Tag Archives: Technology

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.”

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

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

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!

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.

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

Using Twitter For Local Marketing

I found this good read on Twitter and it’s effects on Local Marketing by Chris Smith over at Search Engine Land it is definitely worth taking the time to read.

The Twitter social networking and micro-blogging service was launched only two years ago, but it’s rocketing up in usage numbers quickly, and it seems likely to turn red-hot. Many companies are rapidly cluing into the promotional value, but smaller businesses appear slow to hop on the bandwagon. Here are a few tips on leveraging Twitter to help your locally-oriented business.

As oft pointed-out among search marketers, Twitter links do not pass “link juice”—that is, they don’t transfer PageRank value from Twitter to linked-to sites. Even though links in Twitter are nofollowed, there still could be some small value in real ranking terms, according to the theory that “citations” or “references” appear to sometimes help improve rankings in local search.  So, at the very least, it’s a good idea to claim a profile in Twitter and link back to your business site.

But, the larger value of Twitter to your company may be in terms of audience engagement and as a communication vehicle, if you learn to use Twitter effectively…

…Even better, if they endorse the business to their followers, this becomes an online species of word-of-mouth-marketing. So, how do you encourage this to happen?

Twitter is full of word of mouth Marketing opportunities. Here’s a sample of just a few tweets I saw that came up in the last week for people seeking NYC restaurants:

  • “I need a good reco for a restaurant in NYC with fried chicken. Anyone have suggestions?”
  • “looking for inexpensive restaurant options in NYC. Anyone want to help? I’ll be in Soho, but all around the island”
  • “I’m seeking NYC Mexican restaurant recommendations, any thoughts?”
  • “looking for a NYC restaurant recommendation for me and my lady friends…”

To read the complete article Click Here

Then head on over to twitter and follow eLocal Listing for updates on blog posts, products and not to mention the fact that we would love to hear what you are up to.

Coding In a Team Environment

For the 1st part of the series we are going to look at code, but we are not going to talk about perfect html/css semantics, many others have done that, and it is probably a series in itself. The goal with this article is to provide a few simple tips that will help when working in a team environment, as well as provide some solid resources for further learning.

For many of us single line css, our own routines, choice of naming conventions and personal approach to writing and organizing code is a way of life, and we are very comfortable in it. When working as a part of a development team a lot of these comfort-zones can be challenged, but the ability to be flexible not only saves frustration, but also says a lot to those we work for about our ability to be a productive part of a team, which goes along way in the work place. Here are some things that I have learned, tried, and found to be very helpful. I will provide reference links so you can do more research if so inclined.

1) Link / Import your stylesheets, and scripts.

This may seem like simple beginner css/html, but we must remember that everyone on our team my not be well versed in our areas of expertise. The cleaner and more organized our html (and css) files are the easier it is for others to pick them up navigate through the code and execute their project responsibilities.

One of the ways to do this is to keep all styles out of the html in an external style sheet that you link or import to the html file. The same goes for scripts wether we are using jquery, mootools, or some other scripting we should do our best to keep it out of the main html document (there are exceptions… google scripts, flash, and browser detection to name a few).

The main idea is to keep our code very clean, readable, and easy for others to use. When we compartmentalize our different code elements it makes it easier for others to know what to expect, where to find it, and keeps a solid framework for team development from initial development to revisions. For more on this check out Jina bolton’s presentations on Sexy Stylesheets there are some great insights.

2) The Name Game – Responsible Convention Naming

When creating our html and css files it can be easy (for times sake) to cut some corners and name our div id’s and classes very general terms. Initially I can understand this thought process, but I think we do out team members a disservice by taking this simple approach.

If someone were to pick up our work and need to edit it would our naming conventions help them get to the section they need to edit quickly, or would they have to search through our files filtering through general terms to try to find it?

As you can see this isn’t very efficient, I am sure that many of you are thinking “that sounds great in principal, but it just isn’t practical.” I agree there are times and environments that don’t lend to this idea, but as much as we can we should make our best effort to help our team by clearly defining “id’s” and “classes”, so that when someone else picks up one of our files to edit, they can easily find the section where the edits need to take place.

Using terms like main, left, right may seem easy and even familiar to us, but can lead to frustration when digging though files looking for content to edit/update. We should try to give our id’s and classes names that describe their purpose and placement on the page.

Andy Clarke put it well when he said.

“ That is why I think that establishing a set of naming conventions makes sense, not because I’m some kind of Maoist revolutionary who thinks that we should all wear the same grey boiler suits, but because it can make life easier for us and our end-users. “

Our team members and end-users should be the driving force behind setting up good practices. I encourage you if you haven’t to check out his site, and especially his writings I have found them very informative, and helpful.

Again for those of us who use css/html on a more advanced scale some of these concepts may seem simple, but we must remember that the focus of this series is to work towards bettering our development team.

3) Use Comments

If we take into consideration the above ideas and build upon them further by implementing a comment system we all but serve up great mark up on a silver platter for our dev teammates.

Working with Mike A (@miacevedo) we implemented commenting for easy browsing through code, as well as version tracking to help keep track of when revisions happened and who executed them. This allows us to both work on the same style sheet, or html pretty seamlessly, and will without a doubt increase efficiency of our front end development efforts.

This is something that I also picked up from Jina Bolton’s “Creating Sexy Stylesheets” presentation.

 As you can see a them the idea is to communicate well by the code we write. At times this will cause us to have to take some extra steps, and go beyond what is asked of us, but in the end it will lend to a better end result, not to mention earn the respect of our teammates, which will go a long way. The only way we can see improvement in our development team is if we start with our contribution.

Wrapping Up

These are just a few simple tips that I have picked up along the way. A lot of the concepts and inspiration comes from talks that I have heard and blogs that I have read. There is a wealth of knowledge out there just waiting to be soaked up.

If you have any input, or tips that you have used, please feel free to share them.

1) Building a Successful Dev Team

2) Coding In a Team Environment

3) Building Development Team Communication

Building a Successful Dev Team

Here at eLocal I find myself doing less “web design” and doing more User Interface design, as well as a lot of UX research/design/testing. This has caused me to really step back and see team development in a new perspective. The more interaction I have with our engineers (local, and offshore) the more I understand their world, and how it relates to me as I develop the front end of a lot of our applications, and the more user testing, and UX related research I do the more I have really come to a good understanding of all of the components and effort (individual and team) involved in making a great product (and or website) that is visually appealing, easy to use, and truly beneficial to the end user.

So this is the start of a new series on designing/developing in a team environment and how to take steps to ensure that you and your team are working towards success. Whether you are a team lead/manager or one of the cog’s in a bigger mechanism each role is important and if we can learn what we can contribute to the team we can help insure the success of the products/web sites that we are a part of creating.

The series will be split into four parts:

1) Building a Successful Dev Team

2) Coding In a Team Environment

3) Building Development Team Communication

Hopefully as we look at these (an possibly a couple extra) points we will be able develop a focused pursuit of development team bliss, granted it may not be as easy as it sounds, but developing a solid dev team that works together to accomplish a common goal is instrumental to the success of any design firm, start up, and or top secret missions.

Welcome and some interesting news on SEO growth

I wanted to welcome you to the new improved eLocal Blog. It’s a place where our team can share insights into where we are going and and what we are doing to get there. This is a really interesting and exciting time in our story. As you may know we are highly focused on getting our customers great marketing value online. We do that mostly through our special flavor of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). I found this very interesting article recently which talks about how even in very tough economic times SEO is showing strong growth. It’s an approach to marketing which works across the board. This article is more focused towards SEO for larger businesses. We specialize in delivering great SEO value for the small business which comprise the backbone of the US economy and we do it a price point most small businesses can afford.

Very best wishes


SEO Investments Expected To Grow More Than 20%
As marketers begin to better understand how Web site optimization fits into overall campaigns, budget investments in search engine optimization (SEO) will grow at a higher rate each year, compared with other types of search marketing strategies, according to a recent report from eMarketer.

The report, “Search Marketing Trends: Back to Basics,” suggests that growth will decline for paid search from 15.9% in 2009 to 11.3% in 2013–while SEO growth will jump from 17.7% to 20.3%, respectively.

“Every company is losing some business because of the economy, whether they buy less, or not at all,” said David Hallerman, eMarketer senior analyst. “There is a greater focus on customer acquisition. Search is the best tool for that.”

Internet users generally find organic listings more relevant than paid search ads, so they tend to click on the search engine results more often than pay-per-click (PPC) ads, Hallerman said. But marketers should design campaigns that combine paid search advertising and SEO.

Overall, U.S. spending on search engine marketing will nearly double from $12.2 billion in 2008 to $23.4 billion in 2013. All four types of search marketing will gain more marketer dollars each year.

Successful deployment of both methods could mean higher rankings in search query results. Each offers benefits. For example, paid search’s effects are immediate, but marketers need to spend consistently for those sponsored-link ads to appear in search results. SEO effects take time, but marketers need Web site maintenance more than daily spending to sustain high organic results. How long it takes to deliver a return on investments (ROI) depends on conversions, Hallerman said.

While lots of data makes search more accountable than other ad media, too much data could overwhelm marketers and create confusion that clouds decisions, according to Hallerman. More important, the abundance of data makes Web analytics crucial for managing the process.

While marketers might see increased traffic as positive, if the search ad’s cost relative to its conversion rate means a reduced bottom line, the marketer would need to examine the strategy, including bids on certain keywords, keywords to bid on, and the search engine to place ads on.

“Far more marketers say SEO is much harder to gauge because it has far less metrics,” Hallerman said. “SEO is like public relations. You hope people will notice and buy the product. It’s a lot like tracking buzz.”