Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Happy New Year 2020!

Wishing you and yours a safe, blessed, prosperous, and Happy New Year! Thanks so much for your readership and support. It means a lot to me. I hope you're finding this blog to be of some value to you. Here's to 2020!

Thursday, December 26, 2019

The four-second rule of Web site design

According to the Statistic Brain Research Institute, average attention spans in 2015 were just over eight seconds. Though this itself sounds short, the institute also found that attention spans may be even shorter while surfing the Web, as nearly twenty percent of reported page views lasted less than four seconds. So, in knowing that you have such a small window of time to connect with your visitors, what can be done to keep people on your site beyond the initial four seconds?

First, ensure your site is fast loading, and, second, place your most engaging content readily in view of your visitors.

When discussing page load speed, it is widely acknowledged that faster is better. After all, if visitors fail to find attention-grabbing content within the first four seconds of clicking through to your site, they may hit the back button in hopes of finding another site that will cater to their needs in a timelier manner. To avoid losing your visitors before they even reach your content, always choose a hosting provider with consistently high-speed service and uptime guarantees. You should also optimize your Web site's assets and code to further reduce page loading times.

Beyond choosing a fast and reliable hosting provider and optimizing your site's assets and code to improve page load speed, you may also want to familiarize yourself with the concept of heat mapping. Various online heat mapping tools are available that can show you which portions of your pages draw the most visitor interaction. Using this information, rearrange your pages so your most engaging content is higher up on the page. That way, it can be more easily found by your Web site's visitors.

In a world with ever-shortening attention spans, it's becoming more important for Web site designers to consider the four-second rule when creating and optimizing their Web sites. To help retain your visitors beyond the first four seconds of their arrival, always ensure that your hosting provider provides fast and reliable service, that your Web site's assets and code are optimized for reduced loading times, and that your site's most engaging content is readily available to your Web site's visitors.

Comparing WordPress platforms

What are the differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.org?

Despite WordPress being one of today's most popular blogging options, many people remain confused about the differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.org. Though both Web sites may sound similar at first mention, there are several important differences between the two. So, if you are planning on creating a WordPress site, be sure to compare the differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.org, so you can choose the product that is right for you.

The following lists will help you compare the two sites:

  • On WordPress.com, blogs are hosted by WordPress, so you aren't required to purchase a custom domain name or Web hosting. There is also no need to download or install the WordPress software yourself.
  • When using WordPress.com, basic service is free but ad-supported. Free accounts have limited storage space and use a WordPress.com subdomain for the website address.
  • Upgraded accounts on WordPress.com have access to more features than their free counterparts. Popular upgrades include increased storage space, the ability to install plugins, and monetization options. While upgraded accounts are still hosted by WordPress, they can use a custom domain name if one is purchased separately.
  • When creating a site at WordPress.com, all updates, backups, and maintenance are performed by WordPress.
  • If you wish to self-host a WordPress blog, you must first purchase your own custom domain name and Web hosting, then download and install the free blogging software available at WordPress.org.
  • When self-hosting a blog with files downloaded from WordPress.org, storage space is only limited to the space offered by your hosting provider. Many providers offer unlimited storage space as part of their standard hosting plans.
  • As a self-hosted blog owner, you can monetize your site as you see fit and install any plugins you choose.
  • When self-hosting a WordPress blog, you must perform your own updates, backups, and maintenance.
Despite the similarities between WordPress.com and WordPress.org, there are several differences to consider when deciding which product is right for you. For those looking for a free (albeit limited) option requiring less technical know-how, WordPress.com is the way to go. For prospective bloggers who are looking for a more robust, customizable product, WordPress.org may be the better option of the two.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Mastering Spanish via distance learning

Distance learning: Spanish courses abroad

There are many reasons people go abroad to take Spanish courses. Distance learning, as it is sometimes referred to as, will put you right in the middle of a Spanish-speaking community to help speed you up on your Spanish learning journey. Whether you just want to take a few Spanish courses or earn a full Spanish degree, distance learning could be the answer you are looking for.

As the Spanish language differs greatly from one location to another, you will need to keep this in mind when deciding which distance learning Spanish courses you would like to take. Do you want to learn Spanish as is spoken in Spain? Then look for a distance learning Spanish course in Spain. Want to learn the language as it's spoken in Mexico? Then look into distance learning programs in Mexico.

Regardless of which distance learning location you choose, the key to fully benefiting from the experience will be to engage and interact with the community. Get out there and talk with some native Spanish speakers. Attend some Spanish language entertainment. Doing so will greatly improve your Spanish fluency and will help you increase your overall Spanish comprehension.

Distance learning is one of the best ways to become fluent in another language and will often result in more language comprehension in less time. Because Spanish is spoken in much of Central and South America, as well as in Spain, you will have many options when deciding on which distance learning Spanish courses you want to enroll in. Whichever you choose, rest assured that you will be leaving your distance learning course with a better understanding of the Spanish language.

Learning the English language

Five reasons it's worth learning the English language

There are many reasons why learning English is a worthwhile venture. First, English is a global language that often provides the common ground for speakers who don't speak each other's native languages. Next, a basic understanding of English is often recommended, or even required in some cases, for those seeking admittance to a top university or employment at a multinational company. Finally, English is the language of science and technology. Continue reading for a more detailed explanation of each of these points.

1. English is a global language.

English is worth learning because, unlike most other languages, its core group of speakers isn't focused in a limited number of regions around the world. In fact, English is the official language of 39 countries and a co-official language in 34 more. Furthermore, English is considered to be the de facto official language in another five countries that haven't formally designated an official language.

2. English is often the language of choice between speakers from different regions.

With 942 million speakers, English ranks second among the world's most spoken languages and first among the world's most spoken second languages. Because of this, it often becomes the language of choice between speakers from different regions. It's worth learning English because even the most basic understanding of the language can help individuals from different regions overcome a language barrier.

3. English fluency is required at many top universities.

For those wishing to study at a world-renowned university, it's worth learning English. This is because many top universities only accept students fluent in the English language. In fact, certain universities even require prospective students to pass an English proficiency test prior to admittance if English isn't their native language.

4. Understanding English is essential when working for multinational companies.

For people seeking employment in a multinational company, it's worth learning the English language. As employees of such companies often communicate across borders, they will have a much better chance at finding some common linguistic ground with their foreign contacts if they can understand the English language.

5. English is the language of science and technology.

As most scientific papers and technical manuals are only published in English, learning the English language should be a top priority for anyone pursuing a career in science or technology. People with a casual interest in either of these fields may also find that English is worth learning for the same reason.

As you can see, there are many reasons why it's worth learning the English language. Sure, the spelling and pronunciation systems may seem nonsensical at times, but despite this, English is still one of the easier languages to learn due to its relatively simple alphabet and the overwhelming amount of resources available to those wishing to learn it - two important factors that can be extremely helpful when learning a new language.


Voluntourism: Making the world a better place one trip at a time

Voluntourism is a popular form of international travel that combines the good intentions and the many benefits of volunteering with the excitement of tourism. Aimed at those looking to make a positive change in the world, voluntourism provides a safe and easy way for tourists to help others in developing or devastated communities around the world, without the typical time commitments seen in more traditional forms of international volunteering.

To help keep costs at a minimum, voluntourists often live with host families while staying in their selected region. Such arrangements are mutually beneficial. Not only is the local community rewarded by the efforts of generous volunteers, but the volunteers themselves are rewarded by being directly immersed into the local culture, giving them a perspective and meaningful opportunities to reflect not easily seen from the vantage point of a standard tourist.

Reaching all areas of the globe, voluntourism spans countless interests including archeology, building, care, conservation, farming, sports, and teaching. Various programs focusing on interests such as these are then tailored to each volunteer's age, schedule, and level of commitment. Business voluntourism is also becoming popular and can be great for team building, public relations, and employee morale.

For youths interested in voluntourism, programs are available for high school -aged individuals through several organizations over the summer months. There are also spring break and gap year voluntourism opportunities aimed at college-aged individuals looking to make a difference. Not only does participation in such programs leave many youths with a new perspective on the world, it can also make for an interesting addition to the participants' college applications and resumes.

Before finalizing any voluntourism plans, it's important that you research a number of different voluntourism organizations, as not all offer the same options or experiences. It's also worth noting that in some cases, the organization may help subsidize costs like airfare, insurance, and personal allowances, while in other cases, it's the volunteers who must cover the full cost of the trip.

So, if you want to see the world while doing something meaningful with your life, it's time to give the idea of voluntourism some real consideration. By becoming a voluntourist, you can build lasting friendships, have rewarding experiences, and make a real difference in the lives of those living in developing or devastated communities around the world.

How to eat healthy on a budget

Eating healthy can be a challenge - especially when you're on a tight budget. But being strapped for cash doesn't mean you have to subsist on a diet of only unhealthy foods, however. When money is tight, try these simple tips that can keep you eating healthy for less.

1. Buy in-season fruits and vegetables.

Fresh produce generally costs less while it's in season, so when you're shopping for groceries, be sure to seek out in-season fruits and vegetables. If you need to purchase produce that is out of season, compare the item's fresh and frozen prices to see which is currently more cost-effective.

2. Buy day-old bakery items.

Despite tasting almost as fresh, day-old bakery items are cheaper than their freshly baked counterparts. The only downside - day-olds are often packaged in larger quantities. Fortunately, freezing the extras can help you maintain their freshness. For the healthiest options, stick to wholegrain baked goods.

3. Buy dairy products in larger sizes.

As dairy products like milk and cheese tend to get cheaper per serving as sizes go up, opt to buy the larger sizes whenever possible. Do check, however, that the products' expiration dates are far enough away so the items can be fully consumed before they spoil, or else this tip may actually end up costing you more in the long run.

As you can see, it's possible to spend less while still maintaining a healthy diet. So, to help ensure you're still eating healthy while on a budget, give these tips a try the next time you need groceries, but find yourself strapped for cash.

Japanese greetings

Following are several ways to greet a person in Japanese. The main greetings of good morning, good afternoon, and good evening are chosen based on the time of day. Here’s a brief rundown to get you started:

Good morning

The Japanese word for “good morning” is “ohayou”. The ending “gozaimasu” can be added for politeness, extending the phrase to “ohayou gozaimasu”. Pronounced: Oh-high-yoh go-zeye-ee-moss.

Hello / Good afternoon

For a more generic greeting meaning “hello”, the Japanese say “konnichiwa”. This is used in the late morning hours and through to the late afternoon. Pronounced: Kohn-nee-chee-wah.

Good evening

During the evening hours, the Japanese say, “konbanwa” which translates to “good evening” in English. Pronounced: Kohn-bahn-wah.

As you can see, choosing the proper Japanese greeting is as easy as determining the time of day. So the next time you travel to Japan, you’ll have no trouble greeting the Japanese people in their own language.

Merry Christmas

For those of you who celebrate today, I wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Learning over winter break

As we begin winter break (or recently began it) for both high school and college students, I want to challenge you to take advantage of this time to continue learning and expanding that wonderful gift you have - your mind. I don't necessarily mean school work, although high school students may have some actual school work to take home and complete during their break. College students, on the other hand, will usually be between semesters with no school work.

The kind of learning I'm primarily talking about here is learning that will help you in identifying and selecting potential career and college tracks that you may be interested in pursuing.

Use a good portion of your break time to reflect and figure some of these things out. It will certainly be to your advantage. What are your hobbies and interests? What have you done so far for volunteer work, or what would you like to do for volunteer work? Is there anyone you can start networking with? Do you already have a basic resume ready to go, or do you need to work on that still? If you're still in high school, have you started exploring any formal post- high school training and education you may want or need to obtain?

Take advantage of this time. Don't squander it. Check out this page of career readiness resources for more ideas and inspiration.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Thanking teachers, coaches, and professors

Is there a teacher, coach, administrator, professor, or other staff member - past or present - that really made a profound impact in your life? Feel free to use the Comments section below to thank that person and share your story! We'd love to hear all about it!

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Mental health and suicide prevention

Recently, in a middle school -level health class that I assist in from time to time, two wonderful speakers from the NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) branch in Waukesha (Wisconsin) presented on the topics of mental health and suicide prevention. They shared with the class a number of valuable resources that youth and teens can turn to for help or simply to get some questions answered.

I, in turn, am sharing those resources here. Feel free to bookmark this page and share it with others, and never be afraid to seek help. Know that you are never alone. A special thanks to NAMI Waukesha for sharing these resources.

UPDATE, January 24, 2022 - I've recently added a number of additional resources to this page. Please feel free to bookmark this page and share it with others.

If you or someone you know or have encountered may be in a crisis:
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255, or text 839863
  • The Center for Suicide Awareness: Text "HOPELINE" to 741741
  • Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-888-373-7888, or text "info" to 233733

Web sites:
  • The Virtual Hopebox
  • Headspace
  • Calm
  • My3

Bullying and Cyberbullying

What Should You do if Your Child is a Bully? - a comprehensive resource covering all aspects of bullying, from the blog at SocialWorkLicenseMap.com

Top Tips for Preventing Cyberbullying - a complete guide to cyberbullying presented by Sunshine Behavioral Health
Building Resiliency
From Brittanica Digital Learning comes this free, downloadable e-book, Raising Resilient Kids: Promoting Mental Health Through Social and Emotional Learning
Human Trafficking Clues
  • Accompanied by a controlling person or boss
  • Not speaking on her own behalf, avoids eye contact
  • Has a much older or old "boyfriend"
  • Shows signs of physical abuse, fear, overly submissive
  • Not free to come and go as she/he wishes
  • Sudden increase of expensive stuff
  • Carries multiple phones
  • Constantly late or absent from school
  • Ran away from home
Human Trafficking - Questions you can ask to help identify a victim
  • Can you come and go or leave [your job] if you want to?
  • Have you or your family been threatened?
  • Where do you sleep or eat?
  • Do you have to ask permission to eat/sleep/go to the bathroom?
  • Are there locks on the doors/windows so you cannot get out?
  • Has your identification or documentation been taken from you?

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Being an entrepreneur in high school

Entrepreneurship for high school students

Recently, in a high school business course I assist in called Employability, I had the wonderful opportunity to offer some advice to a student on the subject of entrepreneurship. It developed into an engaging, fruitful conversation with him and a couple of his classmates sitting at his table.

This student loves rollerskating. Not rollerblading; not ice skating; but classic, old-school rollerskating. And I could see and hear the passion and excitement in his eyes and in his voice when talking about it. He loves meeting up with friends at the local skating rinks and giving them lessons and pointers.

Now, here's where I interjected with the topic of entrepreneurship. He was explaining to a couple of other young men at his table that his dream job right now would be to work at a rink as one of the people that get to skate all the time in those black-and-white striped referee shirts. I recommended to him that he instead consider starting his own business giving rollerskating lessons. If his rollerskating skills are as solid as he says they are, and if he genuinely loves the sport and teaching others how to roller skate, then he may as well go into business for himself. It's easy to create a Web site these days. Social media has made advertising and marketing affordable (virtually free), easy, and fun to do. And he can use the power of networking to find clients and others who can help him grow his business.

Additionally, because he would be owning and running his own business, he can set his own work schedule and decide for himself how much he wants to charge his clients for lessons. If he works for a business owned and manged by someone else (like one of the rinks in the area), he'll have to work when they want him to work, do what they want him to do, and he'll only earn whatever they think he should be paid. This can potentially be a far lower amount of money than he could make by being in business for himself.

I'm sharing this with all of you to get you thinking about possibilities - exciting opportunities - that perhaps you haven't thought of yet or given much consideration to. If there's something that you're really good at and genuinely love to do, then perhaps going into business for yourself, rather than performing all the work for someone else's benefit, is right for you. Just a thought.  

Now, it won't always be fun and easy. It's important that you understand that. Let's be realistic. It will take a lot of dedication and, at least for a while, putting in long and maybe odd hours. There will be stretches where there isn't any money coming in. There could be competition out there, and you'll have to find creative and innovative ways to stand out from that competition. But the many potential rewards sure make it all worth doing.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Money tips from Mark Cuban and Kevin O'Leary

Came across these two videos on YouTube this morning while browsing for retirement and financial literacy resources for high school and college students.

Here are some excellent money tips and life advice offered by Mark Cuban and Kevin O'Leary, both of Shark Tank fame.

Unsubscribing to marketing lists

Save money by unsubscribing to marketing e-mails and texts

It's hard not to be tempted by marketing e-mails and text messages. After all, they're designed for one purpose and one purpose alone - convincing you to buy whatever it is a company is selling. Unfortunately, the more you give in to temptation, the more likely it is that you'll be short when it comes time to pay for necessities like food and rent.

So, what is the easiest way to stop yourself from being tempted by marketing e-mails and texts? Simply unsubscribe to them. While the process may be lengthy if you're currently on several mailing lists, unsubscribing should help you save money if you're the kind of person who's easily tempted.

How to unsubscribe will depend on the particular set of e-mails or text messages you are receiving. Most marketing e-mails include an unsubscribe link somewhere near the bottom of the message, which, upon clicking, will remove you from the mailing list. Unsubscribing from marketing texts, on the other hand, is generally done by replying to the text with the word STOP.

Be aware that certain companies send personalized offers and coupon codes in their marketing e-mails and texts. If you rely on such offers or codes to save money, then you may wish to continue receiving marketing communications from those companies. If you are unsure about unsubscribing from a particular company, carefully examine their past communications so you can determine just how beneficial their marketing e-mails or texts actually are.

How to save money while dining out

If you're on a tight budget, you may try to save money by avoiding certain activities like eating out. While eating out is generally more expensive than dining at home, there are ways to spend less while enjoying a nice meal at a restaurant. If you'd like to save a little money while dining out, consider making these money-saving changes.

1. Go for lunch.

Many restaurants have separate menus for lunch and dinner. While the portion sizes are generally reduced at lunchtime, so are the prices. By choosing to go out for lunch instead of dinner, you can save money.

2. Stick to water.

Beverages can add a substantial cost to your overall bill, whether it be soda, coffee, or especially any alcoholic beverage. You can save quite a bit of money while dining out by forgoing pricier drinks and sticking to water.

3. Skip dessert.

A round of desserts won't be cheap when eating out, so keep down your costs by skipping dessert. If you really can't go without dessert, then stop by the grocery store on the way home. You'll likely find several dessert options at a fraction of the cost.

4. Utilize coupons and discounts.

Keep an eye out for restaurant coupons when going through your mail. Also, inquire with your server about any available discounts for students, veterans, seniors, etc. that you or anyone else in your party may qualify for. By utilizing coupons and discounts, you can further reduce your bill.

Teenage weight and adult heart disease

Teenage weight linked to heart disease in adults

A study led by Amir Tirosh of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston has found a possible link between teenage weight and heart disease in adults.

The study looked at the medical history of 37,000 people and determined that the more a person weighed at the age of 17, the more likely they were to develop heart disease in their 30s and 40s - regardless of whether or not the participants grew up to be overweight.

This is clearly a cause for alarm, as researchers had previously thought that adopting a better lifestyle later in life would reduce the risks of heart disease substantially. This appears to not be the case, however. As this study implies, cardiovascular disease may be more closely linked to a person's weight during their critical teenage years than it is later on in adulthood.

On the flip side, the study also showed that a person's weight during their teenage years had little to do with developing diabetes later in life. It was only the people who failed to lose their extra teenage pounds upon reaching adulthood who had a greater risk of developing diabetes.

The study looked at a person's body mass index (BMI) compared to the risk of heart disease, which was defined as the, "narrowing of at least 50 percent in one major artery supplying blood to the heart". Using this data, the study determined that each point above a BMI of 20.7 resulted in an increased risk of 12 percent for heart disease and 10 percent for diabetes.

Collecting freelance payments while studying abroad

Seven ways freelancers can collect client payments while studying abroad

Freelancing is often a perfect fit for those studying abroad. After all, if you're willing to embrace the freelance mentality and you can conduct your business either online or over the phone, then you can keep earning money, no matter how far from home your adventures happen to take you. So, without further ado, here are seven options for freelancers looking to collect client payments while studying abroad.

1. PayPal (www.paypal.com)

PayPal is one of the world's most well-known and popular online payment processers. Its secure services provide instant invoicing and reliable payment options for many freelancers and their clients.

2. Escrow (www.escrow.com)

Another popular service used by freelancers is Escrow. Escrow helps remove the risk of online transactions by holding payment until agreed-upon conditions are met by both parties. This can be especially useful when dealing with larger projects and new clients.

3. Google Wallet (www.google.com/wallet)

Though Google Wallet can only be used to transfer funds within the United States or the United Kingdom, it can be a good option for freelancers studying in either of these countries due to its lack of fees. The service, which can be used to send funds at no cost between family and friends, is also free to use for sole proprietorship businesses.

4. Square (www.square.com)

Square card readers can be used to accept in-person and over-the-phone debit and credit card payments in the United States, Canada, Australia, and Japan. Upon acceptance to the service, freelancers are given a free card reader that can be used to securely collect client payments.

5. Western Union (www.westernunion.com)

Western Union helps facilitate client payments by processing transactions either online, by phone, or in person at a branch office, ATM, or kiosk. Western Union currently operates in over 200 countries and has more than 500,000 agent locations.

6. MoneyGram (www.moneygram.com)

Like Western Union, MoneyGram operates both online and through branch offices in over 200 countries around the world. MoneyGram, however, has fewer branch offices, ATMs, and kiosks than Western Union.

7. Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT)

Another popular option used by freelancers is Electronic Funds Transfer. To accept payment by EFT, you simply need to provide the necessary banking information to your client, who can then direct their payment to your selected account.

Please note that in many cases, payment processors charge one or both parties a fee for handling the transaction. As such fees are not standard from one company to the next, it can be worth shopping around before deciding on which payment option will be right for you and your clients. If you and your clients are comfortable sending and receiving payments through one of the cheaper options, you could end up saving a lot of money in the long run.

Freelancing is a great way to earn money while studying abroad. Thankfully, no matter which type of freelancing work you specialize in, there are several reliable ways you can be paid for your services. With so many payment options available, freelancers should have no trouble collecting client payments while studying abroad.

Start thinking about retirement now

At this stage in your life, being in either high school or college, you're probably (hopefully) spending a lot of time and focus on what you'd like to do for a career, and rightfully so. You're asking, then, "Mr. Robertson, why are you suggesting we start thinking about retirement already, when we haven't even started our careers yet?" Well, at your age, your primary focus should, in fact, be on launching your career. After all, it's your career that's going to help fund your retirement, right? You can't enjoy retirement if you're unable to earn, save, or invest much during your prime working years.

With that being said, though, it's to your advantage to begin devoting at least a little thought and action to your retirement now, because you have the one asset at your disposal that is arguably the greatest, most valuable asset around - time. You have time on your side.

Even Gordon Gekko, the fictional corrupt billionaire investor so artfully portrayed by Michael Douglas in the Wall Street movies, eventually figured out the value of time:

You may not have a lot of money to save or invest right now, but with time on your side, along with a little discipline and research, you can grow very small amounts of money into a much larger pool of money in the end. Time is on your side. Don't squander this incredible asset - this incredible opportunity - that you have right now. Too many people, unfortunately, figure this out way too late.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Seasonal Affective Disorder SAD

In this post, we discuss a condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder, also styled as seasonal affective disorder and known as SAD for short.

According to the Mayo Clinic, "Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that's related to changes in seasons - SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year. If you're like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody. Less often, SAD causes depression in the spring or early summer."  According to the National Institute of Mental Health, "Younger adults have a higher risk of SAD than older adults. SAD has been reported even in children and teens." 

Four Ways to Prevent or Minimize the Effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Seasonal affective disorder, sometimes referred to as the winter blues or summertime sadness, is a mood disorder that is closely linked to variations in light. For this reason, it is most prevalent in populations who live far from the equator, where seasonal light fluctuations are more severe. Though seasonal affective disorder is most frequently experienced during the winter months when daylight hours decrease, around ten percent of cases do present during the summer.

It's these summer cases that have medical professionals on the fence about the possible evolutionary causes of the disorder. While several theories have been proposed, two popular theories have risen above the others. One theory recounts the need for mankind's early ancestors to lower their caloric intake during the winter months when food would have likely been scarce, while the other likens the disorder to winter hibernation in animals. While both ideas do have merit, neither of these explanations account for the cases where onset occurs during the summer months.

Evolutionary background aside, a growing awareness of seasonal affective disorder is sparking new research among medical professionals. Word of this new research has many sufferers excited that real solutions may be just around the corner. While it's true that meaningful progress could happen quickly, the reality is that research into the disorder is still in its infancy. Due to this, definitive answers gained from the research—including the disorder's exact causes and most effective treatment options—remain relatively undocumented.

While definitive answers aren't yet available regarding the prevention and treatment of seasonal affective disorder, several suggestions have been put forth that may help prevent the disorder's onset, or at the very least, shorten its duration or minimize the severity of its symptoms. Here are four such suggestions that may prevent or minimize the effects of seasonal affective disorder.

1. Be more physically active.

Endorphins, a natural chemical released by the brain during physical activity, are known to cause feelings of euphoria and empowerment. They are also thought to reduce stress, while increasing overall sleep quality. For these reasons, endorphins can be a great tool in battling the unwanted feelings of depression caused by seasonal affective disorder. For times when physical activity isn't possible, try finding the humor in life because genuine laughter can also cause a release of endorphins.

2. Take a vacation during your problematic season.

Exposing yourself to weather conditions reminiscent of those experienced during a non-afflicted season may help you to keep the disorder at bay. If you suffer from winter seasonal affective disorder, then visit somewhere warm and sunny during the winter to help mitigate the disorder's effects. If you suffer from summer seasonal affective disorder, then plan a summer trip to a destination that resembles a typical winter in your area.

3. Spend more time outdoors.

Because traveling to far off lands isn't always an option, it is also recommended that sufferers try spending more time outdoors. Spending an hour or two in the midday sun can be especially effective for those suffering from winter seasonal affective disorder, as exposure to the sun acts as a form of light therapy. Time outdoors can also be helpful in some cases of summer seasonal affective disorder, because a simple change in pace can sometimes be enough to ward off an episode of depression caused by the disorder.

4. Consume a diet rich in fish.

Certain studies have found that while seasonal affective disorder is known to be more prevalent in areas far from the equator, there are areas in non-equatorial regions, like Iceland and Japan, with lower than average levels of the disorder. One commonality among these regions is increased fish consumption. This finding has led to some speculation that consuming a diet rich in fish may help limit the severity of seasonal affective disorder or prevent its onset altogether.

Though there's no known way to fully eliminate your chances of developing seasonal affective disorder, there are several potential ways to help prevent its onset, or at the very least, limit its duration or minimize the severity of its symptoms. By being more physically active, taking well-scheduled vacations, spending more time outdoors, and increasing your intake of fish, you will have a better chance of warding off any future bouts of seasonal affective disorder.

Cultivating many options

In life and career, it's critical that you always have multiple options available to you at any given time. In other words, you want to have a viable backup plan in place. But, I would contend, you don't want just one backup plan. You want at least a couple. Maybe even a few. And you want them always ready to go, at a moment's notice.

Case in point: as you may know from reading prior posts here at this blog, I have always worked in what I generically call the business world - a collection of different private sector roles over the years. It wasn't until only a year and a half ago or so that I started to explore possibilities in K-12 education, specifically high school -level education. One of these days, I would really love to teach at the college level. That's the ultimate end goal for me. But even though I'm passionate about, and excited to be a part of, the world of education, I continue to keep my eyes, ears, and mind open for new opportunities in business and industry. I continue to network and maintain my relationships with an extensive variety of business professionals and subject matter experts, and I keep my resume updated and ready to go if needed. I seek out opportunities to learn new skills and to strengthen skills I already have. Furthermore, I maintain a small amount of freelance marketing work in addition to my full-time work in education. I can always ramp up this freelance work if I want or need to.

Likewise, the same goes with my investing and retirement planning. It's important to cultivate multiple streams of income - multiple strategies and a diverse variety of solid investments - so that if one or more begin to falter, others can pick up the slack.

So that's what I mean when I talk about cultivating multiple options. You never know when you may need to turn to them, or shift them from playing a secondary role in your life or career to a primary role, or vice-versa. It's always wise to have a few viable backup plans ready to go at a moment's notice.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Exploring your local library

Are book stores making you poor? Borrow from your local library instead

With the price of many books being quite expensive, it’s no surprise that heavy readers are looking for cheaper alternatives to support their hobby. If you happen to find yourself spending way too much on books (many of which you only end up reading once), then it’s time to check out your local library to see what they have in stock. You’ll still find plenty to read, but you’ll no longer have to worry about the price on the back cover.

Regardless if you are looking to read a book from one of today’s hottest authors or a series that has received very little press, there’s a good chance that you will be able to find what you are looking for at your local library. By borrowing books whenever you can and only buying books as a last resort, you can save a great deal of money.

If you are the kind of person who likes to be right up to date with the latest book crazes, you’ll be happy to know that many of the larger libraries order in several copies of their most popular books. This is a common practice for new releases, the latest installment of a series, or books that have been made into popular movies.

Even so, without knowing a few tricks, some of the most popular books can be hard to get a hold of. If you are having trouble borrowing a particular book because it is always checked out, don’t wait around for it to be put back on the shelf. Chances are the book has a waiting list that your name should probably be put on. Library staff can let you know how to go about adding your name to the list.

If you are unable to check out a certain book right away, there is no reason to become discouraged. Take the opportunity to read another book while you are waiting. Remember, it doesn’t cost you anything to borrow a book, so you’ve got nothing to lose even if the book you decide on isn’t quite your cup of tea. Simply return the book and borrow another one instead.

There will be times when you have a specific book in mind that you’d like to read, only to learn that the library doesn’t own a copy of the book. To help combat this problem, many libraries offer what is known as an interlibrary loan (ILL). By using the interlibrary loan service, your library can help you to borrow your desired book from another participating library that has an available copy.

The one thing that you must remember to do is return the books on time. You’ll never save any money if you return the books past their due dates because you’ll end up having to pay late fees. Granted, these fines aren’t all that expensive, but they can certainly add up if you continue to keep books past your allotted time. Be sure to inquire about the cost of fines when opening a new library account, so you know what to expect if you do end up with an overdue book.

If you’ve been spending more money on books than you’d like and are looking for a way to save some money, then it’s time to stop buying your books and start borrowing them from your local library instead. If you choose to make the library your main source of reading material instead of your local book store, then you will be able to save a lot of money while still reading to your heart’s content.

A lot more than just books...

But beyond just books, libraries offer so much more to help us learn, grow, and discover. This statement rings especially true in today's highly-digitized world, where smart devices and plenty of other forms of technology have made it a lot easier to take in new knowledge and insights. Libraries, like the rest of the world, have had to modernize their offerings and services by keeping pace with the rapidly-changing technology scene in order to remain relevant and competitive.

For example, many libraries now offer portable Wi-Fi hotspots that you can borrow if you don't have regular Internet access at home. Many libraries also now loan out video games and game devices, as well as offer access to subscription streaming services that allow you to view movies and other digital content. For children and youth, specifically, makerspaces have become really popular.

All of this is above and beyond the usual collections of DVDs, CDs, news and article databases, desktop computer stations, and e-books and e-book devices. And the cost to you to be able to access all of this great stuff? All free with your library card. All of it. So what are you waiting for? Go to your local library and start exploring. If you haven't been to your library in quite a while, get reacquainted. You won't be disappointed! 

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Studying abroad

In this post, we'll be discussing the subject of studying abroad. If you're considering international travel as a part of your studies, either as a high school student or college student, you'll want to read and bookmark this post, as it will serve as a valuable resource for you when deciding whether a study abroad program is right for you.

Studying abroad, if you can make it happen, can be a wonderful, rewarding experience on a couple different fronts.

For starters, on more of a personal level, you're getting the chance to travel to another part of the world and take in some great sightseeing and attractions, along with another culture and all it has to offer - cuisine, language, music, customs, etc. You may make a few lifelong friends from the country you're visiting. In any case, there's no doubt you'll be making memories that will stay with you for life.

On more of a professional level, you're also setting yourself up nicely to stand out from the competition in the employment market. What an incredible, unique experience to be able to discuss and showcase on your resume. And if you picked up some solid language skills along the way, even better. The ability to write and speak in another language should have its own section on your resume. And let's not forget about all of the wonderful networking opportunities that can come out of this experience, either. The teachers, professors, other students, and local professionals that you'll be working with and getting to know during your time abroad can come to serve as valuable connections that can help you open many doors to professional opportunities.

So, without further ado, let's get into our guide and discussion on studying abroad. We'll begin by exploring strategies to help you select the right school for you. Next, we'll look at ways to help in striking that critical balance between staying on task when it comes to studying, and having fun. Finally, we'll discuss a few tips to help you stay in touch with your loved ones back home.


Preparing for your study abroad experience: Choosing the right school

Studying abroad is an experience like no other. Not only do international schools set the stage for unique character building moments, but they can also provide the perfect environment for fostering a student's independence and maturity. To reap the full benefits of studying abroad, however, each student must choose the school that is right for them, which isn't always the easiest thing to do.

To help make the process a little easier, here are some questions that, when answered, will help you identify your perfect school:
  • What do you hope to get out of your overall experience?
  • How long do you want to study abroad?
  • Which countries interest you most?
  • Do you have a specific course or language you'd like to study?
  • Are you more drawn to urban or rural settings?
  • Do you prefer larger institutions or smaller, more intimate schools?
  • Would you prefer a school that handles all the planning for its students or one where students take the initiative in most areas?
By answering these questions prior to searching, you'll be more equipped to find the schools that best fit your personal needs and preferences. As you conduct your search, be sure to make a list of any schools you would consider studying at, so you can more easily compare them later. Making a list of each school's features and drawbacks can also be helpful for when it comes time to compare individual schools. Finally, depending on your circumstances, it may be worth checking if each school's accreditation is recognized by schools and employers in your home country.

Now, before ruling out any schools, there are certain considerations that should be explored. A major factor you'll need to consider is the total cost of each study abroad program. Remember, different programs cost different amounts of money, and the full cost of studying abroad isn't always straightforward. Before deciding on a school, always check if the stated fees include the cost of housing, food, and extracurricular excursions. If such fees are not included, then your adventure will likely cost far more than the advertised price.

Before applying to any schools, you'll also need to check if your chosen program has any requirements for joining. Must students meet certain academic grade requirements to be welcomed into the program? Perhaps there are prerequisite courses that must be completed before you'll be granted admission. Certain schools also have language requirements that need to be met before enrollment can be finalized. To avoid wasting your time applying for programs that you aren't yet qualified for, always consult each program's list of requirements before filling out its corresponding application.

In the end, no matter which schools you are considering, it's important that you thoroughly research your options so that you fully understand what to expect if you are accepted to a study abroad program. Studying abroad is a big commitment, so always research ahead of time and talk with your family, friends, and academic advisor about any concerns you may have. By choosing the right school before you leave, you can maximize the benefits of your overall study abroad experience.

The importance of balancing work and play while studying abroad

Though studying abroad opens the door to many new and exciting adventures, it's important to remember that your education is also a priority. That's why, to have a truly successful experience while studying abroad, you'll need to balance work and play while you're away. Unfortunately, achieving the delicate balance between work and play isn't always the easiest thing to accomplish, especially for students without a parent or guardian nearby to help keep them on track. In such cases, you'll have to take it upon yourself to achieve your goals both inside and outside of the classroom.

So, to help you maintain a balance between work and play while studying abroad, here are four tips for staying focused on your studies, followed by another two tips for becoming a more efficient adventurer.

Tips for staying focused on your studies:

1. Pay close attention to your class schedule.

Your class schedule specifies when you should be in class, so don't use valuable class time to participate in non-school activities. Remember that your priority is to learn and to do so, you must attend the classes.

2. Keep track of school work and assignments.

Using a day planner, keep track of any upcoming tests and assignments you have due. This will help you stay on top of your course work so you can meet your deadlines.

3. Create a study plan.

Using your class schedule and day planner, create a study plan and stick to it. Do remember to schedule some time for adventure between study sessions however, because otherwise, you might as well have stayed home.

4. Find a study partner.

A study partner can help you stay focused on your studies, especially during times when you are feeling less than studious. Don't forget to return the favor if your partner needs some extra motivation, as well.

Tips for becoming a more efficient adventurer:

1. Prioritize the adventures that are most important to you.

There's likely a long list of things you'd like to see and do before returning home. While you probably won't have time to experience everything your host country has to offer, make sure to prioritize the things you'd most like to see and do before you leave. That way, you won't miss out on the attractions that are most important to you.

2. Think ahead.

Spontaneity can be great, but it can also cause you to spend more time than expected waiting in lines. Instead of making last-minute plans, think about your adventures in advance so you can make any needed reservations or pre-order any tickets or passes your adventures will require. A little preparation beforehand may allow you to bypass certain lines, so you can more efficiently explore your host country.

Studying abroad is a great way to expand your horizons, but to have a truly successful experience, it is necessary to balance both work and play. The problem is, when surrounded by so many new things to see and do, maintaining a satisfactory balance can be difficult. By adhering to the previously listed suggestions, however, you can prioritize your studies without having to forgo your most anticipated travel adventures.

How to keep in touch with loved ones at home while studying abroad

Whether it's just for a semester or for several years, there's no doubt that it can be hard being away from loved ones while studying abroad. Just because you happen to be in a different part of the world than your family and friends, however, doesn't mean you are ever truly alone. By making the effort to stay in contact with your family and friends while you are away, you can still feel connected to the people you care about, while enjoying the benefits from having the support of those who care about you.

Now, because keeping in touch with loved ones while studying abroad isn't always the easiest thing to do, certain actions should be taken before leaving to ease communication efforts while you are away. By taking such actions, you can eliminate many common communication obstacles faced by students who study abroad.

One common obstacle that can hinder communication efforts is a lack of Internet connectivity. Before leaving, determine whether Internet access will be available at your residence and, if not, consider purchasing a portable Wi-Fi hotspot device to aide in online communications. Having access to the Internet will allow you to easily connect with loved ones through e-mail or on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

For times when Internet communications won't be an option, you'll need to find alternative ways to keep in touch, like over the phone or through the postal service with letters or postcards. If you plan to keep in touch with loved ones over the phone, keep in mind that without a decent contract, your phone bills could get out of hand. Before leaving, consider mitigating costs by purchasing an international roaming package from your cell phone provider or some international calling cards.

No matter how you'll be communicating, whether it be through e-mail, over the phone, or through the postal service, remember to bring the corresponding e-mail addresses, phone numbers, or mailing addresses for the people you plan to contact while you're away. If you'll be communicating through programs like Skype or FaceTime, consider setting everyone up with the required software before you go - especially people who aren't tech savvy.

Because it can be hard to schedule real-time conversations when conversing across time zones, consult with your family and friends about scheduling daily or weekly check-ins at agreed-upon times. If the time differences are too extreme and you are unable to find a time that works for all parties, consider exchanging voice or video messages, as they can always be played later when it's more convenient.

Also, it's worth noting that because everyone's going to want to hear all about your adventures, you'll likely be repeating yourself many times. To limit the number of times you'll have to tell the same stories to your family and friends, consider sharing some of your experiences on a personal blog or through social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Google Hangouts can also be useful in this regard, as it lets you communicate with several people at once, cutting down on the number of times you'll need to repeat yourself.

Though keeping in touch with loved ones isn't the easiest thing to do while studying abroad, there are, thankfully, several communication methods you can try which could potentially connect you with your family and friends back home. Regardless of which methods you end up choosing, however, remember to make the necessary preparations beforehand, so you'll have an easier time communicating with loved ones until you can return home.

The benefits of networking

In reflecting back on some of the key things that have helped me be successful in life and career up to this point, perhaps the one key attribute that I continue to come back to time and time again is my ability to network - this ability to build and sustain meaningful relationships with a variety of business professionals and subject matter experts. This is a valuable life skill for anyone to have.

A while back, I wrote this brief primer on networking to introduce the concept to you. In this follow-up post, I go into more detail on how networking has personally benefited me through the years.

So, without further ado, here are some of the many benefits that can come with this two-way street of give-and-take and relationship building.

The exchange of helpful ideas and knowledge from experts. Through getting to know attorneys, accountants, insurance agents, financial planners, bankers, economists, elected officials and government employees, teachers and professors, people in the trades, chiropractors, nurses and doctors, people in marketing and advertising, caterers and restaurant owners, musicians, etc., etc., I've learned so much over the years about a variety of industries and fields; and I've walked away with practical tips, strategies, and resources from them that have been beneficial for my health and well-being, career, retirement planning, and various business ventures that I am or was involved with. And it's a two-way street - I've sought to help many people through the years with my own expertise in various subjects, like marketing, to name just one.

We can't be experts in everything, even though we all know that one person that really tries or claims to be, and so networking can help each of us better understand subjects that we can't, or simply don't want to, master ourselves.

Real, actual business can come out of networking. Everyone usually likes to do business with people they know and trust, and I'm no exception to that. I love to give my business to people I've gotten to know and build relationships with over a long period of time. In addition to these good people earning my direct business, though, I'm also always happy to recommend their products, services, and expertise to my family, friends, and other business associates, as well. Likewise, I've received plenty of business from my networking efforts over the years, too, in the form of various marketing, writing, and research projects.

Real employment can come out of networking. Over the years, I've been blessed to be able to secure regular, long-term employment from my extensive network of connections in business and education, and I've also helped others secure regular, long-term employment.

Staying current with trends. Tying into the first point about the exchange of knowledge and expertise, networking has helped me remain up-to-date on the latest in various fields, like technology and apps, social media and online marketing, higher education, the social sciences, business and finance, and world affairs, to name a few examples. Staying up to speed will ensure that you remain relevant and marketable (competitive) when it comes to employment and other professional opportunities. The opposite of relevant and marketable is the classic term "dinosaur," and you don't want to become a dinosaur. You don't want your career to become extinct.

As I explained in that intro to networking post, networking is such a valuable and important skill and activity, that entire organizations, events, and even social networking -style Web sites exist devoted to it. Get started today in building your network of trusted contacts.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Making money with Adsense and Blogger

With so many “get rich quick” stories floating around online, it seems like more and more people are searching for ways to get their own piece of the action. After all, if other people are making money on the Internet, then it can’t be all that hard, can it? It is this line of thinking that has people from all around the world starting up blogs and hoping to make some fast cash.

Unfortunately, it isn’t as easy as it sounds. Sure, it’s not at all hard to sign up with Blogger and set up a free blog (this blog, Mr. Robertson's Corner, is a Blogger blog, and all I pay is $12 per year for the custom Web site address) – all you need to do is fill out a few forms and select the template you like best. The catch is, maintaining a blog is a lot of work and you’ll need an established blog before you can apply for a Google Adsense account. Google declines applications for blogs that do not contain enough quality content, so you want to avoid applying for the program too early.

To ensure that your blog is of high enough quality to be accepted into the Google Adsense program, you’ll need to find an interesting angle to your chosen topic and create many worthwhile posts about it. It will take a lot of hard work and dedication before you start to see a steady stream of visitors to your blog, so be prepared for the long haul. This is where your patience and writing skills are really going to come into play.

So, for example, the interesting angle of this blog, Mr. Robertson's Corner, is to serve as a helpful career and life skills resource for both high school and college undergraduate students. That's the niche I'm largely writing in here. I want to help students really get the most out of their classroom educations, hobbies and passions, first jobs, and volunteer and informal work experiences by showing them how to connect the dots between all of these facets and to "real world" skills and dispositions that will pay off - that can lead to meaningful employment and life's work. In short, I want to help students get a strong head start on life and work after their school years by supplementing their formal educations and informal learning experiences in the here and now.

This period between writing quality blog posts and waiting for the visitors to arrive is where most new bloggers ultimately give up. It can be discouraging to spend so much time adding interesting and informative content, only for it to sit there unread. Unfortunately, your first posts will likely go unseen until you have established yourself as a quality blogger.

That leaves us with the question, “How does a person establish themselves as a quality blogger?” Well, you can do this by continuing to add useful content to your blog and implementing various marketing strategies to bring in more visitors. As you add more posts and work on marketing your blog, your readership will gradually increase.

Once you have a steady stream of visitors and a substantial number of quality posts, it will be time to apply for a Google Adsense account. Luckily, this step couldn’t be simpler. With Blogger now owned by Google, you are encouraged to apply for an Adsense account from directly within the Blogger interface.

Once your application has been accepted, you will be able to select the size, shape, color, and location for the Adsense ads that will be displayed on your blog. Testing various combinations of ad types, colors, and locations will help you maximize your Adsense revenue potential.

As you can see, making money with Adsense and Blogger will require a lot of time and effort. Fortunately, if you are willing to add quality posts and market your blog, it can become a lucrative venture. Just be prepared to stick with it long term and wait until you have an established blog before applying for a Google Adsense account.

Monday, October 7, 2019

The complete guide to Google Adsense

Following is what I'm boldly declaring to be the complete guide to Google Adsense. I'm filing this post under the Careers in web development and online marketing, Careers in marketing, and Entrepreneurship categories. I'm also filing this under the Writing category, since it's helpful to have solid writing skills to take advantage of this neat money-making opportunity that the Google Adsense program offers. Specifically, you may want to check out these previous posts before diving deeper into this one, as they make for helpful prerequisites: Career options with writing skills, How to be successful at blogging, Making your own Web site, and The ability to write a valuable job skill.  

You may or may not have heard of the Google Adsense program, but I can pretty much guarantee you that you've seen it in action countless times without knowing its name. Whenever you visit a Web site or blog and you see text and/or image ads displayed, chances are they are a part of the Adsense platform. The ads might even say something like, "Ads by Google."

Anyways, in short, the program brings advertisers (businesses that are paying Google for online advertising space) and publishers (bloggers and Web masters who are willing to devote some of the space on their sites to featuring advertisements) together. In exchange for publishers featuring these ads on their sites, Google pays the publishers every time visitors to their sites click on the ads. And actually, there's another way to potentially be paid by Google without the need to have your ads clicked on. They're called CPM ads, and we'll learn about them shortly. So, that's the general gist of it. Of course, Google has many safeguards in place to prevent abuse and outright fraud from occurring. These safeguards protect both the individual advertiser from paying for fraudulent clicks, as well as the overall integrity and trustworthiness of the program.

Note that you have to be at least 18 years old to set up a Google Adsense account.

This post is pretty long. We're covering a lot of ground here, so I'm attempting to break it up with headers by topic and subtopic, as well as with a number of Adsense tutorial videos I've pulled from YouTube. If you're confused on anything, feel free to leave your questions and concerns in the comments section at the bottom of this post, and let's see what we can do to help you out. Enjoy!

Text heavy pages? Consider adding image ads

If you have a text heavy page and would like to add some visual components for a little variety, consider adding image or rich media ads from the program. Not only will image ads help to break up the monotony of the page, but they can also create a stream of revenue that takes very little effort to implement and maintain.

To add some image or rich media ads to your text heavy pages, you’ll need to be a member of the Google Adsense for publishers program. Applying is fairly easy to do, and you’ll know whether or not you’ve been accepted after a short waiting period, during which time a Google employee will assess your Web site.

Once you have been accepted into the program and are able to log into your Adsense account, you’ll need to create a new ad unit. Simply click on “My ads” and then “New ad unit”. From here, you’ll be able to choose from a number of ad sizes (larger ones tend to draw more attention) and set your ad type. To stop text ads from showing in your ad slot, be sure to choose “Image/rich media ads only” from the appropriate drop down menu. You’ll also be able to add custom channels to the ad unit to help you track its performance.

When you have finished creating your new ad unit, you will be given a piece of code that will need to be included in your page’s HTML wherever you want the ads to appear. Depending on the program you’ve used to create your site, you may need to switch to the HTML view before adding the code. Depending on your preferences, you can choose to display up to three ad units per page.

The main concern voiced by Web masters who have yet to add image ads to their pages is whether they will affect the page’s loading time. Because image ads must be sized at 50KB or smaller, most pages won’t see more than a negligible difference. All images and rich media ad content are also hosted on Google’s servers, so there is no need to worry about the ads filling up your valuable disk space.

Because text heavy pages often lack the necessary visual component to hold the attention of your visitors, it can sometimes be beneficial to add image or rich media ads to the pages. Doing so can both break up the monotonous look of the text heavy pages and help you to generate a little money at the same time.

Increase your earnings by choosing top performing ad sizes

If you're hoping to increase your Web site's revenue by tweaking your ad units, then you've probably thought about testing the various ad sizes to see which ones will work best on your site. That said, with so many ad sizes to choose from – 18 in all, not including the regional ad sizes – it can be hard to know where to start. So, how can a publisher effectively narrow down such a large number of ad sizes to be left with a more manageable selection?

Well, one way to narrow down the large selection is by prioritizing the ad sizes that are considered top performers by Google. Thankfully, it's easy to find Adsense's top performing ad sizes. Simply read through the Adsense Guide to Ad Sizes, found at https://support.google.com/adsense/answer/6002621, and pay special attention to the information that states which ad sizes are considered top performers and which are not.

According to Google, the top performing ad sizes are the 300x250 medium rectangle, the 336x280 large rectangle, the 728x90 leaderboard, the 300x600 half page, and the 320x100 large mobile banner. Please note that from this list, only the medium rectangle and the large mobile banner are currently formatted for use on high-end mobile devices. Also note that while the medium rectangle is formatted for all types of screens including mobile devices, the large mobile banner is aimed solely at mobile devices.

If instead of choosing a specific ad size you'd rather let Google dynamically decide which size of ad to display on your site, then consider using a responsive ad in your design. For this option, simply select the "Responsive" ad type when creating an ad. Though not officially listed as one of Adsense's top performing ad sizes, responsive ads tend to perform well because they automatically adapt to most screen sizes. While responsive ads are intended to be used on responsive sites, it's worth noting that they can also be used without issue on non-responsive sites.

Though the Adsense Guide to Ad Sizes provides a wealth of valuable information, it's important to remember that it contains sweeping generalizations that may not be true for all sites. Because of this, the most complete results tailored to your particular site can only be obtained by testing every available ad size on your actual site. For those of you who don't have the time or patience to test them all, consider displaying a responsive ad or an ad with dimensions matching one of Google's top performing ad sizes. By following this simple suggestion, it's entirely possible that you'll increase your overall Adsense earnings.

Increasing revenue: Color choices matter

There are many tips and tricks around the Internet for increasing Adsense publisher revenues. Though the number of visitors a Web site receives accounts for a large part of their potential earnings, there are other ways to ensure you are getting the most out of the visitors that you do receive. One important factor that everyone should definitely be testing is the color palette of their ads.

Now, since every site is different, it is impossible to know which color combinations will work best with your site, unless you have taken the time to test different color palettes. Four tests all Adsense publishers should undergo include blending your ads, complimenting your ads, contrasting your ads, and using standard link colors within your ads. Once you find which of these three work best with your site, you can continue to tweak your color choices until you have found the perfect combination.


With ads everywhere you turn on the Internet these days, it’s no wonder that people have developed ad blindness. Instead of looking at the ads, most people just pass right over most ads, never really noticing them. If you think this might be happening on your Web site, you may want to consider blending your ads.

Creating a color palette that blends with your site is simple. First, set the border and background of the ads to the same color as your site's background. Then, set the text and url of the ads to the same color you use for the majority of text on your site. Last, use the same color of your site’s links for the ad’s title area.

Blending your ads will make your advertisements look more like your site’s content, making it less likely that your visitors pass by them without giving them a second thought. With more people actually reading your ads, it is more likely that your visitors will find an ad that interests them, increasing your click through rate, and, in turn, your revenue.


On some Web sites, it can be a problem if the ads are too well blended with the content. This is especially true for sites that contain mostly long, text-filled pages, because the average person will skim quickly over the content when they are faced with a lot of words. In cases like these, it can prove beneficial to complement your ads instead of blending them into the page.

To make a complementing color palette for your ads, use the colors already found around your site, but be sure to set the border and background in your ads to a different color than your site’s actual background color. This will set your ad apart from the content, helping to draw attention to your ads while still matching the overall look and feel of your site.


There are also times when contrasting your ads with the rest of your Web site’s content will make for the highest click through rate. This is often the case for sites that use a dark background, but regardless of your site’s background color, it’s always best to test each option, while deciding which works best with your site.

To create a contrasting color palette, simply choose colors that stand out from your site’s background. Sites with dark pages should use light or bright colored backgrounds and borders in their ads, while light colored sites should choose darker colors. It is not mandatory to use your site's colors within these ads, but you can, should you choose to.

Using standard link colors

Another popular way for Adsense publishers to increase their advertising revenue is to use the Internet’s default link color, blue (hexadecimal color code #0000FF). The idea is, because people associate Internet links with this shade of blue, that they will more readily notice the link, and, in turn, click on it more often.

The other default link color you may want to test with your ads is the Internet’s default color for visited links, purple (hexadecimal color code #800080). This can also drive an increase in revenue, because most people associate this particular shade of purple with links to pages that they have already visited. Previously visited pages are not often associated with ads, so using the visited link shade of purple can help to avoid ad blindness and draw more attention to your ads, leading to more clicks.

A word of caution, however – the default color palette that Google provides when creating a new ad has nothing to do with the default linking colors that are standard among browsers. Adsense has also been known to change their default color palette in the past, so it is always best to create a custom palette to ensure your ads show the colors you desire.

As you can see, there are many factors to consider when choosing a color palette. To find out which one works best for you, it is important to utilize channels in your Adsense account, and it is recommended that you use A/B split testing. Split testing allows you to run two color palettes simultaneously, making it easy to determine which colors receive the higher click through rate.

To get the most accurate results, it is also important to leave each test running until you have received a large number of hits. The longer each test is run, the more data you will compile, allowing for a more accurate average to emerge. Testing is a key part of any Adsense publisher’s success, so be sure to test your color palettes and start earning more today.

Low Adsense CTR? Aim for higher CPM earnings

If you aren’t receiving many clicks to your ad units, despite having spent countless hours testing new sizes, colors, and placements, you might want to change your approach and try maximizing your earnings with CPM ads instead. Because CPM ads pay on a cost-per-thousand-impressions basis, the more impressions your ads receive, the more money you can potentially make – even without anyone clicking on your ads.

The key here is maximizing your total ad impressions, so doing everything you can to increase your hits is important. So, how can you increase your total hits? There are several ways to go about increasing your impressions, but one of the easiest is linking to additional or related information found on a separate page of your Web site. Linking to additional information will not only increase your Adsense impressions, but it will also help to keep your original page less cluttered.

Another simple way to increase impressions is to split long articles over two pages. This should not only increase your total hit count, but it will also make your pages load faster and the information seem less daunting to the reader. Be cautious when using this technique, however, because too many splits in an article can have the opposite effect and actually frustrate your visitors instead.

It is important to note that it is against Adsense terms and conditions to artificially generate ad impressions. If you are trying to increase your hits to maximize your CPM earnings, make sure that any and all additional pages that you are linking to on your site contain enough supplementary or related information to be useful to your visitors.

If you are wondering how you can get these CPM ads on your site, it’s easy. Simply insert the ad unit code on your page as usual, and Google will show a combination of CPC (cost-per-click) and CPM (cost-per-thousand-impression) ads within the ad slot. It is not currently possible to choose only CPC or CPM ads when creating an ad unit, and, despite some misconceptions, Google employees have verified that both image and text ads are used in CPM campaigns.

So, if you are looking for a way to increase your revenues, but you can’t seem to get any clicks no matter what you try, you should consider increasing your ad impressions as a way of maximizing your CPM earnings. By linking to additional or related information on your site and splitting up long articles across two pages, you can increase your total ad impressions and, ultimately, your total earnings.

Why don’t my ads match my content?

There are a few reasons that your ads may appear to be unrelated to your content. Sometimes, the problem can fix itself, while other times, it can take some effort on your part to get your ads to match up with your Web site’s content. By figuring out why your Adsense ads don’t match your content, you will be able to serve more useful ads to your visitors, and, in turn, earn more money with the Google Adsense program.

The easiest ad matching problem to fix occurs most often on new sites, but it can also happen on newly created pages of established sites. Because the Adsense crawler hasn’t yet visited the page, it doesn’t know what the content is about. This uncertainty can lead to unrelated ads appearing on your site. Luckily, it isn’t necessary to change anything to remedy this problem. More often than not, the problem will solve itself once your site is crawled by the Adsense spider.

If your site has already been crawled by the spider, but you are still being served unrelated ads, then it will probably take a little effort before you start seeing ads that match the content of your site.

First, you’ll want to look closely at your content. Is there enough content on each page to draw matching advertisements? Having little written content can make it difficult for Adsense to serve matching ads. Consider adding more text to the page so that the crawler can make a more informed decision about which ads it should be displaying.

The next thing you’ll want to look at is the content itself. Is your content narrow in scope, or does your page contain a wide variety of topics? Having too many topics on the same page can confuse the crawler, leaving your page with ads unrelated to the content. Try to focus on one topic per page if you want your ads to closely match the surrounding content.

If you have plenty of content written about a single topic, but you are still getting unrelated ads, then it might be worth optimizing your keywords.

There is another problem that could be causing your unrelated ads to appear, and, unfortunately, it isn’t a problem that you will be able to solve. If your topic is of a more obscure nature, then it will be harder for Adsense to display matching ads. In fact, some of the most obscure topics don’t even have related ads to serve, and, as such, only unrelated ads will appear on the page. Don’t worry, however - should an advertiser start a campaign in your niche, their related ads will automatically appear on your site.

There are a number of reasons why your site might be receiving unrelated ads. Luckily, there are a few things that you can do to help solve the problem, like adding additional content and optimizing your keywords. If for some reason you still can’t get matching ads however, it isn’t the end of the world. Your site will still be displaying ads, meaning you will still have the chance to earn decent money with the program. 

Should I block sensitive categories of ads?

The sensitive categories in Adsense cover a number of topics including cosmetic procedures and body modification, dating, drugs and supplements, get rich quick, politics, references to sex and sexuality, religion, ringtones and downloadables, sexual and reproductive health, video games, and weight loss. Should you block these sensitive categories of Adsense ads from appearing on your Web site? The answer to this will depend on a couple of factors.

One of the most common reasons for blocking sensitive categories is to create a more family-friendly site. If you are looking to stop any potentially harmful ads from appearing on the pages of your site, then you will probably want to block some or all of the sensitive ad categories that are listed within your Adsense account’s “Allow & block ads” page.

Another reason that you may wish to block certain sensitive categories from appearing on your site is to boost your income from the program. Google provides details about the percentages of ad impressions and earnings for each category over the past 30 days. If you find that one or more of the categories are being served for a large percentage of your total impressions, but aren’t receiving much or any earnings, then blocking such categories can lead to higher revenues.

It is important to monitor your statistics closely, however, because blocking sensitive categories can sometimes lead to undesired results and actually lower your income overall. Allowing less advertisers to compete for your ad space could cause a drop in earnings, so be aware of this, as you may wish to unblock the sensitive categories if your total earnings start to slide.

Depending on your circumstances, you may be considering blocking sensitive categories of ads from appearing on your site. Whether this is because you are trying to create a family-friendly site or you are just looking for a way to increase your total revenue, it’s nice to know that Google offers its publishers the option of blocking sensitive categories. Be sure to weigh your options and make the choice that feels right for you. 

So, how often does Google Adsense pay?

Most new publishers who have added Adsense to their Web sites wonder how often they can expect to be paid by Google. The answer to this question depends on two factors – how much income your site generates through the program and whether or not this figure meets the minimum payment threshold.

The minimum payment threshold is the balance that Adsense requires you to have in your account before they issue a payment. Everyone’s payment threshold is automatically set to $100US upon creating an account, and, unfortunately, this amount cannot be reduced.

If, like some publishers, your bank charges a large fee to convert US dollar checks into your home currency and you would like to wait until your earnings have reached a higher amount to help offset this charge, you can always apply a self-hold to your earnings. This will allow your earnings to keep building up in your account until you have chosen to lift the hold at a later date.

Because of the way the platform is set up, publishers are not sent their payments immediately after reaching the payment threshold of $100US. Instead, any additional earnings will continue to add up until the end of the month. Payments are then sent out monthly to qualifying publishers, just before the end of the month following the account reaching payment threshold.

To better illustrate this, we will look at a simple example. Any accounts reaching the payment threshold during the month of May are paid at the end of the following month, in this case June. The particular date that Google issues their payments can change slightly each month, but payment almost always falls during the final week of the month.

Now, as you have probably realized, most new publishers using the program will not be able to accrue the $100US needed for payment within their first month. Not to worry, however, because any earnings that do not reach the payment threshold will continue to roll over month-by-month, for as long as it takes the account balance to qualify for payment.

Though payments are sent out monthly, in the month following the account reaching the payment threshold, delivery times will vary depending on the payment method you have chosen. Some forms of payment, like Electric Funds Transfer (EFT), will arrive more quickly, while other methods, like Standard Delivery Checks, will take longer to arrive.

So, as you can see, there are numerous factors which will determine how often you will be paid by Google through its Adsense program. By knowing a little bit more about each of these factors, you will be better able to estimate just how often you, as an Adsense publisher, will receive your payments.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

The role of a property tax consultant

Why you should hire a property tax consultant

Part of the Careers in real estate category on this blog

If the values of the homes in your area have been going down, but your property taxes haven't followed suit, then you're not alone. Many homeowners have noticed that their property taxes don't reflect the recent changes in their home's value. The bad news – many times when a home's value drops a substantial amount, the homeowner ends up paying more in property taxes than necessary. The good news – there are ways to correct this situation so your next property tax assessment reflects the actual value of your home.

One of the most effective ways to ensure that your next property tax assessment is correct is to hire a property tax consultant. A local property tax consultant understands the tax laws and exemptions in your area and will help you maximize your property tax savings. Using their property tax knowledge, the consultant will carefully go over your previous assessment looking for any records that should be updated or adjusted. If you are paying too much in property taxes, a property tax consultant will be able to help.

Even if your home's value hasn't decreased over the years, it's still possible you've been paying too much for your property taxes. This is because the home appraisals quoted in property tax assessments are often overly generalized. One common way of obtaining a home's current market value during a property tax reassessment is referred to as a “drive by” or summary home appraisal. Unfortunately, this type of appraisal is often incomplete and may contain erroneous information which can lead to more costly property taxes.

Though your property taxes might eventually adjust themselves to match your home's actual value, such adjustments are often years behind if they ever occur at all. Because of this, many homeowners can save a lot of money by hiring a property tax consultant. If you are indeed paying too much for your property taxes, then a property tax consultant will be able to give you the necessary information to successfully appeal your latest property tax assessment, so you can start paying less in property taxes.