Google announced yesterday afternoon that it would be updating it’s privacy policy and terms of service. The updates will go into effect March 1, 2012 and are meant to simplify and synchronize privacy policies across Google’s 60+ products. The updated privacy policy and terms of service are available here and here, respectively.

If you read both documents and Google’s announcement, then you realize that this change is about tightening the integration between products and the data they contain. While Google has continually offered several services, the data in each has been siloed to some extent. The upcoming policy changes seem to herald an end to silo-ing and makes it clear that Google’s focus will be on making all it’s products work together.

Overall, I don’t see the changes as groundbreaking or scary, yet there will be some important changes in how both users and marketers interact with Google going forward.

Meaning for Users

Everything you put into Google will be accessible to Google, no matter where you put it. They will still respect your privacy but you will need to be more aware of privacy and sharing settings to ensure that nothing “leaks” out. The new privacy policy links to the different areas where you can manage your privacy and settings:

  • Review and control certain types of information tied to your Google Account by using Google Dashboard.
  • View and edit your ads preferences, such as which categories might interest you, using the Ads Preferences Manager. You can also opt out of certain Google advertising services here.
  • Use our editor  to see and adjust how your Google Profile appears to particular individuals.
  • Control  who you share information with.
  • Take information  out of many of our services.

[box type=”note” border=”full”]You will also want to check the settings for each individual service.[/box]

Assume that any personal information you put into different Google services will be aggregated across them. That means email addresses, screen names, images along with descriptions and bios.

[box type=”alert” border=”full”]If you are a freelancer or small business that has been using the same email address/Google account for both business and personal use, then its time to STOP it. You will need to make sure that your business identity and your personal identity are ascribed to different data sets.[/box]

The changes in how Google shares data could make searching, sharing and communicating better. As the silos are broken down, Google will have a much richer understanding of your online habits. This means they could offer you a better search experience & better connections to the people you communicate with (e.g. for example, automatically scheduling a Hangout when you put a meeting into your calendar).


Meaning for Marketers

Google knows it is behind Facebook when it come to user’s real interests and preferences. Search is about what you need to know at that moment. They can aggregate and analyze your history, but what you search for can be very different from what you do offline or talking about on social networks. Integrating all the different data from it’s services will give it a more complete image of users, though I don’t know if it will match Facebook in terms of depth anytime soon.

Expect more granularity in demographic data, new delivery options and more complex bidding strategies. Google will be able to tell the likelihood of users buying versus just browsing, have more insight into the meanings of different types of queries, and be able to price based on a much broader set variables. Expect to see more options for device bidding, site types for placements and additional filters for categories and topics. Retargeting and display in general should become a lot more interesting.

Personalized SERPs are going to look nothing like the ones you see when not logged-in. If you were worried about the tighter integration of Google+, then you should be doubly worried by the growing integration of every data point that users have out there. Searches are going to start including Calendar & tasks the user has created, maps of places they’ve visited and the Google+ content that has already started seeping in.

It is essential that you have a Google+ strategy because a lot of SERP real estate is going to be lost to Google’s data dump.  Google is going to show users everything that they know about them AND ONLY THEN will they add links to other sources. Google+ will be your best way of staying on the page(s).

[box type=”note” border=”full”]A lot of this seems like a response to Facebook, but Google also has the opportunity to differentiate from Facebook by being social and practical at the same time. With email, video, phone service, maps and business listings already in its hands, Google could create some very cool services around location and communication. I’m excited to see what Google does under the new policies. [/box]

Here’s Google’s Video About the Changes:


If you think I’m missing the point or am just full of it. Then let me know in the comments.

Your life is filled with metrics, monitors and marketing tools. With so much going on it’s easy to miss opportunities or issues. It’s also easy to keep putting things off until they stop being opportunities and become issues. A great way to avoid trouble and maximize your productivity is to build a schedule  that incorporates the many different areas and altitudes you need to look at, and then let the schedule guide you to what matters in a given time-frame. By building a comprehensive schedule, you set yourself up to see and handle things without having to constantly keep an eye on them. This lets you reduce stress, improve oversight and get more done.

Where to Start

Figure Out When You Need Information

Some things don’t need to be checked every day or month while others are important enough that you always want to have a finger on them.

You probably have a set of dashboards, reports and alerts setup. But how often do you actually look at them? If you are getting 10, 20 or 30 daily alerts then you are likely overloading yourself with data and not creating time to analyze or act. More than likely, you don’t even look at all these messages anymore and you only check a few of your dashboards each day.

Place the most important metrics (KPIs) in a dashboard with as little unnecessary info as possible. If you are pushing towards a traffic or sales goal, then put the related metrics into a dashboard and schedule time each morning, so you see these metrics  immediately and can move on with the information at the top of your mind.

Beyond the key performance indicators, you likely have other things that you want to keep track of but that you are not going to act on regularly. Some examples:

  • SEO: indexing, crawl errors, bounce rate.
  • PPC: Non-converting landing pages, Low CTR ads
  • Analytics: Goal conversion funnels, advanced segments

Yes, you want to look at these things but how often can you pull useful data? For most of these examples, you will need a minimum of 2 weeks to see a trend and probably 60-90 days worth of data to make an informed decision. Instead of jumping to these reports when they pop into your mind, set them up to be delivered on a regular schedule and then pre-schedule the time to check them in your calendar. Make this a recurring task that you do monthly or quarterly.

Bring All The Pieces Together Beforehand

If you are looking at indexing, then you probably want to know about crawl stats and have a recent Xenu crawl of your site on hand. Likewise, if you are looking at ad CTR, then you’ll want the latest results from split tests at the ready.

When you know well ahead of time that you will be looking at a particular part of your site or campaign, then you can bring all the information together beforehand and possibly delegate the compiling of reports that you need. Think about what goes together and schedule time to collect the necessary information before you sit down to analyze. This way, you will have everything you need in front you and won’t have to move through apps or make requests that can get you distracted or delayed.

Declare The Purpose of Your Time

You’ll find that things get done faster and better when you have consistent focus. Make it a point to clearly state to yourself and your team what you want to put the focus on each day, week or month. This doesn’t mean you ignore problems or fast-evolving situations. Rather it means that you keep your eye on the prize. This type of simple prioritizing will provide clarity in those moments when you have a lot of options.

Example: When You Get Back From Lunch

Question: “What should I now?”

Answer: “Finish the landing page analysis that I scheduled for today and already have  the reports for.”


Question: “What should I now?”

Answer: “Let me look at analytics for a minute, skim my email and then I’ll figure out what’s next.”

When we take the indecision or floundering out of our daily routine, then all that time you used to spend thinking about what to goes to getting things done.

The Benefits

Manage Resources Better

If you know what’s coming, then you can decide where you and your team need to be. Being able to see the basic shape and priorities of each week for the next 3 or 6 months makes it easier to schedule things like training, client on-boarding and travel. If you communicate clearly, then you also get the added benefit of knowing that things will get done whether you are there or not. Last, having things laid out gives you the ability to move things around to accomodate a new project or priority without stressing.

Keep Focus on The Big Picture

Another great thing about good scheduling is that you are less likely to miss the forest for the trees. Immediate problems or opportunities can distract us from our larger goals. For example, if your ad hoc report shows that a keyword or ad group performed below average yesterday, then you could end up spending 30 minutes looking at the weekly trend, assessing the ad text and adjusting bids. But if you know that you are going to be looking at this same keyword and 200 more next week, then you will feel comfortable leaving it (making a note for later isn’t a bad idea) with the knowledge that you will give it and other under-performing components your full attention later.

This Works for Us

Actonia’s  clients require many different levels of service, resource allocation and activity. Our engagements also vary from ongoing/retained to seasonal/ad hoc with a lot of different scopes of work. We use the approach outlined above to keep track of everything and to make sure everyone gets the service they deserve. Give it a try and let me know if it helps you in your work.

Last year, Actonia worked with a airline based in the Middle East on creating a multi-national, bi-lingual (English & Arabic) PPC campaign. We had some success and the project was an amazing experience for our team. But we also faced a lot of obstacles—many of them created by our own lack of experience with non-Western firms.

I’ve compiled a list of tips to help you avoid our mistakes. Some of this may be more relevant to those working in the Middle East, but most are good advice for working with any firm not based in North America or Europe.

1. Clarify and Confirm Every Deadline

The pace of development and deployment can be difficult to understand with any project: you may not know all the vendors, dates and difficulties that are present. But you should know exactly when your deliverables are due AND if the same dates have been given to other departments/team members.

We were given approximately 8 weeks to mockup and build pages and to launch the ppc campaigns. Yet when we went from dev to design after ~4 weeks, we were told that it would be another 6-8 weeks before anything would be ready. I was a bit pissed and called out the in-house developers for missing the deadline. But then we found out that no one but us and the designer had been given that 8 week window. Basically, the dev team knew what it had on it’s plate and had never expected to have the new campaign running by our deadline…everyone internally knew this, but outside contractors weren’t kept in the loop.

Its crucial that you meet your own deadlines, but be aware of the larger concerns/priorities and where you fit within the larger ecosystem. Understanding the full range of deadlines and expectations will reduce your stress and let you avoid confrontations.

2. Know Their Calendar

You can find a calendar of holidays and vacation periods for any country; and you can adapt to their work week; but this is rarely the full picture. Beyond the official days off and weekends, you also need to be aware of training days, conferences and other critical periods where in-house resources won’t be available. The end of the year and the beginning of peak shopping periods are possibilities. You should also be aware of any big initiatives that are happening away from your project. Are they launching a mobile site? Is there a new product line that they will be promoting heavily? Are they moving to new servers?

Just because they are in the office doesn’t mean they are available. If you are working on a time-sensitive project, then make it a point to know if anyone that matters will be unreachable around the time you of key milestones. This is doubly-important if you need a decision-maker to sign-off on something.

3. Understand the Org Chart

Titles and responsibilities may be as clear-cut as you think. For example, the head of engineering may only be responsible for a single aspect of the site or they may be a project manager that delegates everything to an offshore team. You also want to know how large (or small) a priority your project is to the other team members: if they have 10 other duties and other managers to report to, then you can end up falling behind and not knowing why.

Make sure you know who is actually doing the work. If you know that your instructions will have to pass through several hands before getting to the people doing the work, then its on you to make sure those instructions are easily transferable. Similarly, make sure that everyone gets the reports. You never know who will be making the final decisions or passing your reports up the ladder.

4. Be Very, Very Nice

Most of my U.S. clients have a focus on getting things done. They are nice and friendly, but chatting and banter are kept to a minimum. This doesn’t work as well in other regions. You need to be willing to talk about the weather, holidays, children, sports and other things. This is how you build a relationship and keep people invested. If you don’t have time to chat, then you will soon find that people don’t have time to help on your project.

Another part of this is being humble. If you make a mistake or have questions, then ask them as nicely as possible and show gratitude for their help.

5. (Over) Report

Your weekly calls and reports may not be enough to show your value, especially if the client is inexperienced with the type of work you do. Don’t wait for questions: take it upon yourself to educate them about what you are doing and why. They may not care right away, but they will have the information when they need it.

You want to be extra diligent about email: respond promptly and with as much detail as possible. Also, make sure that you get a regular call in with decision makers. If they are traveling a lot or are not easily reached, then you need to be persistent. Don’t give up until you get the call done, regardless of what time that call has to be at. We ended up doing weekly calls at 10am EST on Saturdays just to make sure we had them each week.


Keep Your Eyes Open, Stay Humble and Go the Extra Mile.

The main takeaway is to be sensitive to how things work in other countries. Your cultural experiences may not have prepared you for the differences in competency, management and communication that you will face. Stay alert and do your best to make sure you give the best impression while doing great work.

If you have any more tips, then please leave them in the comments.

Map image courtesy of Earth Habitat

Be nice image courtesy of The PeoplePeople

SEO covers a lot of different disciplines and impacts many areas of a website. If you are just starting out, then it can be difficult to figure out what matters and what doesn’t. The videos below are from Matt Cutts of the Google Webspam team and offer some good high-level advice for beginners. They also deal with some persistent questions that everyone seems to have in the beginning.

Qualities of A Good Site

This video gives a good overview of things that are important for SEO. I like the fact that he talks about crawlability. Many webmasters still don’t think about this enough.

Some Key Takeaways

  • A little info about how/when XML Sitemaps are updated in GWT.
  • Good list of things to think about in order to improve visibility in Google & examples of content resources that will appeal to users.
  • Why Google might use the dmoz (or it’s own description for your page) instead your meta description–and how you can stop this from happening.
  • Using Bold v using Strong: it doesn’t really matter.

Some SEO Myths

Matt addresses some long-standing questions about sites on the same ip block or server, javascript usage on multiple sites and the launching of very large sites.

Some Key Takeaways

  • Don’t worry about having a handful of sites on the same ip block or server. But be mindful of this if you have hundreds or thousands of sites. Matt gives the example of guy that had 2000 sites and had them removed. Note that he suggests its more about the sites not having enough good content, not so much about the number of sites.
  • Using the same Javascript across sites: don’t hear this one much anymore, but he explains that its not an issue. The one caveat he gives is if you are using it for a lot (sneaky) redirects.
  • Do softer rollouts for BIG sites (the example used is 1M pages). Launching a lot of content at once can lead to increased scrutiny and may cause you problems.

Does Google Consider SEO Spam?

This video lays out the value of SEO to users, clients and search engines. I think it’s great that he highlights some key areas that SEOs should look at. You might think of this as a good reference for talking to agencies about what they offer or figuring out what you as an SEO should be looking at.

Some Key Takeaways

  • Matt starts by highlighting Crawlability, Keyword Usage, Site Speed & Usability as valuable things that SEOs look at.
  • Site Architecture & URL Structure are important pre-launch contributions
  • Helping to identify what will create the best ROI: testing, landing page design
  • Key Quote: “Search Engine Optimization can be a valid way to help people find what they are looking for via search engines.”

If you think I missed any important videos or topics, then leave a note in the comments and I’ll update this some time soon.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about SOPA and planned to write a post, but I’ve yet to find the right jumping off point for explaining how wrong the legislation is.

I found this video at the end of an article on Forbes by E.D. Kain. I think the video explains the SOPA situation better than I can, so here you go.


The video was made by Fight for The Future…you should drop by their site.

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