How Google Went Kung-Fu Panda on SEO

The world is changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air. Much that once was is lost…

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is dead. Great companies don’t fake it, and Google is out to force that hand. In the past search simply focused on providing the best results for the keywords used. It didn’t matter how great your site looked or how valuable the content was, as long as you had your SEO con-men or some smart computer guys. The name of the game was:

But no more; that has all changed. Google is forcing businesses not to cut corners. Google basically said,

Sure content is King, but content quality is what really matters.

In 2011 Google released the Panda (algorithm) and forever changed the game for schemsters and Search Engine Optimizers. Google knows that great companies do what is right; providing quality products they are proud to stand behind. Great companies provide value, not an MBA-analyzed, trick the system, triangle-scheme, convince people to but more of my junk marketing strategy. Google has adopted artificial intelligence to force companies to provide attractive, quality content if they want to be found online.

Curious why blogs and social media are becoming more and more popular? Google’s Panda uses artificial intelligence (syncronized with real people) to determine what pages and websites are of greater quality based upon design, trustworthiness, speed, and whether or not people would return to the site.

Today the name of the game is user happiness.

Google sat down with loads of real people and asked them to browse websites, and answer questions like:

  • What is the experience of this website?
  • Is it creating a brand that you are going to love and share and reward and trust?
  • Would you trust this site with your credit card?
  • Would you trust the medical information that this site gives you with your children?
  • Do you think the design of this site is good?

The fact of the matter is that people trust genuine peer recommendations and well-written experience statements over advertising copy. Blogs and social media are becoming more and more important. Look at the success of Yelp; you are looking for a place to eat and you trust the reviews of people you have never met to decide where you will spend your money. Google’s Panda, like real people, rewards humor, being human, well-written content; not just keyword-filled jargon.

So for those of you that think you can survive with at static, sale-brochure, “me-focused” website, your time is coming. Prosperity to all ends will reach those who, above having the best moves and winning any single game, strive to be of the most value.

Thank you for reading my blog – Daniel S. Herr.
I invite you to connect with me on Twitter @DanHerr
Or follow to my blog

Some of my research sources:

Venture Socialist? – Value Over Risk & Return

One June 16th, 2010 I wrote the following on my old blog @

If I could give one thing to the world… one thing that would change it and sustain it… it would be the oxymoron of a non-profit organization that’s goal and purpose in life is to create, invest in, support, and build sustainable businesses… an organization that reinvests what is earned into the community and the world around it… building businesses not merely with the intention to get rich and the desire become the largest of the Fortune 500’s, but the goal of becoming the best business they can possibly be… choosing instead of big, instead of gargantuan, to be great.

This speaks to the heart of what I believe in and have experienced. There are handfuls of people out there with great ideas and existing small / struggling businesses. Venture Capital does not accept the returns of local startup ventures; they are looking for promising ideas that are geared toward huge growth. Banks don’t care anymore; they have shut the doors to businesses and become completely risk adverse. Personal investments today are based upon large multi-national conglomerates and large company funds instead of local, valuable, longer-lasting (more sustainable) quality businesses. To me this smells strongly of opportunity.

I have heard talk of a third metric entering the business investment space, and that is social impact. Risk, Return, and Social Impact. I might call that third term societal value, or simply value. In all the hype of the DOt cOM 90’s and the booming Real Estate Triangle-scheme like 2000’s we lost sight of the fact that return is related to value. That the market price of a stock and the appraisal of a property need to be rooted in its actual value. For years we have based return on comparable return; valuation based upon growth instead of tangible and sustainable value, real estate based upon comparable sales. Perhaps what is really missing is taking that step back to say, “how will this business change and improve our world?”

Do I have the complete answer; nope, not yet. But I believe a great start is to investigate the root of local success, share those behind-the-scenes stories, and allow the people to bring some of that money invested back home, to the businesses they trust and interact with daily. I want to start by showing why Reno / Tahoe is a great place to live and do business. I want to encourage people to come here, start businesses here, and invest here. Not a new silicon anything, but a local us thing.

What do you think? I welcome your comments…

Photo Sources:


Is Sustainability Dead? Teddy Bear has the Answer

I might argue that sustainability doesn’t work. You cannot keep anything the same forever; why do you think people die? Life has to be recreated in order to continue. If you want to be real about it the only thing that is sustainable is change.

“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”
—Benjamin Franklin

Wikipedia says that Sustainability is the “capacity to endure,” though the defining tenet of humanity and life on earth has been the ability to adapt to the change, because change is ever-present. My concerns is that the essence of sustainability these days seems to be control. “If we could just keep people from building in pristine places, make them use ‘green’ products with new building standards, and require that the government buy organic, we would be on our way,” some think. Well hear this; Karl Marx believed in this kind of comprehensively planned society. Marx believed there should be no competition, but a comprehensively controlled system; sounds like the idea of sustainability preached today.

What we really need are more mindful realists. People that aren’t afraid to be who they are, stand up for what they believe in, and not tip-toe around the bush. If you want that fox, dive right in that brush and go get it. What we need are more Theodore Roosevelts in the world. From a military and authority perspective, Teddy wasn’t afraid to show off his and our country’s might; a little show-boaty for my taste, but straight foward. “Here is my White Fleet, it will destroy you if you push my buttons, try me.” Obviously not a liberal approach to life.

But wait, have I mentioned that Teddy and Mr. John Muir are the fathers of our National Parks system, very much enjoyed the outdoors, and preached Conservationism? Wait, what? That’s right Mr. Tough Guy, New York City Police Commissioner, Medal of Honor Nominee, Republican avid hunter was a progressive conservationist and environmentalist. Oh, that’s right, that’s where we get the name Teddy Bear (he refused to shoot a cornered bear).

“There can be nothing in the world more beautiful than the Yosemite, the groves of the giant sequoias and redwoods, the Canyon of the Colorado, the Canyon of the Yellowstone, the Three Tetons; and our people should see to it that they are preserved for their children and their children’s children forever, with their majestic beauty all marred.” 
– Theodore Roosevelt

My opinion is that in the future, everyone will continue doing whatever allows them to easy and comfortably get by. Conservation of our own energy is a human survival tactic (read laziness). This virus we call the human race will do whatever is needed to survive for as long as we can. When price gets too high for gasoline, we will look for alternatives; when we have ruined every underground water aquifer and well with fracking, we will look for alternatives. When the day finally comes that we cannot healthily fish the seas because aquatic creatures consist of too much plastic and heavy metals, we will find another way.

“We have become great because of the lavish use of our resources. But the time has come to inquire seriously what will happen when our forests are gone, when the coal, the iron, the oil, and the gas are exhausted, when the soils have still further impoverished and washed into the streams, polluting the rivers, denuding the fields and obstructing navigation.”
– Theodore Roosevelt

You’re way off if you think that never ruffled a feather in his party. The point being, he was no BS. Regardless of what sticks and stones are thrown your way, stand up for what you believe in. Be you and be real. Sustainability is Utopian; conservation is realistic. And I have always respected speaking softly and carrying a big stick.

I welcome your thoughts on the matter…

Think Social Media is Stupid? You’re Going To Lose.

Think Social Media doesn’t matter? … Well you’re dead wrong. Allow me to give you a personal example of why you can’t afford to ignore Social Media…

“If you’re in the group that thinks twitter is stupid you are going to lose.”
– Erik Deckers (06-Mar-2012 in Skype conversation)

On the 12th of February, 2012 my fiancée and I had a nice bit of wine tasting over at the Wild River Grill and figured we’d give Campo another go, since it was right across the way, prior to the movie we wanted to see. We had been there once before (I had the wild-boar pasta) and dinner was okay, the service wasn’t great, we had to ask for a number of things multiple times, but the atmosphere was half entertaining. On the 12th we walked in at probably 4:45pm, the hostess was extremely snooty and while there were definitely more than 10+ open tables, she insisted that there was “no room for us” and that she had “reservations coming in within the next 45 minutes”. Okay great, sorry to bother you by bringing you business… we’re not coming back here again. We went to Chocolate Bar across the street and they were more than happy to have our business; not to mention their melted-cheese chip dish and sliders were great!

The past few months I’d been telling people, “I don’t know why people think Campo is so great. Their hostess was a complete bitch to us and their food isn’t that good. I loved Moody’s and Baxsters, but I don’t think I’ll ever go back to Campo.”

Flash-forward to April… I’ve been taking a Personal Branding course at the University of Nevada, Reno to work on my Social Media Marketing skills. One of the requirements a few weeks ago was to review some places on Yelp. On the 3rd of April I posted the following about Campo:

I didn’t expect anything to come of it, perhaps I would help someone chose Chocolate Bar as we did before wasting their time with the bitchy hostess. A few days later Mark, the Owner, shoots me a message on Yelp:

“Daniel, i am interested to hear more.  if you would not mind emailing me at ******  thanks!”

Interesting, okay… I figured, what the heck, if he’s really interested I’ll tell him what is up. I shot him a quick email about the experience and not a day later he gave me a call (from my number in the signature line), and asked if I had a minute to chat.

I was blown away. Mark, the owner of Campo, Burger Me, Moody’s, & Baster’s was calling me up to apologize for the bad experience. In my opinion he did all the right things. Mark didn’t make excuses nor complain about my review; he simply apologized, explained that he did have a gal he had some issues with up front and that he had let someone go, that he was trying train his people better to accommodate both walk-in and reservations without turning anyone away as much as possible, and that he was adding seating outside this summer. Mark explained to me the health regulations, said he had not had other complaints about the wild-board pasta, but was sorry that it disagreed with me. And that was that. He didn’t beg me to come spend more money, offer me some corny discount, or request that I change my review. Nothing. Simply “I wanted to reach out and apologize for the bad experience.” Fantastic. He built a human connection with me and I felt compelled to update my review to 4 stars:

This was a first-hand, real-life example of the benefits of business involvement in Social Media. Not only did Mark deal with the bad rap I was spreading about his business, but his genuine approach was so much above and beyond the norm or ignoring that he has inspired me to spread his good word. Sure I haven’t been back yet, but the way he handled this situation definitely says something about his character, or at least his business sense. Mark, my hat off to you.

I invite you share your experiences with Mark, Campo, & Social Media by leaving a comment:

Is Solar Marked with a New Orleans Saints Bounty?

I have been working in the Solar industry for the past two years through ups and downs of start-ups, small and large Photovoltaic installations, starting by selling one-off modules to Burning Man “Burners” to get by and more recently installing large Federally funded Energy Efficiency Community Block Grant projects with Johnson Controls throughout Nevada. One thing remains, it is constantly a struggle to sell solar.

I recently had a spout with a member of Senior Corps of Retired Executives (S.C.O.R.E.) about solar in a new business model I have been working on called “CrowdSolar”. He said, “Son, I have been doing Solar since before you were born. You have a great idea here, but the numbers will never add up with Solar.” I debated with him for twenty minutes pointing out that the levelized cost of energy of solar is projected to hit grid parity within the next five years, that I understand that module prices are lower than they should be because of Chinese market saturation and unfair trading practices, and that if a system can be financed properly, like I am offering, you can get a customer to save money from day one. He wouldn’t buy it and recommended I speak with a solar businessman in the UK with whom he was familiar (I will be doing that soon).

My point is, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone that says solar electricity is a bad thing, much less “the future”. But are we all blinded? It is a large investment and the “payback period” is longer than people are typically willing to accept. My colleague Patrick shared the following with me that he recently came across regarding market penetration of energy-saving technologies:

The concerning thing is that assuming this graph applies to today and Solar electricity as an “energy-saving technology” that means that adoption of the technology would be limited to well less than 10% market penetration. Does that mean then that locations such as Germany and Spain which have seem much larger adoption have exceeded the market equilibrium of the technology and will continue to face problems with their feed-in tarriffs and further adoption? I personally still think not, but I don’t have the research base to back that up.

What do you think? I invite you to comment with your thoughts below…

Know the Why? Then the Rules Don’t Matter!

I urge you to go through life with purpose
and consider your ‘why’ in daily actions;
perhaps someday your ‘why’ will become the rule.

You’ve heard the phrase, Rules were meant to be broken. Well consider this, rules were made to protect people that don’t understand the why (protect people from themselves). Once you understand the why behind your actions, the rule is null and void.

In my humble opinion there is no rule that is universal: there are generalities, but there is always an exception. As a kid your entire life depended on rules:

  • You’re not allowed to watch TV after 10 am. Why? Because
  • No shoes on the couch!
  • Never get in the car with a strangers.
  • No running by the pool!
  • The 10 Commandments
  • Even rules of physics: Everything that goes up must come down…

… under the right conditions.

These rules were fantastic life-savers when you were obedient; you didn’t know why and your parents didn’t want to take the time to explain everything. “Don’t question me boy; just do as I say.”

I know I’m dreaming here, but wouldn’t it be fantastic if we could live without rules? If we could operate as healthy and effective societies without the need of remembering arbitrary numbers, directions and instructions? If everyone understood the why, there would be no need for rules and exceptions; simply logic and reason. But alas this thought makes one large mistaken argument that all people are logical, and think before they act.

But what I am suggesting for those logical beings out there is a mindful approach to consider how you might act. Have the forethought to consider consequences and respect others. If you are considerate and thoughtful about your actions, you shouldn’t have to remember arbitrary rules.  Rules are human nature, we made them up to describe generalities, and they do a pretty good job all in all. But some day there will be a completely new set of rules. Rules that fit the new order of logic. Rules were literally made to be broken when you understand the why. I urge you to go through life with purpose and consider your why in daily actions; perhaps someday your why will become the rule.

Thank you for reading my blog – Daniel S. Herr.
If you are interested, I invite you to follow me on Twitter @DanHerr
Or Subscribe in a reader 

Work ON your business. Not IN.

Work on your business, not in your business.

Have the forethought to manage instead of always being consumed by your business.

I met a wonderfully prosperous and inspiring man while hitching a ride from Wanaka to Queenstown in New Zealand in 2009. The one piece of advice he gave was to “Work on your businesses, not in them.” There are loads and loads of people with great business ideas who are awesome people, but many get so consumed in the day-to-day operations that they lose the vision for the future, the time to analyse the past, and the ability to plan for where they want to be.

The largest value I personally bring is often that ability to step back, see and analyze the big picture, as well as the ability to tackle finite technical challenges that might require my immediate attention. Understood that you must make your business profitable, provide your products and services on time, and there are a million and a half things that need doing at any one time; but without that planning ability, all is for not. This need can be grave and fatal if not addressed in many start-up businesses.

If you are a new small business owner, entrepreneur, or even sole-proprietor I encourage you to take the time, force it into your schedule if you must, to work on your business. Make sure you are still addressing the why and the how as much as the everyday what.

Work on your business, not in your business.

Thank you for reading my blog – Daniel S. Herr.-
If you are interested, I invite you to follow me on Twitter @DanHerr
Or Subscribe in a reader 

5 Steps to Starting in Solar Sales

I have been asked many many times how to get started in Solar and renewable energy. If you’re looking to work in the industry, my first answer, understand what the heck you are talking about and just do it. Okay, that many not sound like the best advice, but in my experience thus far most of the Universities don’t know what they heck they are talking about yet when it comes to renewable energy at this point and you’re going to have to do some of your own homework. Sure they can approach it from a big-picture, “Solar energy is good because…” standpoint, but that is pure garbage when it comes to running a clean-energy business.

First thing’s first: Learn what you are talking about

I would highly recommend that you have a technical background if you are looking to get into Solar. If you walk in my door misplacing kilowatt-hours for watt and spelling photovoltaics as two words, I will likely show you the door. Start here:

  1. Learn the basics of modules and inverters.
  2. Attend one of Bill Brooks’ classes.
  3. Read Photovoltaic Systems be James Dunlop.
  4. Subscribe to HomePower Magazine, SolarPro, and others.

You can easily find information about pv modules by visiting websites of solar veterans such as Sharp Solar, SunPower, and SolarWorld. Common inverters seen today are central (SMA, PV Powered, Fronius) and micro (Enphase). In fact you can get all of this in one place by getting a free catalogue from DC Power Systems or Solar Depot (now the same thing – merged to become the largest distributor in the US), AEE Solar, Focused Energy, or others. Please be careful to avoid homemade and no-name or new solar companies. The industry standard for power performance is 80%+ at 25 years+; if the company has been around for three years, its a little hard to know they’ll still be around in 25.

Secondly: Figure out how to scope a system size

Take an energy bill for your place and size out a system. You will need to learn some back of the napkin calculations for this using NREL RedBook numbers. For example in Reno, Nevada we commonly use 5.96 sun-hours (assuming optimal tilt). That means with my old apartment using around 6.2kWh’s/day would need a 1.04 kW system (assuming no losses) to meet my electricity needs on an average day. There are many arguments about different losses (including wire sizing, inverter, etc) to use, you can add all those individual losses up if you really want, but generally between 0.77 – 0.80 is a good conservative range. If you divide my 1.04 kW by that number (say .8) you would get a 1.3kW system.

Make sure you learn how to use PVWatts by NREL. PV Watts gives you great annual performance data for any location in the country using NREL’s climatalogical datasets.

Thirdly: Learn some of the standard economics and selling points

If you don’t know how to use Excel, now would be a great time. While you may think people are jumping through the wood-work to install solar for the environmental benefits, this is truly not the case. The hard fact is people only care about the price savings and the people that are widely adopting solar right now are very knowledgable people that have been researching, reading up on it, and running the numbers themselves. While I hate the “pay-back” question, you will get it, and solar is not going to “pay-back” in two years or less for those short-sighted people. Do you ask what the payback is when you do a kitchen remodel or purchase a new car? Solar is an investment, and likely the best one a homeowner can make.

In General Facts about Solar:

  • It is an investment, and you have to want to do it. Customers have to be shown the economics of it; cash in, savings out.
  • It generally increases property value without increasing property taxes
  • Owners will not be going “off-the-grid,” they will generally be net metering (installing a bi-directional meter that keeps tally of energy in and energy out). There is likely a minimum cost from the utility for being connected (say $15/month)
  • System lives are 30+ years if property maintained
  • Solar materials prices have been continually falling, but they are likely a little less than they should be right now (Read tariffs on Chinese modules are coming and the market is currently saturated with product which has driven the price down).
  • The weighted average cost to install solar was $4.08/Watt at the end of 2011 (I have seen as low as $3.65/W, but residential can still be in the $5-6/Watt for small systems).
  • Catch a glimpse of the industry in 2011

Forthly: Do it.

Now it is time to work your butt off to sell some systems. Some of the largest companies in the country that are truly dominating and looking to add on sales people are:

Jump in, get your feet wet, and make a career out of Technical Solar Sales

Finally: Get your NABCAP Certification in Technical Sales

NABCEP Certification is not easy; it takes years of industry experience designing and selling systems. Once you reach this level you have proved you are a valueable and honest Photovoltaic Technical Sales Professional.

Thank you for reading my blog – Daniel S. Herr.
If you are interested, I invite you to follow me on Twitter @DanHerr
Or Subscribe in a reader 

Nevada’s Defeatist Mentality

Have you ever played a sports game where you knew you were the lesser opponent? Walked into a room and said, I’m going to blow this. Welcome to Nevada and the purvasive mindset of “things are worse here than anywhere else, and no one cares about us.”

Somewhere along the way our poker-playing, horse-back riding, gold mining, gambling frontier ways fed us into a drunken stupor of regret and despair. Defeated before the game begins. A victim of the times justifying excuses and blaming one another. A lack of commitment and responsibility; soft on ourselves. Enough is enough.

Sure times have been tough; tougher than the lucky-go-easy Bill-Clinton 90’s with an economy built upon building a bigger economy… but the greatest work comes from the hardest struggle. No one tells stories of how easy life is or how they toppled the weakest opponent; stories are of the legendary battles of the disrespected underdog and the outcast champion. I encourage you to watch this youtube video that I could not embed (Let me show you how great I am). The one below isn’t too shabby either:


I lived on the East Coast for college where if I was from Nevada, I must be near Vegas, if I was from California, I must be a surf bum on the OC, if I was from Reno, I must be arrested daily by those idiots on Reno 911. We need to share the stories of how great life is and can be in Nevada. The people that haven’t been here don’t know the story. You think Nevada has it bad? How about Detroit? They remind us that it’s hottest fires that make the hardest steel:


All that is truly needed is a change in the mindset here in Nevada. The choice is not the decision, the choice is to choose. The choice is “I know pros and cons and I freely choose.” Just choose period. Choose in your mind to get off your but and share what is great about Nevada. I think I just chose to start a blog about what is great in Northern Nevada…

Getting Kicked in the Mind

For a long time I knew that I had a “black cloud hanging over my head.” I felt that bad luck always found me, storms always followed me, and “why is this always happening to me?” I was filled with frustration when things didn’t work out. It took a one-way ticket to the other side of the world to really change my mind and show me that it was a personal decision of how I reacted to the world.

Have you every really listened to life? Heard its subtle nuances? Gone with the flow and seen where it can take you?

Today, I know without any reason of a doubt that there is more than the physical embodiment to life, though I am more than happy to hear your interpretation and thoughts (ie. please feel free to comment below). My interpretation has boiled down to a sense of what I call Unity. I believe in God, though I believe God is a way for us to describe something that we have a hard time describing; connected-ness and collective conscious. I have experienced first-hand the coincidences, the perfection when you live in the flow. I have listened to what you might call the Holy Spirit; contemplated and meditated with Buddhists; prayed with Jehovah’s witnesses and Jews; read Sanskrit, and rocked out with snowboarding Christians. It is remarkable how similar the basic essence of beliefs are. Strip away the culture they are built in and the traditions formed over time to find the same skeletal structure seaking to explain life’s seemingly inexplicable. A search for truth, purpose, connected-ness and understanding.

One very important lesson I learned is that you are balancing your desires and needs with those of others around you. Sometimes your mission takes precedence, though most often, “You can’t stop what’s coming; it ain’t all waiting on you.” Frustration comes from being hell-bent on control. 90% of what happens to you and around you, you don’t truly have control over. You consciously have a say in life, but your subconscious is smarter than you and everyone else’s mind has a say too. I believe life (and you can call that subconscious, interconnectedness or God) gives you solid signs, it has an ebb and a flow for timing if you listen; the problem is that most of the time we do not listen. I am not advocating for the sake of giving yourself up entirely, but for balancing what is best between your desires and what is best for the whole.  I am reminded of the Governing Dynamics scene of A Beautiful Mind:

It is hard to remember to listen, to calm the mind and the spirit today, but it is essential. The communication channel is there, waiting and open, but we forget (or have never learned) how to use it. I urge you to take the time to let the mud settle out of your mind. Constantly stirring a cup full of muddy water will keep it opaque; it is only by removing the spoon that we can clearly separate the dirt from the clear water. It takes time for the mind to settle, but whatever time you can afford it will afford you back.

When my mind is clear, even for a short while, I have a much better appreciation for what I have; and somehow my goals are always that much more straight-forward and clearly defined.

I have found that everything is not always going to be perfect, to think otherwise is erred judgement and delusional; so enjoy it when all is right in the world.  Even when stuff doesn’t work out, there is still so much good in this world to be happy and thankful for.

“When you’re happy like a fool, let it take you over.”

OneRepublic – Good Life

Maybe we’re just so disconnected from reality as a generation, refusing to except what is in front of us, wanting to live in a dream world (digital or floating in the clouds). Everyone wants to share their story, be heard. But the good life is right in front of us, “please tell me what there is to complain about.”

Thank you for reading my back-road, dirt path, far from the information super highway blog.
I welcome your rebuttals, comments, criticisms, rants, and one word answers
a long as you accept mine in return 🙂
– Daniel S. Herr.