Ryan Welton

Sports + Digital + Music + Life

Category Archives: Uncategorized

How to Play Kenny Rogers’ classic hit, “Lady”

0

Kenny Rogers has had many hits, but this is arguably his most beautiful song. It was written by the great Lionel Richie, and it’s super easy to play. It starts with Dm.

That’s D minor. The chord progression is Dm, Gm9/D, C/D — so you’re basically going from D minor to G minor to C with the D in the right hand. Mind you, watch my right hand as I’m playing the intro. You’re not playing a straight Gm triad in the right hand. You’re playing a Bb, D and an A in the right hand — a Gm9 (G, Bb, D, F, A) You’ll just leave out the G and F.

The first chorus is a pretty straight ahead Gm7, Am7, BbM7, Am7, Dsus

After two verses and choruses, you glissando up and down the piano and hit the BIG BIG chorus where Kenny sings, “LADYYYYYYY” — and that’s BbM7, C/Bb, F, C/E, Dm7, F/C and repeat until you get to the end.

One of the best pieces of advice I ever heard from Kenny Rogers came on an episode of ‘American Idol’ a whole bunch of years ago: Play the notes and sing the lyrics, but emote the words. Pay attention to the story as you’re singing / playing.

SING ALONG! Here are the lyrics to “Lady” by Kenny Rogers

Lady, I’m your knight in shining armor and I love you
You have made me what I am and I am yours
My love, there’s so many ways I want to say “I love you”
Let me hold you in my arms forever more
You have gone and made me such a fool
I’m so lost in your love
And oh, we belong together
Won’t you believe in my song?
Lady, for so many years I thought I’d never find you
You have come into my life and made me whole
Forever, let me wake to see you each and every morning
Let me hear you whisper softly in my ear
In my eyes, I see no one else but you
There’s no other love like our love
And yes, oh yes, I’ll always want you near me
I’ve waited for you for so long
Lady, your love’s the only love I need
And beside me is where I want you to be
‘Cause, my love, there’s somethin’ I want you to know
You’re the love of my life, you’re my lady

4 predictions for Celebrity Big Brother (U.S), including who’ll win

0

So, in a blog last week, I took a guess at the incoming Celebrity Big Brother house guests and whiffed gloriously. I didn’t get a one right, and you know what? Neither did anybody else.

celebrity-big-brother

All the gossip blogs and entertainment sites were off. Way off.

The executives with and representatives for Big Brother U.S. played down the level of celebrity that would participate in this first-ever States-side edition of the Celebrity Big Brother franchise — and they were right to do so because they have smashed expectations. This is a much better cast than I had anticipated.

We’ve got Omarosa Manigault because, of course. Recently departed from the Trump White House, she’s free to be who she was always meant to be, the master reality show villain. There is nobody better at playing badly with others than Omarosa, and if I’m the other houseguests, she’s an early target.

There’s Shannon Elizabeth from “American Pie” fame. There’s Real Housewives’ Brandi Glanville. There’s Ariadna Gutierrez, the victim of Steve Harvey’s infamous Miss Universe mistake a couple of years ago. She was Miss Universe for a very short reign.

Marissa Jaret Winkour of “Hairspray” fame will enter the Big Brother house as will Keshia Knight Pulliam, Rudy from “The Cosby Show.” I can’t wait to hear what she has to say about her former TV dad. For real.

James Maslow from “Big Time Rush” will enter the house after a run on “Dancing With the Stars,” a show from which many house guests graduated. A bunch also did their time on Celebrity Apprentice, including former Sugar Ray lead singer Mark McGrath.

Ron Artest will join the cast. You know him better as Metta World Peace, former NBA player. I hesitate to say NBA star. He was only borderline great even at the peak of his career.

And then we have MMA legend Chuck Liddell and former Tonight Show correspondent Ross Matthews. One did “Dancing With the Stars” and the other was a judge on RuPaul’s “Drag Race.” I’ll let you guess which one was on what show. The answer might surprise you!

Kidding.

This initial Celebrity Big Brother (U.S.) cast has plenty of personality. As Julie Chen was quoted on Monday, “Omarosa likes to be heard.”

You think?

You’d think guys like Chuck Liddell and Metta World Peace would have an advantage in endurance competitions, but let’s get real: Pretty much everybody in this cast is in shape.

Truth is: I have no idea what’s going to happen on this very short season of Big Brother. Heck, my prognostication can’t be any worse than it was when I tried to guess the house guests, right? However, I have four predictions for you:

1. Omarosa will be the first to be evicted. She’s a target on Day 1. Surely, somebody can wrangle together an alliance to make her an easy evictee, that is, unless there is some funky competition to start the show that takes the first eviction out of the hands of fellow house guests.

2. Keshia Knight Pulliam will be a polarizing contestant. What she says about her TV father, Bill Cosby, could alienate the entire house fast. She’s been one of his most vocal defenders, and I think in the wake of #MeToo ad #TimesUp and with plenty of other women in the house, she’s not going to be popular.

3. The “unlikeliest best friends” award will go to Chuck Liddell and Ross Matthews. It’s just a hunch. Both are very likeable, and opposites often attract whether it be in relationships or friendships.

4. The winner of Celebrity Big Brother (U.S.) will be Chuck Liddell. I think he’s smart to go along with his physicality, and I’d have to think as an MMA fighter, he’s mentally tough. That’s what Big Brother requires more than anything else: resilience.

I’ll be posting blogs about Big Brother throughout the duration of the season, and I’ll record a few videos as well on my YouTube channel: youtube.com/RyanWeltonMusic.

Who do you think will win this first season of Celebrity Big Brother (U.S)?

 

Smooth grooves: Your 2018 yacht rock concert calendar

0

As is the name of my blog, “Yacht Rock & Me,” I am an aficionado, fan and practitioner of all things yacht rock. The least I could do is make my site a resource for other yacht rock fans.

So, I’ve created this concert calendar. I’ll work to update it and improve it throughout the year. If there is a singer or band you’d like me to add to this list, I’d be happy to do so. Message me at ryanwelton@gmail.com.

Michael McDonald
February 7: Tarrytown, NY
February 9: Charles Town, WV
February 10: Brookeville, NY
February 12: Rocky Mount, VA
February 14: Tallahassee, FL
February 16: Daytona Beach, FL
February 17: Sarasota, FL
February 18: Fort Myers, FL
February 20: Gainesville, FL
February 22: Cleveland, MS
February 23: Biloxi, MS
February 25: Birmingham, AL
February 27: Jacksonville, FL
February 28: Key West, FL
March 3: Fort Pierce, FL
March 4: Fort Lauderdale, FL
March 5: Fort Lauderdale, FL
March 11: Dublin, Ireland
March 12: Manchester, UK
March 13: Birmingham, UK
March 15: London, UK
March 17: Randers, Denmark
March 18: Copenhagen, Denmark
March 20: Zurich, Switzerland
March 21: Paris, France
March 22: Amsterdam, Netherlands
March 24: Staten Island, NY

Christopher Cross
February 16: Costa Mesa, CA
February 17: Costa Mesa, CA
February 23: Fort Collins, CO
February 25: Parker, CO
March 3: Miami, FL
March 7: New Orleans, LA
March 29: Kansas City, MO
March 30: Cincinnati, OH
March 31: Chicago, IL
April 2: Warrendale, PA
April 4: Wilkes-Barre, PA
April 5: Peekskill, NY
April 6: New York, NY
April 7: Uncasville, CT
April 8: Patchogue, NY
April 9: Wilmington, DE
April 10: Annapolis, MD
April 11: Alexandria, VA
April 13: Phoenixville, PA
April 15: Nashville, TN
April 16: Atlanta, GA
April 19: Fort Myers, FL
April 20: Clearwater, FL
July 15: El Cajon, CA

Steely Dan
May 10: Charlotte, NC
May 11: Raleigh, NC
May 13: Jacksonville, FL
May 14: Tampa, FL
May 17: West Palm Beach, FL
May 19: Alpharetta, GA
May 20: Nashville, TN
May 22: New Orleans, LA
May 24: Sugar Land, TX
May 27: Del Valle, TX
May 30: Inglewood, CA
June 1: Mountain View, CA
June 4: Portland, OR
June 5: Seattle, WA
June 7: Spokane, WA
June 9: Boise, ID
June 10: Salt Lake City, UT
June 12: Denver, CO
June 15: Saint Paul, MN
June 16: Madison, WI
June 18: Kansas City, MO
June 19: Maryland Heights, MO
June 21: Tinley Park, IL
June 23: Cuyahoga Falls, OH
June 24: Noblesville, IN
June 26: Clarkston, MI
June 27: Cincinnati, OH
June 30: Saratoga Springs, NY
July 2: Toronto, ON CA
July 3: Syracuse, NY
July 6: Holmdel, NJ
July 7: Mansfield, MA
July 10: Bristow, VA
July 11: Camden, NJ
July 13: Gilford, NH
July 14: Bethel, NY

Boz Scaggs
March 31: Brooks, CA
April 3: Redwood, CA
April 5: Napa, CA
April 6: Napa, CA
April 7: Palm Desert, CA

Robbie Dupree
None scheduled

Ambrosia
January 19: Tucson, AZ
January 21: Goodyear, AZ
January 21: Goodyear, AZ
January 23: Surprise, AZ
January 24: Sun City, AZ
January 26: Las Vegas, NV
February 1: New York, NY
February 2: Atlantic City, NJ
February 23: San Juan Capistrano, CA
February 24: Santa Clarita, CA
March 25: Altamonte Spring, FL
April 6: Boca Raton, FL

Rupert Holmes
None scheduled

Toto
February 11: Helsinki, Finland
February 12: Tallinn, Estonia
February 14: Stockholm, Sweden
February 16: Oslo, Norway
February 17: Copenhagen, Denmark
February 19: Hamburg, Germany
February 21: Dusseldorf, Germany
February 22: Munchen, Germany
February 24: Berlin, Germany
February 25: Leipzig, Germany
February 27: Prague, Czech Republic
February 28: Krakow, Poland
March 2: Wien, Austria
March 4: Sofia, Bulgaria
March 5: Skopje, Macedonia
March 9: Zagreb, Croatia
March 10: Milan, Italy
March 12: Zurich, Switzerland
March 13: Stuttgart, Germany
March 15: Lille, France
March 17: Amsterdam, Netherlands
March 18: Brussels, Belgium
March 20: Offenbach am Main, Germany
March 22: Geneva, Switzerland
March 23: Casalecchio di Reno – Bologna, Italy
March 25: Marseille, France
March 26: Toulouse, France
March 27: Lyon, France
March 29: Esch-Alzette, Luxembourg
March 30: Boulogne-Billancourt, France
April 1: London, UK
April 2: Manchesterm UK
April 4: Dublin, Ireland
April 5: Dublin, Ireland
April 7: Belfast, UK
April 8: Glasgow, UK

Kenny Loggins
February 3: Santa Barbara, CA

Player
No dates

Jay Ferguson
No dates

Orleans
February 2: Atlantic City, NJ
February 16: Las Vegas, NV
March 9: Bay Shore, NY
March 10: Woonsocket, RI
April 11: Pigeon Forge, TN
April 12: Pigeon Forge, TN
April 13: Pigeon Forge, TN
April 14: Pigeon Forge, TN
April 26: Pigeon Forge, TN

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 things I learned as a YouTube creator in 2017

0

Toward the end of 2016, I realized with regret that I had allowed a ton of momentum on YouTube to slip by. Between 2006 and 2016, I built an audience of 590 or so fans only to stop creating. I know: 590 isn’t that much in the world of YouTube, but the way I always looked at it, it’s 590 more than zero.

My resolution was to get back in the YouTube game in 2017.

Since my decision to become a YouTube creator once again and to be a student of all-things YouTube, I’ve created 69 videos for the platform including 64 in 2017 proper. Most of the videos are original songs and covers although I dabbled with driving videos and ASMR sort of. I’ll do a full blog explaining ASMR sometime. If you know what it is, then I suspect you’re a fan of those videos. If not, it’s a little hard to explain in just one sentence.

I’ve picked up 92 subscribers this year, but it’s been a struggle to gain subscriber momentum. The best I can tell, even with focused SEO and tagging work on your videos, there isn’t much organic reach to be had on YouTube. I’m not talking engagement; I’m talking reach. I’ve even spent some money to promote videos this year, and I’ve found AdWords to be frustrating compared to Facebook’s ads system. I’m not sure I even recommend it. The competition on YouTube is tougher than ever, making it as close to impossible as it’s ever been to break through.

And yet the process of being a YouTube creator is still damned fun. I’m in the game, in the mix. I’m creating and learning.

youtube-stats-2017

I created 64 videos and earned 35,672 views this year. There are companies that haven’t managed to get 35,672 views this year. I added 92 subscribers, and I made $17.79, which I won’t see unless I make another $82.21. Google disburses after $100.

Sure, YouTube is very much only a hobby for me at youtube.com/RyanWeltonMusic please subscribe please subscribe please…you know. Ahem. My apologies; I get carried away. I always do. YouTube is a hobby for me, but I’ve learned a ton about digital content creation, audience development, SEO and using other platforms to funnel into YouTube.

I have not mastered YouTube, not close — but every week I get a little better at it. So, I wanted to share with you what I learned about YouTube in 2017. Maybe you’ll find one or two helpful tidbits in here.

1. The competition on YouTube is only getting more fierce by the day. If you’re not OK with only doing YouTube for fun, it’s going to disappoint.

When I started in 2006, it only took a mention from The Boring Dispatcher (R.I.P.) to get me my first subscribers. I need to do a blog post on The Boring Dispatcher sometime. He was a trip. His direct message to me was literally, “Holy shit. You should have subscribers.” He mentioned me in a video somewhere, and suddenly I had subscribers. It was my first time experiencing the benefits of influencer marketing.

Today, you have to stand out to be among the elite on YouTube.

Your talent has to be world class.

Your videos have to be top notch.

Your content has to be useful or entertaining.

However, you don’t have to be any of those things to have a go at it on YouTube. Not at all. In fact, I like to tell people that perfection is the enemy of progress. Create a channel. Shoot video. Go, and see what happens.

But if you’re interested in growing a significant audience at some point, however you define that, you’re going to have to hyper-focus on talent, video quality and creating useful, informative, entertaining content. That’s the stage I’m in: trying to improve my YouTube game.

2. Lighting and audio quality matter, and it doesn’t cost a fortune.

In 2006, I used a pocket camera that I bought at Target, a contraption with a USB connector that popped out of it. Then I bought a Sony Handycam and used that for the next 10 years, shooting always in available light. Then in 2017, with my iPhone 7 in hand, I bought a lighting system for $52 on Amazon at the recommendation of my friend Rob, who among many talents holds lighting expertise among them. I thought I was going to have to spend $1,000 for a good lighting system.

Nope. I spent $52, and my lighting system is bad ass. It pays to have smart friends.

img_4570

The basics of a lighting system are pretty simple: a key light, a fill light and a back light. Apparently, that’s the construct for good lighting everywhere, those three lights. They even call it three-point lighting. Those of you who are more frugal than I could probably make this happen with lights you have sitting around at home. My office is now a YouTube studio. I don’t even have room to walk through it, and I’m totally fine with that.

As far as the audio, I have a mixer, and I have lavalier mics, and I even have a little gadget my YouTube friend, Ric, sent to me. I haven’t made time to use it yet although it’s among my next goals on YouTube. The reason improved lighting and audio are important is simple: because the competition is better than ever before. I’ve improved my lighting, and now I need to improve my audio — and little things, at scale, are a big damn deal. By the way, that’s just a nugget of life wisdom right there.

Even if we’re not super talented YouTubers, the least we could do is get a little bit better at creating competent video.

3. Google AdWords might be a waste of time if you produce niche content and need to reach a narrow audience.

google-adwords-207

This year, I spent $133 on video ads for a total of 88,500 impressions and 103 clicks. That’s a cost-per-click of $1.30. What made AdWords ultimately unsatisfying is that, unlike Facebook ads, there’s no way to hyper-target your YouTube promotions. I do smooth jazz and yacht rock, essentially a type of blue-eyed soul from the late 70s and early 80s. My best targeting option in Google AdWords is to go after music fans in the United States and Canada. On Facebook, I could target people who are fans of yacht rock, music fans who “like” Daryl Hall, etc. I could get super specific.

If anything, my lack of success with Google AdWords served only to discourage me because the views I got didn’t result in engagement or subscriptions.

4. A great thumbnail can be the key that opens the door, and you don’t have to be a graphic artist.

thumbnail-example

Link to video: “Step To It” by Ryan Welton & Chris Hicks

If you’re not taking the time to create a strong thumbnail for each of your videos, one that looks good and has a direct, compelling call to action, you’re missing out on a key opportunity to attract views and possible subscribers. In the last month, I’ve subscribed to something called TubeBuddy, a browser extension that works on top of YouTube. Among all the things it does, TubeBuddy helps creators come up with good-looking thumbnails on the fly.

tube-buddy-backend

TubeBuddy is also great for suggesting tags to use on each of your videos for SEO purposes. Another benefit of TubeBuddy is that you can do all sorts of keyword research, work that can help you decide what kind of videos to create in 2018. Despite the fact that I’d love to get a million subscribers doing nothing but yacht rock and becoming the next Michael McDonald, that’s not likely going to happen because the demand isn’t there for it — and TubeBuddy can help clue you in to where the demand actually is so that you can create videos that provide supply to demand.

The free market is the free market.

However, in the short time I’ve used TubeBuddy, I’ve actually lost subscribers, and my daily video viewership is down. On the average, I had been getting upwards of 100 views per day earlier this year. Right now, I’m down to 30-40 per day.

The jury is out on TubeBuddy for me in terms of building audience. We’ll see. Where TubeBuddy might be really useful is in driving me toward other types of content creation, ones that drive more traffic.

5. Spending time as a consumer, networking within the YouTube community is everything — and I suck at it.

One proven growth tactic I have done woefully little of on YouTube is in becoming a true, genuine part of the YouTube community as a consumer. Commenting on other posts. Collaborating with other creators. That has to be my No. 1 YouTube goal for 2018. Based on everything I’ve heard from knowledgeable folks like Gary Vaynerchuk and Dusty Porter on the YouTube Creators Hub podcast, which you should be listening to, going beyond posting videos is a vital part of any YouTube strategy.

In 2018, I’m likely to experiment with different types of content, focusing on improving my lighting, my audio, my editing, all of it. Combine that with a genuine effort to dive into the community head-first, and 2018 could be a move-the-needle year on YouTube. Even if it isn’t, I’ll be back here next year to tell you what I learned.

You can find me at youtube.com/RyanWeltonMusic

 

 

 

3 beers, 3 books: What I’m drinking and reading these days

1

There’s nothing better than a cold beer and a good book, so I thought I’d write a blog post about both. I’ll call it three beers and three books.

I mostly stay in my lane as far as beers go. I like Sam Adams, Bass, Newcastle, Moose Drool and Guinness Draught. Those are my go-tos. During the summer, I would add Pacifico, Yuengling, Stella Artois, Shiner Ruby Redbird and Leinenkugel’s Weiss beers to the mix. That routine can get old, however.

So, periodically, I go to the aisle where you can buy single beers, and then I start picking freely. I force myself to get out of my comfort zone a little, and that can result in some serendipitous finds. Here are three I’ve tried recently:

1. Willy Vanilly from the Alpine Beer Company. I love vanilla, so I figured I’d probably love this — and I do like it. It was a bit sweet for my beer taste, but it’s as close to a truly excellent vanilla beer as I’ve tasted. I remember it being mildly carbonated with a nice collar.

IMG_2226

Score: 7 out of 10

Would I buy it again? I liked it but didn’t immediately fall in love with it. I wouldn’t turn it down if offered to me but probably wouldn’t pursue it otherwise.

2. Redhook Blackhook Porter. I prefer dark beers with hints of coffee, chocolate, maple and, heck, if they made it, bacon. I like beers that keep you warm and that pair well with a Miles Davis record. That’s about as metaphorical as I get writing about beer. However, in the spirit of something more like a Guinness, an Irish dry stout, or a Moose Drool, which is a brown ale, the Redhook Blackhook maintains its own very well. The one noticable difference — and I consider it an upgrade — is the hint of coffee when sipping. Really nice.

IMG_2267

Score: 10 out of 10. Terrific.

Would I buy it again? Definitely. This beer has a chance to make the rotation, especially when summer turns to fall, which in Oklahoma is December. Kidding aside, I really liked the Redhook Blackhook Porter, and it symbolizes the reason why I force myself to try new beers: It’s the best way to stumble upon something terrific.

3. Rahr & Sons USS Fort Worth – American Session Ale. This beer was way out of my comfort zone. First of all, it was in a can, which means it’s automatically something I’d pass on normally. However, the design on the can was so over-the-top that I was intrigued by what this beer could be, and for me, it was a tale of two halves.

At first, the beer was off-putting like a much-to-hoppy IPA. Other beer critics refer to its citrus flavor, and I got that as well midway through. By the end of the pour, I had rather grown to like it. It was better in the second half than the first.

IMG_2322

Score: 7.5 out of 10

Would I buy it again? I might. This is more of a ‘hot day’ on the front porch after mowing the lawn sort of beer. However, the can’s design is kind of awesome, and I’m intrigued by drinking something named for a battleship with the motto “Grit and Tenacity” atop the can. And I like Texas, especially Cowtown.

That takes care of the beers. So, what about the books? I’ve been reading roughly a book every month or so, although I’m not sure it’s even that much. I’d love to read a book a week and most often don’t believe anybody who says they read that much, presupposing they do anything besides read. Alas, I’ll tell you about one book I’ve recently read, one book I’m currently reading and one that I intend to buy very soon.

First, I finished Brene Brown’s “Daring Greatly” several weeks ago. I like Brene. She’s from Texas, and she self identifies as maybe a little bit loud and brash and strong-headed. She hooked me at “Texan.” However, only parts of this book appealed to me at the outset given that I’m not a parent. I’m also not touchy-feely at all. Ick. But I wanted to learn more about vulnerability and how it can benefit a person, especially professionally.

daring-greatly

What I was pleasantly surprised to learn was that this book wasn’t about being touchy-feely and learning to overshare. It was very much about being out there and being thoughtful, however.

I don’t memorize books, so once I’ve read something, I allow some of the big concepts to stick with me and then I lose the rest on purpose. I only have so much room in my brain. Here’s what I took from “Daring Greatly:”

1. Brene quotes Teddy Roosevelt at the beginning of the book, his remarks about the arena. “It is not the critic who counts…” However, this quote reminds me of Kool & The Gang’s masterpiece “Get Down On It.” Feel free to laugh although I think you’ll acknowledge my point. In that song, J.T. Taylor sings, “How you gonna do it if you really don’t want to dance by standing on the wall?”

This is essentially the Teddy Roosevelt quote personified in an early-1980s pop-disco hit. The credit goes to the person who gets out there and dances it even if it turns out to look like Elaine from Seinfeld.

And what I take from all of this, relative to the book, is that introversion is no excuse for emotional isolation and that, if one will allow themselves the opportunity to push the envelope personally, it will pay dividends. People are way more willing to open up to you if you will open up to them, in due time, of course.

2. We’re super hard on ourselves, but we’re uber judgmental of other people, more so than ever before. This might seem like a no-brainer to most of you until I suggest that “this means YOU.” Yes, you. The other person is a bad parent because… The other person is imperfect physically because… The other person is poor because… And it all stems from an insecurity. Brown makes it a point of noting that we pick folks who we believe are doing worse than us in certain areas, packaged in kind of a campaign against snark in general.

3. Vulnerability and the workplace. The three professional concepts I really internalized from this book are the negative effect of non-communication, the negative impact of blaming in situations where a result was less than optimal and the positive benefit of showing weakness, which to me means acknowledging sometimes that you don’t know, don’t understand, or aren’t sure.

The book I’m reading presently is Gary Vaynerchuk’s “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World.” I’ve been a fan of Gary’s for a long time because I think he’s genuine and that he’s right. He’s been right before about many things in the digital content world, and because of that track record, I trust what he says pretty assuredly.

Gary-Vee-jab

This book is four years old, but the concept is super simple for businesses: Create content that informs and entertains without selling. That’s tough for us business folk to do, but the idea is to create value for the end reader each and every time so that when you do need to sell, you’ll have their attention.

That’s the thing about the digital world: we’re all competing for attention. News stations and companies with social channels and personal bloggers are all competing with Netflix and my blog and a good book and the desire to go to the pub or to take a bath. As consumers, we latch on to content that moves us, and we’re pretty agnostic as to where it comes from. All we’re doing as brands is hoping for a piece of that, a sliver of your attention with the unsaid quid pro quo that we earn your attention when we really need it.

This book is the guide on how to make that happen.

And last but not least, the book I want to read next is called, “Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives” by Tim Harford. One of my favorite Sirius XM channels is called Business Radio on SiriusXM 111. They recently had a program called, “Your Summer Reading List,” and Harford talked about the power of chaos to fuel productivity and creativity.

messy

It’s not so much that spending all your time perfecting your environment takes away from the time to do amazing things. It’s that overemphasizing order in all parts of our lives belies a rigidity that ensures we’ll never achieve anything great, and even if that isn’t the goal, it will certainly rob us of wonderful experiences and moments.

And in an ironic twist, that’s the end of this blog post because I need to go clean house. Have a great rest of your weekend.

New view: A quiet but hot run through Buckeye, Arizona

0

New view. Those two words summarize why my favorite thing to do on vacation or on business trips is to go running. However, it took some new friends to help me understand why I and other runners like me enjoy new locales so much.

As part of my spring training trip to Phoenix this year, my girlfriend Kristi wanted to visit a friend from work days gone by, Gina. Gina and her husband, Bill, live in Buckeye, Arizona, about 36 miles west of Phoenix along Interstate 10. That’s roughly a 45-minute drive on most days, maybe an hour with traffic. I’m guessing. When we were there, we were driving against the grain and during the middle of the day, so it was cake.

So, we got to Buckeye, and it was quintessential Arizona with all the houses in some variation of stucco. I quite liked it, but I particularly liked (whether I was a fan of stucco or not) that there was a theme to the neighborhoods, architecturally. Some houses were big, some small, but they were all stucco.

We pulled up to Gina and Bill’s place, and while Kristi and Gina chatted out by the pool, I went running. Whenever I go running in a new city or neighborhood, I take photos. It’s not that I’m a good photographer although I’d love to be. It’s that I’m appreciating my “new view.”

Alas, upon returning from my 3-4 mile run in Buckeye, I was describing to Gina why I enjoyed running in every new town I visited, and she immediately and confidently said, “New view. I totally get it. You get to see a new view.”

Of course, philosophically speaking, “new view” can mean what I’m seeing along the way or a new perspective achieved through the peaceful pace of a long run. Many folks listen to music while they run, and I used to do that until a colleague from Philadelphia explained how to get the most out of running mentally through meditation and keeping one’s ears attuned to the environment.

Gina’s husband, Bill, is a golfer, and I suspect that aspect of his golfing enjoyment is similar to my running pleasure. Half the fun of golfing is being outside and enjoying the beauty of the course. That’s the same way I feel about each run in a new place, and in the case of Buckeye, Arizona, I found it to be quintessentially Southwestern but peaceful like the moon.

There wasn’t a sound to be heard anywhere except the thoughts bouncing around my brain and the first-time sights hitting my eyes, both new views to me. I wanted to share those sights with you.

If you’re enjoying the blog, please follow me here and on Twitter. Heck, friend me on Facebook, too!

DIY SEO: You can get to Page 1 on Google. You really can. Here’s how …

0

When I created this blog, I called it “Smooth Jazz and Digital Marketing” because those were two topics that I figured I’d write about regularly as a musician and a digital marketer. I’ve mostly written about my travels, and I haven’t been too regular about that.

However, I’d like to write about a topic in the digital marketing space I know pretty well: SEO. That stands for search engine optimization.

I’m sure you’re thinking: it’s another guy who thinks he’s the king of SEO, a guy who can talk extemporaneously about Panda and Penguin and Hummingbird and canonicals and, well, word vomit, anon. That’s honestly not me at all.

I’m the guy who believes anybody can get their site to page 1 of Google with a little bit of strategic, focused effort — and I want to explain how to do it without paying an agency a dime. There are many ways to do it. This is my way, and it’s 100 percent “white hat,” which means that it won’t get you in trouble with Google. Promise.

What do you want to rank for?
First and foremost, you need to pick out a term, a phrase or keyword that you’d like to rank highly for. Maybe it’s “bocce ball” or “polka band;” it doesn’t really matter. The process is the same for any term. And for every term, phrase or keyword, there is a market for it. That means there is a search volume and what I’d call a level of difficulty for ranking highly. Take the terms “college football” and “Neyland Stadium,” home of the University of Tennessee Volunteers.

Neyland-Stadium-wikipedia
The search volume for the former (“college football”) is about 1 million searches per month. The search volume for the latter (“Neyland Stadium”) is 14,800 searches for month. (You can find out search volumes for any word or term by using Google’s keyword planner tool.)

So, it’s obvious, right? You have to pick the term “college football!”

Wrong. It’s not nearly that simple.

When deciding what to focus your SEO efforts on, you want to pick a phrase that’s the best match of what your (content or business) *IS* and what your (customers or readers) are searching for — and then stick with it for awhile. Even if the phrase isn’t searched on as much as another, you might be way better off being the big fish in a small pond instead of a minnow in the Pacific Ocean.

On-site SEO: Get your house in order
The next thing you want to do is build your website in such a way that Google knows that this phrase is what you should rank for. This is what’s called “on-site SEO.” Let’s say you’re building a site all about the history of Neyland Stadium.

Your website builder should focus on five elements:

1. Your <TITLE> tag. This tag is kind of like a one-line summary about your site. If the focus of your site is Neyland Stadium, and the search phrase you’re focused on is “Neyland Stadium,” then your <TITLE> tag should be something that includes that phrase at the front of it. For example:

<TITLE>Neyland Stadium: A site about Rocky Top and the Tennessee Volunteers</TITLE>

2. Get your META tags in order. There isn’t a consensus about the value of META descriptions and other META tags. Just get in there and fill ’em out. It won’t kill you. Be descriptive in an authentic manner, working in the search phrase of your choice, but don’t stuff it with variations of that keyword or phrase. In fact, develop a philosophy of understanding how SEO works but never trying to game the system. This is in its essence a process of smart content development and management, and it will work naturally if your content is worth a darn.

3. H1 is No. 1. The most important piece of HTML on your site is the <H1> tag. Your headline for any site page or blog post should always, always, always be in an <H1> tag. Not a <DIV> and not a <P> and not a “whatever you construct in CSS.” The <H1> tag tells Google what’s most important on your page, and in this case, we’re focused on the term, “Neyland Stadium.”

<H1>Neyland Stadium: College football venues that rock!</H1>

You can also use <H2>-<H6> tags to your benefit. That could be a topic for another blog post.

4. Text rules. Your site, your page, whatever it is you’re trying to optimize for should have text on it. In 2017, we develop websites for two audiences: People and Google. Google don’t do video or images or anything quite the way it handles plain-ol’ text. So, when you go about designing your website, it’s great to want it to look beautiful and modern, but without a couple paragraphs of text, you’ll be fighting an uphill battle in terms of SEO.

Write copy that is easy to comprehend and that is grammatically correct with proper spelling. Believe it or not, Google is quite the judgmental little %#&* when it comes to this stuff because it indexes with credibility in mind — and content that is properly written with proper spelling is thought to be more credible.

Don’t stuff keywords. Keep it natural, and tell your audience what the page or site is about. Keep it simple. Focus on bringing value to the reader.

5. Image file names. The way you name your image files is vital. Google is the largest search engine in the world, and I believe that YouTube is No. 2. However, Google’s image search tool is right up there, and the key tactic to maximizing your images for SEO is in how you name the file.

Most designers name their files something cryptic, something that helps them know what the file is about. For example, maybe a file of Neyland Stadium might be called ney_stad2017nBama_2b.jpg. That image might be a picture of Neyland Stadium at night from 2017 and their game against Alabama. The ‘2b’ part of the file name might simply be a versioning suffix of some sort.

What I’m suggesting is that you name your files so that Google can know what the heck it is. In this case, I would suggest it be called Neyland-Stadium-Alabama-game-2017.jpg. Note that I’m using dashes instead of underscores, which are no-nos in SEO. Ultimately, what I’m doing here is squeezing out the clarity in every last element on my page. I want there to be no question that my website or blog post is about the search phrase at hand, “Neyland Stadium” in this case.

And use the alt attribute, too! More on that some other time.

Social signals: Be social
This next part I can keep pretty short. If you have a website or a web page or a blog post that you’d like to get to Page 1 on Google, you need social media support. You have to amplify that sucker on every platform available and do it in a way that draws people who are willing to engage with you. I’ll devote another blog post to how to do this effectively later. Most folks know how to do this pretty well, and in SEO-speak, it’s called “sending social signals.”

Inbound marketing
Aside from executing proper on-site SEO, inbound marketing or “link building” is the other “most important” part of the search engine optimization process. This is a process of getting other folks, other websites, etc., to link back to your site using the search phrase of your choice and focus. It should be known, however, that in the Google world, there is a pecking order of website worth.

For example, your Uncle Joe’s website is probably kick-ass awesome, but he’s not likely to have the domain or page authority (concepts I’ll write about some other time) or search traffic that the University of Tennessee has. Sure, get him to link to your site using the phrase, “Neyland Stadium,” but you can’t accomplish that and think you’re even close to done.

Here’s what a link back to your website might look like:

<p><b>Check out my nephew’s awesome site about <a href=”http://www.iloveneylandstadium.com”>Neyland Stadium</a>!</b></p>

In the world of Google, sites with a .org, .gov or .edu prefix are the gold standard. They’re considered to be the most credible, meaning that entrepreneurs and business owners would want to focus on getting a link back to their site from the local government, the Chamber of Commerce or a local school nearby. Those are the links that will move you on up the charts relative to Google ranking.

You’ll want to be very specific about how the link should be added to their site, all the while knowing that you can’t force the other party to do it exactly like you want. In this case, you really, really want them to put the anchor tags around the phrase “Neyland Stadium.” What this does is tell Google that the site linking to you thinks your website is a credible site about the topic included inside the anchor tag.

Another terrific tactic to get some “Google juice” back to your site, as the SEO wunderkinds call it, is to get links to your site from news stories. If a newspaper or TV station mentions your website, ask them to link to you. Heck, if your website about Neyland Stadium is really that informative and entertaining, go find old news stories about the stadium and then reach out to the stations and their editors and ask them for a link.

You’ll probably be told, “No,” most of the time if you even hear from anybody. However, it’s important to make the ask if you’re really serious about SEO for your website, page or blog post.

And then, as if to dip directly into an SEO denouement, this effort to “link build” or do inbound marketing will be a process you undergo forever more. It never ends. Each day, go out and search for your phrase on various browsers, track where you rank and watch the progress. Document what moves the needle for your site.

I should note: This blog post is merely a basic summary of some steps that anybody can do to achieve a Page 1 result for their SEO term of choice. It works, and it costs you effort way more than it does dollars — but there’s a lot more that could be written about each part of this. If this post interests folks enough, I’d be happy to write more about this in detail in the future.

Have an awesome weekend!

Roy’s blend of fusion, familiar a tasty treat on first night in Phoenix

0

One of my favorite parts of traveling is eating, and our first stop this spring in Phoenix was Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion of Chandler, Arizona. Roy’s is a chain of 27 restaurants in the United States with one in Japan and another in Guam. It came highly recommended by my boss, and now I can highly recommend it as well.

Kristi and I had spent the day at the Maryvale Baseball Park, watching the Milwaukee Brewers defeat our Los Angeles Dodgers 7-2 in some Cactus League action. We were hot and sticky from a long day in the Arizona sun but ready for a cocktail and a great meal.

In retrospect, we could have dressed up a tad for Roy’s, located along Ray Road in Chandler, just southeast of Phoenix. However, given that it’s already reaching 85 degrees by day in March, we opted for uber-casual wear, which turned out to be just fine. Roy’s clientele was a mix of business-dress, business-casual and classy-casual, meaning a collared shirt, shorts and some sandals.

roys-chandler-arizona-7

We opted for cocktails to start. Kristi had the Mango Mojito, a concoction of Bacardi Limon, mango puree, lime and mint. She deemed it “tasty.” On the other hand, I’ve been on more of an exotic cocktail kick, especially if the drink involves cucumber. So, I had the Cool Breeze cocktail, made from Prairie organic cucumber vodka, coconut water, pineapple juice, fresh lemon and Monin agave. I recall really, really liking this drink and pondering how awesome it would still taste after 3 or 4 more.

roys-chandler-arizona-6

I stopped with one, however. This time.

After a pair of refreshing Maui Wowie salads (shrimp, feta, butter leaf lettuce, avocado and caper lime vinaigrette), we had our main courses. For dinner, Kristi had the 8-ounce Hand-Carved Filet Mignon with Vadouvan Roasted Carrots and Truffle Onion Misoyaki Demi Glace.

Fancy.

Meanwhile, I had the Braised Short Ribs of Beef with natural braising sauce, honey mustard, Yukon Mash and broccolini. As I recall, the short ribs were a little fatty for my taste but still very tasty, much more like pot roast than anything else. The mashed potatoes were wonderful. All in all, no serious complaints, and between the cocktails, salads and main dishes, this was one hell of a meal and a wonderful environment. I especially liked the lighting inside the restaurant, nice and dimmed.

Last but not least, we split a dessert, the pineapple upside down cake (caramelized pineapple baked with brown sugar pound cake a la mode). It was a dab dry, but that’s a minor criticism. The sweet treat was the perfect end to a wonderful first night meal in Arizona.

roys-chandler-arizona-1

The vibe was chill. The service was high-class. The experience was well worth it.

(More tales from my spring trip to Phoenix coming soon!)

Spring training trip to Phoenix starts with Brewers, Dodgers and a sweet Mustang

0

As it rains across central Oklahoma tonight, I hearken back to the start of March and sunnier days. This year, I took my second trip to The Grand Canyon State, Arizona, to watch some spring training baseball.

This is going to be a multi-post blog, otherwise it might not ever get posted. Hell, I’m embarrassed that it’s taken me this long. Once I get it all posted, in parts, I’ll also compile it together into one post.

My girlfriend Kristi made the trip with me, and we were able to catch a nonstop flight to Phoenix. A trip past TSA Pre and just a few pieces of gum later, we were in Arizona, where our first stop was to pick up this gorgeous red convertible Ford Mustang, our rental car of choice.

Kristi paid for it, but she let me drive much of the time. Awesome. Aside from the fact, in retrospect, that my allergies probably can’t handle a convertible, driving this pony was heaven — and I didn’t hesitate to put the pedal to the metal across I-10 and I-17. I don’t normally drive like a speed demon, but I absolutely know how to handle myself on the big city freeway.

And I have to tell you up front that I didn’t love Phoenix upon my first visit in 2016, although I have it on good authority that the reason I probably didn’t like it was that I was staying in a bad part of town. That wasn’t the case this time as we stayed at the Best Western Plus Chandler Hotel & Suites, located in the heart of the Gila River Indian Community on the southeast side of Phoenix. In full disclosure, I work for Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores, which owns the hotel.

I’m biased, but I am also extraordinarily picky, and this was a terrific stay. It’s clean, has an adequate workout room, and they serve an awesome, hot breakfast every morning. Plus, it’s close to the Phoenix Premium Outlets, which took a lot of my money on Day 3 of the vacation. Here’s how picky I am about hotels: I typically bring my own pillow and a fan.

OK, maybe that’s not so extreme.

Our first stop was Maryvale Baseball Park, home of the spring training Milwaukee Brewers. We weren’t there to see the Brew Crew. We were there to root for ol’ Blue, the Los Angeles Dodgers. I’m a Ranger, and she’s a Dodger. However, when I was but a wee kiddo, I was very much a Dodgers fan, and I rooted heartily for Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, Bill Russell and Ron Cey.

In retrospect, I’m not sure that I wasn’t simply rooting against the New York Yankees in 1977 and 1978, but I’m pretty sure I just liked the L.A. unis a little bit better.

In addition to rooting for the big club, we also root for the Oklahoma City Dodgers, L.A.’s Triple A team. Spring training is a great opportunity to see the minor league studs in action like Cody Bellinger, Willie Calhoun, O’Koyea Dickson, Charlie Culberson and the great Jack Murphy.

Then again, our first task was to find shade. Even at the start of March, PHX is upper-80s with a sun that whips you into submission. Everybody in the ticket line was inquiring about shade, me included. It turns out that the Maryvale park was pretty good about having ample shade, especially on the first-base side. Plus, they have an interesting cover over the walkway that helps cool the place off.

We were just settling in, so I was mostly interested in a dog, a cold beer and a warm seat. Surrounded by Brewers snowbirds, we heard multiple stories of travelers escaping freezing rain and Wisconsin winds. We were happy to be in Arizona; they were freaking delighted.

Besides, I actually picked Milwaukee to snag a wild card spot, which would be a major National League surprise this season. For the record, I picked the Dodgers to win it all.

On this day, it was the Brewers who prevailed, 7-2, but our trip had begun safely and securely with a full 9 innings under our belts and an escape from Maryvale planned. It was time to check in to the hotel and plan our first evening out, dinner at Roy’s in Chandler.

To be continued …

Run through Washington, D.C., an aesthetic delight

0
U.S. Capitol Washington D.C.

It’s been a busy month. That’s an understatement.

One week was spent in Washington D.C. One week was spent at spring training in Arizona. And one week was spent cursing the Oklahoma wind, histamine and feeling way under the weather back home. I took a lot of photos during my travels and shot my fair share of videos, and I wanted to take the time to document it all.

This post will focus on our nation’s capital, which I’ve always thought is the most underrated city in America in terms of aesthetics. The reason I believe that is that Washington D.C. feels European, and there’s good reason for that. It was designed by Frenchman Pierre L’Enfant, a civil engineer and architect, requisitioned by George Washington himself to build the city.

Cue Starship.

L’Enfant went for wide avenues and public spaces, and it was his vision to give the Capitol and mall areas the best views of the Potomac, as opposed to the leader’s palace, The White House. Even 241 years later, Washington D.C. still has that European feel and cosmopolitan landscape, second only to San Francisco, for me, for sheer architectural American beauty.

I was in town on business, but given that my work was bumped up against a weekend, I extended my stay, visited some friends and experienced the city. Not that I’m new to Washington D.C. This was my third trip here.

Runner’s Routine

The first thing I do when I visit a new location is plan a run. I’m a runner, and I want to write more about running in the future, documenting how this hobby has become a passion in helping me stay both physically and mentally fit. Given that I was in Washington and staying on 14th Street NW, I absolutely wanted to run in the area of our Capitol building.

The desk clerk at the Westin told me that it was 2.6 miles to the Capitol, and so I planned my route. It was a mild day by D.C. standards in early March with a chance of rain, and it did spit a bit that afternoon. I had a business dinner that night, so I went running right about rush hour, which you might have thought would be a mistake in a city like D.C.

It was no problemo. There’s plenty of room to run along the sidewalks, and it’s a city of walkers and runners.

I made it to the Capitol and shot this report, lol, I mean this video.

And here are a series of photos I snapped during my run. Enjoy. More on my trip to Washington later right here. I’d love it if you took a second and see what I’ve posted so far, follow me or just come find me on Twitter (@ryanwelton) or on Facebook (facebook.com/welton) or even on Instagram (@ryanwelton2013).

%d bloggers like this: