Archive | March, 2009

Accelerated Shift to Digital Media Platforms Predicted

Accelerated Shift to Digital Media Platforms Predicted

According to the U.S. Local Media Annual Forecast, 2008-2013, by BIA Advisory Services and its Kelsey Group, current and foreseeable economic conditions will reduce overall local advertising spending through 2013. BIA/Kelsey forecasts U.S. local advertising revenues to decline from $155.3 billion in 2008 to $144.4 billion in 2013, representing a negative 1.4 percent compound annual growth rate.

Only the local interactive segment will show growth throughout the forecast period. All other local media will experience marginal to rapid declines in the next 18 to 36 months, says the report. A small number of traditional media will rebound with a revived economy beginning in 2011, though most traditional media will continue to decline at a slower pace.

According to the forecast, the interactive segment (mobile, Internet Yellow Pages, local search, online verticals and classifieds, voice search, e-mail marketing and other interactive revenues generated by traditional media players) will grow from $14 billion in 2008 to $32.1 billion in 2013. The traditional segment (newspapers, direct mail, television, radio, print Yellow Pages, non-digital out of home, cable TV and magazines) will decrease from $141.3 billion in 2008 to $112.4 billion in 2013.

Tom Buono, president and CEO, BIA Advisory Services, says…

“As the shift to online accelerates, and the demand for accountability metrics grows, there is an increased urgency for traditional media companies to develop and embrace new business models that incorporate digital strategies… to drive business…”

Neal Polachek, CEO, The Kelsey Group, concludes …

“the share shift… could actually be more pronounced… successful integration will require considerable attention to business models, product innovation and sales channel evolution.”

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Targeted, Focused Advertising With Facebook

Targeted, Focused Advertising With Facebook

Last Friday Oprah dedicated her show to Facebook, the social networking phenomenon that now boasts over 175 million active users, of which I am one.  Founded in 2004 by a bunch of very smart (check out how many of them went to Harvard), YOUNG entrepreneurs (and I emphasize young), who were able to see monetary value in a social utility that “helps people communicate more efficiently with their friends, family, and coworkers.”

Now, you know if you have a Facebook account that they ask a lot of questions; they want to know who you are so that they can drive targeted advertising/marketing to your page and to that of your friends who they assume share some of the same interests, and well, let’s face it, buying patterns.  Facebook strategically places seemingly non-intrusive ads on your “wall.”   The ads are simply an image and some text .. I almost didn’t realize that they were ads! Isn’t that part of the power of subliminal marketing strategy used by so many companies to lure consumers in to purchasing ..

Take a beautiful young lady , who is in the “marrying age” and “in a serious relationship”, what type of ads do you think appear on her page .. Diamond ads, no pressure here.  … My husband, a Kiwi, has a Quantas ad and well, me, I am a little disappointed with the ad that appears on my home page;  Belisi Skin Tightener. I knew I should have had Aaron touch up that photo, but none the less, they “knew” that she was young and maybe knew that I wasn’t quite so young.

Targeted, focused advertising .. seems national advertisers have caught the Facebook Advertising bug, but isn’t there an opportunity for small businesses who rely on local exposure, local customers, and local dollars.  Yes, the answer is yes.  Facebook’s ad bidding tools allow businesses to narrowly target consumers by using the IP address and a member’s profile information (and their friends’ profile information as well) to determine a user’s location, interest, age, employment and even favorite television show.   This is targeted, focused marketing at its best.  Much better than other traditional advertising because you not only know who sees your ad, but who clicks on it and how/when it converts.  This is a great opportunity for local businesses to spend their dwindling advertising budget on a very focused audience at an affordable price.  eLocal Listing includes “social marketing aspects” in our product offerings and is currently offering Social Advertising to its Corporate Strategic Alliance Partners, as well as local business reviews.

I will write more about advertising on Facebook in another post, but for now I have to get online and buy that skin tightener I saw on my Profile.

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Building Development Team Communication

Building Development Team Communication

In pt.1 of building a successful dev team we looked at a very practical way that we can enhance the value of our dev team by writing code that easy to use and update by other members on our team…

In this article we are going to touch on something a bit less tangible but no less important, actually it is probably the most important element in establishing a successful development team. Communication is, in my opinion, the most foundational piece of a strong development team.

Where skill, and resources may come up short, if strong communication is in place a team can overcome prepare in advance, and address some of these shortcomings more readily, setting them on the road to success.

With many teams built of diverse parties setting up solid lines of communication is key. Developers, project managers, marketing, front end designers, and quality assurance personnel are just a few of the many parties that make up a solid dev team for products and projects. With so many different people, perspectives, and skill sets touching the project it can become very easy for details to slip through the cracks that end up slowing down the workflow, hindering progress, delaying deadlines, and contributing to headaches and frustrations on all ends.

Those of us who work in this team environment have experienced this in one form or another, and more than likely something will slip through regardless. With this in mind I have compiled a few simple practices, along with a couple of applications that can help open up the lines of communication.

Learn to Dabble in Disciplines.

One great way to increase the value of your contribution to the development/project team is to gain an understanding of the other team members disciplines. This doesn’t mean that we have to become experts in their fields but gaining an understanding of their roles and responsibilities will help us to provide the right information in the right format to make their job that much easier (not to mention score some brownie points with them).

In our team I have found it helpful when preparing front end designs to ask alot of questions of our engineers, so as to avoid providing files, designs that simply aren’t practical from a development perspective. I am still a pretty big noob when it comes to .net but since that is the framework we develop in I have made an effort to understand their world, and what would make life easier for them. I would suggest even going beyond frameworks and code, and find out how to prep designs, and deliver files in a way that makes life easier for them.

By expanding our horizons to understand each of the team’s disciplines we make life a bit easier for everyone, and learn to communicate more effectively in ways that help others be more efficient, and well equipped in their roles within the team environment. Besides the initial benefits we also expand our skill set which opens up new avenues within our current jobs, as well as in our future endeavors. We should never stop learning.

Go get your Intel

This is a very critical point. We can only be responsible for ourselves, and I would strongly encourage all of us to be proactive in getting info about projects/products. If you are unsure about something, ask, and then ask again until you feel comfortable with your understanding of the scope, and your role in the project.

This brings the focus to the most important aspect of communication… Listening, don’t just hear what is being said, listen, ask questions and make sure that you understand, repeat what is being said back to the team, that way there is little room for misunderstanding, and mis-communication, it will also validate your team members, showing them that you value their input and efforts in the project. Some of this may sound pretty rigid, but if we can take these extra steps it will really help us in the communication process.

Tools of the Trade

In some circumstances team members may work remotely or off-shore this can also make communication a bit tough at times. Using tools/apps can help bridge the gaps, and keep everyone on the same page.

For project collaboration, task management, file sharing, time tracking, and version tracking we use Basecamp by 37signals. I am sure there are other project management software/apps out there but this one has proven itself to be a very valuable tool, and is very affordable.

For more immediate communication we also use Skype as this allows for instant access when questions, and issues may arise.

There are other resources out there, and if your team isn’t using something I would encourage you to be proactive, find something that will fit best with your team.

Wrapping Up

By no means is this a call to arms, my hope is that we can be encouraged in our efforts to better our development team. This effort starts with us, team development is an investment in our projects and fellow team members. Listening, learning other skills, and being proactive in communication are just a couple of foundational ideas for better team communication, as projects come and go many different situations will arise, and they will provide new challenges, as long as we are communicating openly the challenges can be faced, overcome, and turned in to successful solutions.

Next up in the series “There is no “I” in Team, and no “U” in Win” dealing with conflict, and disagreements in development.

1) Building a Successful Dev Team

2) Coding In a Team Environment

3) Building Development Team Communication

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The Case for a Web Profile and Website Versus a Print Listing.

The Case for a Web Profile and Website Versus a Print Listing.

So when was the last time you used the yellow pages or any kind of phone book?  We all have them, from the Talking Phone book or the Verizon monster yellow page door-stop.  To be sure, there are times when it can be convenient — if you know exactly what you are looking for by category… a yellow page book can be handy indeed.  If you can find it when you need it, the YP generally offers a response across thousands of categories.  For us old fogies though, especially when your reading glasses are not nearby, finding both the right listing in 6 point type and the yellow page book may be a challenge simultaneously.

Given the ubiquity of a desktop computer these days, we generally know where we have parked them and head there first.  And with the ease of internet search, particularly when you start with a Google and Yahoo search bar, it just seems so much easier and immediate in finding the right local retailer or service provider you may need.  With the power of local search, consumers are increasingly relying on a search engine to navigate them to the right listing, or business web site.  And as broadband goes mainstream, fewer people are simply NOT using printed books when searching for products, and services anymore; the immediacy of search and ease of use, increasingly dictate an online search first before we hunt for the YP.

So as a small business why not put your efforts and marketing dollars where consumers are actually searching?  On the web and in the main two or three search engines!

Whether the American economy is good or bad, small business drives our overall macro economy and hiring opportunities.  As we navigate through a treacherous 2009 business climate, we still find in our call center that many small businesses either do not have a good website, or worse still they have no website at all!  We know that small business owners are among the busiest people, and adding search marketing and web site development to their list of  post 5’oclock chores just is not going to happen.   Some claim they do not have the time, finances, technical wherewithal, or marketing smarts to
develop a good website. In a tough economic climate like 09, small business owners simply cannot afford to take up the challenge of find more potential customers.  Local consumers are continually searching the internet looking for products and services and a small business owner needs to know about that intent and business opportunity. And rightly or wrongly, they often judge whether or not to do business with your company on the basis of your website or search presence.

So how does the harried, small business owner get that web site or search presence?   One of the least expensive ways, is to simply create through a service like eLocal Listing,  a one page website that is great fodder for the search engines. We call these one pager business descriptions, a Profile, or a micro site. The search engines love them and in just a matter of minutes, we can usually get a small business owner fully fleshed out for the search engines for something under a hundred dollars a month.  It does not have to cost thousands to develop a website, but you do indeed need a presence to be found in today’s online world.  A fully developed Profile with the right keywords pushed to the right search engines is one way that a local business can compete with mature websites and larger companies on an equal footing.

A Profile when done right is more than a simple website, it’s your online Listing.  An eLocal Profile is more than a simple ‘brochure’ website.  It has the right keywords, basic business description, hours, credit cards, service areas, and details about the company that would be helpful to a consumer searching for goods and services.  And since the web is such an interactive visual, we will often include a video with the company’s name and phone number featured in it.  Our Profile is engaging and entertaining and pushed to several video destination sites, like YouTube.  By getting the Profiles featured in the search engines and destination sites, we build a great presence for a business in its proper business category and locality.  By engaging site visitors and driving the phone or foot traffic to the local business, we give the owner a real chance at converting the searching consumer into a real business opportunity. In this business climate, driving traffic to your business phone, doorway or website makes good sense, especially when you can do it for less than a hundred dollars a month.

So while the print listing may not yet be dead;  in a tough economic cycle, an inexpensive eLocal Profile, or perhaps a more detailed web site is the right choice to make to get your shot at the local business opportunities that come by way of search.

How much dust is on your Yellow Page book?  Got your specs handy?

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TheBatavian.com makes a local online business guide in Genesee County, NY

TheBatavian.com makes a local online business guide in Genesee County, NY

March 13th, 2009 — TheBatavian.com has added a significant new service to improve the search experience for all its site visitors and to aid consumers in finding local business services and experts quickly.  A link that joined the top navigation of the site a couple of weeks ago is titled: Local Businesses.  Check the top right corner of www.TheBatavian.com

It is a new online business directory for Genesee County. Every service, retail and expert in Genesee County gets a free basic listing.  We encourage you to use it to find local goods and services.

For business owners and managers, each get free and alphabetized listing in the directory.  For a fee, your business can get an enhanced listing which includes more information about your firm, but that’s not the coolest part of this directory. By enhancing your listing using our directory you also greatly improve your chances of being spotted in the major search engines at or near the top of the search results. That’ll give a significant boost to phone leads coming your way and we can track those leads for you too.

Our first two enhanced listings have been posted:

Diegelman’s Plumbing

Fastec Automotive – (this one includes an online video)

But here’s a key point about the directory: eLocal Listing powers the directory and each listing is automatically optimized for local search.

As most business owners now recognize, hardly anybody uses the Yellow Pages these days. When people with online access want to find a business, they go to Google or Yahoo.  If your business isn’t part of the top search results, it’s almost as if your business doesn’t even exist.

eLocal Listing specializes in helping businesses get found on the Web. They’ve been helping thousands of businesses for a number of years, they are the leading such firm in the world helping small businesses in America get found online.  We’re proud they picked The Batavian to launch their new directory product with.

So when you buy an enhanced listing on The Batavian, you’re not just buying an ad on The Batavian, you’re helping improve your business’s search ranking in Google and Yahoo!

The standard package is $49 to set up and then $59 per month.  Businesses can add a “trackable” phone number — what that means is, we’ll be able to deliver a monthly report showing you how many times you’re phone rang because of the service.  We’ll also show you how you are ranked in Google Maps and the Yahoo Local Showcase, it’s impressive to watch The Batavian’s customer gain that improved visibility.

We also can offer a limited number of upgraded packages that add more features to help your business be among the best ranked in Google and Yahoo.

These packages are $79 set up and $89 per month.  In this package, we create a short 18-20 second video in about 150 categories like plumbing, car detailing, spas, law, hair salons, the Main Street businesses of America.

And as long as we’re talking about their advertising, please find a comprehensive display advertising media kit at www.batavian.com/mediakit.com .

If you want to get your local business showing well in the major search engines start by advertising on TheBatavian.com.

Have any questions, contact:  Howard@theBatavian.com

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Fortune 500 Failing at SEO?

Fortune 500 Failing at SEO?

Here at eLocal Listing we focus on small businesses in America, getting them found on the major search engines (the ones that rhyme with Poodle and BaaHoo) and we do a pretty gosh darned good job at getting thousands of our customers front page search visibility…. we typically score in the 80-90% region. Although many small businesses are in fact local offices of very large businesses (think of franchises and your local Starbucks) we have tended to work with the owned and operated rather than the small branches of huge companies. The obvious reason for that is that the large companies have huge budgets and phalanxes of very smart advertising folk who have this SEO search visibility stuff down tight.

So I was intrigued to read this post from the folks at Conductor.com which indicates that the big guys are really struggling at this. What they did was track the keywords the Fortune 500 are buying as ads on the search engines then they tested to see how the same companies rank in organic search results for the same terms. The theory is that if a company is prepared to pay for the top spot in search through the sponsored ads they should also be doing the spade work to get found in the organic unpaid part of search. Survey says …..they aren’t. Only 20% of the keywords tested also ranked well in unpaid search. Amazingly nearly half of the fortune 500 had low or non-existent visibility in natural search for their most advertised keywords.

Somebody get me Coke and GE on the phone!

You can read the full story here

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Hulu Adds Social Networking

Hulu Adds Social Networking

I frequent the site Hulu often when I have missed a show, or wanted to show someone something funny I watched. The site has just reached the year mark and is implementing new features to keep users on the site and bring their friends as well.

Online video site Hulu is celebrating its first birthday by adding social networking to the site. Dubbed “Hulu Friends,” users can do the usual: share videos, comment on shows and content, and view rankings. Hulu integrates with Gmail, Yahoo Mail, Hotmail, Facebook, and Myspace to help users find their friends and/or invite them to Hulu.

Hulu is experiencing 24 million visitors a month. It has risen quickly in its niche and trails only YouTube in the online video space. They began with 50 content partners and now boast over 130. They’ve grown from 30 advertisers to 175+.

Over 3.9 million Hulu players have been embedded on more than 100,000 sites.

Congrats on all the success, Hulu!

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Importance of SEO Makes Front Page of Los Angeles Times

Importance of SEO Makes Front Page of Los Angeles Times

Danny Sullivan recently posted an interesting article about the rise in popularity of SEO, and some of the press it was receiving from the Los Angeles Times. Read below and let us know what you think of the coverage given by the LA Times.

What a nice surprise to see on the front page of the Los Angeles Times today a story that features how important SEO is to web sites.

It’s Web 101 for this experienced intern covers how a former magazine editor, Lois Draegin, has entered a new life of online editing after losing her job with TV Guide. She now works as an unpaid intern for women’s site wow0wow.

As part of her new job, she’s discovered that how people search — and maintaining a search friendly web site — is an essential part of the content process. From the opening of the story:

In a search for a new job in the media, she had suddenly found herself techno-challenged. She didn’t know a URL from SEO.

It wasn’t until she was teamed up with Randi Bernfeld at WOW that she understood the obsession with terms such as search engine optimization (a method to increase traffic to a website) or used Google Trends to pick story topics and write a uniform resource locater (Web address).

And further in:

Arriving before 8 one day, her immediate task was to look for story ideas and mash together information from other websites into a brief news item for the “Wow Watch” column. Finding topics was easy enough — Draegin fits WOW’s demographic and instinctively understands the interests of its savvy readers.

But she repeatedly had to check her gut instincts against that all-important tool — Google Trends — to make sure her ideas would attract readers to the website. That morning, she chose to put yet another angle on a story about the California mother of octuplets who has been omnipresent on the Web.

In the past, she hadn’t bothered to learn such skills as writing tags and URLs because she was paid to think globally about the direction of her magazine. Now she had to think globally not only about each topic but about every word she wrote in the URL, headline, subhead, tag and links in the story.

Everything had to be crafted to draw readers.

“It’s really a challenge to do all of that at once,” Draegin said.

It is definitely an exciting time in our industry, and as more people turn to the internet to find products and services, Search Marketing for local businesses is becoming more of need for businesses looking to expand their customer base, and drive revenue.

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Google Launches “Interest-Based Advertising” Beta

Google Launches “Interest-Based Advertising” Beta

Search Engine Land has another great article by Barry Schwartz taking a look at Google’s new “Interest-Based Advertising” beta.  This looks to provide a big advantage for both consumers and advertisers. (Read below)

Google today is launching a form of behavioral targeting advertising named Interest-Based Advertising. Interest-Based Advertising allows advertisers to deliver ads based on hundreds of interest categories and previous interactions with those users. The beta is opening to select advertisers at first but will be expanded in the upcoming months.

Brad Bender, Google’s Product Manager in display offerings on Google Content Network, explained that Google is looking to make ads “more interesting” to users and more effective for advertisers. Interest-Based Advertising allows Google to do that by giving users control over their interest categories and advertisers the ability to target based on those categories and user’s previous actions.

Interest based categories are based on the type of web site a browser visits. For example, if a user visits ESPN often, Google will know that user is interested in sports. Bender told me Google currently has 30 top line categories and about 600 detailed categories. In addition, users have control over these categories and can add or remove categories in the user ad preferences section at google.com/ads/preferences.

Previous interaction is the second area of Interest Based advertising where Google is able to show ads to users based on their browsers previous interaction with that advertiser. For example, if a user had a product in their shopping cart and did not check out, the advertiser can display ads on other sites, within the Google network, that promote that product or that product line. This is Google leveraging their DoubleClick technology from the acquisition in April 2007.

To read the complete article (which I highly recommend) Click Here

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Local Business Showcase – Lake Mountain Cabins

Local Business Showcase – Lake Mountain Cabins

Lake Mountain Cabins in Broken Bow, Oklahoma is known for making guests feel welcome and at home. Located minutes away from all of the natural attractions that lure visitors to the Broken Bow and Hochatown areas, such as the clear waters of Broken Bow Lake, the serenity from floating or fishing Mountain Fork River, the majestic views of Beavers Bend State Park, the Ouachita Mountains and peaceful hikes along one of the many nature trails.

Just wanted to say thank you for providing such a good service. I am very happy with the results I am getting … my site is showing up on the first page with my keyword searches.

~ Shelia Wallis – Lake Mountain Cabins, Broken Bow, OK

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