Here’s John, enjoying his clients’ AdWords reporting on a summer day in the garden.  He says this the new expanded text Google AdWords are a really big deal.

blog adwords

Expanded text AdWords ads are the next generation of text ads, designed for a mobile-first world.  They benefit users with more information before they click an ad and benefit advertisers by giving additional control over messaging.  This can mean higher quality clicks from users with keen interest in the subject while cutting down on lower quality clicks less likely to convert to a sale.  They are also better-designed for device responsiveness and display more clearly on devices from smartphone to desktop monitor.

More bang for your AdWords bucks!

This is all fairly new, but early reporting is showing expanded text ads are getting a 20% higher click through rate.  This is mostly because they are larger and stand out amongst the older, smaller ads.  Right now, we’re suggesting that we upgrade any old-style AdWords campaigns we have running for our clients.

There’s two main updates. The headline (purple text in the graphic below) can be 60 characters, rather than 25.  You can be more compelling and precise which leads to better quality clickers.  And, the ad display text (black text in the graphic below) has been expanded from two 35 character lines to a consolidated 80 character line.

This graphic shows how an expanded text ad will display on a smartphone vs. a monitor:



Summary – better quality clickers = better quality conversions.

Google AdWords is a specialty of John’s.  Contact him at or 408 252-8664 with any questions.









Happier By The Minute

Congratulation to Stacey on the launch of her new company.  Thank you from Rachel and John for hiring us for WordPress site customization and for some graphic design work.

Happier By The Minute is about giving us all the support we need – based upon Stacey’s experience and training in the field of positive psychology – to be happier.  All in one minute video sessions.

Stacey, and her Chief of Happier Operations, Kathleen, have done an amazing job dealing with all the intricacy of starting a new company.

Check it out at:  Or at Rachel’s favorite:  It’s a minute well spent!



Hawaii Island Energy Cooperative

Congratulations to our favorite Hawaiian client, Hawaiian Island Energy Cooperative – the Hawaiian Public Utilities Commission has voted to reject NextEra’s offer to acquire Hawaiian Electric Industries.  They’ve been working hard for a long time to achieve this result.

The Hawaii Island Energy Cooperative is a non-profit cooperative association formed by community and business leaders on Hawaii Island to explore the potential merits of a community-based, cooperative ownership structure for electric utility service on the Big Island. HIEC is also exploring how other energy sectors, such as transportation, can be transformed to be more sustainable and environmentally-friendly.



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.