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Net Neutrality At Risk – What’s the worst that could happen?

Verizon just won a major battle against Net Neutrality. A US appeals court struck down the notion that the FCC can require major ISPs to treat all Internet traffic as equal. Put another way, this ruling opens Pandora’s box of paid channels for the rich and poor. Those that can and are willing for access to websites like Google, Bing, Yahoo, Netflix, Facebook and other major sites may have to pay top dollar. The possibility now exists for companies like AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and other provides to package websites and search engines much like you currently pay for cable packages.

Individuals who cannot pay for this access will not have access to major search engines, websites or access to small business website. Individuals with the ability to pay [potentially high prices] can have full access to information. So, what is the worst that could happy if we loose Net Neutrality?

  1. Small business websites and owners may have to pay premium prices to have their websites show up or be found at all.
  2. Individuals who cannot afford access to the Internet [above the price they currently pay for ISPs] will no longer have access to online information.
  3. Only the wealthy or well-off will be able to have full access [based on what the ISP deems worthy].
  4. News channels and independent news outlets will be shut down.
  5. The majority of websites on the Internet will loos massive amounts of website traffic, data, revenue and exposure.
  6. Small business who focus on e-commerce, m-commerce and rely on the Internet for their livelihood will be driven out of business.
  7. Small business who rely on the Internet to drive sales leads will see the lead flow choked or completely shut down, resulting in business closure.
  8. Large companies will have the ability to fully control what you see online because they have the budget to pay for what YOU see.
  9. The very basis of the Internet is: it is free for everyone. no one person or company has control of the Internet. opens the door of ‘freedom of information’ for all.
  10. The very thing that makes the Internet so unique is access and the level playing field that is created for all.

There is hope…Internet users beat SOPA and PIPA…they have not gone away but with consistant attention, debate and objection from the masses – be prepared to loose one of the most important inventions of all time.

 

Posted in General Business, internet freedom, net neutrality | Tagged | Leave a comment

Five Questions You Need to Address Prior and During Website Development Project

Recently the Affordable Care Act rolled out nationwide by way of call centers and the new HealthCare.gov website. There has been a host of complaints about the website and its inability to handle the traffic volume, frequent site shutdowns and process requests issues.  According to the Huffington Post article, the government spent an estimated $394 million dollars on the new healthcare exchange and associated data hub. $394 million is a huge investment, and the type of investment most businesses cannot afford.

The majority of website development projects and website redesign projects can range from thousands of dollars to tens of thousands depending on complexity, personnel, development team and website purpose. We are not privy to all of the details of how HealthCare.gov was launched or what was needed in order for completion…however, there are certain things you need to know and ask prior to any website design or redesign endeavor.  Asking the right questions and having a solid plan in place can help save you time, money, aggravation…and if you are the U.S. government – millions of dollars and a lot of embarrassment.

  1. Who will be on the in-house development team and what are their roles and responsibilities? Prior to development, you need to identify people intimately familiar with your company, brand and corporate identity. This team should be responsible for driving website content, website design [look and feel of the site]. The website development company will not be as familiar with your mission, brand, products or services. Your team needs to be responsible for delivering all of the assets need for proper implementation, style, and digital needs. Holding the expectation that your website developer holds all of the keys and answers is a perfect recipe for exasperation and delayed execution.
  2. Ask executive staff to provide a full list of services, products, business model[s] and identify each offering in clear, concise language. This may seem like a foregone conclusion…after all, your team should know exactly what they sell and what they offer, right? Wrong. You may be surprised to find the devil in the details. Having a full and complete understanding from all of the key stakeholders in what is offered and how it should be represented on the website is paramount in crafting your message and content to the world wide web.
  3. What are our expectations during the development process and after the website launch? Setting expectations is critical in understanding what needs to be done and what results will come out of the hours of effort. Expectations can range from roles and responsibilities for in-house staff and the development team to key performance indicators post launch. A key item to not is this: There are set variables you can certainly account for during website development…and there are other unknowns that no one can account for. The greatest unknown in any website development endeavor is the human element. All individuals will have assets and shortcomings. It is human nature. Time plays a major factor as well. When time burdens are placed on individuals without proper leeway things can spin out of control in a flash.
  4. What is the purpose of your website? This question may be one of the most important questions to address during the discovery phase. Establish goals as soon as possible and design the website around your goals and around your audience. With all of the recent Google algorithms updates – it is more important to ensue you meet the needs of your visitors and the secondary goal is to meet the needs of your corporate shareholders. While this seems to fly in the face of historical capitalism, we are facing another evolution of the Internet: it’s all about your visitors and not about your company.  While these two concepts seem to be at odds with each other, the reality is you can have the best of both if you identify what you want and what your visitors want then provide solutions that follow suit.
  5. Do you know the scope of your project? One of the potential reasons the U.S. government spent over $300 million to build out the site and associated data feeds is the massive scope and resulting revisions needed to accommodate the government. Meaning, when you have too many cooks in the kitchen something is bound to go wrong. With this in mind, it is important to stay focused on the task at hand and once you have settled on scope and content of your website project, it is best to stick with the plan until completion. Once the site has been launched, there will be ample time to make revisions moving forward. Plan your work and work your plan is the major takeaway.

Website design and redesign are not simple tasks. They take time, patience, input, money and these projects always require you [as the owner or executive management] to get involved and stay involved in the development process.

Finally, it is important to know your role in the project and realize while you may be passionate about your business, brand, product or service, you can hinder the end result with demands, expectations and limited knowledge.  Work with the experts and find ways to get all of your questions answered on the front end. This will save you from needed a tech surge to fix the issue. All website development projects are a group effort…and asking the right questions can save you big in the long run.

Posted in Website Marketing | Leave a comment

Social Media is not what you think: Digital reality check

Social Media - A digital reality check 

I’ve been involved in online and Internet marketing for over a decade. I’ve executed paid search campaigns that have delivered 6 to 1 for every dollar spent…and 25 to 1 for every dollar spent. I’ve seen first had the impact of search engine optimization and the positive impact it can have on a website. This isn’t about me or what I’ve done for clients…not at all. This about giving social media a new name. Giving social media it’s due justice. The justice it deserves is a slow and painful death. I say draw and quarter the concept while we still can. Why would I say that? It is a little medieval is it not?

Social media is about communication. It is about listening. It is about providing something to your audience without the expectation of getting a sale in return. Social media is not about ‘media’ but about how we are interacting with one another online via new platforms. There is nothing new today that wasn’t in the Internet either in 2007 or 2005. It’s just become bigger.

Social media is thrown around and gets way more coverage than it deserves. Based on a recent article[s] from Search Engine Watch, social is a poor traffic driver at best and based on the traffic it does provide, it has very poor conversion rates. Typically, I’ve seen clients with conversion rates well below 1% and have never seen conversion rates above 1%. Optify has B2B conversion rates slightly higher at 1.22%. But this is still pretty low and what is the ROI for the effort? Internet visitors use the various search engines to find what they are looking for.

They use social media sites to [wait for it]…be social. They are not going to these locations to buy or be sold anything. Communication and being social is the primary goal and primary use for social outlets. That is not a complicated notion to understand. As such, using a direct marketing approach is not going to work with these outlets. Social media is nothing more than a way to communicate online. Social media is all about transparency  communication  community development, and sharing with others without the expectation you will get anything back. Is that so wrong? Not at all.

However, all of the major media outlets would have you believe that social is the silver bullet to attracting new clients and customer. The data does not support this theory. In fact, the data is showing that for small business owners, social media can be a colossal waste of resources. If there is no solid return on investment…why invest in social media? You shouldn’t.

Does this mean that you should avoid social media all together? No. It means you should use it the right way. Search engines are now looking at social media factors. Use your social media profiles to do the following:

  1. Protect your brand. If you don’t take control of your social profile your competitors may do it for you. Take over your profiles but do so if the locations house your target audience. 
  2. Use social media to provide useful information and content for your visitors, followers, and fans. Not to push your products and services.
  3. As share is worth more than a like. Thus – it is good form and practice to create shareable content.
  4. Be found on social networks. With Facebook’s Graph Search and more content being indexed by the search engines, it is best to be on Facebook, Twitter, and other online locations…if only to be found and have a link.
  5. Use social media as a communication tool and a listening platform. You may be able to learn a great deal from your clients and customers if you listen. Speaking delivers much less information than listening.

I encourage you to do the research on your own. Advertising budgets that are spent on social media is a mistake. Advertising budgets that create whole teams for the sole purpose of reaching out via Facebook and Twitter are NOT delivering a return based on the effort. BJ Mendelson has written the definitive book on the subject: Social Media Is Bullshit. It is worth the read and truly worth the time.

Don’t buy into to the hype and wonder where your advertising dollars went. You are much better off using pay per click advertising, display, or re-targeting. Save your energy, resources, and efforts for the real battles. Social media is really social communication…nothing more…nothing less.

Posted in social media marketing | Leave a comment

Nonworking Media Spend: Another Buzz Word With Teeth

A recent article in Advertising Age discussed the idea of ‘nonworking media spend’ vs. working media vs. earned media and [for the love of Pete] owned media.  In short, the article discusses the rising requests from large companies, asking agency partners to trim down the cost of content production.

For example: spend less on creative, creative thinking, concepts, content, production and just give us red meat to throw at the masses. But whatever you do Agency Types…quit charging us for what you do best…creativity. God forbid we pay for your time…we just…can’t do…it.

The emergence of nonworking media spend is utter B.S. The idea that you take the creative out of the process and demand a lesser fee so the client can dump it into working media is understandable…however it does not work. Agencies create. They have entire teams who’s job depends on their creativity. Take that out of the mix and what do you have? Crap. That is what you have.

Here is the interesting thing: a recent article in the New York Times shows worker productivity growing while wages remain stagnant. Corporations bottom line continues to grow and only they [shareholders] profit from the work of their work-force. I can see a direct correlation between corporate America now turning to their ad agencies and asking the same. “Give us more for less.”

Companies are frequently asking for 45 plus hours a week without equal pay. Managers say, “Hey, you are lucky to even have a job.” More work, less pay means higher profits for shareholders. Really simple math.

On the agency side…I see the issue as well. Huge overhead and large personnel count equals large fees. Large fees do not always equate to quality or value. During my time spent in agency life I could not believe what was charged for the work preformed. It was a little mind blowing. Again, huge overhead…lots of bodies means large fees not necessarily large profits.

So where does this leave us? It will inevitably leave us in the hands that feed us. Unless you can prove value and take ownership of the job at hand. Even then, it may not be enough to survive heavy client demands without the compensation for time, effort, content, creative and execution.

There is the matter of self worth as well. What do you think your time is worth? What does your client think your time is worth? Who is right? You or them. I believe it is very subjective. Corporate wants more for less and agencies want what they believe is fair pay for fair work. The danger lies somewhere in the mist: making creative types commodities. Making peoples time a commodity.

Time waits for no one. Time is all we really do have control over. Or at least what we do with our time. As time is not promised to anyone…is time not our most valuable commodity? I believe so.

I do know that if the current trend turns into a norm…we will continue to have some pretty major socioeconomic issues. There is a filed that we can all play on – and all play on equal terms. Time is precious for all of us. Ergo – time is not free for others to ask as they will of us. Nonworking media spend is another buzz word with very very big teeth. But full disclosure of where time goes and what it is for may help take the bit out of this monster.

 

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Online Privacy – Why big media is ignoring the issue

Online spying and privacy is the biggest issue that media is not talking about…at all.

There is something big coming around the bend. Our online privacy, freedom of speech, Constitutional rights and our very personal freedom is now inches away from being lost forever. This is not conspiracy theory nor is is some tin-foil-hat crazy talk.

We are embarking on a new terrible reality: everything we do and say online can and will [ultimately] be used against us in the court of public opinion, by our employers, by our prospective employers, by our government. But you won’t hear about any of this in the main stream media. You won’t hear any of this coming on your local news but it is the most important issue facing our collective rights and our very democracy. Why is this not in the news and why are we all terribly uninformed?

What is happening out in online privacy land?

Wired recently reported on the NSA building the nations biggest spy center. The center is designed to protect the US from cyber attacks but holds incredible computing power and can spy on US citizens as well. So you may think, well a little loss of our privacy and freedom in exchange for our collective security is okay. You should reconsider and quickly.

After 911 our world was turned upside down and the events of that day haunt us all and the impact is much greater than we could have ever possibly thought of or considered. In a recent article on The Raw Story, describes a journalist who was targeted by the US government for her work on the Occupy Wall Street movement. The US agency tied her work on OWS to some  type of terror group…which in turn led to her termination.

“There is no provision in there to protect journalists at all, or anyone. Anybody can be swept up under this. You don’t want to hand these kinds of powers to the state, because history has shown that, eventually, they will use it.” Chris Hedges from The Raw Story

The National Defense Authorization Act allows the US government to indefinitely detain US citizens without trial, without council…without evidence. Moreover, the content you post online via social media, blogs or online articles can be used against you. In other words…watch what you say online as your words can be used against you.

Employers and potential employers want to spy on you

It is not just the US government who wants to spy on you – employers are asking for Facebook passwords. CNN and several other news organizations have recently reported on job candidates and current employees being asked for their passwords to Facebook and Twitter accounts. To compound this massive intrusion of privacy, the US House of Representatives recently shot down a proposed law which would make asking for passwords by employers illegal. Facebook states that-

“You will not share your password, (or in the case of developers, your secret key), let anyone else access your account, or do anything else that might jeopardize the security of your account,”

This is not stopping would-be employers,current employers or the US government from spying and is as good as pouring acid on the Constitution. Where is the media on this? The main stream media is busy blowing smoke at all of us with the year long presidential election cycle. It has juicer headlines and makes for a continual loop of ‘he said she said’ which continually keeps many of us literally turned off from potentially important information.

We as a society have decided to become stupid and have an average reading level of 8th to 9th grade. We buy everything that is put on the media sales block and look no further than our selected sources…which are primarily based on closed world views and not on facts. Case in point: Fox News views know less than those who don’t watch news at all.

We as a society need to make a big decision…and it will be a decision that will impact all of us, our children and our concept of democracy. Where does our privacy begin and exactly what is privacy? What is the media’s responsibility to report responsibly? The longer we collective ignore the massive implications of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of expression…the closer we get to a totalitarian government.

Your off your rocker and are throwing out conspiracy theories.

In order to call an event a conspiracy we only need: 1. act of plotting 2. two or more people planning an illegal or wrongful act 3. an agreement by two or more persons to commit such an act. The Supreme Court recently ruled that [Citizens United] corporations are people.

If this is the case…then Verizon, AT&T and other massive entities have and are continuing to cooperate with the US to spy on Americans. The very same companies have shares and are owned by major cable providers which control media and communication methods. Consider NBC Universal who is owned by Comcast. Moreover, these very corporations are not covering the online privacy issue because it is not in their best interest. If our government can data mine from it’s citizens…then the corporations can to right? Right.

It is our duty to pay great attention to our rights, freedoms and hold those accountable for failing to tell the truth and for withholding the truth. We may have very few opportunities to protect ourselves form very dark and sinister results. My post [possible rant] is not about a rebellion or revolution…it is about protecting ourselves and our freedom. Knowledge is power. Knowledge in the wrong hands is dangerous.

Meanwhile…Goldman Sachs may have ties to an online sex trafficking ring…but this type of activity or association poses no direct threats to national security…therefore let us look the other way.

Posted in facebook, internet, internet freedom | Leave a comment