Aligning My After-Hours Emails with Office Hours

After-hours emails are something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. I can remember being on the receiving end of after-hours emails at my last job that totally threw off my night, and oftentimes my ability to even sleep. Even if it wasn’t bad news, it successfully got me into “work mode” at a time where I should’ve been switched off. Overtime, I found myself checking work email all weekend long just in case my boss, a co-worker, or client had sent something important. After all, it wasn’t uncommon and that was the expectation that was set: important emails can come in at any time and responses are expected ASAP.

When I read Your Late-Night Emails Are Hurting Your Team on HBR last year, it really struck a chord. It could really relate to it. All of it. When I started UpBuild, I really wanted to use it as an opportunity to build a company I would have wanted to work for. Avoiding sending emails at crazy hours was certainly a part of that.

However, now that I’m on the road living the digital nomad life, it’s more of a challenge than it used to be. I work pretty regular hours during the week, but I also use the weekends to catch up. If my wife and I are driving on a Sunday (we’re currently on an 8-hour journey from Austin, TX to New Orleans right now), I use that “down time” to catch up on email. That means I need to be careful about how that catch up might impact my team.

I now use email scheduling so that I can send and reply to emails whenever I want and schedule those messages to be delivered during office hours. What I was doing at first was scheduling emails using Boomerang in gmail. That was great, but it doesn’t work with Google Inbox, which is what I use exclusively now since Mailbox was killed off (relatedly, isn’t it time to 301 that domain?). If I wanted to schedule an email, I had to hop back into old-school gmail and schedule it there. It was not fun.

Scheduling emails using a Google Sheet

What I discovered today was a great post and Google Sheets script – How to Schedule Email Messages in Gmail with a Google Sheet. Seriously awesome stuff. Of course it’s just a hack and you still can’t schedule an email directly within Google Inbox, but I’m all about it.

I’d highly recommend checking out the post if you need to write emails after hours but don’t want to abuse your team with emails that chain them to their inboxes 24/7.

Punk Rock Digital Marketing

I used to be a punk. Well, I guess I still am, but I work in an office (well, not anymore) and I wear collar shirts more often than not.

There’s still a punk rock center under the (somewhat) professional exterior of my life.

Mike Arnesen and Alon Goren. Still punks.
The guy on the left is a super successful CEO and the other one is me.

I visited my hometown in Southern California this week and spent a lot of time with one of my best friends. Nowadays, he’s the Founder and CEO of InvestedIn, but back in the early 2000s we were in a punk rock band together. We used to play shows all over California; sometimes at bigger venues, but more often than not, we played at dive bars, in garages, or in backyards.

The best part of any show was that moment when people get so pumped up, they start a circle pit.

circle pit!

No, it’s exactly what it looks like. We’d get so revved up that we’d start running in a circle (counter clockwise, we’re not savages). It sounds super weird, but it made sense at the time.

Knowing that music I made was a part of what made that insanity happen was incredible. It was never about being on a stage and having people admire you for being a rock star; it was about bringing people together, getting everyone worked up, and leaving the place inspired, motivated…or just deaf.

It’s been about 7 years since I last played any kind of show and people still ask me if I miss it. Sometimes I do, but most of the time I don’t even think about it, because I’m still doing it. Every time I go to a conference or present something to a client, I get the same kind of nervous energy. I get the same rush when I get a positive response. My goal of getting people worked up and leaving inspired is still the same. Going to conferences and sharing cool ideas about digital marketing is my punk rock.


Punk rock was always about going against the grain and questioning the status quo. It wasn’t until recently that I realized that way of thinking is what led to some of my best ideas (like tracking structured data using tag management or doing link building by just doing stuff you’re geeked about).

So come get worked up at my next show. I’ll be getting my punk rock fix up in Seattle for SMX Advanced in June. I’ve come to equate Twitter interactions to the circle pits from the good old days. So, if any of the ideas I share get you pumped up you can Tweet about it and I’ll know I accomplished my goal of getting people motivated and getting people to think outside of the norm. You should probably refrain from starting a circle pit. The SMX team probably wouldn’t be very happy about that.

But you can totally start one if you want; I’m not the boss of you.

Why I’m Sold on HipChat

Lately, I’ve found myself giving the “HipChat pitch” over and over again to new UpBuild team memembers. We use a few tools in the office that parallel HipChat’s features, but I’ve been experimenting with a beta run of using HipChat to replace a few of those. I began with my immediate team, then expanded to our account management team, and I’m planning to give the “HipChat pitch” to the paid media team and executive teams. Since I’m writing out the merits of the tool so often, I figured I might as well re-purpose it as a blog post and give HipChat some well-deserved props.

hipchat logoHipChat is a multi-platform messaging tool. Plain and simple. Before we go any further, why don’t I just lay out why I think HipChat is awesome?

  • It’s multi-platform and runs on all my devices flawlessly.
  • It nails both 1-to-1 messaging and group chats.
  • It has awesome emoticons and inline images (+ GIFs!).
  • It stores a completely searchable chat history, available on any of your devices.
  • For the team at UpBuild, it can potentially replace multiple apps.

Sound good? Well, that’s because it is!

All Devices. All Platforms.

My team works in the office. We work in conferences rooms. We work on couches. We work from home. We work from airplanes, on trains, and in Ubers. We need a messaging tool that can be just as useful on our mobile devices as it is on our desktops. We also need a tool that’s not just a web app that we need to keep in an open browser tab.

HipChat has become the answer for me. I have their Android app installed on my phone. I have their OSX app installed on my desktop. If I need to, I can run the web app from another computer. The Android app even integrates with my Moto 360 smart watch!

Before HipChat, I used Google Chat/Hangouts/Messages/whatever-it’s-called. It was okay, but it was never a great experience. Even though I could get it on my phone, and use it through gmail, and integrate it with a desktop client like Adium, it was just always lacking. It felt “hacky”. Plus, the chat history never reliably made it back anywhere where I could search for it later. Even message sent from within Gmail were never adequately searchable within the Gmail interface.

HipChat, on the other hand, does all of this flawless. The experience and feature richness are the same no matter what platform I’m on, and EVERYTHING I send is archived and searchable from ANY of my devices.

1-to-1 or 1-to-many

If anyone reading this has tried using group chat through Adium…you poor soul. I know that pain.

At my previous company, SwellPath, we’d been using GroupMe for our group chat needs and it worked…okay. We have a lot of fun in our general chat, but it’s mostly for LOLs and GIF-sharing. We’ve never had much luck in the way of having truly productive topical chats.

Before that we used Beluga. Remember that? Thanks for shutting that down, Facebook. <span style=”tone:sarcastic”>Facebook Messenger is so much better anyway.</span>

The reason that HipChat is working (so far) for having on-topic group chats is that it also works so well for 1-to-1 direct chats. We’re not using Gchat for 1-to-1 and GroupMe for 1-to-many and asking people to switch between the two; everything is in one place. You sign into one app, one experience and just go.

I’m connected to my team all day through HipChat and message folks 1-on-1 pretty frequently. If something comes up for a specific client account, I can just spin up a dedicated chat with the relevant team members who are already using HipChat. I also have a dedicated persistent chat for my team, one for myself and the leads on the Account Management team, etc. It’s pretty great.

Emoticons + Inline GIFs and Images

awwww yeah hipchatAwwww yea, fun stuff! I need a chat app that has inline images, can play GIFs, and has ridiculous emoticons. I’m not made of stone!

I guess that’s all for this point.



Persistent and Searchable

I already touched on this above, but seriously, this is a huge deal. First, the chats you start in HipChat are persistent meaning that if you start a chat on mobile, the full chat will be waiting for you when you get to your desktop machine. At the end of the day, that chat persists over on your mobile device and you can keep chatting on your train ride out to the suburbs (as I’m wont to do).

Chats are also searchable, so you can dig up your relevant conversations later or jog your memory on things. I come from using Adium for desktop chats and the Google Hangouts app for mobile. The huge issue there was that neither of those communicated with the other and stuff I sent on my phone never made it to my desktop chat history and vice versa.


Yep. This combines a lot for me and for my team. Before HipChat, I was using Adium for desktop chats. Google Hangouts AND IM+ on my phone for mobile chats, GroupMe for desktop and mobile for group chats, and occasionally chat from the Gmail web interface. HipChat replaces ALL of that.

Right now, however, I still using all of those tools plus HipChat; I haven’t converted the entire company to HipChat so I still have to be available for the people who aren’t using it yet. While I could have just tried to get everyone to flip the switch and start using it at the same time, I didn’t want to recommend that everyone start using an app that turned out to suck. Ha!


Okay, I knew HipChat featured a lot of cool integrations when I first started using it, but I didn’t really look into it much. I literally didn’t dig into this aspect until mid-way through writing this blog post, and WOW. I’ve been missing a lot!

HipChat allows for integrations with about 70 awesome tools to bring a ton of your work processes together. A few I plan to take advantage of starting now:

  • Go To Meeting: Turn on this integration to allow team members to spin up their own Go To Meeting by typing /g2m!
  • Twitter: Configure this integration to post to a chat room when a handle or topic is mentioned on Twitter!

Yeah, that’s only two, but there are a lot more to explore! You can even host HipChat on your own server if need be.

It’s Free!

I’m not made of money, so I can’t go blowing it on tools if I don’t know they’re going to be worth it. HipChat is Freemium, so you get a fully-functional tool for free. Some enhanced features (like video chat and screen sharing) are extra ($2 per user per month).

So go and try HipChat. Or don’t. What do I care? They don’t pay me.

> HipChatopotamus <

Challenging Myself: Blogging Every Week

The title says it all. I’m challenging myself to blog at least once a week, every week. Until when? I don’t know. Maybe FOREVER!


I’ve struggled with being a perfectionist for my whole professional career and my blogging has absolutely been handicapped by that. It takes me an inordinate amount of time before a blog post is good enough, has been reviewed enough times, has been researched or validated enough, or is original enough. By holding myself accountable for writing something on here each week, I hope to start working through some of that obsession.

I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts last week (This Week In Startups) and famed venture capitalist Fred Wilson was talking about why he values blogging daily (yeah, not weekly, daily). He said that he’s found it super valuable because it forces him to put his thoughts into a coherent format.

I can see a lot of value in that personally. My mind is typically all over the place and I have hundreds of random, strange, useful, useless, innovative, derivative ideas every day. But when it’s in my head, I don’t really need to flesh the idea out or make it coherent. I think this will be a great exercise for that. Putting my thoughts down on paper, as it were, might help me get more value out of them.

Also, did you know the term “Freemium” originated from an random question that ended up as a blog post and a commenter suggested the term “Freemium” to describe a business that had a basic free model but then paid features on top of that? Blogging your ideas allows you to get feedback and help from other brains, too!

I’m stoked about this.

Exploring Startup Culture

What is company culture? It surprised me that I couldn’t just pull a decent answer out of my back pocket for this. For the past few years, I’ve thought of myself as an advocate of company culture, yet it wasn’t until I set out to write a blog post about SwellPath’s culture that I realized how difficult it would be to pin down what that actually meant.

Sure, I could turn to Google and figure out what “organizational culture” meant in less than .00062 seconds, but instead I waited until I was a mile up in the air to try to figure it out on my own. Something incredibly counter-instinctual for a search geek like me.

What is company culture? To me, culture is the way a startup, a company, an organization behaves. I’m not sure I like that definition…let me clarify.


[Read more…]

Wanna be on my team?

UpBuild is hiring! If, after your read this, you feel like you’d be a good fit for our team or you know someone who could be, go to the site and shoot an email.

Note: This post was written when I was the Director of Analytics & Optimization at SwellPath. Enjoy!

Epic High FiveOver the course of my SwellPath tenure, I saw dozens and dozens job postings go up. As we hoped, those postings led to lots of new hires; shiny new additions to our team. The folks who ended up joining our team over the years usually fell into one of three groups:

  1. Exceptional: The exceptional new hires have always been the people who were great cultural fits and had the drive to produce exceptional work. The loved being here and, as a result, we loved having them on as part of our team.
  2. Good: The good hires were able to do a good job, but SwellPath ended up not being a great long term fit for them. A stint at an agency was simply one step for them leading to what they probably wanted to do all along. So invariably, people who aren’t fantastic at working in an agency setting and aren’t perfect cultural fits end up moving onto something else.
  3. Poor Fits: Then there are people who just weren’t good fits in terms of culture and/or quality of work. Thankfully, we almost never see that.

[Read more…]

Tonight is the Night! Semantic & Social Markup in PDX

Semantic MarkupJust wanted to throw up a quick post because I’m super stoked about what’s happening tonight. I’ll be speaking at SEMpdx’s February educational event called “Under the Hood: Advanced Markup for SEO & Social Media“. Semantic SEO and social sharing enhancements are two of my favorite topics, so I’m beyond excited to get to talk about that with people who are also getting worked up about it.

And it gets even better: I’m sharing the stage. I’m tag teaming the topic with none other than the great Will Hattman. Have you heard of Will? Maybe not yet, but you will. As recently as a year ago, I had the pleasure of having Will on my SEO team over at SwellPath and was lucky enough to be able to teach him a few things about SEO. Now he’s moved on to heading up the SEO offering at SEMpdx mainstay Anvil Media.

Tonight really is going to be an amazing reunion for us. We actually haven’t seen each other in person since we were working together. I know it probably won’t happen and I know it sounds cheesy, but I just really hope he opens with this when I see him…

Will: We meet again at last. The circle is now complete. When I left you, I was but the learner. Now I am the Master.
Me: Only a master of evil, William.

So, if you’re in Portland, Oregon tonight and you want to learn everything you need to know about structured data, semantic markup, and social metadata and why it matters, join us! There are still tickets left and you can buy them at the door, too.

See you there!


What Does the SEO Say?

Speaking at MozCon was one of the highlights of my career (life?)
Speaking at MozCon was one of the highlights of my career (life?)

Yesterday was my last speaking engagement of the year. Yesterday was my last speaking engagement for some time. I’m not giving up speaking on the SEO conference circuit, but I am taking a break. It’s a break that’s much needed.

Since November 2012, I’ve spoken at 11 industry events (SMX East 2012, SEMpdx, PDX Bloggers, SMX Social 2012, SMX West 2013, SwellPath Presents, Emerald Marketing Association, MozCon 2013, SMX East 2013, SemTech Biz 2013, and State of Search 2013). Speaking at all these awesome events has been an incredible experience and I can say, without qualification, that I’ve been able to improve as a presenter in some way every time I’ve stepped in front of an audience. For me, the fact that I even took that step in front of an audience is huge. [Read more…]