Thursday, June 26, 2008

Cool or Creepy? Google Maps Street View

I was looking something up on Google Maps the other day.

This is one of the great technological advancements that the ‘net has brought us. Think of it. Your friend invites you over to his house. He gives you an address, and starts to tell you the complicated directions to get you there. You stop him and say that you already know how to get there. How is this possible, as you’ve never been to his house? Well, while he was rambling, you were looking it up on Google Maps, and now you can see very clearly how to get there. You can print out the map and take it with you. You’re good to go!

Doing it is really simple. Once you’re at the address above, you simply enter a street address, or a city name, and the state or country. Click “Search the Map” and it’ll go right there, assuming where you’re going is actually on the map.

Once you’re at the map, you can zoom in and out using the scale in the upper left. You can navigate North, South, East, and West by either the buttons there, or by simply clicking in the middle of the map and moving it over. It’s a great tool for finding your way.

There are other cool features. One is a button for traffic, so you can see current traffic conditions on major roads and plan your route. Another is the terrain feature. I live in the midst of the Rocky Mountains, so that’s a kind of cool feature. A flip of another button and you’re looking at a satellite image, rather than a map. Zoom in on your house! Cool, huh?

Well, we just had our house built a couple of years ago, and the satellite map shows a hole in the ground with the foundation poured. A bit out of date, but we’ll allow them that.

But then it went from cool to a little bit creepy.

I clicked the button called “Street View”. This one gives you photographs of what you’ll see from the street. The pictures are taken by a set of cameras mounted on top of a car as it drives the streets of America.

Now, that’s all cool and fascinating if I want to do a virtual visit to New York, or Yellowstone National Park. But when I looked at my own house, it was a different story. No half-built empty foundation here. No, there was a picture of my completed home, with all of my flowers and landscaping in the front yard, and my son’s bicycle flopped there on the ground, right where he usually leaves it.

Suddenly it got really personal, and I’m not sure I’m comfortable with it.

And I’m not alone. A couple in Pennsylvania sued over it, claiming their privacy was violated. Others, not so benignly, have been photographed sunbathing in bikinis, or leaving adult bookstores, getting arrested, or even soliciting prostitutes.

The lawsuit hasn’t gotten them very far. Pictures of their home publicly available from the Allegheny County's Office of Property Assessments website anyway. In addition, Google hasn’t done anything illegal. They are on a public street when they take the pictures, and the pictures they take are the public view.

My big concern is that while, technically speaking, having a picture of my property available at some obscure corner of a county officers website is one thing. Having it be so easy to view at a site so trafficked as Google Maps is another. It kinda makes me look with suspicion at cars driving slowly down the street. At first, I would have just assumed it was the Home Owners Association yard police making sure my lawn was mowed and trim. Now it could be Google!

I’m just not sure I want it to be quite so available to the public!

Mark is the co-director of, the search marketing consulting arm of Clickincome ( Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Shampooing Your Website

Q: Why do computer programmers take such long showers?

A: “Apply, lather, rinse, repeat”

Of course, anyone who isn’t a programmer is probably (pardon the pun) scratching their heads over this one. Most of us, of course, realize that the “Repeat” part of this set of instructions is only applicable to the first time or two that you encounter it. Once you realize that your hair is clean, you don’t need to keep repeating, right? That’s just common sense, right?

In the world of the online business, however, I actually encounter people with the opposite problem. Rather than locking themselves in an endless loop of scrubbing their scalps raw, they seem to miss that last step when it comes to working their websites. In a word, they give up to early.

They can apply the shampoo, lather it up, rinse it out, but if it doesn’t show immediate results, they don’t bother to repeat it. It goes like this: I’ll teach someone about a promotional strategy, say, blogging. The idea is to find some blogs, read them, and post some relevant comments on them, thus creating some buzz and even a few linkbacks.

When I meet with them again, and I ask how that went, I hear, “Oh, yeah. Did that. It didn’t work. What a bust.”

You went out and found some blogs relevant to your audience?


And you posted comments..?

“Yep. Well, I found one. It was sorta relevant.”

And you posted a comment?

“Yeah. I just said I agreed with him.”

Did you find any other blogs?

“No, just the one. And it didn’t help. I checked my traffic. Didn’t bring a single click to my site.”

Can you see where I’m going here? The power of most of the strategies, especially in the social networking, web 2.0 is in persistence. Ongoing effort. To do something just once isn’t going to bring in any results, and certainly not enough to decide if anything is a go or a bust.

Let’s look it over.

  • Apply

First of all, you apply the strategy. Get the basics all set up. Find the blogs. Set up your own blog. Set up profile pages on social networking sites. Find some link exchange partners. Get the basics moving and prepared.

  • Lather

Start to work that strategy. Contact the owners of the other sites for link exchanging. Submit some articles, and write some blog entries. Leave some comments on other people’s blogs. Find some “friends” or contacts on the social networking sites.

  • Rinse

Take a step back and check your results. Are you starting to see any traffic? You might see some begin to drip in. Which ones are showing some action?

  • Repeat

This is the clincher. Do it all again. And again. As you keep up this process, you’ll start to see which efforts are bringing in the most results for your site. Just like everyone has different hair, everyone has a different site, and different approaches will work better or worse. Just ‘cause we want to keep repeating, though, doesn’t mean to keep working a particular strategy that isn’t bringing in any results. Focus more effort on another approach. But keep on repeating.

Maybe the programmers aren’t so silly after all.

Mark is the co-director of, the search marketing consulting arm of Clickincome ( Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Social Networking Resources

with help from John Newman

As I’ve been working and learning about all the many types of social networking sites on the net, and as I’ve been sharing that experience with others, I’ve been asked if it would be possible to compile a list of resources to use to explore.

Now, there are so many sites, it would be impossible to include them all. What my colleague and I have compiled here are some of the biggest and most well-known and used. In addition to all of the general ones, however, there are a lot of smaller ones that are about a specific subject area. I call them “Micro-networks”. I can’t begin to list them here because there are so many possible subjects. Go and Google and you shall find…

So, here they are, broken down into five basic categories. A note about the categories, too. You might disagree with the way I’ve set these up. You might think that one of them should be in this other category, or whatever. That’s fine. Many of them could easily crossover and be in multiple lists. Others contain features of multiple categories (MySpace, for example, really is a community, but it also has a blogging feature).

What do you do with this list? Dive in and explore it! Enjoy it! Discover the vast world of interactivity!

Blogging – These are sites to help you setup, maintain, and promote a blog. Some, like Blogger and LiveJournal are site primarily for creating and hosting blogs. Others, like Technorati and BlogCatalog are all about helping you to find good blogs. The “Ping” sites are those that help you to alert search engines and directories when you post a new blog entry.

Personal Publishing – Personal publishing is tough to define. In a lot of ways it could be like blogging, but it’s a bit different. It’s basically a place where you can share information about a topic and links to other sites and resources about that topic. You can share your knowledge, your ideas, your self with the world!

Social Bookmarking – These are places where you can show the world what you thing are other great sites. Help other people find good information, including your own websites!

Communities – Interact with people on the ‘net! Make friends, build a contact list, find your niche and your audience.

Micro-Blogging/Life Streaming – This is a way to interact with other people in a surprisingly immediate and direct way. Tell others what you’re doing at the very moment you type it. Adding something to your site? Tell your audience all about it. Find a great new resource? Share it with a tweat!

Mark is the co-director of, the search marketing consulting arm of Clickincome ( Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Everyone’s an Expert on Something

Social Networking, Part V

“You know everybody is ignorant, only on different subjects.” (Will Rogers, New York Times Aug. 31 1924)

This has always been a favorite inspiring quote, in my mind. The idea is that no matter how much you know, or, how much you think you know, there’s always someone else who knows more about something else. This thought keeps us all humble.

The inverse of it is also true: “You know everybody is an expert, only on different subjects”. It’s this flip side that really gets me excited. I meet with a lot of people, helping them get their sites and their businesses started. Many of them aren’t sure what to do with their venture. They don’t feel like they have anything they’re really good at, or passionate about. With a little bit of conversation and personal reflection, they almost always find something that they know about, that moves them.

Part of it comes from the idea that we have to have some kind of credentials to be an “expert”. All you need is life experience. If what you’ve learned in your life can be applied to someone else’s life and make it better, then you are an expert on that thing. That’s all you need to know. You can even be a bad example and a good teacher at the same time. Read Steven Covey’s “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, and you’ll see that easily 75% of the examples he uses in the book are of his own failure to live his own seven habits. This is not “Do as I say, not as I do”, this is “See? Look at the mistake I made, and let’s all learn from it!” Still, there are few that would say he didn’t qualify as an expert.

There is one social networking site built on the notion that “Everyone’s an Expert on Something!” They allow you to set up a site to show just that. This is Squidoo is one of the “Social Bookmarking” type of sites that we mentioned last time. It’s a place for you to share your favorite sites and resources about a topic, by creating a “lens” site. I think it’s called a lens because you look through it to see a topic more closely. Here’s how to use Squidoo:

  1. Choose a topic

First of all, you want to select the topic of your lens page, and make it focus on something that both relates to your website and products, as well as relates to your audience. If your site sells tents and sleeping bags, your lens could be about camping and campsites. If your audience is senior citizens, and your site is about retirement planning, your lens could be about Medicaid or other financial issues relating to the over 50 set.

  1. Sign up and make your first lens

Go to, and register. In the process, you’ll be creating your first lens page. There are a lot of elements you can include on your page. The two most important ones are text and links. You’ll need text to include a lot of keywords, and links so that you can send people back to your website. Once the basic lens page is completed, add some content to it, so that there’s some substance there.

  1. Add links to it

A squidoo lens is all about linking. Start out by linking to any site you have that relates to the audience and the theme of the lens. Obviously your own website main page should be at the top of this list. Add links to the content pages in your site as well.

Then, go out and find other sites to add to the links section. Think: “What resources would my audience like to see?” If you include these resources in your lens, the site becomes more valuable to your audience, and they’re more likely to click through it.

  1. Spread the love

Once you’ve linked to someone else, contact them (usually via email) and tell them! They’ll be pleased that you thought their content was valuable enough to include on your site. They might even link back to your lens or your site as a result!

  1. Find other lenses and lensmakers, encourage linking

Finally, friend up with other relevant lensmakers, and encourage cross-linking of both lenses and sites. Keep adding more resources. And I don’t just mean straight links. Add YouTube videos, or blog feeds. Anything that will increase the value of your lens, and so indirectly, your website.

Remember that it’s this interconnectedness that drives the ‘net, the search engines, and eventually, all of e-commerce.

Take it from an expert! ;-)

Mark is the co-director of, the search marketing consulting arm of Clickincome ( Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.