Posted by Aaron Wheeler
A site can be a lot like a mullet: business in front, party in the back. How do you muss it all up and keep a site in style? Any given website naturally attracts a broad set of visitors, and herding that diverse audience onto the right pages is a huge undertaking (as you know, it’s something to consider when doing site infrastructure SEO, etc.). This funneling gets even more difficult when there are some pages of a site that are pure linkbait, completely divorced from relevance to the rest of the site. This week, Rand discusses site infrastructure – how and when to homogenize a site, and when to keep things separated. Let us know your thoughts and strategies in the comments below!
Howdy, SEOmoz fans. Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re talking about mixing your viral content with your business content. Now, what we mean by this is really you have some content on your website that is primarily meant for your business, for your customers, for people who are researching your products or your services, and then you have this other content on your website that is often more marketing focused. It is designed to drive new traffic, to get links in, to get social shares, to have all these good things happen around your website. That’s a big part of what content marketing and all of organic and inbound marketing is about.
So, I want you to imagine that you are this guy – Mr. Pest Control. Now, Mr. Pest Control has a great variety. He offers services, he has products. You can buy little bug traps from him. You can call him up and he will come to your place of business or residence and help you with your bug problems. Mr. Pest Control is a pretty awesome guy, and he has a great website. But he is trying to decide, boy, you know, I have these two kinds of content. I have this content, in orange here, the Bug Catcher 3X7B, which is a phenomenal bug catcher. I just scratched that bug. Let’s just scratch him again. See, we’re trying to eliminate bugs. You can see it is a square box with four prongs, so that must do a great job of catching bugs. My illustrations aside, this content is really designed for like, "Oh, I am looking to learn about this product. I want to see how this service works." It is customer focused. It is not the kind of thing that is usually going to generate a lot of links. Yeah, someone might find that page and hopefully he has done a great job of making it a very compelling page. It has good pictures and images, better than the ones I have done here, good content. So, people might link to it.
But what he does have is things like, oh, you know, I am running this blog and I write about things that are interesting to me as a pest control guy, including things like Top 10 Cities with Bad Bug Problems in Hotels. There are hotels, there are some bugs, and they are invading the hotel. It’s kind of adorable. My illustrations, you know, they get the point across. These two buildings don’t have any windows. That’s a little sad. Maybe they’re, I don’t know, penitentiaries or something.
But, in any case, this type of content and this type of content are really two separate things. So, Mr. Pest Control might think to himself, oh, I know what I am going to do. I am going to have two different websites, or I am going to have a different design. I will just do a WordPress installation and throw them on there. Mixing the two in smart ways is a hard thing to do, and a lot of people get it wrong. That is why this Whiteboard Friday is here to help.
So some less ideal things that you can do, some things that I would really recommend or bias against. Separate subdomains or separate domains. If he goes with blog.MrPest.com, let’s say MrPest.com is his domain, eh, not great. I would kind of tell Mr. Pest, "If you can, get it over there to that subfolder." Mr. Pest’s blog? No. Just out. One of the things that people do is they think to themselves, well, you know, it is important to get external links. So if I have this separate domain, I will just build up the link authority to Mr. Pest’s blog.com, and then all I have to do is link from MrPestBlog to MrPest, and that will pass all my link juice. What they forget is that does not give you a whole lot of domain diversity, right? I don’t want to have a situation where I have one domain with lots of other links pointing to it and then that’s the only link to my main site. That’s a terrible idea. This is not going to earn you rankings. It’s not going to get you the traffic you want. All the good metrics and signals are going to exist on this site, not this one. That sucks. You don’t want that. Same story with separate design and navigation. If the orange content, which remember is our business content here, has, oh, you know, there is the left side bar and it has this nice bug logo across the top, but then you get to the blog and it’s a different logo or a different layout and different navigation style and the blog content sits in here. It is really off putting. The problem is that people will start to feel like, "Oh, I like the blog, but I don’t like this business content." When they switch context between the two, either way, business customers would come over and look at the blog or blog people who come over and look at the business content, it is not compelling in a branding sort of style to suggest to them, "Hey, I am in the same place. I am on the same site. It is written with the same voice. It is the same people. I can trust it. If I enjoy the blog, I am going to like the business content. If I like the business content, the blog might be interesting for me." You want to cross-pollinate and really have one site, not these two separate systems.
Finally, obviously manipulative cross-linking. So many times I see this where people are like, "Oh, I’ve got my blog, so I am just going to pepper in these anchor text rich links here and here, and they are going to point back over to these pages on the business side." No. What are you thinking? And it is always one way, right? It always points from the viral-type of content over to the business content. This (A) it is obvious to Google. It is obvious to users what you are trying to do. People are going to like your blog less, which defeats the purpose of having it in a lot of ways. People are not going to be coming over to the business content from there. Nobody clicks these links and really follows them unless they are hyper relevant and high quality, in which case maybe they should exist for some reason. So, as an example, like, oh, in the Top 10 Cities with Bad Bugs Hotel, I will talk about the fact that the Waldorf Astoria in New York has eliminated their bug problem and maybe in parenthesis note, "Thanks in part at least to our 3X7B," shameless plug. It’s sort of cute. It is appropriate. It makes sense. You’re recognizing that this nice hotel actually did really use their product. That’s cool. That’s a fine way to do it. But to have a list of anchor text rich links on every site on every page linking over to the pages, you’re trying to push too hard and you’re clearly manipulating for SEO purposes, not to help users.
So, let’s talk about some good things to do. Do you see how I made that switch, Casey? Are you proud of me? Aw, he’s so proud, because normally I might go like this and then I get off the screen, and it is terrible. The mechanics behind Whiteboard Friday are remarkable.
So, more ideal kinds of things. Keep it on the same domain. Use subfolders. MrPest.com/blog. Awesome. Great. Good job. You could go with MrPest.com/articles if they are less frequent. MrPest.com/resources if you’ve got other content. MrPest.com/marketplace, if you’ve got some postings that other people can submit content to and there are different participants in that realm. Q&A, right? Whatever kinds of content you’ve got, it’s fine. I would really recommend the subfolder. Same design with a well integrated UI so that when I am going across, I am not getting the sense, as a human being, not just as a search engine, right, we’re not just optimizing for search engines. Remember the search engines are trying to achieve what humans want. So we have to make it good for humans, because search engines are getting so sophisticated that it is not enough to just optimize for the crawler.
Same voice. You want that brand consistency. If I feel like, "Man, I really, really enjoyed this article. You know, this content in here was just phenomenal. But I went over here and read the Bug Catcher 3X7B, and where was that humor? Where was that good-natured, friendly openness that I felt when I read this article?" Or on the other side, "Where was that sort of brilliant snarkiness that this article brings? It is nowhere in there. It is like it is completely different." Meld those two voices. This doesn’t have to feel exactly like it, but it shouldn’t feel like a different company wrote the two pieces of content. That’s when you are going to get into branding problems and cross brand issues.
Link across intelligently. By intelligently, I don’t just mean the examples I was talking about before where, oh, okay, this hotel mentions the 3X7B, so I am going to link over there. But I mean link both ways. If this article is saying, "Hey this is something used by some of the world’s finest hotels," that might be a link that points over to the blog post and gets people out of the pure context out of, like, oh, okay, I am just buying and shopping, but oh, cool, they have this content that kind of engages me, entertains me, and educates me. Building that trust with your audience, my god, that’s so much more effective at selling whatever you are trying to sell or capturing an email address or improving the browse rate, getting people to look at more pages. Whatever your goal is, that consistency is going to make a big, big difference.
One of the last recommendations I’ve got is to not just stick to business content and blog content. Hopefully, you can see down here. So, the business content, these pages in orange and the blog content are great. But if you’re going to actually mix it up a little bit and have some of that evergreen content as well, things like a permanent resource on, hey, this is the how to for DIY basement elimination of bugs or how to check for bedbugs in hotel rooms. Here is the step-by-step process with video, pictures, images, graphics, that kind of stuff. Those evergreen resources that sit across that also earn inbound links that show the search engines and show the rest of your audience, hey, it’s not just the blog that’s good here. They have some legitimate evergreen content, some product content. Hopefully, you have a few things that people are really interested in. Maybe you have some super cool new invention or you have a video where you literally take apart a bug trap and you show people how it works. Fun stuff like this, so that people aren’t just collecting and linking to one part of your site. You don’t want to create that bias of we have an information site and we have a blog. Even in the sense of where people go and what people link to, not just in the sense of where it is located on the domain.
All right, everyone. I hope you have enjoyed this edition of Whiteboard Friday. I am looking forward to some great comments and questions. If you have sites that have that separation between informational and blog content and you’ve got questions about how we can help out or how we might optimize those, please feel free to put them in the comments. Look forward to reading them. Take care. We’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday.
by Stoney deGeyter
Moving your PR online opens up a whole world of new adventures. Not only do all the old rules apply, but many new rules are created to ensure that your content can effectively reach your audience.
So far in this series, everything we have discussed has to do with the set-up and creation of your online PR. All of the online elements need to be taken care of before you can push your story out online. Pushing it out before it’s ready will lead to a colossal failure. However, how and where you push your message out is just as critical for it’s success.
In this final post, we’ll look at the details around how you can broadcast your message to get the most value from your audience, search engines and the social sphere.
It’s not enough to craft the perfect PR piece, or optimize it to the hilt using your visitors’ keywords. Where you push it out to, the tools you use, and how much you allow your visitors to engage with your content are all critical to having a successful online PR campaign.
In the offline world, good PR necessitates a heavy focus on pushing content out to news sources. It also involves creating relationships and currying favor with journalists who may or may not write about your news. Online PR greatly expands the target of your efforts. On the Web, your content needs to appeal to more than just journalists; you’re also trying to get the attention of current and potential customers. A submit-it-and-forget-it strategy won’t work. You need to submit-it-and-engage-it!
Moving your PR online also means moving beyond the news mentality. Sure, you can get your PR piece noticed by traditional news outlets or have it hit the search engine news sites, but that’s just the tip, not the bulk, of the proverbial iceberg.
A well-crafted piece of PR should be able to reach far more people than news searchers. This is where social media comes into play. Sites like Facebook and Twitter, and tools such as RSS and +1 can help you reach well beyond the traditional news borders. These tools not only reach a broader audience, but they encourage engagement, which can improve the socialization aspects of each piece.
There are a number of online PR submission sites that you can use to help build, distribute and track your online PR. Each service has it’s own unique features, so do your due diligence, and find the one that has the best bang for the buck.
Figure out what tools you want and need for each piece. You may find that one submission service is handy for some content and another is better for other content. Where it gets distributed can have a substantial impact on the success of each piece.
Tracking each piece is critical to following and understanding it’s level of success. You may not be able to fully grasp what success means until you’ve had a chance to submit and track several pieces and compare the results.
This is where engagement with your online PR becomes critical. You need to use your social media channels and connections to get more eyes on your content. Facebook, Twitter, +1, and other socialize buttons allow your visitors to promote your content into areas you have no way to reach.
The key is making sure your content is “retweetable.” Or in other words, it is something worth sharing? Then leverage these options via your company social profiles, and by adding the socialization icons on the page. The idea is to make it as easy and desirable as possible to have your content socialized around the web.
You also want to make sure you engage with anybody that is talking about, asking questions about, or commenting on your content. Don’t just sit and relish the tweets and retweets; talk to people, and use this as an opportunity to build relationships. You may find these relationships valuable later on.
One of the drawbacks of active social channels is that, if your content isn’t pushed out at just the right time, it will often get missed. Of course, the right time means when each person from your audience is looking at their social stream!
RSS allows you to get your content to people on their own time. If they subscribe to your RSS feed then they can get notified of new content whenever they open up their feed reader. You may be competing with hundreds of other feeds, but at least you know that your content headline will get scanned rather than completely buried.
If you are not familiar with RSS feeds, I suggest you do a little homework on this, and ask your developers how to implement an RSS feed for your content.
Now we’re at the big, “So what?” We understand that getting your online PR piece is great for making sure people see our content. But is there anything more here than just getting one piece of content after another published and read?
Well, yeah. There is a much grander purpose to online PR, and this is what makes the online aspects so great. Each piece of content, if incredibly crafted, can serve as an entry point into your website, drawing in new visitors, customers, clients and information seekers.
Your PR piece isn’t just about PR. It’s about building a more visible website!
Everything you do online should serve one purpose: drive traffic and customers to your website. News for the sake of news is pointless. News with a goal of increasing readers and those engaged with your content is fabulous. News designed to increase profits is even better!
Everything you do all boils down to building, branding and marketing your website. Anything less ultimately falls short of it’s potential.
See all posts in this series:
Part 1: Intro / How Print Audience Differs from Web Audience
Part 2: Goals of Online PR
Part 3: Background Research
Part 4a: Crafting the Story p1
Part 4b: Crafting the Story p2
Part 5: Broadcasting the Message / Conclusion
Be sure and visit our small business news site.
by Mike Moran
When I was a kid, sometimes my father called me a dirty little schema. (He’s from Brooklyn.) OK, OK, he didn’t spell it that way. It wasn’t long ago when “schema” was a word only used by database geeks. Microformats and rich snippets are even more obscure terms, but they are becoming increasingly important. If you don’t know what they are, remain ignorant at your own peril, because these arcane terms are making big changes in SEO–probably the biggest markup-related changes since search engines stopped looking at the keyword meta data field.
So, what’s a schema? Glad you asked. It’s a formal description of what data can be stored in a database, in what format, and what it means. Doesn’t sound like much to do with search, does it? Well, XML documents are defined by their schemas that tell you what the valid tags are and what you can place within those tags. Still not feeling it? Yeah, Google wasn’t either, which is why it has thrown in with the crowd that wants to make HTML data smarter, so that we won’t need to convert all of our pages to XML.
Image via Wikipedia
Back in 2009, Google started supporting microformats, which are defined by mini-schemas that embed tags into HTML. I didn’t pay a lot of attention to the microformats that were developed at first. (Not too many of my clients are trying to encode recipes.) But that is changing rapidly.
Microformats now are defined for people, events, products, and may other truly useful commercial search targets. You can define these formats right inside your HTML using the <div> or <span> tags with the right attributes, and you can use standard CSS to format that properly for viewing and printing.
Why go to the trouble? Rich snippets, that’s why. Check out how many different kinds of snippets Google supports, and the number keeps growing. How would you like your product to be shown in your search result snippet, with its current price? Or your event with the right date and address? Now you have more control over your snippets than ever before, it you take the time to encode them properly.
Time was that the only HTML people talked about was making sure you have nice titles and descriptions in your header and making your main point a first-level heading. Now, we are in a whole new ballgame and there is no reason to stay out of this game. Rich snippets are here and they are valuable. Don’t let your competitors jump on them first.
Be sure and visit our small business news site.
My friend Bob Knorpp has a good piece on AdAge this week:”Why Marketers Should Break Free of the Digital Content Trap” about the fallacy of content. He makes some good points about companies going through the motions of creating and promoting content on social channels with motivations of retweets, likes, shares and links over real engagement. I have to agree where he says, “content alone is a dead end for ongoing engagement”.
While many savvy online marketers don’t see content as a shortsighted substitute for social strategy or simply as a SEO tactic, but a proxy to creating customer experiences, there are even more who do. Content is a vehicle for discovery, engagement and sharing. Content is the mechanism for storytelling and if social and search optimization are also involved in a qualitative way to aid in discovery and sharing of those stories – then all the better.
Bob makes great points about the need to think of new ways to approach digital storytelling beyond single dimensions like videos that “go viral” and infographics that spread like wildfire on Twitter and Facebook. Engagement is indeed more than a click, a share or a link.
In the way that many business bloggers and marketers approach online marketing with an egocentric perspective, promoting messages they want to persuade audiences with vs. empathizing with customer needs and interests, many agencies that create content are more interested in creative self expression over experiences that are truly meaningful to customers.
In our Hub / Spoke and Constellation models for content marketing, we emphasize an understanding of customer needs and behaviors through persona development and attention to variances during the buying cycle. Those insights, combined with ongoing monitoring and engagement, drive content marketing strategy and the creative mix of content objects designed to help prospects have meaningful experiences with the brand.
The content itself is made easier to discover in more relevant ways through search engine optimization and social media optimization. A “Socialize and Optimize” approach to content marketing increases the connections between consumers that are looking (i.e. searching) and discussing (social networking) topics of relevance to the brand solution.
I’ve said it before, great content isn’t great until it’s discovered, consumed and shared. Littering the social web with scheduled Tweets, status updates and blog posts alone is not engagement and certainly not creating the kind of experience that builds brand or motivates customers to buy, be loyal or advocate.
What say you? Can great user experience and storytelling co-exist with social media marketing and SEO?
© Online Marketing Blog, 2011. |
Content, Social & SEO Lead Customers to Great Experiences | http://www.toprankblog.com
Hello friends! Welcome to this week’s edition of Because You Can!
Why would you want to take a super huge telescoping SLR lens and attach it to your iPhone? Because You Can!™©®
Well, you can now that this crazy iPhone SLR Lens mounting kit exists.
Back in May, we reported that Sid Meier’s Civilization game would be migrating over to Facebook under a new name, Civilization World. Today, the Facebook game went live in its beta version, and we’re more than excited to get civilized.
With the rise in prominence of the social graph, we’ve seen the proliferation of services like Facebook Connect, which have brought the social web to third party sites and helped make sharing an integral part of the Web’s new plumbing. Social seems to be the default setting these days, but as is often the case, there are a few exceptions. The online travel industry, for one, is composed of sites that came of age early in the evolution of the Web, and by and large, still lacks many of the features of Web 2.0, like discovery, openness, and social integration to name a few.
For how popular peer and friend-based recommendation systems have become for movies, music, and other forms of content discovery, one might think that social recommendations would by now have made their way into the travel planning and exploration process. After all, when it comes to finding good places to visit when you’re traveling or on vacation, recommendations from friends tend to be of the most value. Last November, Gogobot launched to address this very issue, aiming to breathe new life into the online travel discovery space.
With tight Facebook integration and a design geared toward the visual aspect of deciding what places to visit (Gogobot initially hand-curated over 100K photos from Flickr and other open photo resources), the startup positioned itself as the Yelp for travel, or as Mike Arrington put it, “a TripAdvisor that puts users first”.
If you’re someone who travels frequently, and you enjoy reviewing the places you visit and, in turn, want tips from your friends on what places to check out on your next vacation, then Gogobot is right up your alley. For this reason, it’s of no surprise that, according to Gogobot CEO Travis Katz, the site has begun to gain a lot of traffic from Yelp users — those who like to travel, try new places, accommodations, and restaurants, and share their experiences after the fact.
Like Yelp, users can navigate Gogobot by a simple keyword search, but in the case of the online travel site, users can view their friends’ “passports”, which provide images and reviews from all the places they’ve travelled. Gogobot recently added Foursquare and Facebook Places integration, too, so that every time you check-in via one of those services, your checkins show up on your Gogobot profile as well. And, since Gogobot is focused on providing an authentic visual experience, the site automatically tags your checkin with a Flickr image. Once you’ve checkedin, you can go back at a later date and add starred recommendations or write a longer review.
Just as Foursquare has plans to utilize the massive data hive it’s collected from user checkins to create a future recommendation service based on past trends in your checkin activity, the big picture goal for Gogobot is to provide an engaging resource for users to create tons and tons of data around their travel preferences. Eventually, Katz told me, Gogobot wants to build a travel recommendation engine comparable to the one Netflix employs for its movie recommendations.
So, to make this reality, Gogobot needs to become its own data hive, and thus needs to create an engaging user experience that encourages its users to spend time on the site, tagging, reviewing, checking-in, and so on. Today, Gogobot is announcing another key element in the effort to build an addictive resource and data mine: The addition of a gaming layer to its experience.
Gogobot is today rolling out a game layer built on top of Facebook Places check-ins (the first of its kind that I’m aware of), as well as Foursquare, to turn both networks into a source of gaming mechanics that encourage travelers to compete with friends and other members of the community to earn points and badges by going about their daily Gogobot activity. Users can earn points simply by checking-in, but they earn a greater number of points by writing reviews, answering questions posed by other travelers, and commenting on other users’ reviews.
The Gogobot badge system is very similar to the commenting reward system used by The Huffington Post, as well as the badge system in place for content producers on Bleacher Report. Obviously, while game mechanics and badges are by no means a new idea, it is very definitely a novel feature for the travel industry.
Thus, if you’re someone that loves adding stamps to your passport and loves competing with friends and family for those stamps — if the idea of making travel into a game has some appeal — Gogobot has your number.
In just six months since launching to the public, Gogobot users have shared more than 550,000 destinations across the globe with their networks on Gogobot. And though Katz was unwilling to share the site’s number of monthly active users, he did say that users are spending an average of 10.5 minutes on the site per visit, more than twice that of its competitors, like TripAdvisor and Fodor’s. He also said that traffic has grown by 70 percent in the last 30 days, so hockey-stick growth looks like it’s on the way, if not already in progress.
As to how Gogobot will make money: It’s all about lead generation. The site is tightly integrated with Hotels.com, Kayak, Expedia, and TripAdvisor, to name a few, so when you’re checking out a review of a hotel in London, Gogobot allows you to go straight to Hotels.com to get a room and, when you do, Gogobot gets paid. (It also helps the financial cause to raise $4 million in seed funding from Battery Ventures.)
Gogobot was also the winner of TechCrunch’s 2010 Crunchie Award for “Best Design”, so you know it’s gotta be good. But, if you’re still not yet convinced, check out our original in depth review here or check out the site itself here.
Posted by Jason Stinnett @ Internet Exposure
This post was originally in YOUmoz, and was promoted to the main blog because it provides great value and interest to our community. The author’s views are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of SEOmoz, Inc.
As you may have heard, Google recently launched a new feature called Search by Image. While experimenting with the feature, I identified three scenarios where search by image has a distinct advantage over traditional approaches for finding link opportunities.
First, some background. To explain it simply, you can now use images (either a URL of an image, or one you upload) as your search term. The goal is to point you to websites that are related to and/or contain information about the image. More background can be found at the Google blog.
1. Get Background on Industry Influencers and Linkerati
As Rand often discusses, identifying people’s interests and using them to create connections are a great way to get on influential people’s radar. If done right, this will also result in exposure and links.
Some of the most influential people in the SEO space are also the best at personal branding. Ross Hudgens recently wrote a YOUmoz post on how to make your brand more consistent on and offline. Ross is someone who I’ve been reading and been influenced by a lot lately, and he’s also very consistent about using the same picture of himself, so I figured I’d use him for our first example.
When I tested the new Google Search By Image feature using his profile picture, I found many of the image results are attached to comments Ross has left:
Searching by Image, I quickly learned that Ross is active on several blogs about personal philosophy and self improvement. This is something I could use to connect with him on in the future.
Search By Image offers a distinct advantage because it provides a more filtered and targeted result set than simply wading through the backlink profile on RossHudgens.com.
2. Identify Link Opportunities by Searching for Popular Guest Posters
In the SEO community, Ann Smarty is the person who is the most synonymous with guest posting. Not just because of her site MyBlogGuest.com, but also because she’s a prolific guest poster herself. Ann has many projects she promotes in addition to My Blog Guest, including ViralMom.com and SexySocialMedia.com.
Ann’s also someone who’s great at maintaining a consistent personal brand, so this makes searching by her profile image a great place to look for guest post opportunities:
This screenshot shows a couple different blogs that Ann has guest posted on that we could investigate and potentially approach about guest blogging there as well. And that’s just scratching the surface!
Since Ann has multiple websites she promotes, Search by Image again provides an advantage over wading through backlink profiles because it allows us to find guest post opportunities that link to different sites.
3. Find Coverage That Didn’t Result in a Link
Another way you can use Search By Image is to mine for press coverage and participation in offline activities that didn’t result in a link. Searching by brand logos and "stock" CEO photos are a great way to find pages where a company or employee is getting highlighted.
For this example, I looked at the Fortune 500 and tried to pick a company in an industry that didn’t seem too social or internet savvy, but would probably have a traditional PR presence. I went with Caterpillar and discovered the current CEO is Douglas Oberhelman. A quick (traditional) image search showed one photo that appeared again and again, so I figured that would be the best one to use to Search By Image.
My search resulted in a number of places that an SEO at Caterpillar could ask to get a link from. The two I pointed out above are places Mr. Oberhelman has spoken, which should be on the easier side to get links from given the existing relationship. In fact, the page that highlights him as conference chair has "www.caterpillar.com" with blue text and underlined, but it isn’t a working link!
Search by Image has a distinct advantage over other research tools because it can identify significant coverage of your client or company that doesn’t already include a link.
Bonus reason #4: Visually Similar Images Results Can Be Pretty Funny
Humor is always a nice way to break up a day of research:
No wonder this feature isn’t already part of Open Site Explorer!
Posted by Cyrus Shepard
The mystery began on July 3rd when Google Realtime Search went dark. The next day we learned that the underlying cause was Google losing access to its special Twitter data feed.
The source of the disagreement is unclear, but the effects have been immediate. Realtime Search disappeared – all of it, not just the part that relied on Twitter. This included Realtime results from Google News, Blog Search links, Facebook fan page updates and more.
No Realtime results? What if it took the world hours, instead of minutes, to learn about the tweet below?
To gain perspective on what’s at stake, consider the example of journalists and protesters staying abreast of current events during the recent government upheavals in the Middle East.
Yes, this s#&t matters.
For the past two years Google used Twitter not only to power Realtime results, but also for faster indexation of content and, we believe, to calculate Author Authority for use in their ranking algorithm. Google says they plan on reinstating Realtime with the power of Google+. But the network will have to grow significantly before this works.
In the absence of the Twitter Firehose, can tweets still influence rankings? What about Google+?
Last week, before this happened, we had the pleasure of working with Shari Goetsch of SeeYourImpact.org on a social media campaign for their terrific nonprofit organization. SeeYourImpact is a hardworking and unique charity that SEOmoz has worked with in the past.
The goal of this campaign was to create buzz around a single, previously unindexed URL on the target website using only Twitter. A tweet was created and followers of SeeYourImpact were encouraged to retweet as much as possible.
Within a few short hours of the campaign kickoff, the URL was tweeted 300+ times. As a secondary effect, the URL also received a handful of additional Facebook likes and LinkedIn shares.
By early afternoon the page ranked #2 in Google for its targeted phrase, “Assist a Mom.” The URL reached #1 status by day’s end. As of this writing it remains the number one ranked page for this target keyword phrase.
The Twitter effect was in full power.
After Google announced that they no longer used direct Twitter data, Rand created a previously unindexed webpage and tweeted it to his followers.
Within 10 minutes, Google picked up a tweet scraper, but not the original post.
After an hour we realized a mistake. We had inadvertently included a meta NOINDEX tag in the head of the webpage. Doh!
After quick removal of the tag, it took Bing a full 6 hours to index the original URL, but still no Google. Not until 8 hours after the original tweet did Google index our URL. Eventually it ranked #1 for its targeted keyword phrase.
Even with our mistake, Google appeared significantly slower than it used to.
The next day we created two unique pages to test the ranking power of Twitter vs. Google+. Rand then shared one page on Twitter and the other on Google+.
This time, the Twitter URL performed much better and faster in the SERPs. Within 13 minutes it ranked #1 for its keyword phrase "Euclidean Taeniasis of Galapagos".
Rand noted that the ranking coincided very neatly with our URL’s appearance in Topsy, which may be where Google found it. It makes sense that the Topsy 100 is crawled and indexed much more frequently than Rand’s Twitter profile.
Even more revealing was how tweets not only helped indexation, but also appeared to boost rankings. The first hour the page appeared in search results, it ranked 10th for the phrase Euclidean Perry and number 8 for EuxliswN Darwin. In the time it took for the number of tweets to double, the rankings rose from 8 and 7 respectively.
Tweets still help with indexation, although maybe not as fast as they used to. And tweets appear to boost rankings, although the exact degree is unclear.
Caveat: We noticed the URL was shared through several Linkedin accounts. Many people, including Rand, have their Twitter profile set up to automatically post to LinkedIn whenever they share. We believe this had a minimal influence on the experiment, but can’t be discarded.
Rand shared the second page through his Google+ profile. He likewise encouraged folks to share it through Google+, but not through Twitter, Facebook, direct linking, etc. Within minutes the post was shared dozens of times.
Two hours later, this test URL ranked #1 for it’s keyword phrase in Google search results – this time without a single Twitter scraper in the results.
A check of shared count shows it was tweeted 0 times, although there were 4 Google Buzzes that appeared. Is this the effect of the +1 button?
Two hours is a long time to wait for real time results. If Google wishes to replace Twitter with Google+ in a meaningful way, they have a long road ahead of them.
At this time, I haven’t found direct evidence of improved rankings with Google+ beyond basic indexation, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the phenomenon existed.
Even without the Twitter firehose, it seems the Twitter effect still finds ways of maneuvering into Google’s search results.
Without Topsy and the countless Twitter scrapers, it’s unknown how fast our pages would have been indexed. The aggregators and the scrapers contain two features which undoubtedly helped our URLs to rank in each Twitter experiment:
The more retweets a link receives, the better it seems to perform in search results and the more visibility it obtains with the social media aggregators referenced above.
With Topsy, for example, a URL that makes it into their top 100 list achieves much more visibility than a single tweet.
“Who” tweets your content used to be just as important, or more so, than the number of people retweeting your content. Can Google still calculate this in any meaningful way?
It’s interesting to note that Google still shows Twitter sharing data in personalized search results, as seen below.
Whether this sharing data translates into author rank remains to be seen.
Lately, I’ve talked to a lot of folks who are genuinely confused about the new role of social factors in search engine optimization. We in the SEO industry have contributed to this with our wall-to-wall coverage of Facebook likes, Google+ and articles like this one about Twitter. Ian Laurie wrote an excellent article on the topic. This attention has caused some people to believe that social media has displaced traditional SEO. This is far from the truth. Let me be clear:
Social media doesn’t replace traditional SEO. It helps it.
Each of these tests contained a URL optimized for the targeted keyword phrase and the target page was optimized for the keyword, including the URL, title tag and on-page text. All of these factors undoubtedly helped it to rank.
Traditional SEO practices including content creation, external link building and on-page factors still lay the foundation for long-term ranking success. Take a look at Rand’s SEO Pyramid below, where social media rests atop the other bases. Although the social aspect may be larger today than depicted in the past, we need to be careful not to flip the entire pyramid on its head.
SEO Pyramid created by Rand Fishkin for SEOmoz
Tweets or Google shares alone don’t yet equate to long term ranking nirvana. Employing a synergistic combination of social media and technical SEO savvy provides the best recipe for success.
by Mike Fleming
What I’m about to tell you will totally revolutionize your PPC
campaigns and make you A LOT more money. It’s simple, but not well
known and not widely practiced. Most of your competition isn’t doing
it. This is why you should be. Really, I should not be telling you
this. I should really keep it to myself. Maybe I’ll just write about organizing your campaigns
or how you shouldn’t run search and content ads in the same campaign.
Been there, done that. Shoot. Then again, it should be ok. Most of
you will follow the principle anyway, so I should have nothing to worry
First, you’ve been duped into believing that when you place
your ads on search engine results pages for your targeted keywords, you
are taking part in the activity of advertising. After all, we
call it “ppc advertising,” the links on the pages are called “ads” and
we call the people running the campaigns “advertisers.”
But Google and other search engines are not in the business of advertising.
Search engines don’t go out and interrupt web users going about their
business by trying to garner interest in the message they’re screaming
at them. That’s advertising. They wait for the searcher’s to come to
them and then they serve them results based upon an input. That’s
customer service. That’s right, search engines are in the business of customer service, not advertising.
Of course, this totally changes the way you should think about what
you’re delivering to the searcher. In advertising, you try and get the
attention of a non-engaged person while communicating how being
interested in your product or service might change their life.
In customer service, you give the person your attention and deliver what
you hear them asking for. Lots of “advertisers” get this backwards.
They write ads that try and sell the searcher on the product or
service. Instead, they should be listening to the searcher and then serving them with the information they’re looking for.
Now that you understand that, there is something you need to know about your target audience. They’re lazy. We’re all lazy. Most shoppers/searchers follow what is called “The Principle of Least Effort.” Here’s an excerpt from Wikipedia…
This principle states that an information seeking client will
tend to use the most convenient search method, in the least exacting
mode available. Information seeking behavior stops as soon as minimally
acceptable results are found.
That’s right, people searching for something don’t naturally conduct
thorough research to find the best solution to their specific problem.
They naturally look for the easiest way to get satisfactory results.
That’s why people rarely go beyond page 1 on search results. That
extra click is too much effort if they find a satisfactory result on
page 1! They do just enough to get a decent result.
This knowledge should have a dramatic effect on how you conduct your
PPC campaigns. But, it likely won’t because YOU are very likely to
follow this principle in the way you run your campaigns. Stayed tuned
for how this principle SHOULD affect the way you run campaigns (even
though it won’t).
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