Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Twitter Gets To Me: An Offline Manifesto

With this post, I am outing myself as a Twitter heretic. I officially am sick of Twitter. From curious, to experimenting, to diving in, to just sick of it in the course of three short weeks.


Well, it might feel hypocritical coming from Your Google Guy, but I'll get to it, if you have the patience to read more than 140 characters.

Basically, after 20+ years of being online, having emailed and IM'ed (at IBM, all done on mainframes, before the Internet - it was called PROFS) for most of it, I can see the course of Twitter. I think it represents a nuclear arms race of online ubiquity. It is a quantum leap in the race to be constantly online, and become a persona, rather than a person.

Perhaps I should say that this is not a new concept, really. For years, videogamers have fallen to this weakness. Especially those in such social and all-encompassing games like EverQuest (aka EverCrack) and World of Warcraft (WOW) and the text-based games that preceded them, fully jumping into a virtual world was not unusual. I had an ex-girlfriend who (after we broke up) spent months arranging her "online marriage" to some German guy in EverQuest (this was 1998 or so).

But to this point, those sucked into that life were the computer people to start with. People who maybe didn't have the best social skills or social standing. The strange thing now is watching the business-people do it.

My experience with Twitter thus far has been like being at a Multi-Level-Marketing expo! Everyone has a booth! Or is selling! Or is buying! Or is promoting their business of coaching you on how to sell or buy! Follow me! Then I'll follow you! Then we can race to see how many followers we can get! Oy vey. (I say this, admitting my attempts at Twitter have been based around extending the Your Google Guy brand, and my Nice Guy counseling biz). It's like a gold-rush where everyone is selling picks and pans, and I have yet to see the gold.

The second agenda of Twitter seems to be the cleverness contest. Look how smart I am! Ugh, I get really sick of this too. I guess I see that true friendship, true relationship-building, is *not* what I see going on on Twitter. (I contrast this to Facebook, but I keep Facebook as an extension of people I know/have known in the physical plane).

Twitter makes me ponder ideas like how much information we can take in? as well as how many relationships we can simultaneously handle?  This amazing story from The Economist says we have an internal mental limit at 148 "friends". It's called the Dunbar number. But even with 148 Facebook "friends" they found people only really connect with (keep up with) 7-10 of them.

On Twitter, people are reaching for "followers" in the thousands. I repeat, THOUSANDS. There are of course new tools springing up to help you manage all the followers, and all the "tweets". Ugh. I truly believe Twitter will collapse under its own weight, a victim of its own success. When are all "friends" of everyone, it will be cacophony. The other option is an intermediary layer. A filter. Someone to separate wheat from chaff and help you decide what to attend to. This is no different than a newscaster/reporter/blogger, folks. And thus we re-invent the wheel.

I know I was just blogging about Twitter optimistically a few days ago. But as I get around the Twitter culture, I've gotten disturbed. Oh yeah, and the culture says you are a jerk (my nicer word for a word that begins with an "A") if someone follows you and you don't follow back. There are now online social-media consultants. I guess this should be expected. Hell, I do SEO, and that's what, five years old at most? I shouldn't throw stones. But to me, all this has always been to try to create more non-virtual relationships. To see more people in my counseling office, and for you to too. To keep in touch with people I have known in all 5 senses.

I'm not sure what all is driving this in me. It may be the arrival of our baby, now some 3 1/2 months old. It's an extremely visceral and sensory experience with a baby. Drool and warmth and spit-up and poop and skin and rocking and cooing. I've always been an Attachment guy, and I am experiencing it as it is created in a little person right in front of me. It also could be the feeling of pressure in me to keep up with the unending flow of new Tweets and tools and direct messages. I've survived the pressure email, MySpace, texting and Facebook so far, but nothing like the snowball that is Twitter. I come in, sit down at my PC, and am 10 feet away from my lovely wife as she is emailing too. We are close but not connected. It is disturbing to me as a marriage counselor, and as a human being.

Some years ago, when I was at IBM, I saw Clifford Stoll speak - he was a guy who famously tracked down a hacker in Germany, and his talk was rousing for us techies (he wrote a book about it called The Cuckoo's Egg). Later he changed his position on technology and the Internet, and wrote a book called Silicon Snake Oil - in which he extolled the virtues of the physical, slow, face-to-face world over the virtual. I believe he too was strongly influenced in this new position by becoming a father.

So, as someone who has seen tech fads come and go (I worked for a dot-bomb, sorry, dot-com here in Seattle, and that's just one of many things that have lit up the tech sky like a shooting star) I think all the heat here may burn out.

If you want to help your search engine rankings by starting an account, go right ahead. Want to try to drive traffic to your blog, Twitter when you post. If you have something national to sell, yup, dive in. But for the local therapist, I think Twitter is not going to be much of a business tool for you. 

I shall now don my bullet-proof vest, as the Twitter-holics find me an take aim.

Best, Your Google Guy

Monday, March 30, 2009

Splash Page = Bad News

Hi folks,

Just a quick note. I did an initial consult today with an academic admissions counselor for possible Adwords work. His site is pretty, but there was a rub - he has a splash page.

A splash page is a home page or landing page that has no real content on it - it's just a good-looking image (be that Flash, or a static image). It's the more modern version of the old sites that said "Click Here to Enter" (ugh I hated those!).

The problem with splash pages is two-fold: 1) no/low information, and 2) any information is not machine-readable.

I explained to the site owner that if we pointed Google Adwords to his home page, it would quickly judge it not be relevant, and would punish him greatly (via a "Poor" Quality Score).

This same advice goes to those of you doing DIY SEO.

OK, that's it for today! Best, Peter

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Twitter Part 2: Choosing a Use, and Choosing a Username

OK, folks, these are going to be free lessons that I have learned the hard way (so don't ding me for hypocrisy) on two fundamental issues of Twitter. How you choose to use it, and the username you choose. The two are linked.

First and foremost, its use. I have chosen, and would advise others, to use Twitter as a business tool. To be your business-self while on it. To think of it that way - as a business mini-blog. This means, since I assume you are a therapist like me and like some boundaries and privacy, that you don't twitter your personal matters on it (that great date you had, the annoying client you had, etc. etc.).

I would contrast this to Facebook. I made a decision at one point to make Facebook a business-free zone. Since I work with a lot of therapists, I actually had to de-friend some people (there was some sadness on both sides about this, but it felt like a good move). Facebook is built to allow privacy, and really is not a great business resource (for therapists, at this point), and I think we therapists need a place where we can be silly and stupid and just people and not have to watch what we say/think/post.

OK, back off my soapbox. Since Twitter is going to be business tool, I suggest you pick a username that is either 1) your name (Peter Hannah), or 2) your service + your city (SeattleTherapist). I established my username before I had figured out how I was going to use Twitter. Don't make my mistake. But do realize that Google is now adding Twitter into it's search engine results. For instance, go search Google for gratefulguy. Guess what's the first entry? Moi.

Oh yeah, and to show the power of this thing - guess where I first found out about this new (it's quite new) Google/Twitter thing? From http://twitter.com/jeanlucr @jeanlucr on Twitter. Here's the actual news item - http://news.cnet.com/8301-17939_109-10203095-2.html

Best, Peter

When Bad Adwords Strike!

OK, folks, I just sometimes see web marketing done badly and it ticks me off. And I want to save you from it. Of course I'd love you to use my services, but even more, I'd love you to use me or someone else good, not crappy services. Too many therapists pay too much money for bad web marketing services!

Today, it is DexKnows that has my goat. I've seen their ads up before - horribly written, crazy long and ugly domain names. I saw one of these the other night, while Googling "seattle counseling" (I do my own competitive analysis quite often).

I found it again today (actually when I first saw it, the headline just said "counseling". For those not familiar with my area, Seattle is a good hour plus drive from Olympia and Lacey. The URL just looked weird, so I did my usual (I visited it, but didn't click on the ad and cost them $, that would just be rude). Where did I end up? Take a look for yourself.

Ah yes, a DexKnows page. The silly thing about these DexKnows pages is that most of the people have good websites already. This Marston center has a very nicely done website. I think they really get who they are across in it, in a quick manner. But for some dumb reason, their Adwords $ gets you to a yellow pages ad. Ugh.

OK, my spleen is vented. Time for some coffee.

Best to you, Your Google Guy

Always Check For Cross-Browser Compatibility

Hi folks,

A tired, but always learning (or in this case, remembering) Google Guy, here with your handy note of the day.

When re-designing your website (as I am currently doing with YourGoogleGuy - new one scheduled to drop on 4/1 - no kidding), always check it on multiple browsers before you go live.

In order, the big browsers you need to check are Microsoft's Internet Explorer (MSN IE, or just IE), Mozilla Firefox, and finally Apple's Safari and Google's Chrome (the last two have much smaller pieces of the market).

I was lazily checking my work on Firefox and it all looked fine. Went over to Chrome tonight and half the menu disappeared. Zoinks! Things like that happen. You'll want to check on layout, fonts (especially if you designed it on a Mac - gorgeous fonts installed on Macs will often look like poop when seen on PCs), and the execution of Javascript and such.

OK, back to the web saltmine. I know you are dying for Twitter Part 2, but this was on my mind.

Best, Peter

Friday, March 20, 2009

A Therapist's Basic Guide to Twitter - Part One, What is Twitter?

TGIF fellow therapists,

If you have not been hearing about Twitter lately, then you must be living under a rock. Twitter is definitely a hot topic right now, and is growing at an insane rate. So, what is this thing, and why would a therapist in private practice care? Well, let's start simple.

Twitter can most accurately be described as a micro-blog. As a Twitter user, you post updates of up to 140 characters. Reading different Twitter users, you'll see that the posts range from small personal news (what restaurant they are at, what band they are seeing) to online news articles or websites that they found interesting and wanted to share. 

It really brings together aspects of Facebook's status update, and the editorial filtering/spinning of blogs. The difference between it and Facebook is that any user can see your postings (unless you lock down privacy options), and people can search on keywords and see previous posts of yours. So this is more public, like a blog. Also, just as in both Facebook and a blog, people "follow" people they find interesting (so that they see their posts automatically).

Like a blog, the posting of links is definitely part of the culture. People are culling the web for you, and saying "take a look at this". All in short little posts called "tweets".

To see an example of a Twitter account and tweets, take a look at my Twitter page - serving both my counseling and web consulting businesses.

In my next posts, I'll get into how I think you can use a Twitter account for your business, and some of the finer details of this medium.

On to the weekend! Best, Peter

Ah, How Refreshing (For Your Website)

Howdy everyone,

The Goo-Gaa baby is asleep on the couch, giving me a chance to catch up on some stuff. Wanted to post based on some thoughts from a website consult I did earlier today.

Basically, I was looking at a website that had been designed some years back. It's age was showing. To a visitor, they would likely not be able to tell why this, but I think they would either feels its age on a conscious or unconscious level, and this would negatively impact the website owner's chance of getting a client out of it.

To a webdesigner, the age of the site was apparent, in several ways. The font was one used quite often in the 90's but rarely anymore. The photo was black & white, and not sharply focused. The banner and menu graphics were not crisp.

I point this out because your website might need a refresher, and you might be able to do it without doing a full re-design (I know money is tight for many out there).

What kind of things can you do to refresh a site?

1) Change the text font to a new font-face, size and/or color. I might suggest trying Verdana or Tahoma, especially if you are currently using a serifed font.

2) Change how links appear. Make them bold, or non-underlined, or something other than a bright-blue.

3) Post a new photo, a sharp, big, color photo. Even non-web people notice hair, make-up, clothing and glasses that are dated.

4) Just change the banner. Seriously, you'd be amazed how much difference that can be.

5) Update your darn COPYRIGHT notice to 2009!

6) Update any "I've been doing this x years" to be the right # of years.

The sense that your website is well-kept will be a turn-on to potential clients. I've heard the saying "Never go to a therapist who has dead plants", and while I don't think a bad website reflects on one's quality as a therapist, I think it will impact your business success.

All the best! Peter

Monday, March 16, 2009

Don't Call Yourself Something You Are Not

So I just got a worried message from a Google Adwords client. She's a psychotherapist.

Apparently a psychologist friend of hers is part of the state association and they are going to try to take legal action against non-psychologists who advertise against the keyword "psychologist" on Google. Mind you, I don't think the ad is mentioning psychologist anywhere, it's just showing for that search.

Hmmmmmm, I think. This is not something I tend to do with my clients - I don't believe we should advertise when people are looking for something that we aren't. But I do think legal action is bit of a stretch, though. But maybe that's just my spiritual beliefs coming through (being for something, and against nothing).

Ah well, nothing I need to worry about at midnight on a Monday. But something to keep in mind for all you out there if you've got this going on.

Reminds me of a guy out here in Seattle who had a witch-hunt against people using MA ABS on their sites (ABS = Applied Behavioral Science). But that is a story best left in the past.

I hope this finds you well, yours, Your Google Guy

PS - if you ever use dynamic keyword insertion, this kind of thing could be sticky, though.