5 Essential Digital Marketing Focuses for 2012

Linkbait

Generating links of any significant value has become increasingly difficult over the last few years, with so much focus on backlinks remaining a solid ranking factor in search engine algorithms still, it results in billions of mass produced spam links every day and more and more online communities, blogs and forums are tightening up the prevention of spam by introducing plugins, stripping tags and really limiting the opportunities that contributors can obtain a link back from the site – the reality is, unless you’re a large brand with an equally large customer base already for email marketing and an equally large social media following to continually push your products/services to, the likelihood of naturally acquiring backlinks for a small to medium sized business is going to prove difficult.

More and more emphasis will be placed on coming up with innovative and creative ways to generate links naturally further still in 2012, and whilst links remain to be a strong ranking factor in search, with many businesses in the same sector competing for the top positions, and Google making further progress in improving their algorithm and combat against spam – those that will really stand out from the rest will be those that have the ability to create genuine, unique, quality and naturally linkworthy content.
Social Weight & Signals

With social signals now affecting ranking in search engines towards the end of 2011, it can only be expected to see these play more of a role in ranking sites throughout 2012. Already, there are companies selling hundreds of ‘Likes’, ‘ReTweets’ and ‘+1s’ however in a bid to manipulate search engines into thinking that these pages are authoritative and trustworthy so it will be interesting to see how the likes of Google tackles this later in the year.

If you have a business presence online and you haven’t got to grips with social media yet, now is the time to do so if you want your customers to find you online. We may even begin to see the power of links decline whilst the power of social rises when ranking web pages fairly online during 2012.
Rich Snippet Markup

The implementation of rich snippet markup on websites using scheme.org microdata has grown significantly during 2011. What this does, is display more relevant information in search engine results against listings for certain types of content, such as events, reviews and authorship. Whilst the implementation of rich snippet markup does not currently bear any direct affect on the ranking of pages, it is likely only a matter of time before this is factored in to Google’s algorithm.

Using rich snippet markup on your website tells search engines much more about your content, this allows them to make a better judgement on whether your content is more suitable for any given search query. The more information you provide and the more relevant your content appears to be to a search engine, the chances are, that in time, your content will be favoured over competitors – via any means possible.
Google+

Whilst Google still hold the vast majority of search engine market share, it is essential for any website to predominantly focus on ranking well on their search engine(s) and doing anything possible to influence the chances. Welcome Google Plus.

Whilst not frequently used by the mainstream outside of the tech/digital sphere, Google are frequently stepping up their efforts to combine their search platform with their social platform. This includes the public ‘voting’ of web pages on the web via the use of a +1 button – you would be a fool not to utilise Google+ and ensure that you are doing everything you can to encourage the social interaction and sharing of your content via Google+ as it is the perfect leverage for Google to use their own social platform as a direct social signal (one of many) for ranking web pages plus allows them to incentivise the entire web to use Google+ in a bid for Google to compete with Facebook on the social front.
More Creative and Inspiring Ideas

As with anything on the web, it’s only a matter of time before an idea is exploited, over-killed and eventually abused until the method is devalued / frowned upon by many. 2011 was the year of guest blogging and infographics, both methods of link building / link baiting have undergone considerable attention from the masses – both of which appear to be reducing in quality from month to month.

2012 will no doubt see a new idea, a new way of creating buzz around a topic. It might be a new social media website, it may be a tool/app, it may be the next evolved step from guest blogging and infographics to build links… But whatever it is, it will happen, it will arrive and it will become the next ‘big’ thing… At least for a short period of time on the web.

Solar Cells in Smartphone Screens

A team at the University of Cambridge, led by IEEE Fellow Arokia Nathan, is working toward a simple goal: a mobile phone that requires charging less often. At the Materials Research Society’s fall meeting in Boston, Arman Ahnood, a researcher on that team,  told scientists that eventually, we might see a phone that never needs to be plugged in.
 

 To extend the time between charges, Nathan’s group built a prototype device that converts ambient light into electricity using an array of  solar cells made of thin-film hydrogenated amorphous silicon that’s designed to sit within the phone’s screen. The photovoltaic (PV) cell takes advantage of the smartphone display’s large footprint. In a typical organic light-emitting diode (OLED) display, only about 36 percent of the light generated is projected out of the front of the screen, says Ahnood. Much of it escapes at the edges of the OLED, where it is useless. So Nathan and his collaborators at his Canadian firm IGNIS Innovation set out to harness this wasted light by putting thin-film PV cells around the display’s edges as well.

 Making the device work required sidestepping another problem: fluctuations in the voltage provided by the solar cell, which could have damaged the phone’s battery. The researchers, who were based at University College London until recently, designed a thin-film transistor circuit to smooth out voltage spikes and extract electricity more efficiently.

 And instead of charging the battery directly, which would have involved adding complex circuitry, they worked with the energy group at Cambridge’s Centre for Advanced Photonics and Electronics to integrate a thin-film supercapacitor for intermediate energy storage. This combination of photovoltaics, transistors, and supercapacitor yielded a system with an average efficiency of 11 percent and peak efficiency of 18 percent. If the PV array converts 5 percent of ambient light to electricity, the energy-harvesting system can generate as much as 165 microwatts per square centimeter under the right lighting conditions. For a typical 3.7-inch smartphone screen, that equates to a maximum power output of 5 milliwatts, “which is quite useful power,” says Ahnood, though that’s only a fraction of a smartphone’s power needs.

 There are existing CMOS-based switch mode voltage regulators that offer higher efficiency, says Ahnood, but they aren’t compatible with the thin-film technology used in smartphone displays. Furthermore, the team’s thin-film devices can be fabricated at temperatures below 150 °C on lightweight plastic, making them much more attractive for use in mobile phones, where every gram and every penny is a big deal.

 The cellular handset prototype is just one example of such small-scale wireless energy harvesting. Another plug-free power source might be magnetic resonance coupling via an induction coil. Alternating current is run through a coil of conductive material, generating an oscillating magnetic field. That field, in turn, generates a current in a coil embedded in, say, a phone or an MP3 player.

 Jun Yu, a doctoral student of Nathan’s, reported preliminary work along those lines at the MRS meeting. He told scientists that the team had designed a flat thin-film coil that could be used as a receiver in a display. But the team doesn’t foresee the coil producing enough power to run an entire computer. It should, however, be possible to scale down the magnetic coupling scheme for use in mobile devices.

 It will take quite a bit more research to get from prototype to consumer product. For example, the team is exploring different circuit designs and materials with the aim of increasing the energy harvesting system’s efficiency.

Goodbye purchase funnel, hello loyalty loop?

The idea that the purchase decision journey is not linear has been around for years. A good discipline for developing a customer-centric view is to lay out the different contact points that consumers have with your brand, starting from their first contacts, when they may not even be considering a purchase in the category, through the purchase process and the experience of the brand in use.

 The world is becoming far more complex than a mere loop. It might be better to think of our potential and current customers existing in a cloud of turbulent and sometimes conflicting influences.

In future, I suggest the challenge will be to ensure that any combination of communications will be effective, because we cannot guarantee that people will encounter them in the “right” order.  Though their specific tasks may differ, each impression must stay true to the core idea of the brand, and must be designed to prime and recruit other impressions in the Cloud. It will be vital to find something that works through every connection. Iconography, symbolism, idiom, and implicit communication will become far more important to support the delivery of powerful and synergistic brand impressions.

 

10 Things People Wants in a Business Partner

You don’t have to agree on everything. If you do, you haven’t found the right person.

Finding the right partner is one of the most important steps in building your business. 

Here’s what you must have in common:
Passion:

 You and your partner may not have equal levels of passion but they should be close. A great partner is a person you can call at 3 a.m. who will pick up the phone at that hour to listen to your idea with nearly the same amount of excitement.
Goals:

What’s the exit strategy? Does he want to sell at X dollars and you want to sell at Y? How will your business be structured? Do you envision a full staff, and he envisions just you and a couple people? What will be the range of your products and services? Does he want to be the jack-of-all-trades and you want to focus on just a couple things? Being in complete alignment with your goals at the start of your business is a make-or-break decision.

Location:

It’s very difficult to truly commit to a new business when your partner is not in the same location as you. Find a partner you can meet with in person.

Commitment :

If you don’t have a full-time job, but your partner does, this could be a sign of trouble. Having a partner who commits only a fraction of the time will quickly lead to arguments. If you do find a great partner who simply doesn’t have the same availability as you, be sure you clearly define your expectations, and know whether or not he can meet them. Level of commitment can also be set by equity.

Motivation :

Both partners need to have the ability to motivate each other. Ever have a gym buddy? If I call you to work out, and you don’t feel like it, trust me, I’ll make you want to go and you will go. The same goes the other way. It’s easy to be lazy. You MUST find a partner who can push you forward. And you MUST be that person as well.

Here’s where you should differ:

Having different skillsets is extremely important. As long as you have the five things above in common, the rest of the qualifications should be complementary.
1- Ideas vs. execution.

If you’re the visionary or the idea guy, look for a partner who can execute your ideas. Two idea guys will get the business nowhere.

2- Right brain vs. left.

 Are you a creative? Great! Find your analytical half. A successful business needs both sides of the brain covered.
3- Sales vs. production

Can you sell ice to an Eskimo? Excellent. Now you need a partner who can make the ice. I’m a marketing guy. I don’t know how to build a website. But my partner, a Harvard computer science grad, does.
Problems vs. solutions

 Creating a process around various aspects of your business is very important. You may be great at seeing the problems, but your partner needs to be good at implementing the solutions.
Gas vs. brakes

If you’ve got more ambition than your partner, that’s not a bad thing. It’s great to have a partnership where one of you is the gas and the other is the brakes. Having both put the pedal to the metal is asking for your business to crash.

Twitter Acquires Social Summary Tool Summify

Twitter has acquired Summify, a small start-up that smartly aggregates links shared by users’ friends on social networks.

Instead, five members of the Summify team will be joining Twitter’s growth team in San Francisco to help work on its products “to explore ways to help people connect and engage with relevant, timely news.”

Summify had started as an email service and extended to an iPhone app. One of its more novel features was that it focused on giving users less news instead of more, by sending users daily email summaries of only the most important stories. At the end of each day’s list it said “You’re done!”

The service picked those stories through a combination of how many times each user’s contacts had recently shared them on Twitter, Facebook and Google Reader, and how many times they had been shared on those networks globally.

Summify disabled new registrations today and dropped some features in anticipation of shutting down the service at an unspecified date.

Summify, which was started in Romania and based in Vancouver, had raised seed funding from investors including Accel Partners, Rob Glaser and Stewart Butterfield.

 

Using Another Screen to Interact With the TV

This week families will gather to celebrate the holidays over home-cooked meals, gift exchanges and fights over the TV remote.

That last annual tradition may be dying off, thanks to changing technology habits. More people now watch TV while simultaneously using second screens like tablets, laptops and smartphones. A recent Nielson study showed 70% of tablet owners and 68% of smartphone owners said they use their devices while watching television.

I, too, find myself watching TV in this multi-tasking mode. Using apps require people to look away from the TV and at their second screens, but in my experience, this actually worked. I tried Yahoo’s IntoNow, which runs on iPhone and iPad and Android smartphones; Showtime Social, which works on the iPad; and Shazam, which works on nearly all mobile platforms, including Apple, RIM, Android and Windows Phones.

I was fun with these apps, and each uses a different method to draw in users. IntoNow and Showtime Social poll viewers during shows, Shazam displays behind-the-scenes footage, and IntoNow displays related social-network updates and live discussions. The apps virtually introduced me to fans of shows I liked, reminding me of my freshman year of college when I piled into a dorm room with 20 people (many of whom I didn’t know) to watch the series finale of “Felicity”: The show got more interesting in the company of other fans.

Working in Word, Excel, PowerPoint on an iPad

Although Apple’s popular iPad tablet has been able to replace laptops for many tasks, it isn’t a big hit with folks who’d like to use it to create or edit long Microsoft Office documents.

While Microsoft has released a number of apps for the iPad, it hasn’t yet released an iPad version of Office. There are a number of valuable apps that can create or edit Office documents, such as Quickoffice Pro, Documents To Go and the iPad version of Apple’s own iWork suite. But their fidelity with Office documents created on a Windows PC or a Mac isn’t perfect.

This week, OnLive Inc., in Palo Alto, Calif., is releasing an app that brings the full, genuine Windows versions of the key Office productivity apps—Word, Excel and PowerPoint—to the iPad. And it’s free. These are the real programs. They look and work just like they do on a real Windows PC. They let you create or edit genuine Word documents, Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations.

The  pre-release version of this new app, called OnLive Desktop, which the company says will be available in the next few days in Apple’s app store. More information is at desktop.onlive.com.

OnLive Desktop is a cloud-based app. That means it doesn’t actually install Office on your iPad. It acts as a gateway to a remote server where Windows 7, and the three Office apps, are actually running. You create an account, sign in, and Windows pops up on your iPad, with icons allowing you to launch Word, Excel or PowerPoint. (There are also a few other, minor Windows programs included, like Notepad, Calculator and Paint.)

Foursquare Adds Menus to “Explore” Function

A  week after turning its mobile “Explore” function for finding businesses into a full-fledged Web service, Foursquare has now partnered with start-up SinglePlatform to offer menu information for nearly 250,000 restaurants across the U.S. The partnership significantly bulks up Foursquare’s database, which previously included check-ins and short tips left by its mobile app users, and brings the New York-based start-up into the territory of Yelp and Seamless, which already offer online menu pages.

Yawn — And Get Ready for Another Giant Quarter From Google

There’s always a chance that Google delivers something other than a monster Q4 this afternoon. But that is really going to mess with Wall Street, which is expecting epic stuff.

Earlier this month, investors pushed Google shares up past $670 — the highest they’ve ever been. They’ve since pulled back a bit, but not for performance reasons: The Street still expects Google to post net revenue of around $8.4 billion — that’s up about 30 percent over the previous year — and earnings of around $10.46 a share — up about 20 percent.

If there are questions out there about Google, the Street seems to think they’re about what could happen — government regulation, a misstep with the $12.5 billion Motorola Mobility deal, etc. — than what just happened over the last three months.

Analysts who have been listening to search marketers say they don’t see any real signs of slowdown over the last quarter, even as other ad businesses have been roughed up. (We’ll ignore, for now, an outlier report from Kantar Media which reports a huge and puzzling decrease in paid search.)

As always, there is lots of interesting stuff going on at Google. And, as usual, you can expect Larry Page and company to say very little about it, other than making vague comments about the strength of their core search business, and some acknowledgement that their video, mobile and display ads are starting to become very significant businesses of their own.

Interview: Why Facebook Is Moving Beyond the “Like” (And Why This Isn’t Beacon 2.0)

Two years after the Facebook “Like” button launched for publishers and brands, for a user to “Like” something is so generic and widespread thing that it hardly means anything.

But with Facebook’s new Timeline apps, users don’t necessarily have to press those “Like” buttons anymore. They can choose to share with Facebook everything that they consume, purchase, record, create or bookmark.

Facebook thinks its users will get value out of having a centralized visual record of their online and offline activity that friends and family can see and comment on (and yes, “Like”).

These new Open Graph apps are likely to give rise to way more sharing than had occurred on Facebook before, which is not something many people think they want or need.

It’s the responsibility of Facebook’s Carl Sjogreen, who is director of product management for the company’s platform, to give application creators the tools and settings that ensure that all this recording and sharing of activities is appealing to users.

He explained to us tonight how Facebook is going beyond the “Like,” and why the new Timeline apps aren’t a repeat of the much-hated Facebook Beacon.

At the top of Sjogreen’s priority list is respecting users’ privacy and expectations, he said. (That may come as a surprise to the many Facebook skeptics out there, but you can watch my video interview and judge his sincerity for yourself.)

“No one should be surprised by what’s shared,” Sjogreen said. “That’s not good for us, that’s not good for users, that’s not good for application partners.”