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.