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In the video, 10-year-old Zia Terry stares down a K-40 ski jump. It’s very noticeably her first time doing so. Her voice shakes as she hurries a few questions about the jump to her instructor. At one point, her ski begins to slip much to her alarm.

She’s scared, but determined. She gives herself a pep talk.

Seconds later, after saying to herself, “Well, here’s goes something… I guess,” she takes a deep breath, leans forward, and begins barreling down the jump.

5 seconds later she hits the base of the jump, nails the landing, and celebrates her success with a series of hoots and hollers.

In the 1960’s, American psychologist John Atkinson conducted a series of experiments on children, tasking them with reward-based scenarios in an effort to test their motivation. From these experiments, Atkinson realized that the children divided into two groups: those that approached the scenarios with a “need for achievement,” and those that focused on their seemingly inevitable failure. The latter group exhibited an effect he termed the “fear of failure” due to their desire to avoid the public humiliation of failure.

It’s time you start doing the same in your career as an SEO.

A fear of failure plagues a lot of SEO’s today. This fear is so great that it immobilizes them. With the multitude of algorithm updates over the past few years — some of which had devastating effects on the work of white hat SEO’s — the day-to-days of many SEO’s are cast in doubt.

Now What?

It’s not that these SEO’s don’t know what to do, it’s that their fear of getting hit by an algorithm update is holding them back. Removing that doubt and executing campaigns that are motivated by what they know to be best practices is vital. SEO is tough. There’s no denying that fact.

For Zia, overcoming her fear, her idleness, was a matter of “trust yourself, know the plan and go.” Don’t focus on all of the potential negative outcomes that could happen. For SEO’s it’s the same.

Use What Does Work

Develop high value relationships with key bloggers in your industry and provide them something of value which may earn you a mention about your business. Earned links and social shares are exactly what Google — and people — want.

Take your content and make sure it’s in different formats so it can be digested by your audience wherever they live on the web. This could be a compelling blog post that is re-purposed into an infographic, or a video on YouTube that articulates your message and educates your audience on your service. Be noticeable where your audience is active and if you provide valuable information. It will earn you the right to a backlink.

Whatever you do, don’t remain paralyzed. Be like Zia and know that knowledge and trust combined with execution will ensure a successful run when you cross the finish line.

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4 Essential Seo Strategies You Need To Focus On This Year

“What should I focus on this year?”

This is a question that I have been hearing a lot since 2023 kicked off.

I’ve been going back and forth on what the right answer to that question is, which is also why this article is being published in March and not January.

Already this year, so many new ideas, arguments, and hypotheses have been thrown out into the ether for discussion, and I wanted to see how some of those unfolded before I made the final call on which way to direct people this year.

I take this seriously because SEO is such a slow burn. I always want to make sure I steer people in a positive direction based on real-world experience and data. That’s the practical side of me.

The other side always wants to throw out-of-the-box ideas out into the world to get folks to start thinking a little bit differently about how they approach organic search within their organizations (which is mainly based on my 15-year gut instinct in the field).

Below are what I believe is a balance between those two sides.

1. On-SERP SEO (Or Whatever You Want to Call It)

Rand Fishkin gave an interesting talk at BrightonSEO back in September on what he believes is the future of search: “On-SERP SEO.”

The data is thought-provoking – but also somewhat disturbing.

So that sucks.

Getting more visibility on the SERPs to gain more real estate is not a new concept, but this is the first time in the history of SEO where someone has put a name to it and made it an actionable practice.

Maybe I’m wrong, I don’t really know, and who really cares?

The point is that getting creative and thinking differently about how you approach your SEO campaigns is becoming more important when it comes to your presence in the SERPs.

Fishkin talks about anything and everything you could do, which unfortunately means that SEO professionals will inevitably try to do all of these things regardless if it makes sense for them – simply because Fishkin suggested it.

My take? Try and keep it as simple as possible. Don’t try to boil the ocean.

Everyone should be targeting answer boxes (more on that below).

If you have brick and mortar locations, spend time in Google My Business, manage your locations, and ensure your NAP information is consistent.

If you’re a retail brand, sync up your organic efforts with your paid/PLA keyword to see where you convert well and increase your visibility for your traditional organic listings.

Make video content.

If you are a publisher, use AMP. If you aren’t a publisher try AMP on your blog/articles.

Leverage and control the knowledge graph for your brand.

Run a local business? Use Google Posts.

Talk to influencers and get them to promote your brand.

You guys get my point. Don’t just think about how your users see your brand on your site, think of how they see you in the SERPs.

2. Write Articles/Blog Posts That Answer Questions & Solve Customer Problems

I’ll let the collective sighs and groans dissipate for a moment before I move into this one.

Yes, this is not news. But it is so, so important today.

Google is appropriating your content into their interface and answering people’s questions without them having to go to your site. That’s the world we live in now. And it’s probably only going to get worse.

All that said, it isn’t all doom and gloom.

This obvious strategy is one that you should ramp up to prepare for our new future.

To prove why you should do this, and that it actually does work and affect the bottom line, I want to talk about a small business I’ve been working with for several years. They developed a blog based on asking and answering questions and saw tremendous results after 12 months.

Below you will see a chart that represents a local business in New York City that came to me asking what they could do to increase organic visibility with the hope of bringing in new sales.

The goal was traffic and rankings and not revenue at first, that happened to just be a happy byproduct of the effort.

We went through everything they could talk about, all of the questions they could answer and to their credit, they dove right in and started creating this content with both images and video content to support. We began this effort in January 2023.

Here is how that strategy panned out for them:

As you can see above, we saw 160 percent in growth in sessions, 166 percent growth in users, and a 93 percent increase in goal completions due mostly to this effort.

Out of all organic sessions driving traffic and revenue, 63 percent of it came from the blog and drove an incremental 300,000 in 2023 for a small business.

In 2023 they are already up 10 percent in both sessions and goal completions due to the blog strategy.

I’ll take it.

Regardless of how large or small your business is, do this.

3. The Technical Health of Your Site

In 2023, folks finally realized the technical foundation of your site is important.

While many of us in-the-weeds SEO professionals have been preaching this for years (it’s always nice to bask in the warm glow of being right), the best part was being able to have serious conversations around this topic with the majority of customers last year.

Listen to me folks:

Regardless of how great your content and brand is, you will never reach your full organic potential if your sites foundation is crap.

You will perform better. Believe me.

Common issues to look out for:

Page Speed: Much bigger factor than it used to be.

Mobile-Friendliness: This is how Google judges your site now.

Duplicate Content/Elements: Don’t compete with yourself.

JavaScript/Rendering Issues: If you use JavaScript and have a gut feeling you have indexation issues, you should look into a prerender software or dynamic rendering.

Index Bloat: Are you controlling parametered, search result and paginated pages correctly? Check to see how many pages are in the index in Google Search Console and if you can focus your footprint. Google doesn’t care about the quantity of pages in the index, they care about quality. Don’t let them get lost in a fog of random pages on your site.

Overbearing Security: Make sure Google isn’t hitting a wall when it’s simply trying to crawl your site. If you run your site through Screaming Frog or DeepCrawl and halfway through it starts throwing 429 errors, you might be a little too stingy on the security.

This is another instance where I can go on and on.

Just be aware that the crawlability and performance of your site from a technical standpoint has become an increasingly larger factor and should be an ongoing part of your day-to-day SEO strategy.

4. Don’t Obsess over Voice Search

If voice search is a “big” part of your 2023 SEO strategy, stop it.

Now, you can Google articles that I have written recently and webinars I have hosted which state my belief that voice search was already going to be a much larger thing for search.

Sorry, everyone. I was wrong. For now.

By now I had expected some type of reporting on voice search at least from Google and we haven’t gotten it.

I have customers asking me all the time, “how can I win at voice search?” and the simple truth is, you can’t, or at least you can’t prove to me or anyone that you are winning because there is no way to report on it.

I have sat through many presentations over the last year with agencies and consultants who have come up with really great ways for people to say, “this is how you win at voice search”, but the problem is it’s all total bullsh!t because there is no way to prove it.

Until we have a universal way or dataset that we all agree on that shows what users are actually searching for on their home assistants and apply some form of MSV/value to that query, it’s all pontification.

Yesterday, I was having a conversation with a few folks about this and some really cool and interesting points came up that had been heard at a conference regarding voice search, but one in particular stuck with me:

“People can speak 5 times faster than they can write.”

That’s a powerful statement because that would lead one to believe that voice search should be 5 times faster than traditional search.

Fair statement, no?

A counterpoint came up however that actually made even more sense than the previous one:

“Yes, but they can’t listen 5 times faster than they can read.”

This one really blew my mind because it is so true.

When you think about the delivery mechanism of voice search, the logic is totally flawed.

Our search bars are confined spaces that keep searches to a certain length (this isn’t something Google has determined, it’s just how people search, short, to the point phrases…most of the time).

People who search using voice tend to use a more stream-of-consciousness method, which I don’t think anyone really thought of for this application. This is probably why we haven’t seen any real reporting around it.

That and because I truly believe more people are asking their home assistants what the weather is versus how to make an octopus costume as the commercials imply (i.e., most voice “searches” are actually voice “commands”, which is must less valuable to a marketer in my opinion at this juncture).

Regardless, the point made above that folks cannot listen five times faster than they can read really resonated with me because when you think about it, it’s much easer to scroll through results visually than it is listening to them read aloud.

Think about it. If you are looking for the best Mexican restaurant near you, it’s a lot easier and quicker to scroll through reviews visually than it is to have a voice assistant dictate them to you.

Maybe that’s SEO’s reprieve, who knows?

The main issue is that voice search is a distraction for most companies right now.

Shiny object syndrome is the most widespread plague of the SEO community and this is one of the shiniest objects that has come down the road in recent years.

Most sites have a lot of basic things they have to address before they even come near a concept like voice search (see strategies listed above).

While voice search will become an important part of search in the next few years, you shouldn’t be focusing on it right now – even if your site is the most SEO-sound site on the web.

Focus on making your site technically sound, create content that helps your customers, and focus maybe 5 percent of your efforts on something like voice search.

At the end of the day, you can prove the effectiveness of the first two to your bosses while you can’t prove you’re winning at voice search to anyone. So if you have made that one of your Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) this year, you’re screwed.

Try Something New This Year

Everything above is approachable to anyone with a website. There are no excuses to not try some new things.

2024 is going to be a big year for search experts who approach the practice with new ideas and passion.

Will you be one of them?

More Resources:

Image Credits

Screenshot taken by author, February 2023

The 7 Most Important Things I’ve Learned About Seo This Year

We’re nearing the end of an eventful year, and so I figured it would be interesting to reflect on what I’ve learned about SEO this year.

In the process, I realized that some of the points I ended up writing down have been lingering in the back of my mind for quite some time – but were confirmed this year.

Here’s what’s stood out to me this year so far.

1. Plan for What’s Coming & Implement What Works Now

I see a lot of SEO professionals obsessing about new developments that will – or may – become important in the future while neglecting what’s working well right now.

They’re neglecting to really do what’s needed to hit their goals for 2023.

Now, it’s important to look ahead and see where the ball is going.

In fact, that’s essential for succeeding in SEO.

But don’t lose sight of what’s moving the needle right now.

And don’t stop doing what’s moving the needle right now.

At the end of the day, it’s your job to do whatever works now, and in the future.

Take whatever you learn about new developments you dig into, apply it to what you’re doing right now, and include it in future plans.

Tip: Follow JH Scherck on Twitter for no-nonsense SEO and digital marketing insights.

2. Google Has Become a Lot Stricter About What Content It Indexes

Ever since the May broad core update rolled out, Google has been a lot stricter about what content they’ll spend their indexing resources on.

It seems they’re done with being fed low-quality content.

The downside of this is that it looks like there’s a lot of collateral damage.

While most established, authoritative sites can still get anything to rank, the little guy/gal now needs to work twice as hard to get into Google’s good graces.

What’s made this even more tricky is the fact that a few weeks later, Google started experiencing indexing issues.

Many SEO professionals thought the issues they were having were related to this, but after it was resolved, their indexing issues persisted.

So, what can you do to keep your content indexed?

This is a bit of an open door: do whatever you can to make sure your article adds the most value to your visitors and sends all the right signals to Google to get it indexed.

In brief, that means focusing on creating high-quality, well-researched content that satisfies user intent.

Be sure to back up its claims with authoritative sources, and include references.

Then build internal and external links and make sure people start talking about your content on social media.

3. GPT-3 Is Going to Change Content Creation Dramatically

Over the next few years, we’ll see a dramatic shift in how content is created.

With the rise of OpenAI’s GPT-3 and the likes of MarketMuse’s First Draft, content marketers will move into an editorial role.

AI systems will be given the right input and will draft content.

Then editors will finalize and publish it.

Even though GPT-3 can already do impressive things – including fooling a lot of Redditors into thinking it’s a real account – it still has a long way to go to churn out content that’s comparable to what’s written by humans.

It’s clear to me, though, that a content marketer’s role is going to change dramatically over the next few years.

4. Google Has Gotten a Lot Better at Content Extraction (Featured Snippets & Ranking Passages)

This year we’ve seen a lot of developments when it comes to featured snippets.

Google may even start combining multiple passages from different articles into single answers.

But as a Google user, I’ll have a better experience if this helps me to satisfy my query much faster.

Tip: Dawn Anderson wrote an in-depth piece that ties neatly into this exact topic.

5. There’s No ‘One Truth’ When It Comes to Your Rankings

Regardless of whether your rank tracker updates daily, bi-weekly, or monthly – it’s never going to give you the exact positions for your queries.

Put simply, it can’t.

Why?

Because of previous search history, location, freshness indicators, experiments being run by Google, new content making its way into the SERPs, and more.

Rankings are a snapshot of a partial truth, an approximation of what you can roughly expect them to be.

Nothing more.

I’m not saying there isn’t a use for rank trackers anymore, because there is.

They’re useful to keep track of your positions, but it’s not smart to rely just on them.

Always combine them with Google Search Console and Analytics data to get a better picture of how your SEO performance is evolving.

6. Consistently Sending the Right Signals Is Key

Although it’s not a sexy subject in SEO, consistently sending correct crawling and indexing signals to Google is key if you want to see predictable crawling, indexing, and ranking behavior.

Redirects are a signal for canonicalization, but they’re not the only one. Internal, external links, sitemaps, hreflang, canonicals, cleaner URLs, etc — all play a role. Make everything align, give it time to settle, and leave cookies & almond-milk for Googlebot.

— 🍌 John 🍌 (@JohnMu) July 31, 2023

This especially holds true in the current situation, where Google has temporarily disabled the “Request Indexing” feature in Google Search Console.

While this reduces your control, if you stick to all of the best practices around crawling and indexing, you should be fine.

With all of the new SEO developments going on, it’s easy to lose sight of the basics such as canonicalization, robots directives, chúng tôi sitemaps, and internal link structure.

You want to keep Google from having to create their own definition of your canonical URLs.

7. Even Google Suffers From Serious Bugs

We all know 2023 has been an eventful and all-around rough year for most.

And Google hasn’t been impervious either: they’ve had their fair share of problems, too.

Especially during the past few months, when they’ve been having serious issues with their indexing systems.

Here are some recent example issues:

This goes to show that even companies that can afford to hire the absolute best suffer high-impact bugs.

Maybe Google will return the “Request Indexing” feature for Christmas?

We’ll see!

More Resources:

Would You Report A Competitor To Google?

I was recently involved with an interesting situation with (yet another) large brand falling out of the good graces with Google. For those playing along at home, this time it was chúng tôi (via the WSJ) walking the path that J.C Penney and Forbes had before it in previous weeks. Fun stuff all around.

Borne from some conversations with my peeps at the SEO Dojo, I got to thinking about these recent ‘outings’ and how SEOs that I know feel about them. We shall have a look at the two main camps I’ve seen and then you can tell ME what you think…

Sound like fun or what? Sure…..

Fight Club

The first school we are going to look at is; Fight Club. And the first rule of fight club? (all together now) Don’t talk about fight club. These folks believe that SEOs are a fraternity and while we may disagree at times, we should never ‘rat’ each other out to ‘the man’.

For starters, the term ‘ratting’ is troubling because it shows the venom. It is more appropriately named ‘reporting’ and I guess ‘rat’ makes those doing it hopefully feel scuzzy or something. The folks in this segment carry super-secret SEO decoder rings and believe we should keep it amongst us.

This is interesting as a few old school folks told me that they’d even hammer each other privately when one was spamming the SERPs. Like a sports team, it was dealt with ‘behind closed doors.

The Little Guy

On the other side of the conversation we have the little guy. From here is the stance that a smaller retailer can’t compete against the big brand. They don’t have the budgets nor the leverage. Furthermore it seems that Google often gives a brand more leniency with the rules than the small enterprise. This is due to search quality issues and a conversation for another day.

Let the Battle Begin

There are a lot of common tactics that are employed by SEOs that given hard scrutiny, wouldn’t stand up. I have spent the last few days staring at Google guidelines and certainly there is a lot of wiggle room for interpretation and what was acceptable last year, may not be today. This can be frustrating to SEOs. If Google opened up a channel for us to honestly ask if a tactic was viable, would we use it? LOL… oh… hold on.. gotta wipe the tears away.

What About Me?

I know… you care right? I thought that it was best, before I turn it over to you, that I make my own case. And hey, sorry to dissapoint, but I can see it from all sides. There is a big difference between doing SMB SEO and Corp/Big Brand SEO. I have done both over the years.

Fight Club? While these folks are a little aggressive for my tastes, I can see things from that camp as well. Just do your job, beat them honestly. Keep the dirty laundry in house. The only question I do have on this end is; are these folks doing questionable link building? Is that why the aggressiveness?

To get things rolling, I asked a few folks in the SEO Dojo Chat room, here’s some responses;

“I’m a realist. We all have to expect our competitors to do what it takes to win, whether it’s a big brand or small business. Small businesses entering certain markets need to expect to compete with brands that have been around for a long time, who have enormous marketing budgets. Big brands using these budgets to fund risky techniques should expect thier smaller competitors to look for these tactics to report, and eliminate them as competition.

I personally choose to find creative ways to compete rather than report a competitor. At the same time, some of the larger brands are treated like a star quarternack in a small town. We all know they are “juicing”, but they are too important to suspend from play. This not only sets a bad example, but stacks the deck against the second string players who have been working hard to get in the game.” – Jeff Sebring

“Personally, while I don’t like the idea of one firm or individual ratting out another, and have no intention of participating in it, I also don’t feel sorry for anyone that gets caught with their paws in the cookie jar. They either knew the risks, or they should have!

So I’m inclined to say, play your game any way you choose, but don’t come whining to me if you get caught bending the “rules”. Report anyone you want, too. I won’t be doing it, because I’m just not put together that way. And if I find out you’re doing it, I may have to reevaluate my opinion of you. But in the long run, I think our industry needs to have some level of transparency, if we don’t all want to continue battling against ever-increasing distrust.” – Doc Sheldon

Now it’s YOUR turn. Where do you stand on this? And why…

10 Reasons Why The Ipad Pro Might Be A Better Computer Than Your Mac

In my review of the iPad Pro, I made sure to establish that it wasn’t necessarily a replacement for your Mac. At the same time, that doesn’t mean that it can’t replace your Mac, or that it doesn’t do some things better than a Mac can.

To be honest, the iPad Pro does quite a few things better than my MacBook Pro with Retina display. In this post, I’ll consider 10 reasons why the iPad Pro might be the better computer of the two for your workflow.

No fans

If you do any sort of intensive work on your Mac, then you’re likely intimately familiar with the fan noise that emanates from its aluminum housing. Fan noise is such a problem for me on my MacBook Pro with Retina display, that it slows down my entire workflow as I wait for the machine to cool off between takes.

The iPad Pro, like every iPad before it, uses passive cooling to keep the internals at a safe temperature. Apple already sees the value of this, as evident by the passive cooling solution in its 12″ MacBook, but it may be a while before we see such a strategy in the more beefier pro machines.

Battery life

The iPad Pro gets great battery life, and it’s super-easy to charge. Unlike most Macs, which require a physical connection to a wall outlet, you can easily charge an iPad Pro with one of the many third-party battery packs on the market.

Again, Apple is beginning to change this starting with its experimental 12″ MacBook. Like the iPad, you can use battery packs to recharge with ease via its USB Type-C port.

Cellular connectivity

This is something that no Mac has, which is kind of sad when you think about it. Cellular connectivity means that you’re always connected to the Internet, no matter where you go. Of course, you can always use your phone to tether to your non-cellular iPad or Mac, but nothing is as seamless as the built-in cellular connectivity on an iPad.

Power

Obviously, some of the more power-packed Macs run circles around the A9X processor in the iPad Pro, but the A9X is no slouch. In fact, when it comes to processing power, it bests some of the 2–3 year old MacBook Pro’s, and easily tops the 12“ MacBook released just this year. With the iPad Pro, the line is beginning to come into its own and truly live up to Apple’s ”desktop class” architecture claims.

One sterling example of the power contained in the iPad Pro is seen when editing and exporting 4K video. The iPad Pro can handle three simultaneous 4K streams in iMovie, and can usually export a 4K video in approximately the same amount of time that it takes for me to export 4K video on my 2013 MacBook Pro with Retina display.

It’s light and portable

Even though the iPad Pro is large and somewhat heavy when placed next to other models in the lineup, it’s still svelte and sleek when compared to most MacBooks. The iPad Pro is easily portable, which makes continuing your work in another location an effortless endeavor. Outside of the underpowered 12″ MacBook, you’d be hard pressed to find a more portable workhorse in Apple’s lineup than the iPad Pro.

A perfect iPhone companion

It’s something that can’t be overlooked—the iPad is a much better syncing partner with an iPhone than a Mac is. Tons of iPad apps are universal apps that work seamlessly with the iPhone, and sync using iCloud or DropBox. Don’t get me wrong, this is possible with quite a few Mac apps as well, but I don’t feel like you’re afforded the same measure of seamlessness that you get with two devices running the same OS.

For example, I started writing this post in Drafts on my iPhone, and easily picked right up where I left off on iPad, and vice versa. The syncing is so good that it’s almost transparent, and the control schemes and methodologies are all the same since it’s the same app running on the same OS on both devices.

No waiting

With the iPad Pro, there is simply no waiting. When you launch an app, it launches instantly. Under normal circumstances, there’s no need to close apps, and the iPad is always on and ready to go on a whim. It’s the perfect machine for sporadic workflows.

It’s a gaming console

The iPad can transform from a productivity machine into a gaming console in mere seconds. Just pair your favorite Bluetooth controller, and select from a wide variety of games. In fact, the iPad’s gaming catalog far outsizes the Mac’s gaming catalog, so it’s safe to say that you’ll find something that everyone can enjoy.

It does movies and television, too

I’m stating the obvious here, but I don’t think there’s anyone who will deny that the iPad Pro is a better media consumption device than the Mac. There’s Netflix streaming, iTunes movies and television, live streaming television via services like Sling TV, and so much more. There’s a virtual endless amount of entertainment options to be consumed on the iPad Pro, and you can do it all from the comforts of your couch, bed, car, or wherever else you happen to be.

Pencil

Despite how hard it is to get your hands on an Apple Pencil, it is, without a doubt, the flagship feature for the iPad Pro. I’ve only had about 30 minutes of total hands-on time with the Apple Pencil (mine is scheduled to arrive tomorrow), but even from that brief experience, I can vouch for its legitimacy. If you’re a digital artist, then the Pencil should automatically raise the iPad Pro a few notches in your eyes. It’s a method of hardware input that a standalone Mac just can’t compete with.

Not all the way there…yet.

The iPad Pro is the most competent iPad yet. It has the power and performance to do work much more efficiently than any previous model, and most importantly, it has iOS 9, which greatly increases potential productivity.

But the iPad is not an outright Mac replacement for everyone. The Mac can still do quite a few things easier than an iPad can do at this time. The divide is certainly getting smaller, but there remain areas where the iPad can stand to make improvements.

In a follow-up post, I’ll share with you my iPad Pro 2 + iOS 10 wish list, which includes some of the missing features that could improve the device and make it even more competent as a primary computer.

Make Money Selling Your Old Tech

The good news is, you can probably find a market for the gear you no longer want. Unloading spent gadgets can put cash in your pocket that you can reinvest toward the latest technology.

Companies shedding old electronics used to have to pay other companies to help with disposal and with legal compliance. Now, however, you have numerous options for handling the process yourself.

In addition to the broader online marketplaces of Craigslist and eBay, specialized Web-based services will pay you for, and then resell or recycle, used electronics. In many cases the amount they’ll pay for goods that are only several seasons old can amount to more than half of the initial ticket price. What’s the best way to navigate this market?

How to Sell

For the greatest resale value later, when you buy new, keep the original box, cables, and software intact. When you’re ready to give your gear a new home, polish that laptop up and send it packing with its manual enclosed.

It takes only minutes to look up a quote for an item on a reselling service’s Website and then request a prepaid shipping envelope. Within a few days you can send away the unwanted stuff and then receive the money via PayPal or a check in the mail.

What to Sell

Smartphones and laptops–particularly from Apple–tend to fetch the highest prices. Digital cameras, MP3 players, HDTVs, storage drives, and inkjet printers are among the hardest sells. If you hold on to any product for long enough that its resale value evaporates, you might as well donate it to a school, or maybe to a tech museum.

Cell Phone Recycling

You can find a plethora of phone-recycling services that pay a pretty penny for relatively new smartphones. To start, EcoSquid lets you search multiple Websites to compare offers for old handsets, and then takes a share if you make a transaction with a referred service. A number of sites specialize in iPhone recycling and trade-ins.

I found it hard on both sites to browse listings casually, however. CelltradeUSA provides a form through which you can contact other users, and charges $20 if you complete a trade. Once you list your phone and service contract, you have to wait for potential takers to reach you. I could find only one iPhone owner with an AT&T contract similar to my own, and no BlackBerry users with the equivalent. On CellSwapper, searches weren’t working after I made several attempts of seeking someone to switch early out of a 24-month contract with AT&T to new Verizon service.

Among the services that pay for old phones but don’t deal with contracts, Sell Your Cell, and Simply Sellular offered some of the highest quotes–up to $144 for a 16GB iPhone 3G, and $110 for a BlackBerry Bold 9000. (See the chart at right for more details.) If you want to sell more than phones, sites with a broader focus, such as BuyMyTronics, Gazelle, and NextWorth (more below), offered competitive price quotes.

It’s wise to wipe text messages, contacts, calendar items, and other data off a phone even if you’re sending it to a service that promises to do the same–especially when those security pledges are vaguely worded. Remote wiping is available for the iPhone with a MobileMe account, and for the BlackBerry 6 operating system. For businesses, software such as that of AirWatch can provide deeper device management.

Instant Quotes, Simple Shipping

Comparing quotes for the same products, I saw few drastic differences among the sites. A 16GB, first-generation iPod Touch would fetch $51 on Gazelle, a dollar more on BuyMyTronics, or $63 on NextWorth. The same kind of iPod in varying levels of condition was going for between $100 and $200 on Craigslist in the San Francisco Bay Area, and had sold for between $58 broken and $148 in great shape on eBay.

Price quotes showed a bigger range for larger and less-popular items. BuyMyTronics quoted $41, NextWorth quoted $66, and Gazelle quoted $95 for a 1GHz, 60GB Apple iBook G4. A Garmin Nuvi 785T GPS device, not found on BuyMyTronics, would garner $35 at Gazelle and almost $84 at NextWorth. For older, less desirable goods, such as a Canon SD400 Elph digital camera, you’d be lucky to get $10. I couldn’t find any takers for a year-old Canon inkjet or an older HP laser printer.

As for security, each service pledges to wipe data from your equipment, but the details are relatively slim.

Brett Mosley, CEO of BuyMyTronics, says his company resells tens of thousands of units–more than two-thirds of what it buys–on other sites, including Amazon and eBay. It refurbishes another 15 percent of the items it receives, and sends another 15 percent off for recycling in first-world countries.

Vendor Trade-In Programs

If you’re a brand loyalist, trading in a product through the company that made it can help you afford a same-name upgrade. Apple offers gift cards toward new purchases if you send an approved Mac or PC laptop or desktop to partner PowerON, which provides a prepaid shipping label and a box. On the other hand, recycling a PC or monitor through Apple partner WeRecycle involves paying a $30 charge.

If you’re buying a new PC from Dell, that manufacturer will take any other old computer from you for free. The quarterly Greenpeace Guide to Greener Electronics can tip you off to recycling options from other big electronics brands, although most don’t provide payment or credit.

Selling on Craigslist Selling on eBay

eBay users were willing to pay a range of prices for a 16GB, first-generation iPod Touch: from $56 for a broken device up to $148 for one with cosmetic wear and tear. An Apple iBook 1GHz G4 fetched between $40 and $170, depending on the condition. Don’t forget to review eBay’s fees before launching an auction.

Selling Media Items on Glyde

If you have a surplus of DVDs, CDs, video games, and books, Glyde is an up-and-coming service for selling and buying media. Unlike with eBay, users involved in a transaction don’t learn each other’s identity; and unlike with Craigslist, buyers can pay by credit card. Red Dead Redemption for the PlayStation 3, for example, is selling on Glyde for about $41, including shipping. NextWorth says it will pay $28 for the same game with normal wear and the original case. Amazon offers store credit for used games.

Selling on Amazon In-Store Programs

RadioShack accepts some equipment that other services do not, such as car stereo amplifiers, radar detectors, and mice. In exchange for a store gift card, its Trade & Save program offers prepaid shipping of phones, GPS devices, cameras and camcorders, gaming consoles, games, and MP3 players.

The TechForward program at RadioShack, Office Depot, and online via Tiger Direct and CompUSA stores offers a resale program of sorts for consumers who upgrade frequently. You buy a TechForward plan at the time of a new product purchase. Six months later, you can return the product and receive half of its initial price, which you can use toward a newer model.

Printer-Cartridge Recycling

Makers of printers increasingly offer free mail-in recycling for empty ink cartridges, but you can earn back some of the fortune you lost buying printer consumables. Staples stores offer modest coupons for bringing in spent ink cartridges.

Donate Gear for a Tax Break

Giving away tech for resale through a group such as Goodwill can result in tax deductions for charitable contributions, with the side benefit of enhanced community relations. The nonprofit TechSoup has information on giving equipment to other nonprofits.

Compliance

Businesses must take extra steps to ensure that their getting rid of old gear complies with the law. In some municipalities you can be fined for tossing electronics into Dumpsters. The federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act makes it illegal to carelessly dispose of goods containing hazardous materials, such as lead-laced CRT monitors. Electronics make up 2 percent of municipal waste and are the fastest-growing portion of the waste stream, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Saying good-bye to old computers and hard drives isn’t just about getting rid of the equipment, but also clearing the data they store. Companies dealing with sensitive financial information have to consider the Sarbanes-Oxley and Gramm-Leach-Bliley acts. Those who work in healthcare must follow HIPAA regulations.

Responsible Recycling

There’s no law against shipping electronics overseas to developing nations for unsafe recycling–and that’s a problem. Just because you’re selling electronics to a willing buyer doesn’t mean that the product will wind up disassembled in a way that doesn’t pollute or harm workers.

“Typically cell phones have a better reuse and recycling market than computers do,” says Sheila Davis, executive director of the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition. And companies reselling phones to developing nations are usually doing the right thing environmentally.

Only 10 percent of obsolete computers, however, are recycled according to high human-rights and ecological standards.

Only recyclers certified through the Basel Action Network’s e-Stewards program are certified not to ship equipment overseas for unsafe labor, not to use prison labor, and not to incinerate items.

Follow Elsa Wenzel and TechAudit on Twitter.

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