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thoughts on web development & digital marketing

Two Sides to Every Story

I often read the Wall Street Journal online, as many do, to stay up on current events and business news. I believe that the WSJ is one of the best news sources out there for people in business. The stories are relevant and organized in a way that is understandable and succinct.

The major problem that I have (and many others have) is believing everything I read. I could see something on TV and believe 50% of it, hear the same thing from a friend and believe 75% of it, or see the words in print and believe it wholeheartedly. Perhaps it stems from learning from text books in school, or writing research papers with strictly text sources. I guess the point I’m trying to make is that reputation means a lot but even the most reputable authors and journalists aren’t exempt from bias.

The article that sparked these thoughts is about net neutrality. The article addresses the changing stances of major players in the net neutrality debate. The article is entitled “Google Wants Its Own Fast Track on the Web“.

The article singles out Google and Stanford law professor, Lawrence Lessig:

  • Google Inc. has approached major cable and phone companies that carry Internet traffic with a proposal to create a fast lane for its own content”
  • “If companies like Google succeed in negotiating preferential treatment, the Internet could become a place where wealthy companies get faster and easier access to the Web than less affluent ones, according to advocates of network neutrality. That could choke off competition, they say.”
  • “Google’s proposed arrangement with network providers, internally called OpenEdge, would place Google servers directly within the network of the service providers”
  • “Lawrence Lessig, an Internet law professor at Stanford University and an influential proponent of network neutrality, recently shifted gears by saying at a conference that content providers should be able to pay for faster service.”
  • “Stanford’s Mr. Lessig, for one, has softened his opposition to variable service tiers. At a conference, he argued that carriers won’t become kingmakers so long as the faster service at a higher price is available to anyone willing to pay it.”

Google’s response:

  • “Google has offered to “colocate” caching servers within broadband providers’ own facilities; this reduces the provider’s bandwidth costs since the same video wouldn’t have to be transmitted multiple times. We’ve always said that broadband providers can engage in activities like colocation and caching, so long as they do so on a non-discriminatory basis.”
  • “All of Google’s colocation agreements with ISPs — which we’ve done through projects called OpenEdge and Google Global Cache — are non-exclusive, meaning any other entity could employ similar arrangements. Also, none of them require (or encourage) that Google traffic be treated with higher priority than other traffic. In contrast, if broadband providers were to leverage their unilateral control over consumers’ connections and offer colocation or caching services in an anti-competitive fashion, that would threaten the open Internet and the innovation it enables.”

Mr. Lessig’s response:

  • “Missing from the article, however, is the evidence that my view is a “shift” or “soften[ing]” of earlier views. That’s because there isn’t any such evidence. My view is the view I have always had — whether or not it is the view of others in this debate.”
  • “As I testified in 2006, in my view that minimal strategy right now marries the basic principles of “Internet Freedom” first outlined by Chairman Michael Powell, and modified more recently by the FCC, to one additional requirement — a ban on discriminatory access tiering. While broadband providers should be free, in my view, to price consumer access to the Internet differently — setting a higher price, for example, for faster or greater access — they should not be free to apply discriminatory surcharges to those who make content or applications available on the Internet. As I testified, in my view, such “access tiering” risks creating a strong incentive among Internet providers to favor some companies over others; that incentive in turn tends to support business models that exploit scarcity rather than abundance.”
  • “Now no doubt my position might be wrong. Some friends in the network neutrality movement as well as some scholars believe it is wrong — that it doesn’t go far enough. But the suggestion that the position is “recent” is baseless. If I’m wrong, I’ve always been wrong.”

Holiday Card Redux

Last week we sent out our holiday e-card to all of our clients, vendors, and anyone else that we can rightfully email to without being called spammers.  We did, however have a couple of people report that our email ended up in their spam boxes anyway. So in case you missed, it here’s the link:

It was a collaborative effort for sure, but expert snow-manimator, Abram, really made the magic happen.  I hope you all enjoy it.  Happy Holidays!

Flame-broiled cologne by Burger King

Burger King has captured the flame broiled essence of a Whopper and put it into a cologne for men. And of course they have a hilarious website to go with it. Genius. I can’t wait to see how Hardee’s answers. And PETA for that matter.

More at their “Fire Meets Desire” website and a Yahoo Shopping article here. Too bad they are already sold out for the holidays, that would have been a great “white elephant” gift.

SMBs Struggle to Understand Paid Search Marketing

Microsoft revealed a study today that offered some insight into SMB paid search marketing behavior, and more importantly, their thoughts on the topic. The study showed that most SMBs still struggle to understand paid search engine marketing, and many had fears about price, ROI and time commitment. Some key findings:

  • Nearly nine in 10 (89 percent) feared keywords may become too expensive.
  • Eighty-one percent questioned if paid search marketing is the best use of their marketing budgets.
  • One quarter of respondents believe paid search marketing is too complex.
  • Twenty-one percent thought it would be too time-consuming.
  • Thirty-five percent felt they would need an agency to help set up a search marketing campaign.
But despite their fears, most small business owners felt they were missing an opportunity:
  • Nearly 9 in 10 (86 percent) of small business owners surveyed felt that they could be missing opportunities to grow their business
  • 3 in 4 believed prospective customers could be searching online for the type of service their business offers
And most importantly, the vast majority of SMBs who do use paid search marketing as part of thier overall marketing strategy were…..HAPPY:
  • Small-business owners who use paid search marketing are very satisfied, as 72 percent reported an increase in sales inquiries and 68 percent consider their paid search marketing efforts successful.
Clearly, when it comes to small businesses and SEM, the word to remember is “EDUCATE.” All of these fears can be overcome by educating SMBs on the paid search marketing process and defining metrics for success. 

Ads Showing Up in Google Suggest

So in more “Google is getting greedy with ads” news, Google appears to be testing running ads in Google Search Suggest. Only select users will see this update while they test it out, but here is a screen grab from Search Engine Land:

From an advertiser and a user perspective, I’m not happy with this change. Usually Google strives to make changes that benefit users and contribute to thier financial success. However, this just looks like pure greed to me. It’s way too easy for a user to accidentally click on an ad that hovers right below the search box, creating not only user frustration, but a potential wasted click for the advertiser.

Geotagging Feature Added to Blogger Drafts

You can now geotag posts in Blogger drafts. Geotagging allows readers to browse content by location on your blog. This is a great feature for local businesses that use Blogger as a marketing tool for thier business. For instance, suppose you are a landscaper and you use your Blogger blog as a portfolio of your work, showcasing different lawns and patios that you’ve designed in various posts on your blog. Now you can tag each of your posts with the appropriate city and state, so prospective clients who are browsing your blog can sort by city to view landscapes that you’ve designed in their area. This will naturally help with SEO efforts as well, since you’ll suddently have a number of posts tagged with useful information about the services your business offers, plus your service area.

As we can see below, this feature is also integrated with Google Maps:

It’s important to note that you have to login to to use this feature. You can read more on this feature here at the Blogger in Draft blog.

Latest Stats on Chrome

According to Google, Chrome is ready to come out of beta (already). In just 3 months time Chrome has won over 10 million users. Such impressive numbers demonstrate that there is still plenty of opportunity in the browser market. Apparently plenty of people are willing to jump ship, or at least consider jumping ship, on their current browser of choice. And so the browser wars continue…

When Times Get Tough, Google Hits The Bottle

On Monday the Google Adwords blog announced that they would permit Adwords advertisements that promoted hard liquor to the U.S. This is a follow up to their decision in the fall to permit beer ads.

This fall, we changed our policy around beer, for the first time allowing advertisements of its sale in the U.S. via AdWords. And starting today, in response to advertiser feedback we’ve received over the years, we’ll permit the advertisement of hard alcohol and liqueurs that target the U.S.

Or maybe it has something to do with the economy…

Anyway, I thought it would be fun to see what our local (now quasi-local) brewery Anheuser Busch was doing with PPC. I ran a couple searches on “beer” and “mmm beer.” I was disappointed to see that no one is bidding on “mmm beer” because that would be my search of choice.

Then I began to wonder if Bud Light has clickability, not just drinkability. I searched “light beer” and this is what I saw:

My analysis is that this particular ad doesn’t have much clickability. Thoughts?

Blackbird – A browser for the African American community

The browser wars have reached a new level…

“Blackbird is a web browser for the African American community. Blackbird was developed by a team of African Americans to allow you to connect to what’s going on in the African American community….Because we know that 85% of African Americans prefer online news information from the Black perspective.”

Um….Nevermind, I’ll keep my thoughts to myself on this one.

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