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Data Collection and SEO Best Practices - a Rant from Both Sides of the Fence as an Author

Updated on May 12, 2014
Marilynn Dawson profile image

Born-again Christian single mother of two grown kids. PC Tech, and Author of 18+ books in the non-fiction, personal/spiritual growth genres

Data Collection and Your Privacy

As is no small secret, Google is currently the largest and most successful search engine to date, with enough personal information on people to make them a large target any time law enforcement agencies and criminals want information. If you want to get an idea of how many fingers Google has in your personal data, log in to your dashboard in the box to the right here. Beside each major entry is manage, change settings, or view history, among other potential tasks. The list looks longer than it should due to many of the tasks associated with gmail and Google Calendar are broken into their own data sets on this dashboard. But suffice to say, the more you use Google's services, the more data they have on you and if you don't know how to manage it, that works in their favour as opposed to yours.

I haven't visited this dashboard in awhile, so I'm overdue in managing my own data set on Google, but that doesn't stop me from being adverse to any further data collection by this company.

That being said, I'm grateful for privacy and security controls available to me via Facebook, as more and more arms of various governments around the world reveal their gleaning of publicly-shared data. It still amazes me that many Facebook users are not aware of public versus private data sharing and how they can control it. A really good way to see what you're sharing publicly, is to click the “view as” feature on your profile. Choose “view as public” to see exactly what you are sharing with the world at large. Facebook has settings for both privacy and security that can be accessed by either visiting those areas of your account, or by making use of the tiny icons below every post, picture or article that you share. Even then, if the law comes knocking Facebook is forced to hand over private information as well, and they, along with the likes of Microsoft and others, are starting to disclose whenever these requests are made, to show just how often this data is being requested. It is a form of protest for them to reveal the frequency of these requests.

LinkedIn has me a little more comfortable because it is largely a professional network. Twitter has very little info demanded of the user, but all posts shared are public, so it pays to be mindful of what you share there.

Data Collection and SEO

This issue of data- collection has now met SEO (search engine optimization) in a head-on collision that totally has this author and computer tech mentally writhing in her chair! I've been told by various people in author groups I am part of, that Google is threatening to tie blog-related content to Google+ accounts as a way of proving “authorship” and thus boosting SEO rankings for confirmed “Google Authorship” content in their search engine. An article by Jason DeMeyers written in March of 2013 wrote an extensive how-to to assist authors and companies get their Google Authorship established. Another article which I can't locate now, said that in the Fall of 2013, Google was tightening up it's authorship presentation of articles in its search engine rankings. Then just this month, another article written by Jason DeMeyers appeared in Forbes Magazine pointing out the SEO trends for 2014, and guess what? Google Authorship got mentioned again!

According to Google's own sources, eventually, their Google Authorship attribution will become as important if not more-so, than the importance we currently place on quality back-links.

The more I wrestle with letting Google gather yet more information on me, the more I am faced with conflicting behaviour as a webmaster myself.

Message from Google's Matt Cutts

Keywords and Targeted Marketing for the Author

As we know, keywords are necessary to get your book seen in the search engines, on Amazon, etc. But did you know that as a website owner of any stripe, or a seller of anything online, that when you go to set up an ad on Facebook, or Google adwords, or a third-party ad agency, that you are using the exact same data set that I'm currently complaining about???

For example, I want to buy an ad on Facebook for my author page. I want to target people who are age 16 to 90. But if a person has not let Facebook know their age, I won't reach them with this ad. Say I wanted this ad to more specifically target mothers, because I want to promote my book, “Mom's Little Black Book: Godly Advice for the High School Graduate”. Well, if a mother of a graduating teenager hasn't a) allowed FB to know her age, and b) hasn't revealed that she has kids, she won't see my ad. Say I want to further refine this by country. If this Mother of teenagers hasn't told FB what country she's from, FB will try to guess based on IP address and this Mother may still not see the ad for my book. The very data that we complain about being collected by these big companies, is being used by us smaller companies to get our message out to those who would be interested in seeing it.

We call that “targeted marketing”. The Book Marketing Challenge for the week of May 11th, 2014 is about building your subscriber base, your email list, etcetera. They start off asking you to know your target market. Identify them. Who are they? Where do they hang out? Well I can tell you that one place everyone's target market hangs out, is on the Google search engine! If you are going to successfully reach your target market, you make sure you are seen where they will find you most easily. Certain people reading this will now realize that I am at the “kicking and screaming” stage of this article. I'm not eating that proverbial crow, I am kicking it all over the area and sending feathers flying! I'm standing right in the middle of a black cloud of crow feathers because the very content everyone is up in arms over, is the very content we as authors and entrepreneurs need to get the word out about our services, books, etc.

It is impossible to learn who your target market is, if they don't reveal themselves. It is impossible to reach them if they don't allow their likes and dislikes to be known to the world. This is a big issue with privacy and security advocates. Search engines such as DuckDuckGo will let you search for what you need without revealing your information to third parties who collect it for their use. Why do they collect it? The primary reason third parties collect your information is to learn who you are and what it takes to invite you to buy their stuff.

Before the age of the Internet, marketing and promotion was done and in some areas, is still offered, via bulk admail, fax campaigns, etc. In fact you probably see more “junk mail” in your mailbox now than actual mail most days. That so-called junk mail has landed in your mail box precisely because you live in the targeted region for that advertising campaign. Your mailing address along with some of your likes and dislikes may have been shared with a data-gatherer who sold it to companies looking to reach your particular demographic with their message. When you go to your local post office to set up a bulk admail campaign, they want to know the region you wish to reach, whether it's residential or business, if business what size, etc. You bring in your box of flyers and off they go.

In a less scrupulous manner, spammers and third-party companies doing campaigns for flight brokers, adult toys, shady pharmaceuticals, and others will gather and then sell your demographic information and you get junk mail or spam in your email inbox.

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"Know Thy Target Market"

Data-sharing then is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, allowing your demographic data into the wild allows it to get into the hands of government spy networks and criminals. On the other hand, that exact same information allows authors to better target their book marketing campaigns and ensure they are better seen in the search engines.

Have the feathers settled yet? Can you see me again? No, thankfully I'm not covered in tar, so I'm not about to look like a human crow. . . at least not yet. . . But the two sides of this issue are staggering when suddenly seen together like this!

My research on this issue today revealed a few other articles related to using blogging and guest blogging in your efforts to boost your ranking and visibility online.

You'll notice these two articles were also written by a certain Jason DeMeyer. Seems this guy has his thumb on the pulse of current SEO practices. While he writes for the business audience in general, we authors are in business to sell our books, as Dvorah Lansky is currently teaching via her Book Marketing Challenge happening this month:

So now that this crow has been thoroughly defeathered, it's time to cook this thing and engage in the unenviable task of eating it! Do I want to get lost in the search engines when keywords give way to Google Authorship on that behemoth of a search engine? Am I selling my soul so I can use it to make a sale while trying to get out the message God gave me to share? Are there other options out there that have as big an impact on buyer habits without having to relinquish who we are and what we like to the global population?

The holy grail of marketing is “Know thy target market!”. Is it possible to remove myself from the matrix and still benefit from the matrix? At this point in time, the answer appears to be no, but if that ever changes, rest assured I'll be on it faster than these feathers blew away in the wind.

© 2014 Marilynn Dawson

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    • RonElFran profile image

      Ronald E. Franklin 3 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

      I've reached the conclusion that any info I reveal in any public web platform is essentially public. Once I let go of it I can't control it, and anybody who really wants to know can gather it all in if they make the effort. Ironically, Google's own Gmail does a pretty good job for me of filtering out spam, so I'm not bothered by marketers knowing a fair amount about me. I think my best privacy bet is to just be careful about what I put anywhere online. But that anybody who wants to can find out a great deal about me is just the reality of the age we live in.