Tech Thursday: Online Storage, Toggl, and Beyond

Happy Tech Thursday!

As promised, we’re adding our new Google Hangout Tech Thursdays to the blog as we go (also, this format is a lot of fun so far)!

This week, we discuss online storage options (so, when the next version of iOS or what have you comes out, you aren’t deleting all your music and pictures off your phone like Kassie). Some options include Dropbox and Google Drive (which we use here at Breaking Even) and iCloud, if you’re only using Mac products. We also had a brief Throwback Thursday moment to Bates’ online storage system, Paris (lots of colleges have something similar).

Productivity and time management are always of interest to us, and we wanted to share our newest tool- Toggl. It makes everyone’s lives easier here, and we thought maybe others could benefit from it, too! (Plus, I just read this interesting piece from Seth Godin on Optimistic Time vs. Honest Time– which is why we love tools like Toggl).

Feel free to send us your questions/ideas for topics- we’d love to have them for next time!

Online Advertising 101: Pay Per Click Advertising

Back in November, we filmed a Tech Thursday video about advertising online  (when it’s a good idea, as well as a brief sample of the more common types you may encounter). As we started filming, we realized, Hey, there’s kind of a lot to online advertising. Maybe we should give our people more info. Thus, Online Advertising 101 was born. There’s an overwhelming amount of information out there about advertising online, so we’re going to spend some time over the course of the next few weeks looking at the different types of online ads (and some best practices).


One of the ad types we discuss in the video is Pay Per Click ads. A pay per click ad is exactly what it sounds like: whenever someone clicks on your ad, you pay the publisher. A common example of PPC ads is Google AdWords (note: we don’t work with Google AdWords, but our friend Colin totally does).

How does it work? Say you’re a business and you want your ad to display on a certain website (also called the publisher). Here’s what you want to do:

1) Create an ad based on whatever you’re offering. For the sake of this exercise, you are a clothing store selling a bright pink woman’s polo shirt. The publisher will probably have some display guidelines (image requirements and size recommendations, allotted character restrictions, etc.), so keep this in mind as you construct your ad. Remember, make it pretty, but not obnoxious- your ad shouldn’t be the inflatable arm waving tube man of the internet. Take a look at your landing page (the page people land on after clicking your ad). Is there a clear call to action here? If not, do some tweaking. Once a person has reached this page, you want to keep him there to follow through with a purchase.

2) Research keywords. With PPC ads, only the people who type in certain keywords (in Google, for instance) will be shown your ad. Think about what words a person searching for your product would use. Keywords are in some ways the keys that unlock your ad, but you do want to choose them wisely. It’s not a “the more, the merrier” situation. Remember, you’re paying each time someone clicks on your ad. The more you specifically target it, the better your chances of turning that click into a sale. In our example, for instance, the word “shirt” is probably a terrible keyword. Thousands of people search for shirts online, but only a small percentage of those people are looking for your shirt. So, how do you know which keywords will work best? There are some free tools out there- if you have a Google AdWords account, for instance, you can use their free Keyword Planner tool.

3) Publish your ad. Again, Google AdWords is a common option in terms of publishing. With AdWords, you set up your campaign for free and indicate your budget (because, let’s face it- money is a finite resource and not all businesses have hundreds of thousands to toss into an advertising campaign). This also keeps your ad from running indefinitely. Of course, Google AdWords isn’t your only option for PPC. If you’re working with a different publisher, there may be a few differences with payment. For instance, flat rate agreements involve the publisher and advertiser agreeing on a set rate of cost per click. There is also bid based pricing, which gets a bit hairier in terms of competition and pricing (it’s based on an auction system, so if you’re a small business trying to keep up with a multi-million dollar company, this isn’t your best bet). You can watch the analytics and see how well your ad is performing (which is always recommended) to determine whether or not PPC is a good investment for you.


The most common PPC (to date). For more information or help with AdWords, can help!

Why choose PPC advertising? One reason is that customers are more likely to not only see your ad, but actually pay attention to it. They are also less likely to be annoyed by it. If I’m in the market for a pink polo shirt and see an ad for that very shirt in my Facebook sidebar, I’d probably be stoked. It’d be as if Facebook read my mind! (Although, I’m slightly convinced that it does this anyway).

Another reason: it’s effective. As a business, you have to spend money to make money. Of course, money is (for most of us) a finite resource, so you want to invest it in the smartest way possible. Rather than tossing out a super expensive ad and crossing your fingers that it’ll somehow stand out from the horrific mosh-pit crowd, PPC allows you to display your product directly to interested people. The odds of people clicking on your ad and, as a result, making a purchase, are theoretically higher (as this article puts it, if you make a $300 sale on a $10 ad, you’ve more than made your money’s worth). As with any ad, the idea is that it will eventually pay for itself.

Next week, stay tuned for Online Advertising 101: Display Ads!


Tech Thursday: When Should You Pay for Online Advertising?

One of the cool parts of marketing online is that, for the most part, it’s free. But sometimes, it does pay to pay for some online advertising. What are the options? Why should you spend money to promote your business on Facebook? We have some answers!

This video is all about how to strategically spend your advertising money online, whether it’s by using Pay Per Click advertising on a site like Google, or through targeted ads on social networks. Remember, the key isn’t to spend the least amount of money- it’s to spend your money in a way that will get the most returns to your business.

And, hopefully after watching this edition of Tech Thursday, you too, will make it rain.

Money and the Internet: Collaborating for Convenience

My most recent trip to Boston was basically one big learning curve, which may be apparent considering this is the third blog post dedicated to “Things I learned during Wordcamp weekend.” YikYak was fun and delightful, and learning about marketing is always a blast for me- but this latest topic is a bit daunting for me.

I’m about to talk money.


That is, money and how it’s interacting with the internet, affecting the way we buy things or even interact with each other. Sure, there are online shopping carts and PayPal, but there’s an emerging realm of online currencies and payment processing tools that I was blind to pre-Boston.

A New Currency

To start, let’s think currency. When I first heard the term “Bitcoin,” I imagined the little coins on Mario or Sonic the Hedgehog, and that’s about as much thought as I put into it. But, when we were in Boston, I noticed that many stores had flyers in their window proclaiming “We accept Bitcoin.” Sure, I had the brief flash of Mario money, but it was followed by a few minutes of active contemplation. And then I asked someone out loud, “What is bitcoin, anyway?”


Bitcoin is a type of cryptocurrency (a very simplified explanation is that it’s a digital currency that isn’t governed by a bank). There are hundreds of different cryptocurrencies out there, apparently  (including but not limited to Litecoin, Dogecoin, Namecoin, and one called Chtulu), it just so happens that Bitcoin is the most popular and/or successful. It’s controlled by the people who use it.

Who is using Bitcoin? My first, naive impression was that this number would be low, as I assumed people would forgo this “Mario money” for “real money,” but the numbers proved me wrong. In the past 24 hours, there have been about 75,000 transactions via Bitcoin, or a little over 3,000 in the past hour.

There’s a couple reasons using Bitcoin appeals to people. First, what you see is what you get. There are no hidden or extra charges with transactions via Bitcoin. Also, vendors don’t receive any personal information from you (credit card numbers, addresses, phone numbers, etc.), which is ideal considering the amount of security breaches lately. If you’re looking to make some purchases on the sly, Bitcoin probably isn’t for you-all the transactions are logged online (it’s open source, after all). You’re not going to find the privacy of cash only transactions with cryptocurrencies, but then again, we are talking about the internet.

Exchanging Money

In addition to currency, there are new ways of exchanging money online. PayPal and Square have been around for a little while now, but Venmo is a mobile app designed for smaller scale transactions, mainly between friends and acquaintances.  Venmo allows you to pay a friend for lunch, rather than trying to make exact change, directly from your credit card account.  Venmo can handle transactions a couple different ways: a) if someone pays you, the balance stays right in your Venmo account, and you can continue to exchange money that way, or b) if someone pays you, you can choose to Cashout and have the money deposited in your bank. Whereas Bitcoin is available internationally, Venmo is only available to people in the U.S.

Venmo is especially popular among millenials, and was designed by a pair of twenty-somethings who were tired of settling up with each other all the time for meals and various activities. According to a Forbes interview with the co-founders, their goal is to”be accepted like Visa and used like Facebook.” It’s pretty ambitious, but $314 million went through Venmo just in the beginning of this year, and the numbers just keep going up.  VenmoUsers

What’s so great about online currency and exchanges?

There are countless other apps out there designed to manage money. Even most banks have apps available to mobile users.  As a culture, we have come to associate mobile accessibility with convenience, and that appeals to everyone. Don’t just take my word for it- check out this blog post on the current state of the mobile user. During my research process, the one overarching point I noticed is that people want what’s convenient. Trying to split a cash only bill when everyone in the group has only 20s is not convenient, but the ability to pay people back instantly without having to count nickels and dimes? Bingo. Another interesting characteristic shared by Bitcoin and Venmo is the idea of Peer to Peer (or P2P) transactions, or the idea that I could square up with you, and cut out the middleman altogether.

Thinking about money still stresses me out, but after learning a bit more about money and exchanges online, at least now it’s convenient.

What I Learned At Wordcamp This Summer: Nicole’s Takeaways

2014-boston-wordcamp-logoThere is always something to know… and even though I’ve been working in Wordpress since 2008, I am always blown away not only with the new technology coming out but new ways of using features that I’m already familiar with.

Wordcamp Boston took place at one of MIT’s state of the art buildings and there were about 300 of us on hand to drink coffee and learn what we could from each other. The fact they had 8 sessions (!) in one day I was a little worried about but 45 minutes each was somehow manageable and fun.

We not only attended the after party but also the after-after party where we got to hang out with cool ‘celebrities’ like Sam Hotchkiss, creator of BruteProtect and a rep from Sucuri, a service we’ve used and loved. (A rep from GoDaddy was there too, apparently his sister makes GREAT fondant, and he took the elephant shooting jokes we made about a former GoDaddy exec  in stride!)

Here’s what we learned:

Accessibility is key.
It was fun to meet Jordan Quintal who has a firm that specializes in accessible sites for the disabled. As one of the 1 billion people worldwide who has a disability, Jordan talked about features I just thought were pretty, like mouseover color changes, and how you can test your site’s accessibility level. Bonus is these tools give specific improvements you can make on your own website. You can see his presentation (from a previous conference) here: Jordan’s Presentation about Accessibility (Video)

Us as mad scientists at Wordcamp.Live tweeting is still awesome.
Because of Twitter, not only did we get some of the talking points and ideas of other talks going on at the same time (I literally can’t be in two places at the same time after all!) but it also connected us with some cool people, including Myrna, head of Good Egg Marketing who we hope to collaborate with on some future projects.

Seeing Matt Baya should happen more than once a year.
The fact that the picture with this blog post is the only picture of Kassie and I at this conference is a little sad. And super sad we didn’t get one with Matt. But as usual he blew our minds, this time introducing us to Yik Yack.

My favorite talk of the whole conference was David Hickox’s talk about Designing for Content. Really great overview and actually got me excited about sexy topics like line spacing and h5 tags!

Overall, great job Wordcamp organizers on a smooth conference with a nice range of presenters. Let’s do it again next year!

Tech Thursday: Overcoming Writer’s Block

It’s hard to be on your creative a-game 24/7. Some days, you may feel like you’ve used all your ideas, and there’s nothing left to blog about.

Or…is there?

Instead of losing hope entirely, watch this video. We have a few ideas that could inspire you!

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