Down for Everyone or Just Me?

You head for a Web site, but you get an error. I know you’ve said it: “Is the site down, or is it my problem?”Now there’s a way to find out. Type a Web site’s URL into Down for Everyone or Just Me? (a smartly named site, no?), and it will give you the scoop. Very handy — using it keeps you from bothering coworkers or members of your buddy list.
Fixes for Wi-Fi woes: If you use Wi-Fi, turning your router’s Quality of Service (QoS) settings on will definitely help with some applications.

A Robot Network Seeks to Enlist Your Computer

A fascinating — and horrifying — new article in The New York Times offers the lowdown on “zombie computers,” the half-a-million-or-so machines that are converted, assembled into systems called “botnets” and forced to do a shadowy figure’s bidding, namely in the form of automated programs that send the majority of e-mail spam, illegally seek financial information and install malicious software on still more PCs.
In 2003 and 2004 Microsoft was deeply shaken by a succession of malicious software worm programs with names like “Blaster” and “Sasser”, that raced through the Internet, sowing chaos within corporations and among home computer users. Blaster was a personal affront to the software firm that has long prided itself on its technology prowess. The program contained a hidden message mocking Microsoft’s co-founder: “billy gates why do you make this possible? Stop making money and fix your software!!” The company maintains that its current software is less vulnerable, but even as it fixed some problems, the threat to the world’s computers has become far greater. Mr. Campana said that there had been ups and downs in the fight against a new kind of criminal who could hide virtually anywhere in the world and strike with devilish cleverness. “I come in every morning, and I think we’re making progress,” he said. At the same time, he said, botnets are not going to go away any time soon. “There are a lot of very smart people doing very bad things,” he said.

So what’s a user to do?
First, take Microsoft’s Malicious Software Removal Tool out for a ride. Then make sure your firewall is up and you’re up to date with all security patches.
Then pray. Because these zombies are hard to find, much less kill. Just last week, Secunia, a computer security firm, tested a dozen leading PC security suites and found that the best one detected only 64 out of 300 software vulnerabilities.

Outsourcing Web Needs and Any Other Business Specialties

A business teacher of mine told me about a problem his former student was having. The student had recently started a business. The business teacher went for a visit and found the new-business owner struggling in front of his computer with a stack of receipts and bills. The business owner explained that he had some accounting to do and it was just taking too long. He was spending two days a month doing his books.

The answer to this account problem is outsourcing. The new business owner wasted two days he could have been out selling or doing his actual business. Those extra days work could more than pay for a bookkeeper. The quality of a Bookkeeper’s work would also be superior.

If you are here looking for a Webmaster to handle your next project, it is probably because your expertise is not in the field of web design and development. Outsourcing your web project is a good idea. It frees up the time it would take you to learn and create a web product, and concentrate on what you do best, sell your product or service. There are many skills and abilities that a seasoned Webmaster can perform. Let’s face it, unless you are in the internet industry, you would be wasting a lot of time attempting to learn the web business.

Outsourcing can make your business easier to run and more profitable. You’ll free up time and resources so you can concentrate on your core business concerns. WeGo offers a broad range of integrated web services to move your company forward. More than ever, business survival depends upon the ability to effectively market and promote your services online, as well as keeping costs down. For your next web project, outsourcing may be the perfect solution to make the difference in your bottom line.

Search, Search, Search…

Yeah, I’ve been searchin’

A-a searchin’

Oh, yeah, searchin’ every which a-way

Most of today’s online users probably aren’t familiar with the Coaster’s hit of the 60’s, but they know the feeling.

According to a new study just released by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, “Search engines have become an increasingly important part of the online experience of American internet users.” On an average day, nearly 60 million people use search engines.

Over the past year there has been a sharp increase in search activity. From June 2004 to Septemeber 2005 the use of search engines on a typical day rose from 30% to 41% of the internet-using population, which itself has grown in the past year.

At the same time, the total number of people using search engines on an average day jumped from roughly 38 million to about 59 million — an increase of roughly 55%.

comScore Media Metrix data, derived from a different methodology, show that from September 2004 to September 2005 the average daily use of search engines jumped from 49.3 million users to 60.7 million — an increase of 23%.

In either case, it is clear that the use of search engines is edging up on e-mail as the primary internet activity on any given day.

However, the Pew data shows that on a typical day, e-mail use is still the most popular internet activity. On any given day, about 52% of US Internet users send and receive e-mail, up from 45% in June of 2004.

Obviously, e-mail continues to be a powerful application accounting for a great part of users’ online time and attention.

Overall, there is little difference between the sizes of the e-mailing population and the search-engine using population. Pew data shows that 91% of all Internet users have at one time sent or receive e-mail, compared to 90% of Internet users have used search engines.

To put e-mail use and search-engine use in perspective, Pew compared them to other Internet activities on an average day.

According to the latest comScore data, Google is the most heavily-used search engine. In October 2005 the site had 89.8 million unique visitors, followed by Yahoo! Search with 68 million unique visitors.

For more information on this topic, read eMarketer’s Search Engine Marketing report.

Level of Search Engine Optimization Not Optimal

Less than 10% of the Fortune 100 is effectively using search engine optimization for their Web sites, according to a new study by Oneupweb.

Integrated search engine marketing firm Oneupweb analyzed the main corporate sites of Fortune magazine’s top 100 companies to determine the level of effectiveness with which
each company has used search engine optimization (SEO).

The analysis indicates that the number of companies effectively using SEO is quite
small — only nine of the 100 companies in the study. Oneupweb’s
criteria for effective use is based on the practice of both “ethical” and “unethical” SEO
methods. “Ethical” methods include pertinent keywords in tags and relevant
titles and body text, whereas “unethical” methods include invisible
text and image links, keyword tags not related to the business sector
and other methods used to trick search engines.

Those deemed moderate SEO users by Oneupweb are those firms which employ too few
optimization techniques or use enough but employ them ineffectively.
Moderate SEO users account for 47% of the Fortune 100. About the same
percentage of companies, 44%, use no SEO at all. This is a slight change
from a survey Oneupweb conducted in 2002, which found that over 50%
of Fortune 100 companies did not use SEO at all, while 44% used some
methods, and only 3% had effectively optimized their site for search.

Comparing the level of SEO to a company’s position in a search engine’s rankings,
Oneupweb finds that search engine optimization can pay off. Companies
with effective SEO often end up in the top 10 search results on Google
for their respective keywords. This year, 7 out of the 9 firms effectively
using SEO had placement in the top 10 Google results presented for
a search on their respective primary keywords. On the other hand, a
lack of SEO efforts results in over 80% of those companies missing
the Google top 10 list altogether.

Although there has been a general migration towards SEO, Oneupweb is surprised that
it hasn’t been adopted by more companies since 2002. Indeed, while
the number of firms not using optimization at all has dropped below
50%, analysts expected many more effectively-optimized sites in 2004 — as
many as 30. Oneupweb expects a future study to show all of the Fortune
100 employing at least moderately-optimized sites.

Although Fortune 100 companies often benefit from name recognition and a commanding
position in their industry, poor site design can still result in lower
search engine rankings. Conversely, competitors have an opportunity
to take advantage of this sluggishness by making sure their SEO is
top notch so that they can gain a higher profile in search results
and thus among online customers at large.

TV, Radio Losing Teens to Net?

According to a recent report from Yahoo! and Carat North America, teenagers
and young people in the US spend the greatest amount of time, on average,
each week with the Internet (16.7 hours) compared to other forms of media.

Harris Interactive and Teenage Research Unlimited surveyed 2,618 people
between the ages of 13 and 24 in June for Yahoo! and Carat and found
that respondents spend 13.6 hours per week watching TV and only 6 hours
per week reading books or magazines for pleasure.

The survey determined that the main reason cited among respondents
for spending so much time online was the quality of “control” the
Internet affords users. Users can personalize and manage their experience
online more so than with any other form of media.

As for the types of Web sites teenagers are spending time with, comScore
Media Metrix determined at the end of 2002 that teens between the ages
of 12 and 17 spend an average of 26.6 minutes each day with instant messaging
(IM) applications, 24.4 minutes per day with game sites and a whopping
41.5 minutes per day on sites with some sort of corporate presence.

eMarketer projects that by the end of this year, roughly 17% of US
Internet users will be between the ages of nine and 17 and about 29%
will be between the ages of 18 and 34. Are you properly addressing the
teen and young adult market online?

What’s a Website Made of?

If you grew up before the computer age than no doubt like me you resisted
the PC for a while. I was forced to learn the PC on the job as some of
our paper-based processes became electronic. It was required so therefore
I learned. I started with programs like Ventura publishing and Lotus
123. In time, I became hooked. When the Internet arrived I was very excited
to discover what was available online.

I think everybody in business that is serious about his or her business
needs to have a Website in order to be successful. It demonstrates that
you are forward thinking and embrace technology.

If you’re looking for success with your website, the best place
to start is with an understanding of the composition of your Website.

These are the top 10 attributes a Website is:

1. A Website is made up of computer code.

That’s right. All of those pretty pictures and pages of information are
really just a bunch of computer code. It’s written by a programmer. They
call themselves Web designers, but their talent is in their ability to
program your wishes. They know the code, and know how to write it so
it presents that pretty picture you want on your homepage. HTML, XML,
whatever; it’s all computer code.

2. A Website is meant to convey information.

I don’t care if you developed your site to talk about your moss collection,
or if you just want to start a club for left-handed bowlers, everything
you put on your Website is put there to tell others something. Reports
overwhelmingly show that the majority of people using the Internet
do so to get information — not to look at the pretty pictures. The
information part of your Website sets you apart from your competition
because it ttells visitors something they didn’t know before they saw
you.

3. A Website is dynamic, but it can’t sell anything.

All the graphics and flash and loud colors can’t really sell your product
or service. You need a good salesperson. Your Website exists to inform
visitors that you are in business and that you are technologically
current. It provides an easy way for them to order, but it needs backup:
software that handles secure orders and real customer service. Like
your print advertising, it presents your products and services. It’s
up to you to sell them.

4. A Website is cost-effective advertising.

A Website attracts more attention and more visibility just by virtue
of its presence on the World Wide Web than almost anything else. Print
ads reach hundreds of thousands, but who really reads them? Radio and
television have the potential to reach millions but only work on a
repetitive basis, and show it in their cost. The Web is more than 400
million strong, and growing by leaps and bounds every day. That’s 400
million possibilities. Sometimes for less than $1,000. Great return
on investment.

5. A Website is targeted marketing.

People go online looking for something; looking for you if you’ve marketed
yourself properly. Online shoppers know what they want, they don’t
browse online the way they would in a Kmart. A Website brings targeted
customers to your homepage using well thought out keywords and phrases.
If I’m searching online for a new, educational toy for my niece, do
you think I type “toys” in my search field? Not unless I
want to wade through literally millions of options. I type in: “learning
toys”, or “educational toys.” If you can help me, learning
and education better be two of your main keywords. Beyond keywords
and phrases, there are banner ads and e-mail campaigns. All targeted
to the market you are selling to.

6. A Website is business 24×7.

Make no mistake — the Internet is changing the way we do business. Customers
that need your product or service don’t want to run to the mall anymore.
After eight or 10 hours at their day job, they want convenience. According
to eMarketer, the number of people 14 and over who have purchased something
online will grow from 64.1 million in 2000 to more than 100 million
by 2003. You know they’re not all shopping from 8 to 5, don’t you?
People today research online before buying offline, too. Your Website
can bring you customers all day, every day.

7. A Website is interactive.

When you developed your Website, you sat down with a good Web designer
and discussed your company mission and goals. Then you gave him or her
your current brochure to follow, but did you think to approach your site
from the customer’s point of view? In the old days, the customer came
into your store and interacted with you or your salespeople, helping
you decide what worked and what
didn’t. Grokdotcom.com recently quoted successful marketer Roy Williams
(www.wizardofads.com) saying: “When you’re inside the bottle, it’s
hard to read the label.” You are inside the bottle. Your customers
are reading the label. Ask them for help making your Web site work. Offer
incentives in return for information (think newsletters and surveys —
people love to tell you what you’re doing right or wrong).

8. A Website is a dynamic representation of you.

That’s right. I said, you; not your business, not your store. When a
visitor ends up at your Web site (after actively searching for your
products or services, I hope) what she or he is looking at is a reflection
of you, the owner of the company, the business person, the person in
charge. If you have broken links preventing visitors from getting around
your site, it reflects poor maintenance. If you’re unkempt, with poor
design and development, it reflects sloppiness. If your type is too
small or graphics too big it reflects insensitivity. Pay attention.
Comb your hair (keep your Web site fresh); wear a suit once in awhile
(dress your Website up with colors that compliment each other); and
smile (make sure you welcome your visitors and offer them incentives
to return).

9. A Website is original, but it’s not unique anymore.

According to the Online Computer Library Center (www.oclc.org) there
are 8.1 million public Web sites, up from 7.4 million last year. Don’t
try to compete in this new world of business by trying to corner the
market. Be professional and original, but don’t sweat it if you want
to sell widgets and 50 other sites are selling them, too. Think partnership;
the success of the new millennium is in partnering. Links to other
sites that compliment your site are great ways to get noticed by both
search engines and customers.

10. A Website is only what you make of it.

That means updates, fresh content, personalization, ease of use and marketing.
Slapping up a few pages of HTML and some graphics might get you a Website,
but it won’t get you attention. Telling friends and family you have
a presence online at www.meandmine.com means nothing. Your friends
and family are not going to buy enough of your products to support
you. Do the right thing. Build it professionally, maintain it and market
it just as aggressively as if it were a brand new store in the heart
of downtown America.

Now, who needs a Website? You need one. Whether you’re 60 and have been
in business for two generations without computers, or whether you’re
a first time business owner and you don’t anticipate generating sales
from online contacts, you still need a Website. Why? Because it’s here
and it’s now. If you are not willing to accommodate those of us who want
to find you online, you are not willing to make your business a success.

Just for laughs, jump online after you read this and do a Google search
for “funeral directors.” Last time I checked, the count was
300,000. Do a quick Yahoo! search on “dentists.” You will be
rewarded with 1,740,000 sites — many of which are directories. If funeral
directors and dentists are online, you should be online, too.

Net Users and E-Mail Marketing in Canada

A 2002 study from Ipsos-Reid finds that 79%
of internet users in Canada have opted-in to certain websites to receive
e-mail campaigns. The study also determined that overall, 92% of internet
users in Canada use e-mail on a regular basis and 88% use it on a weekly
basis.

Ipsos-Reid surveyed 1,000 Canadian internet users online and conducted
1,000 telephone interviews for the “Email Marketing: What the Future Holds”
report. The online surveys were conducted between 28 December 2001 and
January 2002 and the telephone surveys were conducted between 10 and 23
December 2001. The report notes that, in particular, 54% of internet users
who have opted into e-mail campaigns turn to news and information websites
and 38% opt-in to entertainment sites.

To put the Ipsos numbers into greater perspective, eMarketer’s latest
North America Online Report presents estimates from different firms
regarding internet users in Canada. Though Telecordia Technologies believes
there were 24.5 million users in 2001, eMarketer believes there will be
16 million internet users in Canada in 2002.

Kids Say the Net is the Darndest Thing

According to a study from Knowledge Networks/Statistical Research (KN/SRI),
one-third of children ages 8 to 17 say the internet is the medium they
would choose if they could only have one, topping television, telephone
and radio. For boys, television was a strong second choice, though girls
ranked TV third behind the net and telephone.

Browsing the eMarketer eStat Database‘s Demographics section turns
up hundreds of records on children and teenagers, including a December
2001 study from the Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser found that while
the overwhelming majority of the 15 to 24 age bracket has gone online
and has home internet access, this was especially pronounced for respondents
under age 17.

The Internet is Shaping the Way in Which Canadian Families Live and Work Together

RBC Study Examines the Internet’s Impact on Canadian Families and Small Business Owners

An RBC Financial Group/Ipsos Reid study released today suggests that Canadian families
are making major lifestyle changes in response to the wave of new communications
technologies entering their homes.

The survey, conducted by Ipsos-Reid for RBC, was designed
to achieve an understanding of how families and small business owners
are balancing the new demands and opportunities of home and work life
in the context of technological change.

“The personal computer has become the nerve centre
of the new online home,” said Martin Stevens, director, eCommerce at RBC
Financial Group. “The PC and the Internet are redefining how Canadians
approach many aspects of their lives including shopping, banking, commuting,
family activities, home design and communications.”

In fact, Canadian online families have become so enamored
with the versatility of their PCs that the majority (51 per cent) would
choose it over a telephone or television if stuck on a deserted island.
And it’s not just the adults that find it handy. With the average family
spending more than 32 hours online per week, more than 40 per cent of
parents said they have had to negotiate with their kids to get on the
computer.

Canadian families have also discovered that surfing
the Internet is a good way to spend time together, with 39 per cent of
parents saying they sometimes go online with their kids, and 12 per cent
saying they always go online with their kids. That’s probably a good thing
given that 56 per cent of parents admit that they have learned at least
some of what they know about the Internet from their children.

Survey Highlights

  • Almost half of Canadian Internet-using families
    have more than one computer.
  • The average family spends more than 1,600 hours
    online per year (more than 32 hours per week).
  • 59 per cent of adults with a home Internet connection
    have purchased an item directly online.
  • 57 per cent of parents have guidelines about how
    and when the computer is to be used; 48 per cent say they place curfews
    on their kids’ Internet usage.
  • 20 per cent of all families with home Internet
    access have computers that have been networked to others within the
    home.
  • 48% of parents admit their kids have at least some
    influence on the purchase of new technology for the household.

If you were stuck on a deserted island, what would
you take with you? The survey of 750 online parents with children under
18 living at home shows that Canadian families even seem to prefer surfing
the Internet to channel surfing. Half of respondents (51per cent) said
that if stuck on a deserted island for a month they would prefer to have
a computer with Internet access rather than a television – with only 21
per cent choosing a telephone and 12 per cent choosing a television.

The New Online Family

Parents are finding that as there are more and more
things for their kids to do on the computer and online, they are having
to create new rules and restrictions for how and when their kids use the
computer. Over half of parents (57 per cent) have guidelines about when
and how the computer is to be used and 48 per cent say they place time
limits or curfews on their kids’ Internet usage. 41 per cent say that
they have had to negotiate computer or Internet time in the household.

When it comes to learning about technology, some parents
(48 per cent) find that they are ahead of their kids while others (56
per cent) admit that they have learned at least some of what they know
about the Internet from their children.

The New Online Home

Canadian families are finding that new technology
has affected not only their family relationships, but how their homes
are set up to accommodate new technologies. Just over one-in-three parents
(37 per cent) say that they have redesigned, reconfigured or renovated
a portion of their living space to accommodate their computer(s).

Home area networks (HANs) have also become much more
prevalent with 43 per cent of families with two more computers in the
home having turned to networking the PCs together, in order to share peripherals
such as a colour printer, a scanner or high-speed Internet connection.

Balancing Work and Family in the Online Household

The growth of the Internet and the emergence of new
technologies has made the balance between work and family life much easier
for many Canadian families. 72 per cent of the parents surveyed agreed
that telecommuting allows them to spend more time with their family.

Many household chores that used to require leaving
the house can now be done online. Over half of parents with a home Internet
connection have purchased an item directly online (59 per cent) and 57
per cent have conducted online banking transactions. Over half of parents
(58 per cent) also agree that banking or shopping online has allowed them
to spend more time at home with their kids.

For more detailed survey results, please visit: www.rbc.com/newsroom