January 30, 2015

Three Cool Features You Didn’t Know Were On Google Plus

By Lewis J.

Why don’t more people use Google Plus? It lets you share ideas, share content, and reach people – approximately 300 million people each month. That’s a sizeable audience, even by Facebook standards. Google even provides a number of cool features to help you connect with people and publicize your business. If you’re not using Google Plus, you’re missing out on a lot of web traffic that could potentially turn foot traffic into your business.

  1. Google Plus Communities. Google communities are online forums focused on a single interest or activity. Community members can share thoughts, ideas, links and materials on their favorite topics. There are communities dedicated to animals, fitness, books, philosophy, jokes, television, film, photography, sports, fashion; every conceivable interest. You can even form your own community. Communities are a great way for users to interact with like-minded individuals and a great opportunity for businesses to establish their expertise in their field. You can share new products, articles, and information about your industry with individuals you know are interested in what you have to say. 

January 29, 2015

A Unique Way to Use Google Maps: The Site’s Top 5 U.S. Wonders

The Francis Beidler Forest of Four Holes Swamp.  Image from Chris Sanfino on Panoramio

By Megan G.

Have you ever wanted to drop everything and travel around the United States?  Think of braving wild trails, gazing upon tumbling waterfalls, and peeking over sheer mountain cliffs… without leaving the comfort of your home.  Listen up, couch potatoes, because Google Map’s Street View offers more than just a storefront view of your local taco hut.  The application has a whole page dedicated to U.S. Highlights!

I recently learned of these awesome web-adventures from Stephanie Pappas’ Live Science article, which profiles Google Maps’ most recent addition:  the USS Constitution, an 18th-century American warship.  Here are some more beautiful places that any staunch hermit can virtually visit!

January 27, 2015

Lost in Hawaii: Navigating Without Google Maps

By Lauren C.

For one week, I discarded my phone while vacationing in the uncharted territory of the Big Island, Hawaii, including all online methods of navigation. With a rented car and one real, computer free map in hand, I decided to drive around the Big Island with only this foreign piece of paper in front of me. How hard could it be?

When’s the last time that you used a real map? Not the Google Maps app on your smartphone, but an actual, physical map that you hold in your hands with drawn landscapes, highway markings, and everything else like we used to see in our grandparent’s glove compartment?

Most drivers rely solely on online sources such as Google Maps that help us navigate from point A to B at the convenience of a few search queries. I wanted to discover what initially drove the push for online navigational tools in the first place. In other words, what is it about actual maps that is inconvenient for users, and why do businesses understand how important it is to be found on Google Maps and local search results?

January 23, 2015

Don’t Settle on Bad Directions: Let Google Maps be Your Copilot

By Nick K.

Are your friends terrible at giving directions? Are you the person driving 5 miles an hour on a busy street, looking for the right turn? Great news, smartphone users! You can now share driving directions with the Version 9.3 of Google Maps. This updated version comes equipped with many new and exciting features, such as stopping those annoying location pop-up reminders and makes talking to your smartphone even more useful.

In previous versions of Google Maps, users were only able to share their current location and travel destination with others. With the new direction sharing feature, you can save at least 5 to 10 minutes of having to look up directions on your own. These shareable directions can be sent to a computer, smartphone, and even a tablet. With this application, convenience and important seems to be on Google’s to-do list, as well as exterminating all of the bugs in the previous versions.

Image from Engadget. 

January 21, 2015

Google Glass Shatters: How Can They Pick up the Pieces?

By Justin H.

Once destined to be the coolest innovation since man discovered fire, Google Glass has officially been canned. Sales have been halted and Google now heads back to the drawing board to figure out where they went wrong. Google may have failed in their first attempt at turning all of us into cyborgs, but they will surely come up with some solutions to make Google Glass 2.0 a hit. Here are some issues that kept the first version from achieving its predicted success.

Problem 1: Price

At $1,500, Google might have priced themselves right out of the market from the very beginning. That price would be better suited for a product that consumers truly need, as opposed to a luxury gadget. However, they deserve a tip of the cap for aiming high, as they have with other products such as Chromecast media players. TechInsights broke down the parts used for Google Glass and determined that the product costs a total of $79.78 to make, including assembly.

Solution: If Google wants to reach the masses with this product, they are going to have to take a hit on that outrageous profit margin they were shooting for. Very few people will pay $1,500 for a toy.

January 19, 2015

Social Media Strategy: How to Create Creative Content on Instagram

By Lewis J.

Instagram was created in 2010 as a way for users to share photos across social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, but has grown into a major attraction in its own right. Seventy million people use the app every day, and have shared 30 billion photos in less than five years. This high level of engagement is why companies such as Starbucks, Red Bull, and GE have been quick to embrace it. A 2013 study found that Instagram marketing increased ad recall by 32 percent and brand message by ten percent. Using Instagram to build up your brand and business requires two things: great photos and good content.

Creating Great Photos 

You are not going to succeed on Instagram without high quality photos. Fortunately, creating good photos is easy if you pay attention to a few photography basics.

1.       Use Natural Lighting. Flash photography makes people look oily and washed out. Rely on soft, natural light whenever possible. If you’re shooting inside, the best lighting conditions are opposite large windows. If you’re shooting outside, the best lighting conditions are during the “magic hours,” the hour before sunrise and the hour after sunset. 

January 16, 2015

Don’t Let Stock Photos Lower Your Stock

By Megan G.

Stock photos. They can serve as the final touch to your website or they can be jarringly weird and distracting. I’ve seen my fair share of both, though my favorite examples have to be from dentist sites. The first picture that I most often see is of a family lying on the floor, as happy as clams.

By the looks on the kids’ faces, I’d say that little Waldo had to sit through a teeth cleaning, and his sister Suzie cried her way out of it.

Okay, I get it.  Everyone is excited about their healthy teeth, which they all have thanks to their skilled dentist/orthodontist/endodontist/whateverdontist.  It’s a little weird that they’ve decided to lay on their shag rug to celebrate this, but who am I to judge?  This photo is still effective because human faces, especially happy human faces, are a powerful tool for grabbing the attention of your audience.  They also help to quell fears of a stereotypical “scary” dentist office.

Going All Natural

It is important to ensure customers that your product or services come from living, breathing human beings and not a faceless, monolithic company.  While “real” photos help, you don’t need them to create an effective user experience. 

January 15, 2015

Tek This Out!

Each of the 44 presidents of the wonderful United States of America has worn glasses. Not all have worn them in public, but for varying reasons, each one has donned spectacles!

According to Health in Plain English, Zachary Taylor, Theodore Roosevelt, and Ronald Reagan all suffered from myopia. George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and John F. Kennedy all had presbyopia, and Harry Truman sadly had to deal with hyperopia.

Eye issues in the Oval Office have not just been limited to traditional poor eyesight, either. William Taft once had a bug fly into his eye while horseback riding, causing enough damage that he was bedridden for quite a long time. Teddy Roosevelt suffered a detached retina while competing in the Harvard University boxing tournament. James Buchanan’s eyes were so bad he kept his head on a tilt, resulting in his neck getting stiff later in life.

So, next time you are embarrassed due to all of your squinting, just remember every president does it too!

January 14, 2015

Extreme Makeover: Homepage Edition

By Lauren C.

There’s a deli around the corner that’s the best kept secret in Orange County, and only I know about it. It’s in the middle of a strip mall-and the building has pink trim along its edges with these dilapidated green things in front that I assume are supposed to be plants. The windows are suspiciously foggy and I’m afraid to know why. I’m not sure whether I want to run away from this 1980’s freak show, or take pictures like a tourist visiting Pompeii for the first time.

Also, the food…is…DELICIOUS. But can that make up for the shop’s poor first impression?

Just as a store’s aesthetics are important, so is a website homepage, or the initial page of a website with basic information about the company. The product that you sell may be spectacular, but if a homepage is non-intuitive, a lot of users will leave, quickly. In the world of online marketing, first impressions matter.

So let’s take a look at the advice of self- described retail store doctor, Bob Phibbs and apply it to the redesign of your website.

1. Keep the Paint From Peeling
Your homepage should use common sense and colors that blend well together. The design should complement the content, not distract from it. The focus should be on the important aspects of the page, such as the navigational headers, a welcoming or introductory picture, and a Call to Action (contact us, see our deals.) The customer doesn’t care about the length of your homepage, but rather the value that it brings to themselves as a user.

January 12, 2015

Internet Cookies Gain Super Powers

By Nick K.

Upon recent news, a London software consultant named Sam Greenhalgh has created a new type of Internet cookie that can be used to track a user’s private Internet browsing information. Some are calling this new creation “the super cookie.”

Internet cookies are used to gather information about a user’s website browsing information. This information includes pages a user has visited and items they have downloaded, in order to enhance webpage loading times when returning to the same page.

How Does an Internet Cookie become SUPER?

The discovery of the super cookie was actually a result of finding a bug in the enhanced web security feature called “HTTP Strict Transport Security” (HSTS). According to Business Insider, HSTS allows websites to indicate whether the websites connection should be public or private, and is that saved by the user’s browser to speed up the future use of those websites.  

What makes the super cookie so dangerous is that it confuses the HSTS on whether the connection should be public or private, making a browsers “privacy mode” futile. Their browser information will now be tracked, regardless of the browser mode they use. (ZDNET). Once a super cookie has been placed in the browser, it can be used by numerous website domains, like third party websites, to track a user’s browsing activity. (Ars Technica).

January 9, 2015

What to Lose in 2015: You Can't Spell Resolution Without SEO

By Justin H.

New Year, new you! We have all heard that adage a million times, but how can you truly make 2015 your year when it comes to SEO and content marketing? You can start by leaving a few preconceived notions and outdated ideologies in 2014. Consider this new approach as your online juice fast, which will cleanse your business and prepare it for a huge year.

LOSE: Limiting Your Brand Awareness to only Social Media

The benefits of social media are immeasurable. It can help create visibility for your brand, help you stay in touch with your audience, funnel traffic towards your website, and much more. Despite the constant online interaction in our daily lives, the lost art of offline networking still has its place in today’s world.

Tweets and likes cannot hold a candle to old-fashioned, face-to-face meetings that create an immediate strong rapport with another party. In an article for Business News Daily, Cornell University entrepreneur Benjamin Roberts stated, “You are far more likely to win over a customer with a firm handshake, confident smile and well-rehearsed pitch than page upon page of industry data supporting your product.” This holds true even in 2015.

Even the most extroverted online personality could not hide a lack of offline marketing acumen, specifically for owners of small businesses. It has been the most reliable way to build trust in a business, and will remain that way for the foreseeable future.

January 8, 2015

Social Media Strategy: Creating Popular Content on Pinterest

By Lewis J.

What is Pinterest?

Pinterest is the fastest growing social sharing site on the internet. Its active membership grew 111% in 2014, more than Facebook, Google+,Pinterest drove 10 percent of all referral traffic in the first half of 2014
YouTube, and Twitter combined. Businesses love Pinterest because it’s a great way to circulate content and attract users to their sites.

Pinterest allows users to save interesting web links using visual bookmarks, called “pins.” The pins are created from pictures on the website and are displayed in sub-pages known as “boards.” Users can create multiple boards for multiple interests, which allow them to collect dozens, sometimes hundreds, of links to interesting content from all over the web. 

Using Pinterest 

Using Pinterest requires more work than Facebook or Twitter. Not only do you need to create an account, you also need to install the “Pin It” button on your browser toolbar, which allows you to pin webpages. When you press it, Pinterest automatically saves the URL, asks you to select a picture from the page to “pin,” and then invites you to write a short description for it. You can also create pins by uploading pics directly to the site. Installing the Pinterest plugin directly onto your website lets people pin easily your website content to their board.

January 7, 2015

Your Company’s Chance at a Great First Impression

By Megan G.

Do you know why the book Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone had its title changed to The Sorcerer’s Stone for American audiences?  Simply put, U.S. kids are more intrigued by excitement of sorcery than the dryness of philosophy.  Don’t be offended.  I’m American, and I think sorcerers are awesome.   I also avoided my Gen Ed Philosophy class in college as long as possible.  The Harry Potter title change was just good marketing. 

People will often disregard a written work by the part that is the easiest to find and digest:  the title.  Alas for pig-headed and lazy humanity!  This sad truth requires authors to craft eye-catching titles that are also relevant to their target audiences, and the titles of websites and webpages should be handled in much the same way. 

In the field of on-page SEO, website titles are called “title tags.”  

January 6, 2015

Hear Ye! Hear Ye! Read All About it! Press Releases and SEO

By Lauren C.

Press releases are a method of marketing your company’s accomplishments through a third party platform, and critics have argued that they are absolutely necessary for public relation purposes. For a long time, press releases were considered an intricate part of your overall SEO strategy, however recent Google algorithm updates now punish sites that embed links to self-serving press releases, as well as those who publish too many of them directly on the site. So do press releases assist your SEO strategy, hurt it, or are they inconsequential? According to the critics, the answers are varied.


1. Organic links grow from many sources.
Submitting a press release to journalists can generate organic links, especially if the link you submit to one site garners attention from another site which also uses your link. Though the content will be duplicated, there is still value in these links, as they can improve your overall rankings.

2. Helps online reputation management.
If you create a press release that includes a keyword- rich title, it will rank well when users search for a topic in your brand. You control the content in your own press releases, so users who search for information pertaining to your brand or company will see positive press release pieces in the search engine results, which helps with the clients’ first impressions.

January 5, 2015

Hop on the “Forgotten” Bandwagon

By Nick K.

A few months ago Megan G. covered “The Right To Be Forgotten.” For those who would like a refresher, you can check it out here. The article discusses how European branches mandate Google to allow irrelevant and out-of-date information regarding an individual to be removed from their SERP. More recently, Bing and Yahoo have both decided to join the “The Right To Be Forgotten” bandwagon, as well. Let’s hop aboard and see where it’s heading.

Bing and Yahoo Search’s Right To Be Forgotten (RTBF) requests were made available in Europe last July. According to The Guardian, Bing has recently started responding to requests within the guidelines of the European data protection authorities. Both Yahoo and Bing recognize that reviewing each request will be a long and grueling process, but Yahoo and Bing want to ensure that each request they receive satisfies both private interest of the individual and allows for free public expression.

So far, the amount of requests that Google has received are significantly higher than those received by Bing and Yahoo Search. The request process for search removal on Bing will be similar to how requests are filed with Google. According to Digital Trend, it is unclear if Yahoo Search will follow Bing’s request for removal process, or if they will act on their own.