What’s the Future of Social Business?


There’s no denying that social media has changed the way we communicate. Yes, building relationships is nothing new, the process of connecting with the right people is not some bewildering iteration of new business process. But the delivery methods for those actions – the way we connect – has evolved. As with any evolution, the change is not something that’s happened all of a sudden, we didn’t wake up to a whole new world of connectivity, but slowly, bit-by-bit, it’s taken hold, and really, to ignore or deny this change is a failure on your behalf.

So how has social media changed everything?

First off, social media is completely different to anything that’s come before it. I’ve heard it said that talkback radio was the original social media, which has some truth to it, but really, it’s not in the same ballpark. I mean, sure, you could call in and maybe get onto the radio to voice your opinion on the latest issue. But talkback, or letters to the editor, or any other means of contributing to a wider conversation, all these methods are issue driven (some would even say ‘agenda’ driven). Social media is different. The conversations on social are people driven.

You might, for example, have a problem with your local plumber, a small-time complaint that’s not likely to generate any media interest. They’re not going to care about that if you call up talkback radio – but you can share it on social. Social media is not like any form of media that has come before it – being people driven means everyone can share their thoughts on anything and anyone, any time. And that’s exactly what people are doing.

Those thoughts, that process of sharing, also means the social media can provide the blueprint on how to reach and connect with your audience, as the data, those conversations and discussions, it’s all there for you to see. If you’re looking. As IBM noted recently, 90% of the world’s data has been created in the last two years, again underlining that the social eco-system is like nothing that’s come before it.

So how do you reach these people?

There’s no definitive answer to this. Sure, there are proven best practices, tested processes, things that work and should be observed. But there’s no universal ‘right way’ to do social media. Case in point – you probably have little-to-no interest in clickbait headlines, pop-culture quizzes and articles with titles like ‘What Kind of Fart Are You?’ But it’s worked for Buzzfeed.

BuzzFeed now gets close to 200 million unique visitors per month and is one of the top 100 sites in the world, according to Alexa. Imagine how valuable that traffic is to advertisers. You may have no interest at all in what they’re serving up, you’d likely advise people considering their own content marketing plan against doing what it is that BuzzFeed does. But they succeed. Because they know their audience. They know what works for them.

Another example – it’s best practice to never post random, unrelated images on your Facebook posts. Even Facebook itself has acknowledged this – users complained about it so much that they updated their algorithm to penalise posts which don’t utilise native link-formatting and opt to show a custom-added image instead. So it’s a bad idea, the image in your posts should directly relate to the content on the other end of the link. Right?

Pedestrian Jobs post

Pedestrian Jobs post more than five job ads per-day on Facebook, all accompanied by very loosely related pop-culture images. They regularly get hundreds, even thousands, of likes, spreading their message well beyond their first-degree connections and networks.

There are many examples of brands doing things in social media that would not be considered best practice, but they succeed because they know what works for them. They know what works for their audiences. If anyone ever says you ‘absolutely, definitely have to do things this way’, I’d call B.S. What works for you won’t necessarily work for everyone else – it’s how well you know YOUR audience that matters.

So how do you get to know your audience?

You listen: Media monitoring has been something of an unspoken goldmine for years – every major corporation and organisation is undertaking some form of media monitoring to understand their audience and inform their strategic efforts. Every single one. And it’s expensive – media monitoring costs have been reported by some organisations to reach up to $US800,000 per month in extreme cases. But access to this info is not a luxury for these businesses, it’s not just ‘good to know’. Media monitoring and media intelligence is at the core of their policy and process development – if you were to ask any one of these organisations if they’d be willing to give up media monitoring, I guarantee the answer would be ‘no’. Monitoring is essential to how they do what they do – even at high cost, it’s critical to maximising their efficiency and effectiveness.

But social media has democratised this process – now, any business, large or small, can undertake media monitoring, can get a guage on sentiment and respond to relevant conversations as required. And what’s more, it can be done at minimal cost. In the modern business landscape, every business needs to be listening. People are on social to be heard – the growing expectation is that your brand will facilitate this.

You contribute: The advent of social, along with the connectedness enabled by advances in wireless technology, has accelerated conversation and word-of-mouth. No purchase decision ever needs to be made without consulting not only Google, but your social graph – and as time goes on, it’s the social graph that’s becoming more important in this equation. That’s why Google’s made a deal with Twitter to index tweets, that’s why Facebook is working to boost it’s own search capabilities. A user-review, written by an unknown entity on a website, is of some value to a potential customer, but a personal endorsement, from someone that person knows and respects, is golden. If your brand isn’t present, isn’t working to be part of the social connection process by contributing to industry conversation or working to help potential customers in their search process, you’re losing out. Maybe not a heap now, maybe not a heap tomorrow, but it is becoming more important. Contributing where conversations are happening is fast becoming a business imperative.

You connect: Employee advocacy is a growing trend, and with good reason – happy employees help spread your brand message online. Every single person is part of their own, unique, social graph, each individual has access and oversight to a totally new set of people and groups. A typical person’s social connection chart looks something like this:

Facebook connections mapped

So, let’s say there’s a conversation happening about your products and services somewhere amongst these connections. You might not see it, you might not know about it. But one of your employees might. Now, if they’re not particularly happy in their job, if they’re not really engaged or interested in what you do, maybe they won’t say anything. But an involved, informed employee, someone who enjoys what they do and how they do it, they’re more likely to speak up on your brand’s behalf. What’s more, those employees are more likely to amplify your brand messages to their friends and followers, and those word-of-mouth connections are now more important, more valuable than ever before. Because they’re no longer restrained by geography. Any person can be a broadcaster, everyone is, essentially, the media. One tweet could cause major damage – but on the flipside, one tweet could lead to worldwide attention for positive reasons. Employee advocacy plays a bigger part because social media empowers every person with more value – each voice is valuable. The more engaged and energetic your staff is about supporting your business cause, the more likely your brand message will reach more people, and lead people to you as a result.

Given these reasons, the future of business, as enabled by social networks, is more than ever about people – about listening, hearing, and providing for your audience and what they need. The future of business can be summed up in a single word: ‘Together’. On all fronts, working together is how we achieve best results.

Freelance Writer/Social Media Consultant at adh
Andrew Hutchinson is an internationally published author, award-winning blogger and social media consultant from Melbourne, Australia. He has more than 12 years experience working in media monitoring, helping clients locate, evaluate and action keyword occurrences in all forms of traditional and digital media. He’s also a Hootsuite Ambassador for the APAC region and one of the ‘Best Thinkers’ on leading social media news website Social Media Today. If you’re looking for a writer for your business, or advice on how to maximise your digital media presence, please go to http://www.andrewhutchinson.com.au for more information.

 

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Website Tips: 6 Scientific Ways to Influence and Persuade Your Visitors


Posted in Infographics, Web Design

Looking for ways to make more of your website visitors convert into customers? Want to understand what actually makes people say yes to something in the first place?

Understanding the scientific decision making process we all go through when saying yes to something can play a major role in the success of your website layout and copy. It often isn’t enough to just expect people to see how good your products and services are.

According to Everreach there are 6 universal factors that guide our decision making, they’ve detailed them in the infographic below.

https://redwebsitedesign.files.wordpress.com/2015/04/website-tips-6-scientific-ways-to-influence-and-persuade-your-visitors2.jpg?w=604

The Ugly Truth About Inbound Marketing


 

 

The Ugly Truth About Inbound Marketing

 

By Kathleen Booth Posted Feb 18, 2015 in inbound marketing

Inbound marketing has come a long way in the past few years. What was once an obscure concept (inbound?) is now a common industry buzzword, and more and more companies and organizations are incorporating inbound marketing in their strategies for 2015. Maybe it’s all the data out there about the ROI of inbound:

Holy cow! With data like this, it’s no wonder folks think that inbound marketing is a magic bullet!

Unfortunately, the reality is that inbound marketing doesn’t work for everyone and it isn’t guaranteed to get you results like the ones I’ve listed above. As an agency that helps a variety of organizations (B2B and B2C companies, for-profits and non-profits) develop and implement their inbound marketing strategies, we’ve seen incredible success stories and even more incredible failures, including some clients who haven’t renewed their contracts because they simply weren’t seeing the results they had hoped for. What I’ve come to realize is that in most of these cases, the company shouldn’t have been doing inbound marketing in the first place. Why? The commitment simply wasn’t there.

While I really DO believe that inbound marketing can transform your business and dramatically improve the results you get from your marketing efforts, I also know that there are certain factors that must be in place for you to be successful with inbound. Here are five ugly truths about inbound, along with anecdotes (or maybe war stories is a better term) about actual clients that I’ve worked with whose inbound strategies didn’t work because of them.

1. It’s Not a Quick Fix

I’ve had plenty of conversations with business owners who have read about the results you can get with inbound marketing and then call me wanting to get started so that they can bring in 10 new clients next month. I love the enthusiasm and the excitement and it would be easy to say „sign on the dotted line and lets get started“ but what I do instead is tell them to pump the breaks a bit.

The reality is that it takes time to put the building blocks in place for a successful inbound strategy. Before you can bring in new business with inbound, you’ve got to create great content, publish it on your website, promote it via social media, have strong calls to action in place to convert your website visitors into leads, and have a robust lead nurturing plan in place.

None of this can happen overnight, and all of it presumes that you understand your audience (and ideally have good buyer personas developed), know what questions they are asking, and  have researched the keywords and phrases that you need to optimize your content for.

In short, it’s not quite as simple as „if you build it, they will come.“ It’s more like, „if you hire a great architect, create really good plans and drawings, get the permits, lay a solid foundation, use top quality materials, and THEN build it, they will come.“

Having a good inbound marketing strategy, and then consistently working (and adjusting) the plan, is key. And once your strategy is in place and you begin to produce content, it takes a bit of time for that content to raise your search engine rankings and improve your organic traffic. Let’s be honest – if all it took to rank in the top 3 results in Google was putting up a few blogs, every single company on the planet would have done it by now. Instead, Google (and other search engines) reward websites that consistently produce fresh, keyword rich content.

The more content you produce, the higher you will rank, and the effect is cumulative over time. If you’re looking for a quick fix, you’re better off doing pay per click advertising, but that can be expensive and is like a bad habit that you can’t kick. I always equate this to the difference between renting your house and owning your house. When you rent (pay-per-click), you can have a lovely home as long as you keep sending in those rent checks. The minute you stop, you’ll get evicted. On the positive side, renting is often less work. Something breaks, call the landlord. By contrast, when you buy (inbound marketing), you’re making an investment in an asset. You’re usually going to have to work harder to maintain and increase the value of that asset, but at the end of the day, you own it and you will continue to enjoy the value of it. With inbound marketing, the more content you produce, the more authority you will build with search engines. This is the reason we insist that new clients sign contracts for at least 6 to 12 months.

Shorter timeframes just aren’t as meaningful when it comes to demonstrating results with inbound marketing. I was reminded of this last spring when a particularly promising new client drove a hard bargain and got me to agree to a 4 month retainer contract for her inbound strategy. Disclaimer: That little voice in my head was telling me NOT to do this, but I did it anyway because I wanted to win the business. Turns out I should have listened to the little voice and things began to go south after the second month of our arrangement. By the third month, it was clear that we were a bad fit. She wanted instant results and to get them, kept wanting to change tactics and try something new. She never gave the strategy we developed a chance to work and everyone (she and my team) was frustrated as a result. In the end, it was a mutual parting of the ways, with the client leaving to find an agency that would promise instant gratification, and me promising myself I would never again agree to such a short contract.

So you get the point. Inbound marketing is about consistency and commitment. Having said all this, there ARE ways that you can see some quick results, but its important to set realistic expectations and have the management commitment to sticking with the strategy for at least a year before jumping ship.

2. You Get Out Of It What You Put Into It

Inbound marketing is a lot like working out. If you go to the gym once every few months, you’re not going to see results. Similarly, if you go to the gym every day for three months and then stop altogether for the rest of the year (ahem, guilty as charged!), the results you got aren’t going to last. Working out five times a week is better than working out once a week. Working out hard and putting real effort in is better than just showing up and doing an easy 20 minutes on the elliptical.

You get my point, right? To see great results from inbound marketing you’ve got to work at it, do it consistently, and stick with it for the long term (see „It’s Not a Quick Fix“ above). If you want to see results quickly, you’re going to have to do more. In this case, that means increasing the volume and frequency of your content.

I always tell clients that, at a minimum, they should blog once a week. Over time, a weekly blog will help to improve your website traffic and ultimately, will result in more leads for your business. But, data shows that businesses that blog 15 or more times per month (so three to four times a week) actually see the biggest jump in traffic – and the numbers are particularly high for SMALL businesses that blog frequently.

In short, the more frequently you blog, the better your results will be and the quicker you will see those results. Last year, I had a client who hired us to do their inbound marketing and write their weekly blog. They saw a nice increase in traffic but I got a call from the CEO saying that although their numbers were up, it wasn’t up as much as he wanted and he needed a bigger jump in traffic. I explained that (amongst other things) we would need to increase the frequency of the blog in order to deliver the kinds of results he was looking for, but he wasn’t willing to increase our scope.

Similarly, I’ve had other clients get frustrated because they weren’t seeing great results, but we couldn’t even get a blog published weekly for them because they didn’t make the time in their schedule to review and approve the draft blogs we created. Every time we’d get on the phone for a weekly call they would say, „I know I’m the roadblock – I promise, I’ll review the blogs and get back to you this week“ and then it wouldn’t happen. Not surprisingly, their visitor traffic dipped and they wound up ditching inbound altogether because they didn’t see any ROI.

This is a little like telling your personal trainer that you want to loose another inch off your waist but you’re not willing to change your workout – or work out at all! It just doesn’t add up, and there is plenty of data to prove it. As your inbound marketing agency, I can’t get you leads if you’re not willing to make the time to review the content I’m creating on your behalf. And if you do inbound on your own, you can’t expect to get the same results by blogging once weekly that you would get if you blogged three times a week. Truth!

3. Perfect Is the Enemy of Good

You’ve probably heard this quote (or a variation on it), commonly attributed to Voltaire. There’s a reason people are still repeating it after all these years. We all like to do our best work. I’m pretty type A myself and spend a LOT of time writing my blogs and making sure they are well researched and supported by plenty of data. It kills me when I hit „publish“ and then find a typo (but it happens more often than I’d like to admit). In my mind, the „perfect“ blog is not only well written from a grammatical standpoint, but it also captures the unique tone and personality of the writer, has a clear point of view, makes a compelling argument, and teaches you something you didn’t already know. That’s a lot of perfection to try and capture in one little blog!

When it comes to inbound marketing, the search for perfection can bring your lead gen efforts to a grinding halt. I know. Last year, I had a client who felt very strongly that every blog we created for her needed to sound exactly like she wrote it herself or like she would say it in a conversation. She had very high standards and didn’t want to settle for anything less than perfection. My team of writers spent a lot of time on the phone and in person working to understand her brand, her personality and her personal preferences, as well as her industry and target market. The blogs they produced were very good, but she didn’t feel like they were written in her conversational tone. So we started having her record herself using her smart phone and answering questions in exactly the way she would if she were speaking to a client or prospect. She would then send us the recordings, we would transcribe them and edit them, optimize them for search engines, and format them properly for publication on her blog.

She still wasn’t satisfied that they captured her tone. She got frustrated, my lead writer on her account was literally driven to tears, and I realized we were fighting a battle we couldn’t win. Our writing would never be perfect because the only person who could write perfectly for her was HER – but she didn’t want to do the writing.

Did her audience really need blogs written perfectly in her tone? I would argue that they did not. They needed blogs that captured her point of view and answered their questions or solved their problems. While I would love to be able to say our writers can perfectly channel the voice of our clients, this really isn’t the case. Instead, our team is great at producing content that will attract the right audience, answer their questions, and get them to convert as a lead. That’s the ultimate goal of inbound marketing, right?

Voltaire was right. Don’t let perfection be the enemy of good. Your inbound marketing will suffer as a result.

4. Personality and a Point of View Are Crucial

Here’s another scenario I run into a lot. A business owner hears about inbound marketing and thinks, „I’ve got to do this.“ They call me, we talk, and they want to hire us, but they don’t want to have to do anything. They’re too busy. I can relate. I’m a business owner, and if I found a genie in a bottle, the first wish I would want granted is for there to be an 8th day in the week (and then a 25th hour in the day, etc.).

They want a blog but they don’t want to write it and their sales team and other staff are too busy to contribute. Fine. We can write your blog and we do it for lots of companies, from insurance agencies to trade associations, tech companies, landscaping firms, and eye doctors. We have a great team of writers who are articulate and know how to do good research, and they can produce a well written, accurate blog for just about any type of company. What they CAN’T do (see Perfect Is the Enemy of Good, above) without close cooperation from our clients is capture their personality and point of view.

Having a point of view and an opinion is key to developing a following online. There are plenty of informational blogs out there that state the facts and answer questions, but they don’t always attract an ardent fan base. Why? They’re boring!

Think about the blogs, websites, or people that you like to follow online. Odds are, they are funny or entertaining or provocative. There is something about their personality or their opinions that you enjoy or find appealing. They are successful because they connect with their audience on an emotional (and not just a logical) level. And they don’t have to be perfectly polished and professional do accomplish this.

My favorite example of a super successful online personallity is Gary Vaynerchuck. If you’ve ever seen him speak or watched his videos, you know that he drops the F bomb all the time. But he is one of the most successful digital marketers/public speakers of our time. And it all started with him doing video blogs for his dad’s wine store. Watch the videos on his YouTube channel, Wine Library TV, and you’ll see. He is incredibly irreverent, but also very honest, very authentic, and very entertaining. It works and it has garnered him thousands of followers on YouTube and made him millions of dollars.

Too many businesses are afraid to show personality or have a strong point of view for fear of alienating their audience. Instead, they alienate no one but also ATTRACT no one by straddling the fence with boring, plain vanilla content.

I’ve seen this play out in an interesting way with our clients. We’ve worked with several insurance agencies from throughout the United States. One in particular – Gibson – puts a lot of effort into creating content that reflects the personality of the firm. The CEO himself writes many of their blogs and as a result, they’ve built up an impressive number of subscribers, both on the blog and on their social media accounts. Compare them with agencies that we worked with in the past who didn’t want to „rock the boat“ or spend time working on their own content and you would see a difference in their results. All of them saw an increase in organic traffic and leads, but Gibson’s increases, coupled with the online engagement with their audience, have been far more dramatic.

My advice – don’t be afraid to make it personal. If you have an opinion, share it as long as its not downright offensive or hurtful. Its okay to be a bit controversial, and you may even find that you build a strong audience and fan base by doing it.

5. You Still Need To Close Deals

Let’s say you read this and you want to do inbound marketing. You have the commitment and you’re willing to put in the effort, do it consistently for the long term, and develop a point of view in your content. I can build you a great inbound strategy. I can increase your website visitor traffic. I can get you good leads for your business. What I CAN’T do is close deals and get you customers. You’ve still got a role to play in your own sales process. It’s marketing’s job to generate leads, but it is the job of sales to close those leads.

When inbound marketing is done right, it generates lots of leads. But leads don’t equal revenue for your business. You need to have a plan in place to follow up on the leads that your inbound strategy generates because if you don’t, you’re not going to make money and you’re not going to be happy with your inbound marketing efforts.

I ran into this exact situation last year with a client who had a very specific sales target that he wanted to reach by the end of the year. We delivered over 100 new leads to him in the first six months of our engagement but he didn’t have a plan in place to follow up with them or close deals. He didn’t make his numbers and he grew frustrated that his investment in inbound wasn’t paying off. We’re not working together any more and while I wish him luck, I worry that he’s going to run into the same problem regardless of how he markets his business. Marketing simply isn’t a replacement for sales, particularly in a high touch industry.

Don’t forget – when developing your inbound strategy – do also put a sales enablement plan and service level agreement in place. When you consider that responding to new leads within one hour generates 7 times the number of conversions, you’d better be ready when those new inbound leads start rolling in!

TMI?

There you have it. All the ugly truths, both about inbound marketing and about the client relationships that haven’t worked out and the relationships that have gone south. I thought long and hard about sharing these stories and maybe its just too much information. They’re all true and every one of them represents a painful lesson learned for me as an agency owner. BUT, they also hold important lessons that I think need to be shared. I’m actually planning to share this post with prospective clients as part of the sales process and use it as a tool to determine whether we can be successful working together.

As the CEO of Quintain Marketing, Kathleen manages the business and oversees implementation of client projects. She holds an MA in International Politics and an MBA in Marketing and has over ten years’ experience in senior management positions within professional service firms. Prior to joining Quintain Marketing, Kathleen spent more than 12 years in the consulting industry, most recently as Director of Global Consulting Services with the Washington, DC-based Institute for Public-Private Partnerships, and earlier as a Senior Consultant with Stone & Webster. Her considerable experience developing strategic solutions for corporate and government clients, as well as her project management expertise, enable Quintain Marketing to successfully shepherd projects from order to execution. Before entering the consulting industry, Kathleen was Associate Director of the Environmental Export Council, a Washington, DC-based trade association, and a Sales Associate with Schlegal, SA in Barcelona, Spain.

 

 

Internet Privacy Is The Wrong Conversation


Posted 7 hours ago by (@ramiessaid)

Editor’s note: Rami Essaid is CEO and co-founder of Distil Networks, a bot detection and mitigation company.

On April 2, the Wall Street Journal reported that Facebook is in hot water with government regulators in six European countries over its practice of tracking users’ movements across the web to sell targeted advertising. The kerfuffle illustrates the bind that the world finds itself in over tracking — the collection and sharing of data on users’ browsing habits to help sites offer personalized content such as ads or recommendations.

On one hand, tracking has become a backbone of the Internet’s advertising ecosystem and is understood by most Internet users to be a necessary evil in exchange for a richer, more convenient online experience. (Do people really want to fill out purchasing forms on Amazon.com every time they order a book?)

On the other hand, cookies and other tracking mechanisms continue to raise hot-button issues about privacy as companies get ever-more creative and aggressive in their tactics and find ways to defeat a growing raft of anti-tracking technologies.

People will never achieve true privacy and anonymity online.

I’ll leave it to the legal experts to decide whether Facebook broke European Union law stating that websites must disclose cookies and ask permission of each user. (Facebook has responded that the company follows European data protection law and that the six countries — Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands – lack the authority to investigate it anyway since Facebook’s European privacy policy is governed by regulators in Ireland.)

But is anyone really surprised that Facebook is resourceful in its tracking practices? Is it really so shocking that Facebook may be combining information from Instagram, WhatsApp and other services to target ads toward its users, and uses its “like” button to track browsing activity?

Doesn’t everybody know that collecting information about users is at the core of the business model for Facebook (and other big players like Google and Twitter)? Hey, we get served targeted ads but can reconnect with an old friend or post a photo of dinner free of charge. That’s the deal, right?

The truth is, people will never achieve true privacy and anonymity online. Tracking is not only here to stay, it’s getting more pervasive and sophisticated. The technology now exists to track your movement across the web without even needing cookies. “Canvas fingerprinting” for example, is one of a number of cookie-less browser techniques that allow sites to uniquely identify and track visitors. In addition, Facebook and Google are becoming more savvy about correlating individuals’ activities on multiple devices, getting a single view of a person’s online behavior across their smartphone, laptop and any other devices.

Furthermore, as emotional a topic as tracking can be, few people change their online behavior because of it or even bother to read the legalistic-to-the-point-of-unfathomable privacy policies that sites post. (People accept giving up personal information in return for perceived value in the physical world too, by the way, every time they use a loyalty card at the supermarket to save a few bucks.)

All of this proves that the world is engaged in the wrong conversation when it comes to Internet privacy. Tracking happens – get over it.  The conversation we should be having isn’t about absolute privacy, as the European Union seems to believe, but about transparency.

The fight should be about bringing tracking out of the murky shadows and into the sunshine of full disclosure. The Internet public has a right to know the “Five W’s” of tracking at every site they visit: Who is tracking me, what are they doing with the information, where, when and why?

Transparency is the only true solution because right now, the world is chasing its tail trying to regulate tracking technologies. Jeremy Gillula, a staff technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, aptly summed up the situation in an interview with the Christian Science Monitor earlier this year:

“In terms of the technology that is used to track people, there is an arms race. It started with (Web browser) cookies. Then we blocked those. Then the tracking companies moved to browser fingerprinting and then super cookies and HTML headers inserted into Web traffic.”

Several browser extensions and other software tools promote themselves as protecting online privacy, but sites have a way of implementing ways to outsmart them and these tools may not always be trustworthy themselves.

For example, the parent company of Ghostery, which bills itself as the web’s most popular privacy tool, has been said to gather information on the trackers that Ghostery users see, and then sell that data to advertisers, many of whom are responsible for the trackers in the first place.

How much simpler and more effective it would be to stop this madness.

If governments want to set rules about privacy, they should focus on full transparency about tracking rather than what you can or can’t do with cookies. Better yet, companies should offer it voluntarily.

Transparency would serve as a self-correcting market force, weeding out sites whose practices people aren’t comfortable with.

Rather than today’s often-impenetrable privacy statements, companies should publish a detailed, dumbed-down description of their tracking procedures. When you visit a website, who is that website sharing its data with? Facebook, for example, could avoid its European problem if it simply disclosed what data it collects, what it does with that data, with whom they share it, and what those others do with it.

Would this be asking companies to give away competitive secrets? Not if there’s a level playing field, with everyone bound by the same rules. And, remember, it’s our information being collected.

Transparency would serve as a self-correcting market force, weeding out sites whose practices people aren’t comfortable with. Let the market decide what level of tracking is appropriate, not government agencies.

Greater transparency would put an end to the silly tracking technology arms race. No more trying to regulate technologies that probably can’t be regulated.

And, best of all, people would stop conflating privacy with security. While some people obsess about cookies, which rarely hurt anyone, hackers and criminals are using web bots to launch sophisticated attacks intended to penetrate and take over website infrastructure. The number of bad bots on the Internet has soared into the billions.

In fact, April — the same month government regulators in Europe got in a twist over Facebook’s tracking procedures — marks the first anniversary of the Heartbleed bug that exposed sensitive business and financial data to cyberattack and forced thousands of businesses to scramble to secure their servers.

Privacy concerns are legitimate, but there are much worse threats out there.

How Google’s mobile-friendly update will affect you (and what you can do about it) | Webdesigner Depot


Google’s Mobile Friendly Web -  What You Can Do

How Google’s mobile-friendly update will affect you (and what you can do about it)
By Andrew May · Web Design · Apr 16, 2015

If your website, or your clients’ websites are non-responsive, then you only have until April 21st 2015 to make them mobile-friendly.

On Tuesday 21st, if your sites aren’t mobile-friendly you can kiss goodbye to Google search engine rankings, and say hello to clients banging on the door demanding to know why their sites just dropped down to page 23.

Think we’re exaggerating? Sadly not. Although nothing is certain when it comes to second-guessing what Google will do next, it’s fair to say that the search giant has dropped some hefty hints about its next update.

You thought the Penguin and Panda updates were bad? This time Google is warning us in advance, providing tools to get us ready, and advertising the update; Google thinks this is going to cause a major shakeup.

What has Google said?

Back in February, Google didn’t so much drop a hint, as issue a clearly written statement in plain English about their intention to penalize any site that they do not deem to be mobile-friendly.

Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal.

And if that wasn’t clear enough, they added:

This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results.

Of course you’ve got your finger on the pulse, you probably saw this coming. But hey, we’re all busy, maybe you haven’t got around to updating your site yet. And besides, who knew exactly what Google would deem to be mobile-friendly?

Why is Google making the change?

Love Google, or hate it, you have to admit its messages are consistent. Cynical thoughts about advertising revenue aside, the search engine giant repeatedly states that it wants users to have a fantastic online experience. It expects — or perhaps demands — that Web users should be able to easily find relevant, useful content, in response to a clearly defined search term.

The impending update to Google’s algorithm places greater emphasis on users navigating easily on a mobile device. Why? Because Internet use from mobile devices has been rising sharply year on year.

A cynical person might suggest that Google’s commitment to the mobile web is largely due to the relative success of its Android program compared to its Chromium program, but that would be a cynical person.

Last month, at the SMX West conference in California, chief architect of SEO Clairity, Mitul Gandhi, demonstrated that 30% of organic traffic originates from mobile devices — and that data is valid across a range of industries. Those stats could even be on the conservative side; there’s a raft of data out there showing that the percentage of traffic from mobile devices is, in some cases, as high as 70%.

We know that the mobile web is growing, if not exponentially, then certainly rapidly. In light of that fact, Google’s decision seems fair and rational.

What’s the worst that could happen?

Taking Google at its word, any website that is deemed by their definition to not meet responsive standards will plummet in their rankings. And because a specific date has been provided, could the change happen overnight? Scarily the answer seems to be “yes”.

So, although a non-responsive website could still appear to be useful to a human being after April 21st, Googlebot will be unimpressed.

Does this mean that you have to make your website responsive? No, you don’t; and Google doesn’t have to rank you. Google is not the Internet, but let’s face it, failing to rank well on Google — and therefore every other search engine out there — is not a great way to ingratiate yourself with clients, or to run a successful website.

There are some obvious new restrictions, and some that aren’t so obvious: you cannot, for example, use software that isn’t commonly found on mobile devices, such as Adobe Flash; you cannot display text that can’t be read without being zoomed; you cannot force users to scroll horizontally; you need to ensure there’s adequate space between links.

There are other consequences that are harder to predict: for example, a lot of advertisers still use the SWF format, will hosting SWF-based adverts on your site damage your rankings? We’ll have to wait for the coming weeks to find out.

What should you do?

The good news is, finding out whether to meet Google’s definition of mobile-friendly is easy.

Anticipating the uproar, Google have provided a useful tool that will check the responsiveness of your website in seconds. Just enter the URL of the site you wish to check into Google’s mobile-friendly testing tool and cross your fingers.

If the site is responsive, Google gives you the thumbs up. If not it will tell you why not. You’ll also get some extra detail about how Googlebot sees your pages; the only sugar-coating comes as Google offers you a series of links explaining how to solve the problems specific to your website.

via How Google’s mobile-friendly update will affect you (and what you can do about it) | Webdesigner Depot.