Big Brother Google and Our ‘Big Data’ Internet World

Big Brother Google and Our ‘Big Data’ Internet World

As a full-time freelance writer, I spend a huge amount of my time cruising around the Internet looking for ideas and conducting research. And it’s on these digital travels that I started to notice just how clever and almost scary Internet marketing ad campaigns are.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never been naive about the ways companies collect data about us, but it’s when you start analysing the situation more closely that you realise the full extent. Also, I’d like to point out that it’s not necessarily a bad thing – well not to me at least – but I can understand why some people don’t like the thought of their data being collected.

So what exactly am I talking about?

Well, whenever you’re surfing the Internet you’ll undoubtedly see ads. Perhaps you don’t notice them because you’re transfixed on what you’re doing, but they are absolutely everywhere. Even the most innocent looking website will almost certainly be serving you up a few choice ads in the hope that you’ll click one of them, earning the site owner a little bit of money from Google or whichever other ad network they’ve chosen to use.

Despite each click being only worth maybe £0.15 to the site owner, with enough traffic and enough clicks it can be a lucrative business. And with ads being served that are specifically tailored to the site visitor’s browsing habits, the chances of a click are inevitably increased.

Let’s look at a few examples of big brother Google serving me up some ads based directly on my recent browsing habits:

Starting my blog

When I started my blog at the end of 2014, I had to buy myself a domain name. My first course of action was to go straight to Google and search for a registrant that suited my needs. One of the sites I visited (and eventually purchased my domain through funnily enough) was namecheap.com.

However, I didn’t complete my purchase the first time I visited their website and the next few days saw Google haunting me with their ads.

Here’s a screenshot of a website I use on a daily basis, thesaurus.com:

I think my thesaurus is trying to tell me something

I think my thesaurus is trying to tell me something

As you can see Google managed to squeeze in two ads for namecheap.com – one at the top and one on the right. You can imagine my thinking because I was still in need of a domain name and here was a reputable company being shoved right in front of me.

Google knows where you live

But ad networks get even cleverer than that. Take a look at the following screenshot from the BBC News website:

Laser-targeted ads catch people's attention

Laser-targeted ads catch people’s attention

It’s just a plain old article, but on the right side there is a laser-targeted ad screaming out, “James, click me!” That’s because I am an ‘expat in the Philippines’, so the ad strikes a chord immediately. Okay, so the anti-aging cream isn’t as relevant – unless Google is trying to tell me something – hmmm…

Even if I didn’t do anything other than click on the ad, a few pennies would still go into the BBC coffers; despite not making a purchase or signing up to anything.

Facebook are at it too!

We all spend a huge chunk of our time checking our favourite social networks. Therefore, it makes sense that they would be trying to entice us too, right?

As you’ll see in the following screenshot, Facebook also jumped on my namecheap.com bandwagon and not only threw a suggested post at me, but also a sidebar ad as well!

Facebook loves big data

Facebook loves big data

There’s also an ad for Lumix digital cameras – something I was also looking to buy at the time.

Facebook charges companies to get their ads put in front of people who matter. People like you and I. People who have already made a subconscious decision, but who may need a little reminder from time-to-time. Those subtle ads and suggested posts serve to trigger our innermost thoughts and lure us in for a click.

Like I said earlier, all these targeted ads aren’t necessarily a bad thing, but something you become very aware of when you actually start analysing the ads you’re seeing.

Screen-Shot-2014-04-15-at-14.04.26Author Bio:

James Devonshire is a freelance writer who specialises in creating content for social media, SEO and digital marketing purposes for a wide variety of businesses. With a strong knowledge of website monetisation, entrepreneurial practices and optimisation techniques, James has carved out a literary niche for himself from his adopted home in the Philippines.

The Rise and Fall (I Hope) of Desperate SEO

The Rise and Fall (I Hope) of Desperate SEO

SEO-image-largeJo and I talk a lot. Well I say talk, but quite often it consists of me moaning and Jo listening. In fact, Jo should probably charge me for her ‘listening time’ but I’m very thankful she doesn’t.

Now you may be wondering what it is that I moan about. The usual day-to-day stuff mostly but, until recently, there was something else quite specific on my list of bug bears; something that I like to call ‘desperate SEO’ – the inspiration behind this post.

As a freelance writer, I can obviously choose which assignments I grab by the horns and which I let slip me by. However, even when times are quiet, I still need to provide for my family and so take any work (within reason) that I can get.

It’s at times like these where I sometimes find myself at the disposal of digital marketing agencies who employ said desperate SEO practices.

The bottom line is that I strongly believe that great content really is king. Yeah, yeah, I know it’s a cliché that sounds cringeworthy but I genuinely believe it and I’ll tell you why…

But first I want to elaborate a little further on desperate SEO – something that exploits content to achieve a desired backlink outcome.

So what is this desperate SEO I’m referring to?

Well it comes in the form of carefully crafted blog posts and is used by some SEO companies to simply tick a box on their client order sheet. For example, their client may have paid for x number of backlinks on various websites that have favourable domain authorities and one way to satisfy this is through blog posts.

Now you’re probably familiar with the terms ‘white hat SEO’ and ‘black hat SEO’ – basically ethical and unethical. Desperate SEO comes with a light grey hat. It’s not necessarily bad but – and this is only my opinion – it doesn’t provide any real value for the reader.

And that’s the important thing right – providing value? After all, Google’s sole purpose with its search offering is to provide people with content that’s engaging, useful and relevant to their search.

Now I’ve got nothing against leveraging blogs to boost a brand’s coverage, but some of the posts I’ve seen (and even created in the past) provide very little in the way of value for the reader.

A typical desperate SEO brief may require that you write a post to be published on a travel blog – so far so good. But then you find out that the client you are writing the post for is a company that sells blu-ray DVD players and you have to naturally insert a link back to their website within your post.

Oh and just to make the post look even more natural, you’re asked to put a few other carefully placed links to websites that are non-competitive or in other words, don’t sell blu-ray DVD players also.

The end result is a post that lauds some of Europe’s most beautiful beaches but contains a link back to the DVD retailer. You may be wondering, how do you make that look natural? The answer is with great difficulty and as a writer, it’s a very frustrating task.

That’s why I have made a conscious effort to steer away from such practices and now only focus on creating stuff that I think provides value to the reader.

I was fortunate enough to cross paths with Jo and in-turn be introduced to Neil and Phil at Positive Sparks. The stuff I write for all of them is a breath of fresh air compared to churning out desperate SEO pieces.

Desperate SEO isn’t going to disappear overnight. But Google’s regular algorithm updates should be warning enough that creating fresh, original and high-quality content that engages your audience is the key to SEO success. Furthermore, it will boost your brand’s online presence at the same time – what could be better than that?

Screen-Shot-2014-04-15-at-14.04.26Author Bio:

James Devonshire is a freelance writer who specialises in creating content for social media, SEO and digital marketing purposes for a wide variety of businesses. With a strong knowledge of website monetisation, entrepreneurial practices and optimisation techniques, James has carved out a literary niche for himself from his adopted home in the Philippines.

#MyBestTenList: Tasks to Outsource to Virtual Assistants

#MyBestTenList: Tasks to Outsource to Virtual Assistants

One very good thing about the world we live in right now is that the more we grow, the easier our lives get. And this is only made possible by the various advancements we experience, especially in technology and every other aspect of life.

New innovations spring up regularly, previously untapped knowledge forts get unlocked, and revolutions surface at different facets; business, health, education, etc. even governance.

Over the past years, there has been a revolution online, especially in the way and how we get things done. Every business person wants to cut costs – and time – at different levels of their businesses, where possible. This has led to the positive surge of some particular set of people that tend to make work – and ultimately, life – easier.

© Ivelin Radkov - Fotolia.comI’m talking about the ‘Virtual workers’. They’ve come – and keep coming – in different forms. We know some as Virtual Assistants (V.As), and some are simply called Freelancers, among other names.

Some of us are probably already familiar with these guys. But a lot of people do not even know how to use these guys and the benefits attached therein. Some other people are just skeptical about entrusting these guys with their ‘lives’.

It’s normal to feel this way, but I’ll tell you these guys are the best thing that can happen to any business.

How?

Entrepreneurs are already busy enough with doing what they do best; that which their businesses originally require. Yet, there are a lot of ‘other’ activities and tasks incidental to your business’ success, which are sometimes boring, take a lot of quality time doing or require a lot of time learning.

These ‘other tasks’ are the major jobs of some people, and they are out there to help you do them, so that you can spend more time on what you do best and become more creative and productive. These people are, of course, the Virtual Assistants.

Those who use VAs often talk about how good the experience always is. One common thing among these beneficiaries’ testimonials, is that they ultimately experience an increase in income in the long run, which eventually justifies their hiring of a V.A. And most of them say outsourcing to a V.A is something they’d love to do over and over again.

Chris Ducker of @VStaffFinder recommends business owners make a list of the things they hate to do. Then everything they can’t do. Then the things they should not be doing. That grocery list is the to-do-list for outsourcing.

Now all you need is a virtual assistant to do it.

I sometimes feel V.As are omnificent and omniscient, because it seems like there’s no limit to what V.As are capable of.

A V.A can do everything that could possibly be done without his/her physical presence required.

Nina Feldman lists 101 ways to use a Virtual Assistant. Even though I’ve not used a V.A that much –because of the financial side of the story 😉 – I have a list of my best tasks to outsource to a V.A, many of which I’ve done and enjoyed doing. Some I still do.

My best 10 (in no particular order) are:

  1. Reminder: appointments, meetings, calls, emails, tasks, anniversaries, events, ANY other thing you need to remember!
  2. E-mail Services: email screening, sorting, reply, sending, scheduling, autoresponders and newsletters, every other thing related to emails and emailing.
  3. Events planning: meetings, conferences, webinars, teleconferences,
  4. Internet marketing: SEO, marketing strategy, content marketing, guest posting, social media,
  5. Social media: profiles creation and writing, marketing, management and engagement, SEO,
  6. Research: market, competition, information, article content, keywords, data & statistics,
  7. Secretarial & personal assistant services: appointments, making calls, bookings & reservations, payments, accounting and book-keeping, auditing, human resources, public relations, this is really unlimited!
  8. Transcription and translation: audio to written, recording – and later transcription – of calls, interviews, webinars, inter-languages translation,
  9. Writing and Editing: articles writing, eBooks writing, design, editing, proofreading, eBook formatting, keywords research, articles spinning, submission, blogging, PRs, copywriting & SEO copywriting, guest blogging, newsletters and autoresponders,
  10. Websites: design, development, maintenance, marketing, critiquing & auditing, SEO,

These are simply the top 10 tasks I’d always love to outsource, out of the seemingly countless outsource-able tasks.

Talk about keeping the best for the last. Websites (design and maintenance) is something I cannot stop outsourcing. I’ve not had time for my blog in the past and would just be taking it seriously soon, now that I’m through with school. However, it’s not without commendable beauty and smooth functionality.

I only have Jo to thank for this. She has been my omniscient life-saver. And through her, I enjoy the benefits that come along with outsourcing to a Virtual Assistant. I’ve been able to present myself as a professional freelance writer to my clients and earn more as a result.

You can check out her handiwork on my blog Lucrative Pen.

P.S: Which tasks do you outsource most? And which would you love to outsource more in the future? Kindly share with us in the comments section.

Yomi-Alliyu OludamiAuthor Bio:

Yomi-Alliyu Oludami is a professional freelance writer and the founder of www.lucrativepen.com, a blog that teaches how to write for money and traffic. You can visit his website to learn more or hire him for your writing projects.

You can also follow him on twitter @oludami_LP.

Using virtual assistants to reduce payroll costs

Using virtual assistants to reduce payroll costs

GUEST POST

Using virtual assistants to reduce payroll costsAs a business grows, it becomes harder and harder to deal with everything in-house.  Taking on more staff might not be an affordable solution, especially when it comes to sourcing specialist skills that are not needed all the time. Hiring a virtual assistant is an increasingly popular solution. When it comes to payroll, it can be a real money saver.

Top-level talent, low level cost

One of the reasons entrepreneurs are often headhunted is that they’re known for having a multiplicity of skills. In a small business, everybody has to be able to do a bit of everything. Being able to do everything, however, doesn’t mean being able to do everything well. Having access to a specialist can make a big difference, especially when it comes to finance.

Paying for a specialist as a full time staff member can be very expensive in comparison to what a small business brings in.  It basically means that, much of the time, that business is paying for skills it isn’t using. Salary, tax, expenses, holiday pay, sick pay etc. can quickly add up. Using a virtual assistant means only paying for the hours when they’re actually needed, with none of those subsidiary costs. It can massively reduce the overall cost and can potentially give a business access to a much more talented person than it could afford to keep on staff.

Better payroll management

When it comes to saving money, a skilled payroll handler can make a big difference. The complexity of pay and tax systems can be confusing, especially for an organisation that is in the process of expanding its staff or has a lot of part time workers. It’s easy for a non-specialist to make mistakes and these can be expensive. Where underpayment happens, it can also lead to a loss of staff goodwill.

Taking on a virtual assistant to handle payroll can eliminate these problems and can potentially save a lot of money. It makes it easier to be flexible about staffing issues without the worry that this will further complicate an already difficult job for the business owners.

Finding the right person

To get the most out of hiring a virtual assistant, it is of course important to find the right person. This can be a complicated process as it’s advisable to seek recommendations or get references in order to make the choice with confidence.

One approach is to make use of umbrella companies or agencies that provide virtual assistants to suit a range of different requirements. This is a much safer way to find payroll solutions as it means things like qualifications, experience and general competence will have been pre-assessed. Establishing a good relationship with an organisation of this sort can also make the process easier when you want to hire a virtual assistant for another type of task.

The real beauty of bringing in a virtual assistant to handle payroll is that it frees up existing staff to do other things—that is, to concentrate on the aspects of running this business that they’re really good at.  This in turn can enhance its competitiveness and keep it ahead of the pack.

Free WordPress: The Benefits

Free WordPress: The Benefits

Guest Post

What’s so great about FREE WordPress?

Not until very recently did I discover WordPress. I am a new writer and I wanted to get my work out there to the world and fast. With this in mind I was ecstatic to learn that not only is WordPress a wonderful piece of software, but also you can obtain it for absolutely nothing!

However, there is so much more that meets the eye with this product and with this in mind I wanted to share the advantages of obtaining free WordPress for you and your business or blog.

You can use your own Domain Name

Unlike other publishing platforms where you can only use a sub-domain on their server, with WordPress you can use your own domain name as the software is hosted on your own server.

wordpress-logo-stacked-rgb

Widgets

By making use of these freely available widgets WordPress let users customise features of their site according to whatever need they have. This is a great feature of WordPress and one of the features I use frequently.

Themes

There are so many themes within WordPress, and most cost less than $50, however there are many that are free.  Themes make your presence known online and can create a look and feel for your site. You can even customise your theme in your own way. For me it’s choosing which one – now that’s the hard bit!

Ease of use

This for me is most important, it’s easy to use! For those who are a little technically challenged the WordPress integrated ‘dashboard’ allows you as the owner to add/edit/delete pages, add blog categories, add widgets and of course add posts! You can upload images, video’s the list goes on and it’s simple to use. I for one love it for that reason and that reason alone.

Social Networking

Using widgets you can connect your site to other social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter without having to do a thing! You can add ‘like’ buttons on your posts too and easily feed your content into a variety of networking sites via RSS.

SEO Friendly

This is very important as it gets more people to your site. Search engines absolutely love WordPress as it comes with an automated ‘pinging’ feature. This will send a signal to various search engines every time your blog is updated. How cool is that?

Constant Development

WordPress is always under constant development too so you never have to worry about it getting stagnant or staying the same. It powers over 20% of the active websites on the web, new widgets are being released all the time, together with new themes and it will always continue to evolve. 

Just what you need I’d say!

I am still learning about how to use WordPress more effectively but with this information I feel I am armed with better knowledge and understanding on how it all works and all for FREE! 

For more information about the features of WordPress, the free option, check out this article The Features You’ll Love.

Paula Lawes

Author Bio:

I’m Paula and this is my dog Tommy. I run my own small business designing and making accessories from recycled materials, check out my blog PaulasWork here http://paulaswork.com/

You can also follow Paula on twitter @TDailyGrow.

Utilising Facebook for Small Businesses

Utilising Facebook for Small Businesses

Guest Post

I’ve asked my good friend Paula to write this guest post about using Facebook for business, whatever your niche you can utilise it in the same ways the big brands do and get the same benefits.

Remember to check out Paula’s Facebook page to see how she does it!

What begins with F and ends with book? Seriously you’d have to be from a different planet if you didn’t say Facebook, even if you are one of the very few who doesn’t have a Facebook Account these days you would certainly know someone who does and pretty much understand what it’s all about.

But how many of you really know how to use this FREE tool for your Small Business? Or even have a Business Page? Do you even know the difference between a Profile and a Page? If like me (a few months ago) you felt a little daunted by this prospect but now is the time to really get that Facebook Page up and running, before you are left behind!

© flydragon - Fotolia.com

Do I have a Facebook Profile or a Facebook Page?

Ok so a Facebook Profile is where you add friends, use it on a personal basis and Facebook only allows you to have one of these. Whereas a Facebook Page where designed for businesses which means you can create as many of these as you like! And you’ll know if you have set this up as you will have a ‘like’ button!

Benefits of the Facebook Page

I love using a Facebook Page for my business because it can be used as a virtual shop front, displaying within seconds what you do with the added bonus of making it that little bit personal. 

The thing with your Facebook Page you have a willing audience who are already paying attention to you whether they know it or not.  It’s not like you are paying hundreds of pounds for an advertisement in a magazine, your ‘likers’ have already told you they are interested so it’s up to you to keep them tuned in.

You can also have as many ‘likers’ as you want too, there is no limit to this if that’s not an incentive to get one set up I don’t know what is! Everyone is on Facebook so your business should be there too!

What’s your Facebook Marketing Strategy?

Now this does sound very rigid, which I am not but you got to use and abuse your page (in a good way of course!) which means you’ve got to have some kind of strategy, it won’t promote you all by itself!

  1. Invite people to your page, use your Hotmail account to search for contacts, LinkedIn and send emails to your friends on your profile inviting people to like your page.
  2. Schedule posts, pictures, links about what you do or what you like to get people interested and engaged. Use programs like Hootsuite to schedule them or just use the schedule facility on Facebook! You don’t always have to be there to promote your page.
  3. Interact! Talk to your ‘likers’, ask questions and really find out who they are. And above all don’t be afraid to show your personality and have fun!

And the Piece de resistance you can have the best of both worlds and have your Facebook Profile and Page using the same log in details so you can switch in-between them as often as you can!

Really work your page and above all listen to what your audience loves about your page and use it!

Enjoy my fellow Facebook users!

Paula Lawes

Author Bio:

I’m Paula and this is my dog Tommy. I run my own small business designing and making accessories from recycled materials, check out my Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/SewReVamped

You can also follow Paula on twitter @SewReVamped.

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