SEO for Google Glass

We’ll probably start off calling it “Glass Optimization,” but then change it to something more lucid and impressive like “Google Glasses Enhancement” or “Google Geospatial Optimizations,” and it’ll be the most awesome thing in SEO since anchor text. Get those Project Plans ready, because here’s what that work may actually look like.

5 Ways to Optimize for Google Glass

Suggest Better Results – Google is impressive, but our world is more so. Google’s algorithm can’t know about something until we humans verify it, either passively or directly. I imagine that Google Glass will have an interface similar to Google Goggles, allowing the user to bing what they see, and it probably won’t work very well.

Google is blind; help it see by optimizing Goggles.

One day a week, take your Glass out for a spin from the perspective of your client and make sure things that they’ll search yield a good experience. If not, use the suggest a better result feature and call it SEO.

Geo-Tag Everything – It’s still a little unclear how Glass will interact with GPS, it seems from their patent it will actually be connected to one’s cell phone. Well in the Google Maps app, there is a little thing called Google Latitude that seems to be the bank of location information. Google offers an API for developers to integrate with this technology. Take some time and see to it that anything being developed has Latitude capability baked in.

Re-Invigorate those Mobile Keywords – With the rise of mobile queries, special attention needs to be paid to creating mobile friendly content that matches the distinct intent, as laid out by Bryson Meunier.

Glass will keep us dry

Adoption of Glass will make this even more important. Not only will “mobile” queries increase, but the willingness to consume it will too – as Glass won’t require holding a big phone and looking down, exposed to walking into ill-placed mall fountains.

Play Ingress – Ingress is an odd Android game created by Google where players walk around with their GPS on and do things. I’m terrible at it, but as suggested by New Scientist, there is probably something deeper going on here.

Ingress is likely more than a game, it’s part SEO

Google “…may get information about new monuments, and that actually helps them generate more interesting search results, because these are the things that local people say are interesting.” For our retail clients, a well mapped Ingress playing field around a store may raise the likelihood of that part of Earth being featured for local terms; it’s worth a test at least.

Make Them Cool – Google Glasses look pretty dorky right now, but so did everything in fashion at one point. As this Forbe’s naysayer points out “…it’s definitely very odd indeed for anyone looking at such wearers (of Glass).”

Google will need more than Sergey wearing these

If you find that referrals from Glass are high converting, convince your client to dedicate some influence ($) to changing hearts and minds. All we need is the likes of Tom Brady, Jennifer Lawrence, or even a commercial actor to sport these things on TV before every middle schooler wants them for Christmas.

With this latest advancement from Google, the future of search is bright indeed and will draw the attention from SEOs and clients alike, at least until we’re optimizing for the Google car.

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Blue Chip SEO Events of 2012

In reverence to the upcoming 19th anniversary of Blue Chips – a timeless exposé on collegiate recruiting, staring Nick Nolte and Shaq that dropped in February 1994 to middling acclaim and a movie I’ve seen dozens of times and think about often for unclear reasons – I present to you my Bill-Simmons-inspired Blue Chip SEO Events of 2012. Let’s Go!

Venice — February 27, 2012
But goddamnit, those kids played out their heart. They gave everything they had! They played up to the maximum of their ability! They gave it everything. And you know, it wasn’t good enough. It wasn’t good enough for me, wasn’t good enough for you, wasn’t good enough for anybody! – Coach Bell

Coach Bell was frustrated. For years, his three-star level recruits left it all on the court, but were crushed by the overwhelming talent of the competition. Just for the small business owner looking to rank in Google for things like “doctor’s office,” “plumber,” “dog walker,” “bakery,” or “firewood,” success was not likely. These businesses could optimize their title tags and ask their neighbors for links all day, but still: faceless directories dominated the SERP. Venice changed that by giving added weight to localized businesses. And not just bringing up the Map more often, but by listing small business domains ahead of national sites for queries like lake geneva real estate; Venice was a great win for smaller players online that are trying their best to compete.

Further Reading:
Understand and Rock the Venice Update by Mike Ramsey

Search Quality Video — March 12, 2012
This class is culturally biased. – Neon (Shaq)

Google released a recording of a 2011 Search Quality team meeting, where the Google engineers discussed an algorithm change. It was interesting to see how these kinds of updates actually occur.

Google Plus Local — May 30, 2012
No, no, Coach, it was a nuclear surfboard, remember? – Happy Walsh

In another modernization of how Local Search ties into the big picture, Google replaced the Google Places page style and integrated it with Google Plus to create Google Plus Local pages (follow?). These pages have it all: necessary store information, social reviews, map integration, and Street View. At first it was a little messy with their integration of Zagat’s 30-point scoring system across all business types (is my orthodontist a 23 or 28?), but an update in October cleaned this up to an intuitive 5-point scale for non-restaurant businesses.

Further Reading
Announcement coverage from Greg Sterling
Two-Month follow up from Jordan Kasteler

Penguin — April 24, 2012
You took the purest thing in your life and corrupted it, for what? For what? – Coach Bell

Turns out Tony, Coach Bell’s senior point guard that played hard and avoided corruption – unlike his new class of backer-acquired 5-star freshmen, purposely did not cover the spread during a game in his freshman year. Coach Bell had coached a fixed game. Tony took the shortcut, and now everything he worked so hard to accomplish was falling apart; he’s paying the price and his coach is too. If you were buying links to trick Google, Penguin probably took you out this year in a significant step to de-value those links in the algorithm, and I bet those client calls weren’t very fun either. A win for the white-hats!

Further Reading
Danny Sullivan explains

Knowledge Graph — May 16, 2012
How long are you gonna keep this bullshit up, Ed? Huh? You know goddamn well there was no such incident. There was an alleged incident which you invented; in the same way that if I assert that you sleep with sheep, then it is alleged that you sleep with sheep. – Coach Bell

Google knows what time the sun comes upwhat year Shakespeare was born, and how Houdini died, so why waste time by sending you to weather.com or Wikipedia? The Knowledge Graph brings forth these facts and puts them right on the SERP, with more and more connected facts to devour, kind of neat. Google has been working on this one for years: the ability to assert facts that they were confident about – and this year they rolled it out with a new look and for several more queries.

To mainstream view points, this comes out like Google has developed a magical formula to predict how we think and feel – but I see it more as Google got some confidence in its evidence to make assertions based on what it has found on the Internet. The Knowledge Graph is still full of erroneous assertions and probably always will be. Coach Bell could tweet on Ed’s sheep fetish, put it on his blog, get quoted in the NY Times, edit Ed’s Wikipedia page, and create a thread on protectthesheep.com to get the sheep perspective – and Google would probably call it a fact in the KG, especially 200 years from now. But still, Google got to the point to commit to featuring the KG and I’m sure they’ll keep improving it.

Further Reading:
Google explains

Bing – All Year
Dwayne, you can get through college half-assed. Richard, you can get through life half-assed. But I’ll guarantee you boys one thing. Sure as hell, I’ll guarantee you this: you cannot win half-assed! – Coach Bell

Bing picked up their game this year. Substantively through a revamp to Bing Webmaster Tools, and webmaster webinars, and not-so-substantively-but-still-effective (maybe) through poking the Google by highlighting their partnership with Facebook in a national TV spot, holding the Bing Challengepublicizing Google’s move to paid placement, and rolling out their own version of the Knowledge Graph. Heading into 2013, Bing is playing to win!

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Embrace Link Building

I often say that link building is my favorite part of doing SEO. Each time I say this out loud to my fellow SEOs or knowledgeable clients, I get the reaction that I imagine you’re wearing right now (if you build links), the look that says “What are you talking about? You like Link building?” Yeah, I do.

The difference is my definition of link building. Ever since Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brinn imagined a way to use web links as a way of assigning value on the Internet, “link building” has been a staple of search engine optimization campaigns. Some of this has been good and helpful to Google, the more people think to add links to their web content, the easier it is for Google to make sense of the patterns, and improve the quality of its search results, everyone wins.

Of course, we went a little crazy with it. Links can be bought, bartered, submitted, scraped, and generated in all sorts of ways that have no correlation with real value, but may appear so to search engines, forcing Google and others to evolve further. When Google figures out a pattern of low-quality links, it makes an update and levels the playing field. As many prominent SEOs have been saying for years, good link building should be to provide human beings the ability to access your content from relevant web pages, rather than finding ways to build links for search engines.

Sooner or later, links will mean nothing, and lately it seems like sooner. Google made big moves this year, most notably with its Penguin update to reduce the importance of low-quality links as a signal. All this is fine by me, because something will always matter to Google, and we’ll adapt to improve the strength of that something. Links will probably give way to a mix of social signals (Google says they are still leery of relying on social too much), Author Rank, or something being cooked up that we haven’t imagined yet, maybe something like these:

Focus Rate – When (not if) wearable computing (Google Glasses) becomes fashionable, we may be talking one day about how long people look at things to determine rankings. Maybe you’ve been eyeing BMWs. Every time you see one, you can’t help but watch it drive by, wondering what gear it’s in and imagining yourself doing the shifting. But you don’t let yourself think about it. You don’t need a car today. Then one day, you do need a car, so you search “new car” in Google, and there’s bmw.com at #1.

Drive-thru times – Say it’s lunchtime, and you’re in a rush. You want to grab a quick bite, so you search “quick lunch” instead of just “lunch” via your Google voice-activated-search from within your Google-driven car (Google driving us around is imminent, my guess is 2020) and it knows what you mean by “quick.” Perhaps using current average wait times of local fast food restaurants (fed to Google via a future API perhaps) Google decides to drive you to Jimmy John’s instead of Panera for your quick meal.

Euphoria Index – Our bodies release chemicals at nearly every emotional turn, like when we are happy or inspired. Someday, Google may capture these chemical fluctuations via an attachment to your smart phone, eye glasses, or a chip we all readily insert in our heads one day, and uses these chemicals to calculate a Euphoria Index. Maybe Google notices that I tend to be a happy fellow when I’m in Lowe’s or watch a Lowe’s commercial instead of Home Depot, so it sends me to lowes.com when I search for “patio furniture.”

The point is that link building evolves. But what has yet to change is that search engines look to reveal real value to determine who should rank for a given term. In 1998, this meant citations from scholarly articles; in 2005 it meant links from as many websites as possible; in 2009 it was about getting links from bloggers or content farms; 2013 will be about integration of social media, mobile activity, and sorting out the best content and authoritative writers. After that, it’ll be something else. All I know is that I’ll find it interesting.

 

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Creating Linkable Content

In Search Engine Optimization, there’s a bit of advice that has long been stated, only recently true, but still rarely adopted: you must create quality content. Content is King!

Creating what SEOs label “quality content” is a complex proposition. For many brands, accustomed to getting by with press releases, marketing collateral, or the occasional white paper, it’s a completely new way of thinking. This is particularly evident for brands operating in highly scrutinized realms such as prescription drugs, insurance, finance, or government. Marketers in these fields may know the value of SEO, and understand the value of provocative content, but still, they cannot justify a free-flowing blog for the hope of some links that might help with Search.

But there’s another way to approach creating this “quality content,” considered vital to digital marketing – and that is to shift the thinking from quality to linkable – because ultimately links (or references, or shares) is what you’re after, so how can you make that happen?

Think about Wikipedia. In fact, think about the Wikipedia page about Lawn Mowers. Content on Wikipedia is held to a high standard, which means everything stated needs a source, and the Lawn Mowers page exemplifies this.

Reading through the Lawn Mower page on Wikipedia, one can almost predict when a reference is coming.  The first instance comes from the mention of the lawn mower’s inventor: Edwin Bunting with a link to the official US patent form, hosted on espacenet.com. The reference serves to make this article credible, and satisfy the standards of Wikipedia editors (the argument of SEO value of links from Wikipedia is a different debate – which I will have with you). If it just read that Bunting invented the lawn mower the article without a link to the US patent – the statement wouldn’t be credible – so espacenet.com wins the link for housing this content.

Surely there are instances like this for every brand. Which areas of the world is your brand the most credible voice on the subject? What facts, figures, studies, quotes, graphs, dates, or expertise can your brand offer the world?

One way to find “fact gaps” like this is to regularly read news about your keyword area. Consider what references would make the articles better. If the writer called you before publishing the post to get your thoughts, what could you have added? Create it. Then put it up on your site, and the links will come.

In the post-Panda (code name for the the Google update that put a bigger emphasis on content) world for SEO, this content will not only be relevant to your terms, but also attract all the links you’ll need.

 

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KPIs for SEO

Good Search Engine Optimization strategy is helped considerably by data; we need it not only to define and reach success, but also to illuminate tactical paths to get there. We can be sure if we’re hitting our goals with correlated upticks to Visits and Conversions, but to find the missing links between tactics and success of business goals, we need the Key Performance Indicators.

That’s why at the onset of an SEO campaign, a careful consideration of the KPIs to choose and how they’ll be measured is undeniably best practice. For in the words of Yogi Berra: If you don’t know where you’re going, you may end up somewhere else.

For those readying to select which KPIs to track in an SEO campaign, some recommended reads would be: this 2009 SEOmoz post, a 2011 Guide to the new Google Analytics from Mashable, and a survey recap from Reliable SEO.

But these articles only get the ball rolling. No two campaigns or goal sets are going to be exactly alike, in the same way that no two businesses are exactly alike. Beyond the obvious, the signs of a successful campaign require a bit of thought and customization. For example, the trend of some KPIs can be both positive and negative indications of success depending on the goal and tactics being employed. I’m looking at you: Bounce Rate, Time-on-Site, Percentage of New Visitors, and Pages per Visit. These metrics can be easily miscast as KPIs by all levels of SEOs.

One step that could help with selecting KPIs is grouping the target keywords in groups or sets. Keyword-sets tend to shares common KPIs (because they are used by searchers with similar needs), so one way to ensure the KPIs connect with your campaign is to group the keywords, and then establish the signals a satisfied website visitor might emit.

For example, an ongoing effort to attract visits from question-type keywords (How to fix a small engine, how to tie a tie, etc.),  should hope to cause a regular growth to the number of Search Engine Landing Pages month-over-month,. This KPI (Search Engine Landing Pages or SELPs that is the number of pages that people are entering your site directly from Google) is worth tracking in this instance, as its growth would indicate that the new FAQ content added to address these questions is gaining exposure from search engines. Conversely, if the number of SELPs rose, yet no new content was being offered to search engines, the increased SELPs likely warns of duplicated content, a serious negative signal.

Meanwhile, marketers going after blogging tactics should want to see their Time-On-Site numbers improve, suggesting a successful connection with readers. Get real fancy by plotting how long the average person should take to consume against the actual Time-On-Site, and use that information to determine if people are truly reading your words. For instance, I know that if you made it this far, I’ve held your attention for about one minute and thirty-six seconds; a true eternity in Internet time I know, but we’re almost done.

A long look at your KPIs is worth the time, as trends of the numbers chosen will set the tone for the strategy and tactics going forward. It’s also imperative to make sure everyone knows that they mean; enabling partners, clients, and marketing teams to work toward the same goal – and heading to the same place.

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Significant SEO Events in 2011

As far as search engine algorithms go, 2011 was a year of major change. Effective Social Media and Content strategies gained value in the Google search algorithm, while automated tactics, like content farms and article spinners lost their ability to trick Google into ranking pages above their true value to searchers. Many changes by Google (and sure Bing too) this year were aimed at ridding their results of Internet junk that mimicked the signs of good content; and the changes seem to be working.

We’re now in a digital marketing era where it makes economic sense to invest in high quality content, because it will be rewarded by visitors from Google, and the big brands are investing. Here were the updates in 2011, from my seat at least, that will have a long lasting impact on SEO strategy:

1. Google Scraper Update (Jan 28) – Google updates the algorithm to decrease authority of “scraper sites,” – websites created automatically by copying content already published on other websites. In many instances, these sites would become so bloated that they would outrank the original publishers of the content from which they take (steal) because of strong links and billions of pages indexed. These sites have grown too strong, and it’d be better to reward the creators of actual content, and Google got it done, which will result in the authors of content to achieve fuller benefits from their work.

Further Reading: Mashable, Matt Cutts

2. Larry Page becomes CEO of Google (April 4) – Google co-founder and namesake of the “PageRank” takes back the big seat in Mountain View. Page is the big thinker who loves to shake the status quo of how things work in our world. Like how he thinks the whole idea of the modern form of customer support is ridiculous (an idea in which I agree and feel proper SEO solves). With Larry as CEO, I look for Google to invest in crazy things, like cars driven by robots, this promotion should be fun for everyone!

3. Google Panda Update aka Farmer Update (Feb 24) – Sites with heaps of low-quality content on large sites were knocked down a peg in the Most Talked About Update of the Year, the heavy offender here is ehow.com. I love this update, because it’s always been frustrating to justify the time required to create quality content around a keyword, when you know that a page on a sites like ehow.com and others would outrank it, soley because it exisited on the same domain as the massive content farm. Google for years has been tyring to figure out how to knock down junk on these sites wihtout sacrificing them entirely. Every now and then there’s a good eHow article, but it was obvious Google was giving way too much weight to pages on big sites, and we all knew it, which only added to the junk added to them. Panda should knock us out of this spiral, without having to deliver the death blow that current #4 search engine Blekko delivered when it banished content farms altogether. Blekko figured that any site that allows submitted content without discretion is doomed to become a wasteland of crap, and should just be ignored; while Google thinks good content can be found anywhere if you can figure out how to define quality. Google claims only the bad content on these sites are punished, and the now-rare quality article remains in its justified position. Another win for content marketing.

Further Reading: Danny Sullivan

(SEO Sidenote: the link to ‘bad content on these sites’ above goes to an ehow article titled  How to Get a Big Mac for $1 at McDonalds, which essentially advises to the reader that a trip to McDonald’s is the prudent move. In discussions about the issue of content farms to the integrity of the Google algorithm, this how-to received many links from industry bloggers, as an example of what was wrong with ehow.com and all this shit content being created. So now that Panda has landed, what did ehow.com do with this page and all it’s links?  The page now 301-redirects to a highly valuable page about Real Estate Investing, passing along all that link juice – an evil-genius SEO move that deserves another good anchor text link from me.)

4. Google + (Mar 30) – Two things happened here. Number One: Google launched an answer to the Facebook ‘Like’ button to create a semi-social Internet world where we vote on everything; like a digital Skinner Box, where we get more of what we like. Number Two: Google basically re-created the experience of Facebook, only with sharing filters. So much has been written about Google Plus and I have nothing to add, except this is clearly another step towards a search engine algorithm ranking system where social signals replace PageRank as the indicator of true authority. ho hum, create good content folks.

Further Reading: The Google Plus Videos series set to cool music that makes you feel cool to use Google Plus, Danny Sullivan

5. Query Encryption (Oct 18) – This is the crazy one. Keyword data to marketers is going away and I’m still unclear as to why Google made this move.

With this update – users logged into Google during a search session will have their keyword choice “encrypted,” or hidden from 3rd party tools, including Google Analytics.

For example:

Say you’re a doctor in Crystal Lake, Illinois and you blog regularly to engage with your patients as well as reach new ones.  Being in suburban Chicago, sports physicals have become a cornerstone of your business.  So, when the state announces student athletes must now receive a “concussion susceptibility exam” as a part of their physical to be considered valid, you felt it’d make for a good blog post. You turn to your keywords in Google Analytics to uncover varations in keywords associated with the topic (“doctors in crystal lake new physical rules” or “concussions illinois sports”, etc. etc. etc.). You create useful content to match the intentions of the searcher, rank for the various keywords, help your audience find answers, and earn new patients.

This marketing strategy is essentially Content Marketing and is core to Google’s ZMOT or Zero Moment of Truth creed – that as a business owner, you should anticipate and help your customers solve problems and reach them at the moment of truth when opinions on the topic are formed in the brain. For marketers, reaching people at this moment of affinity around a new topic is gold. You’re surely going to spend money at some point on this new topic with whoever reeled you in with good information at the beginning. Well it’s harder to achieve this now because that specific keyword data is gone and it mucks the waters for brands to create targeted content.

Further Reading: Google

6. Yahoo! Site Explorer is (for real) gone (Nov 21) – Ever since the Bing Yahoo! agreement a few years back, it’s been widely believed that Y! Site Explorer – the best free link analysis tool, would be phased out. We had some great times YSE, RIP.

Further Reading: Y!SE Replacement Tools from SE Watch

7. Freshness Update (Nov 3) – Quickly: blogs are even more essential to compete for Google love and new information is what the people want to see for many queries, or in algorithm speak: “query deserves freshness.”

From Google: “…we’re making a significant improvement to our ranking algorithm that impacts roughly 35 percent of searches (results, not queries) and better determines when to give you more up-to-date relevant results for these varying degrees of freshness…”

This move makes sense with prior moves such as Caffeine and Plus. Again, the takeaway is that Content Marketing is where the focus should be these days.

For an example, check out the results below for ‘sandusky,’ on 11.11.11 (screenshot below), it’s full of time stamps and news content.  Before the story broke, the term was actually somewhat popular because Sandusky, Ohio is a tourist destination. The surge of searches for ‘sandusky’ tripped the Google algorithm to display “fresh” content about the PSU coach and not all the fun to be had in Ohio.

Results for 'sandusky' on 11.11.11

Some day, more people searching ‘Sundusy’ will want content for Ohio and the Freshness factor will fade away, but probably not for several years…

Further reading on the Freshness Update: Google Blog, SEO Moz Whiteboard Friday, Winners and Losers

Those are my top moves for me.  Check out complete and great collection of the 2011 updates at SEOmoz.

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Void where prohibited by law

Void Where Prohibited by Law

Wonder what the that means too? Basically there are laws.  Read all about it from the good people at How Stuff Works.  If you’d like, you can buy it on T-shirt on your way.

For me, I’m going to keep track of what ranks in Google for this query over time.  I think it’s an interesting phrase to follow because it’ll be forever searched due to people’s reflex to search things they hear; and the promotional contests that drone out the phrase aren’t going away.  Also, this phrase is on billions of websites, so the results might reveal domain strength in the eyes of the Big G.  But anyway:

4.28.2012

1. http://voices.yahoo.com/void-where-prohibited-where-did-statement-come-230662.html

2. http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview/id/118593.html

3. http://abeginnersguidetofreedom.blogspot.com/2011/06/fourth-amendment-void-where-prohibited.html

4. https://insight.amd.com/MediaServer/Shared/US_SWEEPS%20RULES_AMD_English_2011_FINAL_Update040711.pdf

5. http://www.susans.org/forums/index.php?topic=16382.0

10.26.2011

1. http://www.vwpband.com/ – ha. love it, it’s a band. That’ll probably go away or become the dominate result for the query complete with  videos, images, news, social, ppc ads, etc. Good luck guys.

2. http://voidwhereprohibited.typepad.com/ – political blog that seems to be trying to get the passerby search traffic…

3. http://voidwhereprohibited.typepad.com/musings/ – gotcha twice Google.

4. http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview/id/118593.html – Google’s answer, a quick answer with links to further reading.

5. http://www.amazon.com/Void-Where-Prohibited-Urinate-Company/dp/0801433908 – book.

6. http://www.amazon.com/Void-where-prohibited-revisited-bathroom-break/dp/0971959404 – a different book.

7. http://voidwhereprohibited.net/ – has the phrase in all the right places.

8. http://voidwhereprohibited.net/index.php?goto=comics – interior page of #7.

9. http://www.visi.com/~tneu/voidwhereprohibited.html -old site.

10. An Associated Content article – an often referenced victim of the Google Panda update (2011) aimed at purging low-quality content.  Anyone can upload content to this site and link out with control of the anchor text. So of course it’s full of junk and spam.  This is a good example of how Google is able to pluck good content out of  the weeds, because this one is well written and would’ve been a bystander causality of a draconian penalty.  Intereseting note: Yahoo! bought AC for $100 million in 2010, that’s $100,000,000.00, which cements founder Luke Beatty among the great “why didn’t I think of that!” guys of the digital age.

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Alopecia & Me

Anyone who met me previous to December 2009 may recall my brown hair, thick eyebrows, glorious optional mustache, and curiously red-tinted beard. Well, all that changed pretty suddenly for me in September 2009 when I discovered a hairless patch under my chin.

Turns out I have Alopecia Universalis – one of our human machine’s operational quirks, hallmarked by the immune system’s war against the body’s hair follicles. Fresh off the diagnosis, I join the legions of people who deal with an immune system disorder. Lucky for me, the mistaken enemy is only my hair; nothing too significant like sufferers of Multiple Sclerosis or Lupus must endure. I’m thankful for that.

My Alopecia Story: the first two years

What follows is my Alopecia story, which takes place from October 2009 until October 2011. I intend to keep writing with the Global Alopecia Mission soon in hopes to find a research to cure Alopecia. Looking at the story now, I certainly follow the 5 Stages of Grief, the well-worn track of feelings after a slam to our sad keys.

Like you might expect, getting Alopecia is tough. At no point was I in physical pain, but having my physical appearance altered was kind of shitty and surreal, but mostly just shitty. In the end, of course, it’s just hair and there are far worse things. To my friends and family who may read this: Thank You! Because it’s hard to get too far down when you have as much as I do. On with my odd odyssey to bald complacency.

The Confused Era (fall 2009)

What struck me at first was discovering how rare Alopecia is. I had never heard of it, or gave hairless people much thought. I recall mistakenly pronouncing it it Aloe-puh-see-uh, which isn’t even close to correct. I’ll never forget when I first heard it pronounced correctly, which came from friend and hair pro, who corrected me when I asked her about it, during what turned out to be my last hair cut.  She learned the word in beauty school.

So begins the confused era, dominated with a a lot of “what the hell is going on” variances of thought.  I figured that the hair-void in my chin and mustache must have resulted from my habit of thumbing the area while thinking. And, c’mon, what else could it be?

And: I had the worst fever of my life from October 25-31 that year, seemed like it could be related. I missed four days of work that week and had a fever of 103. Immediately after the fever broke, the hair began to fall. Those weeks, I would wake up every morning with my initial daily thought to examine my pillow, then wallow in confusion. But I had the “thumb” and “fever” theories to tell myself – it’ll go away, it’ll go away, as denial set in….

Medical treatment: At this point I called the doctor. “Yep – Alopecia.”  I was prescribed a topical ointment to treat Alopecia Areata, a common form of Alopecia, where people get dime sized hairless patches that quickly hair over – 2% of the US population deals with this in their lifetime. I applied the cream to a small spot on the back of my head, and we left the face untreated.

 

Denial (winter 09-10)

Rough winter.  It seemed to rain every day in Portland where I lived and I was leaving trails of hair behind. I started to avoid mirrors and cut down on my shower frequency to slow the fallout. I hadn’t told anybody about what I was going through, but I interacted with about 100 people every day at my jobs, and obviously something was up.

During this time, I felt like all eyes were on me and everyone had the same ‘what’s going on with Tyson’s hair’ thought that I too was having.  But I didn’t want to bring it into reality by discussing it.  Meanwhile, my immune system was in full attack mode against the hairy enemy and it didn’t look like I was winning.

Medical treatment: I had two doctors at this point – a Natropathetic doctor and a Dermatologist in Portland.  The oddest thing to me about Alopecia to date is that dermatologists are the default physician for this thing, this still seems seriously wrong. The Natropathetic doctor’s theory was that my digestive system was to blame, so she gave me some pills to do something about that. The Dermatologist opted to give me the standard treatment of local injections of cortisone – a steroid that counteracts the work of my immune system, or “shews” it away.  The dozens of cortisone shots in my skull actually worked but it was always a losing battle against my unrelenting immune system.

Anger/Resentment (first part of 2010)

One year after The Last Haircut, I was dedicating too much time to rubbing my expanding bald spots on my head and face, hoping hard to discover them filled in. Denial ended one evening when my wife took a picture of the back of my head. As she turned the camera to me, I remember slowly focusing my eyes on the screen to the survey the damage. It was real. She shaved my head that moment (my real Last Haircut) and I got on with being bald, which means shopping for a good hat and reliable sunscreen, and adopting a new level of bitterness.

At this point I was upset and frustrated. I gritted through inevitable discussions about my condition. Undeniably sincere, the act of these discussions frequently compelled the other person to share a theory, which felt like getting the same assignment in a class that you hated, over and over again. I was embarrassed and always on the defense, as I came to grips that the doctors couldn’t just fix it.

Medical treatment: I dumped the Natropathetic doctor at this point but continued the local injections. Soon after, the dermatologist recognized the losing battle, and suggested giving me a topical cream that would induce an allergic reaction on my head. This would give my immune system something to do locally and maybe it would work. It sounded cool – if we were doing it to a rat – but it had a lot of side effects and didn’t seem worth it, so I passed on that and sought a doctor with other ideas.

Depression (mid 2010)

People who know me will say that I have plenty of self-esteem in the tank.  At this point I was so tired of talking about it and dreaded the re-indoctrination required with every person I know - the whole thing was just maddening. I felt like I was losing to something that now defined me and I was somehow a failure for it. Also, this era aligns with the final stages of the hair exodus, and I spent a lot of time maintaining the last survivors, notably: eyebrows and eye lashes.

But then I started to lose the eye lashes. Consider this: when you lose a quarter of your eyelashes, do you pluck the rest out? What if they grow back and you expunged the faithful survivors? Then there’s the eyebrows. When do you give up and shave the eyebrows? Awkward decisions to make for sure.

To add to the mix, new hair would emerge from the cortisone treatments, so, basically I was quite a sight and didn’t feel great about it. Overall though, I think I took it well enough, again thanks to all the awesome people and activities in my life.

Medical treatment: I left the first dermatologist for a “top” dermatologist in Portland with years of experience treating Alopecia. I was ready to do anything he said. He prescribed more Clobetasol and Monoxidal (Rogaine) twice a day (topical ointments), along with the standard cortisone injections, this time to replenish my eyebrows, which began to fade for the first time. Getting injections in the eyebrows feels exactly how you’d think.

Acceptance (late 2010 – 2011)

It took one full year to go from normal to bald, and for the the Alopecia to spread from from beard, to head, to eyebrows, to lashes. The day came where  I made the call to shave my eyebrows and it was complete. No longer was I trying to maintain something that could fall out, it was all gone. I entered the ‘screw it, it’s just hair’ state of mind and at least not shaving is kind of nice.

Medical treatment: I got deep-tissue cortisone injections in my lower-back/upper-butt area to systemically reduce the work of my immune system along with the Clobetasol/Monoxidal combo for my head. The Chicago dermatologist says that this combo needed a full 6 months before we can determine if it’s working or not.  It didn’t. The next step for the dermatologist community is another experiment: this time an off-label use of a drug used for Psoriasis.  Pass.

Research for a Cure

So now I’m looking to help out the cause and participate in new treatment options that have no side effects and soften the plight of the next guy/gal who gets Alopecia. With the Global Alopecia Mission, I plan to help market the condition and hopefully I can help eradicate this thing for myself and my new bald friends.

Before

After

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Google Improved the World Again

I think we can all agree that Google Maps is pretty awesome.  It’s so useful that over 100 million people have the App on their smart phone, and use the technology on the go to find important things like “lunch.”

But still, Google Maps still has a long way to go. There are  plenty of misplaced locations and outdated store information to get under control. To resolve this, Google announced an update this month where users can flag bad information directly from their phones using GPS and user input. To illustrate, let’s go to Milwaukee.

The Unfortunate Souls in Milwaukee

Picture this: you’re in Milwaukee and you get a hankering for some Dunkin Donuts and coffee. You type in “Dunkin Donuts” on your Google Maps App, and follow the route. Upon arrival, you realize that Dunkin Donuts is long gone. In its place stands a boarded-up storefront, Dunkin shaped. If you take the time to drive to the others, you’ll eventually learn that only the downtown DD location actually exists:

Dunkin Donuts in Milwaukee (mostly lies)

Not good. But now, you can flag it to Google to help clean things up. Read more from Google’s patent and get the long (and great) SEO perspective from SEO By the Sea. For the rest of us, this means it’s time to help Google out if you stumble upon a bad listing, and save the good people of Milwaukee from driving to vacant parking lots devoid of long johns and Dunkaccinos.

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