I should note, days after this post, Facebook demanded I prove my identity. As my name is not Danakin Skyjacker, I was unable to satisfy their idiotic documentation criteria. They closed my account. I switched to one of my other fb accounts, with an even goofier name. The good news? Even less advertising. That fb profile has never had a hometown or a current city associated with it and it had “liked” almost nothing. Pure minimal-ad Facebook experience achieved. If you don’t want to open a new Facebook account, stick with the method below.
Original post follows:
I’ve been increasingly inundated with advertisements on Facebook, especially on their iOS app.
Cause 1: Facebook continually finds new ways to monetize its product. (You. You’re the product!) (Go on, click that link. It’s fun!)
Cause 2: Until today I’d told Facebook I lived in Honolulu, one of the most hip, expensive, and cosmopolitan cities in this hemisphere. (I don’t.)
Minimize Facebook Ads
So I changed my current city and hometown to Supai, Arizona, the most remote town in the United States. It’s not even accessible by car! Supai is the only place in the United States where mail is still carried out by mules.
RESULT: Fewer advertisements on fb. I am no longer ostensibly part of a cherished target demographic. (I never was.)
Sure, I might start seeing ads targeted to native Americans, and if Facebook advertising is on its game, I might even see ads related to sprucing up my imaginary new home in Supai. So far–worth it.
Concerned about your privacy? …Or just tired of ads?
Won’t you join me in Supai?
When not generously providing free table tennis lessons to hacks at the Triple Crown Pub, Dan Dreifort consults on SEO, user experience, and other aspects of digital marketing.
SEO practitioners have seen the writing on the wall for years. If you really care about ranking well in Google, now it’s past time to pay attention to social. Almost two months ago we learned empirically that more +1 on Google+ means better ranking in Google.
I’ve spent a couple of years hinting to my clients that they should pay more attention to social; now I’m *strongly* suggesting it by outlining a few simple steps they can take (or I can take for them) in the social realm.
Step 1:More Social Outlets
Google Plus is a must. (Edit: You know what else is a must? Making sure you’re reading timely advice instead of an article from 2013!) People don’t use it, but Google relies on it for organic rankings, so your organization should use it. If you want to pick your battles and only use three outlets, pick Facebook and Twitter too. But why stop there? It’s so easy to work once and have it propagate to multiple outlets.
Step 2: Maximize Social Efforts
Use Hootsuite or similar services to make social management easy. Type once and your words post on all of your social sites at once. With tools like this there’s no excuse for not also posting on sites like LinkedIn, YouTube and the like.
You can even schedule your content to post at specific times allowing you to compress a portion of your social time investment while taking advantage of peak social interaction times to get your message seen more. Hootsuite is free, and if you’re lucky enough to outgrow the gratis version, it’s only nine bucks a month to upgrade.
Step 3: Encourage Website Visitors to Share
While many sites already sport social icons linking to their Facebook page, that’s not enough. We want a more usable page that enables our web audience to use their social networks to vote and share. Employ action icons like Google’s “+1” to let visitors make note of your specific content. Some might use a +1 as a social bookmark, others as an endorsement. Either way, we like it because Google uses it to rate webpages.
Step 4: Search for Social Engagement #
Hashtags (#) are your friend. Naturally, you should use them in your social posts to tag and categorize your content, but there’s more! Type “#hashtag” (without the quotes) into Facebook’s search bar and you’ll get a list of all posts tagged with #hashtag. But how is that useful?
An acting school might search for #audition and then comment on a post or two every week. A luggage shipping company might search for #lostluggage. A local business might search for people discussing an upcoming local event totally unrelated to their business and then share excitement about it. Etc.
Step 5: Follow for Social Engagement
Have you ever heard of the reward theory of attraction? You can follow that link, or trust me when I say that if you follow others, they might follow you too. This ties in well with hashtag searching. You can’t comment on EVERY related post you find, because that looks spammy, creepy and annoying. Instead, follow people and businesses who are posting about stuff relevant to you. …They’ll be more likely to follow you. Wikipedia says so.
Don’t lay it on too thick
Finally, the overlying/underlying philosophy here is that while social is going to help your other marketing efforts, most of the time, you should not wear your traditional marketing cap while you’re engaging with social networks. When you meet somebody on the street and they try to sell you something, how do you feel? Who wants to follow somebody who’s always talking about themselves? Well, some people do, but you’ll find the people with the most engagement aren’t exclusively self-promoting. Sometimes replying, “ugh!” or “I know, right?!” to share frustration, or asking a question, “How do you find out about _____?” or “Why?” will be more valuable than posting about something more related to your business. Remember: your business name is next to everything you post, so you can just lean on that!
This article only scratches the surface of social best practices, but follow these instructions and your social efforts will be well on their way to helping your search engine optimization.
Dan Dreifort consults on usability, SEO, and now social. If you ask nicely, he might let you subscribe to his private and otherwise unadvertised SEO/usability/social tips email list. …But maybe not.
I fired a Hawaii marketing agency a couple of months ago. I was not a client. I’d been providing usability and SEO services to their clients since 2007. (Does that mean I quit?) I grew online business for a few of their big-name clients and received decent money for it. Everybody at the agency was polite and skilled. So why did I fire them? Throughout the six-year engagement they paid several hundred invoices, but rarely on time. I fired them because they regularly forced me to act as an accountant and a collections agent.
Glutton For Digital Media Agency Punishment
A few weeks later I was approached by another Hawaii digital marketing outfit. I’m not hungry for work now, but with so much SEO and usability experience in the Hawaii destination and hospitality verticals, part of me wants to put that knowledge to good use. So when this new agency reached out to me, I engaged.
I insist on signing a mutual non-disclosure agreement with all clients. The NDA serves to protect any private information and ostensibly allows us to discuss anything without worry of public eyes and ears. After a month of wasting my time, this new agency today tells me, “We can’t sign this.” I tried to identify and fix the perceived problem, but after receiving a couple more obtuse emails, I eventually jabbed, “I take my clients’ privacy very seriously. If [Agency] doesn’t respect that, we’re obviously not a good match.” I sent a friendly “goodbye” note to his partner.
I assure you I won’t be communicating with them again unless we agree about privacy.
Don’t invest too much speculative time with clients until they agree to protect privacy.
I’d again like to help a Hawaii company or agency with search engine optimization and user experience.
I *still* don’t like time-wasters.
Dan Dreifort‘s current clients include: Product recommendation SaaS company, Plastic container manufacturer/retailer, Adjustable air-mattress retailer/manufacturer, Memory foam mattress manufacturer/retailer, Specialty shipping company, Brazilian jiu jitsu franchises, Tourist magazine, Childcare franchises, Acting school, Real estate brokers, Lawyer, Fence manufacturer/retailer, Online drug rehab center and a couple more. Dan is busy and can’t accept new work until January, 2014.
And Why You Should Have Implemented Responsive Design Years Ago
My latest pocket toy, (a 5th generation iPod Touch), is great at taking dictation. I’ve already carefully enunciated two emails into its microphone today. Because I usually work from home and I’m one of the strange beasts to still use a landline. The iPod is my tiny window into the mobile world.
I also have a mobile phone, but while I don’t often lean on my Android, I recognize that more people are using their mobile devices to search for goods and services. I help companies harness this mobile traffic with responsive design, long-tail keywords and other engagement strategies. The ROI is huge, but it can be a tough sell– unless you have the data to back it up.
The Mobile Traffic Writing is on the Wall & the Font is Getting Bigger!
A few years ago I told a mid-market e-tail client that mobile devices and tablets would soon account for the majority of their traffic and business. I said something like, “Time to think about responsive design lest we alienate the fastest growing segment of consumers.” Instead, this client decided that its core demographic (married women over 35) didn’t (and wouldn’t) purchase or research expensive household products on handheld devices any time soon.
Without a Mobile Crystal Ball, Let Data Make Smart Decisions For You.
The next year I was able to turn to the data. I pointed out that the company’s mobile bounce rate was higher than that of the overall site average. When I again suggested it would be best to use a responsive website design to encourage mobile users to engage, the company decided instead to modify its PPC campaigns.
“Don’t address mobile. Ignore it!” was the company mantra. “Who would use a phone to search for luxury goods?!” They stopped serving ads to mobile devices.
In February 2010, only 5% of this company’s site traffic came from handheld devices. By May 2012 that traffic source had grown to 36%. Shortly thereafter they stopped advertising to mobile devices. By March 2013, phones, tablets and iPods accounted for 45% of their traffic. This is remarkable! Why? Because they’d specifically and actively tried to alienate those consumers.
So what happened? The client finally embraced responsive web design. When I juxtaposed the previously mentioned 45% figure with a random sample of a few other sites’ analytics data, it was easy to see that married women over 35 (or whoever their demographic really was) actually used mobile devices more than the average person.
It took a few years and some good data but this company will soon offer a website that will be attractive, usable and engaging regardless of screen size. Lower mobile bounce rates and higher conversion rates are sure to follow.
But engagement is only part of a successful mobile strategy. Customers must find you, before you can engage them.
How Do Mobile Traffic Trends Affect SEO?
A few years ago we searched with our fingers on a keyboard attached to a PC or laptop. In a few more years, we’ll probably just think about our searches to get things started via a subdermal implant. In the meantime, we’ve begun talking to our devices.
With the advent of Apple’s Siri, Dragon Dictation and Android-based virtual assistants like Vlingo and Skyvi, more of us are speaking our search phrases than ever before. These new technologies are leading to increasing numbers of “conversational-style” searches, or long tail searches. This interesting combination of conversational search phrases and guttural caveman-like searches performed in noisy environments means that the long tail of SEO keywords is now more meaningful than ever.
Pair this new human side of search trends with the ongoing semantic efforts of search engines like Google and Bing and it’s a welcome perfect storm for wisely managed SEO campaigns. Use great traffic research tools to identify slightly longer, more specific search phrases and you’ll find your ROI going through the roof. And you’ll live happily ever after…at least until everybody else catches on.
Because it’s still relevant, I’ll leave my initial robocall fix idea below. But I’ve had some time to think about robocalls for a few years and I have a better idea.
Charge for every call.
Find some amount. I’d like to make it high, like a penny. One measly cent. But others have arguments to make it smaller, like a tenth of a cent. Either way, making the origination of a call actually cost something would be a game-changer. It would help to stop spam. At scale, even a tenth of a cent is daunting.
If the cost itself wasn’t an effective barrier, the potential to follow the money would maybe scare some spammers off.
Anyhow. I’ll leave my late-2019 addition there. On to the original idea from 6+ years ago.
In early November I received my umpteenth call from Rachel at cardholder services. A few years ago I wasted time filing FTC reports on these jokers in a wholly ineffective effort to thwart their incessant nagging. Of late I’ve instead taken to passive aggressively nagging them back.
How I Used to Deal With Rachel and her Cardholder Services Minions
This time, as is now my custom, I pressed whatever number would get me to a consultant to discuss the urgent scam relating to my credit cards. I then pressed mute and walked away. A few minutes later, per my routine, I picked up the phone to hang it up, but this time there’s a guy whispering all sorts of awesome stuff still on the line. So I listened for a while. He’d just started at his call center job two weeks earlier and had yet to get any training. He was bitching about the people near him and how backwards and horrible everybody and everything about his job was. Very entertaining. (He was using more colorful language than I’m willing to recount here.)
I wanted to un-mute and talk to him but decided not to. What would I have said? “Become a whistle-blower!” These $#%^ing phone spammers are breaking the law and I’d love to see some convictions. Unfortunately I (and likely most call center drones) are unaware of incentive to blow the whistle on such illegal activity, if any even exists.
FTC Robocall Challenge to the Rescue?
The FTC is planning to spend serious dough on “new and innovative ways to block these illegal calls,” and is soliciting fresh ideas via the U.S.A.’s official challenge website. They’re also offering $50,000 in prizes for challenge winners. But I recognize problems with most of the submissions. They’re either ineffective, costly, unproven, violate basic privacy or show other weaknesses. Solving this problem is as simple as the American dream itself and it’s a bargain too.
From aforementioned breathy undertones of the underbelly of the robocall world, I was able to infer that call center workers are overworked, underpaid, shown little respect and mistreated. What if we offered cash rewards for proof of illegal telemarketing activity? How much would it take? I’m guessing not much.
What person working at a thankless illegal job is going to turn down a four figure reward for ten minutes of work? IT WILL WORK. But how will we fund it? While there’s likely already a budget for this sort of thing, I understand that taxing and spending isn’t sexy these days and that we’re to rely on the private sector for things like… money. (?!)
I’ll start. If I win the challenge, I’ll donate 10% of my take to an FTC telemarketing whistle blower fund.
Won’t you join me? (Boring details for my FTC challenge submission follow. Thanks for reading!)
Project Details FAQ
Q: What is required to stop robocalls and encourage whistleblowers?
A: Funding. A website to field scam reports. Small staff to review reports. Initial marketing push.
Q: What about robocalls that don’t provide an option to speak to a human?
A: There are still underpaid minions in these shady organizations. We can turn them from the dark side.
Q: What about robocalls from other countries?
A: People in other countries like cash too. We can turn them and stop the flow of robocalls.
Q: Harumph! I hate government spending! What else would we need to crowdsource the funding?
A: If the gov doesn’t have the ability to do it already, hire somebody to use free, off the shelf, open source scripts to accept donations. Initial marketing push.
When he’s not traveling or making music, Dan Dreifort likes to consult on search and usability. Dan also likes his wife even though she has neglected him for almost four years while she’s been at veterinary school. She comes back in three weeks. Dan is very happy about this.
That SEO and usability don’t flourish in a vacuum has been on my mind lately. Sound doesn’t travel in a vacuum. If there’s nobody to hear your pearls of SEO wisdom do they make a sound? The sound of silence sends no sales. Four cases of constructive complaining follow.
Case #1 – Hire Experts + Stop Listening = Profit? No!
I helped grow a startup e-retailer from nothing to three million in annual sales. The company sold to new owners who kept me on for SEO services but took away my keys to the site because they wanted to do all web work in-house. No problem- I work this way (via intermediary) sometimes. Though I’d informed them of redesign best practices, they chose to ignore it all; the hasty series of redesigns and half-rebrands erased years of SEO and usability progress. I spent a few months frantically trying to implement remedial measures but they heeded nothing I said or sent. We parted ways less than a year after the company switched hands. In a few short months they went from hero to zero in Google. Why would you spend good money on a company and then tank it? Conversely, the people who sold the company hired me to do SEO and usability work for a new endeavor. Its sales are growing. SEO and usability are processes, not events; they don’t exist in a vacuum.
Case #2 – Second Verse, Similar to the First, But Better Outcome!
The chart to the right shows long-term cycles of a different SEO effort, underfunded and unfortunately not paired with a good usability effort. The company rakes in millions every year and would hugely benefit from doubling, tripling or quadrupling their SEO spend. I tell them this every year and sometimes spend time cobbling together metrics to back it up. …Which led to a smart realignment of the campaign scope a few years ago. The effort went from about 10% funding to 25% funding, but we’re still overreaching the budget. Part of the problem is the size of the company; they’re huge. Big boats don’t turn on a dime. A properly funded campaign would smooth out those valleys, and the peaks would be, literally, off the charts.
Because of a third-party payment solution, this client is also unable to give me ideal, actionable analytics data tying actual sales to each keyword. I’m left measuring the ranking of SERP listings, a comparatively bush-league measure of success. I’m also sometimes unable to appropriately geo-target longer tail search phrases (usually a good tactic in underfunded efforts) because most of the campaign consists of more competitive generic keywords. (They have their reasons, but it’s still frustrating. Good thing I like a challenge, and complaining!) I have neither budget nor latitude to increase the usability of landing pages so some of the most trafficked pages on the site lack a cohesive design with calls to action and good user direction. Though I know it’s not true, sometimes this client’s actions tell me they’re happier with countless second and third SERP rankings instead of focusing on the first SERP. My voice is necessarily muddled by the relative vacuum, but it’s getting better all the time and I’m still able to do some good work. I am optimistic.
Google SEO vs Bing and Yahoo SEO
This other graph for the same client, though only tenuously related, needed a place to live in the blogosphere. Many of the campaign’s most broad metrics have been sluggish, flat or even slowly tanking over the past year because they cover all three major search engines as a whole. The chart at right (click it for a larger version) shows that SERP listings have been tanking in Bing and Yahoo, while Google’s doing alright. My SEO work will often please Google more than Bing and Yahoo, and this account exhibits the extreme of that trend. Because Google is responsible for the vast majority of searches performed in the US, I’ve never wasted much effort focusing on the other search engines. So while I likely won’t get more budget to play with, I have a Q1 2013 plan to address some of the issues. Ping me in six months if you want an update.
Case #3 – SEO & Usability Are Processes, Not Events.
There’s a reason SEO practitioners display results in charts with various metrics in one axis and time in the other; SEO is a process, not an event. This next tale bit of complaining deals with the one-night stand of SEO gigs. It’s my first one and I feel dirty – too ashamed to post a picture because a filthy picture is worth a thousand guilty words. Because of stipulations tied to the funding of this project I was informed that I had to complete all SEO work and training in one month. I interjected, “But….” Nope. One month. I could not get keys to the server so I sent over a long list of Drupal modules essential for SEO like nodewords, xml sitemap, seo-friendly urls, etc. After a month I was still left with a CMS that wouldn’t even allow me to insert title tags or descriptions. It’s been over three months and I’m just now getting close to the finish line. It would have been a huge payday for one month’s work, but I knew better. It’s still a decent payout for a third of a year, so I’m happy. I’ve educated and empowered the client enough to ensure continued SEO success in the future.
Case #4 – SEO & Usability Success!
Most of my clients do listen, especially those I hand pick (vs. clients from agencies.) Case in point, to compliment SEO efforts I’ve really been leaning on A/B/X testing and Google Experiments. I try to convey that people should not be making decisions about design, SEO, brand, etc. when we can actually measure our audience and do what works best for them. After all isn’t that what any organization wants? The results (and data) speak for themselves.
If you have a very usable site with poor SEO, people won’t find your site. If I use SEO to build your audience, but your website sucks, you’re not going to get as much bang for your SEO buck. Usability is the science of making things not suck. SEO makes search robots happy. Usability makes people happy. The marriage of the two equals high ROI. This last image (above) shows how one little four week experiment caused visitors to be twice as likely to convert into customers. It cost very little to run that experiment and it paid for itself in one day. The rest is gravy. That it’s difficult to convince companies to invest in SEO and usability never ceases to amaze me, but I won’t stop trying (or complaining.) Thanks for reading.
Dan Dreifort makes money for companies and reads. If people paid him to read more he might stop helping companies make so much money. He’s currently proofreading (and loving) a book called When the Biomass Hits The Wind Turbine. It’s available in self-published form from Amazon for a few more months before its re-released and becomes all famous and stuff on the Daily Show and whatever awful show Oprah’s doing these days.
Remember back when Firefox 3.5.17 came out? I’ll give you a clue; it was 2011.
It’s just a year later and the latest version of Firefox (15.0) ships with new features under the hood, including better memory handling for plugins and new “Silent, background updates,” but it’s not enough. When Mozilla switched Firefox to a faster release cycle in 2011, users relying on extensions and plugins suffered. Many jumped ship for Chrome and Safari. Those of us who have stayed either suffer or update extensions on our own. I’m in the latter camp.
1. I want to stay logged in so that 1-Click ordering is really one click. In the past, if I wanted something from Amazon, I would pop open my browser and I was conveniently already signed in to Amazon. This allowed me to 1-Click order on the fly and enabled me to include only Amazon Prime items in search results. (UPDATE: This is now fixed.)
The Amazon rep with whom I just spoke says that Amazon no longer allows users to remain logged in and that I must login anew with each browser start. She said this policy ensures greater security. I like security, but I’m also a fan of usability.
2. The bigger (or at least as big), usability problem is that, assuming I’m not signed in, (you know, for security), when I’ve navigated to a product I want to purchase, I have to login. I click “sign in” and then I am not taken back to the page whereon I clicked “sign in” but am instead taken to a page containing some text and a button to “continue shopping”. That takes me back to the item, but worse still is the example of searching. I get the results how I want, except that I want to limit my results to Amazon Prime eligible items. So I sign in only to be taken to a “Your Amazon.com” page with “Featured Recommendations” none of which were in the results page I just recently left. (Passive voice intentional.) (UPDATE: This is also now fixed.)
Clearly this is not what the shopper wants and is therefore not what Amazon wants.
We have to click the back button a few times to get where we want to be. Annoying.
Why create a barrier to the sale? How many sales are lost b/c of frustration from 1 and 2 alone?
To be fair, that same Amazon representative loved my usability feedback on this one.
Sign In For Amazon Prime Search Results?
I know it’s not as secure, but consider allowing me to stay logged in from session to session so that I don’t have to sign in every time I’m shopping just to see Amazon Prime eligible items in my search results. Why do I need to sign in to sort by Prime in the first place?! (UPDATE: This is also, also now fixed.)
And if you can’t do that, at least ensure that if I’m on a search results page or an item page when I click “sign in”, that after I’m logged in, I’m returned to that page immediately so I can make the decision and buy something.
These two usability improvements should easily be worth a few million dollars every year for Amazon.
You’re welcome. No charge 😉
Dan Dreifort consults on usability and search. He also makes music. Dan Dreifort is for scuba.
(Update: We have less control than ever on Facebook. Use socialfixer.com. It’s the best we have.) Facebook sucks when it comes to privacy. I can’t wait until somebody sues them for it and forces them to change. Maybe someday they’ll realize that good usability and privacy is a great business model.
Until then, here are three different ways to clean up one of the most egregious facebook privacy screwups to date.
Annoyed that facebook has decided to make every detail of your actions everybody’s business? Tired of clicking the little x and then clicking “remove” from the annoying facebook confirmation popup over and over again? Here’s how to quickly delete your facebook recent activity.
There are three ways to eliminate all of those annoying updates with a single click. The downer is that you still have to do it periodically. Most of these are cross-browser compatible for at least firefox and chrome.
Use better facebook. There are tons of other reasons to use better facebook too. Not the least of which is that my top blue facebook bar is locked in place while I scroll the content of a page. Very convenient. However, betterfacebook implementation of remove recent activity is less than perfect. It misses some from time to time. But it adds a “remove all activity” link to your activity. The new version of Better Facebook removes all recent activity (or whichever bits you specify in the settings,) each time you visit your facebook profile page. Get better facebook!.
http://userscripts.org/scripts/show/67751 You have to install greasemonkey first, but it’s totally worth it. I heart greasemonkey, This one adds a “Remove Recent Activity” button to the right facebook side panel. Works like a charm, once you find it. Facebook is so damn cluttered. (Edit: turns out you have to reload your profile page for the button to appear.)