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It’s been over a decade now since I wrote the first book from the Electonic Frontier Foundation about safety, freedom, and privacy on the Internet. Since then, much has changed, and much has remained the same. The changes have included a huge number of people coming online from all parts of the world and creating the majority of the content online (instead of just webmasters doing it). What remains the same is the constant threat to the value of this amazing resource by well-meaning (and sometimes not-so-well-meaning) people who would attempt to censor or limit the access or freedom of expression that takes place here.

I saw a post from old friend and collaborator, Craig Newmark (the Craigslist guy) asking that everyone post somewhere the answer to the question, “How does the Internet give you a voice?” He’s planning on doing something special with the posts he collects on January 18th, Internet Freedom Day.

Here goes mine: I have been fortunate to have had a voice in print for many years as an author of magazine columns and books.  Even for a published author, the Internet lowered the bar for me to be able to express myself how I wanted, when I wanted, and most importantly, to WHOM I wanted because it is a one-to-one, one-to-many, and many-to-many medium all at the same time.  It’s like nothing else in human history, and we have still only scratched the surface of what we can do with this tool.

That’s why I remain concerned that special interest (of the corporate kind) will be able to lobby lawmakers and get laws passed that favor big companies over individual users.  I’m still concerned that regulation for supposed security concerns turns this global public square into a channel for so-called “approved use” only. And I remain vigilant that the Net remain open to all and free of unneeded regulation to assure that innovators have the opportunity to extend the capabilities and penetration of Internet use everywhere.

Now, that all said, I’d like to call your attention to Craig’s campaign in support of a new law that will actually protect the freedoms I’ve been talking about.  Ironically carrying the same initials as a law that would have done the exact opposite if passed back in 1998 (but we beat it down!), CDA 230 will codify the values of freedom and equality that most of us cherish online.  The graphic below tells you more.

Craig said:
We take things for granted, like the vitality and freedom offered by the Internet. The Net potentially gives everyone a voice. However, it’s not available to everyone, and that freedom must be asserted and sometimes fought for to keep it.

Internet Freedom Day reminds us that we all need to work together to preserve what we have and to help everyone realize their own individual voice. It’s something which we assert frequently, not just one day, but it’s one way to remind ourselves that what we take for granted can be lost.

To give a voice to voiceless, my team and I work to get serious network connectivity where it’s a challenge. Specifically, we work with Inveneo.org, a team which is really good at getting the Internet in difficult circumstances. For example, we’ve supported them in Haiti, the West Bank, and Kenya.

To help protect what we have in the US, we help preserve one of the laws which preserve freedom of speech. That’s section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Now and then, bad politicians attack it, but it’s a strong protection against those who would suppress stuff that they just don’t like. It’s being able to voice stuff like this that let’s me know the Internet really does give me a voice. We’ve worked with the Electronic Frontier Foundation to better explain CDA 230, so please check out this infographic:

It’s easy for online B2B marketers to become distracted by the search engines and forget the real reason they’re doing SEO in the first place: the customer. Customer demand is the driving force behind search and must be the foundation for your SEO strategy. Whether you’re an SEO newbie or already running a few SEO campaigns, it’s important to take a step back and determine what techniques really align with your customers’ needs.

An effective, simple concept every search marketer should leverage is the process of developing a search persona. Similar to a marketing persona, creating a search persona helps professional B2B marketers to accurately identify their target customer, to understand how users are actually searching for their business online and to ultimately, drive higher conversion. This is not a very time-consuming process, and will have a significant impact on your marketing efforts behind search and must be the foundation for your SEO strategy. Understanding the keywords your prospects use and the places they go to find information is the critical first step in implementing a successful inbound marketing strategy

1. Know Your Target Audience

Identify a target audience that is most likely to turn into customers. Ask yourself: Who’s my perfect buyer? For any businessperson (regardless of SEO), this is something you should be able to answer.

2. Understand Your Audience’s Pain Point(s) & Know How They Search to Solve Them

How would your target customer articulate their need for this in terms of keywords? How do they search? Determine the queries that are used by your target audience, are aligned with your business goals, and appear in significant enough volumes.

3. Provide Real Solutions

Create great content that’s well optimized for the search engines, but also meets the needs of your target customer and provides calls-to-action that encourage users to further explore and engage with your product or service.

4. Be Compelling

Offer a call to action that compels the searcher to dive deeper into your conversion funnel. For example,
this might be a discount code, or an online form. Basically, a feature that allows you to keep in contact with a user and offers them an incentive to stay engaged with your website and product or service.

5. Know Your Data

Make sure you’re regularly tracking performance metrics that help demonstrate the efficacy of these campaigns.

One of the most overlooked aspects of this process is to truly try to understand the target searcher’s agenda. Think of yourself as you search for something. All the pages you bounce off of, because they aren’t relevant, trustworthy, or are too complex for one reason or another. Search persona only works in context with business goals, and content that was designed for them. Doing only one thing out of the overall list above will not bring the desired results. Now that you’ve built your search persona, examine your website’s content and existing SEO campaigns and make any adjustments necessary to align with the criteria you’ve identified in this process. Understanding the keywords your prospects use and the places they go to find information is the critical first step in implementing a successful inbound marketing strategy.

This article is excerpted from a whitepaper by Optify Inbound Marketing Software. Learn more.

by Tim Gray

Are you interested in adding a bit of splash to your social media marketing mix?

Google+ Hangouts has addressed this issue.

It might be the versatile platform you’ve been waiting for to help capture the attention of an even bigger slice of potential customers.

With Hangouts, you can:

  • Video chat instantly with up to nine people.
  • Share documents and other files with the group.
  • Watch a YouTube video together and chat alongside it.
  • Share your screen with others.
  • Record sessions for viewing later.
  • Broadcast the chat live to anyone

How to Get Started

Starting a Hangout is easy (and free!). Just create a Google+ account, and click the “Start a Hangout” button. The technical aspects of Google+ Hangouts are extremely basic and intuitive.

Starting a Hangout is simple. Click the green “Start a Hangout” button and decide who to invite.

Now you’re ready to get creative!

Check out these five creative ways businesses are utilizing Hangouts. Feel free to experiment with any combination of these ideas.

  1. Crowdsourcing

  2. The Question & Answer

  3. The Demonstration

  4. The Giveaway

  5. Pull Back the Curtain

Get the full details on implementing these five ideas and read the article on Social Media Examiner…

 

It’s 2012 and you have a web site, a Facebook page, you’re Tweeting, and sending SMS text messages to your customers.  Are you also using online video to close the sale?  You should be.  The costs of production have come down significantly and the use of Youtube makes it relatively easy for anyone on any budget to get going with video to help spread their message.

A warning though:  if you do use video, don’t just make commercials or people will treat them just like commercials. Give something of value from your area of expertise to your potential audience.  It’s the same advice I give for posting anything in social media.

Onlinevideo.net asked C.C. Chapman* for his take on the essentials of online video and he came back with these recommendations for improving any video content strategy:

1. Do Something Unexpected

Playing it safe gets boring, and your customers will stop clicking on your links if you give them the same content week after week. Freshen up your video strategy by going for the unexpected. Show viewers something they haven’t seen before. Think fun and unique, says Chapman. But remember, unexpected doesn’t mean inappropriate.

2. Plan it out Ahead of Time

People like to dive in and start making videos, says Chapman, often skipping the crucial planning stages. Begin by creating a video schedule for the next six months, brainstorming ideas and mapping out topics. Think ahead of time about what camera equipment and other resources you’ll need for each shoot. Having a plan means you’re more likely to follow through on video creation, and more likely to follow a set online posting schedule. That’s important if you want to attract regular viewers.

3. Talk Like a Human

Jargon is the bane of good communication. The purpose of your videos is to engage with your customers, so leave the acronyms and industry-specific buzzwords aside. “Nobody wants to watch that,” says Chapman. Instead, speak from the heart. If your on-air talent is reading from a teleprompter, make sure it doesn’t sound like he or she is reading from a teleprompter. There’s nothing worse than reading from a script and being boring.

4. Don’t Be a Slave to Length

Anyone making online videos has heard several times that shorter is better, that people will get anxious and click-off after two minutes, three tops. That’s true, notes Chapman, but don’t let it hold you hostage. There’s nothing wrong with going longer when the subject demands it. Keep your video as short as possible, but take the time you need to properly cover your topic. Don’t try to stuff your material into a length that’s too short. If you’re offering quality content, your viewers will watch it no matter the length.

5. Be Helpful

“Share or solve, don’t shill,” says Chapman, and that’s a good rule of thumb for any company making online videos. Chances are your sales team gets certain questions all the time. Online video is a great place to answer those questions. Your customers are more likely to share videos that they found helpful, so try to solve some problems. Whatever industry you’re in, create helpful tips for that industry. “If you can educate and entertain your viewers, you’ve done very, very well,” adds Chapman.

*C.C. Chapman is the author of Content Rules, a guide to content strategy. He’s also currently writing a book on people who made careers out of their passions. Video shot for that book is at Passion Hit TV, and the book should be on sale in the fall.

Are you managing your online reputation?

Reputation can affect purchase decisions and influence the growth or decline of a business.

Many businesses are using social media to develop online reputations, manage and respond during a crisis and monitor the conversation to prevent future crises.

In a concise article on Social Media Examiner, Sarah Lokitis offers three big tips that can help you deal with the challenge. She says…

Try searching your company and product names to make an assessment of your online reputation. What do you see in the top 10 search results?

What follows are three tips to help you manage your reputation with social media.

#1: Establish Your Online Reputation

When someone Googles your brand name, your business should be sitting right there on the first page waiting for the user. And yourbrandname.com shouldn’t be the only branded search result.

Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social brand pages should assist in owning the first search engine results page. Especially if you have a common name, owning your brand name search queries is important for users to find the right information.

Social media can help you create a stronger online presence, so old news doesn’t turn up at the top of search results. If you don’t control your brand, someone else may post inaccurate or derogatory information that could tarnish your reputation.

Take a look at the search results from Lululemon. The first result is for their website, but the next four listings are all social media channels that they own or have the ability to edit and monitor.

According to a click-through rate study published by Slingshot at the end of last year, the number-one ranking on Google gets about an 18% click-through rate and the number-two organic listing gets about 10%. Regardless of the actual percentage, the data proves that the first search engine results page is the most important for your brand’s reputation.

The reason you want to control several of your first page search results is if a crisis strikes and you have set up several social channels, your brand will have plenty of platforms ranking well to disseminate your message.

These branded channels help push down negative or competitor results that you don’t want representing your brand.

Creating social media profiles has given people the channels to voice their joys and complaints about your company. Owning your social media profiles can help you better control and manage the conversation, so you can respond in a timely manner.

If you aren’t marketing with social media, those conversations are going to happen on other channels that may prohibit you from getting involved in the conversation.

#2: Control Responses During a Crisis

A crisis for a company can range from unexpected website issues to a lawsuit. How a crisis is handled online makes a huge difference to the future ramifications. It’s important to monitor and respond to customers who write on your wall or send you messages to resolve any issues and let users know they’re heard.

Facebook was one of the channels Anthropologie used for announcing a huge online sale in May. Right after they posted about the event, the site went down for maintenance. It didn’t take long for Facebook users to complain and point out that they couldn’t get to the site to buy any products.

The social media team did not respond to every comment personally, but was smart to send out a note to fans that they were working on the issue and the site would be back up soon.

Customer complaints were acknowledged and customers were told that the company was addressing the issue.

When the site was back up, a user still couldn’t access the page, so the social team provided a direct email contact to resolve the issue off of Facebook. Providing an email was a good solution because it gave the user somewhere to go to have her issue addressed.

If you can’t solve a user’s problem with a simple post, take the issue offline and out of the public eye as soon as possible.

Within 10 minutes, Anthropologie responded with another method of customer service.

Sometimes brand ambassadors will even step in to resolve a conflict for you. Though it is helpful when customers support you enough to calm a disgruntled customer, do not assume that will be the case every time. Set up tools and a strategy to monitor the conversation, so you aren’t surprised with the conversations happening about your brand.

#3: Monitor Conversations

Now that you’ve created and are updating several social profiles on behalf of your brand, you may find it a bit overwhelming to keep up to date with what is being said about your brand online.

Savvy businesses are monitoring their brand for mentions with social media monitoring tools.

Read the full article…

by Robert B. Gelman

You’ve seen the videos. They are on YouTube. They are on Facebook, MySpace, and web sites all over the Net. They show customers offering testimonials. Or product demonstrations.  Or simply a background piece on the owners of a small business.  There is no limit to the way you can use video today to promote your business or venture. But most small business owners think, “That is just too expensive for me to invest in.”

That would be a mistaken impression now.

There is a solution available and we are offering it, at an amazing price. Instead of paying a videographer $500-$1500 to shoot and edit a video, then paying a similar amount to a web developer or marketing agency to post the video online, you can buy a package from BGAmedia that includes all of that, at only $200 (for a limited time).  Have a video and just need it put online? That’s just $100.  Same low introductory price if you want a short video shot and do not want it put online.

This article details the principles involved in succeeding with online video.  The good news here is that you don’t need to worry about most of that.  We’ll guide you all the way and you are guaranteed a professionally shot and edited piece, presented in the best possible way on your web site and if desired, YouTube, Facebook, or other social network that accommodates video. Also, we recommend a content strategy, as described in this article.

What are you waiting for?

Act now to find more or get started.  Call 209-588-8055 today, no obligation. Ready to start now?

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A new set of Social reports help you measure the impact of your social marketing initiatives and evaluate the effect social media has on your Goals and Ecommerce activities. The four new reports aggregate key data points to help you see the complete picture of how social marketing and media affect your business. You’ll find the Social Value Overview, Social Sources, Social Plugins, and Conversion Reports in the Traffic Sources section of your Google Analytics account. Learn More.

Export and share reports

Exporting and sharing reports is now possible in the new version of Google Analytics. From the Export tab, download or email any report directly from your account. You even have the option to automate sharing. Set up your account to email reports daily, weekly, monthly, or quarterly. Learn More.

They also added a share button to Custom Dashboards, Reports, and Advanced Segments. The share button creates a link to the custom template you created, and not your actual account data. When someone clicks this link, they’ll land in their own Analytics account and see the custom schema you created populated with their own data. Learn more.

Track paths from one event to the next

Welcome the Events Flow Report.  If you’re already tracking content like videos, downloads, and embedded gadgets as Events, use this report to see the order in which visitors trigger Events and the popular paths taken from one Event to the next. They’ve also added the Date Comparison feature to all Flow reports, so you can see at a glance how visitor engagement changes over time. Try it out in any of these reports: Visitor Flow, Goal Flow, and the new Events Flow. Learn more.

Make your marketing accountable with digital marketing attribution

The Attribution Modeling tool lets you assign credit across your whole digital marketing campaign — so you can set values for all of the elements that led to online sales and other business goals. By building and comparing customized attribution models, you can determine the impact of different channels, referral sources, campaigns, and keywords. Learn more about using attribution to improve your marketing in the Attribution Playbook, or check out industry trends in this Attribution Whitepaper.

From the Google Blog

List originally appeared on Practical eCommerce

Need better results from your web site, but not ready to shell out large $$ to get SEO done? Before you spend any money on a search-engine-optimization campaign for your website, take advantage of Google’s free tools to optimize your site and increase its PageRank. And if you are just starting out with SEO, check out Google’s Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide PDF.

Here is a list of free Google tools for your website’s SEO campaign. There are keyword and trend tools, website optimization tools, tools to increase your backlinks, and more. All of these tools are free.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics lets you measure sales and conversions, and gives you access to your visitors’ behavior. Understand which parts of your website are performing well, measure the success of your social media programs, and create better-targeted ads. Price: Free for users with less than 5 million page views a month.

Google Webmaster Tools

Google Webmaster Tools show you how Google crawls and indexes your site. Learn about any problems Google is having indexing your site’s URLs. Identify the top search queries that drive traffic to your site, as well as any links to your site. Share information, such as how often your important pages change, to improve your site’s visibility. Price: Free.

Google Insights for Search

Google Insights for Search lets you compare search volume patterns across specific regions, categories, and time frames for any search term or phrase. Track search terms, and find potential customers based on their search volume. Price: Free.

Google AdWords Keyword Tool

Google AdWords Keyword Tool is a great way to get keyword ideas and find the best text for your audience. Identify what words or phrases will drive the most traffic to your site. Determine what keywords are the most profitable if you plan to use Google AdSense. Price: Free.

Google Alerts

Google Alerts are, according to Google, “emails sent to you when Google finds new results — such as web pages, newspaper articles, or blogs — that match your search term.” Enter a keyword or phrase, the type of data you want to retrieve, the volume of results you’d like, and get it all via email. Monitor your competitors or track the latest relevant Google results. Price: Free.

Google Trends

Google Trends give you popular search terms. You can also compare trends for multiple search terms, or get daily unique visitors for multiple sites. Take advantage of trends in your keyword campaigns to get a jump on your competitors. Price: Free.

Google Website Optimizer

Google Website Optimizer is Google’s website testing and optimization tool. Test individual elements or complete page layouts, and identify your most effective site elements. Fix and deploy compelling landing pages. Identify the winning content combinations that drive conversions. Price: Free.

DoubleClick Ad Planner

DoubleClick Ad Planner is a tool to help you plan an effective online advertising campaign. You can also use it to search competitor websites for traffic statistics, such as page views and keywords searched. Use the information to tailor your own successful campaign. Price: Free.

Google Page Speed

Use Google Page Speed to analyze and optimize your website. Identify why your site is too slow, and apply best practices to make it fast. Reducing page load times can reduce bounce rates and increase conversion rates, and encourage the health of your site. Price: Free.

Merchant Center

With Merchant Center, upload your site’s product data so it is available to Google Product Search — soon to be “Google Shopping” — and other Google search services. Allow shoppers to easily find your site using Google Product Search or Google.com. Price: Free.

Google Site Map

Google Site Map is a way to tell Google about the pages on your site. Creating and submitting a site map helps make sure that Google knows about all the pages on your site, including URLs that may not be discoverable by Google’s normal crawling process. Use Site Map to provide Google with site information, such as content metadata or update schedules. Price: Free.

Google+

Google+ is Google’s social media platform to share, collaborate, and create. Starting a Google+ account and developing your brand through Circles helps get high PageRank backlinks to your website. Price: Free.
Read the full article…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In a recent article excerpted here by Jill Kocher at Practical Ecommerce,  we alerted you to a shift undergone at Google that would ostensibly reduce page rank for web sites that attempted to “game” the system by paying more attention to optimization than site quality.  That fact remains, but Google has come out with more details and Kocher has a follow up article that refers to it as more of an “evolution” than “revolution.

She continues, “Google’s much discussed over-optimization penalty turned out to be a moderate evolutionary step in Google’s site quality crusade. Launched April 24, Google wrote in a blog post of its update, “The change will decrease rankings for sites that we believe are violating Google’s quality guidelines. This algorithm represents another step in our efforts to reduce webspam and promote high quality content.”

According to the Google blog post, an estimated 3.1 percent of U.S. search results will be affected by the algorithm update, while sites in countries like Poland that are more prone to produce webspam could see as high as 5 percent change in rankings. The algorithm will more aggressively penalize webspam tactics like keyword stuffing and irrelevant linking from sites that “spin” content with barely readable content. “Spinning” refers to the practice of scraping content from other sites and then manually or mechanically rearranging the words to create a “new” piece of content.

Is All SEO Webspam?

In its announcement, Google’s head webspam cop Matt Cutts also addressed the difference between search engine optimization and webspam. The first three paragraphs of the announcement details the difference between ethical or “white hat” SEO practices and manipulative “black hat” webspam under the guise of SEO. As an ethical SEO practitioner, I appreciate the vote of confidence for the SEO industry, but Google’s Cutts must really have felt under fire after his over-optimization comments last month to write such a missive. Cutts’ best advice is to focus on creating “amazing, compelling web sites.” That, to be sure, is not a newsflash to most ecommerce brands.

Read the full article…

Internet ad revenue report from IAB and PwC says it grew 149 percent last year.

by Bill Mickey, Foliomag.com

The IAB released its Internet Advertising Revenue Report yesterday, which details full-year 2011 results and was conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers. As it has for the last ten years, except for a slight dip in 2009, annual revenue easily beat the previous year—hitting $31.7 billion in 2011, a 22 percent increase over 2010 and an all-time high.

In the last decade, revenues have shot up $25.7 billion at 20.3 percent CAGR. Even so, mobile got recognition as a format that came into its own in 2011, jumping 149 percent to $1.6 billion for the year. 2011 also marked the first year in the report that mobile was broken out as a standalone format. Its revenue increase drove 3.7 percent of the overall 22 percent advertising growth for the year.

While mobile’s 5 percent slice of the full-year digital advertising pie is a tiny one, it’s passed email (1 percent), sponsorship (4 percent) and rich media (4 percent) in share of revenues. Mobile is now tied with lead generation.

It’s likely been singled out due to its big jump over 2010′s $641 million, by far the fastest growing segment. Plus, the platform has traditionally been bemoaned as one that’s not been capitalized on nearly enough.

Nevertheless, digital video (6 percent)  and classifieds (8 percent) are still slightly ahead, as are display and banner advertising which command the highest share of revenues at 22 percent and 47 percent respectively.

For the full report, click here.

The original article is here.