Is the World as We Know It Coming to an End?

by Carl Weiss

Listen to internet radio with workingthewebtowin on Blog Talk Radio

With the end of the Mayan long count calendar about to occur in three days, a lot of people are concerned about the world as they know it coming to an end.  While apocalyptic premonitions have been a regular occurrence even into modern times (who could forget the memorable non-event known as Y2K?), when it comes to cataclysmic changes taking place, I’ve got news for you…You’re too late.  Ever since the advent of the Internet, the ways in which people all over the globe work, communicate, play, shop and get their news has been radically affected.  As time goes on these changes have actually been accelerating.  Let me count the ways.

1.      Shop til You Drop!

With the holiday season upon us, not even Santa is immune from the Internet.  I mean, who needs eight tiny reindeer when you have Amazon and EBay?  Why fight your way in and out of the mall when you can point and click your way through your shopping list, your Christmas card list and have your presents shipped overnight?  Have you seen people wandering the aisles at Walmart staring at their smartphones?  They aren’t texting.  They’re comparison shopping online.  When you realize that back in 2002, consumers in the US spent $42 billion shopping online and in 2011 they spent $162 billion, the fact that more people are spending more of their discretionary income online than ever before is plain to see.

2.      The Only News That’s Fit to Print

Newspapers have been a dominant source of information for more than 550 years.  Ever since Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press back in 1454, the printed word has not only been a source of comfort to the populace, it has also been a source of revenue to publishers the world over.  The problem is that since 2000, which was the high water mark for traditional publishers, those figures have been dropping ever since.

According to a recent Mashable.comreport:
·         In 2000, newspapers peaked at $48.67 billion in revenue. This came entirely from print -- the National Association of Adertising did not track online ad revenue at that time, but we can assume it was a minuscule number.
·         In 2001, it started dropping. Revenues dropped from $48.67 billion to $44.305 billion, a 9% decrease year-over-year. This was during the time of the Dot Com Bust and the related recession, so this is no big surprise.
·         During 2002-2006, print advertising revenues hovered between $44 and $47 billion.
·         Around this time, the NAA also began tracking online ad revenue. At the peak in 2005, combined ad revenue reached $49.435 billion, with $2.027 billion of it coming from online sales
·         Then the floor completely caved in. In 2006, newspapers made $49.275 billion in total revenue. In 2007, it was $45.375 billion. In 2008, it dropped to $37.848 billion. In 2009, it plummeted all the way to $27.564 billion. 
Newsflash: In four short years, newspaper advertising revenue dropped 44.24%!  The old newspaper model is simply not going to be market-viable as we head deeper into the digital age. News blogs (such as Mashable) and online reporting are the future of journalism.

3.      Has Madison Avenue Lost It’s Mojo?
Of course, print media isn’t the only thing that has taken a hit since the turn of the century.  Traditional broadcast avenues such as network television, cable television and radio have also seen their revenues decline sharply.  The Yellow Pages, once one of the dominant forces of local advertising clout has seen usage drop from a high of 15.2 billion searches in 2002 to less than 11 billion searches in 2010. (Statistics gleaned from report entitled: Are Yellow Pages Toast

So, is it a coincidence the rapid drop in readership, viewership and listenership being experienced by traditional media should so closely parallel the rise of the Internet as a multimedia superstation?  Or has Madison Avenue simply lost its mojo?  Some mainstream marketing professionals think so.

I’m reading The Future of Advertising article in FastCompany,  good stuff – but it reminds me of a constant voice in my head when I meet with my agency clients. You know, the one that screams, “Ouch, maybe that approach worked in the 90′s but does he really think this same approach is going to win the client’s business?” 

It also reminds my agency friends they need to seriously re-think the role of advertising in the new world of Web 2.0, digital being front and center, develop and demonstrate innovative use of the social map, and frankly stay in the game of constant game-changing.  Some will survive, while others are going to need to find their mojo, and not just by learning new approaches, but by redefining what it means to be in the business of advertising in the first place.

(Sheri writes about behavioral science and neuromarketing insights and consults with leading brands on effective application of these insights for product and marketing development. Her work has been featured in B@B, Direct, Target, CRM News, Online Media Daily, the New York Times and the Boston Business Journal.)

Being an advertising professional myself, I can relate to this vibe.  The problem is that the majority of ad agencies are still stuck in the 1990’s.  By that I mean that they continue to push the media that built most ad agencies, which boils down to traditional advertising.  As a result, a number of agencies, including those on Madison Avenue are having increasing trouble in retaining clients due chiefly to poor ROI as traditional media continue to slump versus digital media. 

4.      Has Ma Bell Had Her Apron Strings Shortened?

Remember when there were no cellphones and the only thing you could do with a phone was talk?  Remember when Bell Telephone ruled the roost and long distance charges were billed at whatever the market would bear.  Well times have changed for the better for consumers and businesses alike when it comes to communicating via phone.  The telephone monopolies now share their positions with the cell phone companies and other 3rd party players offering Voice Over IP phone service. Products like Magic Jack and Vonage have put a big dent in the armor plating of ATT and the others Baby Bell giants.

Even the postal service has undergone dramatic changes. The US postal service has to keep scaling back because of the reduction in mailed letters and documents. Its costs keep going up because they now mainly have to handle packages and of course they have the unions to contend with.  Email has grown to huge proportion of written communication and is now the defacto way that most modern societies communicate. The Growth of texting has had a huge influence on the population, since text messages often get read when emails are ignored and cell calls are relegated to voice mail. It’s become such a problem that texting behind the wheel accounts for thousands of car crashes a year and tens of thousands of surprise cell phone bills to unhappy parents.

5.      Our Ever More Wired World

If you think the past ten years has changed the way in which we live, work, shop and play, wait until you see what the next five has to offer.  Everything from wearable computers to autonomous vehicles to robots that can see, hear, smell and talk are already on the drawing board or under development. 

Far from having to wait until 12-21-12, what the vast majority of the populace hasn’t realized is the fact that the world as we knew it ceased to exist shortly after Y2K.  The question isn’t whether this is going to throw a monkey wrench into the works.  It is simply a matter of how we as a species are going to deal with a rapidly changing world.

Carl Weiss is president of W Squared Media Group, a digital marketing agency based in Jacksonville, Florida.  He is also co-host of Working the Web to Win, a weekly online radio show that airs Tuesday at 4pm Eastern on Blog Talk Radio.

Google Calling?

By Carl Weiss

Recently our company was approached by one of our clients who held in his hand a printout of a form letter he had been spammed with that read as follows,
Hi, I recently visited your website, “”, during a routine survey of sites which may be capable of higher search engine performance through Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Efficient SEO brings an increase in online sales or leads. I hope this information may be of use to you, if not then I apologies for any inconvenience caused. So, here's a summary of my findings on your site:

- Your Google Page rank is 0/10
- You have 0/10 back-links
- Your website has 0/15 pages indexed

I'm going somewhere with all this... I wanted to do my homework and research your website because I want to show you that I have applied some research to your website before contacting you with my proposal. We are in the business of offering 3 benefits for your website:

1) Diagnosing and fixing all issues with your website
2) Ranking your site to the top of the search results
3) Significantly increasing your online revenue levels.

Let me know if you would like to further information by email or we could schedule a call.

I look forward to your feedback

We pointed out to the client that not only was the email a form letter, it failed to point out the following:
1. The site rank is irrelevant! Only keyword ranking is important for search!
2. The message did not mention any specific keyword searches.
3. The spam contained no reference as to where the firm that send the message was located.
4. The email did not detail any method or methods they intended to employ in order to rectify the situation.
5. They also did not include any reference to the client's blogs, social posts or videos, which today accounts for 75% of the search engine ranking.
6. Most egregious of all was the fact that this particular website was ranked in the top ten listing on Google Page One for no fewer than seven keywords. In other words, they are already on page one of Google .

The crux of the matter was that whoever sent the spam that caused our client to go into a panic attack did not do their homework. They were simply Phishing for a response, any response from which to gain a toehold in order to try to get the prospect to fork over a credit card number. And far from being surprised at these tactics, I myself am routinely bombarded with email and phone calls from sales reps purportedly from Google who want to make me aware that my site is not on page one. Does this scenario sound familiar to you?

Google does not have a sales force.

What most people are unaware of is the fact that Google is not behind any of these messages and/or calls simply due to the fact that they have no outbound sales force. What they do is work with digital media agencies like ours. In fact they have a certification system for agencies wishing to offer Adwords pay-per-click advertising to their clients. But as far as organic ranking to which Google makes not one slim dime, the company does not offer assistance at any price, other than YouTube videos designed to let you know what Google wants in terms of content, back links and the like. The fact of the matter is that Google guards how it ranks website and keywords for organic results. They do this to keep companies from being able to dominate organic search. Therefore any sales rep claiming to be from Google is at best a bald-faced liar and at worst an online criminal looking to do you harm.

What every business needs to know about search engine optimization.

If you go back to the year 2000, all that the search engines looked at in order to deermine how sites ranked was contained on-site. Face it, back in 2000 there were no such things as blogs, social networks and streaming video. Heck, it could take a minute or more to get graphics to load properly if you were using a dial-up account. So all the search engine spiders had to look at was your website. Well, we’ve come a long way baby. Today, only 25% of what the search engines look at is contained on-site. The majority of SEO criteria consist of such things as backlinks, blog posts, social posts, and videos. Not only do the spiders look to see whether these items are present, they also determine the relevance and the quality of posts. This along with frequency, whether or not the posts have been commented on and if they have been reposted to social sites, all factor in. What this means is that it isn’t enough to sport the logos for Twitter, Facebook and Google+ on your site, you also need to feed them on a regular basis.

What SEO Means Today

Here are the facts you need to contend with. There are more than 320 million websites online today, with another 130,000 new sites entering the fray daily. And every one of them wants to be on page one. In order to have any kind of chance to win with the odds stacked against you, website owners need to consider the following:

• Content is king. The days of “Set it and forget it” are over. If you want to get into the game, you need to blog on at least a weekly basis and you need to post to the social networks on at least a daily basis.
• The Internet has become a multimedia broadcast network. If the only thing your website has to offer is prose, you aren’t going to be taken seriously by either the Google bots or your intended audience. You need to add podcasts and/or videos to your site on at least a monthly basis. (Weekly is even better.)
• Your blogs need to be more than extended tweets. If you don’t provide the readers with valuable articles to engage them, why should they read your blog at all, much less tweet or repost it?
• You also must ally yourself with other bloggers and social media publishers if you hope to generate any kind of audience online. The last thing you want to wind up doing is spending time and money building a billboard in the desert.

In short, if you want to get off the bench and into the game, you need to make online content creation a priority. This means either feeding the system yourself, or hiring either an individual or an agency to do the work for you. Just bear in mind that outsourcing a job that requires weekly blogging, daily social posts, monthly backlink building and video/podcast production is not going to come cheap. Anyone telling you they can get you on Google page 1 for $99.95 per month is just going to take your hundred bucks a month for as long as you would care to pay it. A minimum of $1,000.00 per month is a more realistic figure, unless you are willing to do at least some of the work yourself.

Top 10 Questions to ask any SEO firm

Even spending a grand a month doesn’t mean that you are going to jump onto page 1 overnight… if ever. If you are considering hiring the task out, here are ten questions you need to ask.

1. Where is your company located and how long have you been doing SEO? (Ask for their phone number and business address.)
2. What are your fees and what will I get for the money?
3. Does this fee include copywriting of blogs and social posts? What else? (backlinks, videos)
4. Can you provide me with references for current clients? (Do you have any video testimonials?)
5. What kind of performance guarantees do you offer and can I get them in writing?
6. How long is the contract and how long will it take to get my site on page one?
7. What happens if you fail to deliver results?
8. How do you determine the best keywords for my business?
9. What kind of reports will I receive and how often will I receive them?
10. Whom do I call if I have any questions or needs during the time you are in my employ?

If any company that offers to optimize your site can’t tell you precisely what it is that you will be getting for your money and they can’t provide you with the phone numbers and address for at least 5 satisfied current clients, then they do not deserve your consideration. Also be wary of offshore firms since it is nearly impossible to get any kind of refund should they fail to deliver the goods. Also beware of long term contracts of one year or more. Many automatically renew and they put the onus on you to continue paying without any appreciable quid pro quo in terms of results with the SEO provider.

The bottom line is that if you are serious about maximizing your online results then you only have three possible options. Number one; you are willing to take the time to get the job done right on your own. This will take a huge amount of time and effort on your part. Number two; You are willing to do part of the work yourself and outsource the rest. Or three, outsource all the task in its entirety to a reputable firm that has all the tools necessary to complete the job on a timely basis. All three will allow you to reap the rewards that come with having organic page one search engine visibility. If you’re outsourcing, just remember this. You are hiring a technician, not a magician and results won’t be instantaneous.  It could take three or four months before you start seeing page 1 results.

So the next time you get a call or an email from someone purportedly associated with Google, hit them with the first few questions in the list above and see how often you get a legitimate response. I’ll bet that 99 times out of 100 they will admit that they don’t work for Google and/or they will simply hang up. Either way you are now armed with the necessary knowledge to find a legitimate firm that can help you get the job done right.

Carl Weiss has helped companies improve their online results since 1995. He is president of W Squared Media Group, a digital marketing agency that provides a full array of digital marketing service including web design, SEO, blog writing, copyediting, social media posts, video production and touch marketing. You can hear him weekly on the radio show he co-hosts, “Working the Web to Win” every Tuesday at 4pm Eastern.

Keeping Up with the Joneses on the Social Networks

by Hector Cisneros

Listen to internet radio with workingthewebtowin on Blog Talk Radio

The marketing world we live in today is a far cry from the one our parents grew up with during the 50 and 60’s. TV, News Paper, Yellow Pages and Radio have hardly changed their format since their inception. In contrast, the internet is a rapidly evolving medium. If you look at all the marketing segments of the internet, Social Media is the most volatile with regards to change. As a matter of fact more rapid changes are coming to LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+ and Twitter then just about any other online segment. The past 12 months have shown massive change, including a slew of new features, updated networks and there does not seem to be an end in sight! How will these social media changes affect your businesses' social standing? Will it mean additional changes in how you manage your social media? Are you going to have to join other networks?

That's not all.  Rapid changes in technology and software tools can make or break your social media standings. Not taking advantage of new features can leave your social media sites looking old school and unrefined. More importantly you will not be taking advantage of the opportunities available to your business. Let's look at a half dozen changes that have taken place in various social media platforms and how they have affected some businesses.

Facebook Changes worth noting

Massive growth. Facebook biggest change for the year was the addition of Global Brand Pages. This allows a company to create a single URL , yet have it customized for each of the local markets it services. Facebook started the year with a professed 900,000,000 subscribers and is now well over a billion. Facebook has changed how you interact and post to the news feed timeline and how you organize and pay attention to your friends. This is true both for personal accounts as well as Fan Pages. They have also revamped how Pay Per click and Pay per view is organized, reported and executed. They have even added mobile-only ads. This effects not only how you interpret your analytics it also effects how you use Facebook psychographics to drill down to your intended target market. Make sure you study Facebook’s tutorials for advertising and make sure any YouTube training videos you watch are current and that they reflect the new changes. Facebook has plateaued in growth. Look to see its growth slow in 2013.

Twitter Changes worth noting

Twitter has added "Tailored Trend," which is designed to notify a subscriber about trends in which users should be interested. This is based on your profile and what Twitter knows about you as a subscriber. Twitter has added more options to PPC and sponsored links this year. You can now target users by their interests as well. They have also changed their look and feel, added banner backgrounds and also permit a photo/video gallery. Twitter has shown massive growth this year, more than any other network. They have shown the greatest percentage of growth, from a mere 125,000,000 subscribers to 500,000,000 subscribers. I have also noticed an increase in their sensitivity to the number of follows you make per day. There sometimes seems to be no rhyme or reason to their limits. Just err on the side of caution when setting up a new account and spread out your follows throughout the day if you want to avoid being tagged as a spammer.

Google+ Changes worth noting

Google + has folded had several other Google properties and integrated a couple of new ones into the platform this year. The most important of these is Google Local, Google +1 and Google Invite, which were added to Google, along with Hangouts, which is a free teleconferencing/screen sharing facility. G+ also updated/tweaked its brand pages format and added additional functionality to hangouts. You can now broadcast a hangout and record it directly to YouTube. Google+ subscribers have also grown in number. Their active user community is over 150,000,000 strong with 400,000,000 total users. Continue to watch Google+ grow add even more functionality in 2013. This is Google’s MO when it comes to dominating a market.

LinkedIn Changes worth noting

Linked in has shown steady growth and has also added several new features. The most significant is the additional of Business Pages. LinkedIn’s B2B functionality has always been strong. It's widely used "Recommendations" feature has always been a favorite of its subscriber base. Now LinkedIn has added an active element to its recommendation section where LinkedIn actively invites your connections to recommend and endorse you. If you haven't given this a shot, you need to log in today.

YouTube changes worth noting

YouTube has grown to be the second most visited search engine in the world, only exceed by Google Search itself. YouTube now receives 4 billion views a day! They have also refined the back-end search features and refined their pay per click system. It is now tightly integrated with Google+ and they have also added a built-in video editor, so now you don’t even have to purchase third party video editing software. Look to see continued growth of YouTube subscribers, along with its use as a search engine, and as an important ranking factor in Google Search. Keep an eye out for further integration into Google+ and refinement of its PPC model next year.

Other Changes worth noting

A new player that is showing promise is Pintrest. This social network is very effective for businesses that are visually oriented or that routinely use photos to sell their products. Graphic artists, photographers, printers, magazines and any business that relies on a picture being worth a thousand words loves this medium. Others networks worth mentioning are Tumblr and Reddit both of which have shown steady growth. Overall loser include Taringa, Digg, Bebo, Friendster and MySpace. All of which have shown a significant loss of subscribers and or market share. There you have it, an overview of the rapidly occurring changes that make up the Social Media landscape today. What has happened over the last six months to a year is that the major players and wannabes have been duking it out out to see who can provide the best platform for social media subscribers. Needless to say, all of the players in this arena are striving to be number one. This article has intended to keep you abreast of major changes that have taken place this year. The coming year promises to provide even more changes, so pay attention to what they are doing. Better yet, keep reading my blogs and tune into our Working the Web to Win radio show every Tuesday at 4pm Eastern if you want to stay ahead of the curve.

That’s my opinion, I look forward to reading yours.

Hector Cisneros is COO of W Squared Media Group, a prominent online marketing company based in Jacksonville, FL. He is also co-host of Blog Talk Radio’s “Working the Web to Win,” which airs every Tuesday at 4pm Eastern. And a published syndicated writer and published author of 60 Seconds to success.