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Facebook wants to you to keep it crisp and tight. At least that’s the latest rumors to be found at http://www.allfacebook.com/90-characters-2012-02, where it states that the folks at FB wants to keep ads to a 90-character limit. Shorter ads, more ads per page. More ads per page, more revenue streams.

Makes sense but opens up a can of worms for those still struggling to make do with the paltry 135 characters currently available. <- that by the way was 130 characters.

Creativity is the word of the day. Messaging with less elocution. The trend for language throughout the world of the web continues the downward spiral; from 175 characters ads in sponsored advertising (like Google AdWords), to 140 for Tweets, and now this current predicted truncation on Facebook.

Not that this is all too new – those familiar with high-cost real estate or sex partner advertising in newspapers are long familiar with the creative process of abbreviated messaging. Care for a 2/1/1 DA ez comm 825sf bsf only? But with those shortened code messages comes the requirement of a user community familiar with the acronyms and abbrs. Desperately hunting for apartments force-teaches many to become experts in the linguistics of the newspaper ads, just as years of playing around with text messaging has both created and force-taught millions how to lol at the mztks of novice texters 🙂

The question is, how fast will a new language take to form that will fit comfortably into the confines of Facebook advertising, and how valuable will it be to users to teach themselves how to navigate the language? Only time will tell.

Ltz hop it dznt kll lang al2gthr!

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The US Federal Trade Commission is trying to corner all of the good properties on the Monopoly board before Google can buy them up, metaphorically speaking.

Google’s latest expansion of its search algorithms to modify search results in favor of Google Plus tags is seen by many to be just one more step in guaranteeing that those who master Google’s own toolsets will be able to benefit most from Google search.

In a nutshell, the recent changes to Google rules with result in SERPS (search engine result pages) showing content based upon a combination of the searcher’s criteria and the activities of the social network (within Google’s world) of that searcher. If I have many friends and business associates related to me through Google+, and those social connections have preferences for particular entities or businesses relative to a search I am conducting on Google, those preferences will be a factor in my SERPS. You like funnypets.com (via a Google+ like), and you are in my Plus network, then funnypets.com becomes a more likely result for me in searches related to pets and fun.

This is all great in a world where the only type of searching you do is as part of a community. But how many of us really want to be influenced by others in what should be simple research? I mean, if my Google+ friend likes some really stupid websites, should those preferences play any role at all in my online search for related content? My friends on Google+ have their own preferences for many things that are part of my world; however, I can contact them directly if I want their input.

These Google+ influences on search bring us into a party-line mode of Internet search. For those of you who don’t know that reference, a party line used to be a situation whereby multiple people would have access to the same general circuit on the phone, thereby making it all too possible that someone else could accidentally or purposely listen in our your calls. I think most of us would agree that this is not a situation we would like to return as part of our phone networking, so why would we want to make it part of our online search?

As an Internet Marketer I have both this personal stake in what Google is doing and a very important business stake. How do I control the external influencers, the social networks, of my clients’ potential connections? Making yourself visible in a top position in Google search is hard enough. Trying to get a first page listing when you have this vast unknown of Google+ connections that are influencing the search results of people looking for your services or products will be many times harder.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not afraid of hard work. Don’t necessarily like it, but not afraid of it. Hard work will not overcome something over which I have no possible control. If Google decided that all SERPS would be presented in Russian by default, I could learn Russian and I could help my clients learn Russian no matter how difficult that might be (Это нет обвинительного акта русского языка!). Yet if Google decided that every time someone uses their search tool, Google would no longer pick the best public resources available for that search result but instead selected something only they could find, there is little I could do to control the results.

By the way, that is what they are doing.

No big conspiracy theories here. I hope the FTC can “guide” Google back to open search with a little prodding. Whether Google’s move is malicious or not, the end result is a more self-centered, niche world of search. People spend enough time now narrowing their filters on things they do, read, watch, listen to, or research; taking away the last opportunity for people to accidentally stumble upon someone else’s world view on the Internet may make us more comfortable in our own little cubicles, but it does nothing for expansiveness of thought.

The promise of the Internet has always been the free and unfettered access to information. If I want someone else’s opinion about what I want, I’ll ask them for it. Right now it’s more like that old saying: If I wanted your opinion, I’d give it to you.

Your Online Personality

What you say, how you say it, and when you say it – these are the components of content that can make or break your Internet Marketing. Right from the very first words (and images) displayed on your web resources, to the last call to action you hope entices contact.

The process of compressing everything you want to say into a handful of words and a couple of images is a challenge. It is also the most important thing you will do when marketing, whether on the Internet or anywhere else. It is why a good marketing director or advertising agent can be paid a small fortune for what might amount to 100 words over the course of a year. If you can capture the spirit of your corporate voice and entice your audience to action all with a short phrase and a pretty picture, everything else will flow from that starting point.

Take for example the process we are going through with a client right now. This client has established an image for herself as a budget-conscious interior designer on the back of a static, somewhat cluttered presence. Her work and business ethic speak volumes for her, but she realizes that the Internet image she projects has handcuffed her to a limited audience. It is time for her to shine in the light of her personal image, and to get a message across quickly and effectively online.

It is our job to bring any visitor to this new website towards that image. Our initial discussions on the language of the home page for this new website illustrates the concern for tight focus upon her talent and high-end appeal, and still manage to convey her attractiveness as a designer for the budget-conscious. Say too much about “budget” or “affordable” and you turn off those looking for talent over cost, or even those without budget limits (got to love those!). Say too little about affordability and you lose your bread and butter clients who have more limited operating budgets.

You’ve heard the expression “a picture is worth 1,000 words”? Well, that doesn’t always mean that the words are the ones you want. So we are dancing around images as well, trying to send the simultaneous messages of “You Can’t Afford NOT to Use Me” and “You Can Afford to Use Me”. The very best work my client does for those with monetary constraints often leads to images that look much more costly than they were to create. In other words, the 1,000 words of some of these images might include “Wow – this looks too expensive for me!”.

As I mentioned, we are in the design phase right now and are having some fun working around the idea of “The Look for Less”. We are both pretty anxious to get through this phase and into development so that we can start to realize the vision, and begin some serious marketing. I’ll post on this client again when we get there – then you can decide if we managed to get the message right.

Social Lies to Optimize

Let’s be honest with ourselves as businesspeople: are those Facebookers really your “friends” and to they really “like” your company? Are they following you on Twitter because you are the smartest and best of breed in your industry?

Hopefully the answer to those questions is a resounding YES! But like I suggested at the start – let’s be honest. You probably gave something away on Facebook that was liked, and the opportunity to get more stuff for free is why so many might be following you.

You tell your kids that they are great when they sometimes are simply mediocre at sports. Was your wife really beautiful that night at the party, or was that a little white lie to make her feel good? Were you really happy that your customer called, or was that closing “So glad we spoke” simply a way to put an upbeat ending to an otherwise painful conversation?

We run our businesses as well as we can, and if we are good we put extra effort into making sure our products or services are better than most. When we excel it is usually because we have kept our eyes on the ball and made sure our customers are not dissatisfied. As I have heard it said so perfectly before, we strive to suck less than our competitors.

That’s not a low bar I am setting. Rather it is simply a matter of truth in advertising. We are selected and kept by our customers because they find in us a value that goes beyond what we sell or do. You can’t really believe that you are the only one who could do what you do, nor should you be delusional in thinking that you are the very best in the entire world at doing it. You succeed because you convince your customers that you are the only one FOR THEM to do what you do, and you are the best FOR THEM at doing it.

The social lies you tell are not dishonest; they are comforting. In the world of Internet Marketing, we optimize for our clients on the basis of what searchers want to hear (okay, see really, unless we are talking video, but let’s not digress). If they want the “best garage door repair service” possible, then that is what you are when you optimize for the web. When someone is looking for “great French food”, it is the only food your restaurant serves on the Internet.

Those Facebook likes you want are going to come from something you offer that a user likes. Don’t be depressed because they really don’t like you or your business; it’s all going to be fine because you’re going to tell that “liker” that you think they are the best friend ever!

A social lie, but it’s okay.

As of October 17th Google has put in place an interesting restriction to its Analytics tracking. When implemented, the folks at Google deemed it something of a protective feature to secure your rights as a Google searcher.

In a nutshell, if you have a Google account and you are logged into that account when you perform Google searches, Google will not “inform” on your search habits. The keywords you use in your search will be hidden from anyone using Google analytics, and the search term used will be captured as part of the overall group of “(not provided)”.

This is all part of the secure server processing (https) upgrade to Google. This restriction is only in place for organic search; Google still provides the details of keywords used for all paid searches, even if you are logged into your Google account when searching. That is pretty much a contradiction in security in and of itself, but more importantly other factors are troubling about this “feature”.

Google in its announcement of this new restriction touted it as something that would affect “only a minority of your traffic”. Call me an alarmist, but even with the limited number of accounts that I handle and analyze each month, several are already showing percentages higher than 8% of (not provided) keyword search. That is only in the span of a little more than a month since implementation of this code, and shows no signs of reducing itself as a percentage of organic searches in the future. I am almost always logged into my Google account at my office and home, so 100% of my searches are being logged as (not provided). How many more of “me” are there out there?

Next you have to ask yourself what kind of security is being provided. Security from research by others? Well, as I pointed out we can still find out about the paid side of keyword search. In addition, just because I am logged into my Google account (for access to Analytics for one thing!) does not mean I have opted to not reveal my search criteria. Finally, since there is no transparency available to the general public between keywords tracked and searchers who used them anyway, just what are they hiding and from who?

Search is a two-way street; there are the searchers and there are the searched. The searchers are trying to tie a keyword phrase to a product, service, event, or something that they want to find on the Internet. The searched are basically everyone who shows up as a result of those searches. Someone asked for you to show up and you did. Is there really an element of that process that needs to be undiscoverable?

I’m not talking about discovery of the searcher and searcher’s home and phone number here, simply the actual act of the search process itself. Even if I’m looking for porno and don’t want anyone to know it, it will never hurt for me to be accumulated as a statistical digit for the pornographer’s research.

We want the experience of Internet search to be simple, fast, and effective. Google claims to want the same thing for us, and yet here they have muddied the process itself by obscuring the very information businesses need to make decisions about how to help people in that search!

Google has made some blunders before and will in the future. So have all of the search engines and for that matter every business in existence. On balance this change will not destroy the search process nor end Google’s dominance in search. However, it is either an indication of a lack of research by Google in projecting the impact and/or usefulness of this change [read that as “stupid”], or it is something diabolical. Why stupid or diabolical? Well as with most large businesses, when a decision is made to do something that is totally anti-consumer despite intuitive analysis, it is usually one or the other (anyone remember bank debit card fees recently?).

I’m counting for stupid because I don’t like to try and imagine what this will cost us all if it is not.

Read This and Wept

Language is a funny thing. The more you think you have a handle on it, the more it seems to twist away from you.

Take your initial feeling about the title of this posting; something bothersome about it? The expression that comes to mind after reading the first 3 words is “read it and weep”. That is, of course, if you accept that it was meant to be in the future tense – to read something and then weep about it. Yet had you already done that, you would have read this (read that “red”) and wept.

Reminds me of a political expression: If the right is wrong and the left is not right, is what’s left right?

You can’t take for granted that anyone reading what you have written will interpret the printed words as you intend. Sometimes you have to step back and visualize the possible misinterpretations. At least you had better if the words you have written are meant to be a marketing message. Internet Marketing is as much about interpretation of message as it is about the message itself.

It’s been said that words have meaning, but the real sense of that expression should be rewritten as words can have multiple meanings. Using the Internet to push your message often means that you have to be crisp and direct. That doesn’t mean to be a deep-fried guide, it means to be to the point and plain-spoken; but as you can see, with just the slightest misinterpretation we can be places we never wanted to be.

This is one reason why images merged with written content can help deliver a message better than words by themselves. A marketing message that shows and tells works better than one than only tells – picture worth 1,000 words and all. If you’ve got it, flaunt it.

What’s the message here? Crisply: words are important. Directly: write with your audience in mind.

The first rule of Fight Club is Don’t Talk About Fight Club. The first rule of Internet Marketing is Talk About Everything. And the first rule of Internet Marketing Consultation is Find Out About Everything.

The Fight Club came to mind after one of my latest rounds of discussions with a few of my clients. In our monthly reviews there are still those who focus solely on that paramount question “How many hits are we getting?”. For someone in the Fight Club, this is a critical question since it is basically the ONLY reason for the Fight Club to exist. It is not the only reason for a business to exist, nor for a business to enter into Internet Marketing.

What separates the Fight Club from professional boxing? Analysis. The cornermen, trainers, and fighters themselves realize that the number of hits they give or take is a measure of a fight, but it is never the only thing happening in the ring that determines the fight outcome. Sure, if you land 50 punches for every 2 received from your opponent, you probably will win a fight – but what if the second of those 2 punches from your opposition punches out your lights?

It is pretty much the same for the fight conducted over the web for business. You do need to land punches (hits) for it to be considered a fight, but the type and power of these punches are what matter most. In a boxing match it might be a roundhouse; in Internet Marketing it might be a specific high-value keyword and landing page, or a bounce rate reduction, or simply returning qualified traffic. There is no single answer on how to win the match. Knowing when you’ve landed a debilitating punch to your competition or provided a face-saving block when they attack is invaluable information. It provides you the details of your current strategy that work well, and allows you to plan the next round accordingly.

Analytics are the tools of the fight trade for Internet Marketers. The careful review of online activity for any business is the only way to prepare for the next round; and there is always a next round. That is of course unless you are selling the one and only of something and the last “hit” you got turned into that sale. How many of us are that lucky?

Internet analytics need to be used on a regular basis to determine how well a website is performing against predetermined goals. Yeah, predetermined goals – you can’t really analyze how well something is working unless you have an idea of what “well” is supposed to mean. That’s at topic for another day. For now just keep this in mind: running your business online without Internet analytics is like fighting without your cornerman. You might accidentally land that perfect punch and win, but chances are your opponent has a cornerman and is better prepared to lay you out.