Archive for April, 2007

Blogs and Elections

Monday, April 30th, 2007

Is there any significance between blogs and elections? Maybe not in the past, but I would wager that blogs will play an important role in future elections and politics in general. Having said that, the upcoming U.S. presidential election comes to mind. Candidates who choose to leverage blogs may be at an advantage. Those who choose to ignore this communication vehicle may find themselves behind in the polls come election day.

I had the pleasure of listening to John Edwards‘s keynote speech at Gnomedex 2006. He spoke about the future of politics and how the Internet/blogs/podcasting will play a huge role in democracy. Edwards expressed a deep interest in podcasting. He said it would play a vital role in his campaign. Furthermore, Edwards has become known as a Twitter power user. Now, I am a huge advocate of the use of blogs, podcasting, and the Internet in general. But my concern is this: are politicians simply ‘jumping on the bandwagon’ with respect to these technologies? Are they simply trying to appeal to a new (perhaps younger) crowd? Or do they truly believe in the technology and the power that it instills? My hope is obviously the latter of the three.

Having said that, I do believe that blogs can play a siginificant role and have a huge impact if used sincerely and strategically. A full developed campaign, with open communication and a strong support team, can make huge strides on the net and produce exponential effects given the resources at hand. The breadth and leverage of the web cannot be ignored.

Many of the most popular and highest traffic blogs on the net are U.S. political blogs. These sites attract millions of visitors every day. Should a candidate successfully tap these online strongholds, their campaigns would immediately be given a boost. Dissemination of information and PR are two major advantages to any front-runner who succeeds at forging relationships with these online political powerhouses.

Stepping back a bit, the success of the candidate must lie in their platform and their presence. No Internet technology can make up for these important characteristics. Even if a candidate does outline a strong platform, my guess is that the Internet and blogs will sway elections in the future and play a bigger role in politics than people currently realize.

Internet Marketing

Sunday, April 29th, 2007

Internet marketing means different things to different people. I like to use my own simple definition: the purpose of Internet marketing is to increase brand exposure and drive traffic to a given web property. Wikipedia takes on a different angle and defines Internet marketing as “the use of the Internet to advertise and sell goods and services”. I’m not sure I agree with this, but there is one thing I think we can all agree on. There isn’t ONE way to market or sell a service online. A comprehensive, well-planned campaign is necessary for success.

Why do I say that?

Well, as an Internet marketing & strategy consultant, I come across clients who want to specifically leverage one type of Internet marketing vehicle to promote their site. Whether it be SEO, pay-per-click, or e-mail marketing, the client is set on one method and their vision is narrow. Surprisingly enough to them, the strategy they are set on using is not always the best choice. Furthermore, a true campaign encompasses different strategies.

At the end of the day, increasing brand exposure and driving qualified traffic are the main goals. It doesn’t matter how this is accomplished. SEO, link building, affiliate marketing, e-mail campaigns, PPC, and advertising are all great, but the goals and milestones of the company must be outlined. From there, an online strategy can be set forth.

Add to that the fact that some techniques, such as link building, have two-fold effects. Not only does link building provide much needed SEO juice, but it also drives direct traffic via the link itself. Killing two birds with one stone is always a plus.

Companies and clients alike need to be open-minded when it comes to marketing on the web. There isn’t a single solution. Innovation, creativity, a well-developed plan, and solid execution are the key points to a successful campaign online.

Who Still Uses a Desktop E-mail Client???

Wednesday, April 25th, 2007

Not me. And I’m guessing not a lot of others…Envelope image

I haven’t personally used one for probably over 8 years. Web-based e-mail has been the application of choice for me. The advantages seem to outweigh the disadvantages in almost every category. So why do people still use desktop e-mail? My guess is that it’s either a security concern, a work mandate or the luxury of a more robust feature set.

I don’t even ask the question any more. I assume all Internet users use a web-based client like GMail, Hotmail, or Yahoo! Mail. I laugh when someone has to rush home to check an e-mail. Apparently, some people still even uses disks! USB drives aside, I think most people have discovered the miracle of e-mailing stuff to yourself. Very schizophrenic, but highly effective and efficient.

So yet again I ask, why the desktop client?

Now I do understand that some clients integrate with online systems, which is an acceptable explanation.

I think that some people are paranoid of the idea that Google, Yahoo, or Microsoft stores their personal e-mails and information. Furthermore, back-up and protection of this information is not guaranteed. My thought would be to simply chill out, relax, and back-up the important files and information from time to time.

To those employees who are still obligated to use a desktop client, so be it. It’s only at work – unless work ties into your personal life. In that case, you have have larger issues to deal with than the choice of a desktop or web-based client. But in most cases, you can still make use of a web-based client in your own personal time.

Finally, those who choose a desktop client because of robust functionality, watch out… Everything is shifting to the web and soon you will be able to do the same, if not more, from a web-based client than you can from your current desktop app. The future is near (man, you gotta love to hate these cliches).

I think that desktop clients are on their way out and the new world of web-based apps is upon us. Google, Microsoft, and Zoho are all working on web-based office suites, which further solidifies the viability of this notion. This isn’t just a trend – it’s a taste of what’s to come.

Vertical Creep to the MAX

Monday, April 23rd, 2007

As a general rule, search engines are supposed to operate on an unbiased basis. Organic results are displayed in a logical manner and paid listings are clearly marked (in most cases). The concept of ‘vertical creep’ is a grey area that blurs the line between an unbiased search result and an internally-associated link.

Vertical creep is defined as a company-associated search result that appears above the organic results, but below the paid listings. Yahoo calls them ‘Shortcuts’, a seemingly useful yet sly name to make the result appear more user-friendly and less commercial – although we all know the true intention.

Essentially, if Google or Yahoo can display an appropriate, internally-linked result for news, weather, a movie, or an image search, then it is to their benefit as there is a higher chance they will maintain the user within the site. In other words, niche searches that could be performed using other in-house search tools vertically creep within the traditional results of the main engine (if this makes any sense).

Now at first, searchers were a bit out-raged at the idea but have since pulled back a bit. But now I noticed that Yahoo in particular is taking this idea to a whole new level. For any new movie search, such as ‘300‘ or ‘Disturbia‘, a giant movie poster and description are displayed (see screenshot below). In addition, a searcher can also play the movie trailer or check local showtimes. Talk about unbiased. Only further down the page do we find links to the production company, IMDB, or perhaps Wikipedia.

 

 

This blatant attempt at keeping searchers within the Yahoo properties is bound to be met with some controvery. I, for one, do not appreciate huge ‘ads’ that appear to be cleverly integrated within the organic results. Obviously this is purely a business move and an attempt at increasing revenues, as old flicks do not receive this treatment or exposure.

My hope is that search engines continue to operate without opinion or manipulation over the search results. Let the user decide where he or she wants to click. May the best result win.

What Ever Happened to Zune?

Thursday, April 19th, 2007

Microsoft Zune logoRemember that highly-touted, over-budget, lackluster Microsoft MP3 player Zune? If you don’t, I forgive you. If you do, you may be wondering the same things as I.

Is it still around? Did anyone actually buy one?

I don’t know a single person that bought the device. Nor do I ever hear or read anything about it anymore. It’s like it doesn’t exist. The iPod still seems to be the player of choice for most of the population. The disease that is the Apple culture has gone mainstream and never looked back.

I think we need a term for this recurring Microsoft trend.The scenario seems to follow an eerie, recognizable pattern in which the company enters an established market late in the game, and produces a hyped, high budget, flop of a product. How about the “Microsoft Syndrome”?

A recent example that comes to mind is the announcement of an Adobe Flash competitor named Silverlight. Isn’t it a little late in the game? Flash is the industry standard. In addition, most web junkies hate the plug-in from a usability perspective anyway.

I think the company needs a wake-up call. This software giant continues to ‘innovate’ and push the boundaries beyond traditional products into new, unchartered waters. Sometimes this move works (xBox), while most of the time it crumbles (Live Search, Zune).

If I had one piece of advice for the company, it would be this: stick with your core competency and focus on creating a more useful, enjoyable experience. Almost everyone hates Windows for many reasons. But since there is a monopoly, consumers have no other choice if they want to operate a PC. Furthermore, the company has a stranglehold on their bread-and-butter – the office suite. But this area is in jeopardy as competitors, such as Google and Zoho, threaten with web-based suites. Therefore, Microsoft needs to erect barriers against these competitors and create more robust offerings to satisfy consumer needs.

Finally, as mentioned, the company needs to focus on the Windows experience. After all, this is what made the company the worldwide mogul it is today. Without the OS, Microsoft is nothing. And I suspect there may be some heavy competition and surprising innovation in the area in the very near future.