July Search Light Newsletter: the *at least it’s not August* edition

Search LightIssue No. 3 of the Search Light newsletter for 2010 was published today.

Yes, I’m well aware that we are in month 7 of the year and this is supposed to be a monthly newsletter. But at least I got it out this month and didn’t let it become an August issue :-)

This edition includes an article about Twitter and the US Library of Congress. What prompted the Library of Congress to decide our tweets were of historical value? How will the archiving of public tweets impact you?

It also contains some of the more interesting FAQs answered in this blog and even details of a sweet marketing gig going at Google for someone with the right stuff.

If you’re not yet a newsletter subscriber catch it here and then quickly go and subscribe before I find out and kill your hampster (just kidding).

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Outdated Google Analytics Tracking Code Could be Costing You Thousands

Do you run an ecommerce site? Do you use Google Analytics code on your pages? Does your site contain secure pages that start with https? If your answer is yes to any of these questions, then you’ll probably shudder in horror when you read this.

Tom Critchlow of Distilled – a search agency in the UK – has written a guest post for the Google Analytics blog that demonstrates how using outdated Google Analytics tracking code on your secure pages can be costing you THOUSANDS of dollars.

Tom explained how he noticed a glitch on the analytics report of his client’s ecommerce site that involved users of Internet Explorer 8. These users had a significantly lower conversion and revenue rate on the site, in comparison to users of other browsers and IE versions.

Turned out Tom’s client was using the old Urchin version of the Google Analytics tracking code on every page. The old code included a call to a non-secure .js file that triggers a security warning pop-up in the Internet Explorer 8 browser.

Browsers like Chrome and Firefox don’t display a security warning but Internet Explorer 8 produces the following warning when users transition from the non-secure (http) pages to secure (https) pages on a web site.

The error looks like this:

IE 8 warning

Not surprisingly, the error was causing almost all visitors browsing with Internet Explorer 8 to abandon the shopping cart process and this was costing Tom’s client an enormous amount of revenue, estimated to be in excess of USD 150K per month.

A 5 minute fix to the site saved Tom’s client an estimated 1 million dollars per year. What was the fix? Simple. Installing the new version of the Google Analytics tracking code.

The new Analytics tracking code is asynchronous, meaning that it can track a single domain, or more complex sites with multiple subdomains, database driven pages, php pages or just top level domains.

The new tracking snippet offers:

* Faster tracking code load times for your web pages due to improved browser execution
* Enhanced data collection and accuracy
* Elimination of tracking errors from dependencies when the JavaScript hasn’t fully loaded

If you are using older versions of the Analytics tracking code, Google recommends you login to your Analytics dashboard, download the new code and transition your pages over as soon as possible.

Now you have an added incentive to transition – if you run an ecommerce site, the new code might not just save you page load time but thousands of dollars too!

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Twitter and Privacy: History Never Retweets

Ever had a case of the *tipsy tweets*?

You know what I’m talking about. The type of tweets you’d never post to Twitter sober but that seem highly amusing after a couple of alcoholic beverages. The ones you rush to delete on Monday morning in a coffee-induced panic when you remember what or who you tweeted. Yeah those.

Well, the next time your fingertip hovers over the send button after you’ve had a few, you might want to think twice about letting it make contact with the keyboard.

It turns out that the Library of Congress has decided to digitally archive EVERY public tweet that has been posted to Twitter since the site launched in 2006. With 50 million tweets processed by Twitter every day, that adds up to billions of messages.

The Announcement

The news came in mid April, first via the Library of Congress’s own Twitter account and then via public announcement during Twitter’s first Chirp conference for developers. This was followed up by blog posts from both the Library and Twitter.

Why Archive Tweets?

So why the interest in digitally archiving tweets and is it really necessary? Staff at the Library of Congress think so:

“Twitter is part of the historical record of communication, news reporting, and social trends – all of which complement the Library’s existing cultural heritage collections.  It is a direct record of important events such as the 2008 U.S. presidential election or the *Green Revolution* in Iran. It also serves as a news feed with minute-by-minute headlines from major news sources such as Reuters, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.

At the same time, it is a platform for citizen journalism with many significant events being first reported by eyewitnesses,” said Matt Raymond, the Library of Congress’s Director of Communications.

“Individually tweets might seem insignificant, but viewed in the aggregate, they can be a resource for future generations to understand life in the 21st century.”

Don’t Panic

Now before you panic about your entire Twitter history being laid bare to a grubby public, you should know that there are some protections in place.

Twitter has insisted there be at least a six-month window between the original date of a tweet and its date of availability for internal library use, non-commercial research, public display and preservation by the Library of Congress. Private account information and deleted tweets will not be part of the archive. Neither will linked information such as pictures and URLs.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington also doesn’t see a problem with it:

“I think folks understand that whatever they post on Twitter is meant to be searchable”, says their senior counsel John Verdi.

“I don’t see a big issue here.”

That might change, he says, if the US government tried to identify individuals through their tweets or by cross checking user tweets with their information from other federal databases.

Personally, I can see this happening unless further protections are put in place. It’s probably happening every day.

Gift Wrapped

It’s important to note that the Library did not purchase the archive. It was gifted from Twitter and the original legal document outlining the donation [PDF link] is publicly available via PDF.

“Recently, the Library of Congress signaled to us that the public tweets we have all been creating over the years are important and worthy of preservation. Since Twitter began, billions of tweets have been created”, says Twitter co-founder Biz Stone in their official blog post about the donation:

“Today, fifty-five million tweets a day are sent to Twitter and that number is climbing sharply. A tiny percentage of accounts are protected but most of these tweets are created with the intent that they will be publicly available. Over the years, tweets have become part of significant global events around the world – from historic elections to devastating disasters.”

“It is our pleasure to donate access to the entire archive of public Tweets to the Library of Congress for preservation and research.”

About the Library of Congress

The Library of Congress is the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States and it is the largest library in the world, regularly researched by government staff, law enforcement agencies, law firms, authors, scholars, scientists, students and academics. The Library receives more than 1.75 million readers and visitors annually and employs a staff of more than 3,600. According to Twitter, it’s a logical home for their archive.

What Does it All Mean?

So with billions of tweets added to the federal archive, how can we expect the data to be used? With Twitter’s entire history archived, it shouldn’t be long before we see tweets being used as evidence in criminal trials and various lawsuits.

Tweets have already been cited in defamation cases such as the one between 25 year-old Chicago resident Amanda Bonnen and her landlord, Horizon Group Management LLC. Following a disagreement with Horizon Group about mold allegedly found in her apartment, Bonnen posted on her public Twitter account:

“Who said sleeping in a moldy apartment was bad for you? Horizon realty thinks it’s okay”, to which Horizon Group responded with a defamation case to the tune of USD 50,000.

Although a Google-cache of her now deactivated account shows she had just 17 followers, Horizon claimed Bonnen’s tweet severely damaged their good name because it was published “worldwide”. Ironically, the publicity the case received probably did more damage to Horizon’s public image than Bonnen’s limited tweet. The case was thrown out due to lack of specific context in the tweet, but it does set an interesting precedent for other potential cases.

Whatever the legal and privacy implications, knowing your tweets are being preserved for historical significance and stored in the same building as priceless documents like the Declaration of Independence, should be somewhat humbling.

Who knows, future generations may one day point to your “OMG you guys! @justinbieber just walked into @starbucks!” tweet with the same awe reserved for George Washington’s copy of the US Constitution.

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SEO Proposal Template Software

A few  years ago I discovered a terrific new business tool and I was so excited about its potential that I wrote a review article about it to share my discovery with others.

The product was Proposal Kit.  My review was called Close the Sale With Proposal Kit and I’ve had a lot of feedback from readers of that article, thanking me for introducing them to the product.

In case you’re not already familiar with the software, Proposal Kit takes the guesswork out of drafting a proposal or contract. It automates the chore of putting together a complex business proposal. Basically, Proposal Kit provides a comprehensive range of templates to suit any business requirement and helps you build a framework for your proposal to match virtually any product or service offering.

seo proposal template software

You then flesh out the templates with your own data and contact details. Templates are particularly suited to online businesses and include documents for the initial sales pitch, the planning stage, estimating, contracting, project timelines, analysis and even invoicing.

I’ve been using Proposal Kit for over 5 years now and I am still as enthusiastic about it as ever. So when developers of the product (Cyber Sea) told me of their latest upgrade this month, I was very excited.

You see, amongst the 40 new contract templates available in the new versions of Proposal Kit Pro and Contract Kit Pro is a Search Engine Optimization Services Contract, designed for SEOs just like me.

Let’s take a look at what’s been upgraded in the latest versions of the product:

sample business proposal

Proposal Packs 9.0

  • Over 300 pages of new material have been added to Proposal Pack (new templates, checklists, samples, instructional material) adding over 60% more material to this version.
  • Added 61 new proposal templates increasing the total number of templates to over 270. Templates added include: Profile, Client Summary, Abstract, Estimate, Significance, Activities, Design, Planning, Approach, Innovativeness, Project Plan, System Plan, Promotion, Site Planning, Environmental, Public Relations, Community, Coordination, Responsibilities, Documentation, Authority, Measures of Success, Dissemination, Budget Information, Wholesale Price List, Retail Price List, Cost Effectiveness, Resources, Hourly Services Contract, Invoice, Memorandum of Understanding, Credentials, Capabilities, Accreditations, Certifications, Geographic Information, Key Positions, Contractors, Legal Eligibility, Authorization, Board of Directors, Policies, Flow Chart, Board Resolution, Contact Letter, Letter of Transmittal, Support Letter, Commitment Letter, Collaboration Letters, Report, Tab, Worksheet, Supplied Form, Appendix F, Appendix G, Appendix H, Appendix I, Appendix J, Fax Cover Sheet, Bid / No-Bid Checklist, Grant Proposal Development Checklist.
  • Added a proposal bid/no-bid decision checklist.
  • Added a government grant proposal development checklist.
  • Added a complete service level agreement to the Contract and Terms template.
  • Added an additional manual for writing Federal government grant proposals using Proposal Pack.
  • 15 general business sample proposals have been added.
  • 10 Federal government grant sample proposals have been added (USDA, Department of Justice, Department of Education, Department of Health and Human Services, Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Housing and Urban Development).
  • New Title Page graphics have been added for “Resume”, “Contract”, “Plan”, “Submission”, “Presentation”, “Report”, “Study”, “Estimate”, “Response”.
  • The Table of Contents has been updated to add all of the new templates.

Proposal Kit Pro 12.0

Over 500 pages of new material have been added to Proposal Kit Pro (new templates, checklists, samples, instructional material) adding over 50% more material to this version.

Contract Pack:

  • Minor grammar changes made to some documents.
  • Four new categories of contracts have been added: Advertising and Marketing, Graphics and Printing, Computer Systems and Internal Company Plans.
  • 41 new contracts, agreements and related documents have been added (over 144 pages of new material): Authorization to Start Work, Replication Quote Order Form, Email Marketing Creative by Agency Agreement, Email Marketing Creative by Designer Agreement, Pay Per Click (PPC) SEO Campaign Services Contract, Signage and Printing Order Form, Print Quote Form, Colocation Hosting Short Form Contract, Managed Hosting Service Level Agreement, Web Hosting Change Addendum, Pocket Photo Release Agreement, Photo Reprint Rights Agreement, Photo Credit Waiver, General Services Agreement, Repair Estimate Quote, General Contractor Work Order, Right of First Refusal Partnership Agreement, Right of First Refusal with Non-Disclosure Agreement, Works for Hire Agreement, Project Acceptance Partial Signoff, Project Acceptance Simple Signoff, Software Development Plan, Reprint Rights Agreement, SEO Services Reseller Contract, Disaster Recovery Plan, Software Disaster Recovery Plan, Human Resources Guide Update Addendum, PDA Usage Policy, Wireless Networking Usage Policy, Application for Employment, Employment Non-Compete and Non-Disclosure, Drug and Alcohol Testing Consent Form, Employee Promotion Authorization Form, Employee Notice of Salary Increase Form, Employee Injury Report Form, Expense Report, Hourly Services Agreement, Company Equipment Checkout Form, Agency Photo Shoot Model Release Form, Employee Grievance Form, Employee Demotion Form
  • Many existing contracts have been updated with new replaceable tags and consistent usage of terms.
  • Added 20 new standard mail merge tags to many documents.

Sample Proposal Pack Template Styles (sold separately)

Estimate Pack:

  • Updated HTML organizer to help find and open documents easier.
  • Added Customer and Proposal Number tags to all spreadsheets for helping organize estimates by customer and proposal.
  • Updated line items in existing spreadsheets with additional material.
  • Added Help Desk Services Estimate Spreadsheet.
  • Added Print Project Estimate Spreadsheet.
  • Added Flash Animation Project Estimate Spreadsheet.
  • Added Network Server Setup Estimate Spreadsheet.
  • Added Software Services Project Estimate Spreadsheet.
  • Added Computer Repair and Maintenance Estimate Spreadsheet.
  • Project Management Pack:
  • Renamed product from “Web Plan Kit” to “Project Management Pack”.
  • Minor updates to existing documents to update outdated material.Proposal Pack Template Styles (sold separately)
  • Added Web Development Worksheet Overview.
  • Added Describe Your Web Site Worksheet (R01).
  • Added Describe User Controlled Content Worksheet (R02).
  • Added Describe Your Web Site Functions Worksheet (R03).
  • Added Describe Your Web Site Users Worksheet (R04).
  • Added Describe Your Web Site Administration Worksheet (R05).
  • Added Describe Your Web Site Home Page Worksheet (R06).
  • Added Project Plan Worksheet.
  • Added Project Analysis Overview Worksheet.
  • Added SEO Organic Keyword Report.
  • Added SEO Pay Per Click Keyword Report.
  • Added Customer Service Call Log Spreadsheet.
  • Added Disaster Recovery Plan.
  • Added Software Disaster Recovery Plan.
  • Added Expense Report Spreadsheet.

Visit the Proposal Kit website for details on pricing, a product comparison chart and information on how to upgrade.


SEO Proposal Template

Now, about that SEO Services Contract that I’m so excited about. Having run an SEO business for over ten years now, I KNOW how difficult it is to produce a reliable, standard contract to give to SEO clients. Search engine optimization can be such a complex process that it is vitally important your client contract spells out your services, delivery schedule, responsibilities and campaign expectations while addressing all areas of potential client confusion.

Such contracts take time to develop and can be very expensive if drawn up from scratch by a law firm. Many SEOs, especially those just starting out, simply don’t have the time, resources, knowledge or budget to have a high quality, water-tight contract developed for their business. That’s why I see the inclusion of an SEO Services Contract in the latest Proposal Kit upgrade as a boon for SEOs everywhere.

Proposal template designs (sold separately)

Even if your business already has a contract in place, the purchase price of Proposal Kit Pro or Contract Pack Pro, (both which come with the SEO contract included), is well worth the investment to be able to compare your contract with the detailed sample provided. Something important to keep in mind is that legal contracts in the Contract Pack should not be viewed as binding legal documents until they are reviewed by your lawyer. Because every business has different products, services, clients and operates in different geographical environments, legal requirements vary widely. By all means use the contract templates to draft your contract, but make sure you have the document carefully reviewed by your company law firm to ensure it meets your specific legal requirements. This is emphasized within the templates.

Not all sections of the SEO Contract will apply to every SEO business, particularly those listed under “Services Provided”, but the document is so comprehensive that you can mix and match sections and clauses that are specifically relevant to your business, such as “Delivery Dates and Milestones”, “Web Page Creation, Edits and Custom Programming” and “Keyword Selection”. I’ve already spotted three or four important clauses that our existing client contract overlooks. Not to mention the benefits of having access to hundreds of professional proposal templates from which to pick and choose to match your own business requirements.

business proposal templates

For smaller SEOs or those just starting out in the industry, the latest version of Proposal Kit could save you a fortune and give your business a much needed injection of professionalism.

Of course that goes for non-SEO businesses too!

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February Search Light Newsletter: the *let’s pretend it’s January* edition

Search LightThe latest issue of the Search Light newsletter published this week. And we’re pretending it’s January, even though it’s February – if that makes sense. Hopefully our February issue will come out in February rather than March!

Believe it or not, 2010 is our 10th year of publishing The Search Light. My, how things have changed in the search engine landscape since we published our first ever issue nearly 10 years ago.

This month’s newsletter includes an article about how to choose the most effective SEO keywords, written by Search Engine College Assistant Tutor, Micky Stuivenberg. It also contains some of the more interesting FAQs answered in this blog and a blurb about the upcoming Search Marketing Expo (SMX) Conference in Sydney.

If you’re not yet a newsletter subscriber catch it here and then quickly go and subscribe before I find out.

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