The Importance Of The PPC Brain

On Sunday, February 23, I was in the midst of a mundane task: putting away laundry. A loose piece of blanket binding on the bed had gotten looped around my leg without my realizing it. As I started to walk toward my dresser, the loop basically pulled the rug out from under me. I took a header into the dresser.

My first thought was, “That’s the hardest I’ve ever hit my head.” And then the pain kicked in.

To make a long story short, my husband took me to the ER, where I was diagnosed with a concussion. In a lifetime of playing sports, including risky ones like skiing, I get a concussion in my own bedroom.

The doctor ordered a week of complete brain rest. I was not to watch TV, check email, play video games, or do anything but rest, really. I was dismayed at this news.

As it turned out, though, I really couldn’t do these things anyway. Even forming a complete sentence was challenging those first few days. If someone was talking to me, I had to literally shut my eyes to be able to process what they were saying – any visual stimulus made it impossible to focus on the spoken words.

As the days progressed, things got easier. I was able to read by Friday – thank goodness, as I’d gotten bored with sleeping all the time! By Monday, I was cleared to return to work.

I thought I was in good shape mentally. And yet, I found that doing simple, routine tasks like preparing a report or reviewing Adwords or Google Analytics data was painstakingly slow and difficult. I made a few silly mistakes, too – I caught them before it was too late, but they were mistakes I normally wouldn’t have made.

In short, my brain wasn’t 100%. While I was fine with physical activities like showering and making dinner, I struggled with mental tasks like focusing on PPC.

At that point I realized how dependent we are on brain power in PPC. I knew that my brain was one of my most reliable tools for PPC, and yet I took it for granted.

I know many of you agree. When I polled my Twitter friends about their must-have PPC tools, several of you said “my brain.” (That post is coming, I promise! I’ll update this post with a link when it goes live.) We rely on our ability to think, analyze, reason, and create successful PPC campaigns. And we don’t realize how powerful that brain power is until it’s lost.

Thankfully, after just one day things got better. On Tuesday, my brain worked faster, and I made fewer mistakes. I didn’t get as tired. My brain “muscle” was getting stronger. It came back fast once I was ready. Today, I feel like myself again.

The moral of the story here is that we all need to take a moment and be thankful for our brains. In this profession, they’re our most crucial tool. We don’t use hammers, saws, stethoscopes, or chemistry labs. We rely on our brains. Respect the PPC brain, my friends.

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9/11 memorial
It’s been a tough week. On Monday, April 15, the woes we all feel on Tax Day were set to be tempered by the annual excitement of the Boston Marathon. In a split second, the exhilaration of the day turned to horror when bombs exploded near the finish line.

As a walking distance racer myself, these events stunned me. It was a similar yet different feeling to September 11. While of course 9/11 was horrific beyond belief, it wasn’t as personal to me. I never worked in the World Trade Center. I’d been there, but only as a tourist.

The Boston Marathon is a race like many I’ve participated in myself. As a walker, I’ll never qualify for Boston, but I’ve crossed many a finish line and cooled down in the finish line area – just like the runners and spectators who were hurt and killed on Monday. The images that emerged on Monday and the days to follow were all the more upsetting because I could easily picture myself there.

This morning, I awoke to the news that the manhunt for the perpetrators of this terrible attack has taken on Hollywood-esque proportions. If the attacks themselves were hard to believe, this is nearly impossible for my traumatized brain to process. How does this happen in America?

But we’re a resilient sort. On 9/11, we bent, but didn’t break. A couple of weeks ago I visited the 9/11 memorial. It’s a stunning example of turning tragedy into something beautiful.

And we’ll do it again. On Sunday, I’m participating in the Lansing Marathon Half, along with my husband and son. I’ve been training since January and I’m not about to give up. Giving up lets the bad guys win. And we’re not about to let that happen.

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Learning to Stretch


No, this isn’t me, but I wish it was.

During the last couple months, I’ve been doing a lot of stretching. I’ve been literally stretching my tired muscles as I train to walk my second half marathon. I’ve been stretching mentally at work, too.

I’m a month into a 3-month project where I’m covering for a coworker who’s on maternity leave. It’s been a great experience so far – I’m not one to shy away from new challenges, and this has definitely been a challenge for me.

One of the great things about stretching is you learn how far you can really go. Walking a half marathon teaches you that you can walk farther and faster than you ever thought possible. In my project role, I’ve learned a few things too.

Rushing the job never works.

If you’re doing a 10-mile training walk, you need to allot enough time to complete the distance. I know I can’t cover 10 miles in an hour, so I don’t even try. Sure, you can (and should) push the pace a little, but I know my limits. If I don’t have 2 ½ hours free, I know I can’t do 10 miles.

The same thing goes for work. As with any new project or set of responsibilities, the sheer length of the to-do list tends to create a sense of urgency. It’s easy to fall into the trap of hurrying through a task to pare down the list.

I’ve always known that a rush job is never your best job, but this project has been a big refresher course in slowing down. It’s better to make sure everything is right than it is to race through everything as fast as you can. Luckily, I avoided major stumbles, but I was perilously close a couple times and it wasn’t fun.

Love what you do – or fake it till you make it.

Last year I walked my first half marathon. I had 2 goals: finish the race, and not come in last place. I’m proud to say I accomplished both goals! When I started training for this year’s race, I set some more aggressive goals that required some heavy-duty training. I’m not gonna lie – there were times that I really wanted to slow down or cut the distance short. But I kept going. And eventually, I found that I enjoyed pushing myself!

When it comes to PPC, I’m the luckiest person on earth because I get to do work that I love and get paid for it. It doesn’t feel like work. In this project, though, there’s a lot more client contact than I had before. While I love talking to clients, it can be challenging to be in meetings for 6-7 hours a day.

So, I took the same approach as I did with the marathon: faked it until I made it. It didn’t take long – maybe a week tops – to feel comfortable, but I’m sure if I’d copped a poor attitude, I’d still be struggling.

And really, it’s easy to talk to people. If you treat everyone as though they’re just the person you wanted to talk to, the conversation will be smooth and pleasant. If you take 5 seconds to confirm receipt of an email, you’ll ease worries. Simple things, to be sure, but they work.

The half marathon is a week from Sunday, and I know I’m ready. And I’ve hit my stride on my new project, too. It’s always good to stretch.

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The New and Improved Beyond the Paid

I know I haven’t blogged much lately. The end of summer always gets crazy for me. Every year, I say “Next year, I’m taking the whole month of August off,” but of course that’s not likely.

This year, though, I did something fun over my summer vacation – redid my blog! You’re probably saying “Duh – we can SEE that…”

Back in 2006 when I started this blog, I didn’t know if I was going to keep up with it. It was really just a fun experiment at the time. There weren’t many free options for blogs back then – really, Blogger was the only one. So that’s who I used.

Fast-forward to 2012, and I’m finally ready to take the plunge into WordPress. I’d used WordPress for client blogs & sites, so I was familiar with it; and I’d had my own domain for a long time, so I was ready.

I couldn’t have done this without the help of my good friend Meg Geddes, aka Netmeg. Not only is she a fellow Michigander, she’s a self-described WordPress mofo. She hooked me up with a great new host, a theme, and all the plugins and widgets I needed to make everything look cool – and she did it over a weekend. I can’t say enough about how awesome she is – even if she is a Michigan fan. (wink)

So, make yourself at home and explore! And let me know what you think!

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Better Blogging in Less Time

If you’re friends with me on Facebook, or if you follow me on Twitter, you’re probably aware that I saw Van Halen in concert in Detroit on Monday – in the front row! I’ve been a fan of theirs since the early days, and this was my first front row experience. It was amazing. My husband took this picture, along with about 100 other awesome photos, at the show.

The big deal about this tour is that it’s following the band’s first album with David Lee Roth in over 28 years. As part of their new foray into social media, the previously closed-mouthed band has published several video tidbits that are really cool and fun for the fans.

Some of my favorite tidbits are the interviews with the 3 founding band members. In one, the guys discuss how the process of making an album has changed over the years.

(What does this have to do with blogging? I’m getting there – stay with me!)

One thing that’s different now is that instead of cutting the vocal track by singing the entire song all the way through, the vocalist will sing one phrase at a time, over and over. Then the producer chooses the best take from the 20 or so takes of that phrase.

In the video clip, the guys make the observation that the first 3 takes are almost always the best. David Lee Roth says these takes are the most spontaneous, “before you think yourself past genius.”

That quote spoke to me. It’s the same with blogging. I’ve had a lot of people over the years say to me, “I don’t have time to blog. I can’t think of anything to write, and then it takes too long to write it.”

I tell them to sit down at their computer, think of a topic (any topic), set a timer for 15 minutes, and write. If you can’t get at least a draft of a post in that time, it’s not blog-worthy. Beyond 15 minutes, you’ve thought yourself past genius.

This goes for anything creative: blogging, photography, music, speaking at conferences, ad copy writing…. The list goes on. The first take is probably going to be your best one. So if you’ve always wanted to blog but thought you didn’t have time, start writing now – before you think yourself past genius.

And if you’re interested, here’s the whole VH interview clip; the genius quote is almost at the end, around 12:00.

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Yes, You Can Do SEM From Home!

Everyone knows that telecommuting has become more commonplace lately – even more so with gas upwards of $4 per gallon. And yet, a surprising number of companies here in the US have not yet embraced the work-from-home concept.

For me, working from home most of the time is a must. In addition to being a PPC pro and working on a lot of great clients, I’m a busy wife and mom with a full life outside of work. I live about 80 miles from our company headquarters, so rather than make the 3-hour daily commute, most of the time I work from home. This way, I’m more productive (and I stay sane).

More productive, you may ask? What with all the distractions calling my name: house work, the TV, the stereo, the Wii, my children…..

First off let me say that I hate house work, so that is not a distraction at all. I watch almost no TV. My kids are at school 8 hours a day, and I save RockBand for the weekends. But still, it can be challenging to stay productive without the watchful eye of a boss or coworker staring me down.

So what does it take to be successful working from home? Here are the keys for me.

Act like you’re going to an office, even if you’re not.

Believe it or not, I get up at 5:30 in the morning, even though I have no commute. Partly that’s because my kids are out the door by 7:20 am, and I want to see them off – but mostly it’s because I still get ready for work, even though “work” is at home.

Get up at the same time every day (it doesn’t have to be 5:30 – that’s just what works for me) and get dressed in decent clothes. Eat a good breakfast. Fix your hair and put on makeup (OK, that’s just for the gals out there – right?). Put shoes on your feet. Yes, shoes. You wouldn’t go to the office in flip flops or bunny slippers – so don’t wear them at home.

All of this preparation puts you in the right mindset to approach your work day in a professional manner.

Establish a set workspace.

I know people who can work an entire 8 hour day sitting on their couch with their laptop in their lap, or hunkered down in a coffee shop. And in many ways, that’s one of the biggest benefits of working from home – you can pick a spot that’s comfortable, and it can be a different place each day.

For me, though, I need a real desk, with a real desk chair and a real keyboard. Yes, my work computer is a laptop, but I use a port replicator to enable me to use a full-size monitor and ergonomic keyboard and mouse. Working with a laptop in my lap at search conferences is fine, but doing that day in and day out, for me, is a recipe for unbearable back and neck pain.

But I digress. The point is, have a regular space to work, even if it is your living room. Again, you’ll be in the right frame of mind, not discombobulated from working in a different space every day.

Establish set working hours.

Another great benefit of working from home is the fact that your work is always there, so you can do it whenever you have a chance. This is a boon for busy moms like me who might have to cut off early for a school event, or take someone to the dentist in the middle of the day – it’s easy to catch up early in the morning or after the kids go to bed.

But this can backfire on both ends: it can be tempting to short-change your work for all the other stuff in your life; and it can also be tempting to work every spare minute of the day (and night), just because it’s there.

Don’t fall into either of these traps. Establishing regular work hours not only helps you maintain a work-life balance, but it lets your coworkers and clients know when they can get a hold of you. That’s not to say you can’t ever stray from your normal hours – work life and home life both demand this at times – but having a set schedule will keep you from getting that 10pm call from your boss wanting to chat about an idea, or an 8am call from a client while you’re trying to get your kids onto the school bus.

By establishing a few simple routines, you can be even more productive at home than in an office. And for me, that’s the key to being wealthy. (By the way, if you value the work/life balance at all, Sugarrae’s recent article on taking her life back should be on your daily reading list.)

For tons of great articles on working remotely, check out Web Worker Daily. Their blog is another daily must-read for me.

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September 11, 2001: America Remembers

Where were you on the morning of September 11, 2001? I was right here in my office, just like every other work day. It was a beautiful day – one of those where it’s hard to be at work, it’s so nice out. My twins, then 4, had just started preschool the week before, and were still adjusting to it. I had logged on to my computer and had my browser pointed to MSN’s home page, which, at 8 a.m. when I got here, had your everyday run-of-the-mill stuff on it.

At about 8:40 a.m., I was at the drinking fountain down the hall, filling my water glass, when a co-worker came by and asked me if I’d heard the news. I said no, and he said an airplane had just crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers. Puzzled, I asked, “you mean, like, an accident?” He said “no – it’s a terrorist attack!” I ran back to my desk and tried to refresh MSN. The network was overloaded and I couldn’t get the page to load, which told me the news was true. I turned on my radio, and the music station I keep it tuned to was all news coverage. I spent the morning piecing the story together from the radio and the Internet, when I could actually get a news page to load (which was rarely). I listened to Peter Jennings on ABC News cover the events live. I remember that, when the first tower fell, there was dead silence on the air for a good 10-15 seconds. I have never heard a newscaster like Peter Jennings speechless during a broadcast, except for that day.

At around 9:30 that morning, our CEO sent an email to “all” about the attacks, saying there would be TV coverage in our break room for those who wished to see it. I chose to try to keep working and leave the radio on, but I did go watch some of the coverage later. I kept that email in my Inbox for 3 years before I could finally bring myself to file it.

I had a lunch date with a friend that day. I called her mid-morning and asked her if we should still have lunch. We agreed that we should – no reason to give those terrorists what they wanted and have our lives grind to a halt. We had planned to go to a sports bar, and all the big screens had news coverage of the horrific events. That was where I first saw the video of the towers falling. It was, like so many have said, like watching a bad movie. I likened it to “Independence Day” where the aliens blew up the White House. My brain wanted to believe this was fake, too; but I knew it was real.

During the day, I frantically emailed colleagues and friends who lived in New York. It took a couple of days, but miraculously, I heard back from all of them – no one was hurt. Physically, anyway. Their stories of the day were beyond horrifying.

Back at work that afternoon, I walked outside with coworkers, like I had done every day for the past 2 years. Our office is on several airline flight paths, and normally there are planes flying overhead all day. We remarked at the eerie silence in the sky, with all airline travel halted for the day.

It was shortly after 5 p.m. when I arrived at my twins’ preschool to pick them up. I could tell that the teachers had all they could do to keep it together emotionally, but they were doing their best not to let on to the young children what had happened. An Indian mother and father arrived at the same time I did, to pick up their daughter. Although they spoke almost no English, I remember the non-verbal communication we shared that day. I could tell that everyone, regardless of nationality, was as affected as I was.

My van’s gas tank was on Empty that day, and I had planned to stop on the way home for gas. The first station I passed had signs saying “Out Of Gas.” I was surprised – it reminded me of the oil embargo days back in the 1970s. A few blocks away, at the next station, the lines of cars waiting for gas were 10 deep and wound out into the road. I started to worry. Finally, when we got to the gas station a block from home, the line of cars was so long and traffic was so backed up that we couldn’t even get to our street to get home. I was on the verge of panic at this point, and my children sensed it and starting crying. So I drove cross-country, over the curb and through the right-of-way, to our street and on home. I put in a movie for the kids so they wouldn’t see anything on TV. My husband went back out later that night for gas. It took him an hour and he paid $1.89/gallon – a bargain now, but it was about 20-30 cents higher than gas prices were when I left for work that morning. We were afraid we were on the verge of war, so he went out again and bought stockpiles of water and canned food. We didn’t end up needing them, but you couldn’t tell for sure at the time. Nothing was certain any more. Our lives, our security, our peace, had been shattered.

It was a terrible, life-changing day on September 11, 2001. I had nightmares for weeks afterward, even though I wasn’t there personally. I had nightmares on the 1-year anniversary, too. It was heartening, though, to see the outpouring of concern and caring that emerged around the globe. There are a couple good posts about the online community’s response to the events, at SE Roundtable and the Online Spin blog. If there was any good to come of that day, it’s the demonstration of how quickly the Internet can disseminate information and begin relief efforts. We should be proud of that.

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