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19 Aug
Why not now

Why not now

When I recently paid my yearly fee for owning this fabulous domain name (take note, Salma Hayek, the term Lebanexican is mine!), I realized it’s silly to pay money for lebanexican.com if I am going to let it lie dormant with no new posts since 2012! I then told myself that I would do a month of a blog post a day, just as I did in May 2011, but then realized, why wait until September 1st? Why not now?

Why not now? are three great words to keep in mind when it’s tempting to put the brakes on an idea. I intend to try out a new recipe, but don’t. I intend to lace up my running shoes, but don’t. And yet, I just need remind myself, why not now? So I will be writing a bit here, a bit there, about topics of interest to me. They may be short, they may be long, but I’ll be breathing some new life into this old blog. Welcome back, reader.

2011 in Review! Thanks WordPress!

31 Dec

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 7,900 times in 2011. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 7 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Analytics: Not How, but Why

11 Sep
Google Analytics

Google Analytics

Those of us in the digital marketing industry know that we offer the advertiser one distinct advantage over radio, TV and print- a wealth of data about user engagement with the ads. We can not only guess if a user will see an ad, but see when he saw it, when he will be most likely to find out more, where he and others will see it, and more. I recently participated in an online course on how to best take advantage of the features in Google Analytics, and while I was shown how the interface works, I was left with the same question I had before starting the course: with the wealth of data at our disposal, what should we DO with all of it?

Of course, this all depends on what our needs are. The owner of a retail site will analyze analytics to see, for example, which search terms are leading customers to his site, whereas a breaking news site can see what time of day is best to publish stories to attract the most eyeballs.  The point is knowing what you need. I know that when I look at Google Analytics, I am easily drawn into minutiae like whether to choose a pie or bar chart, which metrics to overlap with each other- visitors by region, by city, etc. I particularly get a kick out of the In-Page Analytics that crawls any page on a site and shows where visitors go (2% to the About Us page, 24% to the Read More page, etc).  In short, it’s easy to spend a long time on Analytics. Which is why we need to get back to basics.

It’s one of those truisms of the marketing world that you must know who your customer is. Once you know who they are, you can then market to them in the right voice; this is why we do market research. Analytics, then, is a free, quick and easy form of market research. What are we looking to accomplish with the site? If we are trying to draw visitors from New York and we see that most visitors come from California, we look at the rest of the site to see how we could draw the right kind of visitor (perhaps with a modest Ad Words campaign). Figure out what you’re looking for- effective search term, time on site, etc.- and then use the information in Analytics to change your site accordingly.

The End of a Very Bloggy May

31 May

As I lay here, I am suffering from the after effects of a bad stomach virus that has been plaguing me for days. I want nothing more than to shut off the computer, crawl up into a ball and not think about the blog.  And yet, I have gone these last 31 days by writing at least something in this blog, no matter how short or trivial.  Late at night and exhausted? Nevertheless I wrote “Rickhouse on a Tuesday”.

Yet I don’t want to give the impression that this mission to write every night for a month was a chore.  It only felt that way if, as mentioned,  I was sick or tired. But I decided, at the end of April, that forcing myself to write something every day would give me the boost I needed.  Forced to write regularly, I would have to be creative.  It also meant not restricting myself to just writing about technology and Latino issues, which I found a bit constraining. No, by writing about a broader array of topics,  I exercised my writing muscle.  Also, the great thing about blogging is that, at least in my opinion, it should read like a well-written first draft. Not a final draft, but a first draft.  Thus, I am not constantly editing and revising and fretting about whether a post is good enough.  I write it, and try not to judge the work once it’s published.

I will use this renewed confidence in my ability to write to continue writing for the blog, but not force myself to do it every day. I have a life! And I get sleepy.  But I have caught the blogging bug for good.  So please stay tuned for more.

All Hail the Irish Job Seeker

30 May
Job Seeker

Job Seeker

In these tough economic times, job seekers would be well-advised to think outside the Craigslist/Monster.com box and be creative. I recently learned of a young unemployed man in Ireland who went an unusual route- he placed a huge billboard alongside one of Dublin’s busiest roads, stating “Save Me From Emigration”, with his email address at the bottom. Granted, this stunt couldn’t have been cheap, but as I like to remind people, investments are smart.  The man in question, Féilim Mac An Iomaire, returned from living in Australia in August, and has applied for over 100 jobs, with no luck. His billboard has landed him radio interviews and, one would hope, soon a job.  Did I mention that Féilim works in marketing?

I will be curious to hear if this creative approach to the job search results in a good job for this young man. I am reminded of the New York ad executive Alec Brownstein who figured that other top ad executives would have a penchant for googling themselves. Of the five individuals whom he targeted in a Google AdWords campaign, he got four job interviews, and two job offers. And he only paid $6 for the advertising. Remember the old adage from elementary school, “Show Don’t Tell”? When it comes to a creative profession like marketing, you can talk about your creativity in your cover letters, or you can show it in unique ways.

Social Search, or, Things That Are Totally Unnecessary

26 May
Social Search

Social Search

I just saw an ad for Bing’s new social search. Why decide on your vacation destination alone when  your friends can chime in? Why search for shoes alone when your buddies can help you choose the best pair? I suppose my suspicion about social being integrated with everything comes with my age.  I simply can’t imagine taking my friends along with me everywhere- texting me on my phone, chatting with me on Gchat, and now chiming in on my searches.

My suspicion is also due to my awareness of the fact that anytime social is integrated into anything, marketers start salivating. Not only will crafty marketers know what you like on Facebook, but they’ll know what you’re searching for. And what your friends are searching for. And what your friends’ friends want you to be searching for.  Get ready for a whole new level of targeted marketing.

And the other reason I feel uneasy about the advent of social search? Well, let’s face it, most of what I search for is not something I want other people to see. “causes of stomach discomfort”. “how to remove a coffee stain from kitchen sink”. Do you want your friend on Facebook to know that you’re shopping for her birthday gift online? Or do you want your family to know you’re looking for unsavory material? I hope that search can be one last bastion of relative privacy on the internet. Or am I being naive?

Here be Malware! Watch What You Download

12 May
Malware

Malware

Funny, tonight I intended to write about a short video I saw on Tosh.0 and the moral outrage it made me feel.  And then, while searching for the real video, my computer came across some malware.  Short version: be careful what you click on.  Even if you have a Mac.

Long version: I always look at the url before I click on a link in search results.  This one was something like blog.tosh.0.com, so I thought the site was legit. I saw a real-looking page for a moment, and then-boom- what appeared to be notifications of malware detected all over my beautiful MacBook.  I guess I got lazy- Macs just don’t get viruses, right?

What made me suspicious is that I was then told that to get rid of the malware, I would have to buy something called Mac Protector, for at least $70 a year. That raised my suspicions, and then began to google Mac Protector.  Sure enough, I found this wonderful site that showed me, step by step, how to remove the stuff from my computer.  It was pretty quick and easy.  Use your common sense, folks- you shouldn’t have to buy special anti-virus software as soon as your computer is “infested” with malware (there was no malware- turns out this is all a ploy to get your credit card digits).  And yes, maybe in the future I’ll write about the shock of watching small children dancing very suggestively at a kid’s birthday party, which I saw on a rerun of Tosh.0. Oh well.

Las Nuevas Reglas de la SEO

1 Mar
Content Farms

Content Farms

Cuando habla Google, la gente escucha. Y hace poco, el gigante de los buscadores ha dado a conocer unos cambios de su famoso algoritmo. Hay dos cambios significativos que se implementarán próximamente: aumentar la importancia de la “búsqueda social”, y penalizar los sitios que recopilan contenido de otras fuentes (en inglés, content farms).

Los internautas están compartiendo enlaces a través de las redes sociales cada vez más; es probable que la primera vez que viste un video popular o leíste algo sobre una noticia importante, fue a través de Facebook o Twitter.  Por esta razón, Google ha decidido dar más importancia a los enlaces compartidos en las redes sociales. Esto está vinculado a la búsqueda personalizado; es decir, si el buscador conoce tus gustos y lo que sueles buscar, también conoce quién en tu red personal comparte noticias que lees.

¿Qué significa la nueva importancia de la búsqueda social para los que trabajan en el marketing?  Es otro indicio de que el aspecto social del internet no es un modo pasajero.  Google está intentando mejorar sus resultados para que sean cada vez más relevantes. Por lo tanto, lo que compartes en Twitter, Flickr u otra red- aunque, por el momento, no Facebook- puede llegar a más gente, y vice versa. La idea es que si todo el mundo está hablando del tema en Twitter, debe de ser relevante.

La otro nueva noticia es que Google ha modificado su algoritmo para que sitios con contenido original valgan más que los sitios que sólo recopilan contenido y enlaces de otras partes.  Quizás hayas buscado cómo hacer alguna cosa- por ejemplo, “cómo hacer ejercicios para los brazos”.  Y los primeros resultados son sitios con más anuncios que contenido.  Tienen mucho texto pero pocas imágenes. Un ejemplo de uno de estos “content farms”- literalmente, granja de contenido, donde se cosecha contenido poco relevante- es eHow.com. Algunos han quejado en el pasado de que Google no haya podido distinguir entre los buenos sitios y los malos sitios. Eso acaba de cambiar.

Ahora los sitios que tienen poco contenido original son penalizados en los buscadores.  Alexis Madrigal, de The Atlantic, comparó el nuevo algoritmo con el viejo, utilizando un servidor de la India y uno de Estados Unidos (el cambio solo se está realizando en EE.UU.), y vio que los resultados para Estados Unidos eran mucho mas relevantes.  Entonces, esto nos recuerda lo que muchos ya han dicho: reina el contenido. Mejor dicho, reina el BUEN contenido. Si el sitio está diseñado únicamente para aprovechar los buscadores y no para ayudar a los seres humanos, será penalizado. Esto representa buenas noticias para los que usamos Google en nuestra vida diaria; me he quejado antes de los sitios que no proveen nada útil.  Google está buscando más que los términos de búsqueda; ya está buscando calidad.  Me interesa ver cómo van mejorando el buscador para estos fines.

SEO for Humans

1 Feb
What Are You Looking For?

What Are You Looking For?

Have you ever searched for something online and then been surprised that the first few results are not relevant at all? Let’s take the old dark chocolate example. For whatever reason you want to look for milk chocolate online- you want to learn about the health benefits, or you want to buy some for your sweetie. Do you find the most useful site at the top of your search results? Perhaps. But the fourth search results is this.

On this site, I have no way of purchasing chocolate or finding out about the purported health benefits of chocolate. I just see the word chocolate repeated over and over. So the people behind this page at Wisegeek have managed to create an image-free, text-heavy site with no relevance whatsoever to the human searching for chocolate. But they have managed to work their way up the search engine rankings, right behind Wikipedia and Hersheys, so it’s all good.

This is what happens when web designers take the almighty SEO- that’s search engine optimization, folks- above the needs of real human web users. As someone who has taken courses in SEO and who dabbles in it occasionally at work, I sympathize with those trying to do their best to improve their website’s search ranking. There are myriad ways to improve a site’s design so that it is more search engine friendly. At the html  level, title tags and image tags can be renamed. I cringe when I see a site’s title tag that simply says “Home”. Little things that are done behind the scenes help. But when it comes at the expense of the user experience, you may have a high search engine rank, but a high bounce rate. Visitors will find nothing of value on your site, and leave.

Though I look at some aspects of the online experience through a marketer’s eyes, I mostly look at things through the eyes of a web user. Someone who searches for movie times and hunts for good, local news sites and laughs at Lamebook. As a web surfer, I appreciate what we marketers call “sticky content”. Namely, write good, interesting stuff that makes me want to stay on the site. And come back. In the end, that is more valuable than keyword-packed, image-free, useless sites taking up valuable bandwidth.

Las Empresas Latinoamericanas y Los Medios Sociales

20 Jan
Las Redes Sociales en Latinoamérica

Las Redes Sociales en Latinoamérica

Hace poco, leí que las empresas latinoamericanas están atrasadas en su uso de los medios sociales- y esto, a pesar de que los internautas en la región se están conectando a una tasa increíble.  En una conferencia reciente, Alexandre Hohagen, el Director General de Google para Latinoamérica, sostuvo que “Latinoamérica seguirá siendo la región que más crecerá en el mundo en el uso de Internet, tanto si el acceso es mediante computadoras o teléfonos móviles”. Se ha discutido mucho sobre el auge de los medios sociales por los jóvenes en Latinoamérica. ¿Y las empresas de la región? Aún no han aprendido integrar los medios sociales en su estrategia de marketing.

La empresa de investigación de mercados Burston Marsteller acaba de dar a conocer los resultados de un estudio que muestra lo siguiente:

  • Solo la mitad (49%) de las empresas latinoamericanas con altos ingresos tienen una cuenta en redes sociales, comparadas con 79% de las empresas globales.
  • 39% de las compañías están en Facebook (54% a nivel global)
  • 32% de las compañías tienen presencia en Twitter (65% a nivel global)
  • 25% de las compañías tienen cuenta en Youtube (50% a nivel global).

Sin embargo, las compañías que se comprometen en redes sociales son muy activas.

  • 86% de las cuentas corporativas de empresas latinoamericanas se mantienen activas (se actualizaron por lo menos una vez en la semana anterior a la investigación), lo que sugiere que estas empresas entienden la importancia de conversar en redes sociales de forma regular.

Cinco datos que nos indican mucho.  Los datos muestran que los latinoamericanos- sobre todo los jóvenes- están accediendo al internet, y las redes sociales en particular, a una tasa fenomenal. Para llegar a ellos, utilizar los medios sociales simplemente tiene sentido.  Entiendo el miedo que uno puede tener frente a una tecnología nueva. Titubear. Esperar. !No sé usarlo! ¿Para qué usarlo? Yo dudaba mucho el poder de los medios sociales para hacer que una empresa o una marca conecte con sus clientes potenciales y actuales. Antes.

Pero los tiempos han cambiado. Los medios sociales no son una tendencia pasajera. Quizás la red sea distinta de país a país (Orkut en Brasil, hi5 en el Perú y la Argentina), y quizás la red social de ayer no tiene la misma popularidad que antes (de Friendster a Myspace a Facebook a….). Pero el uso de las nuevas tecnologías para crear una identidad, para conectarse a los demás, para compartir ideas y opiniones, para obtener información- ese cambio es definitivo.

Entonces, una vez que uno se dé cuenta de su importancia, ¿cómo utilizarlos para conversar y responder a los clientes- los “fans” (o críticos) de uno? Mi consejo sería simplemente comenzar. Y escuchar.