Featuring marketing tips, tech news, digital wonders, some personal things and everything in between . . .

Reviewing 2010 and Ringing In 2011

Tuesday January 4, 2011

Reading Time: 8 minutes
reviewing 2010Image via Wikipedia
Webconsuls’ 2010/2011 Winter Newsletter
If 2010 was nothing else, it was a fast year. It seems only yesterday Dick Fay and I were working on our 2009 Winter Newsletter and now here we are writing our 2010/2011 Winter Newsletter. We want to take a few minutes to: Thank our Webconsuls’ clients, introduce our newest clients, highlight some marketing and software ideas, suggest two resolutions for you and support our not-for-profit clients who assist children in need.
Thanking our clients…
Webconsuls and our team appreciates our clients. We learn from each and every client by optimizing their sites, designing new sites, building blogs, coaching our clients on new software and responding to their marketing needs. As you may know, we have clients across the United States (actually in 11 states) and in two foreign countries, representing industries from hospitality to law, health care to home maintenance, real estate to retail, sports and recreation to performing arts. There is never a dull day.
Introducing our clients who joined us in 2010…
We invite you to meet our new clients and visit their websites.
Highlighting some marketing and software suggestions…


We know the internet is fluid. It changes daily. We try to keep our clients abreast of these changes by writing this blog, researching our clients’ requests, providing news’ feeds on our website, and publishing our newsletter. Over the past few years we have blogged a lot about social media/Google/Twitter. We have built blogs for our clients, we have worked with our clients to establish their Facebook business page.  Additionally, over the past year…
  • Dick has been particularly active assisting our clients by adding shopping carts with either PayPal or Authorize.net functionality.
  • Dennis worked with clients to add a LIVEPerson feature for online customer engagement.
  • Malik, our lead designer and web developer, is also proficient in designing clients’ e-newsletters using Constant Contact and Vertical Response.
  • Keith, our PPC specialist, works closely with several of our PPC clients to utilize phone conversion optimization software.  
  • Alycia, our branding expert, has been focused on improving Client Web 2.0 and specific SEO-related enhancements.
Suggesting two resolutions for you…


The first is to start reading our Webconsuls’ blog on a regular basis.  As we said above, with our blog we communicate new information that we think is important to on-line marketing and social media.

The second is to start and maintain your own blog.  Our clients with blogs generally receive more traffic than clients in similar fields without them.  Blogger now allows you to easily monitor your blog stats.  A blog is easy and relatively inexpensive to create.  Routinely writing posts can be a challenge, but it can  be rewarding with more virtual exposure, traffic, and new business.  You might start by also reading some of our clients’ blogs like –  Delytes – A ‘green’ fine foods company  or Attorney Carilyn Ibsen’s blog  or Attorney Will Bruzzo’s blog.

Finally supporting our not-for-profit clients…


This year, as in years past, Webconsuls made a donation in honor of our clients to those not-for- profit clients who work to support children and families in need.

Olive Crest Homes and Services for Abused Children
Since 1973, Olive Crest has transformed the lives of over 50,000 abused, neglected, and at-risk children and their families.

The Promises Foundation Miriam’s House
The Promises Foundation is committed to restoring hope for families by creating a safe environment for mothers and their children to grow and develop the tools they require to live meaningful and self-sufficient lives.

The Forrest General Healthcare Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Forrest General Hospital. The foundation helps ensure that the hospital’s vision of C.A.R.E. becomes a reality for the 17 county region that the hospital serves. Initiatives include the Inpatient Hospice Home Project, the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Renovation Project and the Spiritual Grounds at Pine Grove.

We wish you a healthy and prosperous New Year. Let us know if 2011 is the year you want to add some new features to your on-line marketing. We will be happy to discuss these opportunities and plan a strategy with you.

Dennis, Dick and Judy

Reading Time: 4 minutes

If you have a business website it is probably safe to assume that on occasion you might feel overwhelmned by GOOGLE. “How do I get my site to be #1 on the search engine results page (SERP)?” “How can I move up on GOOGLE Places?” “How do I deal with negative reviews that appear on the web?” In the past we have written a few posts about reviews and guest (user) experience. We have tried to give you our best business advice along with our best on-line marketing advice.

Are you wondering where I am going with this? Here’s the deal. On November 28, 2010, I saw a New York Times tweet that said: A Bully Finds a Pulpit on the Web. I couldn’t resist clicking over to the story and after reading this shocking article I then forwarded it to Dick and Dennis. On Monday morning my brother-in-law sent me a link to the article, he too was shocked. I kept wondering what if anything can be done about an on-line merchant that is so bold and conniving. Unconscionable is really the best word to describe this merchant.

Now comes the good news. GOOGLE decided to get involved.  I don’t want to speak for GOOGLE, click here and you can read their post about their algorithmic solution. It is fascinating and gives me hope that GOOGLE is really trying to provide a good service. As they said:

“We can’t say for sure that no one will ever find a loophole in our ranking algorithms in the future. We know that people will keep trying: attempts to game Google’s ranking, like the ones mentioned in the article, go on 24 hours a day, every single day.” 

I would like to thank the New York Times for running the article about the merchant, Vitaly Borker, and I would like to hear what you think about this news. Leave a comment, won’t you?

Reading Time: 6 minutes

My Friend

I have a friend from college whose name is not important but I think his life story is.   I graduated in 1966 and he in 1967. His father was an exec at a large corporation and while his upbringing included private prep school, year abroad, and a private college he was an unpretentious regular guy.

After graduation he joined the Army and served in Viet Nam. He was an RTO or Radio Telephone Operator, so he carried the communications equipment for the officer in charge. On January 25th 1969 his unit, Company C, 5th Battalion, 60th Infantry was on a reconnaissance mission near Thu Thua. They were ambushed and there was fierce fire fight. The commanding officer was mortally wounded and my friend took over and directed the maneuvers of his company. He exposed himself to the barrage of enemy fire and adjusted artillery supporting fires and tactical air strikes. For his extraordinary heroism he was awarded the Silver Star.

After leaving the military, with more than a dozen other awards including a Bronze Star and Purple Heart, he went to the Law School where he did very well and made Law Review. Following graduation he went to work for a prestigious law firm in San Francisco. He met a woman who would later be his wife and life partner. Here was a guy around 30 who had a very good job, was in love, and was a well decorated war hero. Life must have looked very good.

About this time I had a business trip to San Francisco and called his office to arrange seeing him for lunch or dinner. A co-worker answered and  informed me that he had suffered a heart attack. Upon recovering he was advised that the practice of law was probably too stressful so he got a job teaching law. He taught for seven years and was so distinguished the school gives out the an award in his name each year. Unfortunately, at age 40 he suffered a stroke and had to give up teaching.

It has now been determined that his medical problems stem from exposure to Agent Orange while in Viet Nam.

For the last 25 years his intelligent caring brave man has not able to read. He lives in a retirement home. He is able to go the store, fix meals for himself, watch television. He can travel and goes to Viet Nam reunions to see his buddies. He also spends a lot of time with his wife, who has MS so bad she is confined to a wheel chair in the same retirement home.

In 2009 I and some other college friends met him in Chicago. We went to a Cubs game then drove to Milwaukee and caught a Brewers game. Last summer I was in the Midwest and was able to spend half a day and him and introduce him to my daughter and granddaughter.

Whenever I am with him or on the phone with him, he is positive and upbeat. He never bemoans his fate. He makes me realize how lucky I am.  Of course, he has his health, which is very good given the heart attack and stroke; a great relationship with his wife; nieces and nephews who love and respect him; and friends who understand his sacrifice.  I would guess that he considers himself luckier than many.
Reading Time: 10 minutes

Take a Trip to Paradise

The summer is over so vacation travel should slow down. If you can, this may be a perfect time to visit paradise – the beautiful island of Kauai.

Kauai is both remote and accessible, American and laid-back, modern and rustic. As described on GoHawaii.com

From the soaring cliffs of the Napali Coast to the vast chasms of Waimea Canyon, Kauai embraces the senses like no other destination. Explore the island via land, sea or air to experience settings you’ve only dreamed about. Discover 50-miles of heavenly beaches from Poipu Beach to Hanalei Bay. Explore charming and historic small towns like Hanapepe and Koloa where no building is taller than a coconut tree. With so much to experience, “Hawaii’s Island of Discovery,” is begging to be explored.


Or maybe Sea Cliff Hale is better described in the words of some who have stayed there:


We had an awesome wedding week here in this gorgeous home. So much more than we expected. View, turtles, snorklers, flowers, vegetation, butterflies! You have the house set up in such a comfortable way. Thanks so much. We really hope to return someday in the near future.
– The Peterson Family of Colorado.

Words cannot describe what a wonderful place this is and what a wonderful time we’ve had. The turtles have been fascinating. We will never stay in a hotel again! Many thanks.
– The Houston Family from Canada.

The sunrises were colorful and the turtle parade was the highlight of every morning and evening. A great home for family and entertaining. It was beyond our expectations.
-The Rooney Family from Illinois

We enjoyed our stay at your lovely home tremendously. We had a family reunion here and all had great rooms and accommodations. The turtles were an extra treat for us all!
-D.R. Sacramento,

“My husband and I relaxed and had a very nice time at your home. The views and ambiance are true Hawaii. We plan to return next year.”
-L. G. Palos Verdes, Calif.

Your home was perfect for our vacation. The snorkeling, swimming, sea turtles and monk seals were extra special for us. Baby Beach was the perfect beach to nap on and sun bathe, and it is so convenient! We also loved barbecuing in the evenings with the sea turtles. Your home is a very special place in Poipu. Thank you.”
-R.L. San Francisco, Calif.

What a great home you have here in Poipu!! We love it and didn’t ever want to leave the property. It is so private and quiet here and very, very welcoming. Thank you for sharing such a wonderful place with us.”
P.F. Grass Valley, California

For more information on Sea Cliff Hale, visit the website at http://www.kauai-vacation-home.com/.

Kilauea Lakeside Estate is located in Kilauea, on the verdant north shore of Kauai. It is 10 minutes to the Princeville Resort with world class resort amenities. Why stay at a big resort when you can stay at your own private Hawaiian refuge. This luxury ecological hideaway is nestled on a five-acre peninsula of botanical gardens surrounded by a private twenty acre freshwater lake with a private white sand beach. The estate is landscaped with lush tropical foliage with over 150 varieties of flowers such as orchids, bromeliads, gingers and heliconias as well as mango, banana, papaya and over fifty other fruit trees. Adjacent to the Kilauea Point Wildlife Refuge and ten miles of secluded white sand beaches, the resort offers a variety of water sports including boating, kayaking, bass and catfish fishing, and a one-hole, three-par practice golf facility and putting green.

Again the words of those who have stayed probably describe Kilauea Lakeside Estate the best.

We can’t thank you enough for all of your “aloha” hospitality. We have been to resorts all over the world and our one week at your resort was by far the best vacation we have ever had. “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.” The beaches across from your property were so secluded, and we especially enjoyed swimming and fishing in your lake. We caught many bass and catfish. Rowing on the lake at night was so romantic. We even drifted to sleep on the lake one night. All your personal suggestions were great. We’ll be back for a longer stay next time.
H. & J. Bruno
Laguna Hills, CA

The pictures don’t do justice to the property. It is so much better than we thought it would be. Loved the feeling of living in a botanical garden surrounded by water on all sides. Thank you for an unforgettable experience. We’ll be back soon.
S. Lawrence
San Francisco, CA

No place on earth could be any better than this. Simply paradise. The trade winds will blow for a very long time with lots of pleasant memories on behalf of our group.
T. Moriarty
Indianapolis, IN

All honeymoons should be spent on this secluded paradise. Your private beach was soooo perfect we never wanted to go anywhere else.
C. & S. Jackson
Vista, CA

Kilauea Lakeside is truly the treat of a lifetime. We’ll never want to stay in a condo or hotel again. We all felt the like kids on your Tom Sawyer’s island. We kayaked from your dock and used the rope swings and tree houses nearly every day.

L. & M. Stuart
San Rafael, CA



For more info visit the website at http://www.kauaihoneymoon.com/

Reading Time: 3 minutes

I have just returned from a trip to visit my son and his family in Denver. It was a trip that ran havoc on my weight loss and exercise routine. I have restarted my program with the iPhone app lose it.

My son regularly bikes in mountain terrain, is several inches taller than me and weighs 25 pounds less. His diet seems to revolve around high calorie food, food that he easily burns off. My choice was to eat different meals and try to exercise. One can have only so many tofu burgers while everyone else is eating the real thing. The altitude is also not conducive to exercise, at least not for someone my age. So I stopped using the app but have started a new program now that I am back.
We flew on Southwest Airlines. I like Southwest and like it even more that bags fly free. If you fly Southwest it is important to get a good number for check-in as Southwest boards with the numbers rather than assigned seats. You can log in to their website and get a boarding number 24 hours before scheduled departure. The only problem was that 24 hours before departure we were at the Denver Broncos training camp. Well I just got out my iPhone, looked up my confirmation number stored in the Calendar, then used the Southwest Airlines app to check-in. Mission accomplished sitting outside on a hill watching a pro football team practice.
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Like many I weigh more than I should. A few years ago I weighed a lot more than I should. I lost about 20 pounds and have kept it off with exercise and by eating a little less. However I still need to lose some more weight.

My theory is that the best way to lose weight is through diet and exercise. To work the diet has to include foods you like to eat. All carbs, no carbs, packaged food in the mail, special shakes, etc etc etc may help you lose weight but it’s hard for me to understand how you can expect to maintain for a prolonged period. I am also not one to go in front of a group of strangers and tell them how much I weigh or to cheer on someone I barely know because he/she lost 2 pounds last week.
A few days ago I found an iPhone App that that looks great for me. It is named Lose It!. When you get started you enter your age, weight and goal. You also specify how fast you want to lose the weight with a maximum of two pounds per week. The app then calculates how many calories you can eat per day, if you do no exercise. Then each day you enter EVERYTHING you eat and any special exercise that you do. It then shows you how many more calories you can have that day and still maintain your goal.
At this time Lose It is free. So far I have not been bothered by annoying ads or attempts to up sell me. I have also found it easy to enter the data.
Obviously this is similar to keeping a food diary of everything you eat. However it is easier since you generally have the iPhone with you so no need to carry a notebook or to try to remember later just what you ate. Just entering the data helps control what you eat. Do you really need that candy bar knowing what it will add to your calories consumed? Likewise, you see how you can reward yourself after doing some exercise. You can also use it for planning, if I a snack now can I still have a glass of wine later?
Lose It! has a web site where you can establish an account to back up your information. You can also use nutrient information for foods but I have not bothered with that feature as yet. There may be more features that I have not yet discovered.
I am sure that there are other similar apps. If so I would like to hear about them. Lose It! seems great for me.
Reading Time: 3 minutes

I am been reading and enjoying the books by Stieg Larsson which started with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Lisbeth Salander is an amazing character and one of her traits is the ability to hack into computers. I certainly know that spyware exists and I try to protect myself with virus protection software. However I felt that Lisbeth capabilities were more fiction than fact.

This morning I read this article in the LA Times –FBI charges O.C. man in ‘sextortion’ case.
In summary a man was arrested for hacking into women’s computers and finding compromising images that they had stored and threatened to send it to their families unless they paid.
According to the article
“The complaint was filed after a two-year investigation by the FBI’s cyber squad and alleges that Mijangos, 31, used software to hack into computers and extract data he would later use to threaten his victims. The software gave him access to all the files, pictures and videos on an infected computer. It also allowed him to remotely access any web camera and microphone attached to an infected computer to watch and listen to unknowing victims, according to the criminal complaint.”


While it is easy to say just don’t keep compromising images on your computer, if the computer was in a bedroom this gave him access to what was going on.
Of course he had also had access to any financial or personal information stored on the computers.
My advice would be to use your virus and anti-spyware software, keep them up to date. Don’t store images you would not show the world. I keep my financial records on a USB device which I unplug when I am not using it. None of this is perfect. You just have to be cautious.
Reading Time: 6 minutes
When: Tuesday May 4th, 2010 at 6:30 p.m.
Where: CBS Evening News with Katie Couric

The life-changing work of Olive Crest will be featured on National television on Tuesday, May 4, at 6:30 p.m., as CBS Evening News with Katie Couric reports on the impact of our work through our
Safe Families for Children program in Southern California.

The news report will showcase lives that have been touched these last few months by Olive Crest and its Safe Families program. And while we are not sure whether the reporters will mention Olive Crest’s name in their newscast, please know that they are reporting on their work. Chief Programs Officer, Dr. Karen Bergstrom, spent three days working with CBS to arrange the interviews and introduce the reporters to the Olive Crest team. Management guru Peter Drucker has said, “The product of a non-profit is a changed life.” You will see first hand the lives Olive Crest is changing in this eye-opening report.

Safe Families is a new church-based movement designed to help families and children facing temporary crises and needing temporary care. The non-government program mobilizes local churches and their members to help reduce child abuse and returns the church to the forefront of caring for local children and families in need. Volunteer families (trained by Olive Crest) open their homes to at-risk children (newborn through 18 years old) whose parents are experiencing a short-term emergency such as hospitalization or a long-term crisis such as drug abuse. Thanks to Safe Families, struggling parents do not have to lose their children to the child welfare system, and the children remain safe, loved and well cared for during a difficult time.

Safe Families is a new church-based movement designed to help families and children facing temporary crises and needing temporary care. The non-government program mobilizes local churches and their members to help reduce child abuse and returns the church to the forefront of caring for local children and families in need. Volunteer families (trained by Olive Crest) open their homes to at-risk children (newborn through 18 years old) whose parents are experiencing a short-term emergency such as hospitalization or a long-term crisis such as drug abuse. Thanks to Safe Families, struggling parents do not have to lose their children to the child welfare system, and the children remain safe, loved and well cared for during a difficult time.

Mariners Church – Irvine, Calvary Chapel – Santa Ana, Cornerstone Bible – Garden Grove, Terra Nova – Lake Forest, Long Beach Fellowship, Calvary Church Capistrano Beach, Yorba Linda Friends Church, and Shoreline Church – San Clemente are among the Southern California churches whose members are actively participating in our Safe Families program. Olive Crest has been able to place 32 children and have attracted more than 200 people who have expressed a willingness help. Olive Crest coordinates the program in Southern California, which continues to expand throughout the regions we serve, providing the training for the volunteer families and monitoring the placements on an ongoing basis.

To learn more, tune into CBS News on Tuesday, May 4.

For the Children,

Reading Time: 2 minutes

At the beginning of the year we set up some hypothetical portfolios. Rather than review them in individual detail, lets just look at some performance.

One S and P 500 index fund, symbol spy, was us up 25.48% for 2009.
Fortune Magazine picked 10 stocks for 2009.

Here is how it did:


Name Symbol Last price Mkt value Gain
Altria Group, Inc. MO 19.79 1290.476 289.1662
Annaly Capital Management, Inc. NLY 17.41 1082.293 82.293
Dell Inc. DELL 14.54 1388.325 388.3248
Devon Energy Corporation DVN 76.57 1107.645 107.645
Diamond Offshore Drilling, Inc. DO 101.17 1653.456 653.456
Fluor Corporation (NEW) FLR 46.01 993.5824 -6.4176
Johnson & Johnson JNJ 64.68 1065.986 65.9855
Medco Health Solutions Inc. MHS 65.11 1509.554 508.8442
Pfizer Inc. PFE 18.93 1016.821 16.821
Potash Corp./Saskatchewan (USA) POT 112.2 1466.92 466.92
Cash 397.26 12972.32

So we are 29.72 % which beats the S and P Fund by 4.24% which is impressive. Notice that half of the stocks beat the S and P and half did not. So you can see the risk.

This was the best of our portfolios. The bond weighting in the others pulled them down. International exposure was great.
Now we will see what 2010 will bring.
Reading Time: 13 minutes

Webconsuls Newsletter, Winter 2009, 4th Quarter

With the holidays upon us, we wanted to take a few minutes to wish all of our clients a happy and healthy New Year. This newsletter will take you down memory lane as Webconsuls turns 10 years old, spotlighting those clients who have been with us for those 10 years, welcoming new clients and sharing some milestones.

Webconsuls turns 10!

Dick and Dennis actually met at an ARCO Business Seminar in June 1981; however, their careers took them on different paths. It was not until October 1999 when Dick and Dennis met again and decided to form Webconsuls.

Dennis likes to recall how Webconsuls came to be…he was recently interviewed by http://www.arcoalumni.com/ and here is their article:

ARCO Alumni Dennis Helfand and Dick Fay built entirely new careers post ARCO. Their focus is to help commercial clients “generate new and/or additional revenues through web presence marketing.” Says Helfand, “We transitioned from a ‘hobby’ to a serious business enterprise very quickly. Webconsuls currently has about 90 clients across the US and a few based in Asia and Europe”.

Having been Director of Public Affairs and Field Operations, at ARCO, Helfand took the 1985 Early Retirement Package at ARCO Alaska, “my wife and I bought a 120-bed country inn resort in New Hampshire’s White Mountains National Forest area, which we operated from 1986 until 1997. In the mid 1990’s, while at the inn, I became interested in learning about marketing the property via the Internet and pursued this activity with great interest. When we sold the inn, we were already realizing quite a bit of revenue from internet-generated leads.”

After relocating to Newport Beach, CA, a number of my former NH-based competitors (friends nonetheless) contacted me to market their facilities over the internet. This became a sort of hobby, earning a few dollars here and there in the process. Then two serendipitous events occurred.

  1. An inn owner and close friend had been trying to sell his property through Realtors. There were very few prospects and not a single serious buyer. I suggested selling his property over the Internet for a “marketing fee.” This was in 1998 and I believe it may have been one of the first commercial property sales via the Internet. Best of all, my web marketing fee amounted to just about one percent of the total sales price!

2.  The second fortuitous event was meeting my former Crude Supply Manager for lunch in 1998. I asked him about Dick Fay (W. Richard Fay) from ARCO Transportation Company. He said Dick recently retired and was looking to do something new and interesting.

The rest is history. Webconsuls.com was established in 1999. We formed an LLC and got serious very quickly. On-Line courses and technical publications gave us new skill sets and we gradually acquired outside specialists to assist us as our business grew. My wife Judy, a business analyst in the information technology field joined Webconsuls in November 2006.

We have seen our business thrive and look forward to continued growth and new experiences.

Clients come and go…
Over the past 10 years Webconsuls’ team has had the privilege to work with over 300 clients in a variety of industries. Each client is unique and that is what makes web design, SEO and SMO so interesting and vital. Judy recently looked back to see which clients started with Webconsuls in the Fall of 1999 and of those which ones are still our clients. Interestingly enough, there are four! They are New Hampshire Campground Association, Motorcars East, Newport Channel Inn and Edna Deeb Law.

Here are some interesting facts from Webconsuls first business quarter: 22 clients, nine California clients, nine New Hampshire clients, four Connecticut clients, 31 invoices!

New Clients round out our base…
We are happy to introduce you to our newest clients and we invite you to check out their websites.

Celebrate a New Life **

Creative Care

Green Clean OC **

Hardline 830 **

Law Office of Carilyn Ibsen **

Promises Foundation

Rockport Inn & Suites

Snap Out of It Now

Surfing Heritage Foundation **

We are also working on either new sites or redesigns for

Savoir Faire Language Institute

Forrest General Healthcare Foundation

Executive Maintenance

Wallace Physical Therapy

Law Office of Salvatore Ciulla

The Internet Grows and Evolves

Dick Fay remembers how when they first started in 2000 Webconsuls could make some small changes to a site and viola! the site would be on the first page of Alta Vista. The number of competitors to most sites was measured in the hundreds, pay per click was in its infancy with something called Overture, Google was an upstart, and no one had heard of Social Marketing. Potential clients were trying to decide if they “needed” a web site. Websites themselves were usually static and straightforward.

Now some clients face thousands or millions of competitors for key terms, Google has about 70% of the search engine marketplace, pay per click is huge and requires expert management to be successful. Clients are deciding when to redesign their web site to keep it up to date with the available technology. Facebook, Twitter, blogs and video are staples of many successful businesses whose owners work hand in hand with Webconsuls to grow their business.

Webconsuls Grows and Evolves

Webconsuls has also grown and evolved over the last 10 years. We have added a third partner, Judy Helfand. The entire team keeps up with the latest in Search Engine Optimization. We have added specialists in web design, pay per click, social media, and link building. We have redesigned our web site several times to reflect our growing business. We have added a blog and links to news feeds on Search Engine Marketing and Social Media. Check them out:

Search Engine Optimization

Social Media Optimization

You can also follow us on Twitter

Let us know if you have a twitter account and would like us to follow you.

Webconsuls’ Team News…

As most of you know Malik Moosa-Soomar, our web development specialist and designer, was married to Zaheen Allibhoy on April 11, 2009. Dennis, Judy, Dick and Fran were happy to attend their wedding celebration in Austin, TX. Speaking of weddings, Dick and Fran were married February 20, 2009. Keith Hansen, our pay-per-click specialist, and his wife, Diana, welcomed a baby boy, Layne, on April 26, 2009.

We are happy to welcome Alycia Kaczuwka as our new Social Media expert. Alycia is working with our clients focusing on brand-building using tools like blogs/RSS, Facebook, Twitter and social bookmarking. She brings her extensive background in audience development and website design to social tools to keep the SMO process in focus as an integrated part of a web-based marketing plan. In addition, Alycia has a comprehensive background in web analytics using Google Analytics and Omniture to measure campaign performance and return on investment.

Happy Holidays

This year rather than send a small gift to our clients we are making donations to the following:

Olive Crest Homes and Services for Abused Children
Since 1973, Olive Crest has transformed the lives of over 50,000 abused, neglected, and at-risk children and their families.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Midcoast Maine
The vision of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Midcoast Maine is successful mentoring relationships for youth in Knox, Lincoln and Waldo Counties, contributing to better schools, stronger communities and brighter future.

The Promises Foundation Miriam’s House
The Promises Foundation is committed to restoring hope for families by creating a safe environment for mothers and their children to grow and develop the tools they require to live meaningful and self-sufficient lives.


Dick, Dennis and Judy

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Most of us have used the opinions of strangers to guide us. Maybe we crossed a movie off a list because we saw a bad review on television or went to a new restaurant based on a review we read in the newspaper. The Internet lets us all be reviewers and almost anything can be reviewed. You can rate books on amazon.com, local businesses on yelp.com and DUI attorneys at gotdui.com. And you can use those sites, and countless others to help you chose a book, a restaurant, or a lawyer.

Of course, any review is subjective. For example, The Lost Symbol, Dan Brown’s latest book, has over 1400 reviews, almost 500 of which are positive and about 650 are negative. Also, the quality of service at any business can vary. So before trusting a review, read carefully.

If you own a business, you need to understand that your next customer might review his or her experience on the Internet. Just as bad reviews in the New York press can doom a Broadway show, then a bad report can seriously hurt a business.

How do you combat the bad reviews? The first thing to do is to try to not get them. Be on top of game as much as possible. If you see that a customer is dissatisfied, try to find out why and do something to satisfy them. Be honest in your advertising so that customers don’t expect one thing and get another.

The second thing is to try to get good reviews. Encourage your satisfied customers. Publicize your good reviews and their sources.

Here are ten other things you should consider.

Reading Time: 5 minutes

About six weeks ago I broke down and got an iPhone – a 3GS no less. I moved up, way up, from a razor cellphone.

I think the iPhone is about the coolest thing. When I was on vacation I was connected to news, weather, sports, and email without TV or computer. After I made a wrong turn I typed in the name of the restaurant I was seeking and the abbreviation for the state and got directions from my current location. I have an app that tells me about LA traffic and another about speed traps. It keeps my contacts and calendar in sync with my gmail account. I took a picture at the Dodgers and emailed it to friends and relatives.

With apps the iPhone can get constantly more powerful, easier to use, and more fun. I just bought an app that gives grill recipes, shopping lists, and video tips. So my iPhone should get better and better.

However it is not perfect. Here are some areas for improvement.

1. Better phone coverage. The iPhone locks you in to AT and T. I don’t get service at my home in California, nor does my daughter in Pennsylvania. One complaint that I hear pretty regularly is that the worst thing about the iPhone is the phone.

2. Having birthdays in my contacts appear on my calendar. Evidently you can do this with a mac but I am in XP land. I know I can buy an app that lists birthdays or something but I want them to show on my calendar. I have found a free birthday app that seems to work fine but it does not put the birthdays on the calendar.

3. A way to test apps. There may be a zillion apps. There also seem to be about a million sites that rate apps. And the ratings and comments can be all over the map.
While apps are generally inexpensive how will I know if my experience will be “Love this app” or “Complete waste of time.” Why now allow a free download for a week and then disable the app if not purchased?

4. A better battery. Maybe this as good as it gets with batteries. I know I can buy something to extend the life. Hopefully future iPhone will have better batteries.

5. Linkage between the calendar and maps. If I pull up a name using the contact app and touch the address then I see the address on the map app and can get directions. However if I go to the calendar app, find a meeting, and touch the address I get nothing. I would think it would be easy to get the location of the meeting on the map app.

What ideas do you have for iPhone improvement?

I hope to add my list in future posts.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Google has released a change that could have a major effect on how people search and what web pages they eventually visit.

The new feature is call Google Search Options. It gives searchers the opportunity to easily find videos, forums, or reviews about the topic they were searching. In addition there is something called the “Wonder Wheel” that a searcher can use to find additional related keywords and sites.

Rather than try and explain it, go to www.google.com and do a search on a product or service that interests you. Then click on the link towards the top and below the word Google that says “Show Options.” Now try the links on left to videos, forums, reviws, go towards the bottom and click on Wonder Wheel. Try it out.

While it is a little soon to know the effect of the search options it would seem that video, forum, and reviews will take on added importance as will optimizing for the “long tail.”

Above watch this short view video from Google. The most important thing is to try it yourself.

How will you be searching tomorrow?

Reading Time: 2 minutes

April was another good month for the stock market and for our portfolios. At the end of April we were still down for the year, but coming back.

Our portfolio modeled after the Fortune 500 closed the month at $9701, a gain of $674 for the month of April. The low risk portfolio closed at $9856.52, a gain of about $429. the medium risk portfolio gained $590 to close the month at $9886.75. Lastly our monthly rebalancing closed at $9854.53, a gain of $465, so we will be selling some shares to keep at our 50/50 balance.

May is off to a great start for the market. Of course there is no guarantee that we will not see a retrenchment soon. While I am cautiously optimistic that we have seen the worse of this cycle, I also think that the future will be very different from the recent past for the economy. The economy of the early 2000’s was overheated with a inflated demand for housing and considerable overspending by the American consumer. I don’t think those conditions will return in the near future.

Reading Time: 5 minutes

One area that had rising real estate prices in 2008 was Bangor Maine where the median price of a single family home actually rose by 7%.

The folks at eradawson.com have provided information on single family homes in the Bangor area and helpful information for first time home buyers.

A little history puts things in perspective.
Who can remember back to 1988? It was a good year. October 16th saw the highest weekly gain in the Dow Jones Industrial Average of 517 points and a year end close of 8416. The Federal Reserve Interest Rate was 8.25% and peace finally came to Northern Ireland. The US announced its first budget surplus in 30 years and Bill Clinton survived Impeachment.

In 1998 a gallon of gas averaged $1.03 a gallon, and the Median Single Family Home Price in the Greater Bangor Area was $69,450.00!

A lot has happen in ten years! During that time local realtors have sold 9,514 Single Family homes in the Greater Bangor Area and the CPI (Consumer Price Index) has grown about 50%.

Today, adjusted for inflation, gasoline is about the same price it was in 1998, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is off compared to its 1998 level – a lot, and the Median Single Family Home Price has RISEN by over 62% to $149,650!

Year end 2008 home price numbers for the Area that are even more compelling show that over the past 12 months, in what has been, nationally, a very serious housing slump, the Median Price for a Bangor Area home has RISEN BY 7%! Local home ownership has been a great investment over the decade showing a COMPOUND ANNUAL RATE OF RETURN OF over 6.2%!

We think that as the economy turns local real estate prices will continue to rise and urge those thinking about home ownership to get sound financial advice, meet with their lender to find out how much house they can afford, and find a REALTOR to represent them as a Buyer Agent.

Most first time home buyers in 2008 purchased homes in the $100,000 to$150,000 price range.

In Bangor and Brewer and surrounding towns (Glenburn, Hampden, Hermon, Holden, Old Town, Orono, Orrington and Veazie) 251 homes sold in this affordable price range.
In 2007 the average sale price of these homes was $126,500 and over the past year rose to $127,350.

This is a clear indication that, in the affordable price range, home values remain very stable, in spite of declines of home prices elsewhere. It is also an indication of the strength of the Bangor area market economy and should give home buyers confidence in real estate as a solid investment.

If you are considering buying real estate,  take advantage of low interest rates and reasonable prices early in the year while demand is relatively low and position yourselves, with financing in place, to find the home of your dreams! Contact an agent today.

Reading Time: 6 minutes

I am not a physician and you should consult your physician about any medical decisions that you make.

The handling of prostate cancer is a confusing area of medicine for many men.
Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers in men. It will affect about 1 in 6 men. In the US in 2008 there were about 185,000 new cases diagnosed and about 29000 deaths.

The diagnosis of prostate starts with two simple and inexpensive tests, a digital rectum exam or DRE test and a PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) blood test. Generally the PSA test will indicate the possibility of cancer before the DRE test. Neither test definitely identifies prostate cancer, for that a biopsy is required, which is a more expensive and more involved procedure. If cancer is found, treatment options include surgery to remove the prostate and radiation. Both are major procedures and can result in complications. With surgery, if the cancer is confined to the prostate and if the surgery removes all of the prostate material, then the patient should not have to worry about prostate cancer again. A third option is called “watchful waiting” which involves doing nothing major but following up with regular exams to monitor the spread of the cancer and perhaps changes in diet and taking supplements.

On one hand you might think, have the tests annually and if a biopsy is indicated, have it, and if cancer is found, treat it. Seems simple enough. Many men follow that path. However prostate cancer can be very slow growing so many or most of these men were treated for something that will never affect them.

There were some recent studies published on the PSA test. In the US study 77000 men were split into two groups, one got the PSA test and the other did not. While more cancers were found and treated in the first group, the men in that group did not live longer. A European study found it took screening 1,410 men and to treating 48 to prevent one death.

Prostate cancer is usually slow growing. However it can be aggressive. And there does not seem to be a way to identify the aggressive cancers.

I think that right now there are no right or wrong answers. The choice you make depends on your physical and psychological make up. If you are elderly or have an expected short life expentency, why be tested at all. I have a friend who is a retired medical doctor with diabetes. His view is that the diabetes will get him before the cancer, so he is not tested.

You might chose to forego the PSA test. Based on the European study that would mean that 1410 men would be spared a biopsy, and 47 would avoid treatment. However one would die. If you can live with yourself taking the chance, why not? Of course, many can not.

If you are found to have cancer, them maybe “watchful waiting” should be given more serious consdideration. I have a friend who has been “watching” for 8 years or so and he is doing fine. However, if you are “waiting” and the cancer gets out of the prostate then you face much more difficult treatment and perhaps death.

In my opinion the one thing that is clear is that a man should not panic if his PSA indicates the need for a biopsy nor should he panic if the biopsy says prostate cancer. Time is clearly not the enemy and he should gather as much information as he can about his situation before making a treatment decision.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

There is an old joke (and kind of sick joke) that defines a recession as when your neighbor loses his job and a depression as when you lose your job.

In my area of Southern California housing prices are down but certainly not as steep as in other areas of the region. Many people that I talk to say that there business is off but that they are holding it together. Some see a small upturn recently.

Last weekend we were in Austin, Texas for Malik and Zaheen’s wedding. There is considerable construction in downtown Austin and much of it seemed to be apartment buildings. A local businessman that we met said his March 2009 was better than his March 2008. Austin is home to the University of Texas and is the state capital. One would expect that large university towns and seats of government are less impacted by economic cycles (good and bad) than areas with a strictly industrial base. Austin, of course, also has some industry and considerable high tech, the home of Dell for example.

What is it like where you live? Is there a recession or a depression in your area? Do you see an economy that is really down or one that is just somewhat off? Any signs of recovery in your area?

Reading Time: 2 minutes

On February 26, 2009, our team member, Malik Moosa-Soomar, wrote about the traditions of an Indian / Pakistani wedding. Well, this is the big week for Malik and Zaheen. Their April Wedding in Austin!

Yesterday April 10, 2009, Dick and Francene Fay and Dennis and I were honored to be invited to day two of Malik and Zaheen’s wedding celebration. Day two is the Pithi and Sangeet event.

Enjoy the photo of Malik and Zaheen taken last evening.

I would write more today, but I am having computer problems. Tonight we will be attending the day three of the celebration wedding dinner and reception.

“There is no long distance about love, it always finds a way to bring hearts together no matter how many miles there are between them.”

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Well we finally had a month when the major averages moved up. And that is no April Fools joke!

Here is how we did.

Our portfolio of 10 stocks from Fortune Magazine gained $269 and now has a value of $9027.

Name Symbol Last price Change Shares Cost basis Mkt value
Altria Group, Inc. MO 16.02 -0.36 65.74 1001.31 1053.11
Annaly Capital Management, Inc. NLY 13.87 0.41 62.38 1000 865.24
Dell Inc. DELL 9.48 -0.01 96.68 1000 916.52
Devon Energy Corporation DVN 44.69 0.07 15.07 1000 673.31
Diamond Offshore Drilling, Inc. DO 62.86 -2.96 16.8 1000 1055.84
Fluor Corporation (NEW) FLR 34.55 -0.28 22.06 1000 762.3
Johnson & Johnson JNJ 52.6 -0.41 16.55 1000 870.37
Medco Health Solutions Inc. MHS 41.34 1.74 23.62 1000.71 976.54
Pfizer Inc. PFE 13.62 -0.08 55.9 1000 761.37
Potash Corp./Saskatchewan (USA) POT 80.81 -0.98 13.52 1000 1092.62
Cash -2.02 -2.02
Total 9027.22

Our low risk portfolio gained $285 and looks like this:

Name Symbol Last price Change Shares Cost basis Mkt value
Schwab Total Stock Market Index Inv SWTIX 14.02 0.19 181.52 2800 2544.94
Schwab International Index Inv SWINX 11.21 0.27 90.43 1200 1013.67
Schwab Total Bond Market SWLBX 8.75 0.02 670.77 6000 5869.26
Cash 0 0

Our medium risk portfolio gained $360. Portfolio looks like this:

Name Symbol Last price Change Shares Cost basis Mkt value
Vanguard Total Bond Market Index VBMFX 10.1 0.01 390.79 4000 3947.01
Vanguard Total Intl Stock Index VGTSX 9.39 0.22 167.6 1800 1573.79
Vanguard Total Stock Mkt Idx VTSMX 19.32 0.25 195.43 4200 3775.69
Cash 0 0

Our rebalancing act gained $320 and looks like:

Name Symbol Last price Change Shares Cost basis Mkt value
iShares S&P 500 Index (ETF) IVV 79.62 0.63 61.1 5476.05 4864.74
Cash 4523.94 4523.94

We then rebalace by selling some 2.14 etf shares:

Name Symbol Last price Change Shares Cost basis Mkt value
iShares S&P 500 Index (ETF) IVV 79.62 0.63 58.96 5282.4 4694.35
Cash 4684.33 4684.33

Hopefully we have some good months ahead.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

I am lucky. I live in Southern California near the beach. I have a pool at my home. My golf club has a fitness center. So the weather is good almost all of the time, I have great exercise equipment convenient to me.

Right now I am using an elliptical cross trainer for 30 minutes and then weight machines for 15 minutes, trying to vary the weights from legs one day to arms the next. I am just starting with the weight routine and am sure I will be adjusting it.

I understand that everyone is not so fortunate. Weather is bad, fitness clubs are expensive, money is tight, maybe you are travelling much of the time.

There is something you can try, star jumps or burpees. As always, check with your doctor before you start.

Good Luck!