Monthly Archives: December 2010

I’m a Born Again Social Media User!

Violet On Sunshine Updated 1 Images
So this whole blog has been for my emerging media and the market class, which is part of my master’s in integrated marketing communications at West Virginia University. I turned in my final project on December 26, and now I suddenly feel liberated.

Yeah, I feel liberated from the course, but I also feel completely energized by social media. In the last few days I’ve Facebooked more frequently than ever before, and I even started posting to the Twitter account I got several weeks ago. I’m also on HootSuite now, which I learned about during my research for a course assignment early on, which means I can now schedule posts to my social networks and even post simultaneously, which is so awesome. I’m totally excited!

Of course it helps that I got a new job today. I mean, there’s nothing like a life-changing decision to motivate you to tell people all about how things are going, right? My job is as a technical writer for Bard Access Systems in Salt Lake City, which is a great job with people I really liked interviewing with. How great is that?!

So I just have to decide what to blog about now that I don’t have to concentrate on new media. I’ll probably stick with it for a while, because there’s still so much I’ve learned that I haven’t really had time to sit down and write about. I might even keep blogging when I start my new job in January. Granted, I’ll be working and going to school so the posts will likely be short, but even if it’s just one thing …

So my testimony about social media is that it ROCKS! It’s so great to be able to talk to so many people so many places without having to write one letter or e-mail at a time (though I did that too for people I don’t yet have on Facebook). I still appreciate letters, which are great to receive, but new media is so much more immediate. Big sigh of happiness!


The Price of Search Engine Optimization

I have been aware of the existence of different types of search engine optimization for a while, including pay-per-click, which is often used synonymously with the term “paid placement.” In marketing meetings it was something that was left for our Web development staff to worry about, so it’s only now that I’m really learning about the options available for companies that want to increase or ensure placement in search engine results.

image credit: David Liu, Resource Nation

Paid placement is pretty straightforward: you pay a specific fee for guaranteed placement of your site on a search engine’s results. These sites are sometimes found at the top of a query page, but most often you see them at the right, and they are usually labeled as either “sponsored” or “paid,” something like that. Often, paid placement is on a pay-per-click basis, meaning advertisers only pay when someone clicks on a site. The fee is usually based on a bid, which determines a site’s ranking. As long as a search engine clearly labels paid placement sites, I don’t have a problem with them, since their placement is similar to banner ads.

Paid inclusion is a technique that has waned in popularity and has always been somewhat controversial because it mixes paid sites with unpaid ones in an organic search, and the paid sites may not be labeled as such. TheSearchAgency.com defines paid inclusion as “a program in which a search engine accepts payment for indexing a web site, although specific placement on a results page is not guaranteed.”

The original attraction of paid inclusion was for sites that changed regularly and wanted to ensure their updates were regularly indexed by search engines; however, the fact that indexing a site didn’t ensure ranking had to have made the technique less attractive to advertisers. I think a lot of the technique’s unpopularity—among consumers, at least—is because a site that pays for inclusion may or may not be labeled as an advertiser, depending on the search engine’s policies.

Ask.com discontinued its paid inclusion program in 2004 with CEO Jim Lanzone calling it “hypocritical to do something we need to do anyway.” Yahoo followed Ask.com’s example in 2009. However, it appears that Google has continued the program, insisting that “ads are always labeled to indicate that the information is sponsored.” But the fact that paid listings are included with editorial results at all indicates that Google is engaging in paid inclusion, despite its protests to the contrary. Even if you insist that sites aren’t guaranteed placement, if a site is paying to ensure indexing and inclusion in any kind of search, it’s paid inclusion.

In my mind, paid content should be kept separate from unpaid content, and even if you label paid content as such, as long as it appears mingled with unpaid, it’s more likely that consumers will miss the distinguishing labels.


Net Neutrality and You

This PBS Newshour interview with Washington Post writer Cecilia Kang reviews the most recent FCC net neutrality rules. I couldn’t get it to embed, so here’s the link:

VIDEO: FCC Approves Net Neutrality Rules

For those of you who, like myself, are new to “net neutrality,” it appears to be the idea that Internet service providers (ISPs) should allow users to access all legal forms of data equally. What’s interesting is that I always kind of assumed that access to bandwidth-heavy sites would improve as Internet speeds and bandwidth capabilities increased. I had no idea that ISPs like Comcast would try to block such sites. In my mind, if they’re going to restrict access to sites like Netflix or Hulu or BitTorrent, they should tell you so you can shop around for another ISP. Or pay for a different bandwidth tier, although as time passes access to information should cost less, not more. I think this is still possible under what the FCC approved on December 21, 2010. But at the same time, as Ms. Kang mentions at the end of the PBS Newshour interview, access to wireless Internet is problematic because minorities access the Internet on their phones “more than anyone else.” How does favoring cable providers over mobile providers help ensure equal data access for everyone? Does it make you suspicious when companies like cable companies like Comcast and Time Warner call the FCC rules “balanced” while mobile providers like Verizon remain critical?