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Archive for January, 2012

Google Search Goes Social – How it Benefits You

A Guest Blog Post by Jerry Hillburn

Rise and shine fellow marketers, a new day has dawned at Google, and the game is afoot. On January 10th, 2012 at 06:29AM Google Time, Google quietly announced the arrival of Search, plus Your World . The big G has changed how search results are served up, and in doing so has created an incredible opportunity for those who publish daily content to get better positioning for their efforts.

According to Google, “We’re transforming Google into a search engine that understands not only content, but also people and relationships”. Interesting! As a fulltime participant in multiple social media platforms I have developed an understanding of the strengths and weakness of each. With Twitter you get tweets and about 5 minutes of fame, and if you’re very lucky, a viral retweet ripple that drives traffic. With Facebook you get a rich environment in which to engage your friends, and through Fan pages customers and prospects. As long as you live inside the walled garden you can have a lovely time with either.

But while both are great in their core offering, neither offer decent search results. I follow search very closely for my clients and I am always looking for ways to get their tweets or status updates seen in the big G search results. Over the past two years we’ve watched Facebook and Twitter updates appear in the results for a period of time, and then completely disappear. These messages come and go with little predictability.
Within the walled gardens of search on FB or Twitter we don’t see much better search results either. We often find that in Facebook Search you have to write your query in “exact case sensitive” detail or you get bounced to the Bing results. Google has owned the best search on the planet for years, but the walled gardens block its bots, which prevent it from serving up consistent Facebook and Twitter results.

For instance, let’s say you’re a chiropractor. You’re interested in finding people who are having lower back pain issues. Prior to 1/10/2012, when you do a search on Google for the exact term “my back hurts”, you would get a list of websites that offer to help you with your pain. But you don’t get a list of people who updated their Twitter, or FB status with mention of their pain.

Of course we will all still be tweeting and posting statuses to our friends, but for those of us who work in G+ there is the added benefit that when our friends, business partners, and clients work in G+, everything they post shows up in the Google search results.

There is a wrinkle. To see those results, you have to be logged into your G+ account when you search. But if you’re like most of us who have a gmail account, you’re always logged in and your search results now will be influenced by that little detail.

And so fellow marketers, there you have it. One doesn’t have to think hard as to how this new paradigm will be of benefit for your customers. And while I am hopeful that other results would appear as well from Facebook and Twitter, given the intense rivalry between these companies, I am not taking bets on it happening anytime soon.

This is a guest blog post by Jerry Hilburn. Jerry Hilburn runs a company in San Diego serving the local small business community with business web development, social marketing, and content publishing services. You can reach him at www.san-diego-marketing.com .

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SOPA, PIPA and the State of the Internet

The Stop Online Piracy Act (“SOPA”) has been looming in the House of Representatives for over two months threatening to change the internet as we know it. The Senate has its own version of the law, the Protect IP Act (“PIPA”) that goes to vote on Tuesday, January 24th. Many of the sites you visit on a daily basis may have some form of protest against these proposed acts. Despite the outcry of criticism and support from both sides of the issue, we are fielding a lot of questions about SOPA and PIPA. So what’s all the uproar about and why are technology companies so opposed to it?

For starters, try to think of the internet like a jungle. The Internet has safe places, dangerous places, and everything in between. It has highly useful and informative areas like Wikipedia and Google and it has the not so useful areas such as every cute kitten viral video you’ve ever seen. Yet, all of these things are dependent upon the creative and innovative contributions of webmasters, hobbyists, entrepreneurs and artists all over the world. In short, it’s an organic structure that builds upon itself and is constantly evolving. This has created a vibrant and open atmosphere that is undeniably a source for good in world. SOPA and PIPA are a threat to this organic structure and will inhibit the internet’s ability to innovate and make people’s lives better.

How so? The Stop Online Piracy Act was introduced to the House of Representatives in October, 2011 by Rep. Lamar Smith (R.-TX). Intending to restrict the spread of pirated copyright material; SOPA would bar any advertiser or payment facilitator, like PayPal, from doing business with sites found to have pirated media. It would bar search engines from linking to the site as well as forcing Internet service providers to shut down access to the site. All of this can be done without due process. Also, illegal streaming of pirated material could carry a sentence of 5 years in prison. Opponents of the bill, such as Google, Wikipedia, Facebook, Twitter, and many other technology companies (including Evolving Interactive) say SOPA would allow the government to censor the internet and moreover, violate the First Amendment.

With SOPA being the main lightning rod for upheaval, the Senate’s version, PIPA, has received less scrutiny and actually may have a better chance of making it through to the vote. PIPA is essentially the same as SOPA except for a few minor differences. In a minor upgrade from SOPA, PIPA lacks the power to tell search engines they can’t index flagged sites. In a glaring oversight, however, PIPA lacks any punitive actions the Justice Department can take against studios for lying about pirated media. As you’ll read later in this article, studios are not immune from lying and being hypocritical in their actions. Both SOPA and PIPA have at least had the DNS blocking provisions removed due to it potentially causing great harm to the structure of the internet. The fact the DNS blocking provision has been removed at least shows promise that there could be room for compromise. But there is much more to compromise upon.

Despite our opposition to SOPA/PIPA, piracy is still a very real problem. The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) estimates that the economy loses $58 billion a year and threatens 19 million jobs in the United States due to online piracy. These exorbitantly high numbers have been called into question by a fair share of industry experts, including Julian Sanchez, who believes the loss of profit is closer to $445 million (roughly the worldwide gross for Chipmunks: The Squeakquel).

Regardless of the financial losses, the solutions proposed by SOPA and PIPA won’t get to the root of the problem. Congress has consistently shown that they don’t understand how the internet works. Every time a torrent or P2P site goes down, another five will pop up. If PIPA or SOPA are passed, the estimated cost for tax payers to enforce these laws is $47 million over five years plus the estimated $142 million hit on the private sector for maintaining and enforcing the blacklists. If PIPA or SOPA are passed, the United States will be a player in one of the most expensive games of Whack-A-Mole ever created.

Another central argument against SOPA and PIPA is the rampant hypocrisy involved. For instance, the author of PIPA, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D. Vt.), spoke out against internet censorship in other countries. In March of 2010, he stated, ‘One of the most pressing challenges posed by the Internet is the censorship
of online information. For some time now, we have witnessed the troubling efforts of repressive regimes — such as the governments of China, Iran and North Korea — to censor, or in some cases eliminate, their citizens’ access to information via the Internet.’ Just less than two years later, Senator Leahy is trying to do the very thing he spoke out against: censoring and eliminating the United States citizens’ access to information via the internet.

The hypocrisy doesn’t stop at just the politicians. Just check out TorrentFreak.com’s study on where pirated movies are coming from. Using a map of Hollywood IP addresses, TorrentFreak found that even studios are pirating. Computers from Fox Entertainment’s studio were torrenting films like Super 8, a Paramount Pictures production. It should also be worth noting that when one of their films, ‘X-Men
Origins: Wolverine’, was torrented, the person who leaked it was sent to jail for a year. Even computers from NBC Universal’s studio were torrenting their own intellectual property like the film Cowboys &
Aliens. If SOPA or PIPA are passed, will the studios be reprimanded? Unlikely since piracy is enforced collectively by groups like the MPAA, the studios, which are the backbone to these groups, will likely never be sought after.

In no way is the disapproval of SOPA and PIPA an act of endorsement for piracy. Piracy cuts the blood flow to the entertainment industry, stealing rightful profits from artists, performers, musicians, writers
and more. Yet, the tactics SOPA and PIPA would seek to rid the internet of piracy are draconic and heavy handed. A possible solution is the Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act (OPEN Act). With the OPEN Act, the International Trade Commission would be responsible for the enforcement of piracy, rather than the Justice Department. The International Trade Commission is already tasked with
seeking out counterfeits and forgeries of physical products from the US. Their experience dealing with these kinds of issues and the fact that they are less political than the justice department would make them better equipped to enforce piracy laws. The most positive aspect of the OPEN Act is due process and due diligence when investigating. As opposed to SOPA which would make the Internet service provider shut down the website, without due process.

To raise awareness and protest the proposed SOPA and PIPA, Google has censored their logo and Wikipedia and Reddit shut down their sites for all of January 18th. Countless other signs of protest can be found all over the internet. To add your voice to the issue, you can contact your local Congressman through Google by going here: https://www.google.com/landing/takeaction/

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Google Plus – How it Effects Your Search World

Last week, Google announced that its new Social Network platform, Google Plus, will now effect search results.  The buzz spread like wildfire across the SEO industry. How much of a game changer will this be? Will search engine optimization still matter if search results are now personalized instead of taking the most relevant and trustworthy sites and ranking them accordingly?

It’s no secret that Google’s main goal for the past year has been integrating their new budding social network with their search results. Anyone logged into their Google account with a Google Plus profile will see a different set of results than a searcher not logged in. Google Plus users will have the option of personal or worldwide results. There is an icon at the top right of the SERP that shows a silhouette of a person or a globe, and the Plus user can toggle between the two sets of results.

Clicking on the person icon, the top results for a search will be based on recommendations, or Plus 1’s, that you and the people in your circles have made, or info that others have shared with you. Results with reviews and pluses will have higher ranking then those without. By switching over to the globe, you will see the natural results without these social signals affecting them as directly.

Google has used social signals as a part of their algorithm for years, with personalized results getting a boost.  Twitter follows, Facebook likes and shares, and Yelp reviews have factored in to results; companies have used this buzz to crawl up the rankings. Facebook and Twitter have criticized this change, citing that Google will give preferential treatment to its own social signals, a claim Google has denied.

Other features to Google Plus, like the fact that users must opt-out of the personal search and not opt-in, have led to concerns among users and SEO’s. However, it is easy enough to switch the results back to the global, impersonalized results. There is even a way to permanently remove the personalized results in the search settings. Concerns about privacy are also prevalent, as anyone with access to private information can share it publicly. It is ultimately up to the user who they share info with, but the receiver can post it at their whim, so know your circles. As with anything on the internet, it’s a good rule of thumb that if you wouldn’t want your content on the web, don’t upload it to begin with.

As Google Plus fixes the issues and bugs that are inevitable as it gains in popularity, it will be important to make the most of its features. As the social signals for sites that have “Plus 1’s” will affect their rankings, it will be essential to have your customers, friends, and followers take the time to “Plus 1” your website. While there are already business profiles in Google Plus, expect them to take an even bigger role in the coming year. Add your business and website to the Google Plus universe, and interact with as many people as you can. While you will undoubtedly hear a fair amount of back and forth criticism as this new platform gains traction, the fact is this is a product of Google, the search engine that typically dwarfs all competition. Even if it is never as popular as Facebook or Twitter, it will have an impact on your rankings, so you’ll want to get on board.

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