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Posts Tagged ‘Google’

Using Google Realtime Search to Track Social Media Efforts

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

We now have another tool in the shed for tracking the effectiveness of social media marketing campaigns. Google has a new search page, Google Realtime, that allows a search of social updates, news articles and blog posts about hot topics around the world.

This tool gives you an easy way to find hot companies offering products and services on the social web. This beta project could very well be a testing ground for something much bigger down the road. Google has tried several times to integrate real time social web search results into standard Google searches, but nothing much has come of those efforts. If this tool takes off, I believe the research they gain from the project will lead to bigger things down the road. Specifically, the merging of standard web search results with results from Facebook, Twitter, news sites, and other social networking sites.

One other lesson that this experiment can teach us is the importance of a deep online marketing approach for your business that doesn’t focus solely on pay per click advertising to get the word out. In addition to SEM, proper SEO and social media marketing methods continue to gain ground as cost-effective ways to put products and services in front of prospective clients.

Get searching now and see if your company rates well in realtime.

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Web Design and Online Marketing Together for Business Success

Monday, August 16th, 2010

Customer Selecting ProductPicture yourself standing in a supermarket aisle in front of the canned vegetables. You are making a new recipe tonight and it calls for one can of peas. You have never purchased a can of peas before and don’t have a preferred company or brand of peas in mind, so here you are with thirty different cans of peas in front of you to choose from. Each can has a unique label and manufacturer and most of them are exactly the same price. Which can do you pick up?

Next you walk over to the fruit aisle. You want to make an apple pie for dessert and look through all of the red apples in stock. It appears that some of the apples are old – they are withered and stale looking. The fresh apples are bright, crisp and fresh looking. Which ones do you choose for your pie?

Research has shown time and time again that looks sell. When people are presented with a choice between similar products that are similarly priced and offer similar features, they will almost always select the one with the brighter, more colorful packaging. A colorful, shiny label will always outsell a dull, bland one. A shiny, bright apple will sell faster than old fruit.

Studies are also very clear in identifying the unmatched power of the internet for business marketing. Search engines give your business power to place advertisements for your products and services directly in front of your target customers the moment they are searching for you. Google and Bing are supermarkets for business, and your products can be grouped with others in a similar category, just like cans of peas. Now, imagine a client searching the internet for your product or service, but really they are standing in the supermarket in front of cans of peas. What happens when YOUR can of peas (website) is placed on the shelf in front of them, right next to all of the cans of peas provided by your competitors?

Trying to design a do-it-yourself free website for your company, or going with the cheapest possible web design offering from the kid down the street working from his moms garage, is like one of those pea manufacturers handing a child a crayon and saying “Go ahead, design a label for our peas.” There are certain things that a professional marketing company will know about label design that a child will not. Important details will be missing from the final design such as branding, calls to action (buy these peas now!), ingredient labels, and all of the other secrets that are so important to help a consumer make the decision to purchase.

When a business website is designed by an amateur, cheaply without concern for quality, or by a web design firm that does understand online marketing, guess who buys the peas? No one. You could have the best peas in the entire world. They could be juicier, tastier and softer than all of your competitors peas. None of that will ever matter. Your potential customers will never get far enough along with your product to pick up your can of peas, read the label, or take it home to find out what’s inside. Considering the importance of online marketing to today’s business success, you could miss out on thousands of dollars in new sales. At the extreme, based on what your competitors are doing online, your business could fail due to an inability to compete in your industry.

“Build it and they will come” is absolutely incorrect when it comes to a new website for your business. Business web design and online marketing firms such as my PC Techs give your new website the upper hand. New websites designed by my PC Techs are built using cutting-edge technologies and incorporate the latest in coding and marketing techniques. With a my PC Techs website, you are getting much more than a new website. You get a proven marketing vehicle for your products and services.

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Google Wave Hits a Wall

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

I still remember hundreds of articles and blog posts over a year ago popping up all over the internet predicting the future of online communication and collaboration, and they had Google Wave written all over them. Here’s are two of those articles:

Unfortunately for Google, things don’t always work out the way everyone expects. Google announced plans to drop support for Google Wave today.

There was tremendous promise and expectation attached to the Google Wave project, even before it was available for testing. Google did a remarkable job building up public support for this project and getting everyone excited about what was in store. Wave was supposed to replace email, instant messaging, and chat. It was going to make file sharing easier for everyone. It was destined to become the premier collaboration tool on the internet. With so much excitement and anticipation built up for Google Wave, it was almost impossible that the project would become anything other than a major success.

So what happened, why did Google Wave flop? I tried Google Wave personally and found myself unimpressed with several aspects of Wave. The most disturbing element of Google Wave for me was the poorly developed user interface. It was difficult to navigate and tedious to accomplish any real work from within Wave. The sign-up process was flawed from the start and Wave was closed to the general public for far too long. Hundreds of thousands of people who might otherwise have become huge adopters of the platform were excluded for lack of knowing anyone willing to send an invite. Finally, the system was closed and isolated. Without knowing a large enough group of people already using Wave, there was nothing you could really do in Wave. Unlike email, where anyone you know can be contacted at any moment, you could not contact anyone in Google Wave unless that person already had a Wave account.

The technologies behind Wave are impressive. Given enough work, Wave could have become great as originally intended. I don’t know if Google felt that they tarnished the Wave name somehow, but it’s too bad that they gave up on this project rather than making serious changes in order to salvage it. What did you think of Google Wave? Did you use it? What did you like or dislike about it?


Competition in the US smartphone market heats up

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

The smartphone market grew by 64% annually worldwide in Q2 2010. Google’s Android based phones surged to a 34% share of the US smartphone market and edged out Blackberry’s 32% and the iPhone’s 21% to claim the largest market share.

While Android phone sales are soaring, the iPhone and Blackberry phones continue to remain competitive. Additionally, Microsoft is planning to release a revolutionary new phone based on Windows 7. The Windows 7 phone series is sure to heat up this market even further. Stay tuned!

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Arguing about clouds, a brewing storm or a clear and sunny day?

Friday, February 27th, 2009

The Cloud. It sounds pretty cool, but what does it really mean? There are over 12.6 million pages on Google returned for a search on “Cloud Computing” with thousands more being added every day. The term has been used to describe everything from a web hosting company to a whole package of online tools sold by a small business management company.

Cloud computing is defined by Wikipedia as “the use of Internet based computer technology for a variety of services. It is a style of computing in which dynamically scalable and often virtualized resources are provided as a service over the Internet. Users need not have knowledge of, expertise in, or control over the technology infrastructure “in the cloud” that supports them.” In a nutshell, Cloud Computing is the platform that will make possible a future where everything you need to do on a computer is done over the internet. Word Processing, Spreadsheets, Graphic Design, Email, Instant Messaging, Games and every other basic computer task you can currently think of will simply be an application running on a website somewhere, available through a web browser.

There are pros and cons of this idea, and it doesn’t take very long to find plenty of arguments either way. Proponents of Software as a Service (the cloud) argue that it’s less expensive to maintain than traditional technology, easier to manage, and more reliable. The most popular comments against the cloud point out that it’s not secure, prone to data loss and over the long-term will actually cost individuals and businesses more money than current methods. I’ve tried to take an objective approach to all of this, and with an open mind have highlighted some common arguments for and against the cloud. I will leave it up to you as to whether or not Cloud Computing is good, bad, or something in between.

Read through and leave a comment when you’re done. I am very interested to hear your arguments for or against the cloud.

Argument #1, Data Security

Pro-Cloud: Proponents for the cloud claim that data can be encrypted and stored in the cloud. They say that the encryption offered by these services will leave your data more secure than the same data stored on a traditional computer system. They also claim that you can trust large companies such as Google with your data, because they have more resources to dedicate towards keeping information safe than you could ever afford on your own. They claim that an average business with a small IT staff is more likely to have their data hacked and compromised than a Cloud Provider who’s business model depends on keeping that data secure.

Anti-Cloud: Cloud critics claim that data being stored via current methods resides on secure computer systems behind secure company networks. They believe that it’s much more difficult for anyone to access this type of data as it’s not available to the general internet, and to access the data you would  need physical access to the network holding the data. Typically, only an employee at your company could see this data. Someone you know and trust. Many also believe that, even if data is being encrypted in the cloud, there are ways to circumvent such type of security and as a result you have no privacy. It is feared that the same employees who manage your data in the cloud and are hired to keep that data safe have the capabilities of sifting through all of your personal data. They can read your emails and open your files. The threat of corporate espionage, identity theft and other security challenges are all made greater when the data that defines your business and your life is in the hands of strangers.

Argument #2, Access to Information

Pro-Cloud: Proponents for the cloud point out that data stored in the cloud can be accessed from anywhere in the world. You can use virtually any computer, or any device with a web browser, to access data stored in the cloud. Again, there’s the notion that cloud providers have more resources to keep your data running. With professionals running the cloud data centers, services will never go down, unlike company servers that can crash and take data offline at any time.

Anti-Cloud: Those against the cloud point out that no internet connection is 100% reliable, and at any moment the internet can be unavailable and as a result, all of the information you need to run your business and your life is gone at that moment. Common reasons for loss of access to your data include times when you’re on a plane, in the wilderness where internet isn’t available, or your cable modem has gone out. Other problems exist with network congestion, and there have been several widely reported stories in the news over the years where large data centers have gone offline for hours or days at a time due to power failure or other equipment failure. Critics point out that, in times like these, all of your data in the cloud is unavailable. You have no access to any of your files. Under current methods, data stored as it is now on local computer systems, you can still get your work done without a need for an internet connection. A final concern deals with the ever expanding size of information. What about the 4GB video files, large 10 megapixel digital pictures, etc? Using today’s current technology, it would be almost impossible to operate with this content in the cloud as it could take several minutes to hours to transfer large files over the internet. These files could otherwise be accessed and edited instantly on a modern system. The resulting data fragmentation that would arise as a result of cloud data and large files stored locally would make it very difficult to work efficiently.

Argument #3, The Price

Pro-Cloud: The biggest positives mentioned to hype the cloud usually involve price, and it’s often pointed out that an individual or business can save a considerable amount of money by utilizing the cloud. With traditional technology, the cost for IT support staff, software, modern hardware and upgrades are far more each year than what is being charged by cloud providers for similar services. Additionally, there is no longer a need to purchase or pay to administer your own servers, as all of the data storage and administration is handled by the cloud provider.

Anti-Cloud: There is a general feeling that monthly prices for cloud-related services are only low right now because people have other options. It’s a lot like the early days of the internet where Geocities would give away websites for free just to get you to sign up. Later, as websites became more popular and more people signed on, Geocities started to charge a lot of money for what once was free. Cloud providers need to attract customers now, so everything is free or very affordable. The thought is, once everyone has been taken into the cloud and there are no other options, monthly rates will skyrocket. That leaves all of your data locked in the grips of a hostile company who will take your data away from your if you don’t pay them outrageous monthly fees. It has also been pointed out that a business that has switched to cloud computing in many cases will still need an IT staff to help them manage the services in the cloud and they will still need hardware capable of accessing the data in the cloud. That hardware, too, will need an IT professional to administer as well as the network infrastructure to maintain connectivity with your data online. Beyond all that, since your data is no longer local, it’s not possible to simply download a program to help you manage it. You would need to hire a full-scale web developer to build applications for you if you want customization of your cloud data. At this point, data in the clouds becomes far more expensive to maintain that the current method of local storage.

Argument #4, Reliability

Pro-Cloud: The pro-cloud arguement is that your data can and will be automatically backed up on the servers where the cloud data is hosted. You’ll no longer have to worry about losing a document because you overwrote it, all you’ll need to do is pull one of the automated backup files from your account and extract a recent copy. Additionally, there won’t be any way your information can be deleted by viruses or malware, because it’s all being protected 24/7 by a professional support staff.

Anti-Cloud: A major concern is the complete loss of all of your information. It has happened already to many people and businesses. In one case, a cloud provider went completely out of business and took all of the data with them, including complete records and information for several large businesses. Even if your cloud provider provides backups of your data, many say, what good is that data if the only applications that the files can run on were provided by a company that no longer exists? You would have a raw data file with no means to interface or access your information. That is contrary to current data storage methods, where data is stored in SQL servers that are standard. You could take your data from one server and move it over to another server in an affordable way with little time lost. Not so with proprietary cloud applications.

Argument #5, The Stuff You Can Do

Pro-Cloud: A very large number of people don’t use their computer for much more than checking email, writing a few word documents, looking at a spreadsheet and playing a couple of games. Most of the functionality that you currently do via stand-alone applications can be done now through applications in the cloud.

Anit-Cloud: There is no full-featured anything in the cloud. Google Docs, one of the best known internet based Word Processing applications, pales in comparison when putting it’s list of features alongside those of Microsoft Word or even the freely available Open Office. There are no advanced image editing applications like PhotoShop in the cloud. There would be no way to play the latest demanding game over the cloud or push high definition video. The types of machines that are needed for many tasks don’t jive well with the concept of cloud computing, which really emphasizes low cost netbook-like hardware.

My conclusion and 2 cents: Considering all of the very valid points above (for both sides), I think it’s best  to embrace a balance of traditional technology and cloud/service based technology. The cloud is an awesome idea and provides exceptional benefits on many fronts. For anyone traveling extensively with a need for 24/7 access to information, it’s perfect. It works great for email and collaboration based projects where many different individuals need quick and reliable access to the same data from anywhere in the world. It’s affordable, and making certain types of information available over the internet can be far more cost effective in the cloud than via other methods.

However, it is really only best when used as a small subject to existing, robust computing methods. Sensitive business information is currently best left protected on a secure network, safe from the internet. Internet speeds are too slow to make cloud computing useful for much more than checking email, and until broadband is improved and speeds are greatly increased, there are too many things that are simply impossible to accomplish even over high speed cable internet. The immaturity of the cloud is another huge problem. For Microsoft Windows, you’re looking at a rich history with hundreds of thousands of various applications already written, with an endless list of different features depending on your needs. The cloud is currently very limited, and the applications that do exist are slim on features.

The clouds are building, but they’re building slowly. Far from a storm, we’re only looking at a few gathering clouds on the horizon. It could be at least a decade until there are more cloud based applications than not, and by then most of the problems listed here will have been resolved. Eventually, a large number of companies will have emerged to provide a whole world of functionality to users. Anything you want to do will be available to you for a monthly fee in the cloud. The biggest question remains, how high will that monthly fee be? In the mean-time, I’m going to get the most out of free data that I can. 🙂

What do you think? Please post your arguments for, against or neutral to cloud computing.


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