Gibbon Because We Don't Have a Photo of a Chimp(Yes, we know this is a photo of a gibbon yawning, not a chimp delivering mail – it’s all we have in our library primate-wise as we have not taken a photo of a postal chimp, although we’d be excited to do so.)

We use MailChimp for a few clients and we find it to be the most difficult interface and address list management system of the e-mail campaign providers with which we have experience.

ONE – they don’t offer phone support.

TWO – Choosing the address list to whom the e-mail goes at step one instead of at the end of the development process causes problems and is contrary to the way our clients like to work.

THREE – They don’t have seed lists for testing.  This is a development issue for us, and does not effect our clients except for a bit of time added to the process, which adds to the cost to the project.

FOUR – The same address on several lists counts multiple times towards your monthly plan, so you can spend far more than is needed for your subscription.

FIVE – MC does not offer “pay-as-you-go” as an option – monthly subscription only.  You pay, even if you don’t send any e-mails.

SIX – Customization of address sign-up forms can only be done with a higher priced account.

SEVEN – Sign-up forms that can be coded to recognize list segmentation can be done only on pop-up pages, but not for embedded forms (which is pretty much the only way people do e-mail list sign-up forms now.)

EIGHT – The biggie – they don’t allow a campaign to be sent to more than one list.  The best-practice for managing lists in MailChimp is to have one list, which is divided into groups and segments.  Our clients find it confusing – actually we find it confusing at times, as well as cumbersome, non-intuitive, and time-wasting.


If you are interested, there’s more below on MC’s address list management.  But we don’t want to simply focus upon the negative and what we don’t recommend.  We do recommend using Vertical Response or Constant Contact as platforms.  The phone response for both companies is fantastic – customer support reps who know the product and are helpful.  And the list management is far simpler.  You can have as many lists as you want and get to select the ones you want each campaign to launch to.  Unsubscribes and bounces are well-managed at the account level, rather than the list level, which protects you from higher prices and grumpy customers and keeps you compliant with spam laws.

Our favorite is Vertical Response for the reasons above, as well as their pay-as-you-go option instead of subscription and because over the decade we’ve used them for a variety of clients, they have been consistently good.


So, back to MC’s list management issues caused by not allowing a campaign be sent to more than one list:

  • Unsubscribes are managed by individual list, rather than at the account level.  So if you have more than one list, and a recipient unsubscribes from one list, it’s not recorded in any other list, so you can e-mail to an address of someone who already unsubscribed.
  • Because there’s no connectivity between lists, if a client changes their settings in one list, it won’t be recognized by any other instances of that e-mail address in other lists.
  • If you wish to send an e-mail to separate lists, you need to duplicate the e-mail over and over, sending one e-mail launch per mail list.  If there are duplicated addresses in your account, you will be sending the same campaign to these addresses.  One of our clients is doing this, and are getting complaints from clients.


We know this is confusing.  Send us a line with questions, or call 408 252-8664.







We’ve had a great experience working with Susan Graf and her brand designer, Marianne Mitten, on a new website for Susan Graf Limited.  Here it is!

John coded it to be device responsive, so the code will render to it’s best depending upon the device – from smartphone to desktop monitor – the visitor is using.  The navigation changes from full screen sized to hamburger on a smartphone.  The font changes to be most readable depending upon the device.

The best part – this is not a WordPress or other template site so the client is not boxed in and there’s no monthly security and maintenance fee.

Responsive Website Design

We were also hired to do the copy writing and to photograph both locations.

Besides the fabulous mens’ and womens’ departments and charming staff, Susan Graf Limited offers styling, techno pants, DRESS CODE by SUSAN GRAF, and Bespoke Uniforms for high-end hotels and resorts.  There’s a location on the plaza in Healdsburg and one in downtown Palo Alto.

Thank you, very much, Susan, for this project.  We’re looking forward to working with you (and of course, visiting both boutiques.)





Unless agreed otherwise, on a project by project or client by client basis, all copy provided to us should be publish-ready.  Publish-ready means that all grammar, spelling, phrasing is ready to “go to press”.  By sending us the copy, the client is saying, the copy is final and they are ready for it to be published to the world.

We do run spell-checks on all items we work upon which can call out errors in English common usage.  Depending upon the client and the situation we will either use the spell-checker correction or ask the client if an edit is approved.

Industry-specific words, non-English words, names, words with multiple spellings (Hanukkah vs Chanukah or Chanukkah or crostino vs crostini), and client-unique spellings (“house made” vs “housemade” or “skin care” vs “skincare”) are the responsibility of the client.

If we note something which does not appear to be correct, we alert the client.

We go through an approvals process so that a client can review a draft before the content is placed into final versions that may require more time-consuming editing.

Approval by the client means that they are satisfied with all aspects of the piece, including the spelling – of even common usage English words.

It is difficult, we know, to get to “publish-ready” copy.  We can help.  If the client feels they need to see copy in place, in an item, before making edits, we can produce that.  We can and do copy editing for many clients, for which we need guidelines provided by the client for industry-specific words, non-English words, names, words with multiple spellings, or client-unique spellings.

All work we do is approved by the client before we “go to press.”  If a word is mis-spelled, we feel badly, and sorry, but the final responsibility is with the client.



Frustrating news – sorry!  A businesses e-mail address list will degrade by about 20% each year. Here’s some ideas on how you can continue to grow your mail list.  The idea – gain addresses faster than losing.

  • Keep making valuable e-mail campaigns!


  • Keep your newsletter sign up form as simple as possible.  One field is best – just ask for e-mail address.  Once you start asking for first name, last name, phone number, etc, you lose people quickly.
  • Add a lightbox popup with address list sign-up form to your web site.
  • Have a physical sign-up sheet – in-house/store – and at every event you attend.  Be sure it clearly states you value privacy and do not share addresses.
  • On your online and physical sign-up forms, be sure to note the value of being on the list: exclusive mail-list-only offers, useful information, event invites, tips, etc.  Even better, create copy to be used in landing pages, postcards, blog posts, actually any print or on-line marketing, listing the top ten reasons to sign up for your mailing list.
  • Make sure a newsletter sign-up is on every page of your site – easy to see and complete.  Don’t skip ad landing pages and your blog pages.
  • Add a note to your online sign-up form: “Join the XX subscribers who already enjoy this newsletter”.  Show that they will be part of the crowd.


  • Have a contest with a fabulous prize – worth signing up for a mailing list to enter.
  • Have a single database for addresses and make sure your staff knows how to use it.
  • Host an event and be sure you have your mail list sign-up sheet well-displayed.
  • Send a snail-mail postcard specific to opt-ins.
  • Host an on-line webinar for which registration requires an address list sign-up.
  • Create something people will be interested in seeing.  For example, for our client SkinSpirit we made this recipe ebook and required an e-mail before the visitor could see it.  Your give-away could be tips, information (for example, a BMI calculator), or a white paper.  Promote these on social media.
  • Consider paid advertising for your list or re-marketing specific to address list sign up.
  • Add a link to a newsletter sign-up page on Facebook.
  • Include call-to-action in videos posted to YouTube and in your YouTube Channel.
  • Put a fishbowl on your counter and encourage clients to drop in a biz card or slip of paper – once a month drawing.  All entrants are added to mail list.
  • Give a free birthday service to the people on your mailing list.
  • Get your employees involved – he or she who collects the most e-mails gets a bonus.
  • Do a give-away (discount, gift basket) for all new list sign ups over a week (month, whatever works for you.)
  • Work with your staff to provide a script for getting people to sign up.  Be sure they are aware of incentives to signing up and can offer them on the spot with a hand-written sign-up form, or a database they can add to.










HOA Website

Thank you, Tri-State Enterprises, Inc. for hiring us to make another homeowners association website.  We use the same template for each of these site, which has a small, simple public section, and a large functional, password-protected, area for HOA members.  Within the members section, residents can manage their property, communicate with management and other residents, and interact with a property calendar.

There’s more in our website portfolio and links to all our HOA site here.


Keratin Cut Color

Thank you to long-time clients Brandau Brandau and Halo Blow Dry Bar for giving me unusually controlled hair!  My usual is an unruly mop of curls and frizz.

Ten days ago, I got a Keratin Treatment at Halo.  It has totally changed my hair – I can see why so many women are obsessed.

Before that Kerrie Brandau gave me the great colour and today George Brandau gave me a cut and blow out.

Thanks also to Halo for the Jane Iredale lips and mascara and SkinSpirit for the face make up.

Love that I get to enjoy the services and products of so many of our clients.


ENT Doctors Business Cards

We’ve recently been working with our long-time clients at Ear, Nose & Throat Associates of San Mateo on updating their brand.  They still like the logo we developed for them a decade ago, but have updated their print items and we’re wrapping up a new responsive website.

ENT Business Ad



Clothing Boutique Photo Shoots

Thank you to Susan Graf and her fabulous team for hosting two successful photo shoots – one in Healdsburg, one in Palo Alto.  Their hard work in preparing the boutiques made the projects look great.  And their personalities made it a really fun time for me.

One highlight for me was twilight in the Healdsburg Plaza as I took shots of the store windows growing brighter as the daylight faded.  I discovered if you ever wish to chat with strangers, set up a tripod, stare intently at a subject, and start taking photos.  So many people approached to ask me what I was doing.  Some offered tips.  Several also had curious dogs.

If you are ever in Palo Alto or Healdsburg on the plaza, don’t miss Susan Graf Limited – the clothing is fabulous – men’s and women’s.  Check back soon as she’s got a new web site under development.  Below is one of the graphics we’ve pulled together for the men’s department.  And here’s some of my favorite shots…

Clothing Boutique Web Site Header



Video for Websites

Yes, getting video on your site can help search engine optimization (SEO) and visitor experience, but done wrong, it can hurt SEO and the impression you give to visitors.  This post will hopefully answer frequently asked questions about using video on a website.

You may also be interested in our post on creating your own YouTube Channel – a must.  As soon as you have a video for your site, also post it to your YouTube Channel.

(See the videos in our header graphic at: http://www.hayesvalleymed.com/coolsculpting-body-contouring.)


The best code to use to play the video on your site is your own.  But this requires development time and money.

Many developers save time and money by using YouTube’s free embed code.  It’s very fast to copy and paste this into your site, but there’s a big downside.  Once the video finishes playing, recommendations on other related videos hosted on YouTube will be displayed.  This can drive visitors away from your site, and even worse, it can recommend video by your competitors, driving visitors to them.

As you can see, we recommend avoiding YouTube’s embed code for a good reason.  But we know that budget also has to be taken into account.  One idea, if budget is an issue, is to use the YouTube embed code and then as soon as the budget allows, switch to your own site’s code.


We’ve ranked five main ways video can be used on a website – number one is the optimal and most beneficial – to number five, the anti-SEO, bad, bad way.


Develop your own, original, and unique videos, upload them to your server, and place them on your site using either of the code options mentioned above.

Unique content reigns as the king of SEO due to the high ranking search engines (including YouTube) give it.  It’s also going to provide your visitors with a true idea of your business and add credibility.  Of course, the downside is the high cost of video production, although with an iPhone/Pad and basic video editing software, just about anyone can produce their own video content.


Use video with permission, upload them to your server, and place them on your site using either of the code options mentioned above.

An example of this is using the video created by a vendor and downloaded to your possession with permission – say with granted access to their brand box.  Since the content is not unique, the SEO value is slim.*  But it is still valuable for user experience and adds credibility and caché to your site.


Use YouTube video without permission. Using YouTube’s “embed” feature, grab the video code and place it on your website. (Note that some video content producers turn off the embed feature completely so this might not even be possible.)

This opens you to lawsuits – or at least a cease and desist letter. YouTube does actually seek out and punish copyright infringement.  Since the content is not unique, the SEO value is slim.*  You’d have to feel strongly that the content will have great user value before following this path.


Use non-YouTube video without permission. It is possible to “lift” video off of other websites, but it usually is not easy and requires advanced HTML and video skills.

Again, this opens you to lawsuits – or at least a cease and desist letter.  You’d have to feel really strongly that the content will have great user value before following this path.


Linking to the video on another site, including YouTube.

By doing this, you are driving visitors off your site.  Who knows what they may be distracted by on this other site – including your competition.  You also have no control over the page containing the video.  If the video’s URL is changed, you’d have a dead link on your site.  If the video is moved, you could lose the content.  Out-going links have no SEO value.

Did we miss something?  Still confused?  Ask John.

*One way to help SEO if you go this route is to put the video on a separate web page, rather than putting it in-line with other content.  At the least, that additional page will increase the size of your site which can help SEO.