A New Team Member As the Old Year Goes

By | Business Stuff, Events, Miscellany | 2 Comments

And you thought it was the Year of the Snake

2013 was a year of growth and change for Mack Web Solutions. (Uh, as was 2012. And, y’know, 2011).

Okay, so the past few years have pretty much been all about the growth and the change. But this year the growth and change took a particular shape. And it was a person-shaped shape. (Bet you thought it was gonna be a llama, hunh?).


2013 was the year of personnel. We started the year with a four-person team. By the end of the year, we had employed (at various times) nine. We’re starting 2014 with six and a solid six it is.

But that’s still a lot of change.

Fluctuating and unashamed

The thing is, we don’t take all these changes as a sign of weakness or failure on our part. Instead, they’re proof that our company is evolving. We’re constantly assessing and reassessing the best ways to serve our clients and as we gain greater understanding, we reshape the team to suit.

And you never quite know how someone is going to fit until you try them out. We agree with the philosophy of looking for the “future perfect people”– choosing people based on who they have the potential to become and how they could allow your team to grow — but we’re web marketers, not prognosticators. We don’t have a crystal ball to gaze into or tea leaves to consult.

Prognosticator Extraordinaire

So we give people a try and when their future diverges from ours we give them a hearty send-off and count it a stage of evolution rather than a mistake.

Small but mighty

The thing about a small company in a fast-moving industry is that you need your team to work together seamlessly and you can’t afford to wallow when something goes wrong. No fences between departments and no divas of any kind.

You need to be lean and agile and T-shaped and all those other lovely concepts that boil down to this: stockpile as much knowledge as you can without sacrificing your ability to adapt and respond.


Image Credit: Distilled

Which means that every time we are ready to bring someone new onto the team we stop and do one of those reassessments to tell us what we need.

If the new hire is the result of someone else leaving, we stop and think: do we need to replace them or is there some other skill set we should be looking for?

If we’re simply ready to grow, we stop and think: where is our team strong? Where do we have good overlap? Are we serving our clients to the degree we promise and aspire? Where are the gaps? What weak points do we need to shore up?

Sometimes when we ask these questions, the answers surprise us.

(And not just become some anonymous joker on the team who shall remain anonymous and absolutely is not me feels the need to answer every question with a cryptic, “42”).

Building the team

‘Cuz here’s the thing about our team: we’ve got some crazy mad skills already. You want to talk about your cross-discipline competence and deep discipline expertise? We’ve got that.

A genius designer with basic tech chops and a social media expert with a nice line in content and a creative strategist with analytics know-how. An entrepreneurial leader who dabbles in everything and writer who can hold her own with basic SEO and strategy. (And a partridge in a pear tree).

We are all kinds of T-shaped.

Not to mention…we all actually like each other. What are the odds?

All of which sets us on track to our company vision of a team of collaborative specialists without sacrificing our small team necessity of hybrid generalists who can roll up their sleeves and get stuff done, y’know?

But did you notice what was missing from that impressive list of skills?

Because when it came time to hire someone new and we compiled that list of skills, we saw something missing and it was a big something.

We’ve got creatives and number people and business minds and networkers. You know what we haven’t got?

They Got Every Damn Thing


Oh, at first glance you wouldn’t notice the chaos. We were holding our own thanks to our process-obsessed boss (and we mean that in the most complimentary of ways).

But, well…we said 2013 was the year of change and growth, right? Well, we’ve covered the change. But without some glue to hold us together, we weren’t going to be able to handle much more growth.

Because our processes were working for now but they weren’t particularly scalable.

So we realized it wasn’t another strategist we needed.

It was a coordinator.

Introducing Rebecca

Fortunately, we knew just the person. Rebecca Gilmore’s impressive experience and disposition pretty much custom-tailored her to our needs.


She’s organized and disciplined and marketing-savvy and friendly and smart and pretty. (Plus she has impeccable taste in television, she isn’t afraid of the Master Calendar, and she has a twin sister we can set up as a body double alibi in case we ever need her to do anything illegal).

And if she might harbor some thoughts on world domination and hostile takeovers from within, well…we still outnumber her five to one.

Here comes trouble

Long story short (too late, I know)

All of which is to say…we’re delighted to introduce you to Rebecca Gilmore, our new Account Coordinator. Her job is to keep us all on track, to make sure our beloved clients are never lost in the shuffle, and to contribute her knowledge and expertise to the running of the team.

We’re pretty happy to have her and we’re excited for all of you people, too.

Because you’re going to get to know her too.

And, take it from us, that makes you pretty fortunate people.

Not Remotely As Expected

By | Miscellany | 8 Comments

(Or, the Remote Experience as Experienced By Me)

A simple question

When I stopped, per the request of my genuinely interested and concerned boss (who I’m fairly sure is bucking for some kind of Boss of the Year award), to think about what it’s like to work remotely, what first came to mind was a whole list of semi-comical pros and cons:

PRO: You never have to muster the foresight to pack a lunch again.
CON: No more free Friday lunches with your co-workers.

PRO: No one to distract you with idle gossip when you’re trying to concentrate despite the fact the caffeine hasn’t kicked in yet.
CON: You miss the announcement and general reaction when your co-worker makes the 15 Hottest Guys in SEO list.

(Yeah, seriously).

Tyler Brooks

And so forth.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I was able to find a Con for every Pro and vice versa.

Which meant either that I missed my calling as a lawyer after all or that I was approaching the question wrong.

Because surely working from a little apartment just outside Chicago had altered something in the balance of my life.

Unexpected answers

And of course, there is a great deal of research that has gone into the topic.

Mack (maybe there’s a plaque or some kind of fancy certificate that goes with that boss thing) has done a lot of reading on how to accommodate remote employees, to ease the transitions, to make them feel included.

If that’s the kind of advice you’re looking for, go talk to her. She’s been doing a pretty good job of it.

But as it turns out, when I thought about it, it wasn’t really my professional life that had borne the brunt of the changes.

Oh sure, there are the communication glitches and missing the subtle shifts in office dynamics and the loss of the occasional office outing.

Plus, y’know, there was the setting up of a home office a thousand miles away while trying to finish a seriously major project and figure out the specifications of a new job title (and not just new to me but to the company).

None of that has been what you would call a walk in the park (unless it was a post-apocalyptic park inhabited by mutant carnivorous deer and you happen to have a chronic limp).

But really, that’s all stuff that time and technology can mostly overcome. The liberal application of email and various chat and video conferencing applications makes the world a smaller place.

Especially when your boss really is shooting for that trophy and does things like send you flowers and care packages with 5 lb tubs of Red Vines and the occasional stuffed llama.

MWC_Army of Three

Also, hey, pro tip for remote attendance at long meetings: hand-written notes. Maybe this only works for me, but actually using a pen and paper to make a record of what’s going on in meetings I can’t physically attend helps bridge the disconnect that comes from a day of staring at other people talking on a screen.

No, the real adjustments I’ve had to make aren’t so much professional as they are psychological.

No, there’s no need for the men in white coats.

At least, no more than there ever was.

The real problems I’ve encountered have been not so much dissociation between myself and work as over-association between the two.

After all, I live and cook and clean and fold my laundry in the same space that I edit blog posts and brainstorm strategies and email clients.

Without a TV, how do I deny the allure of my big-screened iMac for watching movies when it’s so conveniently placed in my living room? But it’s hard to take someone seriously once you’ve seen them in their mouldering sweats, right? How do I go back to considering it just a work computer?

And so it begins.

A case in point

For example, there’s a time difference between here and Fort Collins so I typically work 10 to 6 rather than 9 to 5, to keep pace with everyone else. That’s a personal choice, because most days, I’m sure Mack wouldn’t mind if I stuck to my business hours and not theirs.

But, hey! I’m not a morning person, so I’m not complaining and it does make it a little easier to be synced up to everyone else for the sake of meetings and greetings and other things that end in -eetings. (Are there other things?)

Morning People

But, y’know, I’m not a morning person. So back when I had to hit the office at 9 am, I didn’t have any time for straggling between getting up, getting ready, and getting to work.

Now that I can be a little more leisurely in the waking, with a little extra time and no extra distance to travel, the morning drive to ‘git up’n’git’ (as some hayseed cartoon character somewhere has surely said) is just not there.

Plus, I live alone so there’s no one looking over my shoulder.

Why not linger a little over breakfast? Read an extra chapter in that book? Enjoy your whole cup of tea at the table rather than carrying it half full to the desk. You can make up the extra fifteen minutes later.

These are not dangerous or seditious occupations, but it’s a slippery slope.

Because then those fifteen minutes get delayed. It’s 6 pm, so I walk the 4 seconds over to my kitchen and make dinner. I bring it back to the desk, so I can watch last night’s episode of Arrow while I eat (don’t look at me like that; everyone has guilty pleasures) and then I’ll be able to put in those fifteen minutes easily.

Arrow (Can you blame me?)

Except after Arrow, I remember that I didn’t ever get around to watching last week’s Reign (now you can give me that look. Judgment is totally warranted).

And then suddenly it’s 9 pm and I’m getting back to work. But it’s 9, so I’m going to go change into something a little more comfortable.

So now I’m back at my desk and finishing up the thing that I was working on.

But it’s also night time, in my living room, and I’m wearing the raggedy yoga pants that double as pjs, sitting in front of the computer that I was just using to watch the wildly inaccurate exploits of the Queen of Scots.

So, now I’m flipping back and forth between doing the work and reading snarky TV reviews. But hey, the work gets done, so it’s all good in the end, right?

See? Slippery.

It’s not so much the result that’s the problem here, it’s the mindset. (Well, I did say it was psychological, didn’t I?).

Because once you start seamlessly blending your work-and-play space like that, it’s hard to transition back. It seeps into the day as well as the night. The work gets done but because you’re never just working, it still feels you’re always kinda working.

This is the remote-ness problem that I’ve been having.

More than feelings of alienation and isolation, more than worries about my suddenly sedentary lifestyle, I struggle with this giant muddle of work and home and project time and personal time.

The workarounds

The best trick that I’ve figured out to dealing with all of those things is this pretty simple and obvious: boundaries.

And by boundaries, I don’t just mean things like: work during work hours, play during play.

This is psychological warfare, people, waged against my own brain. We gotta go deeper than that.

This is the ritual I’ve worked out, with three simple rules: Shower, Clothes, Doors.


I don’t just mean to watch your hygiene. (Although, y’know, do that). This rule is about starting the day right. I learned quickly not to get up, mosey out of bed, turn on my computer, check my email, put on the kettle, pour the cereal, and so on.

Separate your morning stuff from your work stuff. Get up. Take your shower. Eat your breakfast. Brush your teeth.

Then sit down at your computer and start the clock.

Tempting though the alternative may be, this is hard-and-fast rule for me:

Do NOT Work In Your Pajamas.

(Unless you are the Doctor. In which case, carry on).

the doctor's pjs

If working from home is a slippery slope, jimjams are the skates that send you careening down it.

No, of course I’m not exaggerating.

This is the easiest boundary to enforce and remarkably helpful in resetting your brain. Clothes are for work. Jammies are for not-work.

If you’re wearing real pants and a shirt with no holes? You should be working.

If you’re wearing anything with an elastic waistband, it’s okay to log into Netflix.

(Note: this only applies to time spent at home. Please wear real pants when you go out, even if you’re not working).

Fortunately, I live in a one bedroom and not a studio, so I actually do have doors. But even if you don’t, the spirit of the rule is this:

During the day, work business is done in the office area. Anything personal goes into the other room.

For example, say I forgot to pay a bill online last night and it’s due today. I don’t use my work computer to log-in and pay it. I go for my personal computer in the other room and do it there. That way, I’ve got a physical boundary between what I’m doing for work and my personal list.

Likewise, say my mom calls. If I need to talk to her, I don’t sit in my desk chair to take the call. I walk it into another part of the apartment.

And so on.

Be a grownup

I know, I know. These are really simplistic rules. Maybe even juvenile. But see, that’s the real thing I’ve realized through this whole working remotely thing: it’s not for kids.

It takes self-discipline and self-regulation and the will to actively seek out social interaction and other things that have not traditionally been my strength. And sometimes it takes really dumb but easily enforceable rules.


So my remote experience hasn’t really been about my job, at all. (I’m sure that’s not always the case, but, seriously, Mack wants the medal, I’m telling you).

It’s been about finally proving to myself that I’m an adult.

With real pants and everything.


4 Flat Design Takeaways (and Why You Should Use Them)

By | Miscellany | No Comments

Mack Web is now Genuinely. Learn more.

– –

The Apple IOS7

This fall when Apple released their IOS7, things were noticeably, well, flatter. I do mean this in a good way. If you’re keeping up with stylistic developments, you would recognize that the IOS7 is an example of flat design, a movement quickly becoming one of the hottest trends in web design this year. 

Flat design advocates for user interface considerations before design itself. In other words, creating a clean user interface that’s easy to use and understand. As a result, flat design tends to favor minimalism.

Which leaves you with the question: to jump on the flat design bandwagon or not? The choice seems simple. You could make the leap with enthusiasm or refuse to take any part in the trend since, well, it’s a trend, and that means it’s likely going to pass.

I’d like to offer up an alternative: utilize the principles of flat design that are not going to go out of style and which will improve the user experience on your website.

Because we’re nice, we’ve taken the liberty of pulling out the principles we recommend adopting. Here are 4 takeaways from flat design that are worth putting in place:

1. Simplify

The folks over at werkpress used flat design to create a simple user interface with clear calls to action.

Werkpress uses flat design to create a simple user interface with clear calls to action.


We are saturated with the amount of information we encounter on a daily basis over the web: emails, whitepapers, articles, podcasts, blogs, videos, tweets, photos (and the list goes on and on, doesn’t it?).

With the plethora of information getting thrown our way, a clean, beautiful, and easy-to-navigate website is like a breath of fresh air. Flat design ensures your website is free of extraneous (and distracting details), such as gradients, drop shadows, 3-D effects, and complex background images. No one wants their website to overwhelm or stress out users, so keep it simple.

LayerVault does a great job of keeping things simple on their website.

LayerVault does a great job of keeping things simple on their website.


Another plus? Simple designs are easier to view on smaller screen sizes. Using the “less is more” concept of flat design could be a step to make your site less cluttered, and easier for users to view on small screens (such as those found on the smartphones that increasingly run our lives) until you have the budget for a total re-design that uses a responsive layout.

‘Cause you don’t want your website looking like this:

The antithesis of flat design

Imagine trying to search for information, let alone navigate through this site if you are on a device with a small screen. So, I’ll say it again: keep it simple.

2. Use Color to Liven up Your Site

The flat design color palette employs bright and bold color.

The flat design color palette employs bright and bold color


Users should associate your website (and brand) with positive emotions. Think about it, what user is going to come back to a site that makes them stressed out or grumpy? (We will make an exception for Oscar the Grouch and  Grumpy Smurf. They’d probably like your website better if you employed a negative color palette). This is where the flat design color palette comes in.

Websites that incorporate colors from the flat design palette (pictured above) tend to give off an friendly, energetic, and happy vibe, like this one:

Wisitia and flat design color palette

If you’re selling a product or service, making your website inviting and cheerful can only benefit your brand.

The other benefit? Bright, contrasting colors can help your buttons and calls to action stand out from the rest of your content, making your most important website goals (such as the purchase of a product, or an e-news signup) extra visible on your website.

Take Prevent’s home page for example. The bright orange get started button (which links to a sign up page) pops from the rest of the design, making it one of the first things users will take notice of.

Example of Flat Color palette applied to buttons

IDesignModo has an in-depth article about selecting a flat design color palette for your website that’s worth reading. If you’re thinking of making color changes, we’d recommend reading this blog post first.

3. Use Typography

Another component of flat design that we think is a keeper, is a focus on typography. In his blog post on Flat Design: Trend or Revolution, Caleb Mellas brings up what we feel is one of the important reasons why typography should be a focus on your website:

[quote]Typography is one of those things that when done well really exemplifies the message of the site. Instead of drawing attention to the fonts, you are drawn to the content and
purpose of the article or app. [/quote]

-Caleb Mellas, from the blog post “Flat Design: Trend or Revolution”

You want users to read your web content, right? (There is only one right answer here, by the way). Making it easier for users to notice your web content, seems, well, like something you should really, really take from the flat design trend. If you’d like to investigate this further, we’d recommend Designmodo’s post about the best fonts to use for flat design.

4. Simplify Your Graphics

We touched on this briefly in the first takeaway, noting that design elements such as gradients, drop shadows, 3-D effects, and complex background images were being replaced with flat design elements that rely on bold, contrasting colors. By doing this, you’re also doing more than just following a trend, you’re improving your user experience by allowing for a faster load time. You don’t want users bailing from your site because complex graphics are slowing the site down. Keep your graphics simple, and your gonna  shear off unneeded wait time.

Now, if you don’t think load time is important, we’d recommend looking at the nifty infographic Kissmetrics put together on load time.

If you fear that simplifying graphics will make your site boring, think again. It’s still very possible to create simple graphics that are engaging and that bring personality to your site:

Minimalist graphics and flat design

Minimalist graphics and flat design - second example


Don’t Let Us Stop You

These are, of course, merely recommendations. You can use what we’ve highlighted here, embrace the principles of flat design in its entirety, or disregard the trend altogether. It’s up to you to pick and choose what works for you and your audience. As long as you’re making design decisions around user experience and the goals you’d like folks to accomplish on your site you’ll be fine.

Want to know more?

For the ultimate list of flat design principles, read  Smashing Magazine’s blog post: Flat and thin are in. The post has an excellent best practices section section that we’d highly recommend looking at if you’re wondering how to use flat design principles on your site.

During your online travels, if you happen to come across fantastic websites that employ flat design, shoot us a link! We’d love to see which sites caught your eye.

Holding Steady at Six: Say Hello to Ayelet

By | Building Community, Events, Miscellany | 2 Comments

Contradictory emotions

Though we are sad to be bidding our beloved Julie Sutter a final (well…semi-final, partial, not-at-all definitive) farewell, we are beyond excited to introduce you to the newest member of the team.

Ayelet Golz comes to us from, well, the world. We consider her the planet’s gift to Mack Web Solutions, really.

Ayelet Golz - Social and Community Manager Extraordinaire

She’s done extensive marketing and community building work all over the globe and yet somehow we managed to lure her into our little Fort Collins net.

We assume that it was our passion for our work, our positively absurd amounts of charm, and the promise of unlimited gummy bears that did the trick.

Although, by happy chance, Ayelet also has managed to stumble into a work environment where her extensive collection of llama stories and ability to discuss the psychological and sociological effects of the coming zombie apocalypse would be properly appreciated.

Looking to the future

As you’ll learn in the coming weeks and months and years, Ayelet is a huge boon to the work of Mack Web Solutions. Her presence on the team means that we can dedicate all of her considerable brain power and experience and not-inconsiderable charm to just the building and tending of online communities.

(Which, if you hadn’t figured it out already, is pretty much our primary aim).

Turning over the care and feeding of the online communities to Ayelet frees up our strategist team to strategize and our production team to produce, while keeping a steady and confident hand on the community management helm.

So, pretty much a whole lot of winning going on there.

Already the perfect match

Even though Ayelet has only been with us a short time, we already know she’s going to fit right in.

How can we be so sure?

Well, we asked her, out of the blue, to write us a llama haiku (does that sentence sound Dr. Seuss-y to anyone else?).

And, off the top of her head and without asking a single question, she provided us with this little gem:

The llama lived up high
She gave kids rides and schlepped milk
Llama kicked up her feet

See? She’s definitely Mack Web People.



The Sweet Smell of Failure … and Five Other Things I Learned in Five Months at Mack Web

By | Miscellany | 3 Comments

What do you do when you’ve been invited to work for one of the smartest women you’ve ever met, alongside some of the brightest professionals in the industry, at one of the most progressive digital marketing companies around, located mere blocks from your house in the heart of the town you love?

If you’re me: you accept. You hang around just long enough to start to get the hang of things. You attend MozCon, the Holy Grail of SEO conferences in Seattle, alongside said stellar boss, who is speaking there in front of more than a thousand of those aforementioned industry professionals. You are appropriately dazzled and humbled and thrilled and inspired. You come home.

And then you quit.

What the What?

Before I talk about why I’m leaving Mack Web, I’d like to explain a little bit about how I landed here in the first place.

I have been a business owner and entrepreneur for nearly a decade, having worked before that as a telecommuter for a startup. I was, to say the least, accustomed to independence. When I accepted a job at Mack Web back in March, I did so because I was attracted to something I couldn’t quite put my finger on. (<<Yes, I just ended that sentence with a preposition; that’s for Courtney, whom I shall taunt a second time, even after I go away. If not with Monty Python quotes, then with various writing heresies like unclear antecedents, mixed metaphors and a refusal to use Oxford commas).

One of the questions posed sometime during my quite rigorous Mack Web interview extravaganza was something along the lines of “It seems like you have a pretty good thing going with your own business. Why would you want to work here?” The answer, it turned out, was Mack. I will try to explain why here, though perhaps without putting my finger on her. Because she’s been pretty damned amazing about my impending departure thus far, but I’d hate to push my luck.

Screen Shot 2013-09-03 at 12.24.30 PMMack Web Lesson #1: Push Your Luck

As I’m writing this post, I already know one of the things that’s going to bug Mack about it is the fact that I even hint at using the label “failure” to describe my stint here. In fact, one of the things that came out of her mouth as I was telling her I was leaving was “this isn’t a failure — it’s an experiment that you tried, and this is just the outcome. Now you try something else.” It’s this kind of attitude that makes innovation and creativity part of the fabric of life at Mack Web. It also takes practice, and it’s not terribly comfortable. But it’s critical in getting past “meh” and transforming into the kind of company that takes action in order to accelerate learning. Around here, the culture favors bold forward motion over hesitation and reticence, as nothing succeeds like failure.

Screen Shot 2013-09-03 at 12.27.42 PMMack Web Lesson #2: Cut the Crap

Authenticity, humility and honesty go a long way, and Mack is the queen of the straight shooters. She tells it like it is, and she isn’t afraid to call out people who don’t. Like many of the leaders I have admired over the years, Mack makes sure her team understands how inefficient (and unnecessary) ass-covering is. This low tolerance for b.s. is part of the reason that I felt compelled to be frank with her now rather than lingering, and it’s also what has enabled me to make the decision to walk away with no regrets and no big “buts”. Powerful stuff, the crap cutting.

e24d819a850a12cad696dcdf7e23671fMack Web Lesson #3: Work Really F*&^ing Hard

I’ve known some hard workers in my life. I come from a family of them and at Mack Web, I landed once again right in the middle of a sea of diligent dilettantes. Here, there are handymen and Hufflepuffs among us. Still, I nearly passed out when I got a glimpse into the amount of thought that Mack put into her SearchLove presentation in Boston (and she’s getting ready to speak again at SearchLove next week in San Diego, so brace yourselves — I’ve seen a sneak preview and it’s pretty epic). I am regularly awed by my teammates’ tendency to advocate for doing things the inspired way vs. the easy way. If nothing else, I’ll leave Mack Web with my resolve to do good work fortified by the lessons I’ve learned here about finishing what you’ve started. Because these people know how to follow through, and they do it because it’s the right thing to do AND because hard work gets results.

85372e187eb1d9fd3482f3c9da083435Mack Web Lesson #4: Ask for Help

Hard work is one thing, banging your head against the wall senselessly is another.

One of the smartest things about The Mack Web Way is the cultural convention that if you’re trying to figure something out, the first thing you do is ASK. Ask the person sitting next to you. Ask Mack. Ask someone in the community. Ask someone in the industry. Ask your “competition”. Ask your mentor (seeking mentorship is another expectation here, with Mack herself setting the example by meeting regularly with her mentors << yes, plural).

When I got to Mack Web, I was super-excited to discover that it was populated with people who were far smarter than I, who read as much — maybe more — than I did, in a company where accumulating knowledge is not just expected, it was exalted. What I came to discover quite quickly was that learning is not to be done in a vacuum. Not knowing is OK. Not soliciting help because you’re afraid of feeling stupid is … stupid. Asking is faster. See Lesson #2, above. Oh, and P.S. — guess who I’ve asked to be my mentor, now that I’m not going to see her every day? Yup. Didn’t even faze me to be so brazen. I got smarter here.

Screen Shot 2013-09-03 at 1.32.48 PMMack Web Lesson #5: Focus on What Matters

Finally, the thing I most wanted to learn from Mack, the thing that made me say yes to working alongside her and the team all the way back in March was this: how does she manage to get done what she gets done, given all the distractions and the demands and the possibilities and the lack of practicalities that come with being a human on this planet (especially an entrepreneurial human with a penchant for connecting to community)? How does she tune out the noise, keep this thing from going off the rails and keep herself from going of the deep end in the process?

Well, I learned it, all right. The answer, it turns out, is that Mack actually pays attention to that voice inside. Not the one that says “run away” but the one that says “run toward”. She, and the team of people she hires, are very, very good at discerning what matters, at understanding the why, at determining goals and sticking to convictions.

Some of it is practice, and maybe some is stubbornness — but I think it’s more likely about passion and commitment to the things that feel true and right and real. And for better or for worse, watching Mack in action at MozCon showed me what that looked like, up close, dialed up to 11.

And I recognized it because it’s exactly how I feel when I’m working on the projects I love … most notably the ones that have to do with supporting our local music community here in Fort Collins. None of which deliver the same stability or undeniable sensibility that my Mack Web job provided, mind you, but all of which make perfect sense to my heart. You make no mistakes, not really, when you pay attention to that — and what seems like a whiff of failure to some is actually a breath of fresh air. That’s a Mack fact.

I plan to keep learning. I plan to keep in touch (I’ve got to meet with my mentor, after all, and I can’t wait to see where the path leads next for the Mack Web team and their community, of which I’ll always be a part. Oh hey, have you met Ayelet yet? Try saying that 5 times fast). And while my staff bio will come off the site, I’ll pull just a little piece of it — the answer to the “favorite quote” question — into this blog post for perpetuity, because it seems pretty fitting and I like T.S. as my P.S.:

For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice
And to make an end is to make a beginning.

Love and lessons,



Beaches and Brains: Dreaming of SearchLove San Diego

By | Events, Miscellany | 2 Comments

Ruminations on Locations

With the imminence of SearchLove San Diego and Mack’s speaking preparations, our team has found ourselves giving in to some grandiose dreams. This year has been a revelation of the value of conferences and we’d be lying if our far-flung future ambitions didn’t include some day hosting an event of our own.

Which, of course, raised the first and most important question: Where would this blessed occasion take place?

(This is a dream, remember? Not a practical issue just yet. Questions of funding and recruiting and otherwise resourcing are for other times).

After all, this year Mack has visited the great cities of Boston and Seattle and will soon be on her way to the coastal paradise of San Diego for SearchLove San Diego, held September 5-6, 2013.

SearchLove San Diego

It all raises the pivotal question of what makes a good venue for a web marketing conference?

Balmy Beaches

Choosing a location with the appropriate weather for the season is, apparently, key. Boston in the Spring, Seattle in the Summer, or say…San Diego in the Fall. What could be better?

This narrowed things down tremendously. No winters in Alaska, no summers in Arizona. Antarctica is right out. Likewise the Australian outback in January or the Sahara…really, anytime.

Actually, it’s pretty hard to beat something like this:

Paradise Point, San Diego

Which, by the way, is Paradise Point, the venue for SearchLove San Diego. Don’t you wish you were going?

And it’s not just weather that matters, either.

Bragging Rights

You want to pick city that people actually want to visit. No offense to the good people of Wisconsin or Minnesota, but when travelers are bragging about their past journeys, rarely do you hear them wax lyrical about their adventures in Milwaukee or Duluth.

They do not talk about Guatemala City or Luanda, Angola or Chisinau, Moldova or Houson (all of which have appeared on lists of the ugliest cities in the world).

Chisinau, Moldova

They probably don’t even bring up Mack Web’s hometown of Fort Collins or our nearest big neighbor, Denver, lovely though they may be to their residents.
No, they’re too busy talking about places like Angkor Wat or Miami or y’know, San Diego.

San Diego Skyline
Which is where they’re holding SearchLove in September.

Did we mention that?

Interesting…But Not Too Interesting

So we’ve ruled out the likely locations closest to home. If we’re not going for proximity, it would make sense for the entirely hypothetical Mack Web conference to pick one of those highly desirable locations that we want to visit.

(If it’s our hypothetical conference, there’s no reason we can’t be a little self-indulgent).

But here’s the problem: If we were to host a conference in say, Paris, would you actually go to listen to the speakers? Or would you be touring the Louvre and eating pastries at a little cafe in Montmartre?

Be honest, now.

So what we need is a place that’s beautiful and desirable without holding irresistible attractions.

Some place like, oh, I don’t know…San Diego?

San Diego pier

Say, I hear they’re holding a SearchLove Conference there next week. Wouldn’t it be cool to go to that?


You know what else would be a definite boon to a conference location?

Something characteristic and adorable that we could tie into our conference swag.

Like, if we held it in New York City, everyone could get Statue of Liberty hats with MackCon printed on them.

Or if we were to hold it in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, we could give everyone SearchMack emblazoned pepper spray. Or maybe a guard dog named MackWeb.

Now, if only we could think of a city that was famous for something interesting that we could tie-in, thematically, to our hypothetical future conference?

San Diego orcasSan Diego Zoo

San Diego Comic Con

Hmmm, we’ll have to give it some thought.

Available Libations

Now, if there’s one thing that we’ve learned from Mack’s attendance at other conferences and the hungover Tweets that pass back and forth in their wake, no web marketing conference is complete without access to post-speaker parties.

So, as nice as it might be to host a conference at a gorgeous and secluded retreat in the Alps or somewhere like Westhampton, Massachusetts (one of the few dry counties left in the U.S.), we realize that access to a nightlife is an absolute must.

Gaslamp Quarter, San Diego

Fun (and completely unrelated) Fact: Did you know that Paradise Point – where they’re apparently holding September SearchLove – is just a few minutes from Downtown San Diego?

Well, now you know.

Remind me again why you’re not going to SearchLove San Diego?

No Copycats

So, through our extensive research, it turns out that apparently the perfect location for a conference is…San Diego!

And what a coincidence, they just so happen to be holding SearchLove there next week.

While this is great news for you all (after all, tickets are still available), it’s hard to hear for the dreamers of Mack Web Solutions.

After all the first and principle rule for conference venues is: Nobody likes a copycat.

Which means, we’ll have to think of somewhere else to hold our future conference.

(Hmm…waterfront, desirable, limited distractions, easy gimmick, excellent nightlife…)


But hey, while you’re waiting for your invite to SearchMackCon Atlantis, you should consider checking out SearchLove in September.

Tickets are $1249 for the basic package, $1549 for the fancy one and you get to hang out at a pretty swanky hotel.

I mean, it’s a given that the speakers will be awesome (‘cuz they always are), but hey, did you hear?

They’re holding it in San Diego!



My Journey to Grad School (and My Acceptance of the House of Hufflepuff).

By | Miscellany | 4 Comments

Have you ever taken one of the many Harry Potter quizzes about which house you would get sorted into?

Begrudgingly, I will admit that I’m a Hufflepuff to the core. Give me a project or task to accomplish and I’ll plow through it, no problem, ’cause we are hard-working folks.

Don’t get me wrong, patience and perseverance are excellent traits to have, but when compared with the other houses (Gryffindor, Ravenclaw and Slytherin) Hufflepuff just seems (and sounds) less badass.

Houses in Harry Potter

@courtneymackweb, our Harry Potter aficionado, has done her best to keep my bad attitude towards the Hufflepuff house in check. However, it wasn’t until I set out to apply for grad school that I finally decided, it isn’t so bad being a badger.

Be Unafraid of Toil

I decided to pursue UNC’s Master of Arts program last August. In order to apply, the school needed 20 (gulp!) samples of my work. I wanted to focus on painting, but to be honest (another common quality of the Hufflepuff house), I didn’t have any recent pieces of work, let alone paintings that I felt were “portfolio-worthy”. It had been quite a while since I last picked up my paint brush, and I felt rusty and out of practice.

It boiled down to this: if I wanted to do the program, I had 10 months to create 20 paintings. I calculated that I’d need to create 2 paintings per month, and  save a few weeks to go through the application process itself…talk about a tight schedule.

This meant being creative on days when I felt no creativity at all, opting out of social plans with friends, and skipping climbing days at the gym (which resulted in losing arm strength, and giving up my dream of scaling buildings like Spiderman).

In other words, this meant sacrificing fun stuff, staying focused, and working really hard.

While daunting at first, this crazy, two-paintings-a-month goal got a lot more realistic once I broke it into a weekly schedule. Then I stuck to it until it became a habit (and one that I actually started looking forward to).

And it all got much easier once my efforts paid off and I found a fantastic mentor in Deb Kaylor, a painter here in Colorado. Between my weekly practice and Deb’s weekend watchful eye, my painting life changed dramatically.

Deb was essential in pushing me to work past the crappy stages of a painting. Those moments where your painting looks so very far from the vision in your mind, that you want to quit, and hide the thing in a closet until you have a moment to gesso over it.

It took a few months, but slowly, after consistently painting on weekdays (and seeing Deb on some weekends) I started to see small improvements in my paintings. By golly, my hard-work was paying off.

Five points to Hufflepuff.

Value Patience

How true it is that practice makes perfect. It’s the unseen hours, days, and years of practice that turn one into a master of their craft. If I wanted portfolio-worthy art, I had to keep my nose to the grindstone.

Eventually, my patience paid off. This was a painting I created during my first month of work:


And this was one of my recent pieces:


So yeah, patience is a good thing too.

Ten points to Hufflepuff.


So, after a somewhat busy and frenzied 10 months of painting, I submitted my portfolio, and was accepted into the Master of Arts program for this Fall (Hufflepuff, true enough!).

Here are a few of my favorites of the pieces I submitted (‘cause it would be cruel if you read a post like this without getting to see some of them).





Without working hard and staying focused, I wouldn’t have seen this come to fruition, which makes me think that a badger can be badass after all.

Also, this sort of helps:

Honey Bader Takes What it Wants

What’s Next

All that to say, I start classes September 10th. But don’t worry, I’m not going anywhere. My role is simply adjusting here at Mack Web (‘cause Mack is awesome). I’ll still be doing a plethora of design stuff for us and for our clients.

I’m just going to four days a week and creating a flexible schedule in order to fit school in. I’m excited about what this fall holds for me personally, and for Mack Web as we continue to grow.

And for all you folks that get categorized as honest, loyal, hard-working, nose-to-the-grindstone sort of people, embrace those qualities, and just remember this:

Haters Gonna Hate

Farewell Peaks, Hello Skyscrapers – My (Woefully Undramatic) Journey Northeast

By | Building Community, Events, Miscellany | 4 Comments

Different skies

If you’ve been paying any kind of attention to my Twitter feed (@courtneymackweb, but please don’t feel bad if you haven’t. Hardly anyone does), you may have picked up on the fact that I have relocated.

That’s right. The view out my window used to look like this:


And now it looks like this:

A Chicago Skyline

(Uh…car window, that is. My office/home windows have never been quite so dramatic).

There is a long and convoluted explanation for my recent move from Mack Web’s homebase of Fort Collins, CO to the Windy City (that’s Chicago, just in case you didn’t know), but it’s actually not that interesting.

I know, I know. It seems like it should be, since it’s fraught with interpersonal dynamics, long-lost friends, miscommunication, and mosquito bites, but…in the end it boils down to this:

Courtney has itchy feet.

Courtney likes her job.

Courtney has trouble reconciling these things.

Until I was presented with a fantastic solution: keep my job and move away.

That Mack is a genius, I tell you.

An incredible journey (but only through space. My dreams of time travel are yet unrealized).

So, Mack offered me the opportunity to open what is, essentially, the first satellite office of Mack Web Solutions. (Or as I like to call it: Mack Web Chicago: An Army of One).

So I packed up all my belongings and drove the 16 hours from Fort Collins to Chicago. I was supposed to document the journey for you, possibly with a small garden gnome as companion, ala Amelie.

But, quite frankly, 16 hours of corn and wheat fields is frightfully dull with or without a garden gnome. (And, honestly, a little eerie).

So I didn’t.

Though I learned something very, very important:

Contrary to popular perception, Nebraska does end.

I never knew that before. I assumed it was like the island in Lost or a vortex in space and time, consuming all who pass through and depositing them at random points throughout history and leaving them to wend their way back home as they can.

But I made it out in the end. And without having lost a significant portion of my personal timeline.

(I know, ‘cuz I called my mom when I made it to Iowa, just to make sure I hadn’t pulled a Rip Van Winkle and lost a hundred years amongst the corn. I could actually hear her roll her eyes over the phone).

So I made it to Illinois safe and sound and prepared to set up shop as Mack Web’s first remote location.

We currently operate out of my best friend’s guest room, but that’s not really the relevant point here.

An imac in a borrowed room.

The current offices (and officers) of Mack Web Chicago.

A surprisingly natural progression

The point is that one of Mack Web Solutions’ central tennets is that you can build and foster communities online.

That it is possible to create and sustain productive and mutually-satisfactory relationships without sharing the same physical space.

That through the wide variety of digitial media now available, you can make friends, find partners and mentors, brainstorm and co-create with peers and colleagues, from whereever you happen to be.

(A message, incidentally, also preached by the suppliers of said digital media, but…we’re less self-interested than they are. And also funnier. And prettier. So you should listen to us, even if you ignore them).

Of course, occasional in-person follow-ups are helpful and we’ll be partaking in those, too.

We’ve preached this and we’ve practiced it with some fantastic folk external to our company.

Now we’re trying it out a little closer to home. (Or, really, farther from home, depending on how you want to look at it).

Proving the Theory!

See, doesn’t it sound better couched in terms of scientific inquiry than wanderlust?

And thus far, it’s working. (Not surprising. It was our theory after all).

It’s a little weird not being there to bug my co-workers in person, but I’ve found ways to retain my status as office nuisance via chat and copious, copious emails and Google Hangouts that get completely out of hand.

Pirate hats and facial hair, the imaginary escalators and carefully-mimed isododecahedrons (no, Nat, I will never, ever believe that was a cube): these are the stuff that great virtual meetings are made of.

A nuisance deferred

And of course, all those co-workers are eager to see me succeed, so that they too, can scatter to all ends of the globe and work digitally from, say, Paris or the Caribbean.

(No pressure, Courtney).

Wait…what was the point of all this again?


All of this was to say: Stop your weeping. Be not alarmed! I’m still here, though I am gone.

If you should notice that I no longer appear in pictures of Fort Collins, if you should hear references to my absence, if you should feel the slight chill ebbing off the office itself with the loss of my beaming smile and warm heart…

Don’t. Panic.

I’m not going anywhere.

(Uh…except to Chicago. I did go there. But, um…oh, you know what I mean).

So wish me luck and maybe, if you happen to be in town, I’ll see you around.


Judging By The Cover: MozCon 2013 Seen Through the Eyes of Mack Web

By | Events, Miscellany | 4 Comments

A Predictable Reaction

As you may have noticed from previous posts, we get pretty excited about the conferences we attend.

We get even more excited about the ones that Mack speaks at.

So when Mack’s speaking and our own Julie is attending for the first time?

Off. The Charts. Elation.

When it was decided (with plenty of good-natured ribbing and thinly-veiled envy) that Mack Web Solutions was sending not one but two representatives to Seattle in July for this year’s MozCon, the whole company got involved in the anticipation.

A Characteristic Response

So…what does it look like when Mack Web Solutions looks forward to something?

Well… a little like this:

More specifically:

Mack starts going nuts about her presentation (and her clothes and hair and fingernails).

Natalie starts looking up food options in the Seattle area (and designing some truly gorgeous slides).

I start nit-picking Mack’s grammar.

Tyler and Ashley look around at the veterans in bemused amusement and seriously discuss which sessions our people should attend (all the while wondering just how they got involved with this group of weirdos).

Julie keeps her head down to hide her smirk at being chosen to go.

Eventually, everybody shapes up and join in Tyler and Ashley’s discussion on which presentations sound the most interesting.

How to Choose?

The problem, of course, is that they all sound interesting. And vital and informative and like things we wish we’d thought of first.

So, despite the mature origins of the topic it devolves into something like this:

Of course when we’re preparing the slips that we’re pulling out of the hat, we usually just write the title without the description. So our anticipation of what each presentation will cover can be, from time-to-time, ever so slightly…off?

Childishly extravagent flights-of-fancy-esque?

The end result of this exercise is that, while we’re sure that all 35 speakers are brilliant, there are certain talks we’re particularly looking forward to (however mis-guidedly). (Besides, we had to limit our silliness or we would have been doing this all. day. long).

Here’s our top five, er…six:

Really Targeted Outreach

Richard Baxter

What We Think It Is:
Based solely on the title, we imagine that this particular talk will be an in-depth and informative presentation on the ways to connect your content with its perfect audience.

We speculate that it will run through data collection, content development, and methods of content delivery.

We’re pretty sure that it’s going to be awesome and valuable.

We also picture it conducted entirely by a Band of Merry Men in Lincoln Green. Tights and jerkins and feathered caps. Possibly with some archery targets and a little petty larceny among the audience when you’re not looking.

And we’re going to be really disappointed if there isn’t a rousing rendition of “The Phony King of England” at the end.

What It Really Is (The Authorized Summary):
We’ve all sent guest post pitches and “link building requests” and begged for precious links any way and anywhere we can. But, that simply isn’t marketing. We have all the tools for a better way of finding our audience and determining what they love. Richard will show you a data-driven approach to marketing your brand to your target audience. No more guesswork, you’ll know exactly how to get the right eyeballs on your content.

Wordless Wednesdays: How To Swaggerjack the Power of Visual Memes

Lena West

What We Think It Is:
We’re picturing a slideshow of everyone’s favorite cat and/or celebrity memes set to a rousing soundtrack of cleverly-written sea shanties.

We expect each shanty to provide inspiring (and preferably rhyming) data on leveraging these delightful images for inbound marketing purposes.

Because I won’t be physically present to taint the experience with my much-documented fear of birds, we’re also hoping for pithy and/or obscene interjections from a parrot with a peg-leg.

What It Really Is (The Authorized Summary):
Image-heavy, responsive websites are all the rage, but can be problematic for SEO, load times, and other inbound marketing concerns. But how does this balance out with the popularity of images-based memes like “Wordless Wednesday”? Lena will examine these visual memes and their impact on traffic, and she’ll talk about how you can parlay the power of visual memes into serious search and traffic results.

Strings to Things: Entities and SEO

Matthew Brown

What We Think It Is:
There was a lot of speculation on this one, including, but not limited to:

  • Knitting Your Way to Better Rankings: Common Sense Marketing Inspired By Grandma
  • The Puppet Master: A Look at the Dark Side of Search Engine Optimization
  • Magical Music: Orchestrating Inbound Marketing
  • The Muses: A Panel Discussion with the Internet Pantheon

We’d be happy with pretty much any of these. My personal preference would be an off-the-cuff presentation tracing the sucess of well-favored digital marketing tactics to the relative vibration of tiny strands of energy…in the TARDIS.

(But that’s just me).

What It Really Is (The Authorized Summary):
In the last year, Google and Bing have both indicated a shift to entity-based search results as part of their evolution. Google has unscored this point with rich snippets and Knowledge Graph, and Bing has now upped the ante on personal search results with Bing Snapshots. Find out how you can adopt strategies to stay ahead of the curve in the new world of semantic search results.

Breaking Up With Your Keyword-Based KPIs

Annie Cushing

What We Think It Is:
With this one, we expect a compassionate but no-nonsense walk through the woes of basing all sense of achievement on notably unreliable keyword data.

Then we’ll hear tips on (healthily) purging memories of the relationship from your life.

How to dispose of the adorable photo-booth strips of you and your keyword-based KPIs without crying.

The mature way to handle a post-breakup booty call from your keyword-based KPIs.

What to do when you run into keyword-based KPIs with their new devotees when you’re out at the movies.

What you should be looking for in your next KPI relationship.

(Possibly a few tips on shedding the break-up ice cream weight).

What It Really Is (The Authorized Summary):
Raise your hand if you hate (not provided)? Annie shows you how to raise your battle cry by finding your keyword data elsewhere. By changing your focus from (not provided) to what your landing pages can tell you, you’ll be able to audit your site even better than before.

Living in the Future of User Behavior

Will Critchlow

What We Think It Is:
This one we envision as a cautionary presentation on the perils of time travel: Don’t try to evacuate Pompeii or kill Hitler, don’t step on a butterfly, don’t kill (or become) your own grandfather, don’t accidentally stop your mom from going to the prom with your dad.

Y’know, the basics.

Then we expect it to progress to the industry-specific dangers inherent to transcending time: if you go to the future and see a virally-popular piece of content you will apparently create and then come back and create it…where did the idea come from in the first place?

What It Really Is (The Authorized Summary):
As the technology space constantly changes, users and their behavior adjust with the tide. But what should we do? Will takes a look at where the trends are going and gives you the tactics and tips to keep up and maybe get ahead of the game.

Building a Better Business with Digital Marketing

Our Own Mack Fogelson

What We Think It Is:
Two words: Lego City.

What It Really Is (The Authorized Summary):
Extraordinary businesses and communities are built with a higher purpose than just making money. Mack will walk you through how you can achieve bigger objectives for your clients or for your own business. Using the power of digital marketing tools (along with passion and hard work), you’ll learn how to shape and foster your company and the community around it.

A Great Show

Regardless of our predictions, we think the whole line-up sounds pretty amazing and we’re both honored and delighted to be presenting at and attending MozCon 2013.

But you know the best news?

It’s not too late to get tickets!

So, July 8-10, 2013. The Washington State Convention Center. Be there or you’ll miss out (hopefully) on Robin Hood, pirates, string, ice cream, time travel, and legos.

Which would be a shame.

Hope to see you there!

(Also…we welcome any additional speculation on what will be covered in those three days. Any thoughts on what “Moz Lingo” might be? For what the reasons does the internet hate us? We await your contributions).



And Then There Were Six…

By | Events, Miscellany | No Comments

(But not in a creepy, ominous way)

Contrary to the common usage of the phrase, we’re actually counting up, not down. (As far as we know, nobody is skulking around the Mack Web island, knocking off careless stragglers).

This month we are beyond pleased to be introducing not one, but two new members of the Mack Web team. (Yeah, we can hardly believe it either).

There are several implications to these new additions.

The most obvious, of course, is that Mack Web is growing like a mad thing. Which is awesome.

We’re adding new skill sets, new perspectives, and a whole new well of pop culture references to our offerings. Which is even awesomer.

Slightly less awesome? We’re going through the chocolate at a much higher rate. (Seriously. There’s nothing but Mr. Goodbar left. Where have all the Krackels gone, I ask you?)

Chocolate or no chocolate, we are seriously excited to be introducing your to our two new Web Marketing Strategists: Tyler Brooks and Ashley Steele.

It’s a Boy!

That’s right, friends. After a long history of being an all-girls club, we’re excited to introduce you to Tyler Brooks, the first guy to officially join the Mack Web Solutions team.

Tyler. And His Whiteboard.

Tyler joins us fresh from Indiana and we’re pretty happy that we get to show him the ropes around Fort Collins as well as the office. We’re also happy that the beautiful whiteboard that has mostly been used thus far to keep track of the drinks we owe each other has finally found its purpose in his hands.

You can find out all about Tyler’s professional credentials on his bio page (coming soon, but take our word for it here and now, they exist). But to learn the really important things about him, we’re gonna play a fun little game some of you might remember from junior high. It’s called Two Truths and Lie.

If you don’t remember the game, let me get you up to speed. I’m going to make three statements about Tyler. Two of them are true. One of them is a lie. It’s up to you to guess which ones are which.

Ready? Okay.

One: As a child, Tyler’s chief aspiration was to be Sherlock Holmes.

Two: Tyler can hold his breath for 72 seconds before he starts turning blue (welllll…purple).

Three: Despite being quite brainy and practical, Tyler’s deepest fear is that he would be a terrible accountant.

So…what’s the truth and what’s the lie? Let us know what you think.

And another girl!

Just because we love her. Not because we are scrabbling desperately to maintain the balance and continue talking about nail polish in team meetings.

Ashley! (With Mack lurking in the back like a creeper).

Ashley Steele started with us as part time and less than a month into it, we knew we needed her more than twice a week. So she’s become our newest full-time strategist, bringing with her an array of skills and experiences (to be detailed elsewhere).

Here are the things you really need to know about Ashley. (And one thing that you didn’t. Cuz it’s a dirty, dirty lie).

One: Ashley turned down a spot in the WNBA to go into marketing because she didn’t want the celebrity lifestyle.

Two: She has double jointed elbows.

Three: Ashley’s secret delight is the smell of bleach.

So…what’ll it be?

Stay tuned!

So, we’re putting together their official bios (with official photos and everything, despite how some of the team feel about having their picture taken), but we’re just so excited to have these two with us that we couldn’t wait any longer to tell you about them.

So drop us a line, say hello, welcome them to town.

And don’t forget to take a stab at which facts are true and which are…less so.

(Also…just in case…should you see a nefarious figure sniffing around our offices, let us know, would ya? We’re pretty happy with the six we’ve got. No need to start counting down instead of up).