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What is Net Neutrality?

Many of us may have heard the term “net neutrality” recently in the news. But what exactly does it mean and why should we care?

Traffic on FreewayThink of the internet as a system of roads and freeways. A “neutral” internet provides the same access to those roads for all of us, individuals, business and government alike. But internet service providers (ISPs) like ATT, Comcast and Time Warner want to create “fast lanes” for certain content providers and charge them an additional fee. While initially this may seem like free market in action, there are a lot of consequences that may well affect all of us.

To create these fast lanes, ISPs need to look at the traffic flowing across their networks to decide who should and shouldn’t get priority. Imagine commuting to work on the freeway and finding one of the lanes is now reserved for those who pay an additional fee. The remaining lanes will suddenly get much slower and if you can’t afford the fee, well, too bad.

The United Nations has recently deemed that internet access is a basic human right and should be guaranteed and protected by governments. Really. And think about it, how much of your life now relies on internet access, whether it be text messaging, email, getting the latest sports scores or getting important information about an illness?

Those in favor of keeping the net neutral argue that there would be nothing to stop an ISP from blocking content that they don’t like or that is competing with their products or services. That is a form of censorship and is ultimately a threat to freedom and democracy. Sound a little dramatic? Well the UN and other information providers including Google, Amazon, Yahoo, Facebook and many others don’t think so and are actively working to preserve net neutrality.

Those opposed to net neutrality, including the Cato Institute, Americans for Tax Reform and ISPs like AT&T, Comcast, Verizon and Time Warner, argue that innovation and investment in the telecommunications will suffer due to a lack of profit incentive and that users would benefit from a more competitive landscape.

So there you have it. Net neutrality is about who controls the roads and freeways that internet traffic rides on and who, if anyone, has the right to control what does or doesn’t go on those freeways and how much can be charged to who. It’s an important debate for all of us and worth paying attention to and making your opinions known to your government representatives. You can add your comments to the debate on the FCC Comments section – click on proceeding 14-28 to add your comments.

 

 

 

 

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What You Need to Know About Keyword Analysis

When it comes to marketing your business or organization on the internet, few goals are as important as showing up on page 1 in Google search results for keywords that are relevant to your product or service. But what are the keywords you should be focusing on?

Target Keywords

Target KeywordsMost of us can think of some target keywords for our business or organization quite easily. But are they the most popular terms for your product or service? Sometimes the keywords we use most often to describe our business are not the most popular terms for search. It’s important to understand what keywords people are using most often to find your product or service and provide adequate keywords support on your site.

There are some free tools available to help with this including Google’s Keyword Planner and Wordtracker.  Google’s Keyword Planner requires you to create an Adwords account but you don’t have to spend any money.  It’s worth it because their tool provides a lot of related keyword suggestions along with search volume information. Wordtracker also requires you to create an account and provides a decent amount of information for free.

Geographical Keywords

If your business or organization serves a localized market, you need to consider geographical keywords. For example, if you sell shoes in Santa Rosa, you would want to rank well for “shoe stores in Santa Rosa” and may not be as concerned with “shoe stores in Dallas”. For geographical keywords, you want to consider your serving area, based primarily on population. Make a list of  the towns, cities and regions you serve and determine which geographical keywords are used most often for search.

Long Tail Keywords

Long tail keywords are search entries that have a large number of keywords in them. For example, “shoe store in santa rosa that sells red basketball shoes cheap” would be a long tail keyword. The interesting thing about long tail keywords is that they make up 70% of all search queries as shown in the graph.

Longtail-GraphThe challenge of course, is figuring out which long tail keywords you should support. But in a way, this is where everything that you and Google want converge. Remember, Google has never been in the business of promoting a business. Their search engine wants to provide the best results for whatever people search for. They have always said they want fresh content that is not written for search engines. So if you provide lots of interesting content, tailored for your site visitors, you are more likely to match long tail keywords and capture a larger part of the search market. Content is king.

In other words, rather than trying to stuff “red basketball shoes” throughout your site, a better strategy is to write more content about basketball shoes. For example, a blog post describing the newest basketball shoes you’ve added to your inventory, color options and the great discount pricing being offered is more likely to match on many related long tail keywords.

Long tail keyword support is critical and should not be overlooked. There are a number of tools available to help with this but you may want to use Google’s Keyword Planner for this as well. Good long tail keyword support involves understanding what questions your visitors may be asking and providing answers in your content rather than just thinking in terms of search volume. If you know basketball shoes are a popular item, provide collateral content on the subject. Provide content that is a unique and helpful for your visitors and you will be rewarded with an increase in long tail search traffic.

Competitor Assessment

It’s a good idea to chart how your competitors rank for the various keywords you want to support:

  • provide a means of measuring your progress over time
  • identify competitors that are ranking well and see what they’re doing to rank well
  • identify possible keywords that are under supported, presenting an opportunity to reach visitors searching on those keywords

We suggest creating a table listing your keywords down the side and your top competitors across the top as well as your own site. Go through each keyword phrase and note where you and your competitors rank. Be sure to include the geographical variations as some locations may be under supported.

Strategic Recommendations

Once you have identified keyword phrases, long tail keywords and assessed your competition, you are ready to make some strategic decisions. Here are some considerations:

  • search volume versus competition – should you do battle for the most heavily searched keywords or focus on some under supported phrases?
  • geography – are there nearby areas that aren’t as well supported when you could easily rank at the top of listings?
  • should you add additional pages to your site to provide support for specific keyword phrases?
  • should you add additional content to your site? Yes! Content is king!

A thorough keyword analysis may take some time and effort, but it’s worth it, allowing you to focus your SEO efforts where it will count the most.

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3 Free Tools Every Website Owner Should Be Using

It can be tough out there, trying to promote your business on the internet. There are a lot of people with a lot of advice and it can be difficult to know where to put your limited time and effort. Here are three industry standard freebies that website owners should get to know:

1) Google Webmaster Tools

Website And Social Media CubesGoogle Webmaster Tools is a must.  There is nothing more important than how well you rank on the Google search engine and this is a free tool from Google to provide insight into many different elements that may be used to rank your site.  It’s easy to set up – you may need to add a snippet of code or upload a file to prove it’s your site – and you get a ton of useful information, including how often your site is coming up for certain keywords, what your average rank is and how often people click. You need this – it’s free – do it now.  I’ll wait…

2) Google Analytics

Google Analytics is almost mandatory as well. You need to add tracking code to each website page you want to track. Depending on how many pages you have and how they’re set up, this may or may not be a big deal. Ask your developer for help if need be. Analytics provides a great deal of data about how many visitors come to your site, what they look at and more. You can use analytics to test out new content or pages to see how well they do versus other pages.  Though set up may be a little more involved than Webmaster Tools, it’s worth the effort to get the additional traffic data and to measure progress of any marketing effort.

3) Moz Open Site Explorer

Open Site Explorer is one of my favorites. You don’t need an account and you don’t need to add anything on your site. Just enter your URL and get information about inbound links, domain authority and more. What’s even better - you can add up to 4 additional sites (like your competitors) and compare stats. Some of the lingo may seem like a foreign language, but take the time to learn what it means, it will be worth it.

So there you go – three free and easy ways to get a ton of information about your website and how it stacks up against the rest. Enjoy!