Net Neutrality in Jeopardy: What It Means For You

While the news cycle of the past two weeks has been preoccupied with a series of sweeping executive orders from the desk of newly-inaugurated President Trump, other changes have been quietly taking place that could have profound implications for the Internet—most notably, how much you pay for it.

Ajit Pai is the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.

Ajit Pai, a former Verizon lawyer whom Trump tapped to be the new FCC chairman, is an outspoken opponent of the “net neutrality” rules put in place under the Obama administration. The New York Times reports that he has already begun putting through a number of measures designed to undermine and roll back consumer protection policies.

While most of us are not yet feeling the effects yet, net neutrality is widely expected to be a target in the days ahead.

What is net neutrality?

Essentially, net neutrality is a policy that classifies the Internet as a telecommunications utility that must treat all users the same. This principle, encapsulated in the Open Internet Order of 2015, says that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) cannot prioritize data or speeds according to any extenuating criteria. To put it simply, ISPs can’t charge you based on how fast or slow your Internet content loads, no matter where it’s coming from.

Without net neutrality, your ISP would have the ability to prioritize content from its preferred partners while throttling content from their competitors. For example, if your ISP had an agreement with Hulu and not with Netflix, it could theoretically restrict data coming from Netflix servers to the point that your content takes forever to load or doesn’t stream at all.

The problem with zero rating

Of particular concern to net neutrality advocates is the emergence of “zero rating” services, which some major telecommunications companies have already begun marketing. Within the zero rating framework, companies pay carriers for “sponsored data” status so customers can stream unlimited videos without it counting against their data caps. One of the most troubling examples of this involves AT&T and its subsidiary, DirecTV Now.

As Jon Brodkin explains in Ars Technica, “with Sponsored Data, AT&T charges other companies for the right to bypass customers’ data caps on AT&T’s wireless network. At the [same time], AT&T lets its subsidiary DirecTV stream on the mobile network without counting against data caps. DirecTV technically pays AT&T for the privilege, but the money is just shifting hands from one part of AT&T to another.”

As early as last month, outgoing FCC chairman Tom Wheeler sent out a report denouncing AT&T’s sponsored data arrangement with its subsidiary DirecTV as a violation of net neutrality rules, claiming that it could “present significant risks to consumers and competition. […] These sponsored data offerings may harm consumers and competition by unreasonably discriminating in favor of downstream providers owned or affiliated with the network providers,” Mr. Wheeler wrote.

Net neutrality levels the field so companies can’t play these kinds of games or create pay-to-play “fast lanes” on the Internet. Your provider can naturally charge you more for faster Internet speeds, but those speeds must stay consistent no matter what content you access. However, with the changing of the guard at the FCC, chances are favorable that zero rating services and similar schemes will expand, ultimately dealing a death blow to net neutrality.

What happens if net neutrality goes away?

If Pai succeeds in rolling back the Open Internet Order, the implications could be more far-reaching than you think. The effective end of net neutrality would usher in a new digital landscape characterized by:

  • Rising Internet bills. As telecommunications companies start identifying “preferred” or “premium” sites, you may find yourself being asked to pay higher rates to access those websites.
  • Rising costs for web hosting. Web hosting companies may also feel the sting of these Internet “fast lanes” in the form of higher costs. As a result, they may be forced to pass those costs onto their customers, or reorganize their offerings into a “tiered” hosting structure. If you pay a company to host your website, not only could your monthly bills increase, but your site’s speed could be throttled until you cough up the money for an upgrade.
  • Unpredictable SEO. As net neutrality begins to affect how different sites load on different servers, expect search engine indexing and SEO best practices to be effectively upended. Furthermore, since load times are factored into page rank along with content relevance, future SEO could be difficult to predict since load times will be affected by who is asking for the content and what provider they are using, rather than the content of the pages themselves.
  • Weaker results from paid advertising. If you use a paid inclusion service like Google ads to promote your business, Google’s Quality Score can suffer if your ad shows up on a slow-loading page.

Of course, until net neutrality rules are officially changed, it’s difficult to predict exactly how this will all play out or how it will affect your wallet. Regardless, if net neutrality finds itself on the chopping block, the bottom line is we can all expect to pay more for less.

February 7, 2017

Office Hours

Do you have a specific question about your website that you’ve been wanting to ask? Maybe you want to optimize the way your site runs, or maybe you’d like to become more comfortable updating your site content in WordPress.

Our team is holding online office hours on Wednesday, December 14th at 4 p.m. ET (1 p.m. PT). We’ll be available to answer questions for a full hour. If the room is full, hang tight or come back later in the hour.

Whether it’s increasing your site speed or writing more effective meta and title tags, we look forward to helping you.

Join Office Hours!
(GoToMeeting link will be active during Office Hours)

December 7, 2016
How to fix the Yoast indexing error in Wordpress

How To Fix The Indexing Error in WordPress After Yoast 3.0 Update

You may have logged into your WordPress dashboard this morning and noticed a strange error stating “Your homepage cannot be indexed by search engines. This is very bad for SEO and should be fixed.”

Index error message in Yoast
 
Do not worry, your homepage is still being indexed by the search engines (assuming it was being indexed before). With the launch of the Yoast 3.0 update, some changes were implemented in an attempt to enhance the plugin’s capabilities.

Whether you found this error or one of your client’s sent in a disturbing email, there is a simple fix to ease everyone’s nerves.

How To Fix The Yoast Homepage Indexing Error:

  1. Step 1:

    Login to WordPress and go to your Dashboard (which usually opens upon logging in).
    dashboard-yoast

  2.  

  3. Step 2:

    Scroll down until you see the “Yoast SEO Posts Overview” section.

  4. Step 3:

    Click the “Fetch the current status” button.
    fetch-current-status-yoast

 

..and VOILA!

The plugin will rescan your website and the error message should be gone (again, assuming your page is actually indexable by the search engines).

If you have any other SEO-related issues you need assistance with, we’d be happy to help.

December 7, 2016
Yext logo with all logos yext submits listings to

What Directories Does Yext Submit Your PowerListings To?

Yext is a great local citation engine that has formed partnerships with some of the best local directory websites across the Internet. Their platform allows you to seamlessly submit business information across all of these different websites with one click of a button. Other features, like review monitoring, help to keep business on top of maintaining and improving their online presence.

Take a look at the 61 websites in which Yext is currently submitting your business information:

  1. 2findlocal
  2. A simple directory-submission website based out of New York City. They allow free manual submissions. This is more of a raw directory with a very basic design and interface.

  3. 411
  4. Started in 1998 by WhitePages, this website allows you to find anyone in the country, even businesses.

  5. 8coupons
  6. 8coupons is a discovery engine that helps you find the best deals for things to do in your area. They partner with some of the big coupon websites like Groupon to connect its users with the best bargains.

  7. ABLocal
  8. ABLocal is a local search engine that breaks down businesses by top US cities and allows you to make general searches like “pizza in Atlanta.”

  9. AirYell
  10. AirYell by Avantar Local is an app that is available in the App Store. It has a great interface and allows you to get great promotions and discounts from businesses near you.

  11. AmericanTowns
  12. AmericanTowns positions itself as a virtual “town square” that allows you to retrieve all sorts of information like community events, local business information and even town issues.

  13. Apple
  14. Yext partners with Apple Maps Connect to display your business information within the Apple Maps app on your iPhone.

  15. Avantar
  16. Avantar focuses on local mobile search and connects publishers and advertisers so they can mutually benefit from each other. They claim you’ll only pay for results.

  17. Bing
  18. We all know who Bing is – they have their own local directory for businesses.

  19. ChamberofCommerce.com
  20. This website allows small business to grow by providing them ways to promote themselves using their different tools and features.

  21. Citybot
  22. CityBot is a personal travel guide that allows you to create itineraries for cities you may be visiting. It is available in both the App Store and Google Play.

  23. CityMaps
  24. CityMaps allows your to build your own maps that contains your favorite place to go. It even can connect with Facebook so you can collaborate with friends and make maps together.

  25. Citysearch
  26. The main premise of CitySearch is to find new things to do but to recommend the places you try. The more you recommend and give opinions, the more rewards you’ll receive for local establishments.

  27. CitySquares
  28. A very simple directory – find local business and leave reviews.

  29. CoPilot
  30. CoPilot is a mobile GPS app that is available across all major app stores. They offer car, truck and enterprise solutions.

  31. Credibility Review
  32. Powered by Dun & Bradstreet, Credibility Review is a business credit monitoring solution that helps to improve your presence online and determine creditworthiness for those you do business with.

  33. Credibility.com
  34. Credibility.com has one of the better user experiences and allows you to search for businesses within their massive directory.

  35. Cylex
  36. Cylex is an international business directory whose main focus is in Europe, but the US is also included.

  37. DexKnows
  38. DexKnows is another all-in-one local directory website that connects it’s users with local businesses. It also allows for reviews, driving directions and special offers.

  39. eLocal
  40. eLocal is another great directory that tries to separate themselves by really segmenting by industry categories.

  41. EZlocal
  42. EZLocal has a large database of business listings and takes it a step further by offering it’s clients additional services like web design and digital marketing.

  43. Facebook
  44. Zuckerberg charters a plane to display your business information on a banner flying behind it. Kidding.

  45. Factual
  46. Fatual is a mobile advertising solution that prides itself on collecting data, cleaning it up and serving it in a way that is much more useful to its clients.

  47. Foursquare
  48. Foursquare is a “check-in” app that provides real-time location sharing with your friends. You can even earn rewards from local businesses for checking in so many times.

  49. GetFave
  50. GetFace is another aggregator of local deals, promotions and events in your area. Very simple and clean user experience.

  51. GoLocal247
  52. This is a standard local business directory that connects buyers and sellers with coupons and enhanced business information.

  53. Google+
  54. Oh, how we all love Google+. If you don’t know, this local citation is one of the most important on this list.

  55. iBegin
  56. iBegin provides business listings for New Zealand, Canada, the UK and the United States.

  57. iGlobal
  58. iGlobal claims to be the most complete and updated business directory in Latin America. You might want to consider translating your business information for this website.

  59. Insider Pages
  60. Insider Pages really focuses on recommendations from it’s users. They focus on all types of businesses but put a lot of emphasis into doctors.

  61. Local.com
  62. This is one of the oldest local directories that connects consumers with local businesses.

  63. LocalDatabase
  64. LocalDatabase was formed by a couple of friends who leverage social input to provide feedback on local businesses.

  65. LocalPages
  66. LocalPages is really meant for businesses to advertise to local consumers. Users can utilize coupons that the local businesses advertise.

  67. MapQuest
  68. MapQuest was the one of the first driving direction websites. Getting included in their directory ensures people can easily get directions to your place of business.

  69. MerchantCircle
  70. MerchantCircle is a great local website as businesses can provide quotes to consumers. Users can also ask for advice from industry experts.

  71. MojoPages
  72. MojoPages allows you to search for trending businesses, discover new places and share your favorites.

  73. My Local Services
  74. This is a straight-forward, USA directory that also includes a forum for users to discuss their experiences.

  75. n49
  76. n49 has a very simple user experience and relies on reviews to give its users more insight.

  77. Navmii
  78. Navmii is a mobile app that provides smart driving directions. With over 47 millions users, this is a great place to have your business listed.

  79. Nokia
  80. Here is a Nokia company that builds intelligent maps to connect its consumers, automotive and enterprise customers.

  81. Opendi
  82. This website has business listings across numerous countries and has approximately 9 million users per month.

  83. Pointcom
  84. Pointcom reviews top websites, mobile sites, startups and apps to let users know where to spend time online and where find the information they’re looking for.

  85. ShowMeLocal
  86. Based in NYC, ShowMeLocal gives business the tools to promote themselves and users to learn more about local businesses.

  87. Superpages
  88. Superpages is one of the top local citation websites and even offers advertisers pay per click and web hosting services.

  89. Switchboard
  90. Switchboard is a Whitepages company that not only allows you to search for businesses, but individuals as well.

  91. Telenav
  92. Telenav’s main product is an app for driving directions but they focus on helping people make smarter decisions about where to go, what to do, when to leave and how to get there.

  93. TomTom
  94. Everyone has had a TomTom at some point. This is a GPS product for cars that allows you to easily search for local businesses while on the go.

  95. Topix
  96. Topix is one of the leading news communities online that connects it users to the information and discussions pertaining to their city or town.

  97. Tupalo
  98. Tupalo is your personal journal and activity planner that allows you to create lists of your favorite spots and places you want to go.

  99. USCity.net
  100. This is a basic directory showing users what places are popular in different industries.

  101. VotefortheBest
  102. VoteForTheBest was founded based on the frustration with other review websites that were biased towards major cities and left out the smaller towns. It simply allows you to find the best places to go based on reviews of others.

  103. Where To?
  104. Where To? is a mobile app with a fantastic interface that helps you find the best places to eat, shop, drink – you name it.

  105. White & Yellow Pages
  106. One of the oldest and leading local solutions provider, you can access a plethora of information for individuals and businesses.

  107. WhitePages
  108. Whitepages, Yellowpages – I think we are beginning to beat a dead horse here.

  109. Yahoo!
  110. Yahoo! has their own local directory for businesses. Nothing too crazy here.

  111. YaSabe
  112. YaSabe is a directory for Latinos that keeps it’s users up-to-date and gives them the ability to confidently choose where to spend their money.

  113. Yellowise
  114. Yellowise is about is straightforward as they come when it comes to local directories. Find a plumber.

  115. YellowMoxie
  116. Aside from listing business information, YellowMoxie provides coupon downloads and you can even shop popular products.

  117. YellowPageCity
  118. YellowPageCity is the official online network for local Yellow Pages.

  119. YellowPagesGoesGreen
  120. This is Yellow Pages initiative to help local cities and government crack down on unnecessary waste and deliver phone books to only those who request them.

  121. Yelp
  122. Yelp is one of the leading online review websites. If you aren’t listed on Yelp, you’re wrong.

"That's All Folks" - end of article image

Worried about how your business shows up online? Run a free listing scan now

.

December 7, 2016

What is Conversion Rate Optimization?

When it comes to Internet marketing, most people hear about terms and services like Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Google AdWords or pay-per-click campaigns, remarketing, and email marketing. Sure, these can be great ways to drive traffic to your website – but if your website isn’t designed to get a conversion, what’s the point?

That’s like inviting a bunch of people to a party and not providing music, drinks, and food – nobody has fun and nobody wins. Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is a party – and we need to make sure everyone has a good time.

So, let’s start off with the basics. You might be wondering…

What is a conversion?

A conversion is an action taken by the end user to interact in some way with your company. There are many different types of conversions, including, but not limited to:

  • Contact form submissions
  • Email newsletter signups
  • Phone calls
  • Content downloads
  • Product purchases

There is one main reason why we want conversions, regardless of the type: user information.

Even if you have an eCommerce store and selling a physical product is your number one priority, you’ll still obtain the user’s name, email address, phone number and sometimes an address. Now, even though you have already sold them a product, you have their information to pitch up-sells like related products, relevant content based on their purchase, and so on.

If you aren’t selling a physical product and someone submits a form, you now have a new lead for your sales team to follow up with. Any business owner with the mindset to squeeze every opportunity out of a client or prospect understands the value of knowing the average lifecycle of a client and how to leverage it in the best way possible.

Is there a one-size-fits-all approach to conversion rate optimization?

In a word, no. Your business is unique, and there’s no perfect out-of-the-box solution.

As such, every CRO campaign is unique as well. Of course, there are some industry standards that can be applied, but the biggest part of CRO is understanding the end user. As marketers, we need to put ourselves in the mindset of the user and ask ourselves the questions they’d be asking – and resolve their problem.

Let’s face it – no one is going to buy your products or services if they don’t have an issue that needs solving. If we can leverage the design and verbiage to help ease that pain, you’ve now earned trust. The more personable we can make their experience, the better results we will have in regards to conversions.

What are the major components of successful CRO?

This question really depends on the types of campaigns you are running, but the catch-all answer is:

Personalizing the user experience

You likely have multiple traffic sources, and each needs to be addressed and optimized separately. Every one of your traffic-driving campaigns is a living, breathing organism, and the users that they target are going to react differently to certain types of content and designs.

If we don’t take the time to understand the types of users we expect to visit our landing pages, we will never be successful in CRO. There are a plethora of aspects relevant to conversion rate optimization, but here are 3 things that are crucial to consider when personalizing customer experience:

  1. Matching user’s intent with content and verbiage

    If a user is coming from the search engines or a paid ad, we want to try and make sure the search query they used, or close variation of it, is included in the title of the page. This reassures the user that the content they are about to read has to do with what they searched for, and will help to lower bounce rates. We also want to include verbiage about how this product and service is going to ease their pain. We want to use words that invoke that pain and make them aware of it. This helps reinforce their thought of “I need to get this fixed now.”

  2. Matching user’s intent with design

    Knowing your end user really comes into play here. If we are expecting the end user’s demographic to be primarily female, we may want to consider using a color palette that is more appealing to them – maybe some softer colors. However, if we are expecting all males who love sports, we may want to use a more bold color palette – maybe some dark reds and black. It may seem silly, but this invokes emotion without the end-user knowing it. Using pictures that illustrate their pain or issue is very useful as well. Again, this helps reassure them that the page matches their viewing intent.

  3. Prominent call-to-actions

    Don’t forget that the ultimate goal is to get the end user to perform some sort of action, like submitting a form. We need to make sure they know how and where to do it. This is where the call-to-actions (CTAs) come into play. These need to be the piece that stands out the most on the page. Be careful, however, that you aren’t using tacky, invasive practices. Your CTA should be prominent, but should look as if it’s supposed to be there. You should also use multiple call-to-actions. If you have one at the top of the page, you might consider putting another one further down when the initial CTA is out of view.

CRO & A/B Testing

When it comes to conversion rate optimization, A/B testing is your biggest asset. Making simple changes like the color on a button or the verbiage in a headline can have a drastic effect on the conversion rate.

You don’t believe me? Try it for yourself. You’ll be surprised at how much a small change can affect your bottom line. Without testing, you’ll never know which variation of a page performs better. Don’t be afraid to do something outside of the box – these ideas typically yield the most surprising results and can lead you down a successful path you never expected.

Give It Time To Collect Data and Optimize

All too often, businesses run campaigns for a month or two, and because they don’t see an immediate return on investment, they shut the campaign down. This only guarantees that you’ll lose money.

Staying committed to your campaign gives you an opportunity to recoup the costs in the first few months.

It is very important to establish an initial strategy and let it run without any changes. If you begin making too many changes to the account immediately, how are you going to know which change resulted in better performance? Once a campaign has run long enough to capture statistically relevant data, we can make a change, let it run for another again for the same amount of time, and then determine which instance of the campaign performed better. Rinse and repeat.

There are some campaigns, depending on your strategy, industry, and competition, where you may see a positive return on investment in the first month. Most likely, however, most campaigns are going to require some informed tweaking. If you are a business owner who has hired a 3rd-party service to run your campaign, then you need to work with them and provide any insight that could benefit their efforts.

Conversion Rate Optimization Never Stops

So, you’ve run an A/B test and increased your conversion rate. You’ve done it! You are completed your conversion optimization efforts, right? If only it were that simple.

Businesses should never stop optimizing for conversions. There is always an element, no matter how subtle, that you can test to see if it can improve performance. Each and every month, you should have a plan on how to improve. The tests you’ve hoped would guarantee improvement will sometimes backfire, but don’t let that discourage you. In fact, this should spark your imagination in ways it hasn’t been before.

Continually challenge yourself and the norms to achieve your desired results. Stay committed. Trust your team. When it comes to conversion rate optimization, expect to fail in order to succeed.

How well do you think your conversion rate optimization efforts are going? We’d be happy to provide a free Internet marketing strategy analysis. Let’s have a conversation.

December 7, 2016
Search Engine Optimization tactics

What is ‘White Hat’ SEO?

There are two basic ways of looking at search engine optimization. The difference between the two is literally as clear as black vs. white.

The term “White Hat” was popularized in the 1990s, thanks to the rise of computer hacking in the early days of the Internet. “White Hat” hackers were security experts who worked with companies and governments to expose and eliminate vulnerabilities in their networks and software. The good guys, so-to-speak.

Read More »

June 30, 2014
How to see what people read on your website

Understanding Google Analytics: Learning Your Audience

Every website we build here at Southern Web includes a unique bit of code, provided by Google, which gives our clients access to Google’s Analytics website statistics service. Google Analytics allows website owners to track the number of visitors to their site, where they came from and what they do once there. Very handy!

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June 30, 2014
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