The 2014 Enhanced Online Privacy Laws: What They Mean for Website Owners

The 2014 Online Privacy Laws

Online privacy and more specifically disclosing to consumers if and how their visitor data is being tracked is now an important matter for all website owners.

As of January 1, 2014, there are specific requirements to provide ‘enhanced’ privacy notices about the tracking practices you use. This holds true whether you are the one doing the tracking, or some other entity is involved.

Online privacy is now a very hot button topic for consumers. We’ve developed a strong sense of concern about what happens with our private information following the recent security breaches at Target and other large retailers. Alarms raised over the tracking of personal data by the NSA have also given us a wake up call.

As business owners in the virtual world, we now have a responsibility to our customers to clearly disclose our online privacy policy related to two specific issues.

The Two Major Compliance Issues Affecting Your Treatment of Online Privacy

1) The Better Business Bureau now has an Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program, which regulates behavioral advertising across the Internet. Under the current regulations, website owners are required to give site visitors ‘enhanced notice‘ (meaning it has to be in an obvious location, not buried in your privacy policy) whenever their data is gathered for Online Behavioral Advertising (OBA).

OBA uses information gathered from multiple unaffiliated web sites to predict a user’s preferences, and display ads most likely to interest consumers. The Better Business Bureau began auditing and enforcing their accountability program on January 1, 2014.

2) There is a new amended California Internet Privacy Law, which requires operators of a commercial Internet website or online service (including mobile apps) that collect personally identifiable information (PII) about consumers residing in California who use or visit its website or service to disclose how it responds to “do not track” signals or other mechanisms that provide consumers a choice regarding the tracking of their online activities, and to disclose whether others may collect PII when they use the operator’s website or online service. The legalese is long, I know, but you get the drift.

In other words, if your website can or does collect information about California residents, then you need to be in compliance with the new law by adding the disclosures. A case in point, as highlighted in this article, would be if you allow a third party to place ads on your site and the advertiser places “cookies” on the user’s browser to allow them to track that user’s movements across domains, you would likely need to disclose that fact to your users.

About the ‘Do not Track’ Online Privacy Provision

Do not track‘ is intended to work in much the same way as the more familiar ‘do not call’ request for opting out of unwanted calls, except it asks whatever sites you visit not to track your movements for the purpose of delivering ‘like it or not’ ad content. But unlike ‘do not call’, there’s no current requirement that the site receiving your ‘do not track’ signal has to honor your request. It just has to disclose its policy about how the requests are handled in plain view.

About the Third Party Online Privacy Disclosure

In the past, website owners tended to rely on whatever advertising network they subscribed to for sharing specific tracking details to consumers. With the new law, the responsibility falls directly on the owner of the individual website. The California law is the first in the United States to impose disclosure requirements on website publishers that track consumers’ online behavior.

Who the Online Privacy Regulations Affect

Generally, the new rules apply to you if:

  • You use any kind of advertising network (including those WordPress plugins that feature posts from around the web on your site in exchange for showing your content on other sites)
  • You have affiliate links on your site
  • You host AdSense ads on your site
  • You use Google Analytics that track your visitor’s activity on your site or blog
  • You capture personal identifying information through forms handled by third parties on your site or blog
  • Your site places cookies on your visitor’s computer
How to Comply with the 2014 Online Privacy Regulations

I’ve read a good amount of information on this subject, and there doesn’t seem to be a universal standard for complying with these new changes. As best as I can determine, here’s what you can do in the near term to keep the Better Business Bureau away from your door.

If your site ignores ‘do not track’ signals (and most do because they are fairly new), you need to make that obvious to your site visitors. If you do happen to honor them, you need to also clarify how you do that to be in compliance.

If you are a network or affiliate marketer, or you allow third party advertising on your site or blog, you need to let your site visitors know that you’re using online behavioral tracking technology.

In the interest of transparency, you should state whether you use Google Analytics. While their tracking is anonymous (it doesn’t mine personal identifying information like names and email) it should be noted in your privacy policy. Note that this is also part of the user agreement for having Google Analytics on your site.

If you have affiliate links on your pages or posts, it should be clear that you will receive compensation if someone buys through one of your links.

If you writing about a product that you received a sample or review copy of, you need to mention it.

If your site creates cookies, you should say so prominently and explain how they are used. The Pillsbury Law site does a very neat job of this by adding a statement at the very top of their web pages.

If you collect information from web forms, your privacy policy should identify what happens to it (it gets emailed, put into a database, etc.) and what you do with it (send out newsletters and special offers). The law doesn’t seem to apply to situations where visitors willingly share their data with you, but, as in the case of Google Analytics, it is best to conform to the spirit of online consumer privacy law, which is all about transparency.

Well, It looks like we’ve got some work to do. How do you feel about the new online privacy regulations? Were you aware of them before? Add your comment below.
 
 
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Up Your Game: 3 Smart Steps to Small Business Success

Up Your Game: 3 Smart Steps to Small Business Success

Small business success is largely about planning. But it’s also a function of perspective – about your customer, your knowledge gaps, and your market.

You build the foundation for your success as you gain mastery of these three areas, which is what allows you to up your game. The steps are pretty straightforward, if you examine them in bite sized pieces.

Walk in Your Customer’s Shoes

Anyone who visits your website wants to know more about you and what your business has to offer. That’s a given. But beyond that, today’s customer is interested in how you ‘quack’, your perspective on things, and whether you’re someone they should connect with and trust.

We depend on our website (and not just our blog) to represent us in ‘now’ mode. To show the human side of our business, as we are today. That’s a tall order for a website, especially if our main content is as fresh as the day we wrote it years ago.

That was way back then. Before you learned as much as you know now, before you found your online voice and before you really knew what you were doing. Times have changed. You’ve probably changed. And your website should too.

Walking in your customer’s shoes will give you a different perspective. So take a leisurely stroll through your site, looking at it from their point of view.

What’s the message? What is it asking or expecting me to do? Do I clearly understand what this person or small business does? Does this site/person sound or feel stiff? Is the site visually appealing? Am I being engaged, or just being talked to? Is it interesting enough for me to return or bother connecting on social media?

You get the idea. Take a second look at your online home. Make sure it’s really saying what you want it to say, doing what you want it to do, and creating the atmosphere you want to associate with your business brand.

When you, thinking like your customer who is tuned into station WIIFM (what’s in it for me), feel like you came to just the right place, then you probably have 🙂

Get the Help you Need

To become wildly successful in business, you have to learn a good many things that you weren’t taught in school. Most people who venture out on their own didn’t grow up around a successful business owner or mentor who could teach them the ropes. Even if you were lucky that way, what applied then and what’s needed now are two very different things.

It’s a bear trying to keep up with social and now mobile media. It seems like there’s a boatload of new information to learn every day, and sometimes it’s downright exhausting. But to excel, you have to keep going, and find ways to work smarter instead of harder.

Ask yourself three simple questions:

  1. What do I need to know?
  2. What do I need to do?
  3. Who can give me the best insight on how to get that done?

For example, if Twitter is an important platform for you, but you don’t know how to use it to your advantage, talk with someone who knows it inside out.

If Facebook has you stumped, find a Facebook expert or join a Facebook group that can bring you up to speed and support you on your way. Need help getting organized or managing your time? Find a pro. Need to create a master strategy for your business? Hire a success coach.

Source out your social media connections – chances are you’re already in the company of people who are expert in the area where you’re less experienced. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to say ‘I need your help with XYZ’ whatever that is. Be clear, honest and up front about it.

Remember that everyone’s time has value, so be sure to respect theirs. Ask them whether they can help, if they’re willing to help, and when they might have the time.

Ask about rates. If they’re higher than you expected, see if they’re comfortable being flexible with their pricing, or willing to barter to offset a portion of the cost. You might be pleasantly surprised at how well an arrangement like that can work.

If they agree, and you come to an arrangement, be prepared to follow through immediately. Don’t waste their time if you’re not really ready to accept the help you asked for. You’ll ruin the relationship and greatly reduce your chances of getting help from them in the future.

If their advice helps you in your business, find a way to celebrate your win together. You know that great feeling you get when someone unexpectedly acknowledges you? Be the person sending that awesome message – say ‘thank you’ in a unique way to show your gratitude.

Clarify your Marketing Strategy

When you’re running a business, creating new customers is your top priority. In this day and age, that means you have to be visible, out and about, spreading the word (in a nice way) about who you are and what you do.

The long and short of it is that small business owners need a strategy for reaching prospects online, offline and in the mobile space.

Figure out which social platforms are working best for your business. Try and focus your main efforts on a maximum of three. Schedule your posts in advance so you’re not rushing. That way when you participate ‘live’, you’re fully present. Grab attention when the time is right with contests, giveaways, Facebook ads, LinkedIn group promos, Pin it to Win It events, etc.

Have a plan that guarantees you’ll connect with people in your offline audience. You live in a community that includes people (probably thousands) for whom your product or service is perfect.

Find out who and where they are. Check out local meetups or networking opportunities that are likely to attract your ideal customers or other professionals who might know them. Sponsor a community project in your business name to spread goodwill.

Take your business mobile, so you don’t miss the opportunity to reach that massively growing mobile market. Use mobile coupons and QR codes to promote your offers. Make it easy for people to reach you with Tap-to-Call, Tap-to-Email and GPS directions. Link back to your main site and to your blog RSS feed. Let them see you’re on it.

If you walk in your customer’s shoes so you know what they want, seek out the help you need to make sure you’re on the right track, and put a marketing strategy in place that hits all the bases (online, offline and mobile) you’ll be well on your way to a stellar year. Pinky promise!

What’s your perspective on creating small business success? Share what your experience has taught you.

Oh, and feel free to Tweet This, or mention it on social media if you found it helpful.

To your business success,

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How to Use Click to Tweet to Promote your Blog

 

How to use Click to Tweet for Blog Promotion

Click to Tweet is a Twitter marketing tool that lets people tweet the exact text you want them to share on Twitter. A number of bloggers, including myself, use it on a regular basis, and find it very handy. The problem is that not everyone uses it the right way, so they’re not getting the maximum bang for their effort.

Click to Tweet Directions: Good News, Bad News

On the Click to Tweet website, it tells you ‘here’s how it works’:

  • Write the message you want to share in the box
  • Click the ‘generate’ button to create a custom link
  • Share the link

Sounds easy enough right? And it is. If you follow those directions, you certainly will get a custom link that others can share on Twitter, just like they said. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that unless you specifically include both a link back to your blog and your @twittername, no one will know that the tweet originated with you.

Same Tweet, Different Impact

Let’s suppose I want to promote this post. I go to Click to Tweet and type in the title ‘How to use Click to Tweet to promote your blog’ and then hit ‘generate link’, like this.

The Blog Title by Itself

 

After I generate the link and preview it, the resulting tweet will look like this:

Click to Tweet just  the blog title

Whoever follows my suggestion to ‘Tweet This’ will be tweeting ‘How to use Click to Tweet to promote your blog’ and nothing else. The tweet won’t make any sense because it doesn’t link to anything, and I won’t get the credit for blogging about it. Not good.

OK, Let’s Try This Again

My goal as a blogger is to provide valuable content to my audience. For obvious reasons, I also want them to know where it’s coming from. So the best way for me to do that with Click to Tweet is to brand my content and make sure it leads right back to this post.

Two more steps will complete the job.

First I’ll need the short URL to my published blog post. Note I said published. This part is really important, otherwise my link will point to the draft version, which will result in a ‘page not found’ after it’s published.  The WordPress short URL can be found at the end of the permalink where it says ‘get shortlink’.

 

Get the shortlink

 

Second, I need to include my Twitter name @bizcoachdawn in the copy. You can add a few hashtags too for good measure.

Now when I go to Click to Tweet, I’ll enter this information:

 

The Right Information for Click to Tweet

 

And the tweet others will share will look like this:

 

The Very Final Tweet Copy

 

That’s it! Now can you do me a favor? Tweet This OK? Thanks!

Have you used Click to Tweet? What do you think of it? I’d love to hear about your experience.
 
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Shopping Smart on Ebay for the Holidays

Shopping Smart on Ebay for the Holidays

Shopping smart is a necessary skill these days. And in today’s economy, every dollar counts. Whether you’re on the hunt for year end business deductions, something for your home or personal items, we’re all looking to save money. And Christmastime is no exception.

Don’t get me wrong – I love Christmas. In fact, I’m pretty sure I love everything about Christmas. Especially the holiday traditions, togetherness and gift giving that make it such a festive season.

And I know that in just a few short weeks, that ever wonderful list of people I want to, need to, or really should buy a gift for, will start to loom large.

This is fine by me, because I love giving gifts to family and friends, to myself, and to my house during the holidays. And it’s so much more fun when I can do it by shopping smart, to find just the right gift at just the right price.

In case you’re wondering, I am not a penny pincher. I just grew up in New York City, where buying retail (with few exceptions) is practically a sin and a crime. There’s just no reason for it, when a little bit of shopping around will let you score that ‘must have’ item at a much better price. It only makes sense.

Which is what led me to Ebay, the mega marketplace for practically anything your heart desires. But there’s a catch – you have to know a ‘good deal’ when you see one, and have a system for bidding on items that works to your benefit.

Here are my best kept secrets to shopping victoriously on Ebay for the holidays.

Shopping Smart on Ebay Means Strategy First

Do this firstBefore you jump on Ebay and start bidding, have a plan. The purpose of the exercise is to compare prices before you buy. After all, you can only be victorious if you’re getting the best deal.

Understand that Ebay is largely an auction site, where the highest bidder when the time runs out gets the item.

That means the price of an item will start out low, and as people bid on it, the price goes up. Auctions can last for days or weeks. The price you see on Day 1 and the final price on the last day will be different. You can also buy without bidding, using ‘Buy it Now’ if the seller offers that choice.

Know the Retail Price. Go to the Manufacturer’s website (or a major online retailer) and find out what it would cost you to buy the item you want, including tax and shipping. While you’re there, make note of any holiday price reductions or shipping discounts. Also do two other things:

  • Write down the total cost so you know what price to beat when you go on Ebay.
  • Write down the exact name of the item, so you know how to search for it on Ebay. Ebay search is no different from Google search – the more specific you are, the better your results will be.

If you’ve never used Ebay before, sign in as a guest to see how it works. To buy, sell, or save what you find into a ‘watch list’ though, you’ll have to register. PayPal is the most accepted form of payment for most sellers, so having a PayPal account is the easiest way to make purchases.)

Shopping Smart on Ebay Means Getting the Right Information Quickly

Search for the exact name of the item(s) you want.

For example, if you wanted this incredible Logitech rechargeable keyboard, you would use the search term ‘Logitech diNovo Edge Keyboard’ instead of ‘Logitech Keyboard’.

Logitech diNovo Edge Keyboard

FYI: The keyboard is made of Plexiglas and brushed aluminum. It is less than an inch thick, and comes with its own Bluetooth charging stand. The bottom edge of the keyboard rests in the stand when it’s not being used, so the middle of your desk is free. I got mine a year ago for $90 less than the retail price. What’s not to love?

Use the category features on the left side of the page to make things easier.

If you live in the USA, check ‘US only’ for item location. This will restrict your search to US sellers, and keep your shipping costs down. If you live elsewhere, choose the region that applies to you.

Similarly, choose your size, item condition (new or used), the type of listings you want to show (like free shipping only) and anything else that meets your criteria.

Sort your items by ‘best match’, ‘Price + shipping lowest first’ or ‘time ending soonest’, depending on your preference. You’ll find this feature just above the listings from your search, near the top right of the page.

FYI: If you sort by ‘Price + shipping lowest first’ don’t be surprised if you see ‘related’ items first. For example, if you searched for an iPhone that way, you might see phone cases, phone batteries, chargers and the like before you get to the phone itself.

Shopping Smart on Ebay means Narrowing Down Your Choices

Now that you’re ready to browse, here’s what to do:

  • ONLY look at items that are reasonably below the full retail price.
  • Read each item description carefully, so you know exactly what you’re getting
  • Make sure you understand the terms for bidding, paying and returns
  • Always check the seller’s feedback. For the best experience, look for ‘Top Rated’ sellers with feedback at or above 98%.
  • When you find a match that crosses your eye, click on ‘add to list’ (after you register) so you can keep track of it. Ebay will send you alerts a few hours before bidding closes.
  • You will probably have several of the same item in your watch list when you’re done. Go through it a second time to really determine the best deal. Delete items that don’t fit the bill.
  • If you have questions about the item before purchase, contact the seller.
Shopping Smart on Ebay Means Knowing When and How to Bid

Let’s say you want to buy a pair of Not Your Daughter’s Jeans that retail for $98. You find a new one on Ebay with a starting bid of $ 25 that ends in 4 days. Shipping is $6.00, and there’s no tax. You know that no matter what, your minimum cost will be $31 (assuming no one outbids you). You decide to budget $50 for the jeans.

Your maximum bid will be $44 or $19 more than the current price. Wait until the last day of the auction to check the price again. If it’s already at $40 by then, the odds on winning the bid for only $4 more dollars are pretty slim. Instead of bidding, move on to the next pair you added to your watch list.

Suppose that pair is only $35, and bidding ends in 2 hours. Check it again in an hour and a half. If it’s still at $35, you have a good chance of winning the bid. Come back and check it again when there’s 10 minutes left. Then watch it carefully (refresh your page as you go) until there are only 2 minutes left.

Here’s the real secret to successful bidding – put in your maximum bid at the 45 second mark. Unless someone else has a larger maximum bid, you’ll probably win. It takes about 30 seconds to ‘commit to buy’, which barely leaves enough time for anyone else to beat you to the punch.

So there you go! Now shopping smart on Ebay for the holidays is a piece of cake! (And we’ll keep the secret just between us =).

Like this post? Tweet this or share it with someone you know who wants to shop victoriously.

Happy Holidays!
 
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Boost Your Popularity on Pinterest



Boost your popularity on Pinterest

Pinterest is the place to be if you want to grow your blog following and expand your audience.

As a business owner, this means there are three important bases to cover if you want to boost your popularity on the platform.

First (of course) your blog posts have to hit the mark when it comes to appealing to your niche, and anyone else who can appreciate your content.

Second, you have to develop a knack for creating branded images that catch the eye so they pop on Pinterest.

Third, and most importantly, you’ll want to develop a strategy that will increase your chances of getting noticed, and drive traffic back to your blog.


Pinterest Popularity: What it all means

Popularity on Pinterest doesn’t come easy.  Even if you have a massive following on other social networks, making headway on the extremely visual platform of Pinterest is, well, a whole other thing.

Specifically, getting new people who don’t know you from a hole in the head, to like, comment or repin your content takes a bit of ingenuity. We live in a social world where popularity is largely based on numbers, so we we’ve got to make sure our numbers are always growing.

The ‘numbers’ include the number of people following us personally (all of our boards), the number of people following our individual boards, and the number of repins we get for specific pins. The bigger your numbers, the more popular you’ll become on Pinterest.

Looking at the ‘big picture’, it all boils down to what you’re pinning, who you follow, when you pin, and how well you leverage your social network connections to spread the word about your activity on Pinterest.

8 Simple Strategies to Boost your Popularity on Pinterest

  1. Make your pins pop – use bright colors to stand out, go big on size (rectangular, up to 736 pixels wide; and longer in length). Choose a great title (I use the Headline Analyzer to help me with this) and create an image that draws attention.
  2. Pin often – at different times of the day, several at a time, at least 3 times a week. Mix it up too – don’t pin things all on the same subject, and be sure to pin other people’s content in addition to your own. Remember the point is to inform and share 90 – 95% of the time, not to constantly sell. If everything you pin is pushing your products, your message will get old real fast, and most people won’t buy.
  3. Follow people who have pinned the same pin you did to their boards. People who offer similar content also attract an audience that’s comparable to yours. That’s actually what you want, so don’t hesitate to jump in and get noticed. Pinterest makes this easy by showing you a complimentary board (Also pinned to) right after you’ve added your pin. Just click on the ‘see it now’ button and follow that board (and person if you like) to expand your reach.
  4. Follow boards that focus on topics you blog about. If you blog about Pinterest, for example, follow other Pinterest related boards. You’ll learn new things, and your pins will show up in that person’s stream. That will give them greater exposure, and increase your chances of getting your content repined. You’ll pick up new followers as well.
  5. Get your group on! Become an active participant in Facebook and LinkedIn groups where you can share your Pinterest links, gather new followers and support others. Join Google communities that let you do the same. The more people that see your pins the better off you’ll be. Visibility brings you business.
  6. Reach out – connect with your Pinterest followers across other social platforms. Follow them on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+. That will make it more likely that they’ll pay closer attention to your pins. Invite people from those networks to also connect with you on Pinterest. It works to build your audience.
  7. Start something new, like a community or group board where others can contribute. People appreciate being among the ‘chosen’ and to be given the opportunity to share their own work. This breeds loyalty and is a great way to pay it forward.
  8. Be a contributor yourself. Add to the Pinterest conversation with posts you’ve written or discovered that bring value to your audience. Everybody likes a team player that always shows up with something good to offer.

I’ve increased my Pinterest following 10 fold since I started using these strategies. I’m sure you can too, so give it a try! And while I’m on the subject, you’re welcome to follow me on Pinterest – I’ll follow you back 🙂

Not sure how to put your best business foot forward on Pinterest? Let me show you how.

If you enjoyed this post, share it with your friends on Twitter, or any of the platforms below.

Do you have a particular strategy for getting new followers on Pinterest that really works? Comment and let me know – all ideas are welcome!

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