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Helping in Houston

flood relief for houston

ong>When we found out some of Joseph’s friends in Houston were stranded in their homes, he had to help.

See Joseph featured on Fox 5 Vegas here:

 

On Monday evening Joseph arrived at the nearest working airport, picked up a Jeep and a boat from a friend, and made the drive to Houston.  He joined the caravan of relief workers, military, and concerned citizens pouring into the area to offer assistance.

The streets are still flooded, and many people have been trapped for over 48 hours. Some haven’t had any food in a full day.

At this point, Joseph is bringing food and water to the recently rescued, and picking up stranded individuals and families where possible.

If you want to help Joseph deliver water, we set up a GoFundMe campaign here: https://www.gofundme.com/clean-water-for-texas   Your donation will be used to buy water and food and used IMMEDIATELY to help somebody.  Any extra donations after Joseph has to leave the area to return home will be sent to the Red Cross or another reputable charity helping in Houston.

As always, thanks to our amazing clients who make everything possible.

We will keep this post updated periodically with photos and any updates on Joseph’s situation.

The road became a boat ramp. Some of the recent evacuees haven’t eaten in 24 hours.
On the road into Houston. Lots of rescue vehicles and military vehicles sharing the road.

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What Does the LinkedIn / hiQ Ruling Mean For Web Scrapers?

HiQ has a business model that relies on scraping massive amounts of data from public LinkedIn profiles. It then sells that data to employers who might want to know if they have people who are actively looking for other jobs, for example.

But LinkedIn doesn’t like that idea. So it argued that HiQ was breaking the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of… 1986.

Yes, 1986. When the internet didn’t exist.

The law

The CFAA is pretty clear on what’s illegal.  Basically, if you get access without permission, or “exceeds authorized access” to obtain information from a protected computer.  The CFAA was enacted by congress in the days when hacking was the big new scary threat.  But does it still work in the internet age?

Well broadly, yes.  The CFAA has been cited multiple times and enforced against people gaining information from web servers, including Facebook. However, Judge Chen astutely notes that those were instances where the defendants were accessing data protected by passwords.

Chen then agrees that if the data being accessed is literally made public by the website and user, then the CFAA doesn’t apply.

Chen further asserts that if the CFAA were allowed to apply to publicly viewable data it would potentially allow websites to “weaponize… criminal sanctions” against any user they wanted to.

Robots.txt and user agreements

Interestingly, though it wasn’t the focus of Chen’s order, the ruling seems to indicate that neither the robots.txt file, nor IP blocking, nor the User Agreement are sufficient to prevent data scraping of public information.

Of course, one need not have a profile on LinkedIn to access the public profiles on the site. This is pretty important because if a site hid profile information until you signed up as a user yourself (as many forums do) then the whole ruling might have been different.

What does it mean for scrapers?

If you do anything in SEO, you’ve probably done at least some data scraping. Even if it’s just a simple crawl with screaming frog, or a full-on extraction tool you wrote yourself, getting key data off of big sites is essential to doing our work.

But if the site’s robots.txt blocks your scraper… can you keep going anyway?

Look, I’m not a lawyer, so I will not give you legal advice on your situation. But here’s what the recent ruling seems to be indicating for us:

  1. Public facing data is really public… for now.  (keep watching, this has the potential to go to the supreme court)
  2. Any data protected by password or requiring you to agree to terms or conditions is probably NOT public and if you try to scrape it you might be subject to criminal charges.
  3. If a site blocks your IP, or robot in robots.txt, that does not make the data on their site less public.
  4. The CFAA was written before the internet existed and, according to Judge Chen, doesn’t apply unless you either obtain access without authorization, or used authorized access improperly.

You can still get sued

Here’s something that most people don’t realize about our legal system.  Even if you’re in the right, even if you are doing everything you should be doing, you can still get sued.

An open and accessible legal system that allows every citizen fair access to justice must also deal with madmen and corporate brutes who want to use the system as a hammer to punish others. It’s the reality of the world we live in.

That means no matter how careful you are, if somebody wants to try and sue you, they can. Protect yourself by being as reasonable and fair as possible.  Don’t break terms and conditions. Keep scrapes slow. Don’t try to access data improperly.

We SEOs have some really cool tools available to us, but with great power comes great… caution. We have a duty to be responsible in how we interact with data and websites. Be smart, be informed, and be responsible in how you interact with the data of others.

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Content without SEO

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We take on clients all the time who have been throwing their content down the bottomless well that is the Internet. They’re frustrated because they’ve been producing original content consistently, but it’s failing to yield the leads that content marketing articles have told them would emerge if they just followed the “content is king” strategy.

What we find is that many of these businesses have failed to develop a content distribution strategy to accompany all the blogging. Without it, your content is like an empty promise.

Fulfilling the Promise of Your Content

Did you know there are 400 hours of content uploaded to YouTube every minute? There are another 2.7 million WordPress posts every single day. Without a distribution strategy, your content will get lost in all this noise.

The first step toward developing a content distribution strategy is to determine if you’re sending the right content out into the world. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Have you conducted keyword research geared around understanding your audience?
  • Have you worked those keywords into the content in ways that avoid stuffing, but speak to your audience in a meaningful way?
  • Have you tried A/B testing your content conversions to see what’s intriguing to your audience?
  • Have you created video to accompany your written content – and then created YouTube ads to promote them?
  • Are you using downloadable content to gather good, qualified leads?

Once you’ve done all you can to make good content – better – then it’s time to look at a few techniques to help promote it.

Three Ideas for Using Paid Media to Promote Your Content

You can’t just use organic strategies to fulfill your content strategy. We recommend using paid media to improve the results. Creating solid engaging content, and using email to distribute it is simply a good start. But you should also consider some pay-to-play options that will enhance your efforts. Here are some ideas:

  • Doubling up on a search term will give you more bang for the buck. You can use long-tail SEO, keywords, but also create a paid advertisement for the same keyword to be the king of the search engine results page (SERP).
  • Use Gmail advertising. Gmail has more than one billion active users every single month. Gmail ads are easy to set up, fairly low cost, but with amazing reach. You can even target your competitors’ emails with your ads. Sneaky, right?
  • Remarketing gives you a chance to continue to reach potential customers by staying in front of them until they are ready to buy from you. HubSpot says end users are 15% more willing to engage with a remarketing ad instead of a new one. Use remarketing if an end user leaves a filled cart on your ecommerce site. You can send them a remarketing ad with 10% off. If they bounce from the site, send them a remarketing ad with a new call to action. You can use this if someone clicks through and starts to fill out a form but doesn’t complete it, try revisiting their CTA with remarketing.

If you couple great content with these suggestions, you will start to flip the balance between throwing your content down an empty hole, and using it to fully convert “looky loo’s” into loyal customers.

If you’d like some more SEO tips, check out The Little Book on Digital Marketing.

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SEO in

doesn’t the “S” in SEO stand for “strategy?”

I’ve been musing lately that maybe it should.

That’s because I often see businesses separating SEO from the rest of their marketing planning and implementation processes.

But one without the other will impede your efforts to attract new business.

I suppose this is the natural result of SEO experts not being trained as marketers and vise versa. But the reality is that search engine optimization is marketing – and if you do it properly, the results will rival or exceed any other marketing channel.

SEO is Strategic Marketing

If marketing doesn’t go hand-in-hand with your push to improve SEO rankings, it’s like a bicycle with only one pedal. You won’t go nearly as far or as fast without the entire set of tools under your feet.

Too often I think we operate our marketing efforts in silos, and I’m not just talking about the Grand Canyon-sized gap between SEO and marketing. It happens when large enterprise organizations fail to connect user engagement across all marketing channels.

My point is the best and most effecting marketing brings together all of these pieces into one integrated, streamlined, and intelligent strategic plan.

Marketing 101 – with SEO

MindTools reminds us that marketing puts the right product in the right place for the right price and at the right time. Classic marketing 101, right? But how does SEO incorporate into this theory?

  • Product
    SEO ensures that your product (or service) will stay in the forefront of the client’s mind when they’re ready to buy. Knowing your customer means knowing how your product fulfills a fundamental need that they have. Attracting customers by using SEO means picking out the right keywords to promote these fundamental needs.
  • Place
    In marketing, optimizing advertising dollars means spending in the right channels. That’s why SEO is so important. If your business comes up first in a search, two things are true:
    The time is right — the user is considering a purchase.
    2. You are in the right place at the right time.
    We already know that people do online research before they buy. That’s what makes SEO an important first link in the marketing chain.
  • Price
    Price ties into value, which ties into understanding what your customers are willing to pay. SEO marketing strategy should include discussion of what keywords or meta descriptions will show value in a search, and how those phrases could be repeated throughout your promotional efforts across all marketing channels.
  • Promotion
    Promotion is all about carving out a market niche by describing product elements that your customers value. This is exactly what the SEO process entails; you determine what keywords will resonate with your potential customers and then use them to improve rankings.

So, remember; the “S” in SEO does not stand for “silo.” No marketing technique should stand-alone. Incorporating SEO into your overall marketing strategy will give you much greater bang for your buck.

If you’d like to find out more about the ties between traditional marketing and SEO, check out The Little Book on Digital Marketing v1 and v2.