Many small business websites do on-site SEO poorly or not at all, which means less rankings, search traffics, potential customers, and business. These steps will start you on a path toward regular, high-quality, content creation and promotion.
One of my favorite westerns is the “Good, The Bad and The Ugly”. You may recall Clint Eastwood is one of the good guys in this movie. He personifies the western hero who comes to the rescue. On the other hand, you have Lee Van Cleef who plays Clint’s bad partner and Eli Wallach who plays the ugly partner. These three characters personified all the attributes of the western hero/anti-hero.
Since WWW stands for the Wild Wild West (aka world wide web), we can think of e-mail as one of the good guys that helped firms promote their businesses on the Internet. During the past few years, however, e-mail spamming has become one of the ugly facts of life online.
The good news is that legitimate e-mail marketing is still alive and well.
It is also still mostly free. If you are like most business owners, you spend a considerable amount of time and money trying to create qualified leads for your sales staff. Having owned, operated and/or managed a number of thriving businesses over the years, I have come to appreciate the fact that many forms of lead generation provide great results. This includes leads generated by newspaper ads, coupons, yellow page ads and direct mail. While these forms of lead generation systems have proven to be effective at making our phone ring in the past, they have also proven time consuming, hard to track and expensive.
Take direct mail, for instance. With the cost of a first class stamp currently at 46 cents apiece, designing, constructing, stuffing and mailing a single circular from one business to another is going to cost you a minimum of $1. If you want to send your mailer to 1,000 businesses, this is going to represent a significant financial risk. Since the average rate of return on direct mail is a scant one to two percent, it isn’t exactly a sure thing as to whether your firm will break even on the campaign, let alone turn a profit.
However, sending the same offer or newsletter via e-mail will cost you little more than the time it takes to craft the offering. While there is a right way and a wrong way to go about creating a legitimate e-mail database, if you belong to networking groups, attend business functions, or in other ways come into contact with potential customers, getting permission to send them a monthly newsletter is as simple as asking permission. (This means you shouldn’t be branded as a spammer).
You can also include forms on your website, landing pages and social networks that will allow interested parties to sign up to receive your white paper, e-book or newsletter at the click of a mouse. Providing an easy way to let your prospects opt-in is just another way of connecting with an ever-growing audience.
Opt-in data bases are even better than purchased databases because these prospects want to receive your information. By automating parts of this process, you can touch prospects with less effort, lower costs and send out information and articles with greater frequency.
Creating a newsletter is a snap, since there are websites such as constantcontact.com, icontact.com and mailchimp.com that provide a low-cost service that includes everything you need to construct newsletters, invitations and offers, all via their template driven system.
Want to send out a birthday or holiday greeting to those on your mailing list? Try jibjab.com a website that contains hundreds of customizable e-cards and video cards that you can send to as many people in your database as you care to, for a flat $9.99 per year. We recently sent out a series of holiday video cards that were a huge success because they were humorous and because we added our staff’s headshots into the action. (If you haven’t seen this site you don’t know what you are missing.)
Best of all, all of the above-mentioned forms of online promotion are cost-effective and spam-free. If anyone receiving your newsletter wants to opt-out, all they have to do is click a link on the newsletter to be removed from your mailing list. Of course, that doesn’t mean that spammers do not exist.
What’s Scary! Really Scary!
The bad news is that there is no end in sight for spamming. Anyone who receives e-mail usually receives tens or even hundreds of unsolicited e-mails every day. According to cyber security firm Symantec, in 2012 72.89 percent of all e-mail received worldwide was considered spam. While most of us employ one form or other of spam filter to keep from being buried alive by spam, Symantec recommends a few other ways to reduce the amount of unwanted e-mails coming your way.
Some Simple Ways Stop E-mail Spam
This topic deserves a standalone blog post, so we’ll highlight the most important points only:
1. Do not give away your primary e-mail address when registering online. Use a secondary or special address for registrations.
2. Unless you are a salesperson, don’t include your e-mail address in the public profiles visible by everyone.
3. Choose an e-mail address that is difficult to guess.
4. Never respond to spam e-mails such as asking to unsubscribe — this will confirm your e-mail address validity rather than unsubscribe you.
5. Use a spam filter on your computer or in your corporate network.
6. Use the “Report spam” option within your e-mail client so you never receive e-mails from this sender again.
7. Update your anti-viral software on a regular basis.
The problem with spam is there is no way to legitimately take your name off the spammers e-mail list.
E-Mail Spam — The Ugly Truth
Not only are spammers raking in millions of dollars, so are the companies
that sell them their lists. A number of freeware and free apps are also used to collect e-mail address illegitimately. Some are even being used to infect the computers, tablets and Smartphone’s of unsuspecting consumers and business owners worldwide. This ugly truth is becoming more than a nuisance, it’s epidemic. It is threatening all our livelihoods. Governments have been woefully inadequate at protecting consumers. They have done a poor job of going after and prosecuting these spammers, hackers and cyber criminals. However, that doesn’t mean there is nothing you can do to defend yourself.
Is there anything you can do about unsolicited commercial e-mail?
Unsolicited commercial e-mail (UCE) can come from various organizations, companies or be the product of ‘computer viruses.’ Companies or individuals can get your e-mail address from the Web. Other sources exist such as marketing lists that you sign up to that often get passed between companies. Unsolicited commercial e-mails generally also come from outside the U.S. Many of these UCE originate from countries like Ireland and those in European Union. This means it is quite difficult to stop the occurrence of UCE — it is a global phenomenon. Generally, there is little you can do to prevent unsolicited commercial e-mails being sent to you.
Here is what you can do if you receive UCE:
In the vast bulk of cases of UCE’s e-mails, the e-mail headers are not valid.
*E-mail headers may be forged so replying to the e-mail merely results in you sending UCE to the innocent person whose e-mail address was forged.
*It is not advised to respond to an e-mail address to “opt-out” of a list unless the address is from a recognized organization. These e-mail addresses may also be false or are used to confirm the unwanted e-mail was originally sent to a valid and active e-mail account.
*Responding to a website that supposedly lets you remove yourself from the list is also not advised. This is because once you access the website your details are logged. You could also you be exposed to pornography.
It is possible to determine the location (rather than the user or the e-mail address) from where the e-mail was sent. If you are able to look at the e-mail headers, you will then be able to determine the IP address of the Internet Service Provider (ISP) whose services were used to send the e-mail. Finding out exactly where UCE has come from can be difficult and time-consuming.
If you have determined the location of the sender of these mails, then it may be possible to send an e-mail to abuse@isp to complain about the e-mail. However, adult e-mails are not illegal in many countries including Ireland. If you do succeed in sending an e-mail complaint to abuse@isp and the material is illegal in the jurisdiction it originated in or in breach of the Acceptable Use Policy of the sender’s ISP, the ISP can disconnect the sender. However, it might be unable to tell you the name of the sender due to international data protection regulations. In many cases, the sender just moves to a different ISP and starts the process again.
Just like the characters in the movie, the Good, the Bad and the Ugly, e-mail has a way of showing us the best and the worst the Internet has to offer. E-mail has saved billions of dollars for businesses worldwide. It has also cost billions in return. While e-mail can be a two-edged sword, it can also be a godsend to businesses looking for a way to increase their exposure. It has helped thousands of businesses survive the tough financial times that are upon us today. Just bear in mind that the when it comes to working the Web, only the good guys play by the rules.
Carl Weiss is one of the good guys who has been helping clients work the Web to win since 1995. He is president of WSquaredMediaGroup.com a digital marketing agency and owner of Jacksonville-Video-Production.com. You can speak with him live on the air every Tuesday at 4 p.m. EST on Blog Talk Radio.
Turns out, it wasn’t.
In fact, the gross breech of personal privacy was rapidly becoming standard practice for many big firms across the United States. Job candidates were required to hand over their login information as part of the employment screening process, and employers used the credentials to poke around applicants’ personal pages. Their defense? It was a necessary evil, nothing more than a tool to help recruiters judge the overall character of potential new hires.
As word spread about this trend, individuals and activist groups the nation over began to publically condemn the practice. It didn’t take long for state governments to hear their cries and new laws banning the practice officially went into effect on the first day of 2013.
Congress Couldn’t Get the Job Done
According to a write up on The Hill, a partisan split over employee privacy prevented the new law from moving forward. Go figure. Then, in May 2012, things finally started looking up. Representative Eliot Engel (D-NY) filed a bill called the Social Networking Online Protection Act (SNOPA) that would prevent employers as well as schools and universities from asking for social networking passwords from students or employees.
Seems like everything was good to go, right? Not so fast — this is Washington we’re talking about. A separate group of lawmakers had legislation of their own — a bill called the Password Protection Act (PPA). This bill would protect employees and job candidates, but it would leave students out in the cold. However, at a press conference held last year, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CONN) did point out that he would be willing to tweak the bill to add a provision covering schools.
Although lawmakers on the hill repeatedly assured the American people that a password protection law was on the way, movement on the issue has slowed to a crawl. That didn’t sit well with the states, so some state legislatures slapped the issue on their own agendas instead.
States Step Up
Since Uncle Sam was having so much trouble getting the job done, some states have decided to step up and take matters into their own hands. Six states have made it official: as of Jan. 1, 2013, it became illegal for employers to demand employees or job candidates hand over the credentials for their social networking accounts. Illinois, California, Maryland, New Jersey, Delaware and Michigan are the lucky six, and a handful of other states have similar bills in the works.
According to a Wired post, some state politicians are voicing opinions on the problem of social networking privacy in light of the passage of the new laws. California Assemblywoman Nora Campos, for example, had this to say about the issue:
“Our social-media accounts offer views into our personal lives and expose information that would be inappropriate to discuss during a job interview due to the inherent risk of creating biases in the minds of employers,” Campos said. “In order to continue to minimize the threat of bias and discrimination in the workplace and the hiring process, California must continue to evolve its privacy protections to keep pace with advancing technology.”
So, if you’re anything like me, you’re probably wondering what’s going on with the other states. The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that 14 states have introduced legislation dealing with the issue. However, some of those states are farther along in the lawmaking process than others.
For example, in Massachusetts, a bill banning employer access to social media accounts was introduced back in March, but there’s been no movement since its introduction. Similarly, in Missouri, a bill managed to make it to committee by April, but it’s still hanging out in limbo to this day.
Other states are attempting to pass privacy bills that read a little broader. For instance, NBC reported that a Texas state Senate bill (S.B. 118) was introduced last month that would outlaw employers from demanding access to the personal accounts of both employees and job applicants “through electronic communication devices.”
If you want to find out if your state has taken action of its own on the social media privacy front, you can. Simply head over to the National Conference of State Legislatures’ site and skim the list of states.
Internet and the Future of Privacy
The issue of social media account password privacy is not an isolated event — far from it, in fact. As technology evolves and the Internet becomes an increasingly dominant force in our daily lives, our online privacy continues to diminish.
Take, for example, recent findings about tracking cookies published in the Harvard Law & Policy Review by a group of privacy researchers. The paper compares online tracking to the practice of telemarketing, outlining ways in which companies are building sophisticated tracking technology designed to stamp out all user attempts to circumvent it. The paper gives an example: some advertisers have implemented cookies with multiple identifiers that have the ability to reinstate one another (kind of like viruses) in order to fight deletion by users. The paper’s authors discovered that advertisers are more than willing to use technology designed to sidestep settings on individual users’ own computers. Scary stuff.
The states that enacted social media account password privacy laws are headed in the right direction. However, total privacy is not a right online. The Net is an interconnected web of separate entities, and we must proceed at our own risk.
Nell Terry is a tech news junkie, fledgling Internet marketer and staff writer for SiteProNews, one of the Web’s foremost webmaster and tech news blogs. She thrives on social media, web design, and uncovering the truth about all the newest marketing fads that pop up all over the Net. Find out more about Nell by visiting her online portfolio at Content by Nell.
Is using hidden text within class tags ideal for SEO, or should it be avoided?
Advice on Internal Linking to City Pages
The days of SEO as a distinct, independent discipline are numbered. SEO is fast evolving into a more creative, diverse, and challenging profession. Here’s how the integration of social, branding, PR, paid search, and video is changing the SEO model.
Twitter Acquires Crashlytics
Twitter has snapped up Crashlytics, a software company that provides crash reports for mobile apps.
“We’re excited to announce: we’re merging with Twitter to take our platform to an entirely new level,” the Crashlytics blog reads. “Much will remain the same. Development of Crashlytics will continue unabated and we remain dedicated to working with all of our customers — current and new, big and small — to deliver the key app performance insights they need.”
The company gives customers an iOS software development kit enabling them to construct an approximately 40KB sized crash reporting feature into an app. Although it is currently only available for iOS apps, Crashlytics has said it is working on an Android version.
“Going forward, we’re thrilled to work with the incredible team at Twitter,” the blog reads. “We share a passion for innovating on mobile and building world-class applications. Joining forces will accelerate our build-out, allowing us to leverage Twitter’s infrastructure to deliver new features faster than ever.”
Rdio Debuts Free Music Service Internationally
Rdio is going international to offer its free music streaming service in 15 countries.
The move will give listeners access to the more than 18 million songs in its library. Listeners in Canada, the U.K., Australia, New Zealand, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain and Sweden can now stream music whenever they want.
Free access is also available in the United States, where Rdio’s music streaming service launched in 2011 with listening limits that refresh monthly.
“If you’re a new Rdio listener, you can now sign up at rdio.com, and enjoy up to six months of free music, depending on how many songs you stream,” reads the company blog. “Free streaming is available through the Web or Rdio’s desktop apps for Mac and Windows and no credit card is needed to start listening. A meter at the top of your profile page will keep you updated on how much free music you have remaining each month and at any time you can upgrade to Rdio Web, Rdio Unlimited, or our Family Plan to stream unlimited music.”
Google+ Now No. 2 Social Network
Facebook may still be the king of social media, but Twitter has been unseated by Google+ for the runner-up spot.
According to Global Web Index (GWI), Facebook enjoyed 693 million active users globally in December with Google+ a distant second at 343 million. YouTube placed third with about 300 million active users and Twitter was fourth with 288 million.
“Interestingly for Google, YouTube (not previously tracked by us as a social platform) comes in at No. 3, demonstrating the immense opportunity of linking Google’s services through the G+ social layer,” reads a GWI blog post.
“This is also a key indication of why Google+ integrated with the Google product set is so key to the future of search and the Internet. We’ve got more coming on Google+ later this week as well.”
Global Web Index chart
The possibility of a Facebook search engine has been giving Google the sweats for quite some time now. The search giant may be the most powerful Internet company in the world, but Zuck and Co. have something that it needs more than anything: mountains of valuable personal user data.
Big G has long feared that Facebook would eventually figure out a way to harness that info to create a superior search product, and it appears that day has finally arrived. When Facebook unveiled Graph Search last week, it was heralded as a revolution for the search industry. Fast forward a week, a few floggings from high-profile news outlets, and a Tumblr parody account, and Facebook’s supposed “game-changer” is shaping up to be more like a bad Internet meme.
A Different Kind of Search Experience
Facebook’s plan was to build a new kind of search for the web: a multidimensional tool that would hunt down people, places, and things for users based upon complex query strings. Bloomberg Businessweek reported Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s explanation of Graph Search during the new feature’s unveiling in a press event last week:
“In general, Web search is designed to take any open-ended query and return to you links that may have answers to the question that you might be trying to ask. Now, Graph Search is very different. Graph Search is designed to take a precise query and return to you the answer, not links to other places where you might get the answer.”
Zuck also noted that Facebook teamed up with Bing to create Graph Search, and the two tech titans designed it to answer queries about people, places, and things. Users can search using a variety of filters, such as “liked by” or “place type.” Here’s a couple of example searches that Facebook offers up for users on its official promo:
* “Restaurants in London my friends have been to”
* “People who like cycling and are from my hometown”
Sounds pretty cool, right? Yea, it did – but then came the Tumblr account.
Graph Search? There’s a Meme for That
Heads up, Facebook: it’s kind of hard to invent a search engine capable of compiling and categorizing billions of pieces of data overnight – yes, even when you’ve got Bing in the driver’s seat. Just ask Google – it’s been around since the ’90s and it’s still ironing out the kinks.
Yesterday, reality slapped Facebook in a very public (and quite humiliating) way. ‘Actual Facebook Graph Searches‘ – a Tumblr parody account started by a guy named Tom Scott – surfaced and immediately went viral. Every news outlet from CNET to Forbes covered the story, and Facebook now has some serious publicity problems to mitigate.
In a write-up about the fiasco published yesterday, Forbes highlighted the worst of the worst from the blog thus far. According to the article, some real Graph searches that actually yielded results (yikes!) included these gems:
* “Current employers of people who like Racism”
* “Spouses of married people who like [cheat-on-your-partner
dating site] Ashley Madison”
* “Family members of people who live in China and like [the
very very banned] Falun Gong”
* “Islamic men interested in men who live in Tehran, Iran”
* “People who like Focus on the Family [anti gay marriage]
and Neil Patrick Harris [very gay and due to be married
* “Single women who live nearby and who are interested in men
and like Getting Drunk”
* “Mothers of Catholics from Italy who like Durex”
Wow. Just imagine what kind of trouble people could get into if their name were to pop up in the results for queries like those. Now imagine if the searchers happened to be spouses, family members, or even worse – employers.
So Google’s been sweating it out for nothing – in a mere week’s time, Facebook’s Graph Search has morphed from groundbreaking web innovation into a drinking game that college students will play on Friday nights.
Internet: please put us out of our misery and queue the Graph Search memes.
Takeaway for Users: Check Those Privacy Settings
If reading this has caused you to become fearful that your own Facebook page will show up in a list of questionable Graph Search results: good. I’ve accomplished my mission. Regarding privacy on Facebook, you’d be best served not by my words, but those of the Tumblr account’s creator himself:
The takeaway from all this is that you need to visit Facebook’s Graph Search help pages and educate yourself about your privacy options. Adjust your existing setting to reflect the level of privacy you may have thought you had already. And do it ASAP: Facebook will be rolling out Graph Search to every member of the site imminently.
As the Forbes piece notes, the Graph isn’t unintentionally broadcasting its users’ private information. People were already Liking and sharing the very things that will land them in the search results – and your history never goes away. Facebook has simply added a way to classify that data and spit it back out to, well… everyone you know (or even just kind of know).
Remember, the Internet never forgets. The more adept services on the web become at organizing your data, the more you’ll want to protect your personal info and activity online. Bottom line: don’t do anything online that you wouldn’t want your wife or boss (or a jury) to see. If Graph Search tells us anything about the Internet’s future, it’s that someday, they inevitably will.
Nell Terry is a tech news junkie, fledgling Internet marketer and staff writer for SiteProNews, one of the Web’s foremost webmaster and tech news blogs. She thrives on social media, web design, and uncovering the truth about all the newest marketing fads that pop up all over the ‘net. Find out more about Nell by visiting her online portfolio at ‘Content by Nell.
Post from: SiteProNews: Webmaster News & Resources
Like most aspects of running a business in the modern digital age, mobile marketing is all about the relationship between your business, brand or service and your customer. Just because that relationship has shifted away from traditional forms of presentation doesn’t make it any less valuable or relevant. Mobile marketing is a great opportunity to effectively reach your target audience if used properly. Marketers can always choose to ignore the mobile platform, but they do so at their own peril.
The mobile relationship
Building and maintaining a relationship with the customer is one of the most integral components of a successful mobile marketing platform. Many customers seem to have a personal connection with their Smartphones and tablets, often accessing them to browse the Internet, read e-mail or check in to a location. Your marketing platform needs to take that viewpoint into consideration and be well-designed and easy to navigate, regardless of the mobile device a customer happens to be viewing it on. By engaging the customer and building a dialogue, you have an almost unprecedented opportunity to create and maintain brand loyalty. You can only do this, however, if you’ve carefully cultivated and respected the aforementioned relationship.
A better reach
Google recently released a study that reported 90 percent of consumers typically transition between two or more device screens within a single day — such as moving from a desktop to a laptop computer or a laptop to a tablet. Throw Smartphones into the mix and you open the door to marketing to consumers wherever they are, whether checking their phones at a stoplight or browsing the Internet while riding the subway. Mobile marketing allows you to maintain a relationship with the customer as they move from screen to screen throughout the day. An engaging mobile marketing campaign offers great potential to connect with consumers while they’re on the go.
The mobile platform is growing at a seemingly exponential rate. In the last five years alone, the number of people accessing the Internet from a mobile environment has greatly surpassed those who view the same information from desktop and laptop computers. Your mobile marketing campaign can put your company, brand or service in front of mobile users more than ever before.
Consequences and lessons
Certain companies have learned the hard way that it isn’t wise to take that mobile marketing relationship for granted. Papa John’s has been the subject of a $250-million dollar lawsuit based on the fact they were spamming their customers with annoying, unwanted and illegal text messages. To be successful on the mobile frontier, treat customers with the respect they want and deserve. Allow that customer base to establish a relationship, but give them the opportunity to put a stop to it as well. Collect data during the authentication process, but always allow customers to opt-out if they so choose.
By learning from the mistakes of other companies, as well as the mistakes you will invariably make along the way, you can create a compelling mobile message and support it with a rock-solid marketing platform. Mobile puts your brand in front of a wealth of customers who may have otherwise been inaccessible even in the recent past.
Joseph Baker has worked in the business world for more than 10 years, specifically in management. He has led development and management teams, and implemented budget reductions both professionally and as an independent contractor. He is also an avid blogger and inbound marketer, with published topics ranging from social media trends to search media metrics and algorithmic trends.
Post from: SiteProNews: Webmaster News & Resources
The combined suite of software, now renamed to Rio SEO Social Media Suite, includes three products that assist with large-scale, social-sharing campaign analysis, as well as social advertising initiatives and digital-influencer activation programs.