Consequences of Facebook’s Big Data Harvesting

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When somebody who used Facebook hears that the social media site is gathering data on them, the first thing they think about is what they have personally posted on their feed. The typical person can’t comprehend that Facebook is tracking much more than their updates.

Does this mean the typical person is ignorant of how data is collected? In a certain sense, yes.

But even when this ignorance is not present, most people will generally think first about what they have posted and shared on Facebook and not necessarily about what their computer, laptop or mobile devices was also doing in the background when they opened their Facebook.

Why not? Because their reference point is their personal experience on Facebook.

Facebook and Big Data

In reality, Facebook is data harvesting a pantheon of information beyond their updates and likes. According to an article published November 16, 2011, in USA Today, Facebook is constantly collecting data on both users and non-users of the site, tracking them across websites, none of which are owned by Facebook:

“Facebook officials are now acknowledging that the social media giant has been able to create a running log of the web pages that each of its 800 million or so members has visited during the previous 90 days. Facebook also keeps close track of where millions more non-members of the social network go on the Web, after they visit a Facebook web page for any reason.

“To do this, the company relies on tracking cookie technologies similar to the controversial systems used by Google, Adobe, Microsoft, Yahoo!, and others in the online advertising industry, says Arturo Bejar, Facebooks’ engineering director.”

Widespread Big Data Collection

The amount of data harvested by Facebook and other sites is jaw-dropping. As Bernard Marr put it in his February 8, 2014 SmartDataCollective blog post: “We as the users of Facebook happily feed their big data beast. We spend 10 billion Facebook messages per day, click the Like button 4.5 billion times and upload 350 million pictures each and every day. Overall, there are 17 billion location-tagged posts and a staggering 250 billion photos on Facebook.

“All this information means Facebook knows what we look like, who are friends are, what our views are on most things, when our birthday is, whether we are in a relationship or not, the location we are at, what we like and dislike, and much more. This is an awful lot of information (and power) in the hands of one commercial company.”

Facebook and Your Face

Facebook also has funded image processing and “facial recognition” software that essentially allows the site to track you anywhere you go. It knows what you and your friends look like based on the images you have voluntarily shared on its site. So it can search the web, all other Facebook profiles and other places to find photos of you and your friends.

That’s how Facebook can make “tag suggestions” when you post pictures of people on your account. But how that facial recognition software can be used is mind-blowing.

Could Facebook’s algorithm track your body shape? Can it analyze your vacation photos from the beach to determine that you have put on a little weight recently? Could this information cause them to place an ad for a local weight loss clinic on your feed? The possibilities are chilling.

Facebook and Your Feelings

But it doesn’t end there. One recent study conducted by Cambridge University in conjunction with Microsoft Research found that it’s possible to accurately predict a range of highly sensitive personal attributes just by looking at what you have “Liked” on Facebook.

These can include such things as your sexual orientation, satisfaction with life, intellect, emotional stability, religious beliefs, alcohol and drug consumption, relationship status, age, gender, race, political views, and much more.

And the things you “Like” on Facebook don’t have to do anything at all with any of these specific attributes. In some cases, a single “Like” is enough for the algorithm to generate a highly accurate description of you.

When most people look at Facebook, they don’t realize that Facebook is looking back at them even more intently.

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The Many Benefits of Guest Blogging to Internet Marketers

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In a little more than a decade, blogging has gone from being something only a few academics did to communicate with their peers about their latest research to one of the most popular forms of communication online.

There are now blogs on every imaginable topic and people all over the world are continually adding new blogs every day. It is estimated there currently are more than 42 million bloggers creating about half a million new posts per day. About 329 million people read blogs regularly, with about 25 billion pages read monthly.

Get Paid to Have Fun

Most bloggers write for fun, sharing their thoughts about their favorite topics with mostly family, friends and people who share their passion for their blog’s topic. But a growing number of bloggers are beginning to understand the moneymaking potential in blogging. And with a market of prospective customers that large, it’s not surprising.

If you already have a blog or have written a blog in the past, you know how much work it can be to come up with a regular supply of original content.

When A Hobby Turns into a Job

It can sometimes be challenging coming up with original ideas, monitoring what competing bloggers are writing about, and even finding the time to sit down and write your blog. If you have another job or family responsibilities, producing your own blog that is published every week – or worse yet, every day – can quickly become more than a time commitment than you intended.

If you want your readers to keep coming back, leave comments, interact with your blog content, and hopefully buy some of the products you are promoting, it’s essential that you continually provide them with rich, entertaining blog content. Even if you are a few times per week, that can cost a substantial time commitment.

No wonder about 65% of bloggers stop writing their blog on a regular schedule after less than a year.

Guest Blogging: A Better Option

Now there’s an easier way to use blogging to promote your products, make money and still entertain readers. It’s called guest blogging and it’s your key to a lucrative financial future in blogging without the huge investment of your time and creative energy that producing your own regular blog requires.

Guest blogging is when you periodically contribute original material to established blogs within your niche that are influential and have a lot of devoted followers. Guest blogging allows you to connect with a substantial readership but doesn’t require you to do any of the time-consuming content creation or maintenance tasks that come with publishing your own blog.

When you write guest blogs on other people’s blog pages, you also enjoy the benefit of communicating with a devoted, loyal group of regular readers, but you don’t have to go through the steps of developing them on your own.

All the Benefits, Fewer Hassles

With guest blogging, you can enjoy the benefits of blogging but without the downsides like constantly looking for new and interesting content, nurturing relationships with regular readers and working to build your subscribers list.

Plus, every time your guest blog invitation is accepted by another influential blogger, you have the opportunity to interact with a new and unique group of highly-targeted prospective customers. This means you can quickly expand the size and scope of your Internet marketing campaigns and build your online reputation.

Guest blogging is fast, easy and profitable. You can write guest blogs to make yourself wealthy and enjoy the benefits of blogging while reducing the effort.

Optimizing Your Email List Building

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Email today has become the equivalent of snail mail 10 years ago. You probably receive one or two things you actually use each day – mostly bills – and the rest goes right in the trash.

Still, until email disappears completely or takes on another form – which it ultimately will – you need to include email marketing as part of your overall marketing campaign.

Fortunately, there are literally hundreds of automated email sites that you can use. Some are free, others low-cost and still others are more expensive. But like anything else, you usually get what you pay for.

Beware of ‘Free’ List Building Software

There are a number of “free” list building programs that you can use. For most of them, in order to fully utilize their services you sooner or later will have to pay something.

Basically, the way they work is that you pay a fee and you “rent” a list of email addresses for a specified period of time. You can send out emails to these addresses and try to market your products. But this is a pretty random approach to marketing. Most of the people on these lists are online marketers themselves, so you probably aren’t going to get much of a response for your investment.

Paying for What You Get

You can buy paid advertising — such as banners and display ads on niche-related web pages – in order to attract customers who are already proven to be interested in the type of products and services you promote.

Facebook actually has a very good and affordable Facebook Ads program that does this all for you. It lets you search for Fan Pages and interest groups within Facebook for members who are already interested in your niche.

Targeting Customers on Twitter

There also are many strategies you can use on Twitter to find targeted customers. What you do is to find people you know are interested in your niche and then look at their lists of followers to find people with similar interests and with large groups of followers, then follow those people in the hopes they will follow you back.

Then you can search Twitter for tags for subjects related to your niche, then look for people to follow who have an interest in your niche. You always want to make sure they have a large list of followers so that when they friend you a lot of people can see your Tweets.

Twitter Marketing

Finally, after you have a lot of Twitter followers, you can market your products and services to them on a regular basis.

A word of warning, however: People who use Twitter tend to wary if they think you are just there to sell them something. It’s a social media site, after all, so don’t aggressively promote your products with every Tweet.

Instead, send out a lot of niche related material – such as tips, quotes, stories, and so on – and only promote products once in a while. This allows you to build relationships with your followers and eventually convert them into customers.

Article Writing and Distribution

Another way to build your list is to write articles related to your niche then submit them to article generators. Make sure your articles include links to your home page or squeeze page. Then when people follow these links you have the opportunity to capture their email address.

You also can leave links to you squeeze page on public forums, blogs, blog responses, and numerous other places. Once you get into the habit of leaving a link to your squeeze pages, you will see your list grow quickly, and it will be filling up with people who genuinely are interested in your products and services.

Creating an email list with these kinds of high-quality potential customers is much more worth your while than spending time and money chasing after a list of people who are going to give you a low quick-through rate.

Until email finally turns into something else – and it already is starting to do so – building email lists of potential customers will remain an important way to build your business.

At the very least, your competitors will be doing it, so you need to do it as well. But keep your eye on where people are going nowadays and focus more energy on places such as Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and LinkedIn.

5 Software Solutions for the Online Marketer

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Blogging software can be used to optimize blog content so that it can be found by the most potential customers.

Blogging is one of the fastest-growing ways to market products and services online today. It is easy to create fresh blog content and get it in front of highly-targeted prospects by using the free tools offered by Bloggr, WordPress and other free blogging platforms.

Blogging software includes programs that will actually create content for your blog and then measure its performance in the blogosphere.

Rapid advances in digital storage technology has driven down the price of smart phones, portable electronic tablets such as the iPad, high-powered laptops, eReaders and other devices.

As a result, blogging is seeing a huge boost in popularity, making it one of the most popular marketing platforms for many businesses today.

Blogging software also can make it easy to integrate your blogs with social media such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other sites. It usually does this by tracking mentions of your blog and even scheduling new posts according to a pre-determined schedule.

These social media sites are quite simply where consumers are today. Twitter, in particular, is quickly becoming the preferred way people communicate with each other.

Social Media Software Tools

Social media analytical tool software also can be used to see how social media marketing programs are working out.

Facebook and Twitter offer a lot of free analytical tools, but there are other free and paid software than can help you really dial down to see who is looking at your social media pages and Tweets so you can more effectively target potential customers using these hugely powerful marketing tools.

Lead Generation Software

Lead generation software is designed to help you find and develop new customers for your products and services. They are primarily aimed at turning your websites into places where visitors can get information quickly and promote visitor opt-in.

Among the most successful lead generation software are programs that quickly and effectively build landing pages where you can capture email addresses and other lead generation information.

Content management systems are software solutions that optimize your websites so that they attract the most leads and convert the most prospects into customers.

Split Testing Software

Lead generation software also can help you create A/B testing, or split testing. This is when you make small changes to your marketing programs and see what the impact on customer responses. This allows you to fine-tune your marketing operations to optimal efficiency by trying out different versions of your web pages to see which convert better.

Lead management software helps you organize your leads so that you can focus on the best customers first and to see what your prospects are doing once they land on your website. These types of programs track your lead activity and report back to you on what people are doing on your site.

Company Tracking

One type of lead management software is anonymous company tracking. These are programs that automatically see what companies are viewing your website even when they don’t fill out the opt-in form.

Another example of lead management software is lead intelligence programs. These generally give a full-lead history, including page views, form submissions and emails so that you can gain a better understanding of the prospect before making point of contact.

The final type of lead management software focuses on Customer Relations Management, or CRM. These kinds of systems improve the handling of customer data and allow you to merge a range of information traditionally held in separate databases – such as contact lists, sales leads, and after sales support histories – into one system. This can make it much easier for you to track centrally to all of your interactions with customers.

For example, CRM systems can integrate call logs, data from point-of-sale systems, and invoice and payment records making all relevant customer information available to you on demand.

The Top 3 Most Effective Free Marketing Strategies

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Promoting your website or online business doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg. In fact, most online marketing experts agree that the best approach to attracting the highest amount of traffic is a combination of both paid and free marketing techniques.

Here are three of the most effective free marketing strategies for driving new customers to your web pages.

Guest Blogging

One of the best free marketing options is to find blogs related to your niche and then contact the authors. Ask if they will allow you to write a guest blog. Because most bloggers eventually run out of ideas, in many cases they will agree.

When you provide an informative, well-written blog about your niche topic, you can build your reputation as an expert in your field and also include a link so that you can drive traffic to your website.

Build relationships with other bloggers by frequently leaving positive, supportive comments about their blog postings.

Even though there are millions of bloggers, the blogging community for each niche tends to be a small world. Getting acquainted with other bloggers can lead to testimonials, mutual support and cross-promotional opportunities.

Social Bookmarking

Social bookmarking lets you share sites you like with other people, such as friends, families, social media contacts and subscribers. If you have ever added a site to your “Favorites” bar on your Yahoo or Google page, you have used social bookmarking.

Some external sites use social bookmarking, including Pinterest, Digg, StumbleUpon, Reddit and BuzzFeed.

When users of these sites find something they like — such as an article, a web page, an infographic, an image or video, etc. – they can instantly upload it onto their social media accounts such as Facebook and Twitter so their followers can see it.

To promote your website using social bookmarking, create accounts at all the biggest social bookmarking sites and post links to your website, along with other things that you find on the internet that you enjoy. Then when people find your page, they can access your site.

Encourage visitors to your website to include it among their social bookmarking pages. The easiest way to do this is to include buttons on your site that instantly share your link on their pages.

If you built your website using WordPress or another mainstream blog hosting site, there are free plug-ins that you can drag and drop onto your pages to add these buttons.

E-mail marketing

Email marketing has been one of the most effective ways internet marketers have used to promote their websites. Create a webpage in which you offer something of value in exchange for the visitor’s email address. It could be a free report, an eBook, an instructional video, or anything niche-related that people are going to want.

Email addresses that you capture are then added to your subscription list. You then use an autoresponder – a program that allows you to automatically manage your email lists – to send out a series of emails promoting your webpage, business or products.

Emails can be interspersed with those that don’t try to sell at all, but instead offer high-value content that the recipient can use. The purpose of alternating sales emails with content emails is to build trust bonds with the people on your email list.

Use your email sequence to promote a single offer or multiple offers. Many email marketing strategies promote a series of increasingly more expensive offers so that you can convince your list to buy bigger and more products from you as the trust bonds become stronger.

Drawbacks of Email Marketing

Sadly, email marketing is not as effective as it once was because users today, especially younger people, don’t rely as much on email.

Texting has replaced email as the primary web-based method of communicating with other users. As a result, mobile marketing has replaced email marketing as the best way to promote your business online.

But the concepts of mobile marketing are identical to email marketing. You still capture your subscribers’ addresses – only this time it’s their mobile phone number rather than their email address – in exchange for something that they find valuable, such as a free giveaway or a discount or special offer.

Use a program to send out a series of text messages that alternately promote your business and give them high-value content they can use.

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What to Expect When Applying to CPA Networks

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To weed out newbies and scammers, nearly all legitimate CPA network has an application process. All CPA network online application forms are pretty much the same because they all are using the same criteria in order to determine if applicants should be allowed to join or not.

What You Will Need

Here’s the primary information they will ask you for:

Personal Information – This includes your name, mailing address, phone number, email address, and so on.

Tax ID Number – If you are incorporated as a business, you will be given a Tax ID Number. If you are an individual, your Social Security number is, in effect, your Tax ID number. If you aren’t a US citizen and don’t have a SS#, you can just fill in zeroes and when you call them explain that you are doing business from a country outside the US. This won’t disqualify you: CPA networks always have tons of non-US affiliates. The procedure will then depend on the network.

Website – If you have a website that you are going to use to promote the CPA networks’ advertisers, you should list it here. If you don’t currently have a website or are planning on setting up individual websites for each offer, you can leave this blank or just put something like will-discuss-in-phone-interview.com or http://www.LandingPageIsOfferSpecific.com and they usually can figure it out.

Experience – What internet marketing experience you have. Don’t lie or exaggerate. If you are an absolute beginner, simply tell them you are looking to get started in Internet marketing and discuss the plans you have to promote their offers in as much detail as you can.

Your Plan – How you plan on promoting their offers. Explain as briefly as possible how you typically promote affiliate offers (PPC, SEO, and so on).

How to Get Past the Telephone Screening

Some CPA networks don’t phone screen their applicants at all. You probably are going to want to stay away from these CPA networks because if they are letting everybody in the door they probably don’t have a great client list.

Once you have been through the first phone screening, they are all pretty much the same. Typically, they only last about a two or three minutes and the screener will ask two or three questions.

Basically, they are trying to determine if you are on the up and up and not a scammer or newbie. Here are some typical questions you can expect:

How much traffic do you anticipate generating?

How much do you spend daily/weekly/monthly?

How did you hear about our network?

How long have you been promoting CPA offers?

How do you plan on promoting the offers?

Do you belong to any other networks? If so, which ones?

What kind of offers do you like?

What niche of offers are you interested in?

If it helps you, try writing out your answers to these questions and practice answering them out loud before your first phone screen. Try to sound as confident and experienced as possible.

While phone screen can be intimidating at first, after a few they become second nature and you will have nothing to worry about.

Calling the CPA Network First

Sometimes you can avoid the phone screen altogether if you contact the CPA network after your submit your application but before they call you. Many CPA networks’ home page will have a telephone number listed under their “Contact Us” tab. If not, try running an Internet search. Or you can simply send them an email.

If you reach them, ask to speak to the person in charge of the affiliate applications. Once you reach that person, introduce yourself by name and explain that you have just submitted your application and are interested to know how long the approval process takes or if there is any additional information you can provide.

A lot of affiliate marketers won’t take this step, but they absolutely should because it indicates to the CPA network that you are ambitious and serious about promoting their clients.

Plus, developing a relationship with somebody at the CPA network is helpful later on when you are doing business with them especially you are having problems or issues, which can sometimes happen. It’s always nice to have a name you can call on the inside.

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The Future of Google Search Engine Rankings

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Because everyone is now plugged into the Internet, the way people communicate with each other is faster than ever.

Texting is immediate. Using a social signal to indicate preference is quicker than word of mouth. This type of instant approval has had a profound impact on online marketing. It has killed backlink marketing and put email marketing on life support.

Today’s Internet users – especially younger users – process shorter burst of information more quickly and tend to have much shorter attention spans. As technology improves and speeds get even faster, this trend will only continue in the future.

Backlink Overkill

While backlinks are still helpful in building your sites rankings – especially when they come from authoritative or expert sites – they are aren’t nearly as important as they once were. A decade ago, the number of backlinks a site had was the primary measure of its relevance to Google search engines.

But unethical web users effectively ruined this for everybody by creating commercial and black-hat SEO methods that artificially increased the number of backlinks a particular site had. Google’s Panda and Penguin updates to its search engine algorithm at the beginning of this decade were designed to counteract these inorganic SEO techniques.

Social Approval Signals

After backlinks essentially became corrupted, Google’s search engine development team turned to social approval signals as a more natural, organic way of measuring a web page’s popularity.

While there are still plenty of black hat methods people use to artificially inflate the amount of social signals a site receives – such as creating fake Facebook pages or purchasing “Likes” or “+1s” on Fiverr.com – Google’s search engine is better equipped to detect bot-produced Tweets and other phony social media recommendations.

It also gives more weight to social signals from those social media users who are the most active and who have the largest social networks.

A website’s page ranking now depends on its ability to get visitors to “vote” for the site by promoting it on their social media pages or to their social media contacts. As a result, it’s critical that web page owners make it as easy as possible for page visitors to share pages or give social approval signals.

You should always include buttons on your pages that allow visitors to instantly link them to their Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Plus accounts, as well as to social bookmarking sites such as Digg, Pinterest and StumbleUpon.

If you use WordPress or another popular page-creation site, you can use free drag-and-drop plug-ins to include these buttons on your website. Make sure you display them prominently near the top of the page so that visitors can click on them faster and more easily because not all visitors will scroll all the way to the bottom of your web page.

Google +

Recognizing how improvements to internet access have increased the importance of social media, Google is taking aim at Facebook and Twitter and is positioning Google Plus to be the premier social media site in the years to come.

Google+ has more applications to businesses as well as to individuals than most other social media platforms. It’s “Circles” method of grouping contacts lends itself easily to marketing toward specific groups of customers. And Google’s purchase of YouTube, the world’s most popular video sharing site, makes the company the web’s top provider of video, the fastest-growing content delivery format in the world.

While Facebook and Twitter continue to be important, your social media marketing programs in the coming years need to include Google+ because it is poised to be the most important social media site in the future.

Google has slowly and carefully rolled out its newest features and has yet to devote its full considerable resources to properly marketing the service. But Google+ has all the tools it needs to become the premier social media site on the internet.

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