Category Archives: Uncategorized

Facebook Goes Directly after Google with Product Ads

Facebook recently announced that it will begin placing Product Ads on its users’ news feeds that will allow brands to display multiple items within a single advertisement. Many are calling the Facebook launch a direct effort to take hold of the enormous retail advertising market that Google currently has a stronghold on. Google’s Shopping Ads is a business unit that is estimated to take in $8 billion a year.

With Facebook’s new Product Ads launch, they attempt to deliver a better return on investment for online retailers than Google can offer. The wealth of customer data that Facebook has will allow the company to target their customers better than Google can. Facebook also has a more established mobile product that can effectively target consumers across devices. This is important since mobile transactions are likely to account for as much as half of all digital commerce transactions by 2017.

With Product Ads, businesses populate their advertisements on Facebook by uploading their product catalogs. They can either create their own campaigns, or let Facebook automatically choose which products are most relevant to certain users. Facebook can target people who have visited a company’s website or target people based on factors like location or special interests. This will save time and money for advertisers who will no longer have to create specific campaigns for specific audiences.

The proliferation of social commerce cannot be denied. Shopify stats show that product research and discovery that took place on social channels propelled e-commerce orders to increase by over 200% in 2014. Facebook dominates the social commerce landscape, with over 90% of advertisers planning on spending part of their social marketing budget on the site.

It’s not clear if Facebook’s Product Ads will  lead to a tremendous return on investment. Most consumers want to compare products across multiple stores, and they will leave the Facebook application to do so. The Product Ads launch does nothing special to keep shoppers on the Facebook app. Consumers will likely only use Facebook for impulsive shopping purchases, so the Product Ads launch may have the most appeal for retailers who sell impulse-buy products. Businesses will need to test the waters by dedicating a small portion of their advertising budgets to Facebook’s Product Ads and determine ROI vs. other channels in comparative testing but by ensuring they have an attribution model that can track back sales up to 90 days from the impression or click of an ad.

6 Reasons to optimize your mobile SEO now!

mobile seo

Out of the study of keyword searches comes the practice known as search engine optimization (SEO), in which the individual who is responsible for setting up a website knowingly includes the appropriate keywords in the text in the hopes that it will rank more highly in the search results list. This is an especially useful tool for business sites, whose ability to make money is, after all, dependent on people visiting the site and buying things therefrom. The rest of this article will be confined to mobile SEO and, more specifically still, to the reasons why you, as a businessperson and an owner of a website, should optimize your mobile SEO.

Reason #1: So many people surf with smartphones.

The smartphone has become so popular as a means of surfing the web – indeed, they may surpass PCs in that role in terms of number of surfers as early as this year!  Similarly, statistics gathered by the computer and Internet blog Econsultancy reveal that about 40 percent of all views of videos on YouTube are done via smartphone. Consequently, the SEO strategy for any web business that is “worth its salt” should include a system of mobile SEO optimization.

Reason #2: Optimization of SEO for mobile phones is rewarded by Google.

Yes, it is true: Google has actually devised a system of rewards for sites that employ responsive web design (RWD), which is a way of designing sites so that they can easily be viewed on both desktops and smartphones without the need for resizing or other adjustments. RWD, it should be mentioned, is valuable not only because it saves all that trouble, but also because it can improve the standing of the site with regard to mobile SEO. Conversely, Google also penalizes certain types of behavior by reducing a site’s SEO rankings. Such behavior includes, but is not limited to:

  • the mobile landing page being too slow
  • having links on a smartphone site that direct to a desktop site
  • including videos that are hard to play on mobile devices

Reason #3: There tend to be fewer characters (an average of fifteen) in mobile searches.

When people are making a web search on a smartphone they use fewer characters, on average, than they do when searching on a PC. Consequently, mobile SEO requires considerably less work than PC SEO as it requires less typing. This is the best reason of all so far why mobile SEO optimization is so important.

Reason #4: It can increase the number of visitors considerably.

SEO optimization for mobile phones can result in considerably more visitors to your site than you would from PC users alone. It is estimated that this increase may be as much as sixteen percent. In companies that operate in certain industries, the figure may be even higher, sometimes up to 29.9 percent.

Reason #5: Mobile surfers have different habits.

Just as web surfers using mobile devices use fewer characters, so too the types of searches they make are in many ways quite different. They are more likely, for instance, to make searches that are more closely related to information about a company itself – its history, the type of company it is, the products and services it has to offer, driving directions, the menu (if it is a restaurant, of course) and so on. Mobile SEO optimization can therefore be used to draw in more customers and make more sales than would otherwise be possible.

Reason #6  –  USING Flash WILL HURT YOU

Sites that run Flash assets are generally not supported by smartphones and will now be penalized in the search results lists by Google.

Review: Cirque de Soleil’s “O” – An Aquatic Masterpiece

O cirque

The last time I visited Vegas  (in 2009) I had a chance to see “KA” and immediately fell in love with what the Cirque has to offer.  This time I had the opportunity to see “O” while in town for the PubCon digital marketing conference. Presented on a spectacular custom stage built in the Bellagio in Las Vegas, “O”  was one of the most fantastic and beautiful performances I’ve ever seen.  After reading almost 100% positive reviews of this show, I was excited to see this famous Cirque production for myself, and I was not disappointed. The inspiring acrobatics of the Cirque de Soleil were featured in tandem with a uniquely innovative and equally dazzling moving water stage that produced realistic wild waves during the artistic performance. Watching any Cirque de Soleil performance is like reading a love letter to performance art, and “O” added the element of being a beautiful reminder that all living things are dependent on water.

richard macdonald

Before I even got into the uniquely designed theater in the Bellagio, I was diverted with the rest of the audience through the Richard MacDonald art gallery, a sculpture gallery that makes up the entryway to the “O” theater, full of MacDonald’s beautiful bronze sculptures of Cirque performers and acrobats. I had never heard of Richard MacDonald before, and none of the reviews I read mentioned the gallery, so I wasn’t expecting to see his amazing bronze statues leaping, dancing, and hanging in space. Inspired by poses from Cirque de Soleil aerialists, acrobats, and clowns alike, some of MacDonald’s pieces seem to defy gravity; his aerialists and acrobats look truly weightless, and the poses look reading to burst into life at a moment’s notice. Though it was an unexpected surprise, the gallery turned out to be a perfect introduction to the show, and somehow managed to get me even more excited to see “O”, one of the best performances in Vegas.

The title of the aquatic extravaganza “O” is a play on the French word “eau” pronounced the same way, meaning water. Even when the 1.5 million gallon pool that makes up the stage is not in use, which is almost never, the actors and performers always seem to illustrate the fluidity and freedom of water. Complete with wave effects, special lighting and underwater breathing systems for performers, the water stage is a really impressive feat of engineering and design. The show’s amazing synchronized swimming, underwater acrobatics and other acts were all given a beautiful and original soundtrack by the Cirque’s incredible live music acts, but the musicians were all tucked up and above the stage behind protective barriers, which turned out to be a good thing once water started flying.

I was sitting further back in the house so I didn’t get wet, but it looked like the first couple rows got a pretty good splashing to go with their evening’s entertainment. Even without a light soaking, “O” left me awed at what the human body can do, and what a dramatic and beautiful part life giving water can play in all that.

Criss Angel “Believe” Review: Magnificent Illusions in Las Vegas

This October I took some time off from my parental leave to attend the PubCon online marketing conference in Las Vegas.  I don’t drink or gamble so my favourite Vegas activity is attending the great shows they have to offer throughout the city.  On my last trip to Vegas I saw the Cirque show “KA” and fell in love with what the Cirque has to offer.   I have always been mesmerized by the YouTube videos of Criss Angel’s illusions and I loved the idea of seeing him live in the Cirque du Soleil production “Believe”.

I lucked out since the show was playing at the Luxor, where I was staying during my trip.   I stayed at the Luxor the last time I was in Vegas also and I love the Egyptian theme of the building. Every night I was taken in by the powerful light streaming from the top of the Pyramid that houses the Luxor shows, the Titanic Exhibition and Casino.

Image

When it was time for the show, it was easy to navigate from my hotel room to the performance stadium. The theater had a dark and eerie feel which, to be honest, spiked my anticipation. I could tell other audience members were excited to be there as well.

The show itself was very good. I had read a number of reviews claiming that he is the best magician in  Las Vegas, and he did not disappoint. The strip promotes a lot of fun and quirky magicians to see; after all, it is one of the trademarks of Las Vegas. The program brochure claims that he performs over 40 illusions, and I have to say he delivered on every one.

This show is much more than a magic show. It is fun, it is engaging, and it is even dangerous at times. I applaud Criss Angel on the right combination of lights, music, and fire along with the entertainment. I was particularly engaged at how he keeps eye contact with the audience. It is as if he’s personally welcoming you to the show.

Although I had a great time at the production, there were a couple of downsides. One is the comedic breaks he takes between the acts where his goofy assistant does some lame stand-up and simple tricks.  It’s not quite as well executed as the comedic breaks in the other Cirque shows I have seen.  At the same time, I understand all performers need a break during their shows.  The other is his self-promotion. Do not get me wrong; I feel every performer should have the opportunity to promote their work, but I think he does it a little too often.   He also spent several minutes talking about how he is rated the best magician in Vegas, how he has the most YouTube downloads, and how he has the most time on TV etc.  All those quick facts could have been put into the program brochure instead of interrupting the flow and fun of the show.

I do not want to give away too much of his performance, but his introductory mind reading trick on people that were clearly chosen at random was stunning and had me at the edge of my seat for the rest of the show. If you like watching variety shows like “America’s Got Talent” or have never been to a magic show this is a must attend show while you are in Vegas.

Thoughts as I get ready for parental leave …

964121_10152866825535043_1820980692_o

My wife and I had our second child, Maarya, on September 29, 2012. She was born only 14 months after our first baby girl, Amina. Both babies were premature, making the postpartum period very challenging. The second time around it was a lot easier since we knew what to expect and how to deal with everything. I took a week off from work, but this time, I didn’t have to really run around getting baby items together because we had all baby items and girl clothing from our first baby.

Many things are easier the second time around due to experience, but it’s really hard having two babies so close in age!  Amina is still a baby but compared to Maarya, she’s a big and strong “Godzilla baby”. We have to be very careful not to leave Maarya on the floor playing in her gym while Amina is around. Amina has slapped Maarya in the face, threw a book and a couple of toys at her, wiped the spit off her face very forcefully, and applied pressure on her sister’s stomach while trying to stand up.  She doesn’t know her strength yet and how to pass a book or toy gently.  On the other side, Amina has a tremendous sweet and caring side to her. Her first clear word was ‘Baby’ and that’s what she calls her baby sister. She kisses her head when Maarya is playing in the gym. She becomes distressed when Maarya cries. She pulls Maarya’s hands away when Maarya has her hands in her mouth.  When Maarya is sleeping, she tells us to ‘shhh’ and puts a finger to her lips. She finds Maarya’s blanket and puts it over her, but sometimes it’s thrown over her face. She finds toys for Maarya to play with while Maarya is drinking milk.

I’m taking paternal leave this year from July to December and can’t wait to spend time with my girls. I plan on taking them to the park, toys r us, swimming, and anywhere and anything else a dad can do to spoil his babies!

Parental leave is such a huge benefit and we are lucky to have it as an option for working men in Canada.   People often ask me if it is hard to step away from work for several months and I tell them that it is not hard at all:  When people are older and look back on their life it is rare to find anyone regretting not having worked longer hours, but people often regret not having spent more time with their families.

Should a Las Vegas-Style Casino Come to Toronto?

Image

The city is divided on whether a Las Vegas – style casino is advantageous or detrimental for Toronto.  There is debate whether a casino should open up in downtown Toronto at Exhibition Place or the Metro Convention Centre and also grow a current gambling facility at Woodbine Racetrack in Etobicoke.

There are some convincing arguments made for going forth with opening a casino. There would be the expansion of the convention centre, thousands of new jobs, and increased tourism.  A formula has been proposed where the province of Ontario would get 50% of the profits with a maximum of 100 million dollars annually. Of course, the city of Toronto would be allotted more of the shares than other cities in the province.

There are also very convincing arguments against the development of a casino, and many Torontonians are  against opening a casino in their city.  There are a number of concerned downtown residents saying that giving away the waterfront might  be a mistake.  It would be something the city would have to live with forever and they refer to data that shows Casinos can lead to the following due to gambling addiction:

  • An increase in bankruptcies
  • Unemployment
  • Welfare
  • Medical/counseling and criminal justice costs
  • Adverse impacts on families

 Those that are against the casino have setup a petition that you can sign until May 7th at the following link: http://nocasinotoronto.com/take-action/

Start Communications – A viable alternative to the Large ISP Oligopoly in Ontario

Wow!  It’s been a good 6 months since I have had the time to sit down and write a blog post. Between  2 babies under the age of two at home and work,  my personal blog got no love. Last September right before this blog went silent,  I e-interviewed Peter Rocca the President & CEO of Start Communications and I am quite embarrassed it has taken me so long to publish!

Even though I  have worked at two large telcos that provide Internet, I passionately support small business whenever possible. I prefer to support alternative internet and mobile phone providers due to the unfair consumer practices of the big Telcos.  The large ISP oligopoly has been hampering fair access to high speed internet for Canadians and a Macleans writer went as far as to say that the current competitive landscape means that Canadians have the equivalent of “third world Internet Access”.

I bought my wife a cell phone from Wind and I signed up for Start Communications cable internet since I am a big fan of small companies that offer competitive products at fair prices. For Internet, Start offered the best combination of price and speed that I could find in Oakville.   For $49.95 a month they provide 30 Mbps internet down and 2 Mbps upload with 200 GB of bandwidth   Even as a moderately heavy and tech savvy user using Bit-torrent and Netflix I usually only download 30 GB a month and the most I have ever used is 110 GB so the Start limit is more than enough for me.

Their customer support is local to Ontario and the staff has proven to be much more knowledgeable than the outsourced staff I dealt with when subscribed to a small DSL ISP and much better than the unqualified support at the large incumbent ISPs that read off scripts.

Start Communications great service at an unbeatable price led me to convince my in-laws to switch from their Big ISP to Start since they had been regularly overcharged and subject to some unfair billing practices.  The great price and after sales service led me to become an advocate for Start.

Below you’ll find my interview with Start Communications President Peter Rocca who is leading the battle to provide Canadians with affordable and fast internet:

Q1) Why should customers choose Start  Communications over a Rogers, Bell or Cogeco for Internet Service?

A1)      We find customers choose us over the big incumbent players for a number of reasons. Some come to us because of our reputation for exceptional support, some come for the lower pricing and others because we offer a competitive alternative with higher usage limits than the media companies provide – allowing ample use of Netflix or Youtube. While we offer a higher-value product at a better cost, it’s really the support that differentiates ourselves and keeps customers with us for the long-haul.

Q2.)   I hadn’t heard of Start until a few weeks before I signed up for service in the summer of 2012. How long have you been around and who can get your service?

A2)      We’ve been offering internet services since the mid-90’s and provide services to the majority of Ontarians.

Q3.)  I noticed that some zipcodes have 18 Mbps service and others have 28 Mbps for the same 49.99 price. Why is that the case?

A3)      There are a number of different vendors we contract with to access to the coaxial cable or telephone lines that run into customer homes. The speed of the packages can differ due to technical or costing differences between the suppliers we work with and generally will match the speeds offered by the cable/telephone company that are available in the same area.

Q4.) How does your team use social media?

A4.)      As an online pioneer, social media has been a very important part of our evolution. We use it every day to stay engaged with our customers in online communities — answering questions about our services, providing technical support and account assistance, as well as keeping customers updated with new developments as they become available.

Q5.) Do you think we’ll see independent IPTV  from companies such as yours in Canada?

A5)      Independent servers providers such as ourselves have often been catalysts in the advancement of new products and services such as VoIP and IPTV. There are some current regulatory challenges we’re working through with the CRTC, but we’re an adaptive industry and consumers will continue to see alternative options for services such as television and phone.

Q6.) What has been your companies biggest challenge or hurdle? Does the CRTC help the big guys or the little guys? 

A6)      One of the biggest challenges has been operating in an industry where your largest suppliers are also your direct competitors. In the past couple of years many independent providers have come together to form an organization known as the Canadian Network Operators Consortium or CNOC. We’re proud to be a part of this important organization and have worked heavily with the CRTC to promote an understanding of our industry. In a relatively short period of time we’ve seen some positive decisions from the Commission benefiting Canadians and I am optimistic that they will continue to serve consumers by creating a sustainable framework for competitive services in Canada.