The Best SEO Newsletters of 2019

Best SEO newsletters depicted by a photo of an air mail envelope

SEO newsletters help you stay on top of new developments, pick up new ideas, and even network with other professionals. Here are some of the best SEO newsletters of 2019, in no particular order.

Marketing Examples

Harry covers SEO and much more in his excellent, real-world-example-driven newsletter, and we can all better marketers for it. He shares case studies with straight-forward, actionable steps.

Sign up for Marketing Examples


Search Engine Land

Daily updates with quick news and tips. Always something in there worth a click. 

Get the daily newsletter here.


Total Annarchy 

For content strategy and just-plain-better-writing-strategy, get Ann Handley’s bi-weekly Total Annarchy. Handley, a WSJ best-selling author and MarketingProfs partner, has an easy, conversational writing style.

Get Total Annarchy

(Also, this one takes first place in the Best Newsletter Name category.)


SEO by the Sea 

Bill Slawski focuses on, as he puts it, “SEO as the search engines tell us about it, from sources such as patents and white papers from the search engines.”

Slawski has worked in SEO since 1996, and knows a thing or two because he’s seen a thing or two.

Sign up for SEO by the Sea


The Mix Tape 

Written by yours truly. The Mix Tape includes my favorite SEO tips and developments of the week, plus other non-SEO things I found surprising, interesting, and/or helpful.

It also features the occasional homage to light rock greats. (I mean, it’s a mix tape, after all.)

If that sounds interesting, I’d appreciate it if you would subscribe right here:


Content Marketing Institute newsletter

The Content Marketing Institute was founded in 2011 by Joe Pulizzi, and is a powerhouse of events and content focused on—wait for it—content.

Get the Content Marketing Institute newsletter here.

Bonus: CMI publishes a digital magazine called “CCO” that publishes in March, July, and October. 


Moz Top 10

A semi-monthly newsletter with “the ten most valuable articles about SEO and online marketing that we could find” from the Moz SEO software powerhouse.

Sign up for the Moz Top 10 


SEO Roundtable

The SEO Roundtable surfaces the most interesting topics in the hreads taking place at the SEM (Search Engine Marketing) forums.

Content is powered by Barry Schwartz, CEO of RustyBrick, and stays right on top of the latest SEO developments.

Get the SEO Roundtable newsletter here.


TL;DR Marketing 

The second best newsletter name on this list (after Total Annarchy), TL;DR Marketing brings the SEO thunder from down under. 

Sign up for the TL;DR newsletter here, or check out a past edition.


Yoast newsletter

Yoast makes a series of WordPress plugins, so naturally the Yoast newsletter is heavily WordPress-focused. Lots of value here for WordPress-focused SEOs and designers. 

Grab the Yoast newsletter here.


Blind Five Year Old

This one doesn’t come out on a consistnet basis, but when it does, A.J. Kohn packs it full of value and insight.

The name?

Well, A.J. says:

The strange name comes from a specific search engine optimization (SEO) philosophy – to treat search engines like they are blind five year olds.

Sign up for the Blind Five Year Old newsletter here.


Gaps.com

Glenn Allsopp is remarkable. He’s an SEO expert, an excellent writer, and a creative and diligent researcher who uncovers angles and opportunities no one else does. 

Don’t hesitate—just sign up


Kaiserthesage 

Tested and actionable content on SEO, content marketing, and link building from Jason Acidre – a Manila-based Digital Marketing Consultant.

Sign up for KaisertheSage here.


A bonus for the best SEO newsletters list: Morning Brew

Morning Brew is a daily email that isn’t SEO focused but gives you a quick and entertaining rundown on the big business stories of the morning. 

It’s so well-written I have to include it, and it’s great for SEO pros who want to keep up on the big business stories without wasting a lot of time reading or watching news.

Sign up for Morning Brew

(Note: This is my Morning Brew referral link. I might, someday in a bright and distant future, earn stickers or a coffee mug or if you subscribe.)


If you found this “Best SEO Newsletters” compilation helpful, I’d appreciate if you’d consider subscribing to my newsletter, The Mix Tape (if you haven’t already). Thanks!

SEO Tip Sheet Number Two

Street sign with digital marketing terms

Why a Google core update affects your site ranking

  • The Google update didn’t “cheat” you out of your ranking (if it drops). 

  • Instead, the update chose something else as more relevant to users. 

  • Sometimes, it’s not about you.


Google’s introduced new link attributes:
“sponsored” and “UGC” 


A term I liked: “Pain point SEO”

  • Structure content around the problems people are trying to solve—not your own products and services—and you’ll attract a more ready-to-buy audience.


The user is most important 

  • When in doubt, prioritize the user. 

  • Actually, do that when not in doubt, too. 


IMG_B58557E8BEFF-1.jpeg

  • When you promote your newsletter in social media, promote the content creators you link to. 

  • Sarah knows what she’s talking about: she’s built her newsletter to over 5,000 subscribers. 


Deep resource on many SEO topics 


Conducting Local keyword research 

Covers numerous tools, including:

  • Google Trends

  • Google Keyword Planner

  • AHrefs

  • SEMRush


On clean web design 


A scam you can ignore

  • There’s a new scam going around, where someone threatens to ruin a site’s ranking by hitting it with spam links if the owner doesn’t buy the sender’s products (in other words,. pay an extortion fee). 

  • Google says you can just ignore it, because Google will ignore the spam links.


Thanks for reading! If you found this useful, I’d appreciate it if you’d sign up for my
weekly newsletter, The Mix Tape.

Book review: Star Wars: Master and Apprentice, by Claudia Gray

Book cover for Star Wars: Master and Apprentice, by Claudia Gray

Darkness is a part of nature, too, Qui-Gon. Equally as fundamental as the light. Always remember this.
—Master Dooku 

Good Star Wars novels feature an interesting story that generally checks a few important boxes. They will:

  • Deepen and alter our understanding of existing Star Wars canon. By revealing new details or a fresh perspective on existing canon, the book rewards the reader. We learned something new, and are smarter for it.  

  • Center around well-known and beloved characters. 

  • Introduce new characters in service of the main storyline and the well-known characters without dragging the reader off on bunny trails.

Some recent Star Wars novels have swung and missed at one or more of these key tenants.

But not Claudia Gray’s Master and Apprentice. The book is fun. Which, you know, was once the point of Star Wars. 

(Interestingly enough, another of Claudia Gray’s Star Wars books—“Lost Stars”—focuses largely on new and unknown characters, and it’s a great book. Exception to every rule.)

”Master and Apprentice” provides:

  • An interesting story, as Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon are sent on a mission that morphs into something quite different--and more dangerous--than they expected. 

  • An emphasis on action and on Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon’s relationship. The master and padawan, while dealing with external chaos and uncertainty, also have to deal with the exact same problems in their own struggles to work together cohesively. 

  • Secondary characters that serve the story and main characters—an old Jedi turned planet-ruler, jewel thieves, a young princess coming into her own—these and other characters and others keep the book moving in an interesting fashion, and keep the spotlight where it belongs: on Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon. 

  • New understanding of Star Wars canon in a few ways, including:

    • Insight into Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan’s relationship as Master and Padawan—and it ain’t smooth sailing. 

    • How the pursuit of prophetic knowledge (including ancient Jedi prophecy) affects Jedi for better and for worse. 

As a bonus, the new characters are interesting, with creative backgrounds that also serve Star Wars history—and the characters surprise us as the story unfolds.

Gray always delivers a good Star Wars tale, and this one is no different. A Star Wars novel should leave you, as a fan, entertained and enlightened. “Master and Apprentice” delivers. 


Thanks for reading! If you liked this, I’d appreciate it if you’d sign up for my weekly newsletter, The Mix Tape.

Improving Email Newsletter signup conversions

Photo of newspaper stands

Email newsletters are still a great way to connect with customers, prospects, partners, and others in your network.

But growing an email newsletter subscriber base is a long slog. Nailing the basics of newsletter conversions on your site makes the slog a bit easier.

Marketing Examples shares the basics of improving on-site newsletter signup conversions:

Newsletter signup best practices from marketingexamples.com

Choosing whether or not to subscribe to an email list is a split-second decision. This means that subtle psychological tweaks can make a big difference.

Here’s the checklist:

1) Make it obvious

2) Use an exit-intent popup

3) Get a subscribe page

4) Ask as a human

5) Give a clear reason to sign up

6) Add Social Proof

7) Use value-based messaging

After reading the case study, I realized I had work to do. So let’s get to it, and you can learn and implement along with me.

The newsletter signup page

My newsletter signup page has been revamped (subject to ongoing additional revampage, of course).

The signup page changed from this:

The Mix Tape Newsletter old signup page

To this:

The Mix Tape Newsletter signup page


So what’s the thinking behind the change?

  • Make it personal: “A weekly mix of what I’m learning about” was moved into the sub-headline, followed by some sample topics.

  • Social proof: The testimonial conveys that there is value in subscribing. Sharing the open and unsubscribe rates lends additional credibility.

  • CTA: I had a little fun here with the subscribe button, changing from “subscribe” to (Light) rock my inbox,” which ties to the copy above. A more value-based approach (“Rock my marketing,” “Rock my SEO” might be stronger.


Exit-intent newsletter pop-ups

In the Marketing Examples case study, 55% of new subscribers are attributed to an “exit-intent” pop-up, which appears when the user’s cursor moves off the browser display and up to the tabs or address bar.

Unfortunately, Squarespace (which I use for this site) doesn’t support exit-intent pop-ups out-of-the-box, (wow, that was a lot of dashes...) but you can still add pop-ups to a Squarespace site:

Newsletter pop-up example

Even though you can’t implement the true exit pop-up strategy, you can control timing to an extent. So I set mine up to trigger after either:

  1. Five seconds pass, or

  2. The user scrolls down more than 25% of the page


Newsletter sign up thank you page

After a user subscribes (yes!) you can further build the relationship and support the user’s decision with a thank you page.

With a thank you page, you should:

  • Thank the person for subscribing (duh).

  • Offer instructions to help deliverability, such as asking them to add your email address to their contact list.

  • Offer a surprise. This can be a “freebie,” like a special report, or even something more simple. I just asked if the person wanted to take a breather and listen to “Deacon Blues,” the best song of the 1970s.

    (It is the best. Just saying.)

Newsletter thank you page example

The thank you page is important, because of the next step …


Tracking newsletter signup conversions in Google Analytics

Now that we have the thank you page in place, tracking conversions becomes pretty simple in Google Analytics:

Google Analytics Goals Screenshot
  1. From the Analytics homepage, click “Conversions.”

  2. Click “goals” from the sub-menu.

  3. Ciick “Overview: from the sub-menu.

  4. Click the button on the right that says “Set up Goals.”

  5. Click the red button that says “NEW GOAL.”

  6. Under acquisition, click “Create an Account.”

  7. Name the goal in the box provided (try something wild like “Newsletter signups.”

  8. “Destination” will be pre-selected in the menu below. This is good. Hit continue.

  9. Under “goal details” enter the URL of your thank you page in the first box (just to the right of “equals to.”

  10. Hit save.

That looks like a longish list, but it’s a quick process.

Now Google will give you reports on conversion: the percentage of site visitors who take the signup action by dividing thank you page views by total visitors over a given time period.


With the conversion basics in place, track and test

Now that you have the basics in place, watch conversions—both total conversions over time and conversion rate—and experiment. Sometimes tweaking a headline or a graphic can make a big difference, and you’ll never know for sure unless you test.


Bonus: promoting your newsletter with tagging

Obviously you want to promote your newsletter through your social accounts. But I liked this sign-up boosting tip shared by Sarah Noeckel, who has grown her newsletter to more than 5,000 subscribers:

Newsletter tip from Sarah Noeckel

In other words, when you share links to other articles, videos, etc. in your newsletter, tag the content creators when you promote the newsletter in social media.

Like this:

Good luck! Let me know what’s working well for you.


Thanks for reading! If you found this useful, I’d appreciate it if you’d sign up for my
weekly newsletter, The Mix Tape.

The SEO Tip Sheet, Number One

Street signs showing SEO, content, link building, social media, traffic, and conversion

A roundup of what I found interesting in SEO this week.


Related linking

“Related linking” is a term similar to internal linking. It’s creating links—usually in blogs—to content similar to what is currently on the page. 

“We need related linking for SEO. That said, it might be at the expense of actual user engagement at times. Look at what Gusto does here — two clear links and big images that don’t splinter your choices between 4+ posts, which many setups do. —@RossHudgens

“Nofollow” Links

  • Using “nofollow” designation prevents passing Google PankRank from linking site to destination site 

  • Around since 2005 

  • Created to reduce “link spam”, as sites were invented to build as many links back to their own sites as possible 

  • Some of the biggest sites (CNN, Quora, Wikipedia) use only nofollow links 

  • Nofollow links still have value, however. They can drive traffic, and can lead to secondary dofollow links as others read your site and link to it 

Use nofollow

  • Blog comments and user forums

  • Ads / sponsored links

  • Press releases 

Allow followed links:

  • Guest post author bylines

  • When a site “deserves” it — editorial, unbiased reviews, citing as a source, etc. 

  • Nofollow still helps search engine rankings https://backlinko.com/nofollow-link


301 redirects in Squarespace 

When creating a redirect in Squarespace, don’t use the entire URL—just the slug, like this: 

URL Redirects as set up in Squarespace

Much more here

H1, H2, and H3 headings

  • H1: The main headline and the point of the post. 

  • H2: Used for section headings 

  • H3: Supporting ideas for a section 

Use cases:

  • Use just one H1 header, as the headline for the page (such as the title of your blog post)

  • Use one H2 header per section

  • Use one H3 header for each sub-section (supporting idea) within your post

The goal is usability, and Google’s header preferences guide you toward clear, well-organized content. 


Image optimization

Keep image files ~ below 70 KB (Use TinyPNG to reduce)

Fill out alt text 


Ranking high on google without writing content - Neil Patel 

  • Create a podcast - Google now indexes podcasts 

  • Google has guidelines for creating podcasts https://developers.google.com/search/docs/guides/podcast-guidelines

  • Video - at least 5 min to get ranked 

  • Optimize existing articles that are lower-ranked today 

  • Integrate long tail keywords into your posts 

  • Create tools - Code Canyon has scripts / code for sale to create tools to offer and drive traffic - tools also draw backlinks 


Simple—not easy—keyword research and success

IN SUMMARY

We started out typing Tenerife into Google, followed the trail of breadcrumbs, and ended up creating an army of weather pages mopping up some mega organic traffic.

This is textbook SEO marketing:

1. Find out what your customers search for

2. Create pages which rank for those searches

3. Once on site, sell to them

AND FINALLY

To quote Glen Allsop top quality keyword research is

finding the relevant search terms that your competitors have missed

And every single one of Thomas Cook’s competitors has missed this golden opportunity. What’s obvious in a case study, is far from obvious in the field.



That’s it for this week. If you found something useful, I’d appreciate you signing up for my weekly newsletter, The Mix Tape, for more SEO, marketing, and other things. Thanks!

Squarespace SEO: A Quick Audit Process

Squarespace SEO: Nail the basics

Squarespace SEO sometimes gets a bad rap, but the web site creation and hosting service offers the features needed to create a solid SEO foundation.

In this article, I’ll walk you through some of the basics to review and improve SEO within your Squarespace site, giving you a launching pad to branch out into longer-term content and link-building strategies to grow your audience. 


Squarespace SEO tools

Before we get started, here’s a list of the tools I’ll be referencing today:

  • Google Analytics : The mack-daddy, commonly-used free analytics toolset from Google.  

  • Google Webmaster Tools: Lets you see your site the way Google sees it, to spot errors and looks for areas to improve.

  • Screaming Frog: is a “crawler” that reviews and analyzes sites, and it’s free for sites with less than 500 web pages. (If you’re new to the tool, here’s an excellent Screaming Frog tutorial for beginners.)

  • Siteliner: A tool for finding duplicate content on your site.  

  • Squarespace Analytics: The Analytics package provided by Squarespace (also available in a nice iOS app.) 

  • TinyPNG: Allows you to compress (reduce the file size) of images so web pages load faster. Google likes fast web pages. You can upload and compress 20 image files at a time.


Your Squarespace analytics 

Squarespace has a pretty good internal analytics package that covers the basics, and an accompanying iOS app that’s easy to use. 

But if you haven’t already done so, set up your Google Analytics account, as it allows you to drill down much deeper depending on the goals for your site. 

(This Squarespace tutorial walks you through setting up your Google Analytics account and connecting it to your website.)  

Once set up, copy your Google Analytics Account number into the box provided inside Squarespace located at Settings > Advanced > External API Keys.

Tip: Make sure you log in—and stay logged in—to Squarespace on any browser you use (desktop and phone) to exclude your own site activity from your analytic stats. Otherwise, every time you visit your own site, your activity will be tracked as a visitor in Squarespace’s analytics package.  


Squarespace website architecture 

Your site should be as lean and logically structured as possible. An ideal website structure starts at the homepage, has a handful of key sections highlighted in home page navigation, and has nearly all other pages “nested” within those sections. 

A typical site structure for a personal or small business Squarespace site might look something like this:

The top level is your home page. 

At the second level are your main section areas, in this case:

  • About

  • Services

  • Newsletter

  • Blog

These sections are “nested” under the home page, and would appear in the main navigation menu on the home page. 

Don’t go too crazy with categories--seven is really the limit, and less is usually better for the user experience. 

Beneath these sections are third-level pages, which here includes blog posts and individual pages describing the services offered. 

Everything flows down from the home page, and “child” pages are nested under their parents. 

Tip: Do not nest at more than three levels if possible. After three levels, Google views pages as less important, decreasing the ranking potential of the lower-level pages. 

URL structure

Your site’s URL structure should match your site hierarchy

For example, the URL for the “Blog Post 1” page in the example above should look like this:

www.URL.com/blog/blog-post-1

The URL for the “Service Two” page should look like:

www.URL.com/services/service-2

Example: My site

At my site, the categories beneath the home page include:

  • About

  • Blog

  • Book notes

  • SEO notes

  • Newsletter signup

But my URL structure didn’t reflect my site structure, and I had work to do. 

My third-level book notes pages were set up like this:

www.matttillotson.com/booknotes-book-title-author, which makes the section structure unclear. 

The fix required two steps. 

First, I changed the URL of the book notes overview page to:

www.matttillotson.com/book-notes

And then the URLs of book notes pages themselves (as children of the book notes overview page) are set up as:

www.matttillotson.com/book-notes/title-author

That structure communicates the correct site hierarchy to Google. 

Keep URLs concise, and, after reflecting site structure, as limited to the keyword or keywords for that page as possible. 

For example, using our site map example above, a page in the services section detailing purple widget repair should use the URL:

www.URL.com/services/purple-widget-repair 

There’s no perfect answer on URL length, but generally aim for 50-60 characters. 

Remember: Changing URLs will break links—both links you have internally on your own site, and external links from other sites to yours). More on how to fix that later. 


Links

Links tell Google important things about the authority of your site and individual pages and can help search ranking. 

So what is site authority

Google wants to point its users to the best sources in response to the user’s query. So it looks for clues—by crowdsourcing, in part—using links from other sites to yours as a measure of authority and usefulness.

Broadly speaking, the more “inbound links” you have to your site (especially high-quality, highly-trafficked sites), the more authority Google assigns to your site and higher you may rank. 

Links fall into two categories: 

  • Internal: Links from one page of your site to another page of your site.

  • External: Links from other websites to pages within your site. 

This audit process focuses only on internal links. We need to get our own house in order before we start inviting people to send guests our way.

Internal links

According to SEO Moz, internal links are important for three reasons: 

  • They allow users to navigate a website.

  • They help establish information hierarchy for the given website.

  • They help spread link equity (ranking power) around websites.

Just setting up proper site navigation helps your internal linking greatly. From there, Neil Patel shares a simple internal linking strategy

The basic idea is that every page on your website should have some link to and some link from another page on the website.

In other words, make sure your second- and third-level pages link to other pages on your web site--but only in ways helpful to your visitors.  

Internal linking examples:

  • In a blog post, link to another blog post your site about an adjacent topic, or a post that goes more in-depth on a topic touched on in the main post. 

  • On a services page, link to other related service pages, or link to a “contact us” page to allow a potential customer to reach out to you. 

Internal links help spread authority across your site, and more links are better than fewer—but only when it’s good for the user. For example, a highly linked-to blog post that has an internal link to your homepage allows some of the authority from the blog post to be shared with the home page. 

Tip: Link to another internal page just once on any given page: Google will ignore repetitive links on the same page.

Tip: When linking to other pages within your site, include the keywords for the linked page in the text for your link. This content is called “anchor text.”

For example, if you are linking within your site to a blog post focused on iPhone cases, make sure to include the phrase “iPhone cases” as part of your text you use to link. 

Broken links 

Google hates broken links: links to your site that lead to pages that no longer exist, or have been moved, and create what is called a “404 error.”

Screaming Frog can quickly crawl your site and find any 404 errors on your site. 

As you can see from this screenshot of my Screaming Frog report, I had a hot mess of 404 errors. The errors were caused by a double-whammy: moving my site to the Squarespace platform and reconfiguring my URL structure to reflect the site hierarchy:

A screenshot of 404 errors detailed in Screaming Frog

Yeah, clean up on Aisle 404, please … 

In Squarespace, the process for correcting 404 errors is more complex than point, click, and fix, but it’s pretty straightforward. 

You need to set up URL redirects, and relax, it’s not scary. Squarespace can walk you through URL redirects, but here’s an example from my site.

I changed the URL structure for all my “book notes” pages, so the old URLs showed up as 404 errors. For my book notes page on David Goggins’ “Can’t Hurt Me,” I set up what’s called a 301 redirect to point the old, broken URL:

http://www.matttillotson.com/Cant-Hurt-Me-David-Goggins-book-notes

To the new URL:

https://www.matttillotson.com/book-notes/cant-hurt-me-david-goggins

How? By using a little bit of code in URL mappings panel in Squarespace.

Breathe. The code is really simple.

The structure for the code is:

<original url> -> <new url> <redirect type>

For the Goggins redirect, this looks like:

/Cant-Hurt-Me-David-Goggins-book-notes -> https://www.matttillotson.com/book-notes/cant-hurt-me-david-goggins 301

Notice you don’t input your main URL (www.yoursite.com) --just the part after the dot-extension. 

In Squarespace, my redirects look like this:

An example of Squarespace URL redirects at matttillotson.com

Fixing broken links is really important. If you don’t, Google looks at your site like a scary abandoned house with broken windows, and will point users elsewhere.  


Squarespace basic SEO content strategy

Your Squarespace content should be structured and pruned to maximize our relevance and authority. Remember we want to run our site mean and lean: every page and every word should serve a user purpose. 

Here are some simple steps to help with that. 

Excess pages 

If you have excess or unimportant pages (maybe very old blog posts, or product or service pages that are now defunct), delete them or change them to “nofollow” so Google doesn’t crawl them. 

In Squarespace, you can either click the trash can to the left of the page in the “Pages” menu to delete the page, or turn off the “enable” option in the general settings for the page. 

You want to “nofollow” or delete pages Google won’t see as valuable. Yost, a WordPress plugin to address no-indexing, has a good post on choosing pages to nofollow. In general, nofollow blog category pages, author pages, date pages, and technical pages like terms of service. 

Remember: if you delete or nofollow pages, set up your 301 redirects.

Thin content 

The goal is value, and “thin” (low-word count) content can be a red flag for an invaluable page. 

Screaming Frog can give you word counts for each page, but remember that some portion of the word count doesn’t really reflect the unique word count of that page: header text and navigation text, for example, will be counted on every page. 

As a very broad rule of thumb, try to keep unique word counts north of 500.

Your milage may vary, because some pages, simply don’t need much content. A newsletter signup page, for example. 

So evaluate your pages carefully, and if a page really isn’t delivering unique value, then either delete it or expand the content. 

Duplicate content

Duplicate content can mean a couple of different things: content that has been duplicated within your own site, or content that exists elsewhere on the Internet.

A free tool called siteliner can help find duplicate content, but there are caveats:

  • Some content will naturally be repeated across pages: navigation and header text, blog excerpts that may appear on a blog overview page, footer text, etc. 

  • Without getting into too much detail, it’s often just fine to re-publish your blog posts elsewhere, or publish posts on your site that originally were posted elsewhere, like Medium or LinkedIn.
    (If you do this,  you may need to set up “canonical” tags so Google knows your site hosts the original content. This is a manual process in Squarespace and something we can tackle in a later post). 

So, apply salt liberally when evaluating duplicate content. Really, you’re looking for pages you may have accidentally set up twice, and overly redundant content within your own site. 


Tags and descriptions for SEO 

Clean, descriptive, and well-structured text in titles, tags, headlines and descriptions can give your SEO a turbo boost. Here’s how to do it right.

Title

Title refers to the HTML title for a given page. You can set the title in settings section of the page. 

Screenshot showing page title settings in Squarespace

  • Squarespace lists page titles as “optional”--it’s not! Not if you want effective SEO. Use titles on every page of your site

  • Keep your title tight (65 characters or less), include your keyword for the page, and remember you are writing for an audience--Google will use your page title in its listings. 

Meta descriptions

Meta descriptions will appear in search results under your link and title and can be configured in the same screen as your titles

Screenshot example of Squarespace SEO title and meta descriptions.

Keep your descriptions under 155 characters, but over 70

Use your keyword for the page, and remember you are writing to draw an audience in. Be interesting, be accurate, be persuasive. Meta descriptions are your best shot at getting a user to click--and you’re in competition!

The good news is meta descriptions are neglected by many marketers. Writing good ones gives you a leg up.  

Headlines and subheadlines 

Squarespace allows you to create headings in your static pages and blog posts, as designated by the settings H1, H2, H3, and all the way to H6. 

Let’s just worry about H1-H3 for now: 

  • Use just one H1 header, as the headline for the page (such as the title of your blog post)

  • Use one H2 header per section

  • Use one H3 header for each sub-section (supporting idea) within your post

Again, the goal is usability, and Google’s header preferences guide you toward clear, well-organized content. 

Don’t: Use heading designations just to create large text. Use paragraph or “normal” designations and adjust using the template menus in Squarespace. You run the risk of screwing up your on-page SEO otherwise. 


Squarespace Image optimization

Lean images with good supporting descriptive text can help your SEO rankings. Here’s how to optimize your images.

Compressing images 

Google likes sites that load fast. Squarespace performs adequately in this area, but you can help things along by ensuring your image files—photos and graphics—aren’t unnecessarily large which can slow down page load times.

A service called TinyPNG is like Weight Watchers for image files: it makes them lean. You can upload as many as 20 image files at a time and the service reduces the file size. Then simply replace your existing files with your new leaner and meaner version.

Image alt text 

Image “alt-text” is used to describe images to search engines and aids in accessibility for vision-impaired site visitors. 

Write your descriptions for an audience, and utilize your keyword strategy. 

Squarespace uses the image captions you write as alt-text, but that doesn’t mean you have to display the captions. In the image editor, you can choose “Do not display caption” as a setting in under the caption tab in the design area:

Screen shot of Squarespace image caption.png

(For further guidance, check out Squarespace’s image alt-text tutorial.)


Squarespace site map 

Ok, you’ve done all the work. Now it’s time to send your clean and shiny sitemap to Google, so it can read all about your changes and index them accordingly. 

Your sitemap teaches Google about the structure and flow of your site, and in Squarespace the sitemap URL is typically:  

yourURL.com/sitemap.xml 

Example: My sitemap is located at www.matttillotson.com/sitemap.xml

Visit the Google Seach Console site and submit your sitemap URL under the sitemap heading:

Screenshot of sitemap submission on the Google Search Console

Your Squarespace SEO foundation is set

Congrats! If you’ve implemented the steps in this post, you’ve laid a solid foundation for SEO with your Squarespace site. You’ve created your launchpad for world domination. Now go forth and conquer, Squarespace SEO Warrior.


Thanks for reading! If you liked this post, I’d appreciate it if you signed up for my weekly newsletter on SEO, marketing, and other interesting stuff.

The iPhone 11 Pro Max: one-handed use strategies

The screen. It’s giant and glorious. But using the iPhone 11 Pro Max one-handed is a challenge. (This is true of any of the larger iPhones, for that matter: the 11, 11 Pro, Plus, X, XS, and XS Max models can all require thumb-contortions.)

But if you just gotta have that Max screen real estate, there are steps you can take to make the 6.5” iPhone easier to use one-handed. 

One-handed keyboard 

One-handed keyboard on iPhone 11 Pro Max

This one is simple. The change compresses the size of the keyboard at the bottom of the screen, making it easier to reach all the keys with your thumb.

To enable: To set it up, press and hold the emoji icon at the bottom of the keyboard, then select whether you want the keyboard to compress to the left or right:


QuickPath keyboard

With the QuickPath keyboard:

  • You don’t have to tap out each letter (though you certainly can if you prefer). 

  • Instead, you can leave your finger (usually your thumb) on the keyboard and just swipe from one letter to the next until you’ve spelled the word out. 

Sometimes QuickPath guesses the wrong word as you type, but not often. And combined with the one-handed keyboard, typing out quick messages while holding your beer is pretty easy.

To enable: Already good to go. Just start dragging your thumb across the keyboard to spell a word and QuickPath “just works.”

Reachabllity 

Reachability on iPhone 11 Pro Max

Reachability allows you tug on the bottom of the home screen and slide it down half way, making it easier to access apps, Safari address bars, etc. at the top of your screen. 

To trigger it, just pull down on the bottom of your screen, starting about half an inch up from the bottom:

To enable: Go to settings > accessibility > touch > Reachability. Then pull down at bottom of the screen to trigger the feature.

Shortcuts 


Spotlight

Spotlight feature on iPhone 11 Pro Max

Reaching for apps in the upper-left or right-hand corner of your screen can be a pain—so don’t.

Instead, just swipe down on your home screen and Spotlight will launch. Spotlight is a powerful search tool that, among other things, can launch apps for you. Just type in the name of the app—or at least the first part of the app’s name, and when it appears in the search results, tap it.

To enable: Automatically enabled. Swipe down on your home screen to launch Spotlight.

App-switching with gestures 

App switching with iPhone 11 Pro Max

You can quickly switch between apps, without tapping on their icons, by either:

  1. Swipe left-to-right along the bottom of your screen to move to your other apps, in the order you most recently used them, or

  2. Swipe up from the bottom and trigger “app cards” that let you quickly scroll through every app you have open in a sort of preview mode. Just tap on the one you want when you get to it.

Push your home screen apps down-screen

One of the most challenging aspects of one-handed usage is reaching apps at the top and left of your iPhone. But you can use a hack to push your home screen apps down-screen, though you will have to give up some app slots on the home page.

iEmpty (LINK) is a free service that allows you to upload your wallpaper and then create “filler” home screen shortcuts that appear invisible. This shortcuts can be used to fill the less-reachable spots on your home screen, pushing your most important apps down-screen. 

Here’s how it works:

In the end, you get an effect that looks like this:

iPhone 11 Pro Max home screen using iEmpty

All my home screen apps are now reachable by my thumb.

Shortcuts

Shortcuts are an extremely handy—if a bit more complex—feature that allows you to create (or download) simple programs that perform multi-step app tasks in just one tap. 

You can use Shortcuts to save time and make one-handed iPhone use easier. Examples of Shortcuts include:

  • Launching a specific web page in Safari

  • Opening a playlist

  • Opening a third-party app and performing an action (like opening the Nike+ app and launching the run tracker feature).

And there are hundreds of other options.

Apple includes a pre-configured gallery of Shortcuts, including Shortcuts based on how you use your phone. Launch the Shortcuts app and tap “Gallery” to see what’s already available to you.

You can learn to create your own Shortcuts, and/or download Shortcuts others have made. Here are a couple of really robust Shortcut libraries:

For easy access to your shortcuts, you can:

  • Add them to the widget screen (available by swiping left on your home screen)

  • Set them up with icons to place on your home page

  • Assign them verbal instructions for use with Siri (“Siri, open Fox Sports Radio).

AssistiveTouch 

AssistiveTouch on iPhone 11 Pro Max

AssistiveTouch allows you to create an always-on “button” that, when tapped, opens a menu of configurable actions. For example, one of the options available is to open Control Center, which normally requires a difficult-to-execute-one-handed swipe from the top of the right hand of the screen.

AssistiveTouch has lots of options:

AssistiveTouch options on iPhone 11 Pro Max

To enable: go to Settings > Accessibility > Touch > AssistiveTouch, where you also configure the feature. 

Help is here for your iPhone 11 Pro Max-hampered thumb

No,one-handed iPhone use isn’t as easy as it was in the iPhone 4 days (but … so …. much …. screen these days)

With a few tweaks (and possibly some hand-strengthening exercises) you can do plenty with your iPhone 11 Pro Max one-handed—and keep your thumb ligaments intact.

Apple Stores: It’s time to upset the cart.

Red apples

Last week I succumbed to my usual neurosis and ordered the new iPhone. 

(iPhone 11 Pro Max, Space Grey, 256 GB, it’s glorious, thanks for asking.)

At this early point in the annual sales cycle, you’re unlikely to walk in to the Apple Store and get the exact model you want. 

Better to go online, order and pay for it, and then go in at a reserved time and pick up the phone. 

So, I ordered and set my reservation time was 7PM. I showed up ten minutes early and, after wandering around trying to figure out who would sign me in, located the correct iPad-wielding associate. 

The store was packed, so I settled in. It took 35 minutes for an associate to bring me a box I pre-paid for.

Then I left. 

As I stood there waiting (needlessly) I observed:

  • Customers wandering in, unsure of what to do or who to talk to. 

  • Annoyed customers waiting for new phones mingling with annoyed visitors who just wanted their Apple device fixed, because Apple mixes shoppers and Genius Bar tech support visitors together. 

  • Customers upset about their wait times, with no idea how much longer they had to wait. 

I didn’t see anyone enjoying their time in the store. No magic, just muddling. 

The Apple Store vibe isn’t what it used to be. Today the experience is less technology wonderland and more Department of Motor Vehicles. 

The Walmart experience

Have you ever pre-purchased something from Walmart? You know, Walmart, generally the most unpleasant shopping experience in American retail?

You order and pay for your item online. Wal-Mart emails you when it’s ready. 

Then you walk into the store and up to this Willy Wonka booth-looking thing. You swipe your credit card, and your item deposits itself right in front of you. 

Done. It’s a two or three minute experience. 

Order something for pickup from Apple, and, well, bring a good book. 

Overworked employees, when they can finally get to you, have to find and then walk items to you from the back room of the store, which, based on the time it takes to retrieve your item, is an area roughly the size of Brazil. 

Wal-Mart uses automation for a fast and simple experience. Apple uses sneakernet

The world’s largest consumer tech company doesn’t use the revolutionary device it created to streamline and personalize the shopping experience. Intead, it creates bottlenecks and inefficiency to irritate and delay the people trying to give Apple money. 

If only there was a device that could help

Apple needs to use its own technology to transform the store experience. 

I understand Apple wants its store experience to be transformational, not transactional. But today it’s just obstructive. The only thing transformed is your free time into wasted time. 

What to do? Well, here are three pretty straightforward ideas.

First: Create an Amazon Locker experience I can unlock with, oh, I don’t know ... an iPhone, maybe. Have my prepaid items locked and loaded for pickup at my designated time.

Second: Create some separation between Genius Bar visitors and customers. Yes, the Genius Bar is in the back of the store. But people waiting for service mill around, bouncing off people looking to purchase--perhaps--the very thing that other person has brought in because it’s broken.

Not a great look, and not a great experience. 

Third: Utilize iPhone messaging to personalize the experience. 

  • Apple, you know when I walk into the store. Your app tells me it knows I’m there. So if I have an appointment, say, “Hi Matt, please see Emily to check in for your appointment. Here is a picture of Emily,” so customers I have a clue where to go. 

    Better still: automatically check me in when I walk in. Again, your app knows I’m there, so check me in automatically.

  • Send me updates on my estimated wait time: “Hi Matt, just two people ahead of you and then we will be right with you.” 

  • Surprise me with something: “Hey Matt, thanks for waiting. Here’s $5 off of a case for your new iPhone if you’re so inclined.”

  • Then send me a thank you message after I walk out. 

Simple messaging, on the device you invented, can create clear expectations, clear instructions, and maybe even a little magic. 

The caveat and the good news

One thing, however, is not broken, and it’s important:

I have never had a bad experience with an associate. Not in Florida or California or any of the other Apple Stores I’ve visited. And the associates deal with a lot: upset and impatient customers, really basic or ill-informed questions (over and over again, I’m sure) heavy crowds, and chaotic conditions. 

Apple’s problems are all process, and not people. Process is a lot easier to fix. 

This isn’t the DMV

When you’re visiting the customer-facing, real-world manifestation of the Apple brand, you shouldn't feel like you’re renewing your license plate. 

Apple likes to say of its products, “It just works.” You know, like magic. 

The Apple Stores have become the exact opposite of that. The experience does not work, and has become a drag on the brand. 

Star Wars: Wallet's Edge

My daughter Avery and I were fortunate enough to visit the newest Disney Parks creation: A Star Wars-themed land called Galaxy’s Edge, which opened at Disney’s Hollywood Studios last week (and at Disneyland last May).

I have thoughts, in three areas:

  • Quick first impressions 

  • Defining “success” for Galaxy’s Edge 

  • A interesting brand partnership 

Yeah, it’s great

I’m not going to go on and on about the experience of Galaxy’s Edge itself. There are million places to read in-depth reviews and see professional-quality photos and videos if that’s your thing. 

But … 

As a Star Wars fan, I’ll just say:

Right now, the land has one feature attraction open, the Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run ride, where you and five others must pilot the ship in pursuit of coaxium (non-nerds: that’s Star Wars ship fuel). 

The ride is great, but I’m not sure the best part isn’t outside the attraction:  a full-size Falcon in all it’s glory. The rider line wrapped around the ship outside, and Avery became very frustrated when she kept trying to talk to me but I was like this for about 25 minutes: 

Bottom’s Up: Og’s Cantina was also fun—it’s an offshoot of the Mos Eisley Cantina when Luke and Obi-Wan meet Han and Chewie in A New Hope. 

IMG_0918.jpeg

It’s an odd experience watching your 12-year old sidle up to bar to have a drink (even if it was just Powerade and pomegranate juice). 

We had such a good time we went back the next night, as we heard the place looks amazing all lit up. 

It did not disappoint. 

IMG_0953.jpeg

More to come: In December, the “main” attraction, The Rise of The Resistance, will open and is supposed to be Disney Parks’ most ambitious attraction ever. Looking forward to it. 

Down to business 

Some people feel the new land is under-performing. In California, the Disneyland version of Galaxy’s Edge opened in May, and park attendance there has actually fallen this year vs. last

In Orlando, early crowds have been manageable, but with the hurricane looming offshore it’s hard to tell what should have been expected. 

Missing the point: I don’t think massive herds of customers is the real end game for Disney Parks with Galaxy’s Edge, and, in many, ways, for the parks going forward. 

In marketing we talk about LTV—lifetime value of a customer. I’m sure Disney Parks has a somewhat similar metric—call it revenue per guest (RPG)—a measure of how much a guest spends in the park over and beyond the ticket price. 

Galaxy’s Edge is set up to increase revenue per guest in a substantial way. And I don’t mean selling ice cream and key chains—I’m talking about expensive, high-end items and experiences that truly “move the needle.”

For example, Disney takes the souvenir concept uptown by wrapping a unique guest experience around the item, enabling massive margin increases:

  • A $200 Build-A-Lightsaber experience

  • A $100 Build-A-Droid experience

Rather than just picking an item off a store shelf, guests pluck plastic droid parts off an assembly line to create their own remote-controlled toy, or choose their own “kyber crystal” to power up their lightsaber, which they create and “infuse with the force” themselves as part of a ceremony, complete with full orchestra music as accompaniment.

Disney can churn guests through these experiences, 15 or so per experience, ten-ish times per day, seven days per week.

Money machine.

Flipping the model: Disney offloads the assembly labor onto the guest, who pays enormous upcharges for the privilege.

That’s a unique way to bring manufacturing back to the USA.

I hope you get a mint on your pillow: And coming soon is a Star Wars-themed hotel, which is estimated to cost over $3,000 per GUEST per NIGHT.

Here a father and daughter review their hotel bill, which is so large it must be viewed from space.

Here a father and daughter review their hotel bill, which is so large it must be viewed from space.

Galaxy’s Edge is not designed to draw massive hordes of common guests, though it’s fine if they come. The land is a magnet for attracting super-fans with cash to burn on premium experiences.

I suspect it will do that very well.

Have a Coke and a smile… or a vaguely grenade-like beverage container

Brand partnerships have long been a way for theme parks to offset costs; a brand pays to sponsor a ride, and gains visibility and the emotional association of the cool or fun factor of the attraction.

But things are trickier in Batuu, the fictional planet on which Galaxy’s Edge is based. Disney wants the land to be extremely immersive, to the point that merchandise sold in the land doesn’t even promote or feature the Star Wars logo. The experience is set up so that you’re buying “authentic” merchandise from a far away world.

So that makes brand partnerships challenging. Piloting the Millennium Falcon isn’t quite the same if it’s brought to you by Delta Airlines, or if you have to pull the ship out of battle to grab a double cheeseburger at Wendy’s.

But Disney and Coca-Cola made it work.

They created bottles of Coke, Diet Coke, and Sprite that look like thermal detonators (non-nerds: thermal detonators are Star Wars grenades). 

57fef1c33e6c85ff3640a238a39db48009e09bb9.jpg

The bottles look pretty cool, so much so that the TSA banned them for a minute, and then rescinded.

(The TSA: Keeping you safe from recyclable plastic containers since 2001.)

The not-dangerous sodas are sold from bright red Coca-Cola branded small spaceships, complete with droid pilots. The lettering is done in Aurebesh, the Star Wars alphabet.

Photo:  WDWNT

Photo: WDWNT

The red stations really stand out in the land, popping against the browns and grays used to theme Galaxy’s Edge.

This is when brand partnerships are fun.

  • The companies found a unique way to feature Coca-Cola while maintaining Disney’s theming requirements.

  • Both companies got loads of free publicity thanks to TSA incompetence.

  • Guests get a unique souvenir to take home, which, of course, is overpriced thanks to the special container concept.

At $6 a piece, we own four of them. I am not immune to Disney’s marketing prowess. But at least we didn’t have to assemble them ourselves.

Referral Madness 

No, I said referral

As in referral marketing, which means: 

Providing a unique, consistent, and occasionally surprising experience built on insights about your best customers, so that it is in the best interest of your customer and partner networks to recommend and share your business and your content.

Referral marketing is powerful. It can:

  • Lower your customer cost-of-acquisition (CAC), by providing a steady stream of low-cost or free referrals from customer and partner networks. 

  • Increase the lifetime value of a customer (LTV), who can refer an unlimited amount of new business to you.

So, I plan to write a series of posts on referral marketing—why it’s important, what it takes to do it well, and examples of companies doing it well today. 

We start with why

Marketing is changing fast. Just pick a “buzzphrase”:

  • Programmatic advertising

  • Artificial intelligence 

  • Cable unbundling / OTT video services

  • Personalization 

But through all this change—and even because of it—referral marketing remains an important, cost-effective way to find new customers. 

Actually, referral marketing is more important now than ever before. 

Done well, referral marketing makes your company stronger and your customers happier. The buzz about you on- and off-line becomes a growth asset.

The online media landscape 

Online, acquiring a customer is becoming more difficult, and often more expensive. Why?

  • Frighteningly, sixty percent of digital advertising inventory ($76B) is controlled by a Google-Facebook duopoly.

  • A third player, Amazon (of course its Amazon) is making headway, selling $11B in ads last year. 

So you have two massively powerful businesses in control of over half of ad inventory and pricing—with a third juggernaut hot on their trail—and that’s not great for advertisers. 

How about SEO? 

Search engine optimization—optimizing your website for keywords potential customers are searching for—can bring in targeted leads at very low cost.

But: you rank #1 for your keyword? Awesome. You’re still below five ads, because Google controls 90%+ of the search market and has expanded advertising listings at the expense of natural search results:

In the 17 years since Google introduced text-based advertising above search results, the company has allocated more space to ads and created new forms of them. The ad creep on Google has pushed “organic” (unpaid) search results farther down the screen, an effect even more pronounced on the smaller displays of smartphones.

The changes are profound for retailers and brands that rely on leads from Google searches to drive online sales. With limited space available near the top of search results, not advertising on search terms associated with your brand or displaying images of your products is tantamount to telling potential customers to spend their money elsewhere.

Lack of control 

In addition, marketers face:

  • Algorithmic deplatforming, which can shut down your ad campaigns without warning or explanation if your ads trigger an alert.

  • Other unpredictable algorithmic changes, which can throw off your ad strategy, or take that #1 keyword ranking and send it into search purgatory. 

So, in summary. Digital advertising:

  • Is controlled by a duopoly which dictates pricing and can change operational terms without warning.

  • Faces increasing constraints in targeting and tracking potential customers.

  • Is increasingly expensive as SEO efforts are pushed “down the page” by Google.

Digital advertising overall, at about $130B, accounts for 54% of total media ad spending. Lots of money is spent elsewhere.

What about … 

Traditional media 

When we talk about traditional media (TV, radio, and print), the overall message is decline, in both usage and marketing effectiveness. 

Take TV viewing trends, for example: 

In percentage terms, the amount of time 18-34-year-olds as a whole spent watching traditional TV (live and time-shifted) in Q3 2018 dropped by about 17.2% from the previous year. Needless to say, that’s a huge chunk – a drop of about 1 in every 6 minutes in just a single year.

Radio, at $40B of ad spend in 2019, is in a better place:

Deloitte Global predicts that adults globally will listen to an average of 90 minutes of radio a day, about the same amount as in the prior year. Finally, Deloitte Global predicts that, unlike some other forms of traditional media, radio will continue to perform relatively well with younger demographics. In the United States, for example, we expect that more than 90 percent of 18–34-year-olds will listen to radio at least weekly in 2019, and they will listen to radio for an average of more than 80 minutes a day. 

And print? Everyone knows what is happening to the newspaper industry:

So we see the challenges of spreading brand messages online and off. 

Now lets add … 

Decreasing trust in brand messages

In 2016, Salesforce conducted a survey to examine how much each generation trusted various advertising sources. The results revealed that Baby Boomers were much more trusting of actual brand messages than their younger Millennial counterparts who felt more favorable toward online reviewers than brand-sponsored messages. 

People have less trust in brands and brand messages—and instead turn to friends, colleagues, and online reviews for unbiased information. 

None of this is to say companies should abandon traditional marketing channels altogether, obviously. 

But referral marketing provides an additional acquisition channel that:

  • Is completely controlled by the company

  • Lowers acquisition costs and increases customer lifetime value 

  • Acts as a hedge against the challenging cost and consumer trends facing traditional customer acquisition methods

Be referable.

We’ve defined what referral marketing is, but how does a company successfully become referable?

It’s a long, long road
With many a winding turn …

- The Hollies

It’s not easy, and yet it’s all in your control. Being referable requires: 

  • Customer knowledge

  • Culture

  • Content

  • Customer experience strategy

  • Referral tools and processes

  • Partner network 

  • Measurement

In the coming weeks, we will talk about these areas and how to create a referral flywheel, that, once spinning, has your partners and best customers talking about and referring your business, at low cost.

WeWould run very far away from this IPO

money.jpg

Forget the talk of inverted yield curves as the harbinger of recession. We have a clearer signal.

The story of WeWork shows we have reached the apex of hubris in this growth cycle, and, as in the late stages of every growth cycle, we have also lost our minds. 

WeWork:

  • Manages more than 10,000,000 square feet of real estate, mostly office space. 

  • Has aspirations far beyond being a landlord. It fancies itself as a cultural steward for its tenants, offers health insurance, even speaks of interceding in war. 

  • Wants to “elevate the world’s consciousness.” 

Mess with the unicorn, get the horn: Although its based in New York City, WeWork is what Silicon Valley calls a “unicorn” — a rare and magical company achieving scale and hype, allowing its founders and early investors to become rich(er) via an IPO. 

All bark and no byte: Although it positions itself as such, WeWork isn’t a tech company. At all. It’s a commercial real estate ownership and management firm.

The “S” stands for shenanigans:As part of its IPO preparation, the company filed its S1 disclosures, and some of those disclosures are spectacular.

  • Last year, WeWork earned $1.8 billion in revenue and spent $3.4 billionoverall—and it isn’t closing the expense gapas it grows. 

  • Per the Morning Brew’s perusal of the S1, WeWork has $47.2 billion in future liabilities in the form of long-term leases. Committed revenues from tenants sits at $4 billion. 

Yikes. Yet the company has a $47 billion valuation?

But wait, there’s more. 

There’s so. Much. More.

Booze Clues: WeWork used to have an unlimited alcohol policy, which, following a sexual harassment lawsuit, was amended as follows:

Members, who previously had unlimited access to beer and wine on tap, are now limited to “four 12-ounce pours per beer in a single day,” and can only access the taps between noon and 8 pm, Monday through Friday.

OK, now that we’ve sobered up, here is WeWork’s planned post-IPO corporate structure.

Ready?

These indecipherable hieroglyphics exist, of course, to maximize wealth (grift?) for executive staff, founders, and early investors. Oh, and tax avoidance, probably.

Just take it from the till: Adam Neumann, founder and CEO, seems to find plenty of ways to cash in:

This should be enough to send any half-witted investor running for the hills, right?

Yes, there is:

Adam Neumann bought buildings that he then leased to WeWork, The Wall Street Journal reported in January. Adam made millions on the deals. In May, he said he would sell the properties that WeWork leases to a real estate investment unit run by WeWork and funded by outside investors, The Wall Street Journal reported

The investment vehicle, called ARK, will manage Adam’s holdings in 10 commercial properties, the IPO form says. Four of those properties are leased by WeWork.

Just take it from the till, Part II: Then there is Neumann’s stock option package—exercised by borrowing money from WeWork to buy the shares:

Before 2019, Adam had not received any equity awards, the documents say. But as The We Company got larger, the board of directors decided to give Adam reason to do an IPO, so Adam received options to purchase more than 42 million shares.

[…]

This led to the $362.1 million loan Adam got in April from The We Company to exercise his stock options. Adam repaid the loan this month by giving the shares back.

[…]

“Neumann swapped out a portion of those options the company valued at more than $360 million in a complicated transaction with the company that gave him a financial instrument tied to future WeWork profits.”

Are we done yet? 

No. No we are not:

Adam spread the financial love to his wider family, too. From The Verge:

One of Adam’s immediate family members hosted eight events relating to our Creator Awards ceremonies in 2018, for which she was paid an aggregate of less than $200,000. Another one of Adam’s immediate family members has been employed as head of the Company’s wellness offering since 2017, and he receives less than $200,000 per year for acting in this capacity.

Will the SEC even allow the IPO to go forward? Remains to be seen.

In the meantime, sit back, drink no more than four adult beverages on a weekday between the hours of 12-8PM, and see what happens.

Alcohol tourism, hurray! (A visit to Traverse City Whiskey Co.)

Northern Michigan has a thriving wine tourism scene: the Traverse City area alone has more than 40 wineries. 

So as part of our visit to the Michigan motherland, we plotted an alcohol touring day (because alcohol tourism is the best tourism) which included a couple of wineries and a tour of local whiskey maker Traverse City Whiskey Co.

First, the wineries.

Our initial stop was at Bonobo, located on a finger-like strip of land called the Old Mission Peninsula that juts up into Grand Traverse Bay on Lake Michigan.

(SIDE NOTE: My discernment in wine-related matters is limited. If it’s red and not too sweet, I’m probably good. I mostly drink the (four-star rated!) red blend from Sam’s Club. So you won’t be getting deep wine reviews here.)

The views at Bonobo are insane:

Bonobo Winery fields in Traverse City, Michigan

Eat your heart out, Napa.

It was a little hazy and smoky on this day. Apparently Canada was on fire, and lacked the international decorum to keep its maple leaf incineration to itself. 

Anyway, the wine and the food were excellent, and my Cabernet/merlot house blend went great with crab cakes and pulled pork tacos:

Pork taco and crab cake at Bonobo Winery in Traverse City, Michigan

Bonobo is owned by Todd and Carter Oosterhouse, the latter of which was a carpenter/personality on the show Trading Spaces, way back before we knew a reality TV host could become president.

The second stop was just down the road at Peninsula Cellars Winery, which is located inside a schoolhouse built in 1890—because there’s no better place to drink than at school.

Peninsula Cellars Winery in Traverse City, Michigan

(This photo is from the company website, and I’m wondering why the schoolhouse is obscured by a large black vehicle. Just to let us know the company van is a Benz?)

Peninsula Cellars had a super-friendly staff and offered a five-flight wine tasting for $5, or 1/3 the price of your grande triple-whipped cinnamon pineapple soy latte espresso at Starbucks. Quite a deal. I hit the first five reds on the list:

Wine menu at Peninsula Cellars Winery in Traverse City, Michigan

They were all “very good” (remember my super-elite wine palate) but the Pinot Noir, which was extremely dry, surprised me by being my favorite.

Peninsula Cellars also offers fresh root beer, which was incredible.

From there, we slogged through tourist traffic and endless construction to reach the Traverse City Whiskey CompanyProduction Facility Tour, which I dare you to say five times fast after sampling their products.

Our friendly and knowledgeable guide was named Tim.

(At least I think his name was Tim. Things got a bit hazy, and it wasn’t because of the Canadian smoke.)

Whiskey lineup at Traverse City Whiskey Co.

As Maybe-Tim introduced us to the company and its products, he allowed us to simply point at a bottle and he would pour us some to taste, which was a glorious and rewarding power trip.

We learned many things during this portion of the tour, and I astutely took no notes because I was too busy pointing at whiskey.

I do remember this, though: whiskey comes in different types, like Rye and Bourbon. And in order to be called bourbon, a whiskey must follow the ABCs:

  • American made

  • Aged in oak Barrels

  • Made with at least 51% Corn

The oak barrels used to store whiskey are charred inside and look like this:

Charred barrel plank at Traverse City Whiskey Co.

Charring deepens the color of the whiskey, and burning the wood adds sweet or honey flavors to the whiskey by releasing sugars held in the oak. The ash also helps clear out some of the harsher elements in the whiskey, smoothing out the flavor.

(Of course, all the ash itself is filtered out later on.)

After our intro and sampling, we gripped the handrails and slowly made our way downstairs to see how the magic was made.

Here Guide-Who-I-Think-Was-Tim shows us the room where the whiskey ages:

Whiskey barrel storage at Traverse City Whiskey Co.

This room smells amazing.

Oak whiskey barrels at Traverse City Whiskey Co.

Oak barrels can only be used once, after which they are sent to Scotland and used to house scotch as it ages. This turns whiskey makers into stand-up comedians as they make jokes about how Scotch is just leftover whiskey byproduct, or how Scotch makers use whiskey makers’ garbage to create its flavor, etc.

(Whiskey humor doesn’t seem to age as well as the whiskey itself.)

These bottles show the color of whiskey as it ages at one, two, three, five, and thirteen years in the oak barrel, and may also represent the shade of your liver depending on your consumption habits:

Whiskey color at various stages of aging

The company itself is doing great, and preparing to move into a much larger facility next year. It’s product can now be found in 30 states, including the traditional whiskey bourbon homes of Tennessee and Kentucky, a northern invasion with the potential to spark a new civil war.

Importantly, Traverse City Whiskey Company was founded by three Michigan State Spartans back in 2011. So Go Green, Go White(skey), and now I’m ready to drink more of what they’re selling. 

A long, strange trip

Every year, our family makes a summer sojourn from Florida to the Michigan homeland. We venture north, celebrating family and America’s independence—even as we curse mosquitos and black flies the size of Pomeranians. 

Normally, Nikki captains this trip by herself. This year, with no employment to encumber my wandering, I drove up with Nikki, teen and tween Maddie and Avery, and two dogs, Lucy and Finn.

Six living beings and one vehicle. 19.5 hours and 1,098 miles of asphalt-enabled travel await us. Questions abound:

  • Is the I-75 coffee supply chain ready for this?

  • What are the outer human limits of single-day fast food consumption? 

  • Will Maddie and Avery—with irrational expectations of comfort, ease, and expediency—complete the trip without open mutiny? 

Read on for the answers to these and other burning questions.

4:38 AM

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Tension increases amongst the crew as departure draws near. Finn is a nervous wreck, as the hurried movement of crew and cargo heightens his anticipation for our impending launch.

4:47 AM

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It is said the journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step, and the journey of 1,098 miles begins with 2,347 pounds of luggage:

Nikki is the Logistics Director, and bends a cargo hold to her will like no one else.

She artfully arranges bags and boxes, creating an impenetrable fortress of clothing, shoes, and sundries in an act of supernatural packing prowess.

Transporting this amount of luggage via domestic airline would require the deed to our home as payment. But for this trip, the price is paid in sweat of the brow as we load, and I wonder: which price really is greater?

4:52 AM

Lucy defiles the carpet in Avery’s bedroom. Is this an act of open protest in defiance of our departure at this ungodly hour?

Or, is this a distress flare, launched to ensure her visibility so she isn’t left behind? We will never know for sure.

5:03 AM

The trip itinerary indicated a 4:30 AM departure, but given the unplanned carpet cleanup and the lengthy extraction of two daughters from their beds, the actual departure time is satisfactory.

7:10 AM

Maddie and Avery volley their first protests, claiming starvation.

But my hand is steady on the wheel and my belief is resolute that we will breach the Florida-Georgia line before considering any ports o’ call.

8:04 AM

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With great diligence, Lucy performs iceberg watch duty.

Her effort seems unnecessary given our tropical traveling conditions. Maybe she is using hard work to make amends for her earlier indiscretion, and I accept her earnest attempt as an apology.

8:09 AM

While on iceberg watch, Lucy steps on the button which lowers the backseat window nearest to Finn, inviting him to jump overboard as we travel at 78 miles per hour.

Fortunately, Finn declines the implied offer, probably the first wise decision he has ever made. He’s nearly three and growing up. This is a proud moment.

Lucy is the veteran leader of our canine contingent, but is advancing age eroding her focus?

Or, given her seniority, does she feel entitled to family leadership and is thus trying to sabotage the voyage and my position?

I will keep a wary eye on her for the rest of the trip.

8:28 AM

We have reached Georgia, with seas calm, skies fair, and no stops.

8:35 AM

Our first port o’ call is Lake Fair, Georgia, for fuel and McProvisions.

My provision strategy centers on protein. On a journey this challenging, one cannot descend into a carbohydrate-fueled mailiase. (NOTE: This carb-light, protein-heavy plan collapsed as I consumed at least 30 Hot Tamale candies. Also a lot of chocolate raisins.)

Today, liquid serves one sacred purpose: redline levels of caffeine-induced awareness. All other liquid intake is detrimental to trip efficiency and there will be no extra vehicle stoppages on my account. Should I suffer dehydration, my in-laws live near a hospital and I can secure a saline drip tomorrow.

9:47 AM

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Finn, nerves frazzled, shakes like a leaf. This requires administration of a treat containing CBD oil. Slowly, his eyes glaze over. For the rest of the day he just lays around, pondering the beauty of it all and daydreaming about milk bone treats.

1:07 PM

I have traversed Atlanta in the day, at night, and both on weekdays and weekends. Not once has she ever failed to place obstacle and delay in my path.

Just one time Atlanta: Will you allow us to pass through with speed and grace?

Her reply: “Nay. Not today.”

Not ever, I assume. Traffic is a mess.

1:31 PM

Acworth, Georgia is our second port o’ call. Arby graciously shares his roast beast with two of us while the fair maiden Wendy serves the other human passengers.

1:47 PM

Weary, I turn the wheel over to Nikki and retire to the co-pilot’s seat. There’s nary a drop of whiskey or red wine in sight and still so many miles to go before we sleep.

3:19 PM

Greetings to Tennessee.

In 1980, country crossover star Ronnie Milsap paid homage to Volunteer State precipitation with his smash hit “Smoky Mountain Rain:”

While Ronnie’s hair is magnificent, his forecast was not:

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We sail on with clear skies and full hearts.

5:33 PM

Kentucky.

Elvis himself also once sang of rain, in his 1970 hit “Kentucky Rain” (which included a young studio musician named—wait for it—Ronnie Milsap). But again a melodic forecast proves false, with blue skies above us and Kentucky bluegrass below.

9:26 PM

In Dayton, Ohio, we stop for one last round of fast food, our arteries straining under the intake.

On the Sirius/XM Classic Rewind channel, Chrissy Hynde of The Pretenders laments the paving over of the state she grew up in:

I went back to Ohio
But my pretty countryside 
Had been paved down the middle
By a government that had no pride

Evidently, Ms. Hynde did not visit the same McDonald’s we did, which, during renovations, traded in its paved parking lot for an experience best fit for a Monster truck rally.

The dinner bill was about $20, which will pale in comparison to our upcoming wheel realignment expense. But our SUV holds together and onward we go.

10:14 PM

Our fortunes shift: the heavens open with fury.

I don’t know what Ohio did to anger the Lord. But now He tries his level best to wash the entire state out to sea in one mighty storm.

I assess the situation. We have no lifeboats, and the Coast Guard isn’t coming. Seeing no other choice, I take a deep draw from the lukewarm remnants of my McDonald’s coffee, set my jaw, and press on.

We splash through harrowing construction zones, fishtail around semi trucks and careen on into the endless darkness. The night’s depth obscures my vision and darkens my soul.

Will we live to see the fresh light of a new day? Will I ever again drink coffee warmer than 47 degrees? And who decided orange was the correct color for construction barrels, anyway?

The mind races.

12:12 AM

Pure Michigan! We reach the last state line of the trip. The heavens have ceased their relentless pummeling. Whatever Ohio did to incur the Lord’s wrath, it evidently wasn’t Michigan’s fault.

12:12 AM and three seconds

We hit our first pothole. Also Pure Michigan.

2:33 AM

Victory!

We pull into the driveway. Van Halen cheers us on through the stereo as David Lee Roth screeches:

Hot shoe, burnin' down the avenue
Model citizen, zero discipline

And we did indeed burn down the avenue:

  • 1,098 miles

  • 52 ounces of coffee

  • 24 ounces of Diet Mountain Dew

  • 19.5 hours of travel time 

  • 6 states

  • 5 stops

  • 2 heart arteries likely blocked

  • 1 biblical flood

It’s been an arduous journey, full of narrow escapes, unholy Ohio weather, and enough fast-food saturated fat to last us the rest of the millennium. But we made it, however worse for wear we may be.

Now hand me one of those CBD oil treats. 

Never Split the Difference, by Chris Voss

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“... I negotiate million dollar deals for breakfast.”

—Harry Ellis

In the Christmas classic* Die Hard, Harry Ellis hatches a scheme to negotiate with Hans Gruber, who has taken the Nakatomi Plaza office tower by force, holding Ellis and his co-workers hostage.

Ellis portrays all the stereotypes we think of in a business negotiation. He’s slick-talking, self-interested, intellectually arrogant, aloof, and insincere—and those are his better qualities.

Ellis fast-talks his way into being murdered by Gruber’s henchmen.

In most business negotiations, we are afraid the other side will behave like Ellis—being brash, evasive, and trying to get one over on us. So we raise our defenses. We focus primarily on our wants—and what we want to say next—so we don’t listen and don’t learn. Usually, end up with a worse outcome than we could have had.

Chris Voss, a former FBI hostage negotiator, has another way.

The title of his book “Never Split the Difference,” focuses on mindset—yours and that of your counterpart—and then offers many actionable insights to help you create the collaborative environment you need to for a successful negotiation.

Your counterpart’s mindset

Voss believes humans are of two minds: emotional and rational. The emotional mind is command, and above all seeks safety, security, and control. The rational mind is used to justify emotion: logic is the supporting framework for feelings.

The goal, then, is to create an environment of comfort and safety that allows the other party to feel a sense of control and autonomy. At that point, you set the stage for collaboration and real discussion.

Your mindset

“It all starts with the universally applicable premise that people want to be understood and accepted. Listening is the cheapest, yet most effective concession we can make to get there.”

Voss argues we must embrace conflict (calmly and with empathy) and view negotiation as a fact-finding mission. Negotiation is a continuous act of discovery, not an attempt to dominate.

A friend and former boss used to tell me: “Be the dancing bear—draw their fire,” meaning there is tremendous value in eliciting and understanding objections and concerns.

Using this framework requires a mindset shift. You aren’t in a quid-pro-quo contest to gain the most from your “opponent.” Instead, you’re an explorer, acting like Indiana Jones to uncover the clues that will lead you to the prize you seek.

By the way: this is hard.

It takes tremendous emotional control and ego suppression to fight your need to immediately be heard, to be “right,” and to feel in control. Ironically, you gain control and end up being “right”—achieving your objective—by putting the other party’s communication and emotional needs first.

Key strategies and tactics

With the environment set, you can move on to more tactical steps to move your negotiation forward. What follows are just a few of the more interesting and useful concepts Voss shares from his time with the FBI.

Asking questions

Voss argues most people behave schizophrenically in a negotiation, either speaking or thinking about what they will say next—and rarely listening. The voice in our head is constantly yelling at us, writing dialogue scripts on the fly and doing a poor job of anticipating our counterpart’s next actions.

Quiet the voice in your head focusing completely on what the other person has to say. Ask calibrated and open-ended questions that start with the journalistic classics who, what, when, where, why, and how. Get the other party to open up and talk about their objectives. But be careful with “why,” as why-questions usually come off as aggressive or accusatory. What and how usually work best.

Great negotiators uncover the “black swans,” or hidden surprises, held by the other side that greatly affect a deal. Voss thinks each side usually has three surprises, or pieces of information, that if discovered will change the balance and trajectory of a negotiation.

Question yourself as well—especially your own assumptions. This helps you stay emotionally open to other possibilities and agile in a fluid negotiating situation.

Mirroring, or isopraxism, is a way to creating bonding, comfort, and to keep the other party talking. At the FBI, mirroring is simply about repeating the last (or most important) three words back to the speaker to convey a sense of empathy and collaboration:

”By repeating back what people say, you trigger this mirroring instinct and your counterpart will inevitably elaborate on what was just just said and sustain the process of connecting. Psychologist Richard Wiseman created a study using waiters to identify what was the more effective method of creating a connection with strangers: mirroring or positive reinforcement.

One group of waiters, using positive reinforcement, lavished pride and encouragement on patrons using words such as “great,” “no problem,” and “sure” in response to each order. The other group of waiters mirrored their customers simply by repeating their orders back to them. The results were stunning: the average tip of the waiters who mirrored was 70 percent more than of those those who used positive reinforcement.

Labeling is the close cousin of mirroring, in which you acknowledge and label the emotions and intentions of the other party. But avoid using “I” in your observations. Instead, lead with “It seems like,” or, “It feels like.” For example: “It seems like you want to complete this this week,” instead of “I feel like you want to complete this this week.” Using “I” creates separation and defensiveness.

Finally, don’t get wrapped up what the other person is asking for, but rather focus on their interests—why they are asking for it. Calibrated questions and mirroring will reveal the answers.

Voice as a tone-setter

Voss says there are three tones of voice available to us during negotiation. Most of the time, you should use the first option: the positive/playful voice, as that builds comfort, repore, and collaboration.

The “late-night FM radio DJ voice” connotes authority, but calmly. When an item is non-negotiable for you, you can serenely state your position, without inducing anxiety, and also without leaving the door open to a challenge against your position.

Picture yourself working as a DJ in 1970s, on the 3AM shift, at a jazz station. You might be saying, “We cannot accept a non-disclosure clause,” but your tone is that of the DJ introducing a Miles Davis song, with a whiskey in one hand and some awful unfiltered cigarette in the other. Calm, smooth, welcoming, and confident.

The third voice is the direct/assertive voice, which is mostly to be avoided. The assertive voice creates tension and pushback, and is used far too often in business discussions, usually when the speaker is feeling fear and lack of control.

“Irrational behavior”

When people appear to behave irrationally or make “crazy” decisions, it often indicates your failure as negotiator. People rarely act crazy—that’s just your perception. In reality, the person is operating from a perspective, rules, or pressure that you failed to discover.

For example:

  • They may be operating with incomplete information. Discover what they don’t know and supply the information.

  • They may have a constraint they don’t want to share, usually because they will appear powerless.

  • They may have other interests, such as changing goals or other outside objectives competing for their time and resources.

Leverage

Leverage is fluid, emotion-based, and tips the balance of power. Voss states leverage comes in three flavors:

  • Positive - the ability to give or withhold something your counterpart wants.

  • Negative - the ability to make a counterpart suffer, often by invoking loss aversion.

  • Normative - using the other party’s norms and standards—their worldview—to advance your position. When someone takes a position that conflicts with their stated philosophy or practices, you can use that as leverage to gently steer them back on course.

Voss believes leverage can always be created, because leverage grows out of emotion. Negotiators must be aware of who holds leverage at any given time in a negotiation and act accordingly.

Additional quick tips

  • In a typical meeting, you can learn the most just before the meeting, or during the “wrap up” period.

  • Loss Aversion shows people are statistically more likely to act to avert a loss than to achieve an equal gain. Fear of missing out (FOMO) is often the most powerful motivator.

  • The perceived loss of autonomy is very powerful. Let the other side preserve the right to say “no.” In fact, push for a “no”—it is far more effective than pushing for a “yes,” which makes people feel like they are being forced into compliance. No feels like self-protection, and helps people relax.

  • Use a team to listen in a negotiation. We all have selective listening, filtered by our cognitive biases which are built around our goals and assumptions.

  • The barriers to reaching an agreement are often more powerful than the reasons to make a deal.

It’s impossible to sum up all the helpful details in this book. But if you question your own assumptions, listen far more than you speak, build comfort and a sense of control, affirm and echo the other side’s positions and feelings, you’ll be in a far better position to achieve a positive outcome.

In other words, you won’t be Harry Ellis.

*Yes, Die Hard is a Christmas classic. That’s non-negotiable. (Said in a late-night FM-DJ voice, of course.)

Note: If you want to see more direct quotes, check out my notes page on Never Split the Difference.

The “Shift List”: Books That Altered My Course

A good book creates a shift.

The shift can be as small—just your mood—or much bigger, changing your perspective forever. This is a list of books that created a shift in me. Call it a “Shift List,” and pronounce it carefully in polite company.

FITNESS

Can’t Hurt Me, David Goggins

The next time you don’t feel like working out, flip this book open to pretty much any page. You’ll learn your excuses are invalid.

Goggins is a Navy Seal Veteran and super-endurance athlete. His upbringing was full of abuse, violence, and tragedy, and he uses that dark energy to push through physical and mental boundaries most of us would never even consider crossing.

Although the book is quite dark at times (and full of colorful language!), the overall message is that we are capable of far more than we think, and the greatest opponent we will ever face in life is our own minds.

(You can read my book notes for Can’t Hurt Me here.)

The New High Intensity Training, Ellington Darden

Many of us, when we think about fitness, imagine long workouts before the sun comes up, or after it goes down. We’ve been taught—by marketers—that we have to grind and grind to get ourselves lean and strong.

But maybe that’s not true. What if an hour or two a week were enough?

In this book, Ellington Darden details a workout system he helped create in the 1970s called High-Intensity Training (HIT). With HIT, you work out hard, but briefly. Each resistance exercise is limited to one set, taken to muscle failure, and the main goal is to move the weight slowly and with perfect form.

HIT aims to maximize your muscles’ time-under-load in order to trigger hypertrophy, the process under which muscle grows in response to physical challenge.

HIT workouts generally last 30 minutes or less, and are performed one to three times per week only.

The book lays out the principles and process of HIT, and includes the colorful history of the program’s development and deployment in the 1970s.

You’ll even learn why HIT was too much for the mighty Arnold Schwarzenegger.

FOOD

Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain

Kitchen Confidential is Bourdain’s wildly entertaining autobiography and treatise on food and the restaurant industry. This is the book that kicked off his persona and led to the TV empire he created before his death in 2018.

Bourdain was a fantastic writer and storyteller. Underneath the stories of drug-fueled nights on the job and flaming-hot takes on food industry and those in it, Bourdain tells a messy, beautiful story about a man who followed his passion and battled his demons all along the way.

FICTION

City On Fire, Garth Risk Hallberg

1970s New York City. A fascinating time in the city’s history, full of pessimism, theft, vandalism, bombings, and arson. The city was decaying into to a-past-its-peak dystopia (check out this photo collage), culminating with the blackout riots of 1977.

Hallberg’s thousand-page novel converges the storylines of a diverse set of characters, culminating with the blackout riots which occurred on July 13, 1977.

Some criticized the book for being too long and indulgent. But I love Hallberg’s writing style and the setting for the story. New York really was a dirty and sometimes dangerous place in the 1970s, and reading about just a few of the people making their way though that time, in various stages of their lives, terrific.

A Gentleman in Moscow, Amor Towles

The story starts with a simple premise: a man in the Soviet era displeases his party, and finds himself prisoner in a Moscow hotel, where he spends the majority of his life. But far from being confined by his circumstances, Alexander Rostov live a rich, full life, with love, tragedy, loss, and redemption.

The writing itself is terrific, but the real takeaway for me is that even life lived on a small scale—a confined, seemingly punitive existence—can still be a big.

HISTORY

A Higher Call, Adam Makos

A Higher Call tells the story of two men on the opposite sides of World War II—Charlie Brown and Franz Stigler.

Much of the story is told from Stigler’s point of view, detailing what happens when normal people find themselves involuntarily serving the side of unbelievable evil.

The two mens’ lives intersect in the air, on the battlefield, and many, many years later as part of an extraordinary reunion.

HUMOR

Dave Barry’s Greatest Hits, Dave Barry

Sure, a lot of these stories are dated now. But the rhythm, exaggeration and surprises that define Barry’s writing taught me to appreciate humor and reading while I was growing up. Few newspaper columnists were better at pointing out life’s absurdities without trying to dunk on an opponent. Instead, Barry laughed with people, often placing himself in situations which allowed him to serve as court jester and the target of his own greatest mockery.

As a bonus, here are two of my favorite Barry columns of all time:

Dave Barry’s Hurricane Preparedness Guide
Post-9-11 column: “Just For Being Americans”

PSYCHOLOGY

Quiet, Susan Cain

Open floor plans! After-hours “voluntary” social events! Endless brainstorming sessions! Corporate America is built to develop, deploy, and reward extroverts and extroverted behavior.

But half of us are introverts, to varying degrees. That means we build our energy in private, and expend it in group settings. Introverts can and do successfully navigate social situations—often we even enjoy them. But social situations have to be balanced with “Quiet” time to properly think and recharge.

Susan Cain looks at extroversion culture and lays out a path to allow introverts to protect their energy and thrive in a culture that expects us to be socially “on” all the time.

(You can read my notes on this book here.)

Win Bigly, Scott Adams

You will now be asked the impossible: take a deep breath, and for just a moment, set aside whatever feelings you have about Donald Trump.

Win Bigly is a very informative book about persuasion, told through the lens of 2016 Trump campaign. Dilbert creator Scott Adams wastes no time supporting or opposing Trump’s political positions (Adams claims to be far-left) but instead details how persuasion works and how Trump used it to create one of the more stunning political upsets in American history.

If you sell, if you’re a marketer, if you need to persuade anyone of anything, this book is incredibly useful.

Bonus: here’s a synopsis of the persuasion techniques discussed in the book.

FINANCE

Money: Master the Game, Tony Robbins

Most of us will never walk on hot coals with Tony, and I have no interest in jumping up and down at one of his many seminars. His other books failed to grab me and take me to new heights.

But this book is different. He interviews wealthy investors who really open up about their money strategies, and in the end Robbins distilled all that information into a straightforward plan to protect and grow your nest egg.

FAITH

Have a Little Faith: A True Story, Mitch Albom

Tuesdays with Morrie rocketed Albom beyond the Detroit Free Press sports pages of my youth and into another stratosphere as a writer. But I prefer Have a Little Faith.

The book juxtaposes two experiences: that of an older Rabbi and young, African-American pastor in Detroit. Through the contrast Albom weaves together larger truths about faith and life for a cynical culture that definitely use more faith.

NEGOTIATION

Never Split the Difference, Chris Voss

Chris Voss has seen your Harvard-fueled negotiating tactics and is having none of it. A veteran hostage negotiator for the FBI, Voss lays out negotiating strategies based on a belief that man has two systems of thinking: our animal mind, which is fast, instinctive, and emotional, and our rational, logical one.

Voss believes the animal mind drives the bus and leads our logical thinking, rather than the other way around. As a marketer, I agree with him.

What follows in his book are strategies for winning the emotional side of negotiating, which he frames not as a battle, but a process of discovery.

(You can view my book notes here.)

WRITING

Joe Sugarman double-header: The AdWeek Copywriting Handbook, and Triggers

Sugarman’s AdWeek handbook is an adaptation of his part biographical/part analytical “Advertising Secrets of the Written Word.” The book details discusses ad writing from A to A to Z, including how to be a good writer in general, to the process of strategizing, developing, writing, and editing successful ads. Along the way, Sugarman weaves in stories about his businesses, which grew first in mail order on the strength of his long-form copywriting and storytelling skills. Sugarman often sold items others couldn’t by telling colorful stories about products and the inherent flaws. (His “ugly thermostat” ad is a personal favorite).

Later, Sugarman made another fortune in infomercials, selling Blu-Blocker sunglasses (20 million pairs of them, to be exact).

Another Sugarman book, Triggers, is more clinical, laying out 30 sales tools to persuade, influence, and persuade prospects, whether selling in person or in developing advertising copy. I’ve completed a cheat sheet to Sugarman’s triggers, and you can read them here.

Here’s a link to a rundown of Sugarman’s psychological triggers, and here are my book notes for The AdWeek Copywriting Handbook.

If none of these books catch your interest, here’s a more complete list of everything I’ve read.