Making the Most of the Open Data Movement

open-dataGovernments everywhere are opening up their data to the public and third-party developers.

Case in point? The New York City Open Data Project kicked off in 2010 and enshrined into law by Mayor Bloomberg in 2012, the effort aims to make all sorts of NYC data available to the public via the Internet.

And that’s just New York. The Open Data idea is a genuine worldwide movement, spanning governments, businesses, and nonprofits complete with conferences, app developer challenges, and hackathons too numerous to list.

Other organizations are joining the party too, the World Bank being one example. Meanwhile, the federal government has launched with over 370,000 datasets and a listing of hundreds of government and citizen-developed apps.

What sort of data is being made available? The New York City site provides more than 1,100 data sets with more being made available all the time. For example:

  • SAT results by neighborhood
  • WiFi hotspot locations
  • Restaurant inspection results
  • Locations of public bathrooms
  • Parking signs and regulations by location
  • 2009 NYC birth names count – female (Lots of Isabellas)

Why You Should Care

It’s fun stuff, and the goal is laudable, but what’s it mean for you? Well, a slew of companies have stepped up to monetize, app-ize, and otherwise work the new data into products and websites that are defining the new interface between the public and the government.

Nimble companies as well as everyday users have a whole set of possibilities which are just beginning to take shape. The type of data is a potential goldmine for real estate, local, rating and reviews, mapping, and urban exploring and social mobility businesses.

Ways to Play the Open Data Movement

Here are some of the ways smart digital types like you can turn the data into moneymaking apps and content:

  • Create resource sites around search-optimized data, monetize the traffic with advertising.
  • Mobilize the content and make it location-relevant via mobile apps.
  • Include the new data as an overlay or search feature on your site.
  • Enrich your on-page content with local data.
  • Use the data to create infographics.

If you need additional inspiration check out the NYC Open Data Tumblr – it highlights some of the best uses of the NYC data like Canopy – a site the plots every variety of tree in New York City:


Go on a Tulip Tree tour of New York with Canopy, courtesy of the Open Data Project.

Turning Information into Infographics

Whatever city or industry you’re working in, chances are there is a data set being made public that you can turn to your advantage. For example, data sets and infographics are petty much a match made in heaven. After all – somebody’s got to make sense of all this information.

A well-optimized infographic can boost inbound links, build your brand awareness, and feed great sharable and comment-driving content your social media channels.

If you see a great infographic buried in the data, just remember these handy tips for making SEO-savvy infographics:

  • Keep it on topic and related to your primary business. Tie the infographic to your search-informed content marketing plan (you have one, right?).
  • Embed the image in a page on your core domain surrounded by relevant copy.
  • Provide embed code with keyword-rich anchor text so people don’t need to copy the image file.
  • Include a watermark or some branded messaging in the image so people know where the image came from.
  • Post and promote the infographic on all your digital touch points. Upload it to infographic sites like Let bloggers, journalists, and industry experts who are active in the area know about it.

Making Government Services and Data Easy to Find, Access, and use

At all levels of government there is a strong drive for greater accessibility, transparency, and efficiency along with a dawning understanding that digital is the medium that solves these challenges. This aligns federal, state, and local government with the core capabilities of online marketers in general and the search marketing industry in particular.

Are you or someone you know looking at playing this new opportunity? Let us know in the comments below.

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