The first step towards an automation mindset

For many jobs, a “one-off” task quickly becomes a standard, and if that one-off task is labor-intensive, you can end up creating a lot of work for yourself or your coworkers. How do you avoid making a ton of work for yourself that’s probably unnecessary? The answer lies in a mindset change, from “how do I do this?” to “how can this be automated”? After all, if it’s valuable, someone will likely ask you to do it again.

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That mindset is the mindset of the folks who work at companies like Google, folks who focus on algorithmic solutions to problems rather than single-instance uses of people’s time. If you’re not a programmer or developer, however, that can be a difficult mindset to begin using. How do you get started thinking in an algorithmic way?

The easiest trick is one that’s often a joke punchline in tech circles, but can legitimately begin to alter your thinking towards an automation mindset. Every time you face a task, ask yourself if there’s an app for that. For example, I was going to sync up some folders on my Mac. Is there an app for that? There is – it’s actually built into the Mac, a command-line app called rsync. Typing rsync -rtv /sourcedirectory /targetdirectory at the command line (obviously substituting your own directories where indicated) will sync up two folders.

By starting to think of problem solutions in the context of pre-built apps that could solve your problem, you change your thinking from one of labor (how do I do that) to one of automation (someone must have written a piece of software to do that). That begins to make processes more repeatable, more scalable, and more reliable. In the example above, I would no longer need to waste my time or someone else’s time making sure two folders had the same contents. I’d just run that little program as often as needed.

Some things don’t have apps. Some things shouldn’t have apps. But where and when practical and reasonable, look for an app as the first step towards bringing more automation solutions to your work.


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Improve on-site SEO with Webmaster Tools Data Highlighter [Video]

Want to make sure you’re using the latest markup tags from Google for optimum on-site SEO? Google’s made it easier than ever inside of their free Webmaster Tools software with the Data Highlighter.

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Just click on the structural elements of your website or blog, categorize the different on-page pieces of data, and let Google do the rest.

Is it a magic wand or a silver bullet that will catapult you to the top of the rankings? Of course not. Will it help, particularly if Google doesn’t highlight obvious pages or links in your site when you search for it? Yes.

Watch this short 4 minute video I made just for you:


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Little marketing leaks can sink businesses

One of the risks of so much technology being incorporated into our marketing and our businesses is that the potential for lots of little leaks is significant. Here’s an example: I was recently doing some work on a small business website, and I noticed that one of the appointment scheduling forms did not appear to be working. The problem was that there were two different pieces of software working at odds with each other, effectively canceling each other out. That in turn meant that any customer wanting to set up an appointment on that particular page was unable to do so. The rest of the website checked out fine for the most part. There was just that one little leak, that one tiny break.

That little leak, however, represents an unknown but potentially significant loss of revenue and business. If you look at your own behavior on other websites, when something doesn’t work, are you necessarily motivated to keep trying again or do you just give up and move onto the other things you need to do that day, especially if it’s not terribly important to you?

When was the last time you checked for leaks in your own digital marketing? One of the simplest tools to try is a link checker for your website. How often do you run one? Two free ones I’d recommend are Xenu for the PC, Integrity for the Mac. If pages like your forms have broken links, then you’ve got leaks.

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Another place that’s important to check on a regular basis for leaks is Google’s free Webmaster Tools. Look under Crawl Errors. If you see any of your landing pages/form pages in there, you’ve got a potential leak that you should immediately investigate.

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How often do you test your forms, test your email subscribe mechanisms, test your processes as a secret shopper? This is the last and most important step for finding leaks. Go through the process of signing up for something or buying something as often as is practical and reasonable. If your website generates X dollars per day, then how often would you be willing to test the website to ensure it’s generating those X dollars? If it’s mission critical and you go out of business without it, then testing daily is not unreasonable.

Little leaks add up quickly to big losses. Be sure you’re checking for them!


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