Roxanne Darling

Roxanne Darling, photo by Tracy Wright Corvo

Roxanne Darling loves to travel, speak in public, be on and in the ocean, and is giving up working really long hours. She walks the line between technology and communication with a ballerina’s balance (she used to dance at the Palo Alto Dance Theatre and is a certified yoga instructor) and has a way of inspiring even luddites to try new things with technology. Please let it be known though, perhaps as a graduate of UC Berkeley, she is not a bystander or interested in the status quo! Click here is you want to book Roxanne as a speaker.

Roxanne's Work and Education History

Roxanne Darling is an early adopter. She was in the first graduating class at University of California Berkeley that wrote their own custom degree programs. Hers was Bachelor of Science from the School of Natural Resources, in Marine Ecology, and provided her with opportunities to study with extraordinary teachers – starting a trend for a lifetime. These days, she would say that is merely because she is a voracious student – and how could she not attract these brilliant guides? She traveled for over four months on sabbatical with Mary Lou Preston (now Coulston), one of three female instructors in the Biology Dept at UCB – which had over 100 male instructors. She received her UCB-approved for research SCUBA certification in 1973 – one of the first women to complete this grueling 10-week course that was modeled after Navy Seal training. (Required to be covered un the university’s insurance policy for conducting underwater research.)

She worked with Ron & Valerie Taylor to produce the Oceans book in one of the Time-Life Nature series; they went SCUBA diving for sharks at night to get footage for the Taylor’s TV show back in Australia, laying the early desire Roxanne would develop for internet video! She studied with Dr. Robert Risebrough, who discovered that DDT causes eggshell thinning in pelicans – his research directly impacted their survival. She was hired immediately after college by Dr. Ken Norris, who was responsible for discovering that whales and dolphins use sonar for navigation. She was part of the research team that conducted the first ever marine bird and mammal surveys off the Southern California bight. One of the high points was a glassy day on the water in their 60′ research vessel, while a 100′ blue whale swam just beneath them!

She gave up a budding career as a marine biologist to follow a deep, though fully untested desire to dance ballet. The well-known teacher, Richard Gibson, accepted her into his school at age 23, where she studied full time with 14 year olds. She joined the company and performed with the Palo Alto Dance Theatre before opening her own dance and exercise studio in Santa Cruz, California. She took her first aerobics class from Jane Fonda herself, and the famous studio in Beverly Hills.

Roxanne then became one of the original aerobics pioneers. A presenter at the first ever aerobics convention in San Diego in 1984, on the committee to write the first international certification exams, the first to teach low impact and mind-body aerobics both in the US an in Japan and Europe. She wrote the first fitness certification training manual, “No Train, No Gain!” Originally typed on a typewriter and xeroxed for her workshops, in 1986 she got her first Apple macintosh computer and taught herself desktop publishing and Filemaker database software. She created a unique community fitness leader training program that she taught in over 35 states, focusing primarily on indigenous communities from Alaska to Maine, working with Navajo, Hopi, Seminole, Cherokee, and many more tribal nations.

In the early 90s, she took a little time off to have a mild nervous meltdown, dealing with some deep-seated issues of depression. It worked and this time of her life continues to remind her that one never knows what others may be going through – act with kindness and respect.

She introduced “body esteem” to the early self-esteem awareness communities, led in part by people like Jack Canfield, publishing “30 Days to Body Esteem” and being featured on CNN, and in Vogue, Shape, and numerous publications. She built her first website in 1997; she gave the first talks on blogging, podcasting, and social media to the Hawaii business community starting in 2005. She and Shane produced one of the first video podcasts (aka internet tv shows), Beach Walks with Rox, which earned numerous awards and was the first of its kind to produce a daily show – going for 402 days straight! She produced Hawaii’s first Podcamp and Wordcamp events, attracting over 400 people and live-streaming both days to the world. She produced the first social media campaign on Maui, for the Maui Visitors Bureau in 2010. She won Best Social Media Campaign in Hawaii, in 2011 for her innovative work with the Lanai Visitors Bureau.

Please read some of her public speaking testimonials here.

View the Bare Feet Studios company testimonials here.

Photo Credit: Tracy Wright Corvo Portrait Photography
Tracy is a friend and a client and we adore her and her work!

Shane Robinson

Shane Robinson, photo by Tracy Wright Corvo

Shane Robinson is the original founder of our company and very committed to bare feet in his life. He can program computers, design and build furniture, make art, cook (clean – if he “has” to), train dogs, and fix almost anything. He’s really amazing at how he learns new things and can trouble-shoot anything mechanical or digital. The Maui artist in him is fighting its way to the foreground, with an occasional drone quad-copter spin.

Shane's Education and Work History

Shane grew up on a commercial working farm in Iowa owned by his grandfather. He worked seven days a week, feeding and caring for pigs. He opened his first business, a dance club for teens, when he was in high school and did much of the build out himself. He also started programming his first computer, a Commodore. Meanwhile his friends called him “copy machine” because he could draw whatever he saw. He managed to escape the hard life of manual labor and earned his Bachelor in Fine Art degree from the University of Iowa. He ran an art gallery in Madrid, New Mexico and apprenticed with a fine furniture maker, continuing to merge his creative and commercial interests.

One of the legends of Shane is that he heard of a job opening at Kinko’s in the computer design department back in 1995, so he rented several hours of computer time overnight and taught himself Pagemaker, Photoshop, Illustrator, and Quark Xpress. (Yes, they were the 1.x versions back them…) He sailed through the interview, and before long, he was itching to open his own company after meeting up with a database programmer he met via the Kinko’s rental computers.

Shane went on to become an accomplished programmer, system administrator, database developer, and information architect. These days, he is well known as Secret Cameraman on Beach Walks with Rox and is a great dog trainer whose bark is worse than his bite. Shane is a brilliant trouble-shooter and information architect, and with his art degree, he adds finesse to all of our projects.

He manages all programming, server administration, and application development for our web work. If you don’t know what any of those words mean, just think of Shane as the wizard behind the curtain who makes things on the internet work so well for our clients, our nonprofits, and yes our family and friends call on us too.

Shane’s re-emerging career as an artist started picking up in 2010 when his good friends the Bui Brothers (Lan and Vu) urged him to get a DSLR camera. By accident, his abstract ICM work was among his first shots as he was methodically teaching himself the technical tool, and they literally took his breath away! You can see them here. His first iPhone art pieces won awards and were featured in COLOR Magazine in 2010. One of his first large abstract paintings was accepted into the Hui Noʻeau Juried Exhibition in 2012 and was purchased by the state of Hawaii for the permanent art collection.

He recently completed a large commission for the Andaz Maui at Wailea – Maui’s newest luxury hotel. Roxanne coined this term for much of his work: Pixels are the paint of the 21st century. He moves seamlessly back and forth between acrylic and iPad, between building his own panels and “app-i-fying” his creativity.

Photo Credit: Tracy Wright Corvo Portrait Photography
Tracy is a friend and a client and we adore her and her work!

Lexi Dogg

Lexi under the rainbow on her 13th birthday

Lexi Dogg is our studio dog, acquired back when we were in Santa Fe. She made the long trek over the ocean with us to Hawaii, and managed to survive 30 days in the then-required quarantine on Oahu. She is the star of our internet tv show, Beach Walks with Rox, and literally has fans all around the world who love her as much as we do!

Of course, the internet has really made visible humanity’s love of cats and dogs, and we now know they are so good for our health too. We think of Lexi as our company fitness trainer – she “requires” two walks a day which gets our butts out of the seats and out for a walk in the beautiful island that is Maui. She also serves as our unconditional love coach.

Yes, it was a trendy thing to bring your dog to work in the 90s when the internet started creating work places that were more people-friendly and less formal. But now we have large bodies of research confirming that animals – especially dogs – are literally sentient beings very close to humans. They are “not just animals.” But if you are reading this, you already know that most likely.

Enjoy a few more pics of our super special black labrador! Many people report feeling happier after looking at Lexi Dogg. By all means let us know if she has that effect on you too!

Lexi Dogg gazing at the fieldLexi Dogg cliff walking

UPDATE: Lexi Dogg departed May 19, 2014. We miss her so much yet trust that she is loving doggie heaven.

It’s Just a Fad

Hey, want to join me in retiring these words, “It’s just a fad?” First of all, so what if it is? Fads generate some of the most awesome fun and out-of-the-box energy we have in our lives. Second, many things that are described this way, actually represent newfound changes in our world, and survive to become a permanent part of life on earth! Calling it a fad is supposed to somehow be demeaning. I think in fact, it merely reflects on the speaker.

Madonna Grimes, in Switzerland

It’s just a fad: Of course that was said in the 90’s about the Internet. It was said in the “00’s” about blogging and social media. It has been said for decades about self-help. It was certainly said about aerobics and fitness back in the 80’s.

Yet these “fads” are now fully functional factors in our day-to-day lives.

Recently I re-friended many old colleagues who I knew in the 80’s. We were the first group of fitness pioneers – the ones who started the aerobics craze (as it was called), the ones who wrote the initial certification exams, the ones who developed aerobics as a competitive performance sport, the ones who expanded jumping jacks and sit-ups into mind-body fitness and some forms of modern yoga. Meeting up with them again, I was thrilled yet not surprised to see them all glowing! Still incredibly optimistic, healthy and fit, radiating a large degree of what we would call spirituality and personal growth – continuing to inspire others to extract every last bit of laughter and grace out of this lifetime. I feel so uplifted!

The other thing I noticed (that I had never really paid attention to) was the incredible diversity of our group of pioneers! We were gay, straight, black, white, US, Brazilian, German – you could not have scripted a more diverse group of people. If you happened upon us at any gathering outside of the class studio, you would have experienced constant laughter, hugging, and more dancing! So it turns out we were pioneers in more ways than one.

Check out this episode of Tosh.0 – the first aerobics championship (for which yours truly wrote the competitors rule book and served as the head judge). [Some of that site is NSFW.]

A small flashback to the 80’s

I have so few pics from these days!

Then, today I trip across this Peruvian Prison Aerobics Class video.

It is of a convicted kidnapper in Peru, leading an outdoor aerobics class at a prison to over 1000 inmates! This is what we have been talking about people! If only my classes had been as color-coordinated and organized! #Dream!

I am honored to call myself a former aerobics instructor. It has taken 20 years to really feel that as I took on too much of the criticism of aerobics as a fad, as vanity, as frivolous. Some part of me knew it was not – just ask any of the thousands of American Indians who attended my week-long community fitness workshops and went on to transform their communities. But that kid inside me, that monkey mind, kept holding out that it was not a profession but a gathering of cheerleader wannabes wearing too much makeup and not enough clothing. I extend my apologies – to my colleagues as well as myself.

I am incredibly happy to have contributed in my small way to this phenomenal event that took place in Peru and in millions of gyms and church halls around the world. One of my favorite times was actually in the Marshall Islands, doing aerobics in the dark, using a battery-operated boom box, with women who did not want anyone in the community to watch them. They had diabetes and had been exposed to nuclear fallout from the U.S. bomb testing in the 50’s; I was there as a volunteer on a mission with the Department of Energy.

So please do me a few favors: watch this Peruvian prison aerobics video for some awesome inspiration.

Then go forth and indulge in one of your favorite fads! That’s the only way to make sure it keeps on giving you joy. That goes for your business too!

Peruvian Prison Aerobics from Storyhunter on Vimeo.


P.S. I changed my name in December 1999. I was known as Mary Anne Benton or Annie Benton in the great 80’s.

Working with Volunteers: The Nuts & Bolts of Facebook and Twitter

I am presenting a 90-minute talk on Friday, having been hired by the County of Maui to “help agencies boost their volunteer programs with FB and possibly Twitter. It should be fun, motivating and engaging. People want to know the nuts, bolts of FB and how to recruit volunteers, announce programs and events and link with their audience. You may cover Twitter to if you want.” If you hurry you can still register here.

Turns out this was incredibly hard to prepare! Why? Because the territory of social media is now so wide and so deep. It is not just about FB and TW, though I did my best to confine my comments there. But even with just FB, I find so many organizations are not yet ready to engage with volunteers. Will my audience survive the first 20-30 minutes, as I talk about getting your own house in order? Note to Self: Remember to Smile. A Lot. It helps when delivering that oh-so-curative medicine.

Scroll past the presentation slides to see a few of the tweets from today’s session!

In any case, here is my presentation. Links will be added after the fact, as I collect them during my talks so I have a complete list. I am actually very happy about this presentation. There are lots of takeaways that can be implemented immediately, along with some rather deep strategic tools that can last a lifetime. I saved the entertaining videos for the end.

UPDATE: Edited my file; it is complete except for the videos. Contact me if you want more!

You are invited to join us in the Twitter and Instagram conversation at #SocialVol, you know, for social volunteering. Mahalo to those who have done this already. Here are links:
#SocialVol on Twitter
#SocialVol on Instagram

Two good examples of active Facebook pages with volunteers galore:
‘Āhihi- Kīna‘u Natural Area Reserve
Special Olympics Hawaii

DOWNLOAD the handout here. (Updated!)

DOWNLOAD the presentation slides as a PDF here.

Let’s plan for next November! #GivingTuesday

Connect on Facebook:
Hands on Maui
Bare Feet Studios
Beach Walks with Rox
Add yours in the comments so I can find you and Like you!

Hospitality & Tourism Students Meet Social Media

Academy of Hospitality & Tourism logoThis Friday I am speaking to about 150 Maui high school students who are in the hospitality and tourism track. My friend Pomai Weigert, of Aliʻi Kula Lavender, is determined to get social media best practices embedded in our Maui tourism community as early as possible! She presented a number of awesome ideas at the Social Media Club Tourism event last October, and now we are taking action steps.

We three speakers have 45 minutes (repeated three times so all students get all presentations) to communicate our message. I am joined by Kainoa Horcajo and Jonelle Kamai of the Native Hawaiian Hospitality Association. Alongside our talks will be career counseling sessions, and Instagram contest, and a Jeopardy-style game at the end, using facts and figures from our talks!

I’ve been challenged to think about what can I share in 45 minutes to young people who are likely very mobile-savvy yet may not know all the moving parts of a successful social media campaign. Do I give them some history so they “grok” what this really means? Do I give them local Maui examples of who is doing it right (and do I dare mention examples of not so right?) The good news, with som much potential material, I won’t run out of things to discuss! Do I talk about the brain stress caused my multi-tasking?

What Do You Consider the Most Important Takeaways for Social Media and Tourism?

I’d love to hear your comments. Of course feel free to share any links as well; your own work is welcome!

I hope you will join our conversation on Twitter and Instagram. We will be using the hashtag #mauiaoht – for Maui Association of Hospitality and Tourism. The event is this Friday, January 25, and runs from 8:30 am to about 2 pm. Let’s show the young peeps how to have a lively and diverse conversation!

Over 20 Maui tourism-related businesses will be on hand. So there won’t be a lack of people to chat with! Here are a few to get you started:



Social Media Disclosure Rules Apply Even in Small Communities

FTC Protecting America's ConsumersSmall communities are great for mutual support. Sometimes we relax things though that could actually support and protect us. FTC Blogger Rules are just such a case.

Here on Maui, we love and support each other so much, we call it one big ʻohana – that means family. Maui is also very techy and entrepreneurial – we have leaders in green tech, really hip venture folks, and the food? Why even Oprah has just taken out papers to start organic farming here! But before her, we have many organic farms, our favorite home delivery of locally sourced food from Kula Fields, and the most delicious (for all of the senses) outdoor pop-up dinners hosted by Kupu Maui!

The FTC blogger guidelines don’t get invited to the party on many occasions, so here is a quick reminder about the federal law and why I think it is GOOD thing to disclose!

Read the full federal requirements for disclosing compensation here.

Read a terrific summary from Edelman Digital on the practical application here.

Edelman learned the hard way early on: Their Walmarting Across America earned them a spot in the Fake Blog listing on Wikipedia. To their credit, they have become leaders in creating open, transparent best practices between bloggers and brands.

As someone who has hired bloggers for my client the Lānaʻi Visitors Bureau, I insisted the writers disclose their free travel and per diem. There are so many benefits to this, beyond the fact that it is required by law:

  • I provide a custom graphic – another way to visually get the client’s brand out there.
  • I provide a custom link – so I can track activity from the blog posts, tweets, etc.
  • It gives the bloggers support and cover – it protects my team! It goes hand in hand with their contract which also states they have full editorial freedom to write whatever they want. I do not edit or restrict their reviews in any way.
  • It informs the readers, that yes, the writer did get free stuff – keep that in mind as you read the review.

If you have a great brand, transparency is your best friend. Bloggers do have influence and reach – that is why you want them on your team. And bloggers and social sharers, you have a responsibility to disclose when you receive something for free. On Twitter, I often use #client when I am actively promoting a client’s message. My partner Shane also suggests the very simple #fcftc, “For consideration, via the FTC.” I hope you will join me in raising the professional standards of how we support each other locally, keeping in mind that our voices are being heard globally!

If you are hiring a social media team: Be sure to give them specific goals, tell them who and what to disclose as the client so you are in control of that message, and interact with the team online – don’t leave it all up to the bloggers!

If you are a social media messenger: Be sure to ask your client for the campaign goals so you can be as effective as possible, insist on disclosing to protect your brand and your blog, and above all remember to include your audience in the fully transparent conversation!

Related: Tweeting for Free?

I have been writing about this since 2008. Just search this blog for “FTC” to read more of the history and best practices! Please do me a favor too: share this with your colleagues so I can close this topic by the end of 2012!


Social Media and Tourism: Let’s Talk Together

We are all connected by Chris Kompst
I have been lobbying for many years to get the three voices together to support local business and build a sustainable, rich visitor experience here in Hawaii. We have many local bloggers and podcasters who have done enormous work to share the Aloha with others around the globe. We have small businesses who can now leverage their time and budgets using social media to reach out beyond the local paper – they are getting up to speed on this. (Remember Podcamp Hawaii 2008? That was my first major contribution to the effort!) And we have the tourism agencies in the state and county government, who have largely carried the responsibility (yet also managed the taxpayer and visitor funded budgets) to keep tourism thriving.

It just seemed “about time” to feature this topic at our quarterly meeting of the Social Media Club of Hawaii to bring together the stakeholders and do some brainstorming. I seeded the discussion with a few random ideas and we had six presenters who gave us their insights. It was a very inspiring event! Look at the range of ideas, many of which included the first stage of building out web assets:

Hawaii: A New Generation of Storytellers #HawaiiFamilies #SMCHI #Tourism via Tara Coomans @taracoomans Reference Link:

Maui Locals as Social Media Catalysts #MauiCatalyst #SMCHI #Tourism #MauiSMUG via Liza Pierce @amauiblog

A Maui Scavenger Hunt for Visitors & Locals #MauiScavenger #SMCHI #Tourism #MauiSMUG via Chris Norberg @maui Reference Link:

Listen & Engage for the Long Term #TourismConvos #SMCHI #Tourism #MauiSMUG via Laura Kinoshita @lkinoshita

Building a Strong Social Media WorkForce #SMworkforce #SMCHI #Tourism #MauiSMUG via Pomai Weigert @princesspomai

Promote Maui Art & Artists via HD Video Interviews #mauiARTtv #SMCHI #Tourism #MauiSMUG via Shane Robinson @shane
reference Link:

And now for a few of my random ideas:
Napkins @HawaiianAir imprinted with TW/FB accounts; use for social sharing & contests #HawaiiSocial #SMCHI (via @roxannedarling)

Maui Social Media Airport Greeters monitoring OGG checkins on @Foursquare and @Facebook #MauiCheckin #SMCHI (via @roxannedarling)

eBook on Maui photo tips delivered via hotel reservation confirmation, content by Maui peeps, #MauiPhoto #SMCHI (via @roxannedarling)

QR Code Bulletin Board at OGG; go green, share eco activities, #MauiQR #SMCHI (via @roxannedarling)

Summaries and Related Links

I uploaded the slides to SlideShare, where you can view them and share them.

Presentation Slides | Social Media & Tourism via SMCHI: PDF

Download the Hashtag Report (PDF; 5.5 MB) See a list of all tweets tagged #SMCHI past 24 hours.

The Link to the recorded livestream video is here.

Article in Pacific Business News by Stephanie Silverstein

I hope you’ll leave a comment here, or on Twitter (use the hashtag #SMCHI and my name @roxannedarling so we see it!), or on our Facebook page.

Photo Credit: “We are all connected in this world” by Maui photographer, Chris Kompst. I was so excited to find this image and receive Chris’ permission to use it – it fits so perfectly with our discussion! Mahalo Chris.

And many thanks to all of you who attended, here on Maui, on Oahu at our satellite event, or via the live video stream!


Lies, Consciousness, and Social Media

Kid, Bella, and Ziggy by adlpated on Flickr.comIf you are still depending on other people for your facts, now is a great time to rethink and learn to use the energy as your guidance system.

Lies, Consciousness, and Social Media: What an utterly odd cocktail this is, you might be thinking. I agree! First the lies. Jerry Sandusky still claiming innocence after eye witness reports. The exposure of Lance Armstrong as not just a sports doper but the major domo who required his team mates to similarly use banned substances, after years of forceful denials.

It all got me thinking. There have always been liars amongst us, though I would guess the majority of us are more truthful than not, and have some assumption (rarely tested to this degree!) that powerful people must be telling the truth. They wouldn’t lie really, would they? Well, it turns out, yes they would. I consider myself an “innocent” of sorts – I have to work really hard to lie. I usually start laughing even when trying to pull off a teeny manini white lie as humor! But I have this visceral desire to want to believe others are truth tellers. Historically it was from fear, not consciousness though.

Social media meanwhile has amplified both the so-called lies and so-called truths being told every day. Anyone, and I mean that literally, can start a false rumor that spreads rapidly. Fortunately, we now have armies of fact-checkers to rebut these things. But “First!” still matters when it comes to a lot of news consumption, and numerous studies are showing that we really easily reject data that does not conform to our previously defined worldview.

There are so very few absolute truths or lies – which is what encourages the liars and frustrates the truth seekers. “Find me some stats I can twist to my point of view.” But also, hardly anything is true “in all cases.” Life is about CONTEXT. It’s not easy to be “completely wrong” but it happens. The more we know someone, the more forgiving of them we are when they fail. The less well we know them, the more easily they become the them to our us. Social media that strives to reach across cliques is a powerful change-maker. You can’t force the other person to see your point of view, however you can add more information.

Information is a tonic. We move so quickly that sometimes key details are not shared. Sharing more of the facts behind your positions can go a long way towards persuading people to your point of view. I think this is relevant – not to be more partisan but in fact to create more understanding. The result is that each still may retain their opinion but the animosity and vitriole are dissolved. The energy has shifted, and it is the energy that matters. At the end of the day it is not the facts that matter most, it is the energy with which they are delivered. I think it is now our opportunity to cultivate an understanding of how energy works, because we sure can’t rely on “facts” to be reliable.

It is this native ability we each have to detect discrepancies, and to take the “something doesn’t add up here” as a truth (or lie) in progress. If you learn to trust your own inner guidance system, you come to rely less on others for the information that is critical to decision-making. It’s more than just a gut feeling – it is a deep, cultivated sense of knowing that is supported by your prior knowledge and experience, and that is not unduly influenced by your known trigger points of fear, prejudice, suspicion, etc. It’s like intuition, gut feelings, and maturity all working in synchrony. Consciousness is being able and willing to pay attention to the energy while understanding how the energy works within us and in others. Animals do this quite instinctively which is what allows them to have inter-species relationships that appear counter to the rules. They can read the energy, know their own abilities, and proceed accordingly. See photo above! (Same for effective managers.)

With consciousness, you educate yourself about the choices, you read testimonials, and you also consider the source. What is their agenda? In the end, you synthesize this and let your reading of the energy of the situation be your guide. Trust me, it changes everything. For the better, with more ease, less angst, no matter what is going on around you.

Not all messages are created equal. The good news is that we each get to decide for ourselves the truth we want to support, the energy that makes sense to us. Want to know how to read the energy? Just ask!


Photo Credit: Kid, Bella, and Ziggy by adlpated on

Old-Fashioned Organic SEO Wins the Day After Google Penguin Update

penguin small group- by antarctica bound on flickrThe latest Google search algorithm update (nicknamed Penguin) has moved strongly towards the long held principles of “organic seo.” Our company started building websites in 1996. We have always aimed for best practices: in the code (lean and clean), in the content (direct, honest, informative), in the design (clean user interface, ease of use), and in optimizing for search results. After all, who cares about your site if no one can find it?

In general, each of these major updates is to help Google answer real questions from its users. You know, when we search, we want to see a real business or a real answer, not some spam site trying to sell us crap or embed a virus on our computer!

Included in the new guidelines are not only the carrot recommendations (DO) but increasingly Google is using the stick on those sites it perceives to be gaming the system (DON’T). If you do not make a habit of looking at your site analytics, you can easily check your Page Rank now and then. Page Rank is a logarithmic scale used by Google to rank the quality and validity of websites. It ranges from 0-10; each number jumps by a factor of ten. That means it is much harder to jump one level from 4 to 5 than it is to move from 1 to 2.

Most sites start at a 0-2 (Google loves WordPress!) and very few ever make it to a 10. Even & currently get a PR 9. Since it is an order of magnitude in difficulty jumping to the next level, losing 2-3 levels in a Google update can be painful. Here is a free online tool to check your Page Rank. Remember it is only one measure, but it is a simple one you can track. Keep reading! I have more free site analyzer tools at the end!

Current Google Search Optimization Recommendations

Having duplicate content on the web.
Some content management systems allow you to have multiple websites with unique URLs that are all served from the same database (e.g. Drupal). This confuses Google because it doesn’t know which one to rank first. If it detects that these dupe sites are pretty much direct copies, you will get a big penalty in their rankings. They consider that now a type of web spam.

The exception is if you have the same site at different top level domains, say a .com site and a site in Germany (.de) etc as they recognize the desire to serve the same message to different languages. You can have as many (keyword-dense!) domains as you like, but better to have a 301 redirect on all but the main URL, whereby the others point to the main URL.

Using a keyword more than 1-2% on a page, including metadata
The keyword or phrase should ideally be in the h1 or the title of the page, then in the first paragraph, then scattered throughout but not too much. If you read your content and it feels pushy or over-bearing to you, Google will probably agree. (See the tools at the end to easily measure keyword density on your pages.)

Really big or long pages
If you have really long pages, this might be a challenge. Google may consider it “too big.” It looks at the size of the page, measured in kilobytes. It’s no coincidence that this also affects your human visitors. Large-sized pages take longer to load and that affects your visitors. Large pages can be split in tow or three and this allows you to optimize for several more targeted topics and keywords and helps prevent your visitors from having to scroll a mile to find what they want. Learn more about what contributes to large page size here.

Optimizing too many pages for the same keywords.
Google says, why are all these pages about the same thing? So it actually becomes more useful to pick a unique keyword or phrase for each page, and play to that nuance as best you can. Use the AdWords Keyword Tool to assist, even if you are not buying AdWords.

Too new or Too old
A web site that has little history (and likely less content) will not earn a high page rank for (I hope) obvious reasons. You just have not earned your cred yet. Google in some respects really likes to see relevant, older content – it is a measure that you have been around doing dood stuff. But if nothing has changed for years, the tables begin to turn. Is anyone still home or has the site become abandoned? It is another reason I love WordPress. By adding fresh new content all the time without deleting or over-writing old content, you build not only an archive of your business’s activities over time (which helps you) but you also build increasing cred with Google. (Assuming you are not breaking any of these other rules.)

Link Schemes
Setting up other sites that only link back to you or using excessive cross linking on your own site. This used to be a classic SEO “trick” and not best practice, but easy and fast to do because of the amazing ability of blogs. We now call them “splogs” or spam blogs. They don’t send email spam; they create inbound link spam.

Hidden Text or Links
Don’t use hidden text or links that are the same color as the page so they appear invisible. Google can now detect that! Who wants to be sneaky like that anyway….

Here is Your Do List for Organic SEO

Inbound Links
On the plus side, still THE best thing you can do is to have high quality inbound links. What makes a link high quality? These are links on someone else’s site that point to one of your specific pages. Aim for these:

  • it is coming from a site that has a higher page rank. Google says, if this good site is linking to you, kudos to you!
  • the words that are the front side of the link, the regular English, have your name or one of your keywords for that page in the text.
  • the URL being linked to from your site, also has the right mix of keywords in it.
  • the link code also has a relevant title tag included. You can’t force people to add that but you can create a page and badges that encourage people to link you and give them all the code to copy and paste. Here is an example: Badges for Podcamp Hawaii fans
  • you can accomplish this somewhat by adding a comment on a high value site and including your URL (even to a specific inside page) when you fill out the form. However, because this can be manually manipulated, it is not as valuable as the link to you in the body of the article. And some blog owners code their site to use the “nofollow” tag, which tells Google to ignore any links in comments.But heh, be a friend and leave a blogger a comment! It’s not always about SEO.

Publish date of the page. Newer is better.
One advantage to moving a lot of things to a blog would be that you have a lot more fresh content as far as Google is concerned. Updating existing pages is perhaps easier for you, but it doesn’t show that you are adding new stuff. When a page is published there is generally a publish date included in the meta data.

Go Social.
Google definitely values and tracks “shares” on the leading social networks, such as Google+, Twitter, and Facebook. Make sure every page of your site has the sharing links so readers can give their vote of approval to your pages and help you in you search results on those pages. WordPress maakes it easy to add these sharing plugins, one more reason to love it! (Hint: use them at the end of this post!)

Bounce Rate
Independent of all this is to look in your Analytics for the bounce rate: how many people leave the site without clicking through. If it is high, that is one area we could talk about some different strategies for the main pages people land on. Which is the second thing – creating campaigns to target selected inside pages. If you buy AdWords or do other marketing, don’t always send people to the home page and make them look – send them directly to an inside page that has the information or products you want to share. Bounce rates vary widely depending on many factor, so start by looking at trends over time.

Free SEO and Google Analytics Tools For You

Check your visible keyword density on the page here.

Keyword Analyzer: See if you keyword shows up in the right places, plus check your page size

Simple view of the keywords on your page and their relative percentages

SMCHI-Setting Up Google Analytics WordPress Developed for our Social Media Club chapter by Rob Bertolf

SMCHI-Setting Up Webmaster Tools Developed for our Social Media Club chapter by Rob Bertolf

My current favorite: WordPress SEO plugin

Be sure and checkout our Bare Feet Biz Pro Blogs if you are looking to add or update a WordPress blog (Google’s favorite publishing platform) to your web operations. I also invite you to search this site for things like “google” and “seo” to find previous articles on the topic.

Photo Credit: Penguin Small Group by Antarctica Bound on Flickr

Would you like to take a class on putting this into action? Please drop me an email and I will keep you posted.