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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Social Signals & Search – Reading the Tea Leaves

Social media is a focal point for brands. One of the most compelling reasons is because their marketing team, agency and/or consultants have convinced them that being social is required to compete.
Brands are also pursuing social because search engines are paying attention to social signals.
This leads to two important questions:
  1. Do social signals matter to search? The simple answer is yes.
  2. How important are social signals in search? This is the burning question many are attempting to answer.
Due to the nature of search, there is more speculation than definitive direction on how search engine algorithms are weighing social signals in search. So, as with any other new trend, we're left to dissect the information available to us and interpret it as we do for any other aspect of search. So, let’s take a look at what we have to work with.

Google and Social Signals

Google launched “social search” in 2009. Although Google's Distinguished Engineer Matt Cutts hasn't written about social signals as part of Google Plus Your World since January 2012, there is evidence that Google is paying close attention to social signals, on and off Google properties (Google+, YouTube, etc.).

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How to Generate Quality Traffic With Display Advertising

For a few years it seemed that “display advertising” had become something of a dirty word for many in the Internet marketing community.

Perhaps they only tested contextual targeting on the Google Display Network (GDN) – throwing a few keywords up and hoping for the best? Maybe they tried some large buys from a demand side platform (DSP) and didn’t see the best ROI? Or maybe they signed on with a self-service DSP only to find the platform was confusing and lacking in features?

Whatever the case, there are so many options available for display advertising that you should be out there testing.

Google is pushing the envelope with their offerings on the GDN. But that is just one display network! Peel back the curtain and you will find a big world of networks, DSPs, and remarketing services – all of them offering their own special sauce of algorithms, self-service platforms and generally raising the bar for the entire industry.

Google AdWords – Google Display Network (GDN)

The GDN is the most well-known display network given that it is a part of the Google AdWords platform. However, the consensus among an alarmingly high percentage of advertisers is that GDN doesn’t work. My gut instinct is that the advertisers crying the loudest know the least about how to leverage the range of GDN features to target their customers.

So, if it has been a while, here is a sampling of the myriad ways you can tweak GDN campaigns to generate quality traffic – and yes, conversions:
  • Contextual Targeting: This is the basic foundation of the GDN. Input some keywords that are relevant to your product or service, and Google will match your ads to websites. This is where a lot of advertisers stop. But you have to dig deep. Segment your keywords. Google has given us the ability to bid on individual keywords. Review placement performance reports and exclude poor websites. Add demographic settings to gain another layer of relevancy.
  • Placement Targeting: Cherry-pick the websites that are most relevant and/or convert the best. Layer on keywords, demographic settings for even more detailed targeting.
  • Topic/Category Targeting: Need to increase your ad reach? Try Topics or Categories relevant to your product or service. This will open you up to a much larger portion of the GDN. Be sure to control performance with site exclusions, keyword targeting, and demographic targeting.
  • Remarketing: Where do I start? The possibilities are endless! Tag your website and landing pages. Segment those visitors into audiences. Create targeted ads. Voila! – watch the conversions come in!
  • Search Companion: Bridging the gap between search and display, Search Companion is a unique feature for the GDN. You create a campaign leveraging keywords you would normally target on search. Google will cookie anyone searching for those keywords on Google.com – regardless of whether they click your ads. You can then target ads to those searchers on the GDN. This is an extremely relevant way to run display ads!
  • RLSA: Otherwise known as “remarketing lists for search advertisers.” This is another way Google is bridging the gap between search and display. RLSA functions like typical remarketing, adding a cookie to anyone who visits your website. However, instead of triggering ads on display, your ads are remarketed to these visitors on Google.com. Unfortunately, this beta test is closed. Ask your Google rep for more details.
  • Similar Audiences: Already running remarketing? Great! How can you gain even more impressions, clicks, and conversions? Run ads on audiences that are similar to your existing remarketing audiences. Google reviews your audiences and will match you to an audience that expands far beyond those visitors who have already been to your website.

5 Ways to Use Video to Connect With Customers


You’ve probably noticed the surge in online video. It’s being touted as the hottest content marketing trend, Harlem Shake videos have saturated the Web and it makes us all wonder if more video isn’t just what we need to stand out.

But there’s a difference in seeing the power of video and truly using video to push your brand further and make it more connected.

I sit in a lot of conversations about online video. It’s not only something I’m particularly interested in, but it’s something my agency considers a core and beloved part of our marketing mix. So I’ll admit, sometimes when I hear the current conversation about video I get a little stabby. Because while marketers are starting to understand how great video is, they’re not truly using it.

It’s time to push your video marketing to the max. Sure, video is a great vehicle for those unboxings, the product views, and your customer testimonials, but that’s not all video is capable of.
Below are five different ways to use video.

1. To Recognized Your Audience

Have you heard of Vsnap? If not, it’s a tool that allows you to record short video messages to share with your audience. The company views these video snapshots as a way for businesses to feel and act more human. And you know what? Vsnap actually practices what they preach.
  • Every time someone follows Vsnap on Twitter, community manager Trish Fontanilla sends them a video recognizing them and saying thanks.
  • When one of their community members tweeted they were having a bad day, Trish sent him a video message to cheer him up.
  • (If someone is chatting about them on Twitter, Trish will hop into the conversation and say hello when it’s appropriate, of course).
She’s actually become a little Internet Famous simply by using video to connect with the company’s friends and users. These videos may only take :30-:60 to create, but they show users Vsnap thinks they matter.
Using video for customer support or just to say “thanks” may not be scalable or appropriate for every business, but when can you use video to be more human?
Maybe it’s a video sent at the end of an event you’ve hosted where you thank people for attending and invite them to keep in contact. Maybe it’s a video message when someone completes their first order. Or their 10th. Or after they’ve left an impactful blog comment. Look for opportunities to be human.

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Friday, February 15, 2013

Matt Cutts on Finding Untrustworthy Links, Why Google Won't Kill Toolbar PageRank

After the rollout of the Penguin algorithm in April 2012, the infamous unnatural link warnings were sent by Google. It quickly became clear to SEO professionals that they would need to delete or dilute to comply with Google’s webmaster guidelines. But one question has plagued the industry ever since: “how do I know which links to remove?”

matt-cutts-webmaster-video-2013Google has released two new videos in its popular Webmaster Help series that shed new light on a couple of hot topics in the SEO industry: how to you identify unnatural links and why Google wont switch off the PageRank Toolbar feature.

Identifying Unnatural Links

A new video by Google's Distinguished Engineer Matt Cutts announces that Google will soon begin supplying example links that were detected as being untrustworthy.
“A feature that we’re working on and that we are in the process of rolling out, which I’m pretty excited about, is that we will basically give you examples. So as we’re building the incident, whenever a webmaster analyst is saying 'OK, these are links not to trust,' we’ll include an example link. You might get one, you might two, you might get three, but basically it will give you an idea of the sorts of links that we are no longer trusting.”

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A Guide to Getting Started With Analytics

Search Engine Watch covers a lot on the topic of analytics. From using Advanced Segmentation to get a better idea of you “not provided” and “not set” traffic to a wide array of specific subjects that are invaluable for advanced users.

Google Analytics
However, this post is intended for people who aren't sure where to start or specifically what the data means. This article will cover analytics from a beginner's perspective with explanations of five core areas, how to get to them, and what to look at while you're there.

Google Analytics is our analytics platform of choice for this post, though most solid analytics software will have similar functionality – you'll just have to hunt it down.

Need help with Google Analytics installation? Google covers how to install it here.

We'll start from the Google Analytics dashboard for your site.

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Make Content Marketing Work: 3 Tips to Activate Your Top Influencers

We discover, consume, and share digital content in radically different ways than we did five years ago. This fundamental change has been driven by the rapid adoption of social media and mobile devices.
Social media is both a content filter and a distribution channel. We discover and consume more content than ever because of social media.

What’s more, as people engage with and share this content with others, it sends strong signals to the search engines that improve its position in search engine results, which increases the content’s reach significantly.
In conjunction with social media’s impact on content discovery, the smartphones and tablets we carry around with us have expanded the time and spaces in which we read, watch, and share this content.

The net result of these changes is that we have more content to consume and more time to consume it in. Sounds like a win-win for consumers and marketers right?

Not so fast. The new reality is that the firehose of content consumers receive is highly filtered and curated through the digital connections consumers trust whether they be friends and/or subject matter experts. Look at your Facebook newsfeed or Twitter stream for examples of this.

Making your message stand out in the stream of content rolling past your target audience is a major challenge. So although we might be spending more time consuming and sharing content, marketers’ access to that time is increasingly limited.

In response to this disruption and the opportunities it creates for marketing through social media and search, content marketing is a hot topic among digital marketers these days. Content marketing involves creating unique content and driving discovery, engagement, and distribution of it through a combination of organic and paid channels.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Combining Content Marketing, Conferences & Viral Content In 3 Simple Steps

As conference season approaches and content marketing receives more attention from marketers, combining content and conference strategies is of increasing importance to us all. My last article touched upon the importance of holistic content marketing strategies across all online marketing disciplines.

With SES London just a few days away, these tips can help you best make use of content marketing strategies in line with your event strategy.

Content Marketing Meets Demand Generation At Conferences

When people plan for events and conferences many people think first about specific event strategy – demand generation, networking, exhibit space, and sales goals. Conferences also provide an ideal environment to leverage creative content and align that with your demand generation goals. The end result is far more sales and a far more efficient return on your investment – no matter how big or how small.

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Followers of Top 100 Brands on Google+ Grow 9,400%

Google+ is establishing itself as the mainstream social network for top brands with a 9,400 percent increase in followers since 2011, according to a report by BrightEdge.

The ‘Social Share' report tracked social media adoption trends for the BrandZ top 100 global brands including Apple, Google, IBM, BMW, Red Bull, and Samsung. The report also provided insights into how YouTube is performing as a social network.

"Google+ and YouTube have established themselves firmly in the mainstream of social networking. A majority of the top 100 brands- three quarters- have active profiles. As more brands engage users, we expect to see those who are unconvinced to shake off reservations and establish a strong Google+ presence," said Jim Yu, BrightEdge founder and CEO.

Among the findings, the top 100 brands on Google+ now boast 20.9 million fans – up from just 222,000 in 2011. Of these, the top 10 account for four out of five followers.

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Google Could Make $5 Billion From Paid Search Ads on Tablets in 2013

Overall, the share of paid search clicks from mobile devices rose around the world in 2012, and people are more engaged with search results when they're mobile, according to Marin.

marin-tablets-ecommerceClick-through rates and conversion rates on tablets rose sharply in 2012, and a new report from Marin Software projects tablets will account for 20 percent of Google’s paid search ad clicks in the U.S. – and about $5 billion in revenue.

The State of Mobile Search around the Globe 2013, an annual report, analyzed more than $4 billion in paid search spend by brands and advertisers in 13 countries. Most of Marin’s clients are large advertisers spending more than $100,000 per month on paid search.

Analyzing the average CTR across devices, Marin found CTRs for smartphones were 107 percent higher than desktops computers, while tablet CTRs were 37 percent higher. At the same time, cost-per-click was lower on mobile: smartphones clicks were approximately 36 percent cheaper than desktop clicks, and tablet clicks were about 17 percent cheaper.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Facebook Introduces Graph Search

Rumors of a Facebook search product have been debated and discussed for a long time. Today, led by founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the Social Network held a press conference introducing the word to Facebook's new Graph Search. According to Zuck, the product is centered around "making new connections."

Graph Search, not unlike a traditional search engine, is meant to have its users search for data on more than 1 billion Facebook users. However, Facebook wants to leverage all the data they have on all their members to help you find more connections.

It was clearly emphasized from the onset of the announcement that this was not a product that would compete against traditional web search. This is about filtering and sorting through the 240 billion photos and nearly 1 trillion connections of the entire Facebook community.

Graph Search represents the next evolution of Facebook. It started with a News feed that answered the question "What is going on with people around me?" Next, Facebook introduced the Timeline, which helped users find out more information about a particular person (in a creepy, historical way).
Graph Search will allow you to fine new connections and friends like never before. Designed to show answers, not links to answers, Facebook showed two separate search screens. The first was a mock screen of a traditional "10 blue links" search. Then Facebook introduced a still of Graph Search.

 Facebook Introduces Graph Search

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