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Content Marketing is the Best Long-Term Marketing Strategy

Content marketing can help you achieve new heights of success – and its benefits build and compound over time.

Top 10 Excuses to Call in Sick for a Day of Diving

by Darren Pace:
##Some days, you just can’t resist the siren call of the water. You’re sitting at the office daydreaming about your next dive or sitting at home dreading going to the office the next day because all you can think about is a day of diving. If you need an excuse to miss a day of work, we’ve got you covered. We’ve compiled a list of the top ten excuses you can use to get out of work and get into the water. Try not to use them all at once.

Top 10 Excuses to Miss Work for a Day of Diving:

    1. “I’m taking a client diving!” – Honestly, how can your boss argue with that level of job commitment? Remember that this one only works if you could plausibly have clients to take out.

 

    1. “Ate Mexican last night… If you know what I mean.” – Chances are your boss will have heard enough at this point. Keep in mind that this one comes with significantly more embarrassment than other excuses.

 

    1. Vaguely tell the truth – It’s not technically a lie if you just happen to leave out a few minor details… Right? Right.

 

    1. “I’m working from home today.” – You can’t be blamed if the “work” you did accidentally disappeared from your computer’s hard drive. Everyone knows technology can be so unreliable these days.

 

    1. Volunteer – Find out what your boss is passionate about to really sell this one. Is your boss a sucker for animals? Then that means you were giving back to your local animal shelter, of course! Be smart with your philanthropy.

 

    1. Health crisis – Tell your boss you have an emergency follow-up appointment because those test results from your last doctor’s appointment were “abnormal.” You’ll get no arguments there.

 

    1. Duck out early – If your boss won’t buy an excuse for the whole day, just sneak out for an early lunch and have a good excuse for why you couldn’t come back. “On my way back from lunch I witnessed a terrible accident and had to give a statement.” As long as you sound apologetic, you’re home free.

 

    1. Strategic appointment scheduling – Schedule all of your appointments immediately before or after your dive time. This gives you an alibi for getting out of the office without looking suspicious.

 

    1. “I got my first gray hair!” – Gentlemen, this one may be more of a stretch for you than for your female counterparts, but if you’re running short on ideas, give it a try. Gray hairs are distressing.

 

  1. Be honest – If all else fails, just tell the truth. Your boss may appreciate your straightforwardness. You can always earn some brownie points and offer to take him or her along too.

Remember, the best excuses are ones you can back up. Your boss might need proof, which means you might need to do some researching — or some good photo editing! Think your story through and be convincing. Who knows? You just might end up with a reusable excuse.

And for the record, we don’t encourage lying. #noexcuses

The Current State of SEO

by Darren Pace
SEO focusBringing your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy into the New Year means getting familiar with fresh tactics that engage your audience and turn them from interested consumers, into paying customers. In 2015, SEO is about creating a complete experience that draws attention and makes your business stand out from competitors. Keep your focus on these three key areas to turbo-charge your SEO in the coming year.

Content is (Still) King

It’s a mantra that’s been repeated over and over, and it’s not going away in 2015: content is king. Good content reigns supreme when it comes to SEO, and to create the kind of content that brings in customers, you have to know who those customers are. Do research on your target audience. Ask questions like:

  • How old are your prospective customers?
  • What is their average income?
  • What are their interests?
  • What are their wants and needs in relation to the products and services you offer?

Answering these questions gives you the framework for creating content that connects with the people who are most likely to purchase what your business has to offer. It’s not about creating content that you think is interesting, but rather providing blog posts, social media updates and onsite content that caters directly to the persona of your ideal customer.

Knowing where your customers are and what drives them to your website is essential to content delivery. If most of your audience is on Twitter and you’re focusing on Facebook, you’re going to miss out on opportunities. Do research to discover what links and search terms are bringing the highest amounts of traffic to your site and focus your SEO efforts accordingly.

Certain types of content are always popular, and you can use these to get started with your own content creation:

  • Addressing trending topics on social media
  • Discussing current industry news and trends
  • Repurposing old content in new formats
  • Year-end compilations or “best of” lists

The overall key to good content is to focus on quality and relevancy over quantity. Giving consumers a few pieces of well-crafted content is always better than cranking out generic updates to fulfill an imagined quota.

It’s All About User Experience

In today’s interactive Internet landscape, your company is more than just a company. It’s a living, breathing entity with its own personality and a total experience to offer customers from the moment they click through to your website to the moment they decide to make a purchase. Consumers expect that the brands they interact with online will provide an atmosphere that’s consistent from one platform to another. That means you have to focus on offering the same experience across the board from website to blog to social media.

The trick to creating a consistently positive customer experience is making your audience feel like you understand them as individuals. Gone are the days when faceless mass mailings brought in business. Today’s marketing landscape demands engagement through content that directly addresses the needs, wants and concerns of consumers. The atmosphere you provide through your website and social media posts should be friendly, fun and interactive with the goal of making the buying process as easy as possible.

Another essential piece of the puzzle is a solid understanding of what content and which advertising methods perform best on different platforms. The post that drove tons of traffic from your blog would be too long for Facebook, and the Twitter update that created so many conversions likely won’t work the same way on Pinterest. Get familiar with the platforms your customers are using and tailor content accordingly to draw the maximum amount of attention.

Of course, none of this matters if you don’t also offer great customer service. You can do everything right with SEO, but without providing the support your customers need, you’re going to lose out.

More Conversions Mean More Business

Conversion rates are closely tied with content creation. As you develop your 2015 SEO strategy, take a good look at your analytics for all content. Note which posts and updates generated the most interest and kept visitors on your site the longest. Also look at the search terms that people used to find those posts. Armed with this information, you’ll know more about what types of content to create going forward

Part of your strategy for generating conversions should focus on optimizing old posts for keywords, cleaning up calls-to-action and adding relevant links to make those posts work for you. After all, if you already have high-performing content, it makes sense to use that to your advantage. By updating this content to include current high-performing keywords, you can draw fresh traffic and increase your base of potential customers.

Remember that modern search behavior is much different from that in the past. Today’s users are on desktops, laptops, tablets and mobile phones and are using a variety of search terms to find what they want. Specific questions are becoming more common, necessitating a targeted approach if you want to draw relevant traffic that generates conversions.

The content you optimize for conversions should be pertinent to various stages of the buying process. Some will help visitors learn more about your products and services so that they can compare with your competitors and see why your business has the better offering. Other content is useful for spreading brand awareness and connecting with customers through your brand experience. Finally, you should always include content that influences the final purchasing decision with clear information and strong calls-to-action that make customers feel as though your company is the best choice to meet their needs.

With SEO evolving beyond onsite tactics such as putting keywords in title tags and creating a hierarchy of headers, it’s critical that you know where to focus your efforts in the coming year. Knowing and understanding your audience will help you create the experience they’re looking for and show them that your company can meet their needs. Focus on these key areas to improve your online presence and see an increase in return on investment (ROI) throughout 2015.


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3 Tools Lionfish Hate

speared lionfish

photo by: akingslife.com

by Darren Pace

Today’s the day I go to hunt the Lionfish and I find myself mentally torn. The Lionfish has for many years been sought after by photographers, videographers and marine life enthusiast who will travel great lengths and spend hard earned money to see them and yet today…I am hunting them. This creature is a venomous marine fish often used in aquariums but indigenous to the Indo-Pacific region. It has recently spread to the Atlantic reefs as well, established themselves as significant invasive species off the East Coast of the United States, casting it’s shadow over the beautiful inhabitants there, who now need to evolve their defense strategies in order to survive. Although it is mostly interested in small prey, this underwater villain will not balk at meeting with a human, posturing like its terrestrial counterpart but unlike its counterpart it is all roar and no bite. Fortunately, they are not aggressive towards divers, like their indigenous neighbor, the sabre-toothed blenny, who might sneak a bite in after its unusual luring dance or just because you took your eyes off of them.

However, today will be the day that I defeat my fishy foe.

STEP ONE – Capture the Beast with the 1st tool: #spear
The venomous spines of the fish are my biggest opponents in my quest to capture the beast. Before I begin, I need to gather together the proper tools to handle the danger that is sure to wait for me underwater. I will need:

  • My scuba gear
  • Fish spears with special paralyzer tips
  • Puncture-proof gloves
  • Catch bag

Once properly outfitted for my underwater adventure, I’m ready to dive right in. This species of fish prefers to hang out near rocks or reef edges, but they remain out in the open. In addition, most of these fish will allow me to get my spear within three or four inches of them before they get scared enough to swim away. This close proximity will make my job a lot easier.

STEP TWO – Clean the Fish with the 2nd tool: #filletknife
Once I have the nasty fish in my possession, I can begin to prepare it for cooking. If I have opted to net it, I must carefully pull the fish from the net by wearing the puncture-proof gloves. I will keep the fish contained by firmly holding the creature’s head and not allowing it to stab me with its venomous spines.

If I have utilized my special spear, I must remember to keep the spear nearly horizontal so that the fish does not slide down the shaft and sting me. They are sneaky little fish.

I must also remember that these crafty creatures maintain the venom in their spines for up to an hour after death, so when I start cleaning my catch, so I cannot let it catch me off guard. I can either cut the spines off the fish using basic kitchen scissors or clippers, or I can begin by removing the skin. Once the dangerous spines, the fear of which have ruined so many of my scuba outings, are removed, I am free to fillet the fish as I please.

STEP THREE – Make It a Meal with the 3rd tool: #fryingpan
As much as I dislike this species, I must remember that it actually makes a delicious meal. The meat is delicate and savory, especially with a little extra spices and flavoring added for good measure. I could cook that villain with a little lemon pepper, or I could fry it to a deep golden brown. Maybe I could cook it in lime juice and add some sautéed vegetables. The possibilities are endless!

The lionfish has the potential to ruin a great dive if you’re not cognizant of your surroundings as a diver. No longer will I worry about this beast’s presence in the clear waters near the coral reefs. Instead, I will defeat this fish and make him my dinner. If you too are interested in helping to control the spread of this invasive species or put a fresh meal on the table, you should seek out local expertise and get instruction on how to hunt, clean and prepare this fish. It is much better and safer than learning on your own, you are sure to pick up on some tips that will help you collect all that you can and keep from getting injured. Good luck on your Atlantic Safari!

Serving My Country & Community

by Darren Pace:
PS Divers deploy from helicopterVeterans returning from the nation’s longest military deployment in Afghanistan and other Middle East countries face an uncertain transition to civilian life. More than 21.4 million vets increased the country’s workforce in 2013, and competition for jobs becomes intense for these returning heroes. Demobilization promises continued increases of armed services personnel who will need civilian job placement. Public service jobs are often the first choice of men and women who have placed their lives in jeopardy, and public safety diving (PSD) is among the most popular careers for vets who are used to following strict chains of command, performing exciting physical tasks and ensuring security and safety of civilian and military communities.

Emergency Response Diving International (ERDI) courses provide training for people who are interested in continuing to serve public safety while earning competitive salaries. Federal, state and local law enforcement agencies employ diving personnel to conduct underwater inspections, recover bodies and evidence and map underwater areas for engineering, scientific and industrial purposes. True heroes from the armed services are increasingly choosing these careers to support their country and communities by putting their skills to work as police divers, rescue staff and members of emergency response teams.

PSD Public Safety Divers Handle Many Critical Emergency Services

Divers collect evidence, recover bodies, rescue people, interdict contraband and inspect coastal areas. The work is often done in challenging waters, hazardous conditions and limited time-frames, so the parallels with combat are significant. Divers recover weapons, vehicles and people, triangulate search areas, maintain chains of custody, photograph evidence underwater and arrange to bring critical materials to the surface.

Assignments and Positions for Divers

Armed services men and women make ideal candidates for public safety diving careers because they are physically fit, used to obeying orders, highly organized and experienced in working as part of a team. Job seekers can find positions as team leaders, primary divers, secondary divers and tenders who provide logistical help for underwater dive teams, researchers and evidence technicians in law enforcement. Typical public safety diving jobs include the following duties:

  • Collect evidence and recover bodies in criminal cases and disaster scenarios.
  • Map underwater areas for engineers, scientists and community organizations.
  • Provide security for state visits, concerts and celebrations.
  • Rescue people in maritime accidents.
  • Deal with underwater threats such as bombs, oil and gas leaks and hazardous chemicals.
  • Strengthen borders by inspecting river, lake and ocean coastlines.

Obstacles and Opportunities for Vets

Increased competition for jobs among the pool of returning vets complicates their employment outlook, and many younger job seekers have spent years honing their skills at interviewing, resume writing and networking, which puts qualified vets at a disadvantage. Vets often find that they must pass new tests and plow through licensing hurdles to get civilian jobs even when their experience has left them eminently qualified. Other challenges of adjusting to civilian life include:

  • Getting treatment for PTSD and disabilities
  • Paying for certification and training while needing to generate an income quickly
  • Using military-style skills in corporate environments
  • Transitioning from using the most advanced technology to operating with commercial equipment

Emergency Response Diving International (ERDI) training provides unique opportunities for armed services personnel who are used to working in highly structured chain-of-command situations with the most advanced equipment. Physically fit and often experienced in diving operations in hostile or hazardous situations, vets enjoy advantages when competing for jobs in public service, police and fire departments, emergency response teams and federal law enforcement agencies.

Experienced armed services men and women can qualify for these exciting careers in only a few months by getting certified through ERDI training. Many government incentives provide assistance for armed services people to transition to civilian life. These programs include disability assistance, training incentives and financing, the GI Bill and employer tax credits.

Veterans might face challenges when looking for civilian careers, but thousands of returning service men and women are exploring the benefits of continuing in public service as police divers, public safety divers and other law-enforcement and security-specialist occupations. Unlike their counterparts in the civilian workforce, vets who end up underwater don’t owe the bank but can bank on using their armed services skills in rewarding and lucrative careers.

Scuba Diving Physical & Mental Benefits Help Treat PTSD

by Darren Pace:
SDI and SUDS group

For years, Scuba Diving International (SDI) has been providing courses for wounded soldiers in some of the most beautiful places in the world, such as Puerto Rico and Florida. Scuba diving not only takes the wounded heroes to some of the most scenic places around the world, but can also help soldiers suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Scuba diving helps by instilling confidence, letting them interact with other individuals who also have PTSD, and by allowing the soldiers to focus entirely on the process of learning to scuba dive, instead of thinking about their experiences during war. There are many other reasons why scuba diving has had profound effects on those who suffer from PTSD.

Enjoying The Sunlight

Numerous studies have indicated that sunlight can reduce or eliminate the symptoms of most psychological disorders. As UVB rays make contact with the skin, they cause the body to synthesize vitamin D. The human body is also known to produce a large amount of serotonin when sunlight comes into contact with the eyes.

Learning New Skills

Research has shown that the psychological impact of serious injuries has more substantial, negative effects on the lives of veterans than the physical wounds. In most cases, many of the soldiers who participate in these scuba diving programs were on the battlefield only three months prior to their first experience in the water. The process of studying and learning to dive will allow the individual to focus completely on recreational diving and possibly reduce the impact of negative thoughts for the first time since the soldier returned from the frontline.

Receiving A Certification

In addition to providing standard qualifications, Scuba Diving International has many other advanced certifications, such as: Advanced Diver, Computer Nitrox, and Solo Diver. During many of these courses, the individual will learn about the process of decompression and other advanced concepts from SDI’s experts.

Making New Friends

Many soldiers who have been diagnosed with PTSD feel that nobody understands their condition. Several studies have shown that talking to other veterans will substantially enhance a wounded warrior’s well-being, and accelerate the pace of the healing process of soldiers who have PTSD. Numerous people who have completed SDI’s programs have indicated that they made new friends with whom they will remain in contact for the rest of their lives.

Physical Benefits

A soldier who has been seriously wounded will likely be forced to remain in bed for several weeks or months. As a result, the individual’s muscles can begin to atrophy. When the veteran starts to participate in scuba diving, the injured person’s muscles will slowly become much stronger, and the soldier’s cardiovascular endurance will improve substantially.

Mitigating The Effects Of Associated Conditions

Frequently, individuals who have PTSD report symptoms of depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder. One study, conducted by Johns Hopkins, indicated that wounded veterans who finished multiple dives during one week were able to reduce their symptoms of depression and OCD by 15 percent.

Interacting With Marine Animals

Being near animals can lower a person’s heart rate, reduce the amount of cortisol in the individual’s body, and improve the soldier’s well-being. When participating in scuba diving, the veteran will be able to observe fish of all types, stingrays, turtles and countless other species that inhabit our waters.

Teaching New Divers

Many of the veterans who completed SDI’s courses have become instructors. Once an injured soldier learns to be an expert diver, he or she will be able to talk to more veterans who are in a similar position, and help these wounded soldiers to overcome their injuries or PTSD.

Getting Started

To sign up for a course or to find out more information, you can visit tdisdi.com or call 1-888-778-9073.

Johns Hopkins MedicineFor more information about the study referenced in this article, please click here.

How Scuba Diving & SUDS Help War Veterans

by Darren Pace:

SUDS disabled veterans

photo credit: SUDS

When a wounded warrior comes home from Iraq or Afghanistan, it can take a long time for him or her to heal physically and overcome the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, a nonprofit organization called Soldiers Undertaking Disabled Scuba (SUDS) offers veterans a novel and powerful way of accelerating this painful process: It brings America’s heroes deep under the ocean.

John W. Thompson, a veteran of the U.S. Army National Guard, founded this initiative. This project began with a visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. One day, Thompson met his wife for lunch at that renowned institution, and seeing so many wounded soldiers spurred him to begin volunteering with the American Red Cross. When the Red Cross assigned him to its aquatics department, Thompson witnessed firsthand the therapeutic properties of water.

Thompson, a certified scuba instructor, realized that he could employ his diving expertise to improve the lives of injured veterans. Thus, in 2007, he launched SUDS as a chapter of Disabled Sports USA, and he set up its headquarters at Walter Reed. Today, every SUDS staff member is a volunteer, and most of those volunteers have served or are currently serving in the military. SUDS gives each of its members the opportunity to earn an official Scuba Diving International (SDI) certificate. Further, in 2013, this group opened a branch at Naval Medical Center San Diego (NMCSD).

SUDS members study scuba fundamentals online, and they can proceed at their own pace. Afterwards, they practice various techniques in therapy pools. And veterans who have suffered severely debilitating injuries, amputations, and/or the loss of their hearing or sight can attain certification through the trademarked Scubility program. Scubility instructors undergo special training in order to teach a variety of alternative underwater skills.

In virtually every case, being underwater offers servicemen and women profound relief. For starters, when people are submerged in water, they become weightless. And when they’re freed from the constraints of gravity, it removes pressure from aching muscles and joints. Plus, weightlessness enhances mobility and improves respiration.

2 divers green SUDS divers and dolphin

What’s more, the undersea world is a strikingly peaceful place; people often experience feelings of transcendence as they mingle with ocean creatures. That tranquility is especially important as many SUDS participants are struggling with the lingering emotional effects of PTSD and the stress that often accompanies extensive medical care. Indeed, some of these individuals are facing dozens of major surgical operations. But when they plunge into the water, they can escape that anguish for a while. Thus, many SUDS divers discover that they’re enjoying themselves for the first time since their active duty ended. Equally important, they can make friends in the process — friends who truly understand what they’ve gone through.

Finally, scuba diving and SUDS is ideal for our veterans who love to travel. For example, Thompson now lives in Rincon, Puerto Rico, and every week during the winter, he takes a veteran on a dive excursion so they can work together one on one, off of Desecheo, a tiny and uninhabited island of Puerto Rico. SUDS also takes its members on 12 longer trips each year; groups head to such exotic locales as Hawaii and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

This ABC News digital series profiles Thompson, SUDS and the lives of military veterans who are doing unique things in the civilian world.
ABC US News | ABC Business News