Brands influence purchases; there is really no argument about that. The art of advertising has paired a brand with a single adjective since the ads moved beyond basic product descriptions. For example: Coca-Cola=Classic, Gatorade=Quench, and Volvo=Safety. In today’s market, Google=Search and Bing=Decide. What would happen if brands were to disappear and only the bare bones, no glitz or glamour services and products were left behind? Michael Kordahi has provided the public with just that, a way to compare search results without the big three’s branding.
What is BlindSearch?
Kordahi has taken the famous Coke v Pepsi blind taste test and applied it to modern day technology. The introduction of BlindSearch has given Internet users the ability to search for results from Google, Bing, and Yahoo! without any branding or layout.
BlindSearch provides the results in three side by side columns with a voting button at the top of each. Each column represents results from Google, Bing, and Yahoo! The user is able to vote on the column which most closely matches their desired results. After voting, the buttons are replaced with the search engine logos to reveal which search engine’s results most closely matched your search. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t anything brand new. There are other search engine comparison sites out there. However, I found this one to be particularly blog worthy since the results are listed side by side rather than tabbed as in Zuula (not to mention a fun little test).
Why I’m writing about it
BlindSearch isn’t really a big deal per say. It is just a fun, quick way to see what search engine may be better for you without having a hundred experts telling you which one you should use. On the plus side, BlindSearch helps in beating out some lazy tendencies when doing deeper web research. Additionally, even if at a base level, it may be a helpful nudge to some users in considering other search alternatives in their every day routines.
In no way is BlindSearch a statistical tool that will be the end all be all of the search engine supremacy argument. Even if it was 100% effective, it could render the same results as the Coke v Pepsi test, in which Pepsi was more generally liked but Coke was still the dominating force in sales.
The first to clarify BlindSearch’s discrepancies is Kordahi with a clear disclaimer on the BlindSearch homepage.
“The system has many flaws that I know about already, the primary one of interest is the lack of localisation. So, all searches are going through the US as US searches. The other deficiency worth noting is that there is much missing from the actual experience of using these search engines eg, image thumbnails, suggestions, refine queries, etc.”
There are other arguments that can be made against the accuracy, relevancy, and even importance of this experiment.
First, it could be that modern search engines are already too much alike in terms of results. Search engines have begun to emulate the leaders, taking what is effective and applying it to their own engines.
A simple comparison could be described with handbags. Designer handbags are extremely popular, high end stores carry these high end bags. In order to provide an alternative, lower end stores emulate the designs, colors, and patterns and sell similar bags for a cheaper price. After a bit of time, knockoff purses are released that are identical to the high end originals and if done correctly, can rarely be told apart. Basically, the best was emulated, and now, even the competitors have a similar product.
A second argument is shown when viewing the top ten results. The list shows a fairly generic breath of search. None of the ten results show any type of long tail searches and therefore do not really replicate normal search. This could be in part to lazy testing and a desire to get a result as quickly as possible to “test” a user’s search engine preference. It could also be in part to the limited amount of data, only 600,000 queries to date.
Lastly, BlindSearch is a sort of site where users would try to get off the wall results and test the boundaries/parameters. The site is small and the audience is certainly a select sample.
Kordahi released the following results with roughly 8 weeks of data:
Google: 41%, Bing: 31%, Yahoo: 28%
Although an employee of Microsoft, Kordahi makes it abundantly clear that this project is not initiated by or affiliated with Microsoft.
New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo announced yesterday that Lifestyle Lift, a cosmetic surgery company providing “facial-firming procedures,” will pay $300,000 in penalties and costs for publishing false reviews of the company and its procedures on the Internet. The company must also cease posting fake reviews and testimonials online and clearly disclose Internet content for which they are responsible.
Lifestyle Lift felt that negative online feedback had hurt its reputation, so the company launched an aggressive in-house brand management campaign. Employees were instructed to pose as satisfied customers on message boards and forums and to criticize or attempt to remove posts that were critical of Lifestyle Lift. The company also created several blogs and websites on which employees posted positive reviews. The sites did not disclose that they were run by Lifestyle Lift. (Examples of the reviews can be downloaded at http://www.oag.state.ny.us/bureaus/internet_bureau/pdfs/LifestyleLiftStories.pdf.)
The Lifestyle Lift settlement is the first case in the United States to address the issue of companies posing as consumers and posting false reviews of products or services, also known as “astroturfing.” This practice is an extreme tactic avoided by Apogee Search and (I hope) other reputable search marketers, but the Lifestyle Lift case has important implications for less aggressive brand management and search engine optimization campaigns.
Don’t forget advertising laws and regulations. Search marketing campaigns gone wrong can have consequences more dire and expensive than search engine penalties. Most companies are very aware that they must keep Federal Trade Commission, state, and local regulations in mind when advertising through traditional media, but some forget that advertising online is no different. Keep regulations in mind and be aware of what you can and cannot say when creating campaigns and messaging, particularly if your company does not have a legal department to review marketing materials.For more information, see “FTC Guides Concerning Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising” and general information on “truth-in-advertising laws” at http://www.business.gov/business-law/advertising-law/truth-in-advertising/. Certain products and services, especially those related to health and medicine, may also be subject to additional regulations.
Be transparent. Concealing your affiliation with a company during online marketing efforts can lead to a damaged reputation, embarrassment, and legal penalties in extreme cases like the Lifestyle Lift settlement. Some websites, particularly Q&A sites like Yahoo! Answers, may also ban you and/or your IP address if you frequently endorse a product or service without disclosure.Always mention that you represent the company that you are endorsing when requesting links, commenting on blog posts, or posting in forums. This disclosure may cause some of your posts or comments to be taken down, but in the end, you will avoid potential fraud allegations and resentment from visitors who learn of the dishonesty. Disclosure is especially important on microsites and blogs; make it obvious that your company has a hand in the website.
Respond to negative feedback. Lifestyle Lift dealt with negative online feedback by trying to squash it. Instead, use negative feedback as an opportunity to communicate with your customers. Respond to negative posts on forums or blogs with apologies and attempts to rectify the situation (perhaps offer a gift card or advice for fixing a product). If these negative comments show up in search results, visitors will also see that your company cares enough to respond to dissatisfied customers. If your company has experienced a public relations nightmare and the Internet is flooded with negative comments, consider creating a microsite dedicated to telling your company’s side of the story (but remember to disclose that your company created the site!).Many companies are also using social media as an avenue for responding to negative feedback. Search Twitter, Facebook, and other social media outlets for negative comments about your company and respond directly to the posters with advice and/or offers of recompensation. Some companies have also setup Twitter accounts specifically for customer support questions. For examples of how some businesses are using Twitter to communicate with customers, see http://www.searchenginejournal.com/16-examples-of-huge-brands-using-twitter-for-business/7792/.
Create listings but not reviews on review sites. Listings on sites that allow users to leave reviews can generate traffic and word-of-mouth about your business. These sites are most effective for B2C establishments with physical locations. Some of the most popular review sites are Yelp, Yahoo! Local, Google Local, and Citysearch.It is perfectly acceptable to list your business locations on these sites, but leave the reviews to the users. These websites can use IP addresses to determine if your company is reviewing itself, and this can lead to you being banned from the site. Also, if users realize that your employees are reviewing the company, this can lead to more damaging press than a negative review.
Ensure that everyone knows what can and cannot be said. Make sure that employees who might post online about the company know the rules of your marketing message. Reinforce that everyone should disclose their affiliation with the company when posting comments online. Employees may even want to refrain from leaving comments on review sites to avoid potential problems.
It is anything but a secret that today’s consumers rely heavily on the use of their smartphones to accomplish previously desktop dominated tasks. It can even be argued that the ease of use of mobile devices has overthrown its desktop counterpart as the weapon of choice for solving every day quandaries. The growing use of mobile smartphones has not been overlooked by Google and on Wednesday June 24th they made their search engine presence known once again with the beta release of Google AdSense for Mobile iPhone and Android Applications.
The release and refinement to come of this new and necessary form of reaching consumers impacts each party differently as well as provides new opportunities. Hitting users on the go with relative advertisements provides consumers with suggestions based on location and query while giving advertisers a healthy dose of impressions, if executed correctly.
A recent blog posting by Google VP of product management Susan Wojcicki reads, “[A]dvertisers are looking for ways to reach potential customers when they are engaged with mobile content, and application developers are looking for ways to show the best ads to their users,”
Advantages for Marketers:
At a glance, the benefits of being able to target consumers not only when they are at their home computers but also anytime they use their smartphones for web queries appear to be straight forward and quite simple. However, the benefits of this advancement provide advertisers with a snowball effect. Expanding an advertising campaign to full html smartphones gives advertisers an advantage that was previously unavailable, targeting their audience by keyword and geography while they are on the move.
Advertisers want to be able to reach consumers when they become engaged with mobile content. The growth of shops like iTunes app store, show an abundance of opportunities for qualified traffic since consumers are specifically searching for a subject matter. Providing advertisers with one more medium to reach consumers brings forth the potential to tap into more qualified leads. In turn, advertiser can experience increased click through rate and gain more impressions based on location.
Google’s Adsense for Mobile Marketers information page goes on to describe their own take on marketer benefits in which they focus on five main points:
Use the new platform, keep a familiar process
Google’s AdSense for Mobile Applications offers marketers the familiar AdWords interface, goal tracking with Google Analytics, and the banner ad format.
Reach customers on the go to maximize your ROI
Mobile Internet users are often close to the point of sale, and high-end device users are some of the most engaged targets.
Join the innovation of apps
Ad placements are all above the fold, so advertisers have steady interactions with users in the apps they use every day.
Send traffic where you want
Send traffic to mobile or web landing pages, or promote your own apps by sending clicks directly to the iTunes App Store or Android Market.
Deliver to your target audience
Target specific applications, locations, categories, or keywords to reach your target audience.
…as well as Developers/Consumers:
Marketers are not the only party that is in line to benefit from Google’s new release. Developers and website owners are able to make a few easy bucks by merely putting Adsense on a marketer’s service. Additionally, consumers will benefit from seeing relevant advertisements based on their location and query much like they do at home.
Only two weeks have passed since the clearly beta release of Google has left me continually scratching my head. As described by Advertising Age, links with certain titles such as “University of Kentucky” directs users “to a Hewlett Packard page with information about student discounts for HP computers,” leaving users at pages that are not only irrelevant but also not mobile friendly OR flash enabled (neither iPhone or Google’s Android supports Flash).
Additionally, it appears as though many marketers are not aware that they are getting impressions via mobile devices. Google’s service is currently running in conjunction with PC web unless the marketer opts out of mobile advertising. As a result, some marketers are paying for double the clicks. According to Google spokesman Eric Obenzinger, marketers received a letter last year indicating the change and the ability to opt out.
We are no strangers to Google’s constant efforts to be the first to develop new web advances. Although it has problems, I believe that AdSense Mobile will work out all of its kinks and target consumers as efficiently as its desktop counterpart once it is out of beta. The only problem with that is figuring out when Google will move past beta testing, whether it is five plus years (Gmail) or fourteen weeks (Chrome Browser).
The release of Bing, Microsoft’s new search engine, was accompanied by much commotion among SEO specialists. The early public release shook up the day-to-day lives of search marketers – all of a sudden, one of the familiar “big three” got a facelift.
Much of the uproar was focused on the marketing surrounding Bing, its share of the search market, or its new features. Very few authoritative sites made observations specifically about how the release would affect SEO. Microsoft’s own whitepaper Bing for Webmasters most directly addressed how to optimize for Bing by basically saying to optimize as one normally does:
“Best of all, the type of SEO work and tasks webmasters need to perform to be successful in Bing haven’t changed—all of the skills and knowledge that webmasters have invested in previously applies fully today with Bing.”
Some bloggers noticed variations between Google’s SERPs and Bing’s SERPs and used that to guess about algorithmic differences between the two sites. While these initial studies were pseudo-scientific at best, they at least noted a difference and tried to identify which ranking factors were more important for a given search engine.
The purpose of this post is to examine these initial observations in the light of current Bing discussion. Some of these factors have been confirmed or at least affirmed by outside sources; others were either wrong to begin with, or had such little significance that they were unnoticed by other SEO specialists.
Probable Algo Differences
Keywords in URL This factor has often been discussed as a difference between Yahoo! and Google ranking algorithms. But sound research that compares SERPs on a large scale found that including keywords in the URL is almost definitely a bigger factor for Bing than it is for Google, returning more pages with the search term in the URL 92% of the time.
Domain Age This factor was found by the oft-cited initial post to be the most glaring difference between Bing and Google’s organic results. More scientifictests by Tim at SEOwizz affirmed that, at least among the three search terms he tested, the age of the site was a more important ranking factor for Bing than it is for Google.
Textual Content This factor is almost definitely more important for Bing than Google because the Bing for Webmasters whitepaper says that Bing scrapes information from Flash only if there is no other content to show for the description. Unlike Google, it seems that Bing does not consider the contents of Flash files when ranking sites – it is only to find a description if no other content is available. Thus, it is important for Flash-heavy sites to write textual content in both meta tags and body content so users will get a description (and a summary, if using Bing’s Quick Preview function).
Commonly Cited (but not confirmed) Algo Differences The contents of this blog post have been repeatedwithoutattribution, creating a sort of false knowledge that these factors are different for Bing than they are for Google. The problem is that even the original post lacks any sources or verifiable research. Without verifiable research or at least similar observations by other search professionals, these commonly cited algorithmic differences are much less likely to be true than the ones above:
Outbound Links According to the original post at Vedainformatics.com, even Google places importance on links out to other websites – if Site A links to a reputable site, Google will consider Site A more reputable than before. It is actually a very hotly debated topic, with no conclusive evidence of outbound links having an effect on rankings. With this in mind, I find it hard to believe when this post explains that Bing’s algorithm considers this factor even more than Google’s.
Title Tag Vedainformatics.com also said that the title tag was of higher importance for Bing, but the SEOwizz studies concluded that there is little difference – in fact, Google seemed to weight title tags more than Bing in those examples.
Title Tags of Other Pages The site also says that Bing places more importance on the title tags of inbound and outbound links than Google. Again, the unequivocal declaration that outbound links are important to search engine reduces this statement’s credibility. Like the other statements, this one is not backed by any research and has not been mentioned by any other sources.
Keep in mind that Bing is constantly updating minor features of the site. Bing program manager Brett Yount stated on the community forums:
“We are making some fairly large changes to quite a bit of our backend — most of which I cannot go into right now. But stay tuned for a better experience.”
Also, Apogee Search’s contacts at Microsoft have hinted at a series of changes soon to come but remained quiet about the details. Any adjustment of Bing’s algorithm could occur in the next few weeks.
Look for Part II of this series, which will focus on Bing’s new features (rather than the algorithm) and their effect on search engine optimization.
2009 has thus far been the year of innovation in regards to search engine marketing. The ever growing popularity of Twitter and its newly introduced Twitter Search has since opened the flood gates of what is now referred to as “Real-Time Search.” The demand for instant, relevant results has spawned a slew of real-time search engines such as Cuil, Wolfram Alpha, and the popular Bing. Google’s Larry Page has even said, “I have always thought we needed to index the web every second to allow real-time search,” two of the newest real-time search engines, Collecta and Crowd Eye, have done just that. Essentially, the functionality of these two new real-time search engines beg the question, how and why are they different from traditional search engines?
On June 18th 2009, the world was introduced to a no frills all results, first true real-time search engine, Collecta. Breaching the search engine market, Collecta draws information from blogs using wordpress; news services such as Fox, CNN, and Reuters; social networking sites like Twitter, Jaiku and Identica; and even images from Flickr as described on their homepage. The result of Collecta’s efforts is a simple user interface (UI) that displays real-time results on the left column and a preview on the right.
As described by TechCrunch, Collecta’s advantage over typical search engines rests in the use of a Web standard called Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP). Using XMPP over the traditional HTTP Web standard allows for data to travel from one individual to another substantially quicker, therefore allowing Collecta to render true real-time results to the public.
Attempting to use the service on launch day was less than thrilling. I proceeded to make several searches and (after waiting an average of six minutes for a result) my questions were yet to be answered. It seemed as though on launch date Collecta’s severs were not ready to handle the influx of users hungry for a taste of real-time results and they made it known via Twitter. Using the search engine a few days later, I have noticed an almost instant return for my search but I still have a few reservations.
First and foremost, the results are not organized. Rather than seeing results based on relevancy, I am only seeing the latest blurb in regards to my query. This tightens the vice on top companies to not only be the first to gain valuable information on a subject, but also be the first to Tweet or distribute it via a social media outlet and continue to post updates to ensure their presence on the results page. Secondly, finding answers to less popular questions is nearly impossible since the success of the query is measured by its current relevancy of the news. Collecta appears to be a great option for breaking news, sports, and current comments on products or brands as described by Collecta’s CEO Gerry Campbell. At this point, it is the initial impression of users that will determine if Collecta’s juice is worth the squeeze.
Sharing Collecta’s June 18, 2009 launch date is CrowdEye, an alternative real-time search engine. Similar to Collecta, CrowdEye scours the Web for real-time information through Twitter and provides up to date results on the newest topics.
So what is so different about CrowdEye? First and foremost, after more carefully reviewing CrowdEyes FAQ, you will realize that “real-time” does not necessarily mean every Tweet as it happens. Instead, CrowdEye is only able to index “a large subset of tweets.” The disadvantage of this approach comes in form of not being able to produce second-by-second results as Collecta does.
Despite this small disadvantage, I find CrowdEye to be substantially more user friendly. CrowdEye divides results by Popular Links and Tweets allowing for natural search results to appear as well as real-time social media results. The page also includes a graph of Tweet volume over time; this allows the user to see the recent history of specific trends. Additionally, CrowdEye includes common words that you can click and create a filter in order to refine your search. Using CrowdEye for a broad range of searches answered my questions with relevant results using a nice mix of traditional and real-time search.
Constant developments by Facebook, Google, and other Web powerhouses ensures that the refinement of real-time search is far from over. In order to maximize the exposure a company must implement traditional search engine optimization, integrate social media tactics and now, with the introduction of real-time search, continually post relevant information within seconds of obtaining it.
It seems as though Collecta and CrowdEye have laid a solid foundation from which future search engines can learn, adapt, and tweak to bring us exactly what we want from our Web queries. As with everything Web related, the market for real-time search will continue to evolve and we as consumers, owners and contributors must continue to stay afloat.
In a move that is pretty commonplace within the search industry, Microsoft has attempted to make a splash as a search engine yet again. This time, instead of simply adding new features into MSN or Live, they launched an entirely new brand, Bing.com at the end of May. So–What is Bing? What impact has it made? What does “Bing & decide” even mean?
Here are some quick & easy definitions, answers, thoughts, and more about Bing:
Bing is “a new approach to user experience and intuitive tools to help customers make better decisions, focusing initially on four key vertical areas: making a purchase decision, planning a trip, researching a health condition, or finding a local business.” Microsoft is attempting to diverge from the established entity we all know and love, the search engine. Steve Ballmer, Microsoft’s CEO, is quoted in the company’s official Bing press release as saying,
“Today, search engines do a decent job of helping people navigate the Web and find information, but they don’t do a very good job of enabling people to use the information they find.”
Hmm–I definitely need help navigating through billions of webpages, but do people really need help using information? I interpreted “Bing & decide” to mean that I search with Bing.com, and then I decide how to use the information I find. But, thanks Steve, I guess we do need help deciding what to do.
Market Share: Does Bing have a chance?
This is a great question, and one that won’t have an answer really for at least another 6 months or so. Ultimately, Microsoft needs to increase their search market share to attract advertisers and make more money. Non-search industry geeks have to actually hear about Bing, go to Bing.com, use it, like what they see, remember to go back and search from their cell phones later, etc. Bing has launched a traditional advertising campaign, to hopefully scoop up the masses. According to ComScore, in the first week of Bing’s launch, Microsoft increased its usage among American searchers by almost 2%; other sources are saying Bing has squeaked past Yahoo! worldwide. Not bad, but only time will tell if Bing & Decide will really stick.
Shake up for Analytics
Web Analytics tools have had to jump quickly to tweak their products to measure and report Bing.com data. Web Analytics companies Webtrends and Omniture have released statements and posted on their blog about how their customers can view analytics for Bing. Google Analytics first started reporting Bing as a search engine as of June 5 but sometimes is still shown as a referring site, as well.
Bing has introduced more complications for web analytics as well–similar to Google’s longer snippets launched a few months ago, Bing searchers can hover to the right of a search listing to view content on the page and potential navigation path even before clicking the listing. Since analytics code isn’t activated until a user clicks thru to a site, these new features in search results may change the way a “website visit” is defined. Some are concerned that visits will decrease if searchers can preview each listing without visiting it, but the result of this change may not be as dismal as some may have predicted, as mentioned in MediaPost, “Preliminary data suggests that bounce rates on Web sites have declined from people originating on Bing.” For the first 10 days of June, a site I track that has 30K unique visitors per month had a bounce rate that was 5% lower in Bing than in Google, which supports the notion that previews of listings can be a good thing for websites.
Although Microsoft CEO mentioned publicly that the Bing.com domain was one of the only easy domains to purchase at a decent price, there is lots of speculation about the “true” meaning of B.I.N.G. I guess we’ll never know…
To me, Bing represents an attempt at healthy competition in the uncompetitive search industry. I’m all for it–as Celine Dion said (something that is a little too perfect for Microsoft and Bing), “I’m not in competition with anybody but myself. My goal is to beat my last performance.“
Okay, so the first installment of Link Love Monday was actually born to two proud parents on a Monday. The next installment hit on a Tuesday. Therefore, it’s only fitting that Link Love “Someday” occur on a Friday eventually. Things have been quite hectic around here to say the least, but due diligence will be paid to ensure a specific day of the week (most likely Friday) is linked with love. On to the links! Link: Tracking Transactions Back to the Initial Referrer with Google Analytics
Love tracking your websites progress at an even more granular level than Google Analytics normally allows. Let’s say you’re running a PPC campaign and the user clicks on your ad, heads to the page, but does not initially fill out a form or make a purchase. He or she needs time to mull. Some of us are mullers. We need time. The next day the user heads to Google, types in the name of your company, lands on your website and then fills out a form or makes the purchase. By default, this transaction would be credited to organic search even though the user initially found you through your PPC campaign. The transaction can be tracked the other way as well, where the user initially finds you vianatural search, but returns via paid search and makes the purchase then. Either way, this will allow you to get a better idea of how well your well ranked website and paid search campaigns work in tandem.
“Google Analytics, by default, will attribute transactions to the last referrer. While this is all fine and good, there are some situations where you would really like to be able to track these transactions back to the initial referrer rather than the last referrer.”
Love optimizing your website after the organic or paid search click. Many potential clients come to us looking only for search engine optimization and/or paid search campaign management — and that’s perfectly okay. However, many people do not think about optimizing the site itself. Does the navigation bar remain in place as the user navigates through your site? Is there a visible call-to-action in the same spot across the entirety of the site? How complicated is the checkout process? All of these issues can cause users to leave your site due to confusion or frustration if they cannot find what they’re looking for in a timely manner. From my personal experience, if a website requires me to register to participate or make a purchase, the minute I see this requirement is the same minute I hit the back button (unless I cannot live without the product or participation). Check out these 12 tips that can make your checkout process that much more efficient for your users — you’ll likely improve your conversion rate.
“8. Keep the checkout interface simple - The checkout process is different to the rest of the browsing experience on your site. During this process your customers aren’t shopping — they’re making the purchase. This means all the browsing controls are redundant here and would only distract your customers from the task at hand. Eliminate these unnecessary elements — e.g. product category links, top products, latest offers, and so on — to keep the interface simple.”
Love the recurring theme of tracking your work. If you work with an agency that a) does not track your websites progress through various metrics or b) tracks the websites progress in the form of handing you charts filled with numbers and without explaining what they mean…well…then perhaps it’s time to do some shopping for yourself. Measuring your websites progress through a combination of metrics, across multiple channels, and uncovering what these numbers mean is incredibly powerful. If there is one area where you can get a muscular leg up on your competition, it would be through early adoption of data-driven marketing and advertising initiatives.
“…Still, getting advertising agency employees to rely on data is difficult, agencies say. And as people trained on Wall Street migrate to Madison Avenue, executives anticipate battles between creative types and wonks. Traditional ad agencies still don’t have budgets that allow for a lot of digital experimentation, Mr. Herman says. He notes that most traditional agencies “make the bulk of their money in print, radio and television.” So even as this area becomes increasingly technology-driven, old ways of doing business and clients reluctant to embrace radically new approaches mean that the advertising culture won’t change overnight.”
Love your blog. Please. Don’t let it sit and waste away. Certainly participate in the latestsocial media platform if it fits within the scope of your overall online marketing strategy, but do NOT leave your blog heaving for breath on the roadside — especially if you “don’t have anything” to write about. Not only is figuring out what to write about as simple as taking these 10 tips and running with them, but your blog can serve as the hub of all of your social media efforts — direct users back to your blog and then track where they go from there. Talk to them. You can be even more authentic with 250 words as opposed to 140 characters.
“1. Grab your local newspaper – pick one column (it could be a news item or op-ed piece) and blog your own perspective on it.”
PS – that’s what we’re looking for, your perspective — subjectivity. “There are no facts, only interpretation.” Even if you don’t believe that, keep it in mind and it will help you write stirring blog posts. Link: The Local Business Center Dashboard Opens Its Doors
Love more data on your Google Local Business listing! I know, you just can’t get enough data (alright, so maybe there is such thing as data-overload). Additional data includes:
Impressions: The number of times the business listing appeared as a result on a Google.com search or Google Maps search in a given period.
Actions: The number of times people interacted with the listing; for example, the number of times they clicked through to the business’ website or requested driving directions to the business.
Top search queries: Which queries led customers to the business listing; for example, are they finding the listing for a cafe by searching for “tea” or “coffee”?
Zip codes where driving directions originate: Which zip codes customers are coming from when they request directions to your location.
Love competition. Microsoft recently rolled out it’s new search engine, Bing, to the masses. It’s still too early to know whether or not people will change their search patterns and turn to Bing instead of Google (I doubt this will happen anytime soon, personally), but competition is good. Take a look at this article over at Search Engine Land to see how the search engines differ for a number of search terms. Side note: they’re certainly going after the David Letterman watching demographic. It seemed Bing made an appearance at each commercial break last night.
So it begins. Welcome to the inaugural installment of Link Love Monday™ (alright, so it’s not really trademarked — is that illegal?) where I’ll pass along links I’ve found particularly stimulating. Unfortunately, I’d like all of the links I post to have actually been born last week, but monitoring industry blogs could be a full-time job and I already have one of those. So, some links will be a bit aged as they’ve been perched in my bookmarks for awhile, but they will taste that much better, while others might be born on the morning of Link Love Monday. Either way, it will be an evolving weekly post — which is to say it will likely be more organized, better branded (logo in the works) and more robust. So without further adieu: Link: Using Analytics for Local Search Optimization
Love: The emphasis on selecting the proper keywords for your local search campaign. This is always important, but particularly important for small businesses where getting it right the first time can save time (a.k.a. “money”) on redoing a keyword list and the subsequent on-page changes.
“In this attorney’s case, they might quickly find that while “family law” is a formal term more preferred by their profession, more of their potential customers are likely searching for the term ‘divorce.’ And, in most cases, consumers are searching for ‘lawyers’ when trying to find listings of this type of business, rather than ‘attorneys.’”
Love: The use of the seven deadly sins to drive home the importance of partaking in social media in a responsible, authentic and sinless way. Remain outwardly focused with your social media — focused on the user. Don’t spam him, don’t ignore her, don’t clam up, open up. Each foray into the social media sphere is entirely different according to your business. Again, remain outwardly focused and adapt.
“7. Sloth: Ahhh the deadliest of all sins. Wanting it all but being too lazy to do what it takes. You have to connect with people, you have to write good stuff, you have to stay current and you have to be willing to show up and put the effort in.”
Love:Google’s decision to extend microformats into search results — the Internet will be better served with more and more structured data. What are microformats? Basically, information about information, metadata. This sort of markup language allows you to tell search engines and other programs that the information contained in this HTML is, without a doubt, the name of my business, its location, phone number, fax number, et cetera. One of the more widely used microformats are called hCards — think of them as your business card for machines. Would you like to make one? Try this hCard Creator! Link:In Pursuit of Elegance: 12 Indispensable Tips
Love: Simplicity. Why? It’s important to your business — specifically your business as a website. People are on the Internet looking for information. Scavenging. Scanning. Scoopering. Your website does not need to mimic the hustle and bustle of Times Square. If users liken finding information on your website to finding Waldo, then you’re losing out.
“Study the best: Google, Apple, Lexus, and Ferrari. They understand that complexity is their best friend, not an enemy. They understand it, so they can exploit it. The Google interface is clean and simple though the algorithm is massively complex. Even Einstein understood this. E=mc2 has an easy and immortal ring to it.”
Love: Tools and their ability to make your work easier. In this case, the work we’re talking about is adding multimedia to your blog posts that can entice users to keep coming back to your blog because it’s chalk full of awesome information whether text, images or video. I took Apture on a test drive with my personal blog and found it worked well. It’s this simple: sign up, head to a blog post, highlight a word and an interface pops up that returns music, videos, maps, slideshows, Tweets, news and more related to the highlighted word. Link: Twitter Evolves
Love: thought provoking posts – who doesn’t? And seriously, what would a link repository be without Oprah’s favorite social media platform Twitter? If only this post were about Oprah’s use of Twitter to disseminate fashion advice. Instead, we’ll go with Twitter and copyright laws.
“There are only 27^140 possible tweets, can I just copyright them all and then sue anybody who uses Twitter?”
Screenshot of Google homepage in beta testing, 1998.
Many of us remember the days of the Google search that produced a simple list of bluehyperlinks. Google then added what they called “snippets” to their presentation – a small preview of pertinent information about each site to entice the reader. On May 12, 2009,Google announced an experimental way of presenting even more information about a website in the form of Rich Snippets.
Google’s Rich Snippets currently encompass two categories — people and reviews. For example, in a search for a person’s name, if several identical names are returned, Rich Snippets will help differentiate between those names by displaying distinguishing information about each person, such as their website, social media profiles, etc. If a search is made for a product or service, Google will display reviews and ratings associated with that product/service (mostly from review sites such as Yelp).
Google gathers this information by looking for structured data embedded in a website, which requires the web developer to add these annotations in a specific markup format -– either microformats (like an hCard) or RDFa.
But Rich Snippets has raised some concerns, particularly with the addition of reviews. Currently, reviews and ratings are not used for indexing or ranking within Google’s search algorithm, but this may change over time, which is troubling because reviews can be easily manipulated. Another concern is that a developer will not be able to pick and choose what information is displayed about their site –- it will be up to Google’s algorithm to decide. There is also the fear that too much information given about a site in a Rich Snippet might lead to searchers finding their answer on Google’s search results page, resulting in fewer click throughs and actual visits to websites from Google.
Google hopes to expand Rich Snippets to other existing microformants once they’ve gathered sufficient feedback about this release. Google also plans to create new applications that will be able to utilize these annotations once developers have it in place.
The search marketing world is assembled at SMX West today. The irony is that the talk of the conference isn’t even at the show. Instead, he’s sitting pretty back at his headquarters for world domination at PC Mag. He, of course, is John Dvorak.
This is classic Dvorak. Anyone who has followed Apple for any period of time is no doubt familiar with his twice yearly proclamations of Apple’s doom. Other common tropes are Microsoft’s domination. The pillorying of SEO just before a major conference fits right into his M.O. Need further proof? He published a related rant on November 17, 2008, “Why Google Must Die.” The title is deceptive, if you read through it, you will see that the focus is really on search engine optimization. You will notice that 3 days earlier, on November 14, 2008, Pubcon, another large search / social / Internet marketing conference took place. The timing was a little off.
Coincidence? Maybe it’s just me, but I want to believe.
Of course, being an optimization scientist, I want to go beyond belief and prove my theory. How can I do that? It is simple really. If my theory is correct, then the next Dvorak SEO rant should come just before the next big SEO or social media conference, such as SES, Search Analytics, or Found.