Top 5 Essential Word Press Plugins For Starting Your Next Blog

“If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.”
Abraham Maslow (1908-1970)

Working with SMBs who are ready to make the jump into the blogosphere, I always find a few missteps.  They are make the correct assumptions by attempting to utilize the web to increase awareness, drive traffic, and eventually build revenue online, but they’re also putting themselves at a disadvantage by not incorporating the right tools from the get go.

This is my barebones list of WP plugins necessary to begin your online marketing journey.

  1. Akismet – Now included with WordPress installations, this amazing tool is your #1 resource for fighting blog spam.  It is definitely worth the time to sign up for the API and for the good it does, I recommend paying the $5.00 a month for a Pro Membership
  2. WordPress SEO  by the Amazing Yoast – His amazing WP SEO plugin is self described as “the most complete WordPress SEO plugin that exists today” and the industry generally agrees.  All major SEO outlets recommend this  plugin for adding SEO to your posts.
  3. Google Analytics for WordPress by the Amazing Yoast – Another plugin from Joost de Valk.  This guy knows how to create useful plugins to help grow online traffic.. but he also created the best plugin to help you manage your online traffic.  This easy to install, update, and incorporate plugin will insure you dont miss a beat when tracking web traffic through your analytics accounts.
  4. WordPress Database Backup – There are a ton of these plugins out right now.  following the fiasco of wp sites getting generally destroyed last month with insecurities.  Making sure you continuously backup your WP database will insure you don’t feel the affects if another disaster strikes your website.  I recommend this one for one reason. It’s simple. It works.
  5. WP Super Cache – Another plugin now included in most WP org installs.  This caching plugin will generate html files that lower the drain on php and sql servers.  If you’re lucky and get the reddit or affect on one of your websites, you’ll be glad you had this plugin installed…. for a few minutes.  Do the easy thing and turn this puppy on, avoid some headaches later.
  6. BONUS!  Related Posts –  There are a ton of these plugins, so just search on WP for them.  I would link to one, but the majority have too many ads and are a headache to navigate.   Add a Related Posts plugin as soon as you start blogging and TAG ALL OF YOUR POSTS.  As your blog grows, the link network will inherently grow as well.  This will increase readership while simultaneously dropping your bounce rate.   This is a win-win.

Do you have any better plugins I didnt mention? Did I completely miss the mark?  Let me know what plugins you like / dont like.


Google Maps SEO – Death of the KML boost

Over the past few years, I’ve made a little name for myself working with businesses on incorporating KML files with GEO sitemaps.  This practice is very beneficial for microsites wanting to incorporate multiple locations on a single google map for SEO or PPC campaigns.  I have previously blogged about this and provided step by step instructions on how to incorporate it.

Using Google’s proprietary KML format, developers were able to incorporate relevant data into listings including phone numbers, address, images, or anything else.

Google recently adjusted their policies to remove a lot of the boost associated with these practices.  It is still possible to incorporate certain data points, but the gains we’ve seen over the past few years using this secret are no longer possible.

Time to find a new way to include these details in landing pages.


Some Cosmic Inspiration For Your Day

We live in a hectic world with many distractions.  We often take our work home to our personal lives, and our personal lives back to work.  It is hard to completely compartmentalize aspects of our day.  Sometimes you need to just take a break and clear your mind.  I have decided to go against my normal SEO / Marketing blog and post a few videos that I watch when life becomes a little hectic.  These videos always seem to put things in perspective and sometimes even provide a little inspiration to jump back into whatever is going on.

The first video is a few comments from renowned scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson 



The second video is possibly the best known video of the three. Carl Sagan wrote “A Pale Blue Dot” around 1994. It provides some great insight into the scope of this planet we live on.


The final video for a little cosmic inspiration is Peter Mulvey performing “Vlad the Astrophysicist.”  It is a great little video that helps me reflect on life when things get a little too hectic

These videos can be a little melancholy, but I think if you take a few minutes and a couple deep breaths, these videos may help you realize that it truly is the little things that count.  Hug a loved one.


James Victore Inspiration Tips

An old coworker of mine shared an amazing video of Artist and Designer James Victore. I highly recommend you take 10 minutes and watch him speak for some great inspiration.

Strive For Something

James Victore had a mission to be the best artist he could be within 15 years.  He didnt care about money – he wanted to be a great artist. He reminds the audience that it is okay to strive for wealth, but have real tangible goals.  Strive for something.



Don’t Waste Your Time, Perfection is Unattainable!

He goes on to talk about typography and color and how many designers spend countless hours worrying about layouts of simple insignificant things.  Typography and Color Don’t F*cking matter.  Dumb Decisions waste your time!  He makes an analogy to an outsourced project that contains wrinkles in the art.  The foreign editor, wanting to do a good job, removed those wrinkles from the book cover.  By trying to create perfection he ruined it.  Victore says F*ck Perfection.  Perfection will “stop you from starting a project”  It will also stop you from finishing projects and you’ll “spend all your time looking at spacing between letters.”  Remove the strive for perfection from  your life.

Let The Right Person Do The Job!

This blog has turned into a recap, but i’ll continue.  James then talks about how Alfred Hitchcock was a successful director.  His answer was to remove the directorial process through casting… essentially ask the right person to do the job and let them do it.  In all aspects of work, people are hired to do a job.  Let them do what they are hired to do.  They are the expert in that field.  Trust them.

The video continues as he discusses a runner he liked named Steve Prefontaine who lived by the quote ” to give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.”  Remember that.  If you are going to take on a project.  Do your best work. 100% of the time.

Don’t Get Comfortable!

A few more highlights include his assertion that being scared is a good thing.  It is good for you.  The comfort zone is bad.  Be out of the comfort zone all the time.  You will do better work and continue to grow in your field and as a person.


His final point in the video is simple.  Just ASK!

The museum of modern art asked him to do a collection.  He agreed and asked if there was going to be a Gala?  They said no.  He asked if there would be a trophy?  They said no.  He asked if they would have a plaque? They said no.  He asked about an official letter.  The said no.  He asked, Can I have a letter anyway? Better yet, can I have a letter for my mom?  They said yes.





JUST ASK!  It is one of the hardest things in life to do.  But it will make you more successful.


James Victore Live at AIGA SF from Hillman Curtis on Vimeo.

HTML5 SEO Round Up! and more!

I have been pretty backed up lately. I started a new gig helping a popular e-learning organization expand their SEO efforts.  I want to start out by saying how blessed I am to have been given this opportunity.  Through great friends, I have been able to accomplish a lot.  so thanks..

I briefly wanted to start sharing some links and information that has been playing a larger role in my recent efforts.  HTML5 is now on the forefront of all internet marketing chatter.  It’s effective and well organized.  More importantly, it is one of the few things that Google, Bing, and Yahoo all agree on.  I want everyone to start out by checking out  These tags are going to pay a pivotal and important role in the future of websites and SEO.  By incorporating the best practices available on this site, you will have an advantage moving forward.  Furthermore, you will be able to provide authorship and in turn stewardship for your brand and goals.

I plan on talking about more in the near future.  But for now I wanted to offer a few quick links for everyone to check out. Hope you enjoy!

html5 Boilerplate this is a great template or starting point for building a framework for an html5 website.  They go out of their way to emphasize that they are not a framework.  I would honestly agree.  Take a few minutes to checkout this website.  After that, take a few more minutes and watch some videos. There is an amazing team behind this and I think they deserve some attention!  Then check out the next link…

Initializr its like the html5 boilerplate but better!  well.. its actually the same thing, with more customization.  I am loving and digging what they’re doing with this technology.  Check out the bootstrap template and figure out how you can use this on your own technology.

Completely different but similar is Bones an html5 wordpress base theme.  They took the boilerplate a step further and I am very impressed. I anticipate using this more when I have time to test it.  I also dig pirates.

Last but not least… 23 free templates based in html5   for free.

Check it out. Enjoy. I will be back soon with more detailed information on seo for schema and html5.

Internet Marketing and Dieter Rams 10 principles of good design

Internet Marketing and Dieter Rams 10 principles of good design

Dieter Rams is a world renowned designer.  His influence is unprecedented and has provided inspiration for the next generation of designers including Apple thought leader Jonathan Ive.  Ive has stated that Apple is one of the few companies that follows Rams’ 10 Principles of Good Design.  These principles have influenced almost every major apple consumer product including the iPod, iPad, and macbook lines.  The 10 Principles of Good Design are product leaning, but can also be used for web design and marketing.

10 Principles of Good Design (to help your website and marketing campaigns)

  1. Is innovative – web design innovation is vital for success.  Make sure that you or your marketing team is incorporating the latest standards in web technology.  By focusing on new updates including HTML5 and CSS3, your website will follow best practices and have competitive advantages over competition incorporating archaic technology.  Also remember that google webmaster tools and algorithm updates continue to focus more and more on new technology, faster loading, social integration, etc.  By staying on the forefront of web technology, you insure affinity from google and the other search engines.
  2. Makes a product useful–  This principle seems simple but can quickly become overlooked or lost in the process.  During every step of the creative process in designing your campaign, remember to take time and focus on whether or not the changes and updates you’re making are continuing to make the website useful.  Why are people here? Is it for product? Customer Service? Make sure that what you’re trying to focus on is in fact the focal point of the website.
  3. Is aesthetic– Aesthetics plays a central role to any design project. Making sure your layout and theme are simple and refined is at the basis for any redesign project.  In terms of your website design, marketing campaign, or landing page, it is important to rely on aesthetic principles to help convert visitors in conversions.
  4. Makes a product understandable– Obviously in order for your product to be successful it must be understood.  Implied understanding can be an vital part of your website success.  By showing visitors how the product works and why they may need it, you can increase conversion rates on your web traffic.
  5. Is unobtrusive- Unobtrusive web design can be a daunted task.  Bells and whistles can be a distractor and hurt best practices and the principles of good design.  I am going to go on a limb and say no flash on your website. If you absolutely require flash do it on a limited subtle basis.  Usability and Functionality are far more important than kittens and moving objects.
  6. Is honest- Honesty is the best policy.  Under promise and over deliver.  from ecommerce to client based websites, make sure you’re being completely honest in your design and marketing.  If the public views your products as dishonest, you will not only lose a customer, but you’ll also lose referrals and can even damage your online reputation.
  7. Is long-lasting- Long lasting and reliability go hand in hand.  When designing your campaign, don’t jump on a band wagon.  In Telecom the big buzz word is Cloud.  Many companies, organizations, and products are incorporating cloud based keywords into products with 10-15 year lifecycles.  If the trend changes substantially, the product or brand can become dated very quickly.  Think of brands like Ralph Lauren, and BMW when you focus on long-lasting best practices and you will avoid becoming a fad.
  8. Is thorough down to the last detail- Review, Review, Review.  Without constant review, you will miss vital details that others may fine.  Every time you refine, you must start the review process over.  You want to offer a complete, reliable, and responsive experience.  Without thorough design and thorough review you may miss key requirements for your business.
  9. Is environmentally friendly-  It is easier to create environmentally friendly products than design, but as best practices you can make sure to reduce your footprint as much as possible by using recycled products, going paperless, or even using “green” hosting services.  By reducing our carbon footprint we can all help the environment and future generations.
  10. Is as little design as possible- minimalist, simple, and elegant.  When incorporating Rams’ principles on a product, the designs should be simple.  When using the principles for websites and marketing, the result should be minimalist design that showcases the products.  Your marketing or website be the frame to the product you’re trying to deliver.  Don’t distract potential customers with over emphasis on marketing or design elements.  let the product speak for itself.
By utilizing these principles throughout the entire process you will have a solid product with solid marketing.  Obviously there is room for interpretation in Deiter Rams’ principles, but remember that having a blueprint from the outset will give you a greater chance for marketing success.

Rebranding – is it worth it?

rebranding any aspect of your company can be a tedious painful task.  Before undertaking the project of a rebrand, make sure the exercise is worth the investment – short term and long term.

There are many reasons a company would start to consider a rebranding initiative including but not limited to –

  • The product or company name could be weak within the vertical
  • The scope of the company product offering may have changed
  • The target customer base may have shifted
  • Merger & Acquisition activity could change business practices
  • Copyright, Regulatory, or Legal issues
Some of these reasons are vital and necessary for rebranding activity to take place, but before pursuing the large project make sure the end result will be a stronger unified product, brand, message, etc.
Often times, the idea of rebranding a product or project can sound exciting, but excitement is not always a license to change aspects of the business that can affect all aspects of the business.
Almost all rebrands will have an influence on:
  • Legal
  • Accounting
  • Sales
  • Marketing
  • Customer Service
  • Product / Engineering
  • Management
Rebranding typically is through a customer facing approach.  i.e. Customers will likely respond more favorably to our product or business if we have something new and fresh.  Remember that for the customer to see the rebranded copy all of the above organizations will need to have some input, as they will have to inevitably make changes within their ogranizations because of the activities.
  • Why are we rebranding the product or company?
  • How long do we expect the project to take?
  • What aspects of collateral, website, contract, advertising need to be updated during this process?
  • Is the investment it worth it?

At the end of the day the process of rebranding may or may not be right for your company at a given time.  The man hours, capital, and other investment to create a new brand, along with the investment lost on previous branding must be taken into account BEFORE your team starts spending time on the project.  Make sure you do thorough investigation on why you are rebranding and what the outcome can be.  If the culmination of your branding efforts result in a substandard new brand then the switch may be in vain.  and remember… The most important aspect of rebranding is insuring everyone in the organization is onboard.

Entrepreneur Spotlight – Sean Parker, Shervin, Pishevar, Alexia Tsotsis

This is an amazing video on the state of Startups, VC, and Entrepreneurial Talen.  It comes in at almost an hour but is definitely worth your time.  Sean Parker discusses music, his past, gowalla, and facebook.

Sean Parker continuously discusses the talent you surround yourself with. He discusses Gowalla’s talent moving to facebook, surrounding himself with the wrong talent at napster and eventually leaerning how important surrounding yourself with good talent can be.


Manolo Diaz-Marta

I was born in Mexico City and moved to Dallas, TX at the age of 9. I attended Nathan Adams Elementary, Mary Immaculate School for Middle School and Jesuit College Preparatory Dallas for HighSchool.  I then attended University of Texas at Dallas and have had my own business since the age of 15.

I started my first e-commerce business at 15 with $20 and turned it into a business that had over $3 Million in annual sales, then launched another e-commerce business with $5,000 in a completely different market with different customer base, and achieved multi-million dollar annual sales with growth at times of sales tripling year over year.

Gowalla + Facebook = Success

While the “ink isn’t dry” on the facebook acquisition of gowalla, the deal looks to be complete.  Over the weekend I found out about this potential acquisition and was particularly excited to hear about it.  I started using gowalla a few years back and enjoyed the look and feel much more to the quickly growing and now much larger alternative foursquare.  Personally, the fad of mobile check in faded quickly.  Although I liked the idea of collecting badges and “ownership” of locations, I quickly found the ease of facebook’s check in system much easier.  I didnt have to rely on an API and the odds were pretty good that i’d be using facebook at some point during my visit anyway.  Facebook wasn’t a chore to “check-in” but it felt like foursquare or gowalla were.   Additionally, my affinity for Texas startups is also in play.  I’m glad to see something good happen for the small but growing startup community in Texas.  This is a big win and a big statement for our lonestar talent.

well, I take back my statement about this being a big win for Texas startups.  Gowalla is being purchased for the talent, not the product.  While I am happy for the individuals being folded into facebook it is very unfortunate that gowalla will be shut down in january 2012. 


I can only hope that facebook incorporates some of the spunk and design that gowalla has infused in their core.