Christmas, travelling & photos of Mt. Robson

mount-robson-bird-cloudThe last week has been a whirlwind of activity, both positive and negative. The two bad days I had earlier last week have given way to better days. There were no problems with school attendance after that. That was good.

I was able to pack a lot of work in at the end of the week, but I have much more! Saturday was spent preparing for “Christmas” on Sunday. I also did some last minute Christmas shopping and, with the help of the kids, got the house cleaned up and ready for company. My wife had to work Saturday, so we had to get it done. I’m sure she’s not complaining. : )

My Friday was interesting. I attended a Canadian Public Relations Society luncheon where Walter of fusedlogic was speaking about social media and avoiding public relations disasters. I was posting items and pictures on Twitter while Mack Male was live blogging the event. I know Walter was under the weather but it was one of the best speeches I’ve heard him give.

After that I attended the ProTraining open-house. It was a fun party and it was nice to chat with so many people I know and I met a few new ones too. It was almost like a Tweetup!

Early Christmas for the kids

We decided to have a Christmas celebration for the kids before they went back to B.C. to spend the holidays with their mom. The joys of divorce. Nobody in this house has had a “normal” Christmas in years.

Because we’re having relatives on Christmas day and will be having the usual turkey dinner, we decided to give the kids a choice: turkey or sushi. They, of course, took the sushi option. With the help of my parents we prepared several platters of sushi composed of crab, tuna and salmon in various forms.

The sushi was really good. It may not have been as fancy as you find in a sushi restaurant, but it was still good.

The kids were the only ones opening presents, except for my wife and I opening gifts from the kids. They were pretty happy with their gifts, and while I intended to spend a little less than average this year, I am pretty sure I spent more.

I have seen figures that the average spent per person on Christmas in Canada is in the $850-900 range. Per person! I think our whole family spends less than $1,000 together! It’s not like we’re just buying at Wal-Mart either. We get nice gifts but not too much and though I do feel like we’re extravagant at times, I guess we’re not.

Trip West: to B.C.

Yesterday we drove the kids “half way” from Edmonton to McBride. My ex-wife lives in Quesnel now. She was running late so I decided to tour McBride. I used to live there a while back with my ex-wife. My daughter was two at the time.

For me, the most interesting part of the tour was driving down the long country road to the old mill I used to work at. We couldn’t get in because the road was choked with snow. I could see there was no longer a gate, so there’s obviously nothing left back there. It was a neat old mill where they produced cedar post and rail fencing. There was also a sawmill with a planer.

We drove back down the road and I stopped at a small property halfway back to town. I stopped in to see if the people I knew were still there, and by chance, they were! The fellow I knew was now working out of town and unfortunately (for me) was going to be home today. I talked with his wife at the door for a while and got his email address. Everyone in the car had a laugh as the goat tried to butt its way inside the door I had cracked open slightly.

I hadn’t been through McBride much over the years and never really had time to stop. I’m glad I did this time. After 14 years in can be kind of awkward, but it always passes quickly. I would have regretted it if I’d driven right past and never stopped.

We found a local restaurant to relax at and eventually got the kids on their way to Christmas in Quesnel. We’ll miss them, as we always do. Hopefully they have a good Christmas there.

Mt. Robson

On the way to McBride we had stopped and taken some pictures of Mt. Robson, which was crystal clear that day. Anyone who gets to see that spectacular mountain on a regular basis is blessed. It’s definitely one of the most picturesque mountains in the world. My photos don’t do it justice.

We actually stopped there on the way back too. It was in early sunset, and looked nice still. I wish we had the time to wait because the sunset later offered the most amazing salmon pink cast. Now that would have made an even better photo. We have to go back that way again soon, so you never know.

After snapping off a few dozen photos, getting some video and some frostbite, we were on our way again. The rest of the trip was less eventful. We stopped in Jasper, one of our favourite towns, for supper. We often stop at the Earl’s there and did again this time. It’s perched up above the quaint streets and it offers a beautiful view of the surrounding mountains.

Snow tires are a good thing, studded tires are better

We arrived safely back home. I say safely because the way people were driving, it’s a good thing. I can’t believe the way people drive on icy roads and the roads lately have been icier than usual. They keep their all-season tires on and drive like it’s summer. We had studded tires on all four tires. It was so icy in places that even with our tires I could feel the car losing a bit of grip.

I think that investing in a second set of rims, and either snow tires or studded tires, is a sensible investment in a vehicle you plan to keep. Once they’re mounted, you can do the tire changes yourself, which saves around $50 twice per year. It also extends the life of your current tires because they are being driven on half the time. At the very least if you could have one vehicle in your family that was equipped like this, that would be good.

That’s the economic side of the argument. If you value your family’s and your own lives, it’s worth it no matter what the cost. If you’re “lucky” enough to have an accident with no injuries, I am curious how much that might cost you. How much do your premiums go up if you just go off the road and total your car? I am curious because I’ve never had it happen. I assume you’re found to be at fault. Interesting thought though.

If I don’t manage to make it back to my blog before Christmas, I hope that you and your family have a very merry, happy and safe Christmas!

Comments:

  1. Paul Says: I agree 100% about the tires. I’ll be shopping for a new vehicle soon, so it’s not worth the investment on this car, but wow…what a difference good tires make. Takes a lot of the stress out of driving.Great pics, also!
  2. Alain Saffel Says: Paul, thanks for the comment. It’s surprising how many people don’t drive on the right tires. It endangers everyone. Quebec had the right idea about making snow tires mandatory.I hate driving in vehicles without the right snow tires. My truck is like that, which is why it tends to sit in the winter. Right now I can’t afford to buy the rims and tires for it either.Thanks for the compliments on the pictures. You can check out my Flickr account too. I’ve got the widget on the page here for my Flickr account. :)

How can you make money online?

piggy-bank-over-stack-of-moneyDoes the idea of making money online sound intriguing? How would you like to stay at home surfing and watching TV while you have websites out there making money?

This sounds ideal, doesn’t it? Sound easy? Well, according to some people, it really is.

If only life were so easy. It would seem that all you have to do is put up a blog, drop in some content on a regular basis, put in some Google Adsense ads and boom! You’re a millionaire.

There’s a number of issues that come up here.

  • Get rich quick ideas
  • How much is content worth?
  • Working at home
  • Website advertising

I should preface this whole conversation by saying this: I am not opposed to making money online. Is that clear? Hope so. How you make money online is something I am more interested in.

How much is content worth?

I’ll start with this one because it’s near and dear to me. I’m a writer and I value what I write. I hope that my readers do too.

So how much would you expect to pay for a 250-word article? Do you want it professionally written and edited? Do you want it to be well-researched and stand up to scrutiny? How about making sure it’s all original and not plagiarized?

This isn’t something you’re going to pay a penny a word for. Are your site visitors worth more than a penny a word? Copy doesn’t cost $2.50 for a professionally written 250-word article.

If you’re serious about getting some professional writing done, contact me and I’ll tell you how much I charge. Not to worry. You won’t need a second mortgage!

These types of articles are a little different from a blog post that might be strictly opinion and take less effort to write. It surprises me how many companies want to cheap out and pay a penny a word for any kind of writing. The kind of writing you get for a penny a word is not going to be the kind you want to have in front of your customers.

Get rich quick ideas

If only I could just do no work and get rich. Isn’t that a nice dream? There aren’t many who’ve done it.

You’ll run into sites on the net where people think they can do that. They put up sites with content of little or no value, run loads of Google Adsense in the site and hope you’ll click on the ads because they’re more interesting than the content.

Frankly I think this borders on dishonesty. It’s a modern form of bait and switch. My philosophy is to give people solid content. They say content is king and that’s what people are looking for.

So, spend $2.50 on an article, buy a domain name, cheap hosting, put up a blog, sign up for Adsense and you’re in business. Sounds ideal, but the margins are thin and you’re not making much per site.

I’d be interested in trying this just to go through the process. I think it would be a challenge just from the search engine optimization perspective. Put in some decent content and all of a sudden you have a legit website. One person I know said that nobody will click on your ads then. Interesting.

I think this is in the same league as domaining, where you buy a domain name and have one of those fake search pages up. They make money when you click on the ads.

These two techniques are legitimate and legal, but hardly going to make you a millionaire, unless you have a lot of sites out there.

It’s a shame that some great domain names are wasted on these kinds of sites. I view them as the stagnant waters in the ditches that run along the information superhighway.

Working at home

I don’t mind working at home, but I really enjoy having an office to go to. I am one of those sick people. I like the group dynamic and being part of a team. I like going for lunch with coworkers. I like going out for a beer after work. That is the part that sucks about working at home.

Sure, it’s great to work in your pajamas, sipping coffee all day. You can take a shower whenever. Don’t have to shave. You can swear at the TV or chat with the Jehovah’s Witness that just rang the doorbell.

I’ll take the office any day. I like a more professional atmosphere.

Website advertising

I’m not going to knock website advertising, because I think it can be valuable. The problem I have is that so much advertising on websites just doesn’t apply to me. It would be nice if they tried or in any way attempted to target me!

This is possible on Facebook and also in Google pay-per-click ads. Adsense isn’t bad in some ways. It’s topical. More often, Adsense is irrelevant. The ads are often poorly written and targeted so you don’t even bother. We’re conditioned to ignore them.

I experimented a little with Adsense on a blog a while back. The Adsense ads that came up were about blogs! Even when I picked a topic that should have seen the ads change, they didn’t. Admittedly, I wasn’t a pro at the time. Perhaps it’s improved now. I do plan on exploring it again.

Another point of view, especially if you’re selling products or services, is that you shouldn’t have Adsense on your site because it just takes visitors away from you. Good point. They might even go to your competitors. How crazy is that? I know you can filter the ads to an extent to avoid this problem.

Banner ads!

I routinely ignore banner ads as well. If I see another ad for those annoying smileys I might just rip my eyes out. : ) They continue to advertise because people keep clicking on these damn ads! Will you people STOP! Please don’t ever click on them, not even out of curiosity. Don’t encourage them!

I remember once clicking on an ad for K&N air filters. I had no intention of buying it. I already had one for my vehicle. I clicked on it more out of shock that there was an ad for a product I was actually interested in. Do you know how rare that is?

Here’s a tip. If you’re running a website, figure out what your visitors’ demographics are. Not always easy, I know, but try. Then, put up ads that would interest that demographic.

I’ve used this analogy many times before, but think about one of your favourite magazines. Maybe it’s about sewing or maybe about diesel pickups. When you read those magazines, do you look at the ads? I’d be willing to bet that 99 per cent of you do!

But why? Well, if you bought that magazine, you’re interested in the topic. You have likely learned that ads in a magazine like that appeal to your interest and often have good information that is RELEVANT TO YOU.

I came to this realization one day. It seemed so obvious, but it’s not to many people. It’s just a contextual ad. It’s like the guy who advertises in the sports section of the newspaper because he knows his market reads that section. Funny how so many people online don’t get it.

Don’t take the easy way out

I am curious what other people think about these ideas. Do you think you can get rich quick? Or, is it better to take the long-haul approach and build with quality?

Oh, look, I would have made $12.74 (at a penny a word).

Comments:

  1. Greg Balanko-Dickson Says: You definitely can make money online, I have built my business almost exclusively since 1998 using my blog and online networking to meet people and develop relationships.My experience in operating and selling my businesses over the years is it is a marathon, not a sprint. With the major recent economic hiccups we need to do more and use longer time lines than before.Relevancy is the foundation of any successful business. Understanding customer needs is what allows us to create relevant content.
  2. Alain Saffel Says: It’s good to hear that there are people out there who are making money online successfully.It’s definitely possible. I think people just need to watch out for the get rich quick schemes. Too many people have the ‘quick score’ mentality and aren’t in for the long haul like you’re saying.
  3. Alain Saffel Says: Be careful about posts that talk about making money online. The spammers will sniff them out! :)

Marketing & communications: to cut or not to cut

recessionWhen a recession looms, every business faces the question of whether to cut back spending with marketing and communications often being the first target.

Should you cut marketing and communications spending with a possible recession on the way?

Tough question and it needs to be answered individually. I did get some food for thought this afternoon from the PR Web (news release company) webinar I heard today.

I have successfully used their service with one recent release gathering nearly 2,800 links.

It can be a very valuable way to build links and it doesn’t cost that much.

News releases: maximizing your marketing budget

One presenter suggested news releases are a great way to get more for less with your marketing dollars. Keeping your marketing and communications budget at the same level could be beneficial because your competitors are likely to cut their spending.

This would help to increase your visibility as your competitors are reducing theirs. The result? Hopefully that will mean increased business for you, even in a weak economy.

The weak economy can also be beneficial because traditional media outlets are often willing to strike deals to keep the ad dollars flowing. Keep that in mind when you’re talking to your ad reps.

Earned media: free advertising

I have used news releases and public relations to get what is known as “earned media.” It’s essentially getting a media organization to pick up your news release and run it as is, or write their own story with your release as the basis for the story.

If your release does get picked up, most reporters will not go with it as is, but you will likely be one of their sources.

Devoting more of your marketing budget towards communications tools such as news releases could help to substantially raise your company’s public profile. The second benefit is that it can really boost your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts by increasing the number of links pointing back to your site.

Cut the marketing budget?

Before you take any drastic action, make sure to assess how you and your competition are engaging your customers. A marketing plan is a good start. Make sure that if you do cut your budget it won’t have the unintended effect of driving business to your competitor. If you can afford it, keeping your marketing budget the same might effectively be increasing it, compared to your competition.

In my next article I’ll talk about ways to get maximum value from your news release: “How to get the media to pick up your news release.”

The Opening Salvo

cannonIt’s about time I finally got back to my personal blogging. If you’ve done a search of my name you’ll have discovered my old blogs that I had on Blogger. I finally decided to start it up on my own domain. I thought it would be a good thing to blog on my own domain using WordPress. I like WordPress because of the power and flexibility.

No doubt this has partially been precipitated by my recent change in employment status. I’ve had more time to contemplate what I really want to do. Blogging is certainly going to be part of that.

Professional SEO & Internet marketing in Edmonton

On a professional basis, I plan to continue in Internet marketing in Edmonton. I will be doing search engine optimization (SEO), pay-per-click marketing, web content creation, web analytics, public relations (press releases, articles), media outreach and more. What form that will take has yet to be determined.

I won’t be leaving this field of work. I really enjoy it and want to continue. One thing’s for sure, the power of social media has really helped me in the transition after being laid off. I was a little overwhelmed at the response I’ve received, both in support and interest in possibly working with me.

We definitely made the right choice in coming to Edmonton. It might be a city of over one million people, but it’s certainly been friendly.

Blog direction: Internet marketing, SEO, life in Edmonton

The direction of this blog will be a bit of a hybrid. It will be my personal blog where I comment on just about anything I feel like, but it will also have a professional element where I talk about Internet marketing, search engine optimization and assorted other similar topics. I definitely need an outlet for all the ideas running through my head.

Alain Saffel

Comments:

1. Tony Ratcliffe Says: October 14th, 2008 at 12:13 am

Congratulations on your new blog, Alain! I look forward to reading it.

2. Marianne Lennard Says: October 14th, 2008 at 4:11 am

I find it very interesting to see what others post in their blogs … nice to keep up with what’s going on in others’ lives. The opportunites for your future sound abundant … I look forward to reading more, as the weeks unfold. Take care~

3. Melanie Nathan Says: October 14th, 2008 at 7:33 pm

It’s great to see your blog up and running. Man you work fast! You’re making me look bad lmao ;)

4. Alain Saffel Says: October 14th, 2008 at 9:19 pm

Well, I have to give credit to some of my Twitter friends for helping me to sort out a few technical issues! Without their help, you wouldn’t have anything to comment on. :)

5. Leslie Robertson Says: October 15th, 2008 at 2:49 am

Alain, glad to see your blog and I look forward to seeing what you have to say.

6. Shawna Says: October 21st, 2008 at 11:22 am

Hi Alain, Shawna here from Sandler Sales. Remember the Signature Capital consultant. Hey, I heard you are on your own (business that is) and am wondering if you are looking for ways to expand your business. reach me at 860-7973. cheers.