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Google’s secure search is bad for small business

notprovided

 

I am miffed with Google.

Somewhere Google decided that blocking access to the keywords people use to access our sites was a good idea. Oh sure, the politically correct front facing messaging is that they are protecting the privacy of the people who use google to search for things. If that were the complete story, they wouldn’t give up the keywords to those that who use a Google Adword account, which they now do. So, the real translation of this new policy is that they are protecting users privacy from those who won’t or can’t PAY to see their keywords.

Want some additional background regarding these changes that Google made?  Check out SearchEngineLand.com’s post: Post-PRISM, Google Confirms Quietly Moving To Make All Searches Secure, Except For Ad Clicks from September 23, 2013.  It is a great summary of  what changes and why.

For the small business owners, information sites, bloggers, and a huge number of sites that would not buy ad words, they will lose the benefit of understanding how people engage their site and their brand through Google search results.  Now, in your Google Analytics or other stats package, you will be depending on the search terms passed in via other search engines like Bing and Yahoo to frame the search terms.

So, for those of us who love watching the subtle changes in their analytics as much as I do, we can enjoy watching the keywords of “Not Provided” continue to grow in our organic search results. My guess is that, others may follow suit if this leads to new revenues for Google. While there are numerous other ways to use your analytic tools to measure your success, this particular change seems to be targeting those who will not, can not, or should not, be buying Google Adwords.

Did I mention that I am miffed with Google.

Spiller Family versus the Skunk Family – Part II

Skunk Motel

The day after our cat became the first skunking victim of 2013 of the family, our dog, Chase, became the second member of the family to get sprayed. If you have dogs and cats in our neighbourhood, you will inevitably learn to be wary of skunks especially in late July and August. We even go as far as getting flashlights out and checking the backyard out before letting the animals out. A sensible precaution that generally avoids late night de-skunkifying activities.

What was weird was letting the dog out mid afternoon on a blazing hot day and having a skunk waiting for him. The skunk was eating seeds from under the bird feeder. Skunk sightings in the day almost never happen. Anyway, the dog shot out, bowled the skunk over, and then turned to bark at him. The skunk merely got up, turned, cocked and… pop… skunk blast point blank in Chase’s face. Chase yelped and ran for the house and the skunk ambled off.

That night we learned another truth. The skunk or skunks had set up shop under our shed. The dog circling the shed and barking was a telltale sign. Okay, it is confession time. It was late in the season the year before when we got the shed and I started skirting the base of the shed before the weather turned. Instead of finishing the skirting, I filled the open areas with broken patio stones and temporarily covered the openings with wood. My neighbours, unknown to me, and before this ordeal, had named our shed “Skunk Motel”. It may have been empty for almost a year, but our open for business shingle was definitely out. So now that their nickname had proven true, I had to evict the unwanted tenants.

After hearing a bunch of people tell me stories of paying companies a bunch of money to get rid of skunks, I decided to see if I could do it on my own. I asked my favourite go-to expert, Google, for his advice. A number of blogs talked about putting balls of crumpled up news paper in every hole around the shed to track the comings and goings of our unwanted guest. They also suggested putting mothballs under the shed. Apparently, skunks are not a fan of that smell. So I threw an entire box of mothballs under the shed and plugged up the holes and waited to wave good by to our pest. After a couple of days, I could see the skunk was still coming and going.

Once again, I asked the expert, Google, for his advice. Several other blogs referred to a product that was available at the TSC stories that could be used to evict the skunk. The product was called Critter Ridder. The staff person at the store confirmed that it could be use to keep skunks away from the shed so that we could address the problem. I bought it and a bunch of heavy chicken wire. So far, my Google experts seemed to be on to something here. I followed the instructions and created an 1/2 meter barrier around the shed by spreading the Critter Ridder. I made sure our dog and cat stayed away from the error and waiting to see if the skunk would leave.

Later that night, we heard an awful ruckus by the shed, and then nothing. For two days, no skunk activity and the paper balls I had stuffed everywhere didn’t move. Hooray, the Critter Ridder product worked! Still, I didn’t wanted to be the third member of the Spiller family sprayed by a skunk in 2013, so I made a bunch of noise under the shed to make sure there was definitely no skunk there. No response. So, I look under the shed and could not see a Skunk. YEAH!!! Spillers 1, Skunks 0.

I pulled off the existing skirting and dug a trench a 1.5 feet deep all the way around the shed and the stapled chicken wire around the the entire perimeter of the shed and down into the trench. Then I backfilled the trench with dirt, and put the deckboard skirting back on. That baby was sealed tightly. No critters were getting under that shed again. The “Skunk Motel” was Closed!

You know that expression, “The best laid plans…”? Our Dog, Chase was happy to point out a slight flaw my closing of the “Skunk Motel”. As he happily barked at the shed later the same night, we discovered a very angry skunk trying to get out from under the shed. It was time to toss Google aside and call the experts.

So  I reached out to Wild Things Wildlife Control (www.wildthingswildlifecontrol.ca/) and one of their guys came over right away.  Step one, confirm skunk was there – check.  Step 2, he cut a whole in my chicken wire and put in a one way door baited with peanut butter to allow the skunk to leave, but not return.  Step 3, he sprayed a odour neutralizer under the shed to deal with any left over smells.  Then we waited a day.  When the Wild Things fellow came back, the skunk had left.  He removed his one way door and patched the barrier.  Job Done — thanks Wild Things Guy!.

While the Wild Things guy was there, I learned a few things:

  1. Critter Ridder is an irritant.  The skunk only discovers it when he cleans himself and would probably not connected it with the shed.  So Critter Ridder to evict a skunk probably doesn’t work.
  2. When skunk kids are involved, momma skunk doesn’t often leave until the kids stop coming back.  And kids are often seen exploring in daylight.  So evicting the kids may leave momma behind.
  3. All my noise making to make sure the skunk was gone?  Well skunks don’t live between the ground and the shed.  Mostly, they create a underground burrow.   So, the skunk was likely oblivious to my noise making.

The lessons to be learned here?  Don’t leave inviting places for skunks to live.  When one does get a skunk, call an expert, not Google.  And finally let’s use Google the way is was meant to be:

  • Self diagnosing major medical conditions;
  • Seeking self defense legal advice;
  • parenting advice;
  • and, getting directions to the nearest Timmies.

Compelling content is key in print or online

I read 2 stories  today that I think illustrate an important lesson for newspapers to remember:

  1. Advertising Age: “AOL to Hire ‘Hundreds’ of Journalists, Reorganize Content Division” ( http://mtn.bz/cnrfTY)
  2. Mashable:  Google News and Why Human Editors Still Matter (http://bit.ly/b8sF0S )

In the first case, AOL has discovered that they can monetize content they create and control far better than content from outside their organization.  To that end, they are investing in new people to create content that people will read. With an audience,  AOL believes that advertisers will buy their sites.

“We have insights into our audience, and can produce content they want, which leads to engagement, which leads to what advertisers want,” said Jeff Levick, president of global advertising at AOL.

In the second case, Google has started an experiment to use human editors from select partners to select stories for their readers.  Previously, Google aggressively worked on “magical” algorithms to sort through the tidal wave of content coming from web-sites, media, twitter, blogs, and hundreds of other sources to identify what you, the reader, want.  Dozens of tools exist on the net to help filter the news feeds with varying degrees of success.  To quote the article”

Although social media and other web tools have enabled users to personalize their news streams, the ubiquity of content has created an echo chamber that some readers are trying to parse through to find not only what they want to know, but the news they “need” to know as well. This is where human “editors” and curators play a crucial role in helping readers filter through the noise.

For years, newspaper did a great job playing the role of “filter” in their communities.  As the Internet exploded, this job became more difficult.  With increased content choices,  people moved online to get their news and information and away from newspapers.  With shrinking circulations and ad dollars, newspapers laid off employees (many journalists) to reduce costs and invested in more “canned” nationalized content that is  no longer unique.  As newspapers become irrelevant, the web is looking to fill the primary role that newspapers once filled.

On one hand, newspapers should be investing in unique compelling content that their “community” wants.  On the other hand, they should invest in resources to  filter the content coming from blogs, twitter, and web-sites and package the best and most relevant content for their communities.  (This is probably another blog posting in itself.)  Suffice it to say, if newspapers ever serious want to consider paywalls (another post at some point) or increased advertising CPMs (yet another likely post), they will  only succeed with unique and compelling content.

That’s my thought…What’s yours?