top of mind marketing google plus and a data breach

Google Plus Calls It Quits After Data Breach

By | Social media | No Comments

Google has finally thrown in the towel on Google Plus. No surprise here. Google launched their social media application in 2011 to compete with Facebook and it never really gained traction. By 2018, Google Plus was little more than an afterthought. But you really have to wonder why all those smart people at Google couldn’t make this work. They’re calling it quits after a data breach.

What were those circles all about anyway?

When Google Plus came out, we created accounts and gave it a try, but it wasn’t fun because, well, no one else was using it. No one really engaged. Apparently 90% of user sessions lasted fewer than five seconds. Compare that with addictive sessions on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

But there’s more to this story than just an application that no one wants to use

Google chose to sunset Google Plus over an issue with bigger implications. According to The New York Times, “security vulnerability exposed the private data of some 500,000 users.” Google didn’t tell us about the application’s security issue when it was discovered because it didn’t appear that anyone had gained access to user information, and the company’s Privacy & Data Protection Office decided it was not legally required to report it.

If you’re not paying attention, data security has become a very big deal

The decision to stay quiet raised eyebrows in the cybersecurity community, as it comes against the backdrop of relatively new and stricter rules in California and Europe that govern when a company must disclose a security episode.

Up to 438 applications made by other companies may have had access to the vulnerability through coding links. Outside developers could have seen user names, email addresses, information about occupation, gender and age. They apparently did not have access to phone numbers, messages, Google Plus posts or data from other Google accounts.

Google was concerned about damage control

Now, according to The Wall Street Journal, a memo prepared for senior executives by Google’s policy and legal teams warned that disclosing the problem would expose the company’s vulnerability and invite regulatory scrutiny. CEO Sundar Pichai would likely be called to testify before Congress in the same way that Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg did after its security breach. Google had planned to announce the disclosures, but moved up the announcement date when it learned of The Journal’s article.

In May, Europe adopted new data protection laws that require companies to notify regulators of a potential leak of personal information within 72 hours. Google’s security issue occurred in March, before the new rules went into effect. And yes, this applies to Google—it’s a global company.

California is getting serious about information accountability

California’s strict new privacy law goes into effect in 2020. In the event of a data breach, consumers can sue for up to $750 for each violation. It also gives the attorney general the right to pursue companies for intentional privacy violations.

What’s next? A hearing about whether tech companies are filtering conservative voices in their products. The Republicans are going to be all over this one.

top of mind marketing free stock images

Cool Free Stuff: Stunning Stockphoto Images

By | content marketing | No Comments

Anyone who’s worked in print or electronic media—which is pretty much everyone these days–knows that finding good stockphoto images is a challenge. I find myself on a mission every week looking for authenticity–images that feature real people doing real stuff. I avoid those shots of insanely beautiful white people posing for the cameras. We’re a multiethnic community, so I also need images that reflect diversity as I enjoy my stunning free stock photo images!

Happily, we may be getting closer to sunsetting the uninspired stockphoto images we’re accessing now. Kudos to those who are taking stunning pictures 24/7 and sharing their work. Take a minute to thank them–each site provides the opportunity when you download your free stockphoto images.

These are some of the free stockphoto sites.

  1. Pexels. An extensive, free collection of beautiful, high-quality stock photos. Includes a useful feature that presents similar photos to the one you’re reviewing.
  2. Unsplash. A handy search bar to find exactly what you’re looking for. Take a look at the Collections of photos, such as Green, Workplace, Minimal, etc. This feature can help you identify a large collection of images at once.
  3. Pixabay. High-quality vectors and illustrations as well photos. Pixabay makes it easy to make a small donation to the artist by buying them a coffee.
  4. Stock Vault. A large collection of free textures work as backgrounds for text-based Instagram posts. 100% free; noattribution necessary for any images you find on the site.
  5. Burst by Shopify. A great source for free Instagram photos. An ecommerce platform, Burst hasbusiness-related stock images to help you create better social-media campaigns, websites and marketing materials.New images added every week.
  6. Gratisography. An especially great photo source if you run a travel, nature, or animal-related Instagram account. New photos are added weekly. Use them without attribution.
  7. Death to the Stock Photo. You need to become a member to access this highly curated selection of images, but you can still do this for free. Premium photos, videos, graphics, and media downloads. You’ll only get a certain selection of images per month at the free membership level.
  8. Foodie’s Feed. Professional-quality food pics for foodies. These images are stunning, though the quantity is limited. Use these to supplement your own food images.
  9. StyledStock. Think female entrepreneur vibe for your Instagram feed or blog. Collection is small, but quality is high.
  10. FreePhotos. A mix of both free and paid content, but a good selection of quality free photos. Easy search by category.

The photography is clever, creative and original

These sites are a big step up from traditional stockphoto sites. Drawbacks? For one of my clients, I need to find blog and social images every week for a  demographic that is laughingly underrepresented on these sites—those 40 and older! Also missing are business photos showing job variety. These sites also don’t have huge volumes of images. But key in your search word and see what happens. They’re well worth the effort–the images are beautiful.

Do you need help with your marketing? Contact Top of Mind of Mind Marketing @ 510.292.1843. We’re writers, strategists and internet marketing experts.

top of mind marketing creating a personal brand will set you apart

In an Era of Personalization, Creating a Personal Brand

By | Marketing Tips | No Comments

Brand is something we used to talk about all the time. Though it may not dominate conversations anymore, its importance has never diminished. But the brand conversation has evolved. It’s grown from the way your company is perceived to the way you, the owner, are perceived. In an era of personalization, you also need to create a personal brand.

So how is a personal brand different from your business brand?

According to Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” With the advent of social sites, personal branding has become a fundamental part of the landscape. A personal brand is how you present yourself to the world. Separate from your company brand, it should also complement it.

Oprah may be the goddess of personal branding

Oprah’s continually building equity in her brand, estimated at $2.5 billion. She has always stuck to her core competency: Challenging her millions of viewers to live the best lives possible by understanding their potential. By being true to herself, Oprah has inspired millions to be their best selves. And really, how can you not love Oprah?

Think of Richard Branson: Smart, rich and wildly successful–a great personal brand

Richard Branson is one of the most visible, successful and well-known men of our era. He has stayed true to his core values, seeking adventure and taking some big-time risks. By being himself, he has often done exactly what other business leaders cautioned against. He’s not afraid of crazy publicity stunts like dressing as a flight attendant for a competing airline. His unorthodox style and commitment to his passions have helped him create a powerful personal brand. “Too many companies want their brands to reflect some idealized, perfected image of themselves. As a consequence, their brands acquire no texture, no character and no public trust.” You have to hand it to Branson–this formula has worked well for him!

Humanizing your brand builds trust

Particularly for small businesses, putting a real, human face to a brand name helps develop the loyalty and trust that are fundamental to building relationships. Think about your website, specifically your Aboutpage. Does it tell a story about you? This is where we go to find out about the people with whom we’re going to be meeting, talking or potentially working. We’re looking for something special; something personal that elevates the person we’re going to meet. We’re also seeking commonality–shared interests and/or passions that will help us feel connected—it could be anything–sports, gardening, biking, hiking, travel, schools, our kids’ activities or our pets.

It’s not enough anymore to create a company brand

Our social channels have forever changed the landscape. With phones as our constant companions, people are now sharing their lives online. For many, it’s way too much of their lives. There is a need to constantly be proving that we lead impossibly busy, fascinating lives. Think about the information you’re sharing across your social channels. Your online narrative should be consistent with how you want people to think of you.

Do you need help developing your brand? Contact Top of Mind of Mind Marketing @ 510.292.1843. We’re writers, strategists and internet marketing experts.

Data Drives Rebranding Effort for Ecommerce Site

By | Internet Marketing | No Comments

Marketing is not an exact science. Despite all of our experience and great instincts, some things just don’t work. We need to be prepared to make adjustments and try something new. Fortunately, for one ecommerce client, we have Google Analytics data to help us make informed business decisions. Data is helping us drive a rebranding effort for his ecommerce site.

We optimized his website a year ago. We did keyword research, then updated every product description, caption and alt tag field using these keywords.

Google Analytics reports and competitor research helped us decide to rebrand

The data from Google Analytics (GA), the web analytics service that tracks and reports website traffic, has helped us make an important business decision to rebrand. We’re moving away from our current sustainable, organic ethos and stepping up  to a more dramatic, sophisticated approach to the way we present our entire product line.

Project plan includes updating website and entire photo inventory

Our project plan includes photo editing our entire inventory and updating our website with a new color palette. We’ll need to revise our social sites and our MailChimp template to showcase our new focus. We plan to be more aggressively using our social channels, tracking our efforts and learning from them. We will be creating personas–our ideal clients—what they look like and how they spend money. Our project plan includes Facebook advertising (PPC), which we’ll manage closely. We may ultimately reach a completely new audience, including commercial rather than just our current residential clients.

Google Analytics rolled out in 2005, and it keeps getting better

The information that GA delivers in real time is critical for companies that want to measure the effects of their marketing campaigns. Our report tells us our visitors are coming mostly from Google, how long they’re staying on each page and what paths they’re taking through the site.

The good news and the bad

  • Our bounce rate is fairly good—under 50%, which means that our users are staying on the site for up to two minutes before “bouncing” off.
  • Users are drilling down through several layers of pages on the site.
  • Despite the growing use of mobile, the majority of our visitors are coming from desktop computers.
  • Even with increased traffic, most of our users are new—not return visitors. Not good–we all want to be building a community around our products and services.

Courting returning online shoppers to create community

Shoppers know that we rarely buy on the first pass. We visit, then look around to see what the competitors are offering. We may/not return to purchase that original item. But if we like that site, we bookmark it and return. We want to court that shopper.

Google Analytics: A free tool to help track your digital marketing effectiveness

Think of your website as command central. Social posts, email blasts and other activity should drive users back to your site. Your website, then, measures the effectiveness of all of your digital campaigns that promote your products/services.

Do you need help using Google Analytics to evaluate your marketing efforts? Let’s talk! Contact Top of Mind Marketing. We’re writers and internet marketing experts.

top of mind marketing germans outlaw FB ads

German Regulators Outlaw Facebook’s Ad Business

By | PPC Advertising | No Comments

Things keep getting worse for Mark Zuckerberg. Facebook’s lucrative advertising model ($1B/quarter) relies on tracking its 1 billion users across the online space. Facebook collects data about where we shop and what we buy. But now Germany has outlawed Facebook ads.

Privacy advocates argue that Facebook isn’t transparent enough about what it does with the data.

Germany’s antitrust regulator has ruled that Facebook is exploiting consumers

In an important move that has implications for Facebook ad users worldwide, Germany agrees. Its antitrust regulator, the Federal Cartel Office (FCO), has ruled that Facebook is exploiting consumers by requiring them to agree to the current data collection practice as part of having a Facebook account. It has now prohibited the practice going forward.

“Facebook will no longer be allowed to force its users to agree to the practically unrestricted collection of non-Facebook data to their Facebook user accounts,” FCO president Andreas Mundt said in a statement.

Consumer “consent” is a misrepresentation

Lina Khan, Columbia Law School antitrust expert, believes that authorities haven’t done a good job of articulating why privacy is an antitrust issue. But the German regulator clarifies it. They believe that Facebook’s dominance is what allows it to impose contractual terms on users that require them to allow Facebook to track them.

The harm to users is the loss of control

“When there is a lack of competition, accepting terms of service isn’t truly “consenting”. Users are not presented with choices. They either accept the data collection or stop using Facebook.According to German regulators, the harm to Facebook’s users is the “loss of control.”

With an 80% market share, Facebook dominates the social space in Germany

Facebook had 32M monthly active users in Germany at the end of 2018, a market share of more than 80%. “As a dominant company, Facebook is subject to special obligations under competition law. Facebook users cannot switch to other social networks,” said Mundt.

Privacy and competition are intertwined

The ruling makes clear that privacy and competition are inextricably intertwined. If Facebook loses, Germany will become a test case in whether the surveillance economy is fundamental to the operation of social media.

Facebook insists that tracking makes services safer and better

The FCO believes Facebook hasn’t proven that data collection and bundling are in the best interest of every consumer and that its sites couldn’t function without it.

Facebook’s response: “We disagree with their conclusions and intend to appeal so that people in Germany continue to benefit fully from all our services.” What’s at stake? Facebook would potentially have to change how it processes data for German users. If Facebook loses the appeal, Germany will have successfully challenged the relationship between the collection of user data and the social media accounts from which that information comes.

Other Europeans and Americans well may demand they be given the same option, and there would be implications for all of us. Only the very naïve believe that it’s only Facebook that is guilty of sharing user data. Facebook’s the one that got caught.

Do you need help with your marketing strategy? Contact Top of Mind Marketing. We’re writers and internet marketing experts.

top of mind marketing optimize content with wordpress' yoast

Use the Power of Yoast to Optimize Web Content

By | SEO | No Comments

WordPress’ Yoast is a plugin that can help you optimize your website content. Yoast creates fields on the back end of your website where you can identify keywords and write metadescriptions. Metadescriptions are the little narratives that show up on search engine results pages (SERPs) right below the link to your website. You can control these, so why wouldn’t you? Think of these as little customized promo spots. Make it easy for yourself and use the power of Yoast to optimize your web content.

Yoast will help you optimize your website content

After you’ve written your landing page content or blog, scroll down to the Yoast fields and identify your focus keyword and write a metadescription. Now scroll down and see how you did. Yoast rates your effort for its search engine optimization (SEO) value and readability. Green is good. Red sucks.

Now go back and make corrections. You’ll find that this gets easier. I generally write my content, then go back and retrofit it.

  • Your focus keyword is critical.This word/phrase should be integrated throughout your page/blog. It should be in the page title, the first and subsequent paragraphs and in your subheads.
  • No keyword stuffing allowed. Beginning with the Mobilegeddon algorithm change in 2015, you now have to have something to say. Google hates it when you fill a page with meaningless keywords.

Yoast doesn’t stop with keywords; it will also help you:

  • Identify readability. For maximum understanding, we should be writing at a fifth-grade level. Yoast gives us a readability score, and most of us fail.
  • Get in the habit of using short, crisp sentences. Break long sentences and paragraphs into short, crisp ones. Use short words and subheads. Make it easy for a reader to scan your subheads; together they should tell a story.
  • Header evaluation. Yoast will let you know if your headline is wider than the viewable limit. If your title has a bunch of skinny letters, you can use more characters than if it has a lot of fatter, rounder characters.
  • Metadescriptions. These should include your focus keyword and be within 156 characters.
  • Internal links. Including an internal linking strategy on your website is a great way to encourage readers to stay on your site and drill down through your pages.
  • Images. Every page should include an image. There are four fields that are associated with each image—title, caption, alt tag and description. Fill these in and use your focus keyword.

One more thing: Search engines love long posts

Keywords are about, well, words. You can’t rank if there’s no content. The longer your posts, the greater your chances of appearing in search engines—they have more clues to identify what your posts are about. An ideal blog post should have around 1,000 words to ensure  enough keywords for ranking.

Frankly, the prospect of coming up with a 1000-word blog on a regular basis is terrifying. But do think about 300-words as a minimum standard. If you’re writing something about which you’re knowledgeable and passionate, this shouldn’t be paralyzing.

Need some help getting started? Contact Top of Mind Marketing. We’re writers and internet marketing experts.

top of mind marketing cool free tools for writers

Use Cool Free Tools to Become a Better Writer

By | Blogging | No Comments

Not a great writer? Not a problem. These cool free tools will help you become a better writer. They’ll help improve the quality of your writing and make it more accessible.

Grammarly. Upload an article and this impressive app picks up potentially embarrassing editorial mistakes. Grammarly highlights grammar, punctuation, spelling and subject-verb agreement issues. It gives you a score—mine was in the high 90s. Good. It also told me that my article could be read by those with at least a ninth-grade education. Not so good. In an earlier blog I mentioned that we should be targeting readers at a fifth-grade level.

Hemingway. This cool, free tool is named after novelist Ernest Hemingway who was all about crisp, efficient writing, the Hemingway app is an excellent tool for sharpening your writing. Paste your work into the editor, and it will automatically highlight sections of your writing; each color suggests a different type of improvement you could make.

  • Yellow–Shorten or split sentences.
  • Red–Sentences are too dense and complicated.
  • Purple–Overly complex words. Hover over them and Hemingway will suggest simpler alternatives.
  • Blue–Use of adverbs, which come across as weak.
  • Green-Use of passive voice, which is less engaging. You should be acting rather than being acted upon.

Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer

Once you get past the name, and you’ll find that this tool is something you’ll want to be using on a regular basis. It’s based on the premise that we want to be reaching our audiences on an emotional level.

If no one reads your headline, nothing else matters. Here’s how this works: EMV (Emotional Marketing Value) words have “sounds tones” which produce stronger “emotional” reactions and are thus better at reaching the reader on an emotional level. The Analyzer givesyour headline a score based on the total number of EMV words relative to the total number of words it contains. The higher the percentage of EMV words, the better your headline is likely to perform.

Buzzsumo: Cool, free and a a rich source of blog topics

One of our biggest challenges is coming up with blog topics. I love Buzzsumo. Scroll through this site and you can view a year’s worth of topics in your interest area that were most popular on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Pinterest. You want to be targeting those topics for where there’s a significant amount of interest. Another good place to look for ideas? SlideShare. Spend some time perusing these topics and you’ll emerge with lots of good ideas.

Don’t count on this cool free tool: Microsoft’s spellcheck

If you’re relying on Microsoft’s spellcheck, keep in mind that while it’s a really good start, it doesn’t begin to address things like subject-verb agreement or the gazillion words that no longer need to be hyphenated. Language evolves at a faster rate than what Microsoft can deliver.

None of these tools is going to write your blog for you

It’s hard to beat cool and free. But you still need to sit down and write. Make it a commitment and own it. And use these apps to help you become more attuned to good writing.

Need help developing your content marketing program?

Contact Top of Mind Marketing. We’re writers and content marketing experts.