google

Google Now and All

One of the best posts that Jason has made in a long while…

Google’s Fiber Takeover Plan Expands: Will Kill Cable & Carriers   – LAUNCH –: “Google is going to kill AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile and the cable companies. Kids don’t talk on the phone and they don’t have a ton of money. If they can be reasonably sure they’ll have a wifi network, then they are simply not going to sign up for AT&T or Verizon.

It’s game over… in five short years.”

So true and yet another reason I’m trying to offshore more of my digital life away from Google:

“Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.”

Be like the fox indeed.

Google Kills Its Affiliate Network

In yet another round of Google Spring Cleaning surprises, GAN hits the chopping block (to the surprise of many in the affiliate marketing world including myself):

An update on Google Affiliate Network | Google Affiliate Network: “Our goal with Google Affiliate Network has been to help advertisers and publishers improve their performance across the affiliate ecosystem. Cost-per-action (CPA) marketing has rapidly evolved in the last few years, and we’ve invested significantly in CPA tools like Product Listing Ads, remarketing and Conversion Optimizer. We’re constantly evaluating our products to ensure that we’re focused on the services that will have the biggest impact for our advertisers and publishers.

To that end, we’ve made the difficult decision to retire Google Affiliate Network and focus on other products that are driving great results for clients.”

Certainly, this isn’t along the lines of a Google Reader surprise (let down) but it does provide an interesting high water mark for what was once the promise of open-web marketing.

It’s no secret that the rise of the “social web” with Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+ etc has led to traffic flow and even content production being offloaded from once-independent web publishers and sites (affiliates) to respective walled silos. In turn, these silos have realized that co-opting the affiliate model within their own walls to drive advertising revenue.

Therefore, my biggest concern in this is the further consolidation of web content production (especially advertising based) and what it means for small to medium publishers and website owners. Whereas publishers had a chance to compete and thrive and be seen as a valuable channel to advertisers in 2005 or so, that business model is rapidly realizing its own end-of-life.

It’s a strange new world for affiliate marketers and this is only another phase of what started in 2006.

Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Google Reader

It’s inevitable, but still sad that Google is shutting down Google Reader rather than letting it (and its valuable API that allows so many services to use it for a syncing backend) die a long and gentle death.

The “social web” is a fascinating beast. When I first started blogging in 2002, I was enamored with the idea of having a domain name that reflected who I was and a place to put my ideas, pictures, scraps, polished pieces and serve as my home base of a digital footprint.

Geeks and folks on the web needed a way to stay in touch with updates from friends and people they were interested in. I experimented with Newsgator, FeedDemon, Liferea (LInux FEed REAder during my time using Ubuntu as my OS from 2006-2009) but finally settled with Google Reader as my hub of consuming online content.

In many ways, Google Reader was the first Facebook NewsFeed for nerds, geeks, web heads and those of us who cared about the web.

When 2006 – 2007 came and birthed Twitter and Facebook’s rapid growth, things changed quickly. The idea of having your own webspace was traded for the ability to leverage something like Twitter or Facebook’s growing user base for exposure. You didn’t have to explain feeds, that ugly orange RSS button or readers to your friends and family and you could just point them to your name. The walled gardens won.

Here’s a great post from Tantek laying out similar themes of loss-yet-optimism for a new hope:

On Silos vs an Open Social Web [#indieweb] – Tantek: “The answer is not to not ‘only [be] relevant to geeks’, but rather, reframe it as a positive, and be relevant to yourself. That is, design, architect, create, and build for yourself first, others second. If you’re not willing to run your design/code on your own site, for your primary identity on the web, day-in and day-out, why should anyone else? If you started something that way but no longer embrace it as such, start over. Go Selfdogfood or go home.”

This can easily be dismissed as one of those “first world problems” for geeks who care too much about whatever the open web happens to be. However, many many people still use the backend plumbing of RSS to do great things and change the world. You use RSS more than you realize anytime you do most anything on the web (outside and inside of walled gardens).

I’ll admit, this has definitely caused me to re-ponder my own web existence. This is a self-hosted WordPress blog, but my personal blog with my name on it at samharrelson.com is hosted through the awesome Shareist service that I love. Should I move that back to self-hosting so that I can self-dogfood?

One of the many things I’ll be pondering in the coming days as I think about the way the web is heading the next few years.

Spreading Too Thin on Social Sites

Spreading videos you’ve already made (and the ones you haven’t made yet) to social channels is one of the common sense things that many marketers don’t do well.

On top of that, making sure to do more than just link or embed your videos on sites as if you’re simply broadcasting is something most marketers just simply ignore.

Yes, spread your videos around but don’t just dilute your message online by blasting your posts or videos or podcasts everywhere… just as when you are learning in school, it’s better to go deeper than wider when applying social media strategies. Don’t have time for LinkedIn? Don’t post there. Think Twitter is silly? Don’t tweet. Have no clue why Pinterest is a big deal? Don’t pin.

Find the balance between spreading your content (posts, video, audio, pics etc) but don’t spread yourself too thin on sites that you’re not authentically using and engaging…

Leverage Your Existing Videos on Your Social Media Sites | SoMedia Video Marketing Blog: “LinkedIn, YouTube, Facebook, Google+ are all great places to post your videos—in fact I think LinkedIn and Google+ are going to be big destinations for online business video in the near future—which is the key point here: once you’ve created a video, you need to ensure you leverage it beyond your website. Don’t just hide it on your website, consider all the places where your target audience is online, stake your claim, and post the video there.”

via Tris Hussey on Twitter

Social Media Marketing Sizes Cheat Sheet

We use this as our internal “cheat sheet” for social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+ at Harrelson Agency for finding the right size for images and texts.

It’s a great quick reference to help our clients get the job done.

You can grab a copy from Scribd below or use this Dropbox link for a view or download.

Enjoy!

Social Media Marketing Sizes Cheat Sheethttp://www.scribd.com/embeds/118366124/content?start_page=1&view_mode=scroll&access_key=key-27uvd00byzynodbr39xn(function() { var scribd = document.createElement(“script”); scribd.type = “text/javascript”; scribd.async = true; scribd.src = “http://www.scribd.com/javascripts/embed_code/inject.js”; var s = document.getElementsByTagName(“script”)[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(scribd, s); })();

Chosing Your Services and Apps Wisely

Sounds like Chris and I went on a similar journey of finding better apps to do what we do:

Goodbye ubiquitous digital service | Chris Webb: “Over the past months I’ve been transitioning away from a number of the digital services and apps I use. Honestly I didn’t set out to do it, rather it has become a snowball effect that started with one service I hated using and has led to an almost meditative evaluation of my digital workspaces and the way I interact with the technologies that are intertwined with my existence.”

Like him, I’m now using apps like:

All of those are apps I’ve paid for (except ThinkUp which is open source) and all (except Pinboard) are hosted on my own server (mail is downloaded via POP). Of course, I have to rely on the internet provider I use etc but I know where my data resides and I feel better knowing who has access, how it’s being used etc.

I don’t think the “bring it all back home” movement is going to ever catch up to the “throw it all into Facebook’s garden” mindset, but it’s great to read about others making similar choices with their attention and data.

Learning And the Fragility of the Web

Kevin Marks has a great post connecting the notion of necessary complexity with the state of the web and our willingness to throw all of our content (pics, music, text etc) into the hands of silos and walled garden social media networks:

Epeus’ epigone: The Antifragility of the Web: “If you’ve read Nasim Taleb’s Antifragile, you know what comes next. By shielding people from the complexities of the web, by removing the fragility of links, we’re actually making things worse. We’re creating a fragility debt. Suddenly, something changes – money runs out, a pivot is declared, an aquihire happens, and the pent-up fragility is resolved in a Black Swan moment.”

The latest Instagram debacle over who owns user generated pictures points to a rising tide of web users who want more than just partial ownership of what they create simply for the sake of sharing. We’ve had another system in place for over a decade now with blogs and feeds.

Of course, it’s much easier to slap a filter on a photo and upload it to Instagram or Facebook and reap the benefits of the likes and comments received rather than uploading an image to a hosted blog and going through the necessary hoops of making sure your friends are subscribed etc.

However, this complexity begets savvy users and people who understand the fragility of the web and its main currency (the link) and why a web that is open and not centralized around one corporation is worth protecting

It’s one reason that, as a teacher, I’m big on portfolios (blogs) written and curated by each student and interlinking with other student blogs. In some small way, I hope this learning process helps young people who are setting the stage for the next iteration of the social web to appreciate what it means to have an individual name space and participate in the democracy of the commons rather than just the fiefdom of Facebook.

I’m picking up Taleb’s Antifragile tomorrow (I’m back to reading dead tree editions of books for philosophical reasons but that’s for another post).

Personal Drones like Personal Computers

Personal Drone

The Drones Are Coming – Business Insider: “For example, if you’re a surfer who wants footage of yourself tearing up the waves, you would press a button on your ‘follow-me box’ and the droid would fly out to you, position itself above you, and start shooting. Once the battery gets low, the droid would detect that and land itself on the beach.”

I’m typically very optimistic about most developing technologies that have the potential to augment our lives and even improve humanity. Google Glass seems to freak out lots of people, but I think it’s a stunning and potentially revolutionary technology (especially for education and classrooms).

However, the concept of wearable computing differs greatly in my mind from the rapidly advancing tech and industries around drones. Whether for military and law enforcement uses or news and information gathering to what’s described in the above article with “personal drones,” there’s a lot to worry about from an ethical point of view.

True, every new or developing technology has its positive and negative ethical implications for greater society (or societies). However, drones are one of those technologies that I’m not sure has a positive surplus over the obvious negatives.

I have no doubts we’ll have the ability to have personal drones in the future, as much as we now have personal tracking devices we carry literally everywhere (aka smart phones). I’m sure they’ll offer many benefits not yet though of. Yet, where’s the line between helpful and dangerous?

Yahoo’s “New” Ad Format

I’ve got a long long history dealing with co-registrations and lead generation going back to the halcyon days before 2003 when email marketing was all the rage (still should be) and FreeSlide was just a twinkle in our performance marketing eyes.

I’m not a defender of the admittedly very tacky and mostly illegal tactics that many “marketers” employed to get iPod-wanting visitors with a zip code and an email address zipping down registration paths towards free Gevalia coffee pots or Netflix DVD’s, but the registration path become an essential part of performance marketing during this “wild west” (as we called it) period.

So, it’s interesting to see Yahoo roll out a new Cost Per Lead (CPL in the industry lingo) ad format in its search results that looks strikingly familiar…

Yahoo Intros Cost-Per-Lead Search Ads, First New Format Under Marissa Mayer: “The new ad format, which can collect information like demographics, email addresses or phone numbers, is called Cost Per Lead for Search. It’s clearly marked as ‘Ad from’ with the advertiser’s name following.”

Reminiscing About What the Web Was

From 2008:

The vanishing personal site – Jeffrey Zeldman: “Our personal sites, once our primary points of online presence, are becoming sock drawers for displaced first-person content. We are witnessing the disappearance of the all-in-one, carefully designed personal site containing professional information, links, and brief bursts of frequently updated content to which others respond via comments.”

From this week in 2012:

The Web We Lost – Anil Dash: “The tech industry and its press have treated the rise of billion-scale social networks and ubiquitous smartphone apps as an unadulterated win for regular people, a triumph of usability and empowerment. They seldom talk about what we’ve lost along the way in this transition, and I find that younger folks may not even know how the web used to be.”

We’ve lost a great deal indeed.

Lots to ponder between these last four years and these two complimentary bookends on the handing over of our namespaces and personal sites to venture capital funds, eager stock buyers and corporate silos.

And yes, I miss Technorati as well.

Google Maps App and Mobile Discovery

Smart piece that highlights some of the reasons we love the new Google Maps app on iOS and why it spells out the future of the (mobile) web…

Why Google Just Made iPhone King: Ads | Wired Business | Wired.com: “Google’s willingness to ship iOS apps could look smarter as time goes on. The company trounces Apple when it comes to all things cloud, not just maps and e-mail; its social network, search engine, and highly optimized data centers could give its iOS apps an even bigger edge in the coming years.”

Discovery means you’ll be able to “map” what your friends are liking, sharing and discovering themselves in an effortless and responsible manner. As we continue to kick the tires on the social web, we’re excited to see where this next discovery phase takes us.

150% Increase in Google Search Traffic

Scott Jangro lays out the somewhat complicated steps to achieve Google Authorship on your posts in a nice post (click for details)…

How to Get 150% Increase in Google Search Traffic: “Whether you do this the hard way (on your own) or the easy way (with Shareist), when you get it right, you’re rewarded with this email confirming your status in Google Authorship, and your face in SERPs, drawing attention to your pages. Sweet.”

Yes, it’s well worth your time to do this.

Questions? We’ll help!

Benefit of Syncing Business Google Plus and and Local Pages

In doing some research for a client, I came across this piece and I couldn’t agree more:

Syncing Your Google Plus and +Local Pages: Plusses and Minuses | Mihmorandum: “Having gone through the process, the benefits of the extended descriptions and links you can add to a sync’ed +Local page, and the early-adopter ability to promote ONE single Plus presence for your business seem pretty substantial.”

We’ve helped a few clients verify their address with the snail mail postcard-from-Google method and it’s been painless every time with nice benefits in search engine results.

So, if you’re in need of having your physical address linked to a high ranking result in your serp’s, we highly recommend going through the process.

GMail 2.0 and The Decision to Leave iOS?

We’re big fans of Google Apps for Enterprise and use the service for our email, docs, calendaring, telephony (via Google Voice’s integration with Sprint), analytics, feed reading and even backups with Google Drive.

So, we were excited to hear about the new GMail app for our main computing devices these days, the iPhone:

The Gmail app for iPhone and iPad: version 2.0 | Official Gmail Blog: “Six months ago, our team set out to completely rebuild the Gmail app for iPhone and iPad to give you you a faster, sleeker, and easier experience on iOS. The result? Version 2.0. With version 2.0 of the app, you’ll get a totally new look and feel, plus a bunch of improvements like profile pictures in messages, numerous new animations from swivels to transitions and infinite scrolling in the message lists.”

Between the new GMail app and the revised Google search app with its nifty and better-than-Siri response time and quality, we’ve had many internal conversations about whether it’s time to think about Android as a platform.

The iPhone and iPad make for great “Google” computers when paired with the stream of quality apps coming out of Mountain View. Mission critical apps such as Google Analytics are available to us via third party iOS apps like Analytics Pro. Our enduring reliance on RSS for alerts, status messages and a news stream is satiated with Google Reader’s plug into the Reeder app.

However, are we missing anything as a company by not being on the newest flavor of Android? While it’s getting mixed reviews, the Nexus 4 and its installation of 4.2 Jelly Bean looks pretty interesting.

While we go back and forth with this almost-religious decision, we’re constantly developing new apps for both iOS and Android (as well as the open web with HTML 5) and noticing new things popping up in both that point to exciting futures for developers and users on both platforms.

At the moment, in comparison to Android (and I hate to admit it), iOS (especially critical apps like Mail) seems… stale and even clunky.

So… what to do?

Rising Cost of Pay Per Click

We like to preach about discovery (social media + organic search engine optimization + paid search) because we realize that channels such as Facebook Ads or paid search are not as effective at getting people to your site and performing an action there alone as they are in a healthy combination.

This report in the NY Times today comes as no surprise to us…

This concern has become increasingly common as online advertising has become a standard channel for large companies. Attracting those additional advertisers has been great for Google, which reported  a 42 percent increase in paid clicks, year over year, for the second quarter of 2012. But the heightened competition has driven up the prices for keywords and made it harder for small companies like Mr. Telford’s.

While about 96 percent of pay-per-click advertisers spend less than $10,000 a month, according to  AdGooroo, a research firm that studies the pay-per-click market, big-budget advertisers spend hundreds of times more. In the first half of 2012, Amazon reportedly spent $54 million, and the University of Phoenix $37.9 million. “AdWords can bleed many a small business dry,” said Sharon Geltner, an analyst at the  Small Business Development Center at Palm Beach State College in Boca Raton, Fla.

It’s no secret that paid search is highly effective if you know what you’re doing with setup, keyword selection and eventual optimization.

What we do (and what we really enjoy doing) is helping small businesses realize that tactics such as targeting demographics or locations or keyword buying with a specific goal in mind can help level the playing field of the competitive pages of a Google result.

Insync + Sparrow = Crazy Delicious

Holy amazing, Batman:

Insync: A Google Docs-Loving Dropbox Rival: “If you’re the kind of person who uses Google Docs and Dropbox a lot, perhaps for business, as is becoming increasingly popular, then you will be interested to hear that Asian firm Insync has just announced that its cloud-based sharing platform is available for free.”

Multiple Google Docs support (I have one for here, one personal account and one from my school… it gets confusing), robust online/offline support and notification of changes to documents are all selling points for me to use Insync heavily.

Combine Insync with Sparrow for multiple GMail or Google Apps mail accounts and you’ve got all your chocolate and peanut butter in one spot.

If you’re using Google Apps for your affiliate sites (not sure why anyone wouldn’t) and have a personal or different GMail account, Insync + Sparrow is a win-win for managing those multiple Mail and Docs accounts.

Now Insync just needs an iOS app.

Dogfooding

After two happy years as a WordPress self-hosted install, I’m moving our 8th grade science class site/home/hub, GriffinScience, to Blogger:

GriffinScience: “Because we’ll be using Blogger as a main platform of interaction with the 8th graders next year due to our school Google accounts making that a no-brainer, I’ve gone ahead and moved GriffinScience from a self-hosted WordPress install to Blogger.”

I don’t think the students will mind or notice much, and it does make a good deal of sense to eat my own dog food if I’m going to encourage students to make use of our school’s Google Apps accounts and use Blogger (or Google Sites) as their digital portfolio’s home (of course I don’t mind if they want to venture out into WordPress or Tumblr or Posterous land as well).

For some reason, this makes me sad in a “but I’m a real geek!” way. It’s not that Blogger isn’t a proper blogging engine or geeky enough site… but I’ve always encouraged folks to dive into code and make their own templates or sidebars. Those are possible in Blogger, but it’s a little too graphical and “easy” in my mind. I need to get over myself, clearly.

Nevertheless, here’s to another few good years of GriffinScience.

Cautionary Wave

People (especially students) don’t do their best work when compensation or reward is based on intermediate performance goals:

Google Wave: Why did Google feel that Google Wave was a good product? – Quora: “In short, Google was experimenting with a drastically new model in an attempt to retain key talent and ended up getting the incentives so perversely aligned that it both directly contributed to a failed product and also compensated that failure more than what a moderate success would have been.”

FriendFeed Catchup in GMail

I absolutely love FriendFeed's GMail IM integration. It's how I consume most of my FriendFeed content as well as lots from my favorite folks on Twitter that I have piped into FF via the Imaginary Friends (now Rooms) feature.

So, if I miss a few hours and want to catch up on what is going on in the Valley or from the folks I follow (and left GMail open on my Macbook), I can just open up the "Chat with FF" message waiting on me in my GMail FriendFeed label and scan. Plus, I can go back and search topics or people I'm interested in after a few days.

Not completely practical for everyone, but I love the feature (and greatly miss the good old days when Twitter had the same IM integration with Track).

My Experiment With Digital Nomadicism

I’m technically on family holiday vacation this week, holed up in a lovely cabin in the mountains north of Asheville.

We have wifi here, but I decided to opt for the Touch and my Blackberry (and Kindle of course) over lugging up the Macbook Pro. I’m actually writing this on the Touch with the fantastic WordPress app. Honestly, it’s pretty smooth and I need to do this more frequently.

What I’ve realized this week is that I can do most everything that I do on my laptop with just the Touch and the Blackberry. Tweeting, reading feeds in Google Rader, answering email, playing in Facebook, and now blogging are almost more enjoyable on the Touch over the laptop.

But what about “business stuff” like checking stats, reading and writing Docs and spreadsheets or FTP’ing into sites? All are (easily) doable and smooth in this sort of a mobile scenario. Actually, I’m really enjoying stretching myself and learning the new skill of mobile aptitude.

Of course, much of the content I create and consume is based in cloud computing rather than relying on a desktop. I make heavy use of all the Google apps. When I have needed a doc, I just access it in either Dropbox or on drop.io since I keep things sync’d on those places anyway. It’s worked out well.

So, my grand experiment in digital nomadicism is going surprisingly well. I could easily see myself just bringing the Touch and Blackberry to Affiliate Summit this month and leaving the Macbook home. 8 of my text books for the coming semester are in the Kindle, so my load for school will def be the Touch (Bible software apps are tremendous), blackberry and Kindle.

Digital nomadicism isn’t for everyone, of course. I unabashedly rely on web and cloud apps over desktop bound software and I’m not tied to an enterprise infrastructure that requires any special software. But a lighter load in a new year is always a good thing!

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