You’ve Got to be Kidding Me! Privacy on the Internet

Privacy is something no one should assume while surfing the Internet. EVERY SINGLE move you make on the Internet is recorded on numerous server logs around the world. The only expectation of anonymity comes from the fact that the sheer volume of data is so overwhelming that honing in on your data is unlikely.

Unless . . .

Unless you are on someone’s radar. Then following you is as easy as putting a “Follow me” sign on your back and having someone follow you.

Yet even knowing this I have been astonished lately. On February 1st my tablet – which doesn’t have a cellular service plan on it – notified me through Google that I had only walked four miles in January but eight in December. No, I don’t have a pedometer app installed. No I didn’t ask for Google to tell me this information. No I have no idea why they decided to tell me this. They did tell me that they collected this information through location information that Google uploads from time. But of course with no cell information I’m still baffled. I’m guessing that it tracks me until I drop off of wifi on my way to and from the car.

Over a month ago the facebook app on my tablet told me I needed to agree to new permissions for it to update itself. I looked at a few of the permissions and balked. Yesterday I tried to open FB and it informed me it wouldn’t work until I updated it.

Here are the permissions that I had to agree to for Facebook to update:

  1. Allow Facebook to read my text messages
  2. Add and modify calendar items – WITHOUT MY KNOWING about the changes
  3. Connect and disconnect from wifi
  4. Modify and delete items from USB media
  5. Record audio
  6. Get my location
  7. Take pictures and videos
  8. Add and remove accounts on my device, create accounts and set passwords
  9. Modify social media contacts, read my call log, read my contacts
  10. Download files without notification

Some of those are rather disturbing. Why on earth would Facebook want to change my calendar without me knowing? Why should Facebook delete files from USB media? I can see it now. I have my presentation all ready to deliver and Facebook decides it isn’t good enough and deletes it?

Why would Facebook need to control my camera? Are they going to surreptitiously take pictures and videos of me? I can’t wait to see the picture of me picking my nose posted for me.

I might even be willing to grant Facebook this access – they are a private company after all and they’ve promised to keep my information secure. But thanks to Edward Snowden we know that the government has access to pretty much all the data that large firms like Google and Facebook have access to. Which disturbs me. Does it disturb you?

Are You Throwing Money Away?

I often hear comments like “We tried Facebook and it didn’t work” or “I spent $4000 on Google AdWords and didn’t get anything”.  The first question I ask is “What were your goals?” and follow up with “How were you measuring results?” The answer, all too frequently, is a blank stare.

Throwing money at problems is a solution best reserved for government. Well, I’d prefer they not use it either but that is a different discussion. If you are planning to do any kind of online marketing you need to have a plan. Otherwise you can just drive down the highway, open your wallet, and throw the money out the window. You have just as good a chance of someone picking it up and tracking you down as you do getting any kind of results that will help you grow your business.

Here are the important elements to putting together an online marketing plan:

Understand Elements: What are the parts of your online marketing. Often the most important one is the one most overlooked – the website. Often the website is the centerpiece of the marketing because it is the piece you have the most control over. Other elements include:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Youtube
  • Paid Search (usually Google AdWords)
  • Paid Advertising (on other web sites)
  • Email campaign(s)
  • Foursquare
  • Landing Pages (usually a part of your website)

Understand Offline Elements:  Usually an effective Internet Marketing campaign is folded into a larger marketing campaign. This might include a direct mail campaign, distributing flyers, newspaper advertising, ads on bus benches, billboards, or a variety of other venues. The important part of bringing these together is understanding how they work. For example QR codes can be an effective way to move people from print to digital. It is also important to maintain consistency in brand and message across media.

Start with the End in Mind: You have to have a clue – that is, it helps to know where you want to go so that you can use your resources wisely. So determine what success will look like:

  1. Will it be an additional $x in revenue each month?
  2. Will it be x number of new customers?
  3. Will it be x number of new leads?
  4. Will it be x number of downloads of a video or file?
  5. Will it be x number of new appointments?

You can add to this list as needed. The important thing is that the end is geared toward helping you grow. Once you know where you are going, you can begin to plan how to get there.

Determine Parts to Include: Now you are ready to figure out what all needs to be included. If the goal is to generate leads for your business, you might determine that paid advertising or paid search aren’t the right venue. But running a contest of some kind on Facebook and Tweeting about it on Twitter might be just right. One of the strengths of Internet Marketing is that you can change your mind pretty quickly. If the paid search yields zero results, you aren’t stuck with it – you can stop within minutes. Or start it nearly as quick.

Determine Integration and Flow: It is still important to keep the big picture in mind. If you’re doing a print campaign as well and using a QR code to get people to your Facebook page, test the code with several different devices to make sure it works. Boy it gets embarrassing (and expensive) to direct people to the wrong (or a non-existent) page. Another thing to consider is steps in the process. While the ultimate goal may be getting them to fill out a form on your site, getting them to first “Like” you on Facebook makes it much easier for you to reach out to them in the future.

Determine Measurement Points: We strongly recommend the adage “What gets measured is what gets done” So determine what all you will measure. A good example of this can be seen in the travel industry.  While a very large percentage of folks research travel online, a much smaller percentage actually book online. So bookings would be one thing to measure but “intent to travel” is also something to try to measure. This can be measured by how many people actually viewed a deal on your web site or Facebook page. Or by how many people checked pricing. Or by how many people liked your page.

A key here is to have several measurement points. If you’re just looking at online bookings for example, you might consider the campaign a failure even though overall bookings are up – an indication that people are researching online and then calling. Without several measurement points, you might miss what is actually happening. Of course you can always build in better tracking by adding text like “mention deal 23 when calling” to your online ads.

Determine Evaluation: Once you’ve got the parts above figured out you can determine how you’ll evaluate success. The most obvious measure will be the one that impacts your bottom line. But you also want to be flexible and look at your results. If your goal was x number of downloads of that whitepaper you worked so hard and you fall short, you could say, “I give up” or you could look and see that you actually got more Facebook “likes” than you anticipated and that once you were liked, it was 25% more likely that someone would do business with you.

So the thrust of this part is to keep an open mind and look at all of your metrics to better understand what is working and what is not. For the parts that are working, see if you can tweak them to make them more effective. For those that aren’t working, determine whether tweaking or tossing is the best course of action. Then start your next campaign, incorporating everything you’ve learned from the one just completed.

Which Big Brother is Watching?

When I was a kid I understood that concern over big brother watching was that the government would be prying into every part of our lives and monitoring what we do. That threat still exists and is encroaching more and more but there are now other “big brothers” that we need to watch out for.

There are two companies that know more about you than you might realize. One is Facebook. As the Wall Street Journal points out, Facebook can tell what sites you’re on, even if you’re no longer logged in to Facebook. The scary part, from my point of view, is what the director of engineering says – what really matters is “What we say as a company and back it up”. But, even if they include this tracking capability in their terms of service, who’s to say they won’t change their terms of service on us?

I’m a big fan of Facebook and use it every day. I leave the browser open and switch back to it at various times. I’m not saying stop using Facebook. I am saying that we, as users of this service, need to be aware of what they are doing and continue to hold their feet to the fire to make sure they aren’t abusing their access to our lives and information.

Right now the biggest “big brother” in my life is Google. Google goes with me everywhere. Google knows where I am at all times. Google knows what I’m searching for, what sites I visit, who my friends are, and a whole lot more. Here are just a few of the ways that Google has access to my (and perhaps your) information:

  • My Droid phone has GPS enabled
  • I have a Google account on my computer and web history enabled
  • Whenever I visit a site with Google Analytics installed, Google has the capability of seeing that it is me visiting the site.
  • When I do a search on Google, it provides me local results even if I’m not logged in (tracks my location by my IP address).
  • Google serves up personalized ads when I’m reading my gmail account – ads based on the content of the emails. Are they reading my email?
  • When I had Google+ on my phone, it AUTOMATICALLY uploaded all videos and images to my account. Think about how interesting that could become!

So as you use these technologies, remember that Big Brother is watching. And decide how to use it accordingly.

Blogging and Consistency

You’ve heard the old adage that the road to heck is paved with good intentions. That appears to be especially true when it comes to blogging. During the design and development phase of sites we have customers who are all excited about the opportunity to blog.

Then reality (and life) sets in. And that blogging thing gets pushed to the bottom of the heap. After all, I’ll get to it when I have time. But then you never quite get the time. And the blog grows stale before you’ve even really started it.

Sound familiar?

Here are a few quick thoughts about blogging and consistency.

  1. The bare minimum you should blog – can’t stress enough that this is the bare minimum – is twice a month. Less than that and it isn’t really blogging.
  2. We recommend at least once a week. One of our customers blogs several times a week and their traffic has gone up around 400% in the last year.
  3. Blogs don’t have to be long – they aren’t college research papers. A good blog post can be two to three paragraphs.
  4. Write about what you do – that way you provide good original content AND you use lots of keywords for your industry.
  5. Write about the questions you get asked regularly. If the people you are in front of are asking, you can bet people are also looking for them online.
  6. If you get stuck on what to write, set aside 10 minutes and perhaps bring in one or more people to help you brainstorm a list of topics. Then you’ll be ready for writer’s block.

Get Traction with Google Local

Local search is where it is at for service related companies. Whether your service is landscaping, roofing, dry-cleaning or computer support, it only makes sense that you would do most if not all of your business in and around your local community.

So how does local search work? While it can be quite complex to get your site listed high in the local listings, the basics are simple and sometimes that is enough.

Let’s use Google since they account for 84.72% of all search engine usage worldwide.

  1. First go to http://www.google.com/maps and in the search bar, type in the name of your company. If nothing comes up, type in your address.
  2. When you see your listing (there should only be one – if there are more, that’s a topic for another day) click on more info. Along the top on the right you’ll see a link that says “Business Owner?”. Click on that link and claim your listing.
    • If it says “Owner-verified listing” then someone from your company has already claimed the listing. You’ll need to talk to them to get more information.
  3. If you don’t have a Google account, it only takes a few minutes to create a verify one. Do this and come back to the maps. If you already have a Google account, then login.
  4. Now you’re ready to enter your company information. The more info you enter, the better your chances of being listed.
  5. Put in your complete address and ALL of your contact information.
  6. Choose two or more categories for your business.
  7. Enter your hours of operation as appropriate and check off the types of payment you accept.
  8. Upload a couple of pictures – of you, of the outside of your place of business, of the inside, etc.
  9. Upload a video or two. These don’t have to be professionally shot. Just practice a few times and take the best one you have. Introduce people to your business.
  10. Enter some additional details and click on Submit.
  11. The first time you do this, you will be asked to select whether Google should call you or mail you. Select call and be prepared to enter the PIN number they’ll give you on the phone as soon as you click Finish. Then within a day or two your listing will be eligible to begin appearing.

There are lots of things you can do to enhance your local listing such as:

  • Upload more pictures
  • Upload more videos
  • Add / Create fields for Additional Details
  • Add as many categories as you can think of for your listing
  • Try the free trial of Google Tags
  • Update your status
  • Create a coupon

Invest in Search Marketing

If you’ve been following me at all you know that the cardinal rule of Internet Marketing is to have a plan.

Once you have that plan, you can look at the different ways you can invest your marketing dollars. Here are three of the avenues you can explore, along with the risks and benefits of each:

  1. Paid Search: The most well-known paid search venue is Google AdWords. The main benefit of a paid search campaign is that you get immediate results. The most common type of campaign is Pay Per Click – you design your ad and it might show up hundreds of times but you only pay when someone click on your ad. The biggest risk is that, unlike other kinds of search marketing, the minute you quit paying for clicks, the minute the traffic stops.
  2. Local Search: As in all other kinds of search marketing, Google also dominates here. Their local search offering is dubbed Google Places. What they discovered is that since most searches are local, they should have a special way of showing local results. Getting listed in the top seven of Google Places can be a boon for your business. Imagine, if you run a plumbing company and you get into the top 7 (1st page) of Google Places. You could go from no calls to dozens of calls a day. A benefit of local search is that it is free (Google doesn’t charge you anything). Completing your profile is fairly easy as well. A drawback is it doesn’t make sense if you’re bigger than local and it also is difficult to work with if you are a home-based business.
  3. Organic Search (this is the area commonly known as Search Engine Optimization or SEO): Getting ranked high in the organic search engine listings continues to pay off for businesses. This is process whereby your site is ranked at or near the top when someone searches for general terms for your service. For example, if I search for “buy contact lenses” the first two organic listings I get are visiondirect.com and lens.com. Getting to the top of organic listings typically costs the company quite a bit (paying a firm like EduCyber to get there) but a huge benefit is that once you’re listed, you can “coast” for a while, not paying anyone anything but not losing you place because of it.

If you want help with marketing your web site, we can help. EduCyber has Internet Marketing plans and packages for many kinds of businesses. You can also call us at 303 268-2245

 

Google Changes Local Search

 Yesterday may seem like it was less than 24 hours ago but time flies quickly on the Internet. Just a few months ago John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing wrote about 5 great research tools. I tried to visit the last one today, Bing xRank, to find out how it worked. And it’s gone.

I’ve been talking to a lot of people, colleagues, customers and potential customers, about Google Places lately. And the more I talk about it, the faster Google changes it. Just this week they changed the display dramatically.

If you haven’t claimed your business on Google Places, you should. It’s important for marketing purposes. Last week if I did a search for something local like “Denver Landscaping” I would have seen the two paid ads at the top and directly below that a map. To the right of the map were 7 listings of local (Denver area) landscapers.

This week when I do the same search I see the two ads at the top but the map has now been moved over to the right column and the local listings appear where the organic listings used to show up. Beneath the 7 local listings are the top 3 organic listings.

What does this mean for companies engaged in search marketing?

  1. Local search is more important than ever – completely dominating the first page of Google searches
  2. Google realized that seeing the location on a map is not nearly as important as the listing of the company (so they moved the map to the right column).
  3. If you are going to compete in organic search for many key words, your goal needs to be to get into the top 3 instead of the top 10. Being fourth bumps you to the second page of results.

These changes are designed to make things work better for the end user – the consumer – but sudden changes like this are seismic shifts in the search world. Whether you are a vendor (like EduCyber is) or a customer (like the landscaping companies in the example above), the organic competition just got a lot tougher and the Google Places listing just got a lot more lucrative.

So just like that, what used to work (last week) needs to be changed.Need help trying to figure all this out? Give EduCyber a call at (303) 268-2245.

36 Ways to Market Your Web Site

  1. Put your web site on business card
  2. Incorporate your domain name into your letterhead
  3. Buy an ad in other ezines or email newsletters
  4. Engage in online communities and make sure you include your domain where appropriate (like in your signature)
  5. Include a link to your web site in your email signature
  6. Build a corporate Facebook page and post interesting information that links back to your site.
  7. Include a link to your site in your Twitter profile
  8. Include a link to your site in your Facebook profile
  9. Include a link to your site in your LinkedIn profile
  10. Include links to your site in your Tweets where appropriate
  11. Exchange links with a related site
  12. Develop an affiliate network where others get paid to market your site.
  13. Create press releases for anything new: staff, location, service, product, etc. Be    sure to mention the web site as the source for more information
  14. Write on your blog regularly (if your blog isn’t on your web site, include links to your site in each blog entry)
  15. Create an informercial video about something relevant to your company. Upload it to video sites like YouTube. Make sure the video finished with a link to the site and that the site is mentioned in the description.
  16. Create a podcast on a relevant topic and don’t forget to mention your web site in the audio.
  17. Use email marketing (like iContact or Aweber) to regularly communicate with your customers. Include links back to your web site
  18. Write guest blogs for other sites with links in the bio back to your site.
  19. Buy an ad in the local newspaper with your domain name as a prominent part of the ad
  20. Create a TV commercial and buy some spots on local TV. Include your URL in the ad.
  21. Run a radio ad that mentions your URL
  22. Create an amusing video that highlights how your company solves problems and make sure the video links to your site. Upload it to Youtube.
  23. Share company videos that you’ve uploaded on Twitter.
  24. Share company videos that you’ve uploaded on Facebook.
  25. Create a PowerPoint presentation about something your company is good at. Include your URL. Upload this file to a site like SlideShare.
  26. Create a new award like “Best <your industry service or product> in <your area>”. Advertise it on your web site asking for submissions / nominations.
  27. Create a press release to go with this new award and send it out to news organizations, pointing them to your site for more information.
  28. Use an email blast to all your subscribers to announce the new award and point them to the site for details.
  29. Read other blogs. Engage in that community by leaving comments (with a link back to your site)
  30. Devote time to write a really good white paper on a hot topic in your industry. Provide this as an incentive on your web site for users to sign up for your newsletter.
  31. Advertise this white paper on social media sites.
  32. Post the white paper download info on sites you have access to – don’t neglect chambers of commerce and other business organizations. They’ll often share your info for free.
  33. Offer a free seminar on a popular or useful topic. Post the details on your site and then refer people to the site for details.
  34. Use social media to promote your seminar and direct people to your site.
  35. Engage in or start a group on LinkedIn regarding your industry (better to engage in existing groups) or area of expertise. Establish yourself as an authority and regularly link back from the group to a pertinent part of your web site.
  36. Blog about current events and tie them back into your topic.

 

Blogging: The Power of Now

People often ask me why is it so important to use a blogging software like WordPress. I try to explain the intricacies of RSS technology to them – not so really simple after all – at least not to some folks. But now I have a really simple demonstration.

On Monday, September 13th I posted a blog on Setting Rules for Social Networking. To be very precise, I posted it at 2:41 Mountain Time. Nine minutes later I received a Google alert telling me that “Brian DeLaet” had once again been found. . . you guessed it , from my blog that had just been posted.

That says, more eloquently than I can, why you want to leverage technology. And, I’ll put in a plug for our blog tool of choice: WordPress. WordPress is so nice because it is easy to install (most web hosts have an automated installer), is easy to update (usually just a one click update process) and had hundreds of plugins that help you do whatever you might want to do. The plugins themselves are easy even for beginners to get a handle on.

So why would a company want to blog? Let’s see . . . more people coming to visit your web site? More web site visitors inquiring about your services or products? More inquiries turning into sales?

With the speed at which information is made available, you can monitor the news and blog about what is happening as it happens. If you have a tree removal service, for example, you could blog about how important it is for those in mountain communities to leave sufficient space around their homes in case of fires like the Fourmile Canyon fire or Reservoir Road fire. This typically translates into a lot more traffic on your web site and to more tree trimming jobs.

Need help setting up a blog or hosting your blog? We can help. Call us at 303 268-2245.
 

 

QR Codes: Merging Internet Marketing with Offline Marketing

Local Search, Mobile Internet, and You

Trying to figure out how to use local search to make your site more findable? Want to help capture some of these mobile visitors? There are new tools that can help you get out there.

One of those tools is QR Codes. Actually they’re not new, they’ve been used in Japan for some time but are beginning to make headway in the US as well.

A QR Code is sort of like a bar code . . . only better.  And it can be the bridge between offline marketing and online marketing.

How does it work?

It’s very simple really. First you create an image (there are dozens of sites that will do this for you), then someone can scan or take a picture of it with a smartphone that scans it like a barcode and then takes you to a specific web page. Sound complicated? It’s not.

Here’s an example:

Scan this with your phone and you will be able to go directly to http://www.educyber.com/web/.

You do need to have an application installed on your smartphone to do this.

Blackberry users can find some compatible apps at http://www.mobile-barcodes.com/qr-code-software/blackberry/.

iPhone users can find some at http://news.cnet.com/8301-17939_109-10412329-2.html

and finally, my favorite, Droid users can use Google Goggles.

The fun doesn’t stop there however. Want people to use their smart phones to give you a phone call? You can do that as well. Download the app for your phone and give this one a shot: