Friday, December 28, 2007

Walmart's EZ Online Advertising services

While you're out buying a pallet of toilet paper, or shopping online at Sam's Club, it turns out you can also sign up for business website services, including online advertising. While perhaps useful to the very new, very naive or otherwise non-Internet savvy online merchant, these services are about as basic and limited as you can get. Marketing services are limited to submission of your site to the major search engines and directories. No doubt if the service becomes popular, then "real" online marketing services might get introduced - but for the time being, you'll have to establish your online presence and reputation, advertising copy, link network, social media connections, and optimized web site and distributed content by yourself - or via the very reasonably-priced professional and expert services we offer.

Don't fall for the "EZ" solution, that may look price-competitive - but in the end is pretty much a waste of your hard-earned money.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Top 10 Online Advertising Sites for Loudoun County - Q1 2008 update

Here's our first quarterly update, to look ahead into 2008.

LoudounExtra.com is the big mover, with lots of additional advertising options within content sections and its "Deals" feature - though still a bit pricey and restricted to attract a lot of the smaller businesses. Here's the current rankings, according to (as usual) our own informed, hasty, professional and a bit subjective opinions...(it's a very immature industry, right now). Let us know why you disagree, and we'll listen.

Note this doesn't include the pure news aggregators (like Loudoun Topix), B2B (like the Chambers of Commerce or Merchant Circle) or Search Engine aggregators by content or news (i.e. Google/Yahoo/MSN).

Top 10 Online Advertising Destination Websites for Loudoun County
(Previous rank indicated in () )

1) loudounextra.com - many more advertising options, inline within sections, "Deal of the Day", videos have pre-ads, etc. (6)

2) leesburg2day.com - the grandaddy of online properties in Loudoun (1)

3) loudountimes.com - effective site, good page rank, decent advertising options (3)

4) dullessouthonline.com - lots of new content and free classifieds, extensively optimized for search across multiple online properties and blogs focused on Loudoun County, western Prince William and western Fairfax counties (i.e. the "hyperlocal vertical network") (4)

5) washingtonpost.com (Loudoun News) - getting quickly subsumed by LoudouExtra (2)

6) easterner.com - well-known advertising medium, though under-optimized online ads (5)

7) loudouni.com - much improved search engine results placement (SERP)(10)

8) observernews.com - good, basic advertising options, though more limited online reach (7)

9) visitloudoun.org - great publicity and government tie-in - good directory for tourisim-related businesses, though limited in advertising flexibility (8)

10) loudouncounty.com - older online directory (i.e. not attractive), good page rank, but sub-optimized advertising listings (9)

Monday, December 17, 2007

Search is very important - for Google, the Government, you and me

Note this recent Senate hearing on "E-Government 2.0: Improving Innovation, Collaboration, and Access" - it seems Google's discovered that you can't find much useful information via search on government websites....no kidding.

Not only that, but there's not much "Government 2.0" in practice altogether...In the very near future, it’s highly likely that a predominance of State, Local and Federal eGovernment service providers will seek additional routes to inclusionary accessibility by turning to already common web-enabled social interaction methods (like Sphinn!). Some are already taking tentative steps in the public eye; many more are carefully enabling proliferation of such tools within the Intranets, "inside the Firewall". Focusing specifically on the citizen web-enabling efforts of the United States beginning in 2001 with the Office of Management and Budget’s 24 “Egovernment Initiatives”, many of these efforts can demonstrate maturity and success in terms of increased citizen participation, leverage of the Internet and adherence to ADA principles outlined in Section 508 guidance. The US Postal Service, the IRS, and the Department of Agriculture are examples of Federal Agencies that can point to objectives met regarding satisfied constituents and cost-effective, web-enabled IT investments. Some agencies actually are proclaiming "Web 2.0" capabilities, like NASA (which uses Google's own Custom Search Engine technology, thereby enabling "results almost identical to the unsponsored links you'll get from Google's public web site").

Future administrations will likely continue this trend; for example 2008 Presidential Candidate Barak Obama intends to employ “technologies, including blogs, wikis and social networking tools, to modernize internal,cross-agency, and public communication and information sharing to improve government decisionmaking.”

Just wait till Google's unleashed on the campaign and PAC sites.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Information Governance 2.0 - a new SEO role

SEO/SEM/SMO/SMM professionals have the obligation to their customers to help them manage not only their online "presence", from an awareness and popularity perspective, but also to manage their actual online inventory of content and information. The discipline of "Content Management" and broader "Information Management", of which SEO is a subset, is the discipline that more large and small customers should be focused on, with our help. Many in fact are, but with the increasing distribution of online content in and out of social media domains, the need for application of "Information Governance" techniques (i.e. the control and decision-making processes around management of information and data) is ever more pressing. Information Governance should always be an upsell of SEO professionals, and it's even more important with the broad Web 2.0 adoption of our clients.

Among Information Technology practitioners and those managing IT systems and budgets, the phrase “Data Governance” isn’t new – though return on investment from its application may not yet be realized. Data Governance includes the myriad processes, organization structures, reference models and standards the help mitigate risk and maximize return from use of data assets. Data assets include actual, physical data and the technology used to manage it, along with the models, representations, metadata and documentation that describe how to manage and use it. The term “information” assigns some level of trust, contextual relevance and packaging definitions to data – therefore, since current social networking philosophies are grounded in information-sharing practices among persons and systems, “Information Governance” is a phrase most appropriate to use in Web 2.0 (or “Enterprise 2.0”) context. Quite obviously, the practice of information-sharing in collaborative settings leads to knowledge; management and governance of “knowledge” is a separate discussion.

By far the most important element of Information Governance is the “Information Steward”. That is, the person (or people) who are most directly assigned or invested in maintaining the value of a company or government’s information assets. The information steward, focused typically on a particular topic, process or line-of-business domain, has ultimate responsibility for ensuring that the right decisions are made regarding management of the information. Stewards don’t necessarily create or use the information, they protect its value and integrity. In many organizations, this responsibility is typically (a) unassigned, as a matter of corporate policy and (b) adopted primarily by the IT community, meaning roles such as DBAs, System Administrators or Report Analysts.

A broad definition of “Web 2.0” as an information management domain is one that focuses on the creation and use of web-enabled information that spans the public/private institutional boundaries and includes voluntary, unmanaged submissions by virtual interest groups. So, in this definition, “information management” becomes a bit of an oxymoron – the information isn’t really managed across the entire stakeholder community, and can’t be. It can be governed, however, if an acceptable definition of “governance” is the consensual framework and set of standard resources leveraged for decision-making with respect to explicit risks, value, use and manipulation of specific information types.

Note how quickly in discussing Web 2.0 information that the need arises to categorize, in several dimensions, specific information that can or should be governed. Typical Web Content Management systems manage all web content – information management systems or policies can attempt to cover all information only within very restrictive information management and sharing boundaries. Web 2.0 philosophies don’t include restrictive information boundaries; in fact the opposite is true, that unrestrictive information boundaries are the catalyst for Web 2.0 value. Unrestrictive boundaries don’t mean un-governed boundaries, however, and governance of information-sharing boundaries for particular categories of information useful to a defined, though virtual, stakeholder community is absolutely required for enterprises who have accepted the Web 2.0 opportunity.

Ultimate success in leveraging Web 2.0-enabled tools and participants in the information management processes can not be guaranteed. Success can and must be facilitated by Information Governance 2.0 procedures, policies and defined roles. This kind of socially-aware and information-without-borders approach will result in mitigation of risks around sharing of sensitive information and management of spending priorities.

An SEO/SEM professional is a great candidate to be an Information Steward, and promote or help guide Information Governance objectives for the benefit of our client's IT investment strategy and ultimate business outcomes.

...Let us know if you'd like more information about this topic; we're happy to help.

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