Archive for September 2011

Facebook Marketing Channel   Leave a comment

Engage With People That Like Your Page
Start with an interesting and compelling Facebook Page that differentiates your business from the competition. Apps are a good way for any business serious about marketing on Facebook to create a unique experience that helps you stand out. From sharing videos to contests, Facebook Apps are among the most used features on the platform. Add in the ability to share with friends and a strong Facebook App can have a huge impact on your ROI.

When we started working with e-commerce companies it was quickly realized that creating a separate tab that helps business owners showcase their products or services is the right approach. Constantly posting your products on your Facebook wall is considered bad etiquette and will turn people off, resulting in a sharp increase in the number of people “unliking” your page and, therefore, dismissing your brand. Creating a low-riskhigh- reward option for your customer is important, so always put yourself in the customers’ shoes when implementing any new Facebook ideas.

There are thousands of amazing apps on Facebook and visiting the Facebook App Directory is a good place to start, as well as talking with other business owners about which Facebook Apps they have found to be beneficial.

Create Engaging Content
The news feed optimization formula Facebook uses to decide what content shows up in a user’s top news feed. Showing this formula and how it is tied to Facebook’s current news options (top news vs. most recent) was genius, as it really encourages you to do the right thing by your customer.

Facebook news feed optimization has become a new type of SEO. If you like or comment on updates from one particular Facebook page often, you are likely to see that business’ status update in your top news feed (the default setting) on a regular basis. The formula (shown below), called EdgeRank, looks at affinity score (how often the user interacts with the page), weight (how many comments or likes a post has), and time decay (how recent that update was posted). In many respects, this is not unlike link building.

If you post content on your page that does not follow the above formula you are wasting your time, as updates will not be seen by your fans. Before you press the share button, reread the post and make sure you are asking for engagement. For example, if you are thinking of launching a new product, ask the opinion of your customers.

If you are just starting out and have very few people following your page, Facebook advertising is a great approach to reach the right people at the right time. Advertisers can request that ads are served based on what your customers have said they liked in their profile. For example, a Phoenix-based Mexican restaurant could promote a new brand of tequila to people on their birthdays that are located in the Phoenix area, based on the information from those users’ profiles. Before launch, Facebook will even show the number of estimated reach (see below) so as to not waste marketing dollars advertising to those less likely to engage.

Measure Performance
Used with your Facebook Page, Facebook Insights offers valuable customer information. After reviewing age, gender and
country of residence you can enhance or change your current Facebook strategy. Using this data, you can decide which content works best, the audience you are currently reaching and where improvements can be made.

In the end, it’s all about making social connections with your target audience. Too often, business leaders and owners
think of their target audience as nameless, faceless people. Facebook brings the human touch to your relationships with
your customers; faces, names and conversations. And that is how you monetize Facebook — by creating a living dialogue
with your fans.

Search Engine Optimization   Leave a comment

When it comes to search engine optimization (SEO), one truth is everlasting: The landscape is continually changing. For an example of search’s ever-changing environment,  look no further than a popular search on Google. Search for “Xbox 360” and you will see more than just organic results from websites that mention those keywords. A broad range of content appears, including news, paid advertising, shopping feeds and social media results, including user updates from Twitter. This means that publishers and merchants need to concentrate on more than just increasing organic search placement for an Internet marketing plan to succeed.

Search Basics
Several factors have traditionally produced consistent SEO results. Content is still king, in many ways. Compelling content with proper keyword density and keywords highlighted in titles and meta tags remains very valuable to improving search engine rankings. Link building — inbound and outbound — adds strength to your site in the eyes of search engines, giving your site credibility and respect. Site structure is also important — if it’s easy for search engines to index your content, rankings are not only more easily achieved but longevity can result, too.

Social and SEO
As it stands today, no shift in search is more important or prevalent than social media. Every day, millions of people communicate with social media tools like Facebook and Twitter. Reaching these people can be a critical component of any successful online marketing campaign. However, every social media strategy needs to be more sophisticated than simply starting a Twitter page and posting your company’s latest specials.

Social media and SEO marketing programs can strengthen each other. A high-quality social media campaign that is interactive and engages audiences can improve search engine rankings on two fronts — both in organic listings and as a source of inbound links. At the same time, applying smart SEO practices to social media content — such as keyword-rich updates — will increase the reach and visibility of your social media campaign.

It is important to use your social profiles as a way to attract attention by making sure that the right keywords are highlighted within them. This way, when a user searches for your brand, business or industry, your profile will appear in results. A nice side effect is that the more results containing your brand, the less room for your competition. It’s also important to be active on your chosen social media sites. Along with making your own posts, build friends and followers by being involved in communities with similar interests.  Social bookmarking tools like Digg and Delicious will help promote your own activities along with helping you share useful information with your followers.

Video and Feeds
Feeds have also become a valuable tool in the new SEO landscape. This includes RSS feeds with the latest company news, press releases, blog posts or social media updates. It can also include product feeds — another reason why it’s important that your products and shopping carts can be easily indexed by search engines.

A relatively new concept is video SEO. Since acquiring YouTube, Google presents many video results in regular searches, often on the first page. Applying SEO concepts to videos can not only increase their placement in various searches but also improve the overall ranking of an entire website.

 Getting Personal, and Local
Search engines are constantly looking for ways to differentiate themselves from the competition. One way has been attempting to deliver individual users with as much personalized content as possible. Localized search results have become increasingly expected by users in recent years, as they seek information relevant to their specific geographic area. Even as a small business, it might make sense to have offices (or even phone numbers) in different parts of the country or world to help improve search results in localized searches.

Beyond localized searches, search engines are continually looking for ways to drill down searches with results as individualized as possible. The new Google Personalized Search is just one example of this. Not only are search engines taking factors such as location into account when delivering results, they are also considering previous search history and other sites users have visited in the past. The reality is that, in many cases, no two searches will produce exactly the same results.

Because of concepts like personalized searches, it’s important to feature customized content. Microsites that are targeted to specific areas of interest, demographics or geographic regions are one way to do this. You might build a microsite for teens, or city and state pages for different parts of  the country. These sites also give places to post fresh content on a weekly or even daily basis — something that search engines like to see.

The bottom line is that basic SEO concepts are still critical, just not by themselves. In order for SEO campaigns to be truly effective they need to be paired with smart marketing campaigns that involve every aspect of a company’s online
brand.

Link Building   Leave a comment

Buying links can be an effective supplemental strategy in a link-building campaign if it is done cautiously and sparingly. In fact, no method of building links should dominate the overall effort, as the best way to appease the search engines is with a portfolio of high-quality links obtained through as many different means as possible.

Below are just some of the proven methods of building links.  All of these strategies require long hours of hard work, but they also come free of the financial cost and professional risk of link buying:

Press Releases/News Outlets
Sending out press releases to news organizations and PR sites is a great way to attract visitors to your site and to build new links. There are numerous free sites online to help facilitate the process, but it’s also not a bad idea to get acquainted with your own local media resources.

Blogs
Blogs are another great way to get the relevant links you need, especially since you control the direction of the content on your own blog. Featuring compelling guest bloggers is also a very effective way of expanding your audience and gaining high quality links.

Community Forums
Posting on forums and discussion boards is well worth the effort it takes to find the communities that are going to be most interested in your products and services.

Nonprofit Organizations
Nonprofit and charity organizations are excellent vehicles for building inroads into your local community and beyond, often leading to increased traffic and possibly valuable links for your website. One way to initiate a relationship is by offering your services for free or by making a donation, both great ways to build your business’ reputation.

Social Bookmarking
Social bookmarking takes a lot of time, but there may not be a better way to gain favor with the search engines today than through building great links across the many social media channels.

Building quality links to your site requires many long hours that will pay off in the long run — despite the fact that it doesn’t always feel that way. Technically, the second point is also indisputable, as anyone who buys links to avoid the hard work of painstakingly building a portfolio will wind up on Google’s radar, and possibly on its blacklist.

Although some of today’s SEO’s might consider them somewhat antiquated, directories are still among the safest and best resources for establishing a site’s reputation with the search engines.

The only three links you would ever buy  are the Yahoo! directory, the Best of the Web directory and the Business.com directory. The reason why these sites aren’t penalized, which is because of their ‘strict editorial processes.  Each one of these links will really help build a site’s credibility for about $300 a year. But it is by no means the end of the conversation, as link buying and selling has grown into an industry all its own. The key to making it a legitimate component of your link-building strategy is doing it sparingly — and knowing when a link is worth the cost and the risk involved.

The criteria, then, for any link that justifies spending your money and risking your online reputation should be considerably harder to meet than links obtained traditionally. There are five categories to examine, and a paid link should rate favorably in all of them even to be considered. The first category is the relevance of the content on the website providing the link to the content on your own site, followed by the SERP ranking of the site providing the link. Where relevance is less of an issue for the links you get through friends, associates and general networking, it is of vital importance for a paid link, as are very high rankings in search results.

The third area to explore is the amount of monthly unique visitors that go to the site providing the link, as high search rankings do not always guarantee that a site is heavily trafficked. Fourth is the placement of the link, and a good rule of thumb is to avoid the more suspiciously viewed sidebar and footer links in favor of links on the homepage or another page where the content is most relevant to your own.

The final factor to look at, of course, is the price of the link, and only you can determine its relative value for your own budget. Another general rule, however, is to avoid discounts on dozens or more links at once — which is simply inviting trouble from Google. You should be purchasing one link at a time and no more often than one per week, anyway.

Google Rich Snippets   Leave a comment

While you may have an intimate understanding of your Web pages and the content they represent, it is Google (and other search engines, too) that will help users find your page(s) by showing them a sample of the content — a “snippet,” if you will — on the search result pages. And these snippets are very important, as they are a major factor in whether or not a user clicks on the result.

Think of the summarized information as a new presentation model that applies Google’s algorithms to highlight structured data embedded in your Web pages. So can you influence what Google displays in these snippets? Yes, you can — with Google’s Rich Snippets.

As an SEO, Internet marketer or webmaster in general, you can influence the results by annotating your pages with structured data in a standard format. By incorporating some standard annotations in your pages, you not only make your structured data available for Google’s search results, but also for any service or tool that supports the same standard.

Focus initially on providing semantic markup (rich snippets) for people data featured on your website, then move to providing additional information for review data and event data.

Rich Snippets for People
The most exciting use is associating data with people. Since most websites feature some information about key employees
or stakeholders, it only makes sense to start here.

Each individual can have a number of properties to associate data with, including name, title and address, but there is much more valuable data that can be shared. An image link, the person’s role (not just the title), a Web page link and even affiliations are all candidates. Also, thanks to Google’s ability to recognize XFN properties (friend, contact and acquaintance properties), social relationships can also be identified.

Rich Snippets for Business
and Organizations Another content type to append with semantic markup is the information for your business or organization. Name, URL, address (including sub- properties such as street address, region, postal code and country name), a telephone number and the specific geographic coordinates can be included.

Rich Snippets for Reviews
One of the most interesting aspects of using Rich Snippets on review content is that both individual reviews and review information in aggregate can be marked up. For example, in some instances it might prove useful to show the aggregate number or reviews whereas others might be more interested in showing an editor’s rating or review of a particular product or location.

Individual reviews can receive the Rich Snippet treatment with properties such as the name of the item being reviewed, its rating (due to the many possible ways to indicate ratings, Google has provided some guidance on this — http://bit.ly/9kFtlp), the reviewer or author, the date the item was reviewed and a description and summary.

Those wishing to profile aggregate review data on the SERPs can include the item being reviewed, a rating, total number of reviews for the item, votes and a summary. For those who are thinking to include both, Google recommends choosing one format. If a page contains both individual and aggregate review data, only the aggregate markup data will be displayed.

Review sites and social networking sites (Yelp was one of  the original adopters during an initial rollout) are those that will benefit the most by using Google’s Rich Snippets for reviews, at this point, but all signs point to Google extending to additional areas in the future. When that happens, being prepared will pay significant dividends.

Rich Snippets for Events
Receiving exposure on event information is a great reason to use Rich Snippets. Information such as an event’s title, date
and venue can help a listing stand out in the search results.  Google currently uses the data only for pages containing collections of events, but websites displaying events should consider adding the snippet to their pages. There are several
other event fields to include, such as geographic coordinates, event type (festival, concert or lecture), duration and even
an image or photo.

Rich Snippets for Recipes
Don’t think of Rich Snippets as exclusive to B2B industries. In fact, Google supports Rich Snippets for B2C too, such as
recipes. The properties that can be added to rich snippets for recipes are some of the most extensive and detailed. Information such as the type or recipe, prep time, cook time, nutrition and even instructions are just some of the properties that can be included and displayed on the search result pages.

Finally, Google has provided the Rich Snippets Testing Tool to help webmasters check their markup — making sure the structured data can be extracted from the page. The tool displays the markup found on a specific Web page and a preview of how that page might appear in search results.

As structured data becomes more widespread on the Web and on Google, it is time now to get excited about the  possibilities and get started marking up your pages. Rich Snippets offers a way for marketers and publishers to extend
some level of control and customization on search results pages. And any edge on Google SERPs is a significant one.

Big Budget Videoconferencing   Leave a comment

Videoconferencing is an increasingly viable communication tool for businesses of all sizes. However, there is no one-size-fits-all videoconferencing solution; the one that fits best depends on the size of a business, the nature of a business, and what a business wants to accomplish.

Larger businesses can opt for providing all employees with desktop videoconferencing capabilities, multiple room-based systems, one or more immersive telepresence systems, or some combination thereof. Whatever the configurations you choose, the muscle and might resides on the core of your network, in the IT closet.

Systems may include per-seat licenses for as many employees as necessary, each endpoint (a desktop or a room) equipped with the necessary cameras, microphones, and videoconferencing software. The addition of a bridge, which can handle anywhere from a dozen or so users up to hundreds of users, enables multi-way videoconferencing;  multiple bridges, which can be placed in various offices or branches, multiply the number of possible simultaneous users.

You can also add a recording box to the system, which allows you to record video conferences and stream content to dozens of users. With the addition of a dedicated streaming box, you can create a sort of corporate YouTube where thousands of users can access recorded content at once.

The crème de la crème solution is the immersive  telepresence system, which is essentially a room containing a video display wall, the ability to hold simultaneous calls between large groups of people, and the ability to call virtually any other videoconferencing system. Immersive telepresence is ideal for corporate training sessions, conducting  university classes online, and government applications.

You don’t need special bandwidth capabilities to run even the most elaborate system; the broadband Internet that most companies already have in place is sufficient.

The cost of a videoconferencing system varies widely. In general, however, the more functionality you add to a system, the higher the price. Instead of buying every component separately, it’s typical to buy everything you need as a package from a single vendor. However, many customers buy the displays—typically large-screen HDTVs—on their own, as it’s often more cost-effective that way.

Desktop endpoints cost in the neighborhood of $100 per seat, with rooms running anywhere from a few thousand to tens of thousands of dollars, depending on how elaborate a given room is. Bridges cost between about $25,000 up to a couple hundred thousand dollars, depending on how many simultaneous users they support. A recording box may cost around $25,000, and you can expect to pay approximately $75,000 for a streaming box. Immersive telepresence solutions run between about $150,000 to $500,000 per room, depending on the scale of a given installation and its amenities.

Smart TVs and Set-Top Boxes   Leave a comment

A relatively inexpensive, simple, and easy-to-install way to add more channels to your TV, set-top boxes vary in size,
shape, and content selection. They rely on your home Internet connection to stream media from Internet sources such
as Hulu, Netfl ix, YouTube, and many other video-on-demand channels. Consider them a supplement to your cable
subscription, rather than a replacement, since they won’t have much in the way of live TV programming.

Right now, Roku’s box leads the pack with a very broad channel selection, but since it doesn’t support DLNa, you can’t use it to access the mu sic, photos, or videos stored on your network’s PCs. Some other contenders in the fi eld, such as Western Digital’s WD TV Live series, do support DLNa.

If you’re already heavily invested in music and movies from the iTunes Store, go for an apple TV box—you’ll be able to
stream your existing iTunes content from your home network’s iTunes libraries. For both the versatility of a full Web
browser in your HDTV and a search feature that could cover your satellite-TV listings, locally stored recordings, and the
Web, grab a google TV set-top box like the Logitech Revue.

Also in this category are game consoles (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii) and Internet-connected Blu-ray players. While not dedicated Internet TV gadgets, they have Hulu Plus, Netflix, DLNa support, and other Internet-connected features.  Cost: $60 to $250 plus subscription fees (when applicable).
Advantages: Set-top boxes are very easy to set up and use, and they typically don’t cost very much. also, new services
tend to be added to the selection over time—the longer you own the box, the more content it should be able to deliver.
Disadvantages: Most set-top boxes don’t include a full Web browser, so you can’t always watch the videos you want,
especially if your favorite shows are found only at live streaming sites or from the TV networks. and, as noted, you don’t
have many options for streaming live TV with a set-top box.
Advanced tips: You can hack most set-top boxes, including the apple TV and the Roku, to add new features, channels,
and applications. For example, you can jailbreak your apple TV and install the XBMC media-center app to enable 1080p
video playback, which the stock apple TV doesn’t support.

The set-top boxes place in the future of smart TV is iffy at best. You can’t really do much besides watch the ported Web video. That may be okay for now, but we expect Web video to continue proliferating—and standard set-top boxes will struggle because they lack Web browsers.

While the Web video services that run on set-top boxes often add new channels, you have no guarantee that your settop
box developer will add the ones you want when you want them. But the boxes are relatively cheap, so buying a new one
every few years could be one way around that problem.

Apple TV and google TV have two different approaches to the set-top box. apple’s turns your TV into an extension of your iTunes Library—great if you own a bunch of other iOS devices, or if you prefer to pay the TV/movie rental fees over
a subscription fee. google’s offers many of the benefits of a home theater PC, such as a Web browser and (future) access
to apps via the android Market, without the expense or hassle of a full-blown media PC. also, the search function on google TV could radically change the way you watch television simply by making it far, far easier to fi nd what you want to watch.

However, even these forward-looking set-tops won’t get far unless the various networks and content providers open some doors for them. Hulu, for example, is currently blocking the google TV browser. all the same, the apple TV and google TV platforms are still in their formative period and may both be around long enough to see the day when content owners have come to accept the model these devices use for distributing video. We expect that these two set-tops will be the ones to watch over the next few years.

Smart TVs and Connected TVs   Leave a comment

How to browse the Web, run apps, play music and games— and most important, watch what you want, when you want it.

“Smart TV” is the new hot buzzword these days. Imagine, for a moment, that your HDTV combined the simplicity of the
normal TV-and-remote experience with the powerful search features and video-on-demand libraries you’re accustomed to on the Web. Toss in social networking, photo sharing, music, gaming, and a hundred kinds of Web content. That’s what
“smart TV” means. It means never needing to settle for anything less than having what you want to watch (or hear, or
play) running in big-screen glory right now, while you master the universe from the couch with your all-powerful remote.

Don’t let all the TV and tech companies out there fool you, however. You have many ways to make your existing TV
smarter, other than just buying a new connected TV with all the bells and whistles built in. You don’t have to purchase a
brand-new PC or yet another set-top box, either. and you don’t have to let your cable-TV subscription hold your eyeballs
(or your wallet) hostage with hundreds of channels you’ll never watch.

Connected TVs

Looking to buy a new HDTV? Choose the right TV—one that connects directly to the Internet—and you can enjoy loads of
Web features and apps without having to buy any add-ons or boxes. But choosing may not be easy: all the major TV manufacturers now have some package of Internet-connected features built into their midrange and high-end models.

In early Internet-connected TVs, packages included only a few additional “channels”—Netfl ix Instant Watch, YouTube, and a few video-rental services like amazon Instant Video, CinemaNow, and Vudu. Connected-television features have since advanced quickly.

New connected TV sets come packed with apps, games, and Internet video channels, often with options exclusive to the manufacturer.

Cost: You’ll have to pay for the television ($1000 to $2000 for midrange to high-end sets). The good news: You don’t necessarily have to pay a premium for an Internetconnected TV: Some manufacturers, such as Vizio, sell lowend models that are priced in the $750 to $830 range. The cost of an HDTV will generally de pend on the set’s size and on its panel technology (a 50-inch plasma set will cost more than a 50-inch LED one). and you won’t have to pay for access to the smart-TV service itself—just for the subscriptions to specifi c services such as Hulu Plus or Netfl ix, as well as the video-download rental fees.

Advantages: Connected TVs are simple and elegant. You can use your TV’s own remote, you don’t need to worry about
running extra power cords or audio/video cables as you do with a set-top box or a home theater PC, and many HDTV sets
include built-in Wi-Fi support (so you don’t even need to plug an ethernet cable into the back).

What’s more, newer TV sets often come with new remote controls that make it easier to use the Internet features. For
example, Lg’s Magic Motion remote is a gesture-oriented remote control similar to the Nintendo Wii controller (just
point the remote at the TV to move your cursor), which lets you more easily use the built-in Web browser of Lg sets.
Vizio’s high-end sets include a Bluetooth remote with a slideout keyboard to facilitate typing.

Disadvantages: Connected TVs aren’t particularly versatile. If your set-top box doesn’t have a channel you want, you can go buy a new one, but you won’t be able to do such a thing so easily with a big, expensive HDTV. also, if you’re big on live TV, you’ll still need your cable-TV subscription, as the Internet features are mostly on-demand video only.

Advanced tips: Most connected TVs include uSB ports and DLNa support (see the glossary on page 65), meaning that
you can watch your locally stored video, photos, and music from a uSB drive by plugging it straight into your TV or from
other PCs on your network—handy for the times when the video you want to watch is sitting on your PC in the den.

Future-proof? Yes—but only if you choose wisely. although early Internet features in HDTVs looked pitiful compared with what a standard set-top box could offer, the big players in the HDTV market (Lg, Panasonic, Samsung, Sony, and Vizio) are each looking to make their Web-connected TV sets your entertainment hub by adding new features, video channels, and even their own app stores. For example, Panasonic’s “Viera Connect” Internet features include Facebook, Skype, Twitter, and even downloadable games from gameloft in addition to a whole host of media-streaming services like
amazon Instant Video, Hulu Plus, Netfl ix, and Pandora.

Posted September 13, 2011 by Anoop George Joseph in Uncategorized

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