probably notice. But if this article lacked a byline, or tonight’s episode of Wilfred didn’t credit a writer, you might not bat an eyelash.
Mark Vareschi, assistant professor of English at UW-Madison, wants to know why, and also how anonymous publication affects the way we interpret published or performed works. To help him get closer to the answers, he turned to computers….
BY LIZ MERFELD
Together we refined Service Thread’s brand look, sound, and feel. We helped them transcend their existing brand identity to reflect a genuinely accessible yet cutting-edge persona.
From here we applied these new tools to launch a completely new website.
Last May, the girls next door found a baby bunny hopping near their tomato garden, scooped her up and placed her in a box in their garage. “What should we do with her?” they asked me, the neighborhood’s token animal rescuer.
She was the size of my fist, her eyes and ears open, in good health. I had recently learned that at this age, belying their helpless appearance, bunnies are out of the nest and on their own. So we planted her beneath some tangled boscage in their backyard and watched her scamper away.
Bunnies like her often find their way (via well-meaning “rescuers”) to the Dane County Humane Society’s Four Lakes Wildlife Center (FLWC) every day in spring and summer….
BY LIZ MERFELD
With a new company name, direction, design, mission, and voice, Healthgram now sounds and looks like the revolutionary software technology development company it is. Post-rebrand, our creative team (Evans, Prince & Merfeld) created an entirely new website and software portal environment.
If you’re an inventor or crafter, perhaps you’ve used a 3D printer to bring your ideas or artwork to life. For the rest of us, the concept might sound kind of far out. But a world where 3D printing is as commonplace as laser printing is close enough to touch.
BY LIZ MERFELD
Hannah Bernard-Donals is a Certified Professional Midwife and runs All Four Trimesters Midwifery, a private home birth midwifery practice in Madison.
She needed her existing website to attract more local moms-to-be looking for midwifery, duola, and lactation services and support.
We optimized her on-page content and her behind-the-scenes website elements and worked with her to build up her Google Plus page to help Madison families find her fast.
If someone blindfolded you, spun you around and plopped you down on the third floor of the historic Madison train depot on West Washington Avenue, you might think you’ve landed in Seattle, Portland or San Francisco.
But you’d still be in Madison, in the office of Ronin Studios & Consulting, a startup that designs and develops mobile and web-based learning games, simulations and applications for adult learners.
BY LIZ MERFELD
A good STEM education is “as important to being well rounded as soccer, ballet and piano lessons,” says UW-Madison learning science professor David Williamson Shaffer. Read Liz Merfeld’s full article.
BY LIZ MERFELD
FluGen, founded in 2007 by Dr. Yoshihiro Kawaoka, Dr. Gabriele Neumann and Paul V. Radspinner, aims to prevent and treat both seasonal and pandemic influenza, and market its intradermal (within the skin) delivery device. In his University Research Park office, Radspinner, the CEO, gives the upshot on their progress on both fronts. Read Liz Merfeld’s full article.
‘Web Sessions’ with Austin’s All-Analog Transistor Six
Austin’s Transistor Six recreates the authentic, intimate feel of the BBC’s Peel Sessions by capturing almost-famous bands live on still and Super 8 film and delivering performance and interview clips in online “web sessions.” Here’s a behind-the-music look at Transistor Six, its founders, its business model, its gear, and its analog ambitions. Read the full article.
The Information Technology Academy helps kids get a leg up in the tech world. By Liz Merfeld.
Martin Luther King Jr.’s words greet visitors to Erica Laughlin’s office on the third floor of UW-Madison’s Computer Sciences Building. Laughlin runs the Information Technology Academy (ITA), a four-year pre-college technology access and training program for “talented students of color and economically disadvantaged students” attending Madison public schools.
It’s Wednesday morning at ITA’s two-week summer camp. The program’s back-to-school kickoff is under way. Thirty incoming high school freshmen, recruited last year in middle school, congregate in the computer lab. Some face their iMac monitors with a focus that belies their young age; others nestle in groups, trading ideas. This is where they will gather every other Saturday for the next four years. Read the entire article.
Ah, the joys of flying. You’re a hundred dollars in baggage fees poorer, and you’ve watched your valuables totter away on the conveyor while a TSA agent eyes your three-ounce duty-free bottle of honey liqueur for possible “confiscation.” When at last you fall into your seat, it’s at the farthest point between the two bathrooms. If only there were a way to bribe someone in, say, aisle row 5 to switch seat assignments. Wouldn’t it be nice to grab back just a speck of control over your flying experience?
Enter SeatSwapr, a work-in-progress mobile app that would let passengers browse their flight for seats up for trade.
And enter my new technology column in the Isthmus. My first piece was printed today.
What people are saying about the 2012 Team Aquafix catalog: “I received the AQUAFIX catalog, read it cover to cover, and thought I would let you know that I loved it! Funny, smart, informative. Gotta give it up to those involved in the design, layout and copy. Really good stuff.”
(Props to insightstudio’s Mic Funk for the design and layout.)
“Thanks for the diligent work on the 25th Anniversary book. You caught a lot of things that our too-tired eyes just stopped seeing a long time ago. I especially appreciate the extra mile you went on things like the John Muir quote—that was a great catch.”
- D.P. Knudten, Creative Director/UX, Discover Mediaworks
In as few as 30 seconds, a singular corporate identity video can convince a website visitor of a company’s expertise, poise, and uniqueness. But it’s easier said than done, of course, so we talked to four leading producers about how they approach these types of projects. In this first installment of a 3-part series, they’ll share their secrets on telling and selling corporate stories. Read the Streaming Media Producer article, part I.
Just in time for Halloween, Dustin Blake of Atlanta-based indy Productions, a 2010 EventDV 25 honoree, has resurrected the Trash the Dress (TTD) movement with a degree of sexiness hitherto unseen—and this time, he’s added an element of the macabre.
Adventure Sports Photography: Creating Dramatic Sports Images in Wild Places, by Tom Bol. Published Nov 30, 2011 by Peachpit Press.
Renowned adventure sports photographer Tom Bol shares his expert techniques and offers inspiration for all outdoor shooter. Bol is a veteran adventure sports photographer with over 20 years of experience, named one of “50 of America’s Top Visionaries” by National Geographic Adventure.
You can pre-order it from Peachpit Press now. Once you receive it, let me know and I’ll autograph it for you.
The only Apple-certified book on OS X Lion, this revised best-seller will take you deep inside the latest big-cat operating system—covering everything from installation and configuration, customizing the operating system, supporting applications, setting up peripherals, and more. Whether you’re a support technician or simply an ardent Mac user, you’ll quickly learn and master the new features in OS X Lion. Following the learning objectives of the Apple Certified Support Professional exam, this self-paced book is a perfect guide for Apple’s training and a first-rate primer for computer support personnel who need to troubleshoot and optimize OS X Lion as part of their jobs. Chapter review sections and quizzes summarize and reinforce acquired knowledge.
Put your thinking cap on. The only Apple-certified book on OS X Lion Server, this comprehensive reference takes support technicians and ardent Mac users deep inside this server operating system, covering everything from networking technologies to service administration, customizing users and groups, and more. Aligned to the learning objectives of the Apple Certified Technical Coordinator certification exam, the lessons in this self-paced volume serves as a perfect supplement to Apple’s own training class and a first-rate primer for computer support personnel who need to support and maintain OS X Lion Server as part of their jobs. Quizzes summarize and reinforce acquired knowledge.
You can pre-order it now from Peachpit Press.
Just Google Ireland Summer Tours, Backroads Ireland, Southern Ireland Tours, Summer Ireland Tour Package, Ireland Tours 2012, Ireland Tour Operators, or similar searches, and you’re bound to find Inroads Ireland Tours on the very first page. Another handful of search phrases will bring up the company’s website on page 2 and 3.
I’ve been working on this site since last spring, and since then their presence on the web has gone from “you’ll find them if you Google their company name” to what it is today. Each month we see improvements!
Waite runs Higher Definition Media (HDM) out of Bakersfield, and just this June launched its wedding-focused spin-off, Lovestruck Films. In addition, he is an indie filmmaker, with 3 self-produced features under his belt, and was one of the first presenters announced for IN[FOCUS] 2012.
Thrive is the economic development partnership for the Madison region committed to providing businesses with access to capital, growing the region’s industries and sectors, and sharing best practices across communities. Only about a month after our Search Optimization, Thrive has quickly increased its search presence on Google for many different areas of their website.
The Aussies have scrunched their event video industry’s evolution into the blink of an eye, leaving videographers stateside blushing. Sure, event videos in the U.S. have advanced by leaps and bounds, going from totally cheap to totally chic, and morphing into films along the way. And there’s no better evidence of the rise of event filmmaking in Australia than the Aussies’ innovative educational event, Exposed Down Under. EDU 2011 kicks off on 4 July in Melbourne. Read the article here.
Greg Mulvey is the Lead Editor and Motion Graphics Designer for Second City Communications, the business solutions division of Chicago’s world-famous improv comedy theater, The Second City. (Alumni include Tina Fey, Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert, John Belushi, and Bill Murray to name a few.) Editing comedy is an art form, one that Greg admits he’s still learning.
One of Chicago’s more successful event video studios—FurlaVision has won more WEVA Creative Excellence Awards than any studio in the Midwest—Chris Chibucos attributes much of his company’s success to they way they have always combined a fairly large volume of work (as many as 150-175 events per year) with a high price point.
We are pleased to announce the addition of Brigit Larson to our team as our new Social Media Assistant. Brigit is a recent graduate of University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in Consumer Affairs. She has interned for RotoWire.com, a fantasy sports news website, where she researched social media and learned how to use it to leverage any business. While she is a loyal Chicago fan, she loves to travel to new places and has been to Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji during her semester abroad. Glad to have you on board Brigit!
Hyatt Connects with Ignite
The global hospitality chain uses video to communicate with more than 80,000 employees at 340 locations across the globe
By Liz Merfeld
For Hyatt Corp., a hospitality chain with 340 hotels worldwide, communicating with 80,000 employees is no small feat. How to bridge communication among offices thousands of miles apart, from San Francisco to Saudi Arabia, and to bring bandwidth-challenged hotels into the fold was an issue the company attempted to solve by launching a new intranet site in October 2008.
With the new portal, dubbed Hyatt Connect, came the ability to share audio and video content and, as Hyatt executives were pleased to discover, a potentially uber-efficient way to get employee face time—even with staff in remote locales such as Azerbaijan.
There’s a wave of unproduced, demolike, one-take music videos sweeping the web. It started way back in April 2006, when Vincent Moon (real name: Mathieu Saura), a young filmmaker from Paris, conspiring with Chyrde, creator of popular French music website La Blogothèque, filmed songs guerrilla-style “to go” (as opposed to shooting in a standard concert setting) and then uploaded them to the website for mass consumption.
If you want your MTV, then move along; this article isn’t for you. But stick around if you’re intrigued by the prospect of watching or producing genuine homespun, documentary-style short films of roots/Americana musicians performing their songs.
by Liz Merfeld
With an infectious smile and a joie de vivre you can catch purely by proximity, Meg Simone looks as though she hiked right out of a Trek Travel catalog and into the wedding film industry’s inner circle. By expertly combining her love of the northeastern outdoors with her work, she has (perhaps inadvertently) cornered the market on destination weddings in the heart of Mount Washington Valley (N.H.), a resort community filled with restaurants, shops, ski resorts, quaint inns, and historic grand hotels. What’s more, in a “why didn’t I think of that” move, Simone has become the first videographer to build a brand around elopements, private ceremonies taking place in and around her hometown, picturesque North Conway, N.H.
Case study written for Ignite Technologies, Inc., appearing in E-visions Summer 2010, by yours truly: “Using Technology for Global Communication”
Need to move large volumes of water or oil around the world? That’s not a problem for the Flowserve Corporation, global supplier of pumps, valves, seals, and automation to industries such as oil, gas, power, and water. It’s the flow of rich company communications to its small-city-size workforce spread out across more than 56 countries that had them scratching their heads.
Headquartered near Dallas, Texas, Flowserve struggled with relaying corporate messages in an engaging and efficient way to its 15,000 employees.
Executives, especially fresh faces like Flowserve’s newest CEO Mark Blinn, wanted to establish credibility and build rapport with workers, for starters. But it wasn’t as if they could just call an all-hands meeting down at the local Bennigan’s…. Read entire article.
After introducing themselves to the crowd at Re:Frame Austin, Society Hill Studios’ Cristina Valdivieso and Jon Connor, along with partner Amy Reese now seem to pop up everywhere with the industry’s inner circle. But how did these Young Turks manage to crash this party, seemingly overnight, and set themselves on the road to becoming one of the go-to studios in Philadelphia for couples wanting a high-end, artistic wedding film?
Check it! Apple Pro Training Series: Aperture 3 by Dion Scoppettuolo is now on bookshelves.
I had a wonderful opportunity to write three photographer cameos for the book while discovering even more reasons I want to buy Aperture 3.
This is one of those websites that calls for a more sober style of writing, unlike, say, some of the PETA projects I worked on years ago. The former, generally speaking, is more difficult to pull off than what’s typically known as “creative writing.”
Once again, I worked with the design and dev wizards at Planet Propaganda to bring this project to life. Congratulations to Planet and M3 on the launch!
“You did a super job making the copy read as though it was a seamless extension of our company. Your writing style stayed very true to our business, which isn’t an easy task!”
- Krissy Bystrom Emery, Marketing Advisor, M3 Insurance Solutions for Business
I’m a beer connesuir myself (that might be a slight understatement), but when I got a call from the delightful Etty Lewensztain, owner of start-up Plonk Wine Merchants, I simply couldn’t say no to working on such a cool website.
Plonk Wine Merchants is the ultimate online destination for cool, artisanal, off-the-beaten-path value wines. All of Plonk’s wines, many of them organic, biodynamic, or “diamonds in the rough” are priced strictly at $30 or below. Hat tip to Stoffa Productions for the spiffy site!
Our work involved addressing technical considerations related to the search-engine “friendliness” of the website as it was designed and developed by Stoffa Productions.
We evaluated design concepts, information architecture, and backend coding to provide feedback on W3C web standards and SEO best practices including clean, semantic markup, header tags, page size, “crawlability,” navigation, deprecated code, and use of html-visible copy. We also developed titles and metadata and an inbound linking strategy.
After five years of deliberation I’ve finally signed up to ride my bike for 300 miles over 4 days to help raise over $300,000 for AIDS Network in August. The eighth annual Wisconsin AIDS Ride is my year and I’m signed up and ready to go! If you want to donate, my fundraising goal is $1600, and you can donate online or find out more about the ride at http://actride.org/.
Adventures in Fusion, Part 1 by Elizabeth Avery Merfeld
Last fall, Canon shook our world when it released the transformative EOS 5D Mark II, a DSLR featuring full-frame HD video and dynamic depth-of-field control. Along with others of its ilk, the 5D is revving up videographers’ creativity, smearing the line between the photography and videography industries, and ushering in (some say) a new era of photo-video fusion. With several months of use under their belts, we asked a handful of early adopters for their take on how the 5D has impacted their businesses and where (if anywhere) their first forays into fusion have taken them.
I just wrapped up my latest book proofreading project, Jeffrey Zeldman’s Designing with Web Standards, 3rd Edition. For those of you who don’t know, Zeldman cofounded the Web Standards Project and is a leading voice in web design and usability. I found out that he’s also irreverent, self-deprecating, and the caliber of writer I can only ever aspire to be.
The good people at Planet Propaganda gave me the opportunity to bid on an SEO and writing job for Madison-based mystery shopping company Beyond Hello. I’m happy to say I got the project. That was at the beginning of the year, and our work is now complete.
I had so much fun writing the copy for their website, in large part because the people I got to work with were some of the friendliest and most genuine people I’ll ever have the good fortune to collaborate with. Planet did a phenomenal job on their website. Take a look!
Today I crossed the finish line of my latest project: copyediting Refocus: Cutting-Edge Strategies to Evolve Your Video Business by Ron and Tasra Dawson, partners in life and in business (they tell me it’s possible).
I like them because they’re creative, and know that to succeed you’ve got to practice creativity in all facets of business, including your offerings, your brand, and your new media and social networking. Check it out!
A letter to the editor I recently had printed in Inc. magazine:
Searching for Growth
Thank you for the prudent advice about outsourcing search-engine optimization [Ask Inc., January/February]. It’s a shame that some SEO firms aren’t above taking advantage of unknowledgeable customers with inflated fees. Fortunately, I’m beginning to see that more businesses are catching on to this and beginning to trust smaller, proven SEO firms, which often don’t have the egos of larger providers.
My advice: Find someone local to help you with SEO. And, just as this article advised, choose a company that comes up first in a Google search of SEO firms in your area. It’s what they’re paid to do, after all.
Elizabeth Avery Merfeld
And a cherished comment from a current client on my letter:
While reading my latest edition of Inc. magazine, I came across this smart, witty and on-point letter about small businesses and SEO growth.
Thought to myself, this person speaks for me, I have to hire this person! Guess I already did
Kudos! Well done.
Founder and CEO
MOSAIC distinctive global chic
Some artists seek inspiration in long walks, majestic sunsets, or awe-inspiring works of art. Others, like the crew at wedding and event cinematography studio Starcross’d Creative (formerly Starcross’d Films), “get together over some beer and Rock Band.”
The Experts’ Guide to 100 Things Everyone Should Know How to Do, compiled by Samantha Ettus, is based on the premise that often “the simplest things are the hardest to master.” The simplicity of no-brainers such as washing your hair, telling someone a story, or even breathing makes it so these primitive tasks come naturally–but at what price? We are doing them–and ourselves–an injustice, she reasons, by not taking the time to become maestros of mundane activities.
To guide readers in perfecting their handshaking or lipstick-applying skills, she has compiled 100 chapters of golden rules, techniques, and instructions from 100 experts. It was this book–no offense intended-that came to mind when we approached the subject of creating a demo.
The mid-1960s saw the advent of revolutionary film format Super 8–nowadays a medium used to conjure up memories of the “old days” our parents keep cocooned in cobwebbed basements and cold attics. In the ’70s, boys racing their bikes on dirt tracks kick-started a phenomenon that became known as bicycle motocross, or BMX. And in the ’90s, Joe Simon apparently developed a thing for old-school hobbies involving damage, scratches, dirt, and dust.
I had the honor of copyediting Adobe Photoshop Elements 7 and Adobe Premiere Elements 7 Classroom in a Book Collection by Jan Ozer, author of 14 books on digital video and regular contributor to EventDV and PC Magazine.
Aside from his expert knowledge in all things technical, I like him because he’s a good example of someone who blends their love for their profession with their love for family. His little girls seem to be a part of everything he shoots and writes.
Neulion, Inc. and BandCon came together to bring the NHL to IPTV. Now fans can access live games, on-demand highlights, behind-the-scenes footage, clips from morning skate, and pregame and postgame interviews and commentary.
by Elizabeth Avery Merfeld (née Welsh)
Lee Bakogiannakis, 2dg: Sound and Vision
When the time comes to put his legacy in order, Lee Bakogiannakis wants to be remembered for his contributions to the Greek wedding video industry. But for now he’ll settle for being known as the guy who “made Bon Jovi cool again.”
by Elizabeth Welsh
Meeting the Enterprise Distribution Video Challenge
With a 15,000-strong employee base and offices scattered around the world, commercial real estate services firm Cushman & Wakefield needed a reliable way for senior management to communicate with staff. They chose a content delivery solution from Ignite Technologies, Inc.
by Elizabeth Welsh
October 15, 2008
“There it was! We were on the cover of the upcoming issue of EventDV!!! And the article by Liz Welsh was even cooler! I was going out of my mind… like a rock band member hearing their song on the radio for the first time.”
“Liz, Just finished reading the article. It’s awesome! You did such a wonderful job. We’re so grateful. In the words of Russell Hammond to Rolling Stone reporter William Miller in Almost Famous, thanks for making us ‘look cool.’ ” – Loyd & Hazel Calomay, Red 5 Studios
The other day one of my editors (who goes by a hyphenated last name) asked me what name I’m going by these days. “Do you use Welsh or Avery-Welsh on your byline? We should put out an entire issue of a magazine written only by people with hyphenated last names,” he joked, referring to another editor of ours who hyphenated his name last year.
“I don’t know anymore what my name is, or care for that matter. I guess Welsh is fine for now,” I said.
But should I care, I wondered? His question and my question got me thinking about a chat I had a few weeks ago on a walk through the woods with a friend. He asked me–hypothetically–if one day I re-married, would I change my name?
I didn’t need a moment to think. “No, why would I?”
He countered, “But why would you want to keep the name Welsh, your ex-husband’s name?” which is a name I chose to adopt initially in my early twenties because I thought it would be “fun” and then kept after our split for practical reasons.
I hadn’t thought about the fact that it might be rude to refuse a new guy’s name in favor of my ex’s. All I knew was that I didn’t want to lose my business name or the name I’ve been published under for eight years, or have a last name different from my child. Plus, how would anyone know to “Follow Me” on Twitter, for chrissakes! The truth is, even though I don’t buy into—have never bought into—patriarchal naming customs (both patronymic and matronymic systems have inherent complications), I really don’t care all that much what my name is, aside from my aforementioned concerns. As William Shakespeare’s Juliet put it, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
But would it, really? I thought about why names are so meaningful to some. Why are they so heavy with pith, remembrance, and identity? My dog’s middle name is Lead-Guitar and he doesn’t even play, after all. Not to mention, I answer to the name John when my grandmother calls for me (her brain, hobbled by a stroke years ago, often defers to her late husband’s name).
I dug out and dusted off some genealogy books compiled by them. Grandpa had taught history, and throughout my childhood, family tree entries peeled off the pages like ghosts, their names swirling in my head—John D. Rockefeller, Anne Boleyn, Queen Elizabeth I, and Shirley Temple, to name a few—and I wondered if at some basic level I had let these names and their connotations imbue my identity.
For example, if the entries in our family tree and in Wikipedia are correct, my great-great-great grandfather, Miles Avery Rockefeller, was the uncle of the “richest man in history,” oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller. As a child I had hated Miles Avery for later disavowing his Rockefeller lineage, “an unusual family of entrepreneurs, capitalists, philanthropists, and statesmen,” thereby (as I surmised), robbing me of my fortune. Yet even in my painfully middle-class state, I still relished in that name that was hidden away in me like a recessive gene. It was a delicious thought.
Then I grew up and they invented Google. And in one search a more sordid secret was uncovered—that Miles was a bigamist who ran off with his housekeeper Ella Brussee, deserting his wife Eliza. Scandalous. As my father tells it, my great uncle “Chuck,” Charles Brussee Avery, their grandchild, hated the name Brussee because some teased him by pronouncing it brassier.
It’s funny, the nature of names. How, like the people they label, one can’t be all good or all bad. Names can burn like scarlet letters or sail us through admissions committees. Love affairs, deceit, and nobility of character. A name is but a handful of snapshots. If you’re lucky like Martha Stewart, the outtakes are forgotten.
The “other Boleyn girl” Mary, aunt of Queen Elizabeth I and sister of Queen Anne (whose head was of course lopped off after accusations of adultery, incest, and treason), is another of my great-great somethings who make ancestor-hunting so terrifyingly colorful. Mary Boleyn, ancestor of Miles Avery’s daughter Lucy, was allegedly not only sleeping with King Henry VIII but also took France’s King Francis I as a lover. Naughty.
I stopped my search when I found a name that I would have no qualms adopting. Darwin. There it was. My great-great Mary Boleyn’s relative. This is a name I thought I could get aligned with. A humble genius who made beautiful breakthroughs in my favorite science. A person with a conscience. “If the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin,” he said. Yes, I had found a name that meant something to me.
Or so I thought, until I stumbled upon another of his sentiments that I just can’t get behind: “I have tried lately to read Shakespeare,” Charles Darwin said, “and found it so intolerably dull that it nauseated me.” Blasphemous.
Juliet’s musings move me and make sense to me. Like Montague or Capulet, our names are simultaneously empty and pregnant with consequence. If I am someday asked to take someone’s name, perhaps I will emulate Juliet and stand on my back balcony gesturing dramatically down into the driveway at my true love: “What’s Welsh?” I’ll say. “It is nor hand, nor foot, nor arm, nor face, nor any other part belonging to a woman.”
But I’m not a poet. I’m not a scientist, a queen, a mistress, or millionaire. I’m a writer, and unlike some of my ancestors, my worldly desires are simple and few: a hot bath, a cold beer, a good man, and a crossword puzzle (all at once, if you don’t mind).
So I’ve decided, What’s in a name? Letters. What’s scribbled on my mailbox can wash away in the rain, but the contents of my mind and heart will never. They don’t need names, nor does the “he” in this post. He knows who he is. Like some of his other qualities, his embracing of a tradition that I call passé is at once head-shakingly silly and can’t-live-without-it endearing. It’s a quality I count on, because I need his embracing too. He knows by now I’ll never stop being that dork who’s careening down the highway in the night accidentally listening to Five for Fighting on Delilah. If he’s willing to live with those names, then I’ll happily live with his.
I’ll be there in five minutes with the Isthmus. Want to draw the bath?
“More people are finding me now through my web site than the ads on the Isthmus. That was not happening last year. You Are a Genius*, Thank you.” – Tim Quigley
*Disclaimer: Liz Welsh is not actually a genius. She just plays one on the internet. Serious side effects may occur when she is paid such inflated compliments. The most common are swelling of the head, bloating of the ego, narcissism, and inflation of hourly rate. Consult with your doctor before emailing Liz. Women who are pregnant or nursing should not go have a drink with Liz (all others should feel free). If you feel Liz is right for you, set up a meeting by emailing elizmerfeld at gmail.com.
It’s not every day my name or anything I’m associated with is used in the same sentence as the word hot, which is why I’m using this rare event to link to an article I wrote for the March issue of EventDV titled, “Meet the New Doc,” which one Video University blog poster described as “HOT” (in all caps no less) and another poster said “should be read and reread several times.” I wouldn’t recommend that if you’re not in the industry or if you’re not shopping for a wedding videographer, but if digital videography appeals to you at all as an art, you might give it a once-over. The artists interviewed are clearly what make the article hot–check out the links to their work at the bottom of the article and you’ll see what I mean.
Other kids had lemonade stands. My “twin cousin” and I — at 8 years old both budding ambitious (not to mention shady) businesspeople — opened a laundry stand on the sidewalk in his upscale Los Alimitos neighborhood one summer. We thought we were very shrewd because we collected trusting neighbors’ laundry, and rather than wash it, we simply spritzed it with Febreze (or whatever the the ’80′s version of Febreze was). In no time at all, laundry was finished, folded, and returned to glowing customers who raved about how fresh their laundry smelled. We laughed all the way to our piggy banks.
The next morning none of our customers returned. Looking back, I believe that they probably realized the impossibility of laundry being washed and dried in 20 minutes and were simply indulging us for a day. But nevertheless we realized that our business model (cheating) had short-lived success. What would we do next? It wasn’t likely we’d be able to be as beguiling with a lemonade stand. Perhaps we could secretly make Crystal Light and sell it as bona fide lemonade, but of course that would be just as much work, so what was the point?
That was the beginning and the end of my unethical business practices. Unfortunately, in the SEO world, like anywhere else, there are still some 8-year-old laundry stand kids masquerading as professionals, practicing “Febreze” techniques and guaranteeing first-page results. Their tactics sometimes work–until Google catches on and blacklists the websites that have implemented their changes. These SEO’ers take shortcuts like placing unrelated keywords (like Paris Hilton) in their meta tags, alt text, or CSS layers. They stack keywords (like cheese cheese cheese cheese wisconsin cheese wisconsin cheese wisconsin cheese) to fake out search engines. They sardine-stuff sentences (sentences at their loosest definition) in alt text, or hide keywords in the content of the page–keywords so tiny and faint that you’d need your 5.75 power reading glasses to make them out. The list goes on and on: bait-and-switch spam, redirects, doorway pages, cloaking, cybersquatting, and more.
Fixing the devastating effects the above practices can have is time-consuming and expensive. Once a customer’s website disappears from the search engines for having been caught cheating, it’s unlikely these charlatan SEO’ers are going to get a lot of customer loyalty. So it’s on to the next block, to prey on some other unassuming website owner. But once word gets around, the game is up.
Of course, there’s always selling lemonade.
It began as most friendships do: all seafood, clogs, and ice parties. A few days later, naturally, we were drinking bubble tea under ice cube lights. Before long we were talking of cowboy boots and learning how to make gelato. Naturally, as friendships go, we spent endless hours talking of mini & toy labradoodles, liposuction photos, and guitar lesson scams.
It was like we had known each other all our lives, and could talk about anything, from lighthouses to ski resorts to Superman Tees (2 for $30).
Was it a bad sign when the subject of annoying ringtones came up? Wedding planning? Thinning brows? Ted Koppel? I’ll be awaiting my gmail inbox destiny.
It’s a fun exercise to notice what Google AdSense advertisers make of your conversations by way of their keyword-targeted advertising in gmail. From what I’ve seen, advertisers have a great deal to learn about more focused targeting when advertising via AdWords. The only ads that have applied throughout the course of my many email exchanges with this friend are ski resort ads and the tactful dearth of ads when our conversations turned to subjects dealing with, ahem, “making out” and “stalking.” For these conversations, the right-hand column of gmail was conspicuously, and thankfully, blank.
What I’m getting at is proof that while pay-per-click advertising is accessible, it can be deceptively straightforward. Companies would do well not to take matters into their own hands and waste their money with keywords or ad groups that display their ads to an audience that has no interest in their product. There is a huge difference in ad campaigns targeting searchers and targeting content areas, such as gmail or other websites containing content related to the terms in your ad. It’s not a one-ad-fits-all model. But the majority of companies still haven’t learned this. Professionals who have experience researching keywords and market trends, developing highly targeted keyword lists, and discerning between various display methods (content, search, email) and knowing how to go after each audience, are going to save companies time and money in the long run.
Clients with websites dominated by Flash (whose only text is embedded in graphics and video) sometimes ask me how to rank higher in search engines for their industry. My answer is simple. Content is Queen.
Do what they do with their lyrics, but in html-visible text on your site, not audio or graphics.
Take, for example, this song: http://youtube.com/watch?v=NOHXPNvVEwo
Notice the the focus and repetition of the keywords. Emulate Queen’s lyric length and poetic placement of keywords.
Write a magnum opus on industrial equipment sales, stationery, or the decks you build. If it helps, rent a smoke machine and wear a shiny white body suit in the process.
It’s inevitable: new technology catches up with you no matter how old school you try to remain.
Until recently, I swore I’d never show my face on Facebook. Seo was the last name of an up-and-coming activist named Danny, blackberry was my favorite Kool-Aid flavor, and CSS … wasn’t that a TV show about crime in Miami? Email was instant enough for me. In the good old days I had IM-less relationships where we held hands, looked into each other’s eyes, and even (gasp) called one another. Just last year, a successful internet entrepreneur I worked for thought LOL stood for “lots of luck,” and I played Scrabble on a board.
Yet tonight I tutored a student from Korea learning English using a NYT article about Facebook.com. This Saturday’s lesson: create a profile for her, complete with an arm’s-length pic of herself looking thoughtful. She’ll be throwing sheep in no time. (And maybe, since she’s younger, she can help me figure out what that’s about.)
And then I helped my daughter create a “blob” on WordPress. She had overheard me on the phone with a friend (and gifted writer) about her new blog, and suddenly she had to make a “blob” too. (My answer, of course: “You already have one. It’s called your room — go clean it up.”) Hers became one of the 120,000 new blogs created today, the 10th anniversary of the coining of the term “weblog.”
It is ironic to me that I helped two younger people — one of them from the most wired nation in the world — still learning how to write and speak in English utilize technology that will very soon pass me by me at break-bandwidth speed, leaving them to teach me.
In the mean time, Facebook just announced they’re teaming up with Match.com for a Little Black Book dating application . . . wish me LOL on finding someone who doesn’t know what that means either.
When I became certified as a — drumroll please — Yahoo Ambassador at a former company, my colleagues and I joked that they should start addressing me as Madam Ambassador. I have always wondered how many brainstorm sessions took place before the Yahoo folks settled on “Ambassador.” And was it supposed to be funny, like my coworker whose official title is CSS guru?
For those of you who don’t know, the Yahoo Search Marketing Ambassador Program was developed to provide training and professional recognition from Yahoo Search Marketing to search engine marketers who complete all web-based training and receive a passing score on the final test. Though not required, before becoming certified, as with pay-per-click platform Google AdWords, I honed my expertise with real experience creating and managing hundreds of online ad campaigns, driving tons of traffic to local business who might otherwise not have been on the first page of Yahoo or Google. There are a lot of Yahoo Ambassadors out there with the logo and title but no real experience or proven results. Those of us who have that deserve a title a bit more serious, don’t you think?
Years ago I worked as a mental health professional at a residential school for boys who were hard-of-hearing or deaf and who also struggled with issues like mental illness and developmental delays. There was one little boy diagnosed with sociopathy, who I’ll call Tommy. At the time, Tommy was 13 (but his physical appearance, as well as his emotional maturity, were stuck at about 7 years old). He had moments of pit-bull like rage and yet he could be as yielding as a small puppy. I remember him standing outside, as the other boys played football in the courtyard, kicking his foot against a brick wall, head down, lonely and dejected because they wouldn’t let him join in. But the sweetest memory I have of him was him watching those old Yahoo! commercials — the ones where a cowboy would yell, “Yahooooooooooo!” Tommy was so tickled by these commercials, and when the voice Yahoo’ed, Tommy (who was almost completely deaf) sang right along–with gusto–in his shrillest voice, “Yaheeeeeeeeeeee!”
I guess it’s one of those things you had to be there for. But it makes me laugh out loud to this day, as does the title of Yahoo Ambassador. But to answer my own question, is there a sillier title? Yaheeeeeee!
Last week when my mother was visiting (and giving me her monthly “if you just rinsed off your dishes right after eating…” lecture) we rented Premonition (with Sandra Bullock). The eerie concept of premonitions has been haunting me since. I think I had one a few months ago when I arrived at the office feeling suddenly very troubled, almost shaking with some unknown worry. I went into the bathroom and cried, but I had no idea why. I felt as though something bad was going to happen, and I phoned my best friend Bob about it.
Days passed with no explanation. About two weeks later Bob was mowing the lawn at his Manitowoc campground and was attacked by bees. He experienced major swelling in his throat and began to feel faint. He made his way indoors, and finding it hard to stand up, he dialed 911. While on the phone, he collapsed, smashing his head on the way down. Blood spurted on the linoleum, the table, and the walls. EMS arrived to find him blue, his eyes rolled back into his head, just in time to save his life.
I never connected the events until I began searching for my own premonitions after the movie. I’m not one to believe in things that don’t have a scientific explanation, but who doesn’t think it would be cool to have super powers?
I had a dream last night that my very pregnant friend had a baby (could it have been because her husband IM’ed me that she had gone into labor?), but the newborn was able to not only smile and laugh but sit up in bed, crawl, even do a bit of walking, and most impressive of all – ask me in a complete sentence with no grammatical errors to put her in her swing. In the dream, no one but me thought these things were out of the ordinary, and I grew exasperated trying to make them see how she was not at all normal – she was very, very special. Now, I’d like to think my premonition means Isabel will be extraordinarily gifted (knowing her parents, ocupop principal Michael Nieling and wife Sara, this wouldn’t be at all surprising). Will my premonition come true? Stay tuned to find out. I got a text message at 5 this morning announcing her birth. I’ll call later, and if the baby gets on the phone and talks to me, well, then, I think I’ll quit my day job and become a fortune teller.
The most fascinating thing about the movie Premonition was that Sandra Bullock experienced seven days of the week out of order. One day her husband was dead. The next day, he was eating Cheerios and reading the paper before work. The next, his decapitated head rolled out of his coffin. Thursday, they made love. It was weird, and I had to watch the special features to figure out what was going on.
Some weeks I feel the same–of course not to that degree, but sometimes it seems like my days don’t flow logically. One day, tons of leads come in and it looks as though I’ll have to turn down work. The next, I’ll spend my day willing emails to pop up in my inbox. I guess that’s the curse of working for yourself rather than at a 9 to 5 job with a predictable amount of money coming in on a regular basis. I’ve spoken to some people in related fields who have given up on the solo gig. Going it alone can be scary, sure, and it takes a certain kind of personality (insane) to remain unfazed by the fact that some days there’s no more coffee, no more toilet paper, and no more money.
I went to High Tech Happy Hour last night at Novation Campus (not for the free beer and food), and from what I saw there, I’m not alone. I met so many creative, brave, smart people who hung out their shingle because they believed in themselves. They believe that what they can produce alone is superior to what might be produced elsewhere. Take, for example, Bliss* Video Productions’ Kristin*, who I recently profiled in EventDV magazine. Her bluntly stated goal when she left her steady job at a video production company to launch her own business: to create a wedding video “that actually doesn’t suck.” This, I believe, is a testament to the integrity of people who go into business for themselves. They don’t do it because it’s profitable (of course, that would be nice, and in Kristin*’s case, that came true), or because it’s going to advance their career. They do it because of an instinctual drive to do whatever it takes to be the best (setting your own hours and being able to work in your PJs has nothing to do with it, I swear). Another example is my neighbor Penelope Trunk, who after digging herself out of the debris on 9/11, instinctively traded her Wall St.-based business development job for a home-based one as a writer and mother in Madison. It’s my hope that we will recognize this integrity and sensitivity to life’s nuances in one another and support sole proprietorships, freelancers, and small, local businesses. This way we all win.
On a related note, if anyone’s looking for a palm reading or dream interpretation, I charge $25/hour.
Liz Welsh emailed me yesterday. Although I have been known to talk to myself, I haven’t yet reached the point where I’m emailing myself. This was a different Liz Welsh, from Kentucky. She had wanted to buy this domain name and found that it was already in use–by me. So she challenged me to a Scrabulous game–winner takes the URL.
No, really, we hit it off. Interestingly, this Liz Welsh has her own marketing company, too. Lucky for me, she outsources quite a bit when she needs marketing materials created for her clients, so we chatted about collaborating.
Anyway, this parallel universe me (has anyone really ever been to Kentucky?) didn’t help me with my latest worry that I’m very average. Lately, everywhere I go I hear, “Oh yeah, we’ve met before” (no, we haven’t), or “You look familiar,” or “I swear I know you from somewhere. Do you play volleyball?” (not a chance). I figure if I look like so many other people, I must be extremely average looking. Now I come to find out that there are three other Elizabeth Welsh’s in Liz Welsh’s hometown of Louisville. How many are in Madison? I’m afraid to Google that.
This got me thinking about what separates me from other Liz Welsh’s. And then about what makes LizWelsh.com unique. And I came back to an email I had sent to a prospective collaborator describing my services, and I think I found it: “Basically, I do what fancy big-city companies do, but I do it myself without all the silly jargon and b.s.”
At a conference I spoke at last summer, I was stuck listening to a dry presentation at 8 in the morning. To make matters worse, they had run out of coffee. So to keep myself awake I struck my best “this is fascinating, I’m going to take notes” pose and tallied buzzwords on my notepad to see which geek-speak was used most often in that hour and a half. Would “price point” win? “Vertical”? What about “platform”? “Next-generation” anyone? 3 points for “algo,” and 10 for “B2B.” “Cononical,” “RLT,” “ROI,” “turn-key,” and “2.0.”
As fun as that exercise was, I do appreciate the need for industries to use jargon–I guess. But at the same time, much like I wouldn’t speak to a client in Spanch (inside joke), I won’t speak in Googlish either, or use search-enginisms, in person or on my website (if you catch me doing this, please call me on it).
In sum, what I’m trying to say is that when you work with me, WYSIWYG.
Oops, I did it again.
One purpose of search engine optimization–to get a high ranking in Google–gets so much play that it’s sometimes easy to forget an equally if not more important purpose: Making your website more useful and usable so that you can convert website visitors into customers. Not cyber-people but flesh-and-blood people who will actually walk through your door with real-live Amex cards in their wallets.
In a former position of mine, we were very successful at getting clients on page one of search engines in the natural results as well as the paid results (the ads you see in the right column of a Google search results page). However, there were some whose websites we couldn’t “optimize” for conversions simply because their templates and content was pretty fixed. In these cases, they could see that they were on page one or two of Google or Yahoo, and that they were getting online traffic as a result of this, but they weren’t seeing that that they were making any more money. Naturally, they didn’t want to continue to pay for a service that wasn’t proving its value.
“Companies spend immeasurable billions on their Web sites,” says David Hallerman, senior analyst at eMarketer. “In most cases, without those central meeting grounds for companies and consumers, all the measured billions spent on online advertising such as paid search—which looks to drive traffic to company sites—would be for naught.”
On the flip side, you may have a website that is successful at converting visitors into buyers and is on the first page of Google. Why then, you might ask, would you invest in search engine advertising (pay-per-click tools like AdWords)? In large part because it’s been shown that you can double your traffic by running a paid campaign alongside top rankings on the organic side, according to a prominent search engine marketer who also says, “Being at the top of Google organic search is the top priority for just about every online marketing company that knows what that top placement would mean to a company. The difference between being at position#1 and #11, in many cases, means the difference between a profitable company and a company scraping by.”
On a related note, in their book, Professional Search Engine Optimization with PHP: A Developer’s Guide to SEO, authors Cristian Darie and Jaimie Sirovich touched on what they call the “fusion of technology and marketing”: “Search engine marketing is a field where technology and marketing are both critical and interdependent, because small changes in the implementation of a web site can make you or break you in search engine rankings. Furthermore, the fusion of technology and marketing know-how can create web site features that attract more visitors.”
This is what I call the synergy of search engine advertising and search engine optimization. They are the yin and the yang operating on different forces through different means. One is immediate, one is patient and slow. Together, they bring harmony to the world–Ok, I’m going overboard here. But you get the idea.
Usually postcards are sent to cheer up a friend feeling blue or let someone back home know that even while trekking through the Puerto Rican rainforest, they are what’s on your mind.
But I sent a handful the other day that I’m afraid don’t paint a sunny picture at all. Instead, the text that I chose for the cards, which I mailed to local businesses I’m interested in working with, is bleak and alarming: “Not on page one of Google? Why even have a website?”
But I didn’t mean to sound abrasive. I took my inspiration from the fact that “90 percent of searchers do not look past the third page of results, and 62 percent of searchers don’t go past one page,” according to research by iProspect and Jupiter Research.
It was my way of reminding the Small-Marts of southern Wisconsin that they can compete with its Wal-Marts via affordable, accessible search engine marketing.
If you’ve arrived at my website after receiving this postcard–or for any reason, really, thanks for visiting. Please poke around my site and contact me if you’d like to receive a complimentary website analysis and search engine marketing estimate.
The other day my mother, who was visiting from northern Wisconsin, kindly offered to drop me off at a local bookstore with my laptop while she shopped for shoes. Unfortunately there was no WiFi available, so I used the hour and a half to browse the marketing section. I grabbed a stack of books that piqued my interest and settled down into a cushy chair. I picked up the first on the stack and dug in before discovering that I knew the author, noted thought leader David Meerman Scott–or knew of him, more like. During my two-year stint as a copy editor for EContent magazine, where he is a contributing editor, I had read all his columns. I tore through this latest book of his, The New Rules of Marketing and PR How to Use News Releases, Blogs, Podcasting, Viral Marketing, and Online Media to Reach Buyers Directly, in about 45 mins. I’m usually a slow, deliberate reader but I had limited time to decide which one of dozen books at my feet to purchase, so I really didn’t have time to waste.
In one of the chapters toward the end, his notion that today PR and search engine marketing are one and the same intrigued me, and I wanted to remember that and include it on my site. I had never heard that sentiment before, but I guess that’s why he’s a thought leader.
I didn’t have a notebook or pen (or, I later discovered, enough cash to buy the book, even though it is affordable), so when I got home I revved up my laptop and dowloaded his free ebook with the same title and grabbed a snippet on the importance of search: “Particularly when your buyers search, they use the words and phrases important to them. Once you’ve built an online relationship, you can sell into the needs and potential solutions that have been defined, but you need to help them find you first.”
And then I Wikipedia’ed “thought leadership.”
Small businesses depend more on search engine traffic than larger firms, according to a study conducted by Hitwise in early 2007.
eMarketer senior analyst Lisa Phillips reports, “The Internet is now an integral part of doing business for US businesses, large and small. Virtually all, 98%, of the 220 manufacturers surveyed by SVM e-Business Solutions have a Web site, and 87% have had one for over three years. More than half, 52%, consider their site to be their most powerful marketing tool.”
According to emarketer.com, “The firm measured the percentage of average monthly traffic companies in the Internet Retailer “Top 500 Guide” received from search engines in 2005 and 2006. Half of the businesses ranked from the 400th to the 500th positions (e.g., smaller retailers) depended on search engines for 50% or more of their total site traffic.
Web-only merchants averaged 64% their of monthly site traffic from search engines.
Chain retailers and consumer brand manufacturers averaged 28% and 27% of their site traffic from search engines, respectively.”
On his Promotion World blog, internet marketing expert Michael Fleischner argues that search engine optimization is an important way for small businesses to compete with larger businesses: “That doesn’t mean they can’t compete against larger businesses or websites when focused on search engine optimization,” he says. “SEO is a basic marketing tool that everyone should use regardless of size…. I’m often asked by small business owners if they stand a chance against larger websites when it comes to organic search results. My response is that size doesn’t matter. When it comes to improving natural search results, it’s all about the keywords you choose and how competitive those keywords are. “
"Our website had not done anything in 9 years. We started working with Liz and she generated more in 6 months than we did the previous 9 years. She understands how Google works and is well read on the latest web developments. I highly recommend her talents."
Examples of previous work
Magazine & Newspaper Writing:
Book Copyediting and Proofreading:
Writing for the Web: