Listen To Blog Posts On The Go

If you love reading articles about your profession or passions but don’t have enough time, you may flip for SoundGecko. This unique service lets you easily convert any online article into an MP3 file then listen when you’re commuting to work, running or wherever.
You start by creating a free account. Then when you see a Web article you like, you can either email the link to or use a Chrome extension to convert the article. It will send an MP3 file to your email, and you can also listen using their iPhone or Windows Phone app (an Android version is coming soon). You can also subscribe to one or more RSS feeds, which is a great way to get any new articles sent to you automatically.

The vocal quality sometimes leaves a little to be desired (like all computer-generated voices), but it’s getting better. I’ve found SoundGecko is great for skimming through articles and deciding which ones are worth reading more carefully later.

I plan to start adding an audio version of some my blog posts using their service as well.

Cost: Free (up to 30 articles per day and one RSS feed) and paid plans ranging from $4.95-$7.95/month.

UPDATE: Here’s a link to listen to this post in SoundGecko.

Improve Your Online Security With Better Passwords

Let’s face it: when it comes to creating online passwords, most of us are pretty lazy. We either use passwords that any half-way talented hacker could break in 10 minutes, or we re-use the same password in too many places. I am especially guilty of the latter, but am trying to fix this.
It’s time we all take online passwords more seriously, and encourage others do the same!
Good magazine wrote about the growing and disturbing trend of sites getting hacked, and millions of passwords being compromised from companies as “safe” as LinkedIn, Yahoo and Apple. This is must-reading and includes an essential password security checklist from Lifehacker.

As a Mac user, I use 1Password to create obscenely long, uncrackable passwords for most sites I sign up for. Using a browser plugin or their smart phone app, I can easily retrieve these and automatically log into sites. I have also used the web-based LastPass, which is equally good. There are other tools out there—so I encourage you to pick one that will work for you.
Meanwhile, I am going to stop the habit of recycling the same password…it’s just not worth it these days.

Use “Explainer” Videos To Entertain And Tell Your Story

You may have heard about “explainer videos” as one of the newest tools for your digital marketing. These are short videos that provide an explanation of your product, service or event. Usually in the form of an animated story, they entertain your audience while educating them. Many companies, including Google and Facebook, use explainer videos in their marketing strategy.

Research shows that viewers have been 65-84% more likely to buy after watching a product video (source: Kissmetrics). And if you properly optimize your video, it can increase the chance of a first page Google result by 53x (source: Forrester, January 2010). Read this article for further details on how to increase eCommerce conversion rates with videos.

Here are a few ideas on how to use your video in different places:

  • Prominently feature your video on your homepage and landing pages. It’s much easier for visitors to watch, rather than to sift through lines of text.
  • Share your video through social media channels
  • Drive traffic to your video via email marketing. Video has the potential to increase email click-through rates 2x-3x (source: Forrester)
  • Feature your video on a big screen at trade shows and conventions

Julie Ball of Grow Web Video was gracious enough to contact me about my job search and tell me all about explainer videos, which is what they specialize in. She is offering a 15% discount on their explainer videos if you tell her that “Brandon sent ya!” Email her for more details. Thanks, Julie!

Drive Email Leads and Calls-To-Action In Your Videos

Speaking of video, by now you know the power of posting your videos to YouTube. However, the YouTube video player lacks some key features. That is where a fantastic tool called LeadPlayer comes in. You have to check it out to appreciate it, but the top two features are:

  • Require email opt-ins in your videos: You can require users to provide an email address to continue watching your videos. An opt-in box can appear at the beginning or at the end of your video.
  • Redirect people to a sales page: Use LeadPlayer to create buttons that appear during your videos and direct viewers to a website, landing page or anywhere else you decide. All button text and links are customizable, and implementation takes about 15 seconds.

Cost: One-time fee of $107 for use of the player only for one domain, or $184 for an unbranded version and unlimited domain use.

If you have used an “explainer video,” tell me about your results in the comments below.

How To Improve Your Online Brand

What happens when you Google yourself?

Do you “own” the first page of results, or does your name barely show up? Are there negative references you’d rather not see?

Whether you are a job seeker or someone actively working, your online brand counts more today than ever before. Why? Because prospective employers or business prospects are Googling you. Recruiters are, too. And more employers are routinely checking online profiles. In one study of 2,667 managers and human resource workers, nearly 50 percent admitted they use social networking sites to research job candidates, and 35 percent of employers said they did not to offer a job to a candidate based on the content they found on a social networking site. For any skeptics out there, social media can absolutely help you land a job. (Thanks to Bill Baker for passing that link along.)

Fortunately, there are easy steps you can take to start building a better online profile for yourself, starting with your Google results.

Awesome DIY SEO Resource: BrandYourself

I’ve been using a great site called BrandYourself to boost my own Google ratings. This is a do-it-yourself platform that lets anyone improve his or her own search results.

After signing up for a free account, the site will give you an initial grade on your Google rankings. Fortunately, I got a B+. That’s because I have spent years using social media sites and search engine optimization techniques to raise my online profile. I just had two minor pages I’m trying to remove.

For many people, you might be starting with just one or two links about yourself (likely your LinkedIn or Facebook profiles if you have those), or even some negative results you want to “bury” or bump off of page one of Google. This is where the power of BrandYourself really kicks in. The site provides easy-to-follow steps on how to add links about yourself, then “boost” them. I found it very game-like and user friendly.

I’m using the free version of BrandYourself, which allows you to submit and boost up to three links. Their paid plans are very affordable, ranging from $9.99 for one month to $79.99 for a year.

Be aware that the results are not instantaneous. It can take several weeks to see actual results on Google. Personally, I saw a “negative” result for me drop off after less than a week! BrandYourself admits that they can’t control Google results—no one really can—but the steps they recommend are all “white hat” techniques that are search engine approved. In fact, I’d say you’ll learn a lot about SEO just by using their site…including ways you can improve the results for your business.