Category Archives: internet

FTC Ties Down Google For 20 Years

So remember a little while back when Google decided to try the whole social thing and launched Buzz? And it cost them a few million because they “oops forgot privacy”? Well the FTC has finally decided how to handle the giant and it will throw a bone at the privacy concerned members of the public to boot.

For the next 20 years, Google will be subject to privacy monitoring from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. By using what are being called “deceptive practices”, the FTC will babysit the search giant thanks to its now dead Google Buzz social networking service. The investigation into Google’s privacy practices began after users complained that their Gmail contacts were made public, and that the steps to protect their privacy weren’t clear or effective.

When the service launched, Gmail users were given the option to participate in Buzz, but what Google failed to mention was that the people they email most often would be listed publicly. Those users that declined to participate were also automatically enrolled into at least some of the Buzz features without their consent, according to the FTC investigation.

“In response to the Buzz launch, Google received thousands of complaints from consumers who were concerned about public disclosure of their email contacts which included, in some cases, ex-spouses, patients, students, employers, or competitors,” the agency said. “The FTC charged that Google failed to disclose adequately that consumers’ frequent email contacts would become public by default.”

The FTC also added that Google had misled the public in regards to its privacy policies, and misrepresented its compliance with U.S. and E.U. Safe Harbor “or other privacy, security, or compliance programs.” So for the next 20 years Google is going to have a monkey on it’s back with the FTC being able to watch their every social change and if the search giant isn’t careful, may find itself back in hot water.

Google+ is Evolving and Growing

It’s been just around a month now that Google+ became open for business, and Google remains undaunted in its effort to go toe-to-toe with Facebook.

Vic Gundotra, vice president in charge of Google+ said, “We are in an enviable position that we have people who come to Google, we are in this for the long haul… By Christmas you will see Google+ strategy coming together.”

Google+ has attracted more than 40 million users since it opened to the public , but has a long way to catch up with Facebook’s membership of approximately 800 million.

Google is looking at tying all of their current Apps and extensions into Google+ accounts, the goal being able to synch the whole mess together with Docs, Youtube etc. Eventually, Google aims to open the platform to outside developers to make games and other kinds of installable “apps” that have been part of Facebook’s success.

Google is moving slowly and cautiously to make sure its social network is a safe, stable haven for families, friends, and other associates who connect with one another in “circles” created at the service.

Gundotra acknowledged that Facebook has the advantage of a “network affect,” in that complex webs of friends are established there and people might find it daunting to up and relocate to Google+.
“The incumbent (Facebook) has a huge advantage, if you play the same game, you are not going to win… So we are going to do it differently.”

One of the larger contrasts between the two networks, Google+ offers much more discretion on what you share, with whom.
“We do not believe in over-sharing,” Gundotra said. “There is a reason why every thought in your head does not come out your mouth… We think a core attribute to being human is to curate.”

Google+ launched with a requirement that people use their real names online in order to let others find them more easily, but they are aiming to eventually allow people to use pseudonyms on your account as opposed to your real name. It’s been a thorn in the fledgling social network since early in it’s beta incarnation.

“We wanted this to be a product where you can discover people you know,” Gundotra said. “You don’t know ‘Captain Crunch’ or ‘Dog Fart’.”

Based on the rest of the discussion from the conference, it’s looking like Google can’t wait for Christmas to get here.

Promote Your Site The Right Way

An issue that some small business owners who try and handle all aspects of their marketing campaigns encounter, is time. Especially when it comes to the online marketing aspect of the business, being able to consistently put time and effort into your website is a crucial element.

There are a number of small business owners out there who are self-made, done it all on their own types so it’s only logical (in their mind) that they can handle all of their site maintenance as well. What’s quickly and unfortunately learned, is slapping quick fixes and changes which you may read in a forum or blog can be a hindrance to your online marketing efforts.

Another common misconception surrounding the online advertising industry is it’s a one shot done deal. The truth of the online world is completely different however, as it never sleeps, stops or even slows down. When you’ve broken down your site and completed all of the changes and updates to your content to help your positioning, no sooner have you finished than you need to start all over again with your competitors.

So when you realize, as a business owner, that you don’t have the time, the knowledge or the expertise to help your business rank at the top of the SERPs, it’s time to call in the experts. The most dangerous thing you can do to your website is trying to interpret search signals and make changes to your site based on speculation in a forum or a blog. Information taken out of context can bury your site if you’re not careful.

SEO Will Always Be Relevant

There aren’t any magic tricks you can do to make your site rise in the search rankings. You could spend the rest of your life reading detailed guides to SEO and meticulously cramming keywords into every possible tag on your website. But for companies with limited resources, it’s critical to focus on the SEO strategies that yield the best results.

For those with absolutely no resources to build and develop a website, WordPress offers you a great option. The use is free, learning to develop the software and build a website only takes a week, maybe two weeks at the most. And with a host of plugins available to help with optimization, WordPress has made the basics as simple as they could have.

You can use Google to tell you what people are searching for. Load up Google and start searching what you *think* is relevant to your business niche. Do you come up in search? If not, visit the top 10 websites as they’ve been deemed more relevant than your own site. You won’t be able to discern 100% of a companies SEO campaign by visiting their website, but you may be able to pinpoint why they’re placed higher than you are.

Keywords are the bread and butter of search, the search indexes out there are founded on them. However, shorter keywords are significantly more competitive than, what you’ll find referred to as, long tail keywords. Using long tail searches like search engine optimization in winnipeg is often a simpler approach into a market as opposed to trying to balance a site around a more competitive keyword like seo, or seo winnipeg.

If all you have is time to invest into performing optimization on your businesses website, I’m sorry to say you’re likely not going to rank in the top 5 for your niche business model. However, that does not mean that you should just give up or ignore the best practices and basics of optimization. Create a solid website, fill it with quality content and promote yourself to your clients. In time, you absolutely carve out your own little corner of the web.

SEO Stop Words

There are a lot of tips out there online about search engine optimization and the methods you can put to use to rank higher in the Google/Bing/Yahoo SERPs. You can find some of the same type of posts on our blog here as well. You’ll find discussion of white hat techniques, black hat techniques, the common steps known as well as some of the not so obvious ones.

What you don’t find very often however, are posts about what not to do, or what to look out for when you’re looking at contracting a company to perform SEO on your website. While the search engines are somewhat flexible in what you’re allowed to do, there are most definately some tricks which can get you black marked, all the way to completely kicked from the SERPs.

So, when you’re looking for a company to perform optimization on your site, keep your ears open for any of the below terms. If there is mention of using any of these practices, it’s time to run for the hills.

Using Cloaked content
This is one of the most common, and most likely to get your company banned, practices out there. For the most part, when you create content for your site you’re telling the search engines what your site is for. Google/Bing/Yahoo then lists the website under the titles and keywords that is found in that content. Cloaking content is when a company shows Google content, and then shows viewers different content such as ads or links to malware infected sites. This is what is cloaking and will get a site removed from Google in very short order.

Unrelated Keywords
A lot of blogs talk about how the meta data for keywords and description are defunct, but Google often looks to these as indicators of keywords that make up a site. For example a site about water softeners will often contain content relevant to that industry. Some companies, however, try to gain new content by what is known as “keyword stuffing”. Mainly this involves hiding keywords with single pixel sized font or camouflaging text the same as the background color to try and get listed more often, for more terms. It may seem to work short term, but it will get a site removed from the SERPs.

Duplicate content Websites
Some novice SEOs and SEO companies try to increase rankings by putting the exact same content on different pages on multiple sites. Typically they also use a scraper tool to gather quality content from websites for their own. Search engines have gotten adept at catching this and will happily penalize, a website that has too much duplicate content.

Auto Generating Content
Another poor technique is to use a program to write content for your website. This is exactly as it sounds, taking one article and then having a program rewrite the article by changing a few sentences and keywords over and over again.

Those are only a few of the terms you need to be aware of when speaking with an SEO company. Absolutely stressing the point that if any of the above techniques are mentioned as a tool they use, avoid them at all costs. There is no shortcut to success in online marketing, real SEO takes time and the more time and effort you can put into it, the bigger return on investment you can expect.

Time To Move Forward Winnipeg

When Fresh first came to Winnipeg, to say there was some resistance to the notion of online marketing and branding would be putting it mildly. Responses to the idea that business and the world were going online and digital ranged from the “convince me first” crowd to the flat out “not happening I don’t need it” group. It seemed that the larger the company we approached, the more resistance was met. The majority of our clients a few years ago weren’t even in Canada, let alone Winnipeg.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said, “There is nothing worse than aggressive stupidity.” But nobody ever thinks they’re stupid, right? You certainly can’t come right out and say as much to them. So, how can we identify and combat stupidity? Aggressive stupidity goes by another name at many organizations these days … management.

That’s not meant to be a kick in the teeth to all business owners, but if the door to real innovation, to real growth as a company is perpetually closed, then if the shoe fits. It’s rather difficult to hold a straight face when the manager of a company can tell you in a meeting they can’t afford to market or update their website, when they’ve said in the same meeting they’re spending upwards of $3000 on a single advertisement in a newspaper. Or on a block of mid-day radio spots, or a 20 second television commercial which only comes on after midnight. Marketing and advertising priorities need to change, Winnipeg business owners need to get with the times.

In the end, though, whether or not you’re successful boils down to how hard you work.. and a little bit of luck. But Thomas Jefferson had it absolutely correct when he said, “I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.”

Free Search Listing Options

There has been blogs written many times about the cost of SEO and about how the return on investment is one of the highest in the marketing industry, there are times when optimization is just not in the budget. Whether you’re a brand new business with little to no marketing capital, or perhaps an aging business that needs to completely rework your advertising and marketing campaigns. Don’t fret however if you can’t pour vast amounts of money into organic SEO, there are still a couple of tricks you can do which can at least help you in your local marketplace.

First off, if you have a business, then you’ll have a name for it. There are a few free avenues you can explore to begin promoting yourself to your local area and if done right, your name will spread. Facebook, while primarily a social location for friends and families also has their own business listings. Instead of creating a personal profile, you create a business page with which you can begin to share information with your customers and clients in an open format. Within Facebook as well, you can use paid advertisements which will display on profiles which are interested in your business. Pre-qualified traffic can go a long way to helping your bottom line. The ad placements within Facebook do have a cost however, but the page listing does not.

Also tieing in with the free angle, using a Twitter account can be a creative way to send out advertisements for flash sales or discounts to your subscribers. Frequently updating your sales or hosting a conversation in your stream is a free way to generate buzz about your business and your products.

If you find that the information you need or want to share with your customers is too long for Twitter, having a branded blog is a great step forward to get the word out. Use your blog to promote new products which need a description, or a place to layout the details of an upcoming contest or sale. A blog is a free, simple way to get stories out to your current and future customer base.

Continuing in the realm of free, be sure to also create your Google Places page. Creating a quality page with all of your relevant location and contact information can place you within the organic search listings should you be part of the search terms entered. The Places pages are displayed just as the Google Maps listings used to be, typically at the top of the organic listings with their identifiable red arrow markings.

Those are only a handful of the free local advertising tools you can use as a business owner. When you’ve generated the traffic and are starting to improve your bottom line that’s when it’s time to take the plunge and invest in a quality built website and start building your brand on a wider scale.

Googles Non-Web Dominance

The anti-trust hearings versus Google and their supposed stranglehold of the web has been continuing in front of the senate. There are people on all sides of the argument it seems, Google on the defensive, Microsoft and a few others decrying that they’ve been wronged by the search giant. And one of the most basic arguments that Schmidt has used to rebut all of the claims of unfair business could very well win the day. Schmidt’s defence basically says:

“Google faces competition from numerous sources including other general search engines (such as Microsoft’s Bing, Yahoo!, and Blekko); specialized search sites, including travel sites (like Expedia and Travelocity), restaurant reviews (like Yelp), and shopping sites (like Amazon and eBay); social media sites (like Facebook); and mobile applications beyond count, just to name a few.”

Now on one hand, yes Google can provide all of the services that are available on the web, but there are simply better options. If you’re big into social networking, Facebook is still the king, if you travel a lot you use Expedia to find tickets and deals. I’ve personally used Amazon, eBay and Kajiji to post and purchase items and even the smaller search engines like Blekko have their place and a few tricks that Google just can’t do.

So Schmidt’s argument that there are options available online, users just need to navigate to them, is utterly true. Google doesn’t so much have a dominance of the internet, as it has a dominating presence in the search arena. And there are many out there who would point out, Bing, Yahoo and the littls start ups like Blekko which come along, chip away little by little at that armour. Google’s search advantage or position isn’t going to disappear or diminish in any great capacity until a revolutionary game changer makes itself known, just as Larry and Sergei did with Google.

So don’t worry about Google’s “dominating web presence” so much, instead use your keyboard and mouse and investigate the alternatives. Just because one site offers similar products, doesn’t automatically mean you have to use them. After all, you wouldn’t call Coca-Cola to order some Pepsi.

Google+ Is Not Dead

The numbers are becoming more and more visible, and since it’s launch in late June, Google+ has attracted 25 million users in about a month. Facebook, in contrast, took about three years to reach those levels , while Twitter took just over 30 months. According to ComScore. Google+ has since hit the 50 million users mark.

So how could it be that people are calling Google+ dead in the water so soon? You could blame it in part on Googles checkered social history, or even on the privacy gaffs they experienced their first time out with Buzz. Some bloggers have recently used the terms “Google is dead” and “Google+ is worse than a ghost town” to describe their Google+ accounts and activity. The strongest language would have to be a Forbes commentator saying “Google+ is a failure no matter what the numbers say”. Harsh descriptions for what has been described as an alternative social network with the Hangouts and the strong security options built in.

Even with all of these doom callers, there are just as many reminding users out there to give it time. The internet wasn’t built in a day, Facebook didn’t reach social dominance overnight and Google+ will need some nurturing time despite explosive growth early on. A strong point to consider, just like SEO didn’t exist 10 years ago, the idea of a social network didn’t exist just 4 years ago.

The measure that’s been decided of success for a social network is the level of activity on the site. When you hold up the measuring stick of “700,000 pieces of sharing per minute” to *any* social network it’s going to look like a failure. Something that also needs to be kept in mind, if you’re experiencing a dead or slow social network, that is a result of the people you’re following and your own level of sharing. If you don’t share any information within your circles then why should you receive any feedback or activity into your account?

To say Google+ is already dead, is premature speculation at this point. Time will tell just how successful the search giant can be in the social arena, but with the recent addition of the games panel, the named hangouts and the collaboration which is possible with your circles on Google+. Giving Google the time to mature their social product is necessary before calling it dead.

Google’s Chrome is on the brink of replacing Firefox

google-chromeGoogle’s Chrome is on the brink of replacing Firefox as the second-most-popular browser, according to one Web statistics firm.

Data provided by StatCounter, an Irish company that tracks browser usage using the free analytics tools it offers websites, shows that Chrome will pass Firefox to take the No. 2 spot behind Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (IE) no later than December.

As of Wednesday, Chrome’s global average user share for September was 23.6%, while Firefox’s stood at 26.8%. IE, meanwhile, was at 41.7%.