Search DC to White Light

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Telemarketing and a Little Lesson in SEO

"Hi.  My name's Margo.  I'm calling for Google to help put your business on Google's home page..."  So goes the prerecorded pitch from a telemarketer.
What's wrong with this?  Where to start!
First:  the prerecorded intro - that first makes me wait for it to click in then tells me, on its terms, what it's up to. But it gets worse (or if you're up for laughs, better.)  Read on.
Second:  If you decide you're interested or just nosing around, you press the digit as instructed and you're rolled to music on hold.  That's right, there's still not a live person.  You have to hold until they're ready for you.  Friends, that's just insulting.  Please ask yourself how you feel about someone being so bold as to send a prerecorded rather than live message and then asks you to press a number for more and then, puts you on hold to wait for them.
Here's a recommendation.  When it's a search engine-related telemarketer, wait it out.  Have some fun.  My last one went something like this:
(Wait, wait, wait wait then...)
"Hello, My name is Margo and thanks for letting me help put your business at the top of Google."
"You're going to help me?  Great.  What does that mean?"
"When people search for you, you'll come up first."
"Well, of course, if they're searching for ME, why wouldn't I come up first?"
(Deriding laughter then...)  No, your business.  When they search for your business they see your name first."
"Ohhhhh.  So how would you do that?"
"We have ways of ensuring that when someone searches for you, you are represented on Google's first page.  And let me add, Bing and Yahoo, too."
Now's where the real fun starts.  "Well do you optimize for certain search words?"
Then she says, "What do you mean?"
And I reply, "Keywords.  Do you plan on using certain keywords?"
"Oh.  Yes."
"Do I get to give them to you?"
Pause.  "Uh, Yes, of course.  And we'll help you choose them"
"Cool.  Well, uh, for your company - what words would be for your company?"
"Let's talk about your company.  First the company name.  And then maybe words related to what
you do."
"Oh.  Like you do search engine optimization.  OK.  Hang on.  Let me punch that in." 
Then enter it into a Google search box.  Surprise.  Nada.
Back on the phone, "Hmmmm.  When I do that, I don't see your name.  Not on page one or page two.  Nope.  Not even page 3.  Hang on.  Let me use my search engine assistant..."
So, with a chuckle, I reward myself with a snack for at least keeping them from harrassing a few people while I tied them up.
Fact is, with search engine optimization, if you can't do a search on your company name and come up with a first-page rendering, something is severely wrong.  I mean, really.  You may have been blacklisted or otherwise penalized for some real or imagined infringement of Google [or Bing or whatever] rules.  So really, you don't need any help getting that on the first search page.  And any company that can't put themselves above page 4 on Google - I'd say page one, but there are so many SEO's and somewhere along the line, they'll trade places - needs to be ignored.
I will say that we do it as a service in site design, but we also have an SEO specialist that we bring on when it gets down to the short strokes.
Quick hints:
Search engine crawlers don't know what's in a graphic.  Mention your company name, what you do, a great sale, the crawler doesn't give a hoot about it.  Imagine the crawler knocking at the door of your site and asking, "Who are you?"  You want to answer them with pictures but they don't speak graphic.
So, sure, use graphics.  Make your site as beautiful as you want.  But make sure that the same information is in HTML, too.  And use the ALT tags.  Construct a good balance of what you do and how you do it and what you're selling on the home page.  Wanna use a splash page?  Knock yourself out.  You can revel it its simple beauty...and you'll have plenty of time for that because that splash page may well reduce the number of visitors by lowering your search ranking.
But if beauty is your sole goal, go for it.
Download and use a keyword analyzer.  You can look at your page(s) and see what words pop.  You'd be surprised how many times you stand back and look at it and realize that a lot of the words don't relate to what you do.  "Waste, waste, waste!" - General Bradford Steele, three "e's , not all in a row, M*A*S*H.  You wind up higher in ranking with people not actually looking for your services and lower with those who do.
Inbound links are still key.  But be careful.  That's another one many telemarketing SEO offerings stress.  But they set you up with a number of links that are unrelated like a link to your hat shop site from a tree-trimming service in Omaha.  That can help in the short term.  Then you get crawled a couple of times, the engine's database has been updated and, rats, down you go.
BTW, there are numerous programs for checking your ranking based on keyword searches.  Xenu is one.  You enter the words a prospect might use to search and it'll tell you what page you rank on with whatever search engine you request.  Do that before you engage any outside party for SEO help.
And a piece of general advice:  Eschew the telemarketing SEOs.  If you're tempted, ask them who they really are.  They'll probably tell you they're affiliated with Google or Bing.  But ask them what name is in the corner of their paycheck.  About that time, they hang up and move on to their next victim.  Celebrate.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Make Way for 4K

Ahhhh.  Fresh on the tail of the wildly successful* 3DTV push, 4K makes its way out of the laboratory and into the stores.
Ultra HD, which currently defines itself as "4K" for its approximately 4000 lines of resolution, is on the move.  The meaning?  Four times the resolution.  Wait.  1080 is 2K (its horizontal resolution being 1920 - about 2000 - lines)  So 2 to 4 should be double the resolution.  But, remember the resolution is doubled vertically, too. There's that nasty square law.
That's OK.  It's a good thing.  Increasing in one dimension only usually leads to a strange looking picture.  Doubling resolution in both dimensions evens it all out.  If you've seen it, you know it can be a really handsome picture.  Lots of folks thought 1080 was "reach out and  touch" but 4K really outdoes it.  In addition, the increased resolution keeps the picture from breaking up as you approach the screen.  Spend a few minutes viewing and you're sold.
OK.  Everyone excited?  Great.  Now, think about what's waiting in the weeds.
Delivery - 4K is a bandwidth monster.  Even using the latest compression algorithms, 15mbps is about as low as you can go. For true 4K quality, twice that is recommended. That, of course puts ATSC over-the-air television out of the picture (pun intended), unless the heavier compression is used.  But if you look at 4K for broadcast - at least at the tests run by KBS (Korean Broadcasting Service) it's more like 2-and-a-half-K. 
Cable - Comcast is already gearing up and they're projecting 15-to-20 mbps.  Cool. 
Granted, there will be some losses in the transmission.  Many systems save bandwidth by reducing the color depth so content may continue to look cartoony.  And that kind of puts us back to the turn of the century - where one stream can tie up the entire connection.  So unless you're fiber to the home, uhhhhh, turn off the X-box while you're watching Netflix in the bedroom.
For DVD, BluRay can accommodate 4K - sort of.  Certainly, the increased size of storage means that a full feature length motion picture won't fit on a BluRay disc in 4K, but necessity is the mother here.  And it will take additional processing software to decode and export the signal.
Also of interest, the CES guys claim that HDMI 1.4 will be able to handle 4K with no  alterations.  All you have to do is provide the 4K set.
Origination - Wait, didn't everyone just upgrade from SD to HD? Well, get ready to do it again. Sure, you can continue in HD and upconvert but how well do you like upconverted SD programs?  OK - that's an exaggeration.  Current day processing does a much better job of upconverting. 
Production - All sorts of concerns arise.  First, the cost of new gear. Red, Blackmagic, et. al., are out there just waiting to be purchased.  Note that you have to rethink a few things.  4K prides itself in being 24P.  The "P" is great but a funny thing happens psychologically - when you have a higher definition picture, artifacts are more pronounced.  Said another way, NTSC was so bad it hid a lot.  
Things like fast pans on the basketball court can actually have more apparent problems. The 24 fps frame rate doesn't help. Yes, 50/60Hz rates are available but, man, are those things cranking digits.  The bandwidth goes sky high. Asking 12 megapixels to perform at that rate is rude but I haven't seen a sensor catch fire yet.
In some cases, you may need additional lighting power - depends on the camera but if you cram more pixels onto a sensor of a given size, the actual light falling on a given sensor is less.  Soooo...wider lens opening.  But that's not so bad.  You may want a shallower depth of field but things that are sharp are very sharp.
Mattes will be fun.  Can't wait to see the first attempt at matching an SD background to 4K talent.
One great advantage is that if you're shooting in 4K and delivering in a lesser format, you can crop the frame.  If you're going to 1080, it's almost like having a 2-to-1 zoom in your editing box.  (Many years ago, a good friend once approached the reasoning behind shooting in 35mm versus 16 - or 70mm versus 35.  In his words, "Once I have it, I can go anywhere with it.  And I can pan, tilt, zoom..."  The same applies here)
Storage - Bulk up!  In fact, when you're buying storage gear, think ahead.  8K is just around the corner.  Quadruple the requirements again.  But looking at an 84" picture and thinking you really are part of the scene is really, I mean really impressive.  And talk about being able to crop and/or pan-tilt...
As a consumer, if I were buying a receiver today, I'd go 4K.  I might even look at 3D.  Dismal sales and performance so far, but some 4K3D looks a little better.  But I'd definitely go 4K.  Even with minimal content.  Reminds me of a line from an old sitcom, "I just bought a fax machine.  I can't wait for someone else to buy one so I can send one."

*Sarcasm, Sheldon.