David Wins, Goliath Consults Attorney (Update)

While most Americans spent their time online Thursday arguing over dress color, or watching Llamas on the Lam, the FCC pulled the trigger on new net neutrality rules, designed to maintain equality among all content providers on the Internet.

Tom Wheeler FCC Chairman

FCC Chairman, Tom Wheeler, during the Net Neutrality Vote

As expected, the vote fell along party lines. Immediately, the big internet service providers (ISPs) and many government officials condemned the new rules, threatening both legal and legislative challenges, some before the vote was even taken.

At least for now, by a narrow 3-2 vote, all of our websites will continue to be treated equally by services providers; our content will not be slowed down or sped up according to any sort of tiered delivery. Furthermore, ISPs will now be classified as public utilities, much like phone companies, and will be subject to regulations to ensure that all consumers have equal access to their services.

Although not receiving as much attention as net neutrality, the FCC also ruled to lift bans and restrictions which inhibit local municipalities from building their own broadband networks, previously allowing only private cable companies to provide internet access. This ruling gives consumers a choice of service providers for their internet, something many Americans do not currently have.

This victory is historic for net neutrality activists, content providers and tech influencers, whose sustained and vocal protest was actually heard over arguably one of the most powerful and wealthy lobbying interests in America today. Said Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, in celebrating the FCC’s decision, “It goes a lot further than net neutrality. Title II regulation means oversight of bad behavior.”

Critics of the ruling were quick to point out the FCC has a habit of being over regulatory, which could hurt innovation and ultimately lead to higher prices for consumers. Arizona Senator John McCain tweeted immediately after the ruling, “This is a matter for Congress to carefully consider and correct.”

For now, we all get to keep our websites in the fast lane on the information super-highway. But keep an eye on those highway alert signs, as this is just one battle in what could end up being a very long war for control of the Internet.

Paid Prioritization; or How the Goliaths are Trying to Stick it to the Davids

At the end of this month, Washington will be making huge news, affecting every small business.

Net Neutrality Effects Us All

Net Neutrality

On February 4th, Tom Wheeler, Chairman of the FCC, announced what some found to be a stunning policy reversal on open internet. Wheeler let it be known that the FCC will be basing its soon to be announced net neutrality rules for Internet service providers (ISPs) on Title II of the Communication Act, reclassifying Internet Service Providers (ISPs) as utilities, like power companies and telecommunication providers. These newly proposed regulations would apply to both wired and wireless ISPs.  Small businesses and their websites will be directly impacted if the FCC decides to end net neutrality.

Net neutrality means that all websites on the internet are treated equally. If net neutrality were to end, some websites would be able to be delivered at faster speeds, leaving those of us who cannot pay more for additional speed in the dust. It’s also likely that the cost of paid advertising or even posting on social websites will increase, as the Facebooks and Twitters will pass down the higher fees they are paying to us. In the simplest terms, ending net neutrality will make it more expensive for everyone to be found on the Internet.  This is paid prioritization.

How did we get here?

The issue of net neutrality isn’t new. There have been grumblings on both sides of the issue since 2002 when the FCC classified cable modem service as an “information service,” and not a common carrier. Escaping the common carrier classification has protected ISPs from most FCC regulation, particularly in the area of paid prioritization. The belief was that unencumbered growth and investment would give Internet consumers a better product with more competitive pricing. In 2007, wireless broadband access was classified in the same way.

The common carrier rules in Title II are from 1934. They were originally meant to oversee industries that transported goods to the public, such as rail and freight companies as well as public utilities. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 extended the original Title II provisions to telecommunication aolcompanies. In 1996, the 20 million Americans who visited the Internet mostly used Netscape, via dial up, to spend the bulk of their 30 minutes a month reading their AOL mail.  These folks are now but a tiny fraction of the 245 million Americans who hate the 3 seconds it takes to get on Google and who spend an average of nearly 30 hours a month online, some of them reading their AOL mail (there are still over 2 million people who subscribe to AOL. Wha’?!)

ISPs have been operating under the “Open Internet” rules since 2010, rules meant to stop ISPs from forcing content providers to pay to play on their networks. Verizon filed a lawsuit to block these rules. In January of 2014, a federal appeals court ruling found in favor of Verizon’s argument against being treated as an old timey telephone network, but this ruling also cleared a huge path for the FCC to write new rules regarding the Internet. President Obama also came out in favor of maintaining an open Internet.

What does this mean to ME? 

Zoom Zoom

Zoom Zoom

If this change happens, it means that you are likely to start paying for things on the internet that you now receive for free, because the cost of doing business on the internet has increased for those businesses. It also means that if you have a website for your business, it could decrease traffic to your website.

Visualize the Internet as a two-lane highway, with a slow lane and a fast lane. The fast lane is a toll lane.

Those with lots of change in their cup holders,content providers like Netflix and Facebook, may pay to have their content streamed faster. Those with a couple of fuzzy pennies and a cough drop in their glove box, sites like Cats that Look Like Hitler and Bees Bees Bees , or YOU with your small business and small business  website are going to have to stay in the slow lane or come up with a LOT more extra change.

Who is deciding this Neutrality Thing?

Federal Communications Commission

This case for and against net neutrality has made for some strange bedfellows. On the pro-neutrality side, you’ll find Twitter and Google, teaming up with the Parents Television Council and the hacker group Anonymous. You’ll also find the 4 million Americans who crashed the FCC’s website during the public comment period, due in no small part to John Oliver (MUST WATCH, especially if you have a thing for dingoes!) On the let’s get rid of net neutrality side, the big ISPs (Verizon, AT&T, Comcast,) join hands with civil rights groups such as the NAACP and  the Minority Media & Telecommunications Council. They can also find at least one FCC Commissioner in their corner, Ajit Pai (former Verizon lawyer) who just came out against regulations on Feb 10th.  In the truest definition of neutral, tech-giant Apple has publically neither come out for or against open internet.

The FCC is voting on February 26th. One thing is certain; the issue of net neutrality isn’t going to go away and those of us without Washington lobbyists need to pay attention now or we will literally be paying a lot more to be found along the high speed information highway.

SEE UPDATE ON FCC VOTE HERE

The Password is PASSWORD

                     Highlights from the last few months in cyber-chaos

cyber security, password

  • April, 2014 – The “Heartbleed Bug” strikes, affecting as many as 500,000 websites.
  • November, 2014 – Sony Pictures Entertainment hacked by person/persons unknown; leads to a complete and total meltdown in Hollywood,  forcing people in the “biz” to actually pick up a phone and talk to their cubicle mate and for the rest of us to stream a bro-stick comedy over Christmas that we all probably would have been better off waiting for on Netflix.
  • December, 2014 – North Korea’s Internet service undergoes a “DDOS attack” (distributed denial of-service) by person/persons unknown.
  • January, 2015 – US Central Command’s Twitter and YouTube accounts hacked by Islamic State sympathizers
  • Retailers such as Target, Neimann Marcus, Michaels, Aaron Brothers, PF Changs, UPS, Home Depot, Chik-Fil-A – ALL HACKED!!

A recent study found that 13.1 million U.S. adults are victims of fraud, with a total somewhere in the $18 billion range of fraudulent activity accounted for annually.  Earlier this month, President Obama proposed legislation that would encourage companies and government agencies to share information about security threats and vulnerabilities with each other.

Remember when you got that email from your bank, your social media website, your email server to change your password in the wake of Heartbleed. Did you actually do it? A Pew research study last year found that only 61% of those who knew about Heartbleed changed their passwords.

Just how lazy are we?

 A survey from 2012 by Research Now for CSID on password habits among American consumers found:

  • 61% of us reuse passwords across multiple websites.
  • 54% of us have 5 or fewer passwords for all of our internet usage.
  • 44% of us change our passwords once a year or less.
  • 89% of us feel secure with our current passwords and security habits.
  • 21% of us have had at least one online account compromised.

Splashdata’s annual list of most commonly used passwords found that “password” had been supplanted by the surely uncrackable“ 123456” as the most popular password of 2013.

 So what kind of passwords should we be using? 

The latest and greatest recommendations from cyber experts, including Blizzard’s own Hosting Manager, Tish Lockard, agree on the following guidelines for creating strong passwords:

  • A strong password should contain AT THE VERY LEAST 8 characters, combining upper and lower case letters, numbers, punctuation marks and symbols; there should be no inclusion of words found in the dictionary or the names of your friends and family.
  • Never use easy to discover dates like birthdays or anniversaries; you’d be surprised what is clearly visible on our personal and business social media pages these days.
  • You should have a unique password for all of your important accounts.
  • You should change your passwords every 90 days and not reuse them for different sites.

There are password generating sites that will create strong passwords for you. Tish says, “Can’t think of a good password? There are tools out there, such strongpasswordgenerator.com that will cook up a good one for you.  You can even decide the length of your password and what type of characters to use.  I use this Every. Single. Day.” Hear that? Every single day! I am listening Tish!  Some others generators  are random.org and freepasswordgenerator.com.

  How the B!33P am I supposed to remember that gobbledygook?

cyber security, heartbleed, passwords

Keep your Hello Kitty in a secure location, NOT near your computer!

How are you supposed to remember these nonsensical passwords? I know I have  been  loath to use passwords like those described above because there is no way I  am ever  going to remember them. Most security experts recommend the use of a password manager such as Dashlane.com, LastPass.com or 1Password.com which have apps that can go with you from your computer, phone and tablet. YES, you will have to have a password  for these heavily  encrypted secure sites, but if you can’t remember ONE goofy  password, well, maybe this  World Wide Web thing just isn’t your bag.

DO NOT store your passwords in a public cloud, in a Google doc, in emails that  can be  hacked, on your phone’s notepad app or maybe not even in that little spiral  Hello Kitty  notebook that you carry around with you everywhere unless you have really bad  handwriting.

According to Tish, “If everyone could make these criteria a priority and truly commit to changing their passwords regularly, there would be a lot less chaos in  the world. Well, ok, chaos caused by hackers, anyway.” If we listen to Tish, at  least we all can do a little something about this cyber chaos. The hacker free-chaos, Tish and I will endeavor to deal with that another time.

Whatever method you decide upon to have truly secure passwords, remain ever vigilant as you cruise along the world-wide-web. There are hackers around every bend and it’s up to you to keep an eye on your online accounts. And don’t forget that old adage, if you don’t have something nice to say in an email about someone, maybe just jot it down in your Hello Kitty notebook.

HTML and XML Sitemaps: Why You Need Both

A well designed map can help lead the way

 

In the SEO world, the use of sitemaps is always advisable. There are two types of  sitemaps, the XML sitemap and the HTML sitemap. These sitemaps are very different with each serving its own purpose and both providing value to your website.

What is the difference between XML and HTML sitemaps?

XML and HTML sitemaps are created for different purposes, but both can help increase traffic to your website and improve its usability.

 The XML sitemap

XML sitemaps are used by search engine spiders, also known as robots, bots or crawlers. Spiders “crawl”, or follow links throughout the Internet, finding content and adding it to search engine indexes.

An XML sitemap is a file containing all of the URLs on the website that you would like to be indexed in search engines. The XML sitemap also provides spiders with the following information:

  • Metadata for URLs
  • When the URLs were last updated
  • The importance of certain URLs
  • Average frequency of changes to URLs
  • URL relation to the rest of your website

Having an XML sitemap is crucial for the proper display of your site’s pages in search engines.

 The HTML sitemap

In simple terms, the HTML sitemap gives users an overview of your website. This can be helpful if you have pages that might be difficult to find. For example, if a user visits your homepage and is looking for a “contact us” page but can’t find the link for the page easily, the user may click on the “sitemap” page. There, the contact page may be accessed a simple click on a link.

An HTML sitemap helps users navigate your website and get to the pages or information they are seeking quickly.

The benefits of using both sitemaps

Having your XML sitemap functioning properly ensures that search engines are finding your site’s information and correctly listing it in search results. This may also often lead to better search engine positioning and send more visitors to your site.

Having a well thought out HTML sitemap improves your visitors’ experience and helps them find the pages or information they want quickly.

By using both sitemaps in combination, you are helping your SEO while increasing the likelihood of visitor retention and return visits to your site.

Announcing Our New VP Sales and Marketing!

ericwithgirls

Eric and his 3 daughters Celeste, Brooke and Audrey

Last month, here at Blizzard, we welcomed Eric Fullerton as Vice President of Sales and Marketing. Eric has a very unique and diverse background in online marketing and technology implementation and we are so excited to have him here!

Eric’s expertise has helped many leading companies develop innovative solutions online which have lead to increases in business and enhanced ROI. For the past 13 years, Eric has worked in online marketing and eCommerce/web architecture for Aspen/Snowmass Resort, Stay Aspen Snowmass, Sport Obermeyer, and Ski.com.  Among other things, he also helped to improve the online presence for over 150 websites in hospitality and other industries.

You may recognize his name from a conference or workshop you’ve attended in the past.  He’s presented at numerous industry gatherings, including Search Engine Strategies in New York and Mountain Travel Symposium, the annual event for the ski industry.  He also co-produced the Partners in Group Sales conference for several years.  His engaging and entertaining presentations have earned him high regards amongst those in both the hospitality and SEO industries.

“I am very excited to be a part of this expert team at Blizzard Internet Marketing,” says Eric, “In the short time I have been here, it is clear that this company’s customer-centric values, service, and professionalism provide a high caliber of comprehensive marketing solutions for hotel, resort, vacation rental, and real estate companies in the US. I am confident that with our modern technology solutions coupled with our excellent reputation and visionary leadership we can go very far.”

Eric holds Bachelors degrees from UC Santa Cruz in philosophy and psychology and a MBA with an emphasis in Marketing/eCommerce from the University of Phoenix. We look forward to Eric sharing his vast knowledge and techniques to continue to push our client’s Online Marketing efforts to the next level.  His expertise and passion for marketing and technology will give us some extra edge!

Be sure to catch Eric at our upcoming Blizzard University on July 16 & 17th here in Glenwood Springs.   He will also be speaking at the national VRMA conference in Nashville and RezFest in Las Vegas this fall.  And if you can’t make it to the Workshop, be sure to keep an eye out for some of his great knowledge on our blog.  If you don’t run into him camping, hunting, hiking or skiing in the mountains, you can follow him here: www.linkedin.com/in/ericfullerton or on twitter: @ericjfullerton

 

Now You Can Watch A Full-Day Marketing Seminar from Your Desk

On Sunday October 9th, Trent Blizzard presented a full day online marketing seminar.  It was chock-full of timely and important marketing tips for travel marketers.

We are making the full video available on Monday October 31st.  You can order it for the small investment of $50.  It will be available “on-demand” so you can watch it at your desk and at your leisure.

Topics Included:

  • Google +1 is a promising new feature from Google that is still being developed.  Learn what it can do for you now and what strategies to implement in 2012 to achieve maximum benefit.
  • Custom Facebook Apps and Tabs: A review of the nifty, convenient and seductive world of Facebook custom tabs.  The real pros are using these to turn their Facebook page into a second website that can turn lookers into bookers.  Bonus: Blizzard will give each attendee a free Facebook App. ($250 value)*
  • Facebook Pay-Per-Click Marketing: Learn how to take advantage of Facebook’s PPC program to increase your ‘Likes’ and steal mind-share from your competitors.
  • Top Facebook Tips: The top 10 tips for getting new fans and engaging with your current ones.
  • Link Building is still going strong.  Learn about recent changes and how Google uses links in its algorithm. Bonus: Blizzard will give you 10 great links that will drive qualified traffic ($250 value)*
  • Website Load Time: Learn how your website’s speed… or slowness… is being factored into Google’s algorithm.  Find out how to measure your speed, track it in Google Analytics, and what simple steps can improve it.
  • Schema: Learn about the new coding directives that Google, Bing and Yahoo! rolled out in June, 2011 and how you can take advantage to help Google index your website.
  • The Changing World of Online Reviews: Google has changed how they index your reviews and your strategies should change accordingly. Learn the best way to get more out of your current reviews and where to drive new reviews.
  • Google Analytics: Learn about all of the changes and new features that have happened to Google Analytics in the last year that will help you to measure your growth and success.
  • Email Marketing: Learn some easy tricks and discover a few powerful tools to capture more email addresses, and get more out of your existing email marketing efforts.
  • Vacation Rental Marketing Benchmarks and Stats: Learn how your website compares to industry benchmarks using BlizzardTracker.
  • Booking Engine Effectiveness: Increase your conversion rates by implementing 10 proven features.
  • New Online Tools: Discover cool new tools to track your results, monitor your competitors, increase your effectiveness or just plain have fun.
  • $50 to watch the video-on-demand at your leisure.
  • The video is free for current Blizzard clients.

 

 

 

Develop Your Search Marketing and Google Expertise in Colorado

Create your in-house search marketing expertise during a 2-day search marketing workshop intensively focused on gaining success from Google.

You are invited to join Blizzard Internet Marketing for a Google Boot Camp held in our hometown of Glenwood Springs, Colorado.

Join hospitality, lodging, vacation rental managers, and other travel companies to discover online marketing strategies that will increase search engine rankings, drive more traffic to your website, and improve your  marketing strategy; guaranteed.

You will leave the workshop with a list of marketing action items, guaranteed, or your money back.

The workshop will be held on October 13 -14, 2010 at the Hotel Denver, in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. A Glenwood Springs landmark, The Hotel Denver is adjacent to the Colorado River the famous Glenwood Hot Springs, and is walking distance to historic downtown Glenwood Springs.

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