Wednesday, August 12, 2009

SEO Guide: How to Properly Move Domains

Posted by Danny Dover on August 6th, 2009

Moving domains can make a tremendously negative impact on search engine rankings. This is because the major search engines use metrics on both the domain level and the page level to determine rankings. When a webmaster decides to switch to a brand new domain, they are resetting their domain metrics to zero whether they know it or not. Luckily, there are steps one can take to minimize and in many cases completely negate the affects of a domain move.

SEO Guide: How to Properly Move Domains

Task: Redirect all of the pages from one domain to an entirely different domain.
Example of End Result: and all of it's pages redirect to and it's corresponding pages.

  • Create a sitemap for your old domain.
  • Create content (contact information, description of your company, indication of future plans) and something link worthy for the new domain. (You should start trying to build links early)
  • Setup the new domain and make it live.
  • Register and verify your old domain and new domain with Google Webmaster Tools.
  • Create a custom 404 page for old domain which suggests visiting new domain.
  • In a development environment, test the redirects from the old domain to the new domain. Ideally, this will be a 1:1 redirect. ( to
  • 301 redirect your old domain to your new domain.
  • Submit your old sitemap to Google and Bing. The submission pages are within Google Webmaster Tools and Bing Webmaster Center (This step will make the engines crawl your old URLs, see that they are 301 redirects and change their index accordingly.)
  • Fill out the Change of Address form in Google Webmaster Tools.
  • Create a new sitemap and submit it to the engines. (This will tell them about any new URLs that were not present on the old domain)
  • Wait until Google Webmaster Tools updates and fix any errors it indicates in the Diagnostics
  • Monitor search engine results to make sure new domain is being properly indexed.
  • Do your happy dance!

Note: You will need to maintain control of the old domain so that the 301 redirects stay valid.


Monday, August 10, 2009

Answers to Social Media Questions You Should Know

Posted by Lee Odden on Aug 7th, 2009

In the course of providing consulting services and conducting training programs for companies on social media marketing & PR or a combination of SEO and social media, there are some common questions that have come up. I thought it might be useful for readers if I documented a few of them here along with answers.

“If we open up to comments, won’t people criticize us?”

This is one of the most common questions I hear. Companies have traditionally feared negative content posted online because bad news travels fast and most businesses aren’t entirely sure of how to deal with online criticism.

Even more of a concern is the fear that after creating social content for the purpose of building goodwill, positive buzz and influencing sales, an angry troll decides to use that platform for their sinister purposes.

To begin answering the “won’t people criticize us” question, let’s start with a “Yes, they may”. The reality is that if a company has angry customers, they are already talking. It’s amazingly simple for anyone to publish their opinion online. Mobile phones make every customer an instant window into the service quality of your company. So if they already think what they think and are posting their opinions online, why not have them do so “in your own backyard”?

You’ll likely never “control the conversation” but if dissenters can publish on a company web site, there are moderation options to display or not display that content. Additionally, customers appreciate how companies respond to legitimate criticism. Such feedback can be helpful insight into customer service and product quality issues. Brand evangelists are often quick to come to a company’s defense when unreasonably negative content gets posted. The opportunity is not to worry about negative comments as much as to identify and empower brand fans.

I heard Gary Vaynerchuk say at a conference, “Now is the time to get rid of the cockroaches in your kitchen”, meaning everything is wide open and people are going to talk. If your company has things to fear then there are other issues to deal with more important than wondering what to do if someone makes a negative comment on a blog.

social media

“Where should we participate?”

As the saying goes, “Fish where the fish are”, so find out where your customers spend time on the social web. What roles do they often play? What are their information discovery, consumption and sharing preferences? Where and how your customers spend their time with social media sites as well as the objectives for your own participation should guide the decision as to which specific services to start with.

A few ways to discover where your customers are on the social web include:

  • Participation – Search, get recommendations and follow links to social applications and join them. While time consuming, there is no substitute for being actively involved with a community to learn about customers.
  • Social Media Monitoring – There are numerous tools for keyword based monitoring that can provide near or real-time insight into the discussions customers are having about topics of interest, what media they’re interacting with and on what social channels.
  • Logging existing traffic and behaviors to your web site from social media web sites. Talk to whoever manages web site reporting in your organization and see if you can get them to construct an ongoing report that segments social media sourced traffic that is already visiting your company web properties.
  • Surveys of your existing customers – Sometimes the best answers are simple. Want to know more about your customers’ social media preferences? Ask them.
  • Referencing demographic information supplied by social media sites that offer advertising. There may be debate about how specifically useful the information offered by Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, YouTube and other social network sites that offer advertising can be, but at a high level, it can offer important insights.
  • Third party data sources – While information from Quantcast, Hitwise or Microsoft adCenter Labs Demographics Prediction tools isn’t the same thing as what you’d get from some of the other suggestions above, those data sources familiar to senior management can augment your other research and get their attention for important things like, funding.

interns social media

“How many interns do we need for this?”

Social media as a whole is a shiny new object to many companies and is often characterized as something that “Gen Y does” or is subordinated as a collection of small tasks, such that it is relegated to entry level staff or interns.

Corporate social participation can be a lot of work depending on the size of the company, it’s goals and more importantly, the level of social activity of its customers. Some of that work is indeed appropriate for interns and if there is deep user experience with specific services, there is insight to be gained that can be immensley valuable. Segmenting social tasks and forecasting hours should enable most companies to determine how many entry level staff or interns are needed.

However, the question about interns in a discussion about a company’s decision to engage social media needs some consideration. Social media has strategic and tactical roles and public facing activities need to be guided by individuals with deep experience and knowledge regarding Customer Service, Marketing, PR, Sales, Talent Acquisition and even Legal.

Is an intern the best choice to be the face of a company? Pizza Hut thinks so. In the case of the Young and Free campaign by Servus Credit Union, yes. But only with very careful consideration and selection. Other companies put seasoned marketing, customer service or communications professionals in those positions. While the funding debate goes on in terms of justifying the expense of a senior person for a community manager role, the question to consider is, “Who is best qualified to represent your brand?”.

Social Media ROI

“What is the exact ROI from social media?”

The inevitable ROI question is an important one. How do you measure the ROI from public relations, community involvement, attending industry events, focus groups or recruiting? What is a relationship with a customer worth? Or with an industry analyst, journalist or blogger that writes about your company?

Social media participation can serve many outcomes for a business. The key with measuring Social Media ROI is to identify specific goals, build a strategy and execute either a full program or a pilot with the ability to measure outcomes. Those outcomes have value and the goals/measurement piece is the first step.

If a social media effort is focused on connecting with influentials in an industry, aka digital or social media PR, KPIs might include social connections, comments, mentions, links, stories or contributed content. Jason Falls and Katie Payne have some interesting thoughts on that. For example, one of the goals for TopRank’s Online Marketing Blog is to achieve 10-20 unsolicited mentions of our company or key staff by industry blogs, publications or influentials each month. We’ve exceeded that by far.

Another example might simply be list building. Basic Facebook marketing might involve setting up a company page with useful info and discussion, promoting it to attract fans and then providing offers and incentives to join email lists that provide other useful information and benefits. Once a social subscriber/fan/follower opts-in to an email list, you can provide profiling options to ensure they’re getting relevant value and marketing offers.

In the case of 1-800 Flowers, fans can buy directly from the first online store to be launched on Facebook. There’s no question about how to measure the ROI from commerce in that situation. But online commerce is not appropriate or reasonable for many companies, so measuring outcomes that influence sales becomes the “social media ROI” answer.


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

10 Things You Must Check When You Re-launch Your Website

Posted by Duncan Morris on August 3rd, 2009

Re-launching a site is a crucial and often worrying time. There are many many things that can go wrong, and when they do go wrong the results are often spectacular.

Over the last few years I've seen a whole bunch of sites re-launch. Almost every one of them has had some small minor issue. A small percentage have left me with some good stories to tell :-) The following is a list of 10 things that you should check prior to and immediately after you have launched a new site. I've focused the list on things that won't necessarily be immediately obvious, but with never the less cause you issues at some point. I've also focussed the tips on a re-launched site, which has a different set of worries to launching a new site.

A number of these checks are things that will involve work at the point of go-live. Any good developer will tell you that you need to avoid doing anything at the point of go live, so you should try to get as much as possible done in advance. The good news is that the majority of the list will require changing something external to the site, so the cost of failure is lower (but still annoying).

1) Put 301 redirects in place.

You've all heard in a million times, but its important enough to say again. If you are changing URLs you must put in place 301 redirects from the old URLs to the new URLs. This is often a tricky thing to test (since in most cases the URL of the test site will be different to the URL of the final live site). Below is one fairly simple way to test that all your redirects are inplace and working as expected.

Step 1. Ensure your test environment works when given the final live URL. If you use an apache server you can do this by adding another ServerAlias to your vhost.

Step 2. Add a line to your hosts file for the live URL. The hosts file entry overrides the DNS entries and allows you to point the live URL at the test server. The effect is that when you type the final URL, rather than seeing the current version of the live site you will see the test version.

Step 3. Run a site search on google.

Step 4. You can now run through each link from those results and ensure that when you put the site live they will correctly redirect.

Step 5. Remove the hosts file entry. A simple step that is often overlooked. If you forget to remove the hosts file entry you will always see the version on your test server.

2) Add analytics code to every page

One of the most , if not the most crucial times to see what is happening on your site is just after a re-launch. Time after time people forget to add (or update) the analytics code.

Not much more to say about this one, unless you want to be blind as to what is happening on your new site, can I suggest you ensure your developers know that they need analytics code on *every* page of the website.

3) Robots.txt and Sitemaps

I debated whether to include this in the list, because it feels that this falls into regular site testing, rather than something that sits on the boundary of things you would hope your developers already knew and were testing for. I decided to include it, not least because the title says 10 things to check, and without it I only had 9!

Sitemaps and robots.txt often play a crucial role in the SEO strategy, but from my experience they are normally added on as an afterthought. You should ensure that you update the robots.txt and your sitemaps to mirror your new site structure.

4) Update Google Adwords

Prior to the site going live, you should test that site still work with the adwords tracking code. In order to track activity within adwords Google appends tracking parameters onto the URL.

A client of ours once re-launched a website that broke in horrible ways if there were any parameters appended to the URL. It took a while to track down the issue purely because no-one likes clicking on their own adverts.

The following Google help talks you through the glid parameter. In a nutshell you need to check that the following still work. or

As part of the go live process you should also update your Adwords campaign. Whilst your users won't notice and probably don't care that the advert is taking them via a 301 redirect, this proabably won't be doing great things for your quality score. At the very minimum you should update the URLs that have changed to be be in their new format.

A re-launch is likely to give you a new set of opportunites for adwords. It's likely there are new pages that open up options for bidding on new keywords. There are probably some keywords that are no longer relevant. The worst thing you could do would be to ignore you adword campaigns, since this will inevitably lead to throwing money down the drain.

I've talked about Google Adwords because this is by far the most common advertising platform, but you should revist all of your adverstising to ensure it matches the new site.

We once took over and "optimised" a Google advertising campaign that had been spending *a lot* of money sending visitors to a page that no longer existed.

5) Review all conversion endpoints

No doubt the old site will have stunning call to actions that encourage your users to do something that is beneficial to your business. These conversions will (obviously) be being tracked somewhere. I encourage you to review anything that tracks or reports on these conversions. Most likely there will be goals or funnels within your analytics program that rely on certain URLs. You need to ensure that you update these or else it will look like your website no longer converts.

If you are driving traffic to your website using Google adwords then you will probably have conversion code on certain pages of your website. Prior to the site going live you should check that the new conversion pages also have this code. On a similar note you should also check that any e-commerce tracking is also updated and migrated across to the new site.

In general people are very reluctant to trust data put in front of them and are always looking for a way to invalidate the data so they can go back to gut feel. The last thing you want to do is to invalidate your reports by missing data for however long it takes to get the conversion or e-commerce code put back on the site.

6) Full end to end test

I couldn't write a list without begging you to do a full end to end test. No matter how much testing you have done, and no matter how confident you are that everything works, please, please, please perform a full end to end test. In the case of a site re-launch something will have changed since you did a test. It could be something as small as a DNS update, an IP address changing or the fact that you have removed a hosts file, but something will have changed since you last tested the site. Whatever it is that has changed will have invalidated all your previous tests, so please, please, please perform a full end to end test.

Often payment gateway providers only accept requests from a given IP address. We knew of a site that re-launched onto new servers. Everything went smoothly, all the tests completed satisfactorily, and the website worked as expected. You could add products into your cart, and move all the way through the checkout process. It was only when you actually clicked the pay now button when the payment gateway failed because the IP address had changed.

If you don't perform a full end to end you are leaving something to chance, and will be leaving money on the table. Your customers won't ring you up and tell you that they can't order, they will most likely just find another website.

7) Server logs

The first few hours, and days after a site has gone live is a scary time for all involved. No matter how much testing has gone on something will have changed in order to put the site live.

Ask your sys admin to give you regular reports on any status codes that aren't 200. If I was you I'd keep an eye on any 404 errors you receive along with any server 500 errors. I'd probably also be checking Google webmaster central for any errors in their crawl stats.

For those of you who use Google Analytics the following blog post talks nicely about tracking 404 errors. You have to add a snippet of code on the page, but once done you can track 404 errors from Google analytics.

8) Ranking reports

The title pretty much says it all. If your URLs are changing and you run ranking reports (or for that matter any reports that rely on URLs) you should update them. As we said previously there is nothing worse than invalidating all your reports by having the wrong URLs.

9) Email footers

I hope by now you have all taken Rand's 1st headsmacking tip to heart and have added link requests to any automated emails. If you have, then now is the time to change (or at least check) the URLs.

On a related note, any links that you can get updated from old URLs to the new URLs will prove very beneficial.

10) Monitor bounce rates

Bounce rates are often a good metric to determine how the public have taken to your new site. Avinash has talked about bounce rates and as a general rule, when Avinash talks, you should listen. It is most interesting to look at pages where the bounce rate has changed dramatically.

If it has reduced then there are probably lessons you can learn and apply to other pages on your site. If it has increased then there are lesson to be learnt, and these lessons should be learnt quickly!

As with all metrics they are only an indication, just because you have seen a change in bounce rate doesn't mean you should hurry through changes for the sake of changes.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Microsoft/ Yahoo Deal Already Reshaping SEO

Posted by Mihaela Lica on 31 July 2009

The search engine landscape has already changed since Microsoft released Bing: all SEOs expected the unexpected; we all knew that Bing was just the first step towards something bigger, louder, and in the end more significant. Microsoft didn’t disappoint – the latest deal with Yahoo has already stirred controversy in all SEO circles.

The pondering just started: is the deal a threat to Google?

“We’re more nervous about making sure we stay focused ourselves rather than what the competition does.” - Google’s Tim Armstrong said in 2008, in an interview about a possible Microsoft/ Yahoo merger. Will he say the same thing today, knowing that together Microsoft and Yahoo share 30% of the search market? Will he make the same statement when everyone knows that Google is losing money (proof the last AOL stake move)?

Is the Microsoft/Yahoo deal scaring Google?

These questions concern more the SEO community and the investors than they do the users, who generally believe that the “unexpected” deal between Google’s main competitors will not change their search habits. Bing did not bring ground-breaking technology to search – all it brought was a different way to categorize results, probably copied from hakia or Kayak, but this is beside the point.

As far as how does the Microsoft/Yahoo deal change SEO, there are at least two important aspects we cannot ignore:

  • Bing will be the exclusive search engine for all Yahoo sites for the whole duration of the agreement (which is 10 years).
  • Microsoft will also have exclusive access to Yahoo’s core search technologies and will also have the ability to integrate these technologies into its existing platforms if necessary.

Based on the information above, the following conclusions are a no brainer:

  • SEO for Bing is worth the effort. Bing’s results are different from what Google and Yahoo display now, somehow “richer” in displaying a variety of results for a given query. With Bing powering Yahoo search we can assume that this way of serving search results will probably be adopted by Yahoo too.
  • We cannot be sure if Yahoo’s local search is part of the deal, but if it is Bing will have a lot to gain. Since Bing is serving local listings in the search results it becomes vital for companies to be listed in Bing’s local listing center. This does not impact businesses outside the US just yet, but it is still an important SEO pointer for the future.
  • Based on personal experience, it is a mistake to ignore Bing Webmaster Tools – if you don’t have an account there you are probably missing a lot of Bing traffic. Unless you want to ping Bing each time you publish new content it is advisable to submit a sitemap to Bing via Bing Webmaster Tools.

    To ping Bing simply follow the formula:[your sitemap web address]

    Other important data you could gather from Bing Webmaster Tools: filter backlinks by top-level domain, subdomain or subfolder and filter outbound links by top-level domain, subdomain or subfolder. Bing also offers a tool that helps you see how your site performs in search results for searches using specific keywords. Comparing the data from Bing Webmaster Tools to Google you can also learn how the two search engines see your site. This will give you the tools to plan better SEO strategies for the two.

  • With Yahoo out of the search spectrum, Yahoo site explorer may go away too. This was an important tool to gather link information for SEOs. Many SEO tools that relied on Yahoo for link data will break too – so SEOs will face new challenges when it comes to link research.
  • Last but not least, MSN AdCenter will probably get more attention from advertisers in the US (where the impact of the deal is the strongest) as an alternative to Google AdWords. Microsoft ads already provide for better conversions than Google ads, but this is the first time Google actually faces serious competition in this field. 30 % of the market doesn’t sound like much, but it can soon become a threat if Microsoft proves that it can serve ads that have better quality and relevancy, and more importantly higher conversions.

This is what Google should fear. As far as SEO for Bing is concerned, in relation with PPC advertising, remember that any PPC campaign is pointless if a site is not built to sell: we are talking design, content, and usability, of course. As a final note, take into consideration the fact the Yahoo is still the most visited site in the world. A Bing search bar on such a site is in effect more popular than Google itself, or at least potentially. It appears as if MS is not as dumb as they pretend to be most of the time.


Friday, July 31, 2009

What Site Owners, Web Developers & SEOs Should Know About The Yahoo Microsoft Deal

Posted byBy now, everyone has read all about the news that Yahoo is replacing its search index with Microsoft’s Bing. In a way, it’s a great story of complete reversal, as in 2002, Microsoft didn’t have its own index and instead used Inktomi. Late that year, Yahoo! acquired Inktomi, which spurred Microsoft to start building its own search index to avoid having a search supplier owned by a major competitor. Now Yahoo is ditching its index (including all of the technology it acquired with Inktomi) to use the very index it motivated Microsoft to build.

We’ve read about what this means for advertisers (more overall traffic from the combined audience, use of Microsoft adCenter for self-serve and Yahoo!’s sales force for premium) and for searchers (they likely won’t notice), but what does the deal means for those who create websites: publishers, web developers, and SEOs?

Web Developers

The hardest hit by this change will likely be developers. Over the last couple of years, Yahoo seems to have shifted its focus from innovating the search index to innovating its developer offerings: encouraging third-party development and creating a “developer ecosystem” for search.

Any developer options that don’t rely on the Yahoo search index may be unscathed. In particular, the non-search development tools and search-related offerings that are solely focused on the user interface may continue to be supported. While Bing will power Yahoo’s search engine, Yahoo will control their user interface and likely will try to continue to differentiate there. That’s means Search Monkey, which enables site owners to enhance how their results appear on Yahoo, is potentially safe.

Build Your Own Search Service (BOSS) likely won’t be so lucky. BOSS is built on the Yahoo index as its foundation. A company can build their own search engine using Yahoo’s underlying technology and differentiate via the user experience. Essentially, that’s what Yahoo is planning to do now with Bing as their underlying technology. No more Yahoo index likely means no more BOSS. Yahoo all but concedes as much: “We can tell you that BOSS will remain live for the time being.” What does that mean for companies like hakia, OneRiot, Daylife, and Cluuz? And for that matter, all of the developers using BOSS who are now filling the Yahoo BOSS message boards with questions?

On the Yahoo developer blog, Yahoo commented that “For SearchMonkey and BOSS, we currently do not have anything concrete to tell you. Clearly, we’ll need to work with Microsoft to determine what makes the most sense for you and for us.” If BOSS’s future is left up to Microsoft, I have no doubt that future will involve migrating BOSS users to the Bing search API. In order to continue to support BOSS, Microsoft would have to completely recreate it to work with the Bing search infrastructure. Why would they do that when they can increase the audience of a product they already have? It’s possible they’ll add some of the unique BOSS features their search API (such as unlimited queries, ability to mash up the data with other sources, and ability to tweak ranking signals), but I wouldn’t hold my breath. The Yahoo BOSS team is just as in the dark as the developers wanting answers. From a message board post: “What specifically does it mean for BOSS? Honestly the team is still absorbing the implications and we just don’t know.”.

BOSS users could switch to Google’s Custom Search API, but it is more restrictive than Microsoft’s offering, and isn’t really well-suited as the foundation of a search engines or other commercial company. Several other companies offer web indices, such as CommonCrawl and Alexa, so perhaps they or a new company will take advantage Boss’s imminent demise and offer matching features.

Any Yahoo offerings that don’t rely on an underlying index, such as the Yahoo User Interface library are likely going to remain. Yahoo confirmed this in their blog post:

“We’ve also received questions about the future of Yahoo!’s other developer offerings, such as YUI, YQL , and Pipes. We wanted to let you know that today’s news does not affect these products. None of our other non-search developer products are affected.” [Emphasis mine.]

However, look for any search index-based offerings (such as the Maps API and Local API) to be deprecated in favor of the Bing equivalents once the deal goes through.

Search Engine Optimizers and Site Owners

What about those who are concerned with getting customer acquisitions through organic search? How will this change impact them? From a traffic perspective, take a look at how well you’re indexed and ranked in Bing. That’s how well you’ll be indexed and ranked in Yahoo. What do your titles and descriptions look like in the results in Bing? That’s how things will generally look in Yahoo. This might not be a bad thing for site owners, as over the last year, Yahoo’s search quality seems to have been declining to the point that I’ve been wondering if their engineering team had already begun to be phased out or least was spending a lot of time at the bar mourning the likely phase out.

Just as you don’t need to optimize separately for AOL since they use Google’s index, you won’t need to optimize for Yahoo since they’ll use Bing’s index. The exception to this may be in how Yahoo displays results. We’ll have to wait and see exactly what this means, but Bing has been trying to differentiate in display and it supposedly, Yahoo will continue to do that as well. This may mean, for instance:

  • SearchMonkey will continue to be important as a way to stand out in the results.
  • Hmm. I can’t really think of anything else.

My guess is that the robots-nocontent tag will no longer be supported, since Bing’s infrastructure doesn’t support it. The search engines have already come together to standardize their support of robots.txt and XML Sitemaps, so site owners shouldn’t worry about changing anything with those.

The bigger issue many SEOs are concerned about is Site Explorer. Site Explorer is one of the more reliable tools for competitive backlink research. You can see a substantial list of links to any site, generally ordered according to value. That’s useful stuff! Both Google and Bing Webmaster Tools provide backlink data, but only for your own sites. Yahoo will be unable to maintain Site Explorer without a search index of their own. Will Bing take it over? Well, it could add the feature to its Webmaster Tools, but Microsoft has historically been moving the other direction. They removed the ability to query their index for link data with the link: operator in 2007 and have never brought it back for competitive research.

Microsoft likely won’t be motivated to add a feature that they specifically chose to remove. And it’s not trivial to build the code to query for competitive links and store the data. Believe me, I know. I managed the process for adding non-competitive backlink data to Google Webmaster Tools. As with the potential end to BOSS, the potential end to Site Explorer opens up new opportunities for third-parties. In fact, the same companies who build a web index could provide competitive link data. Currently, SEOmoz provides Linkscape, which offers some similar features. (Speaking of SEOmoz, Rand Fishkin posted yesterday about the SEO impact of this deal.) Majestic SEO and Exalead provides link data as well.

More generally, will Microsoft step up its efforts with webmaster relationships? Yahoo used to have a fairly significant presence in the community. In addition to Site Explorer, they were a constant at conferences and participated in online discussions. That participation has declined lately, coinciding with the decline in search quality. Microsoft seemed to be rallying with its webmaster relationships with the launch of the Webmaster Center in November 2007. But Microsoft hasn’t updated the Webmaster Center with new features since August 2008. (A minor release in November didn’t add new features).

Microsoft didn’t respond to my questions about their current and future resource investment in this area. They did recently release a rudimentary SEO Toolkit, although it requires Windows Vista and IIS 7.0 to run.

And what about paid inclusion? Yahoo has long offered Search Submit Pro, which essentially enables sites to pay to be included in the organic listings. Microsoft doesn’t offer a similar product and while it’s certainly possible that Microsoft will add this product to their offerings, paid inclusion is quite a substantial shift in overall approach to organic search. It’s less about the ability to implement the technology and more about belief around what constitutes an “organic” index. Danny Sullivan asked about paid inclusion at the announcement press conference. Carol Bartz, Yahoo CEO replied, ” Paid inclusion, we’ll decide on that later.” But it would be difficult for Yahoo to continue the program on its own, as Yahoo will no longer have control over what pages are included in the search index.

In the end, it’s about the traffic

The big question is will this partnership significantly change market share percentages? Depending on whose numbers you use, Google has either 65% or 74% share in the US (more in some European countries). That puts the combined Yahoo/Microsoft share at 28% or 25.5%. That’s substantial traffic, sure, and worth paying attention to. But what will the share look like in three years once the deal is done and we barely remember Yahoo ever had its own index? My guess is pretty similar to how it looks now. Except Google will probably have slightly higher share. I just don’t see anything game changing here that will cause a mass exodus from the status quo. But I’ve been wrong before. What I do know is that site owners who have ignored how their sites were doing in Bing until now do to low traffic numbers will likely start paying a lot more attention.


Thursday, July 30, 2009

Yahoo-Microsoft Deal a Win for Advertisers

Posted by Kevin Newcomb on 29 July 2009

Many search advertisers will rejoice at today's news that the long-anticipated Microsoft-Yahoo search deal is done. The two sides reached a 10-year agreement that has Microsoft becoming the back-end provider for Yahoo Search and Search Advertising, and Yahoo selling search ads for both Yahoo and Microsoft. Self-serve ads will be done via Microsoft's AdCenter platform.

Microsoft's adCenter platform is widely considered superior to Yahoo's Panama, and with enough volume could offer a viable alternative to Google AdWords. Not a Google-killer, mind you, but a credible place to spend search advertising budget in addition to Google.

Under the agreement, Microsoft's Bing will be the exclusive algorithmic search and paid search platform for Yahoo sites. Presentation of search on the Yahoo sites will continue to be branded and controlled by Yahoo, with a "Powered by Bing" notation at the bottom of search results.

Yahoo will continue to use its technology and data in other areas of its business, such as enhancing display advertising technology. Microsoft will gain an exclusive license to Yahoo's search technology, and will be able to incorporate what it likes into Bing. Display advertising for each company will remain separate.

"This deal is about scale," Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz said on a joint Yahoo-Microsoft conference call this morning. "Together, we can offer a real, viable option for users and advertisers." Bartz suggested the increased volume will create a better marketplace for advertisers, as well as better deals for publisher partners.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer echoed that idea, adding that the increased volume of searches and ads being served by Microsoft would greatly accelerate the speed of learning from the marketplace, allowing Microsoft to improve its Bing algorithm and adCenter platform faster than it could on its own.

Many search marketers agree that Microsoft's technology combined with Yahoo's traffic will make this a good deal for advertisers.

"While Yahoo has always had decent traffic volume, their PPC tools have been sub-par. A clunky interface combined with the lack of an offline editor have resulted in a huge barrier to entry for those wanting to do PPC with Yahoo," said Melissa Mackey, online marketing manager at Fluency Media. "On the other hand, Microsoft's PPC tools are extremely robust – more so than even Google's in many ways. However, the lack of traffic volume has historically meant that relatively few advertisers choose to bother with adCenter."

Advertisers would be less happy about the deal if it were Yahoo's technology powering the combined ad marketplace, she said. Besides the technology, the community relations of Microsoft's team has been superior, according to Mackey.

Brad Geddes, founder of bg Theory, agrees: "If Microsoft had to choose between the Yahoo Search Marketing platform and team or the adCenter platform, it's a good thing they chose adCenter," Geddes said. "The issue with adCenter was always volume. It was a great platform, but had so little volume, it was often not worth the time to manage. With the combined search share Microsoft will now command, I have very high hopes for that the adCenter platform and its community will be able to accomplish. If they continue to embrace advertisers like they have, they could be a formidable force and increase advertiser adoption."

But that doesn't mean Google should be scared. While the deal definitely creates more of a threat to Google, creating a bigger #2 search engine, The gap between them will still be fairly large. Will a combined Yahoo-Microsoft be able to take share away from Google? That remains to be seen. So far, Bing has been taking share from Yahoo and other smaller search engines.

Besides that, the deal is still a long way from closing. Microsoft and Yahoo will begin submitting it to regulators in the U.S. and Europe as early as next week, but that process is likely to go on for the rest of 2009, at the very least. Once approved, the transition to Bing will take place over the next 3 to 6 months globally, and the transition from Panama to adCenter will take up to 12 months.

All told, the combined Microsoft-Yahoo search engine is likely 2 years away. That's a long time for things to go wrong, or for Google to step up its game and come out with something to make this deal irrelevant.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Invest Time in Twitter Now for Long-Term Rewards

Posted by Eric Enge on 28 July 2009

There are so many different ways to engage in link building for your site. Social media networks, such as Twitter, are one of the latest vehicles for building links.

But in the long term, Twitter represents much more than just a way to build links. It's a way to establish yourself as an expert in your field, potentially drive significant traffic, and gain "social media authority," which may one day soon factor into the ranking algorithms of Google and other search engines.

Many people have written about what a great opportunity Twitter represents for publishers, and they're right. But it isn't a free ride, and requires serious effort to pull off.

The Opportunity

One of the great things about today's Internet environment is that entrepreneurs launch new types of Web properties all the time. These ventures fail most of the time.

But every once in a while, something new comes along that really begins to take off. Twitter is an example of something that appears to be on that course, although a viable financial model hasn't yet emerged for the site.

Early adopters of these newborn Web properties have a tremendous opportunity. Since they aren't well established, they have a smaller audience, and their long-term viability isn't certain, there's less competition for attention. You can leverage this to establish yourself as a topic-matter expert within this new environment.

Twitter is an environment that's growing in size and scope. New subject-matter experts are already emerging. These people use Twitter to post high-quality content, and are building a large number of followers.

If Twitter develops a stable financial model, which it needs for long-term viability, these people will be handsomely rewarded for the investment of time they've put into Twitter.

Consider the way that blogosphere emerged and evolved. Sites like TechCrunch and Mashable have emerged as major media properties.

The founders of these companies made an investment in blogging before it became mainstream. If they had instead attempted to make a similar investment in launching a new TV network or filming a new movie, their chances of success would've been much smaller. In short, the opportunity is to become a star, or a leader if you prefer, in a new medium.

Finding the ROI

New frontiers create new opportunities, but what's the nature of the opportunity? Some argue that you can get lots of traffic from Twitter. For the most part, these articles talk about getting hundreds of visitors per day to your site from Twitter.

For sites that get tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of visitors per day, that just doesn't move the needle. So where is the ROI? Being a recognized subject-matter expert might be good for your ego, but you want it to be good for your income too.

One way to do this is to consciously focus on following major influencers from other media who are on Twitter, developing relationships with them, and getting them interested in following you based on your interactions. If they recognize you as a leader, you are, in fact, a leader.

In terms of short-term gain, this can lead to links from outside of Twitter (links within Twitter are nofollowed). Those links can drive a handsome return on the time you invested.

Links are still the short-term payout. Will there come a time where "social media mentions" are a factor in search engine rankings? Or will Twitter ever be able to send thousands or tens of thousands of visitors per day to Web sites?

Probably, but for most people it isn't here yet. But links are available now.

Focus on building a topic-matter-specific Twitter account, publish quality content, network with influencers, and you'll get links. If you do this well, and have a bit of luck, some of them may be from highly trusted and authoritative sources. In addition, you'll put yourself in a position where your direct Twitter traffic can grow as Twitter moves towards the mainstream.

Publishing this type of quality content in sufficient volume is hard work. You can't dip your toe in the water, you need to dive in, and you need to be patient because the process takes time. Focus your goals on the right objectives and your chances of success go up significantly.


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

International Social Media Strategy: One Size Does Not Fit All

Posted by Erik Qualman on 27 July 2009

Remember when the search world was less defined than it is now? Your business was figuring out strategies for Lycos, Looksmart, Ask,, Baidu, Excite, Inktomi, Dogpile, Google, Yahoo, MSN, etc. Today, most companies focus on Google, Yahoo, Bing, and Baidu.

While the social media space is becoming more defined every day, it's still the Wild West; especially when you look to take your strategy international.

Don't fear these overwhelming amounts of international options. Embrace the opportunity, because it may not last long. Consolidation could be just around the corner.

However, we should still have a few years to "play." Many search experts will tell you that it was much more "fun" during the Wild West days because there were bigger payoffs.

Now, with everyone using similar PPC strategies on primarily three search engines -- with Google accounting for 70 percent -- there's less opportunity for that huge win. However, there are still huge wins to be made in social media.

This is particularly true when you take your social media strategy international. Just like search, social media is Silicon Valley-centric.

The U.S. and Canada are great areas to look at to see what is and isn't working and apply appropriately. While it's a good practice to look at the more progressive countries, be careful, as it's not a one-size-fits-all approach.

Vincenzo Cosenza took data from Google Trends and Alexa to compile a map of the largest social networks by country. Facebook dominates in most countries, and is growing, but social network Qzone, or QQ, still dominates in China. Some reports even indicated that QQ has more activity than Facebook.

Facebook was recently banned in China, so the folks in Palo Alto, California, are trying to determine the best strategy for playing in this giant market. Still, the company views the Chinese market as an opportunity.

So if, just like in the early search days, you roll up your sleeves and attack, you could win big. Stranger things have happened.

On the search side, Baidu still owns more than 70 percent of the search market, according to iResearch Consulting. In social media, Cosenza's map shows that Orkut is still strong in Brazil and India. Friendster has faded in all but the Philippines, and MySpace is trailing in all but Guam.

Consolidation is happening, and will continue to happen, in the social media space. Until then, where do you place your bets internationally?

If you don't have people on the ground in those markets, then talk with people who do. Many in the U.S. market could tell two to three years ago that the better money was on Facebook. This was done by simply looking at the technology limitations of MySpace at the time and, more importantly, listening to what the younger generations were saying and also doing (i.e., getting Facebook accounts).

Remember, this is a people-driven economy. The same can be done in other markets.

A consultant friend in India was recently looking for help in building out some items on Orkut. She was adamant that it had to be on Orkut. However, other friends in India told me they had switched to Facebook.

I asked her what social networks she used. She said she had an Orkut account, but primarily used Facebook. When pressed for why, she said it had better functionality and her friends were also on it. She then sent me a smile emoticon on Skype as she realized that Facebook may be the better play to test out right now.

This may fail, but that's OK. It was actually easier for her to try and build out and test a Facebook application, as her programmers knew how to do this. After weighing several factors, she realized her best first step was on Facebook.

She may still do something on Orkut shortly, or the market may have evolved further as well. But by keeping her investments light, she can remain flexible and not be paralyzed by "making the right choice."

I ran into something similar in Thailand, when I spoke with a woman who was on Facebook at the concierge desk of a hotel. At the time, Hi5 was the top network there. She indicated she used Hi5 but liked the functionality of Facebook a little better.

Keep in mind, Facebook wasn't translated into Thai at this point! Imagine that, she was putting extra effort in to work around the fact she didn't speak English. So if you don't have people in the markets it's imperative that you either visit or if that's too expensive, have at least some eyes and ears there for you.

Another good place to inquire is with the networks themselves. If you ask enough Facebook reps, you can determine that their growth markets in Europe are Spain and Germany.

The translation issue can be tricky as well, but who knows, maybe you can take a page from Facebook. They set up a Wiki to allow their users to translate the site from English to Spanish -- two weeks later it was done! Buena Suerta!


Monday, July 27, 2009

PPC Bid Management 101

Posted by Ron Jones on 13 July 2009

Those of you who are managing larger PPC campaigns might be looking for an automated solution to help manage the bid process. Especially those of you in companies with large catalogs, numerous demographic and geo targets might need a bid management tool. At some point it becomes too difficult to manage all of the associated complexities.

A bid management tool allows you to manage PPC campaigns across multiple search engines and provides central source for tracking and analytics. This article will look at the tools that are available to help you with this and discuss some best practices for managing your bids.

Should You Use a Bid Management System?

There is a healthy debate out there on whether or not bid management tools are really effective. It comes down to the complexity of your campaigns and whether or not using a bid management tool will help you save time and money. Many times the cost, implementation and complexity of the campaign is too high to justify, given the results.

Basically you need to account for the time and cost associated with managing your campaign, and compare how the various tools available will affect either of those. In most cases, if you feel stretched you should give it a shot. Most tool vendors offer a trial, so you can get a feel for its effectiveness before you buy.

Bid Management Tools Won't Do it All

Bid management can be a useful tool, but it is important to understand that in today's advertising environment, you need to do much more in addition to what the bid management tool can do. For instance, ad copy and landing page testing and tuning will not benefit from a bid management tool. You need to have other processes in place to manage these.

On the other hand, using a bid management tool to manage your long-tail keywords can pay large dividends. For many companies, there is a fair amount of money that is made going after the long-tail keywords. Furthermore, long-tail keywords are less competitive than the major ones, but do require you to implement huge numbers of keywords.

Lets now take a look at some of the tools that are available on the market today. Some of these tools are priced in the $200 - $500 range and others go way beyond that, depending on features.

Google Conversion Optimizer

If you're looking for a tool to help you manage your bids and you are only using Google, then you might want to consider the Google Conversion Optimizer. As with most of Google's tools, it's free if you are using AdWords. However, you need to achieve 30 conversions in the past 30 days to use it.

PPC BidMax

Formerly Dynamic Bid Maximizer, PPC BidMax is a bid management tool designed to help you manage campaigns with the big 3 search engines – Google, Yahoo and Bing.


Another tool for managing your bids with all of the major search engines within one interface is KeywordMax. In addition to its bid management tools, KeywordMax also offer a host of other PPC tools like keyword generation tools.


Omniture has established a great reputation as an SEM tool vendor. They too have bid management tools, as well as a host of others that will help you manage your PPC campaigns. Although they may be a bit pricey, the suite of tools they offer will help you with many other aspects of your campaigns.

I don't have enough space to include them all but here are a few more you might take the time to research: Clickable, Marin Software, SearchForce, Kenshoo, and Acquisio. I have not had a chance to use all of these tools personally, so feel free to share your experiences with any that you have used. Next week I will cover best practices for managing your bids.


Sunday, July 26, 2009

Twitter 101: Twitter’s First Major Outreach To Business Users

Posted by From traditional media to blogs big and small, there are countless stories in circulation about how businesses are using Twitter to find customers and serve existing ones. Some businesses have figured out how to use Twitter Search and other similar tools to hear what customers are saying and make connections with local prospects. But Twitter itself has been relatively quiet about all this, letting business owners and marketers find their own way when positioning Twitter as a business platform.

Until now.

Twitter has launched its first major outreach to business users: Twitter 101 for Business: A Special Guide.


Twitter 101 is tremendously well-done. There’s a Getting Started guide with step-by-step instructions to create an account; Best Practices; case studies of 10 companies, ranging from local coffee and pizza shops to huge brands like Dell and Pepsi; and even an invite for business owners to share their own tips and case studies. It introduces important terms like retweets and hashtags, and very interestingly it makes several pushes for businesses to use Twitter search and saved searches to follow conversations about companies, products, and so forth. The guide not only explains how businesses can use Twitter, but also makes the case for why they should.

“You don’t have to run a bike shop or a relatively small company to get good stuff out of Twitter. Businesses of all kinds, including major brands, increasingly find that listening and engaging on the service lead to happier customers, passionate advocates, key product improvements and, in many cases, more sales.”

The bigger picture here, of course, is that Twitter is still looking for revenue streams. Business outreach, particularly in terms of explaining what Twitter is and can become, is part of that process. Twitter is very simple … but deceptively so. When Danny Sullivan interviewed Twitter co-founder Biz Stone earlier this year, Stone shared his experiences in showing Twitter to business owners:

“Then you show them search. ‘What do you want to know is going on? What’s your business? What do you do?’ We show them that, and they say, ‘Whoa, this is crazy. Wait, I disagree with this guy. How do I talk to him?’,” he explained. “We need to reposition the product in a way that’s more relevant to people.”

This Twitter 101 guide, as Stone says on the Twitter blog, is a first step in that direction.

The second step may come as soon as next week. Stone told AllThingsD today that Twitter will launch a new home page with a search box, Twitter trends, and information about how to use Twitter.

If interested, there’s discussion here on Techmeme about the Twitter 101 guide, and Techmeme discussion here about the new home page.


Saturday, July 25, 2009

Don't Promote Your Website, Use Your Website to Promote YOU

Posted by Stoney deGeyter on 23 July 2009

In today's business environment, a website is absolutely necessary. It provides an avenue for people to find you and find out more about you as they sit in the comfort of their homes, while waiting in line at the grocery store, sit on the commuter train, or wherever. Unfortunately too many business take the wrong approach to how they build and market their websites.

Most companies stop their website development once the site is developed, and then move into marketing mode. The website becomes another product they have to market, rather than building a website that is the marketing vehicle for their products and services. We talk about website promotion quite a bit, which we understand is the process of getting the site visibility on the search engines. But getting people to the website is not the end goal.

The website is just another something the business must have in order to do business, but it never fully succeeds in being a tool that works for them to generate business.

Online marketing is different from off-line marketing, primarily in that you have to promote the very tool you use as a promotion for your business. With radio and TV you don't have to go out of your way to get people to listen. You run the ads and people do or don't. Websites must first be optimized in order to help improve traffic and visibility before they can be used as a business generating tool.

No wonder businesses pour thousands of dollars into traditional forms of marketing (phone book, magazines, radio, etc.,) which often produces significantly less return on the investment dollar. When it comes to properly planning and executing the development and promotion of their website, well, it's a bit more complicated.

Make Your Website Promote YOU.

With some exceptions, every website has its own unique characteristics. When building your site there really is no one-size-fits-all pattern to follow. Your site should be built to fulfill your informational and sales needs, while being effective for your target audience. With that said, there are specific components that almost every website needs in order to be an effective marketing tool.

Home Page

The home page is the online "face" of your company. It may not be the entry door for every visitor, but it is your front door and you need to make sure that you have it right. The home page should provide an all-encompassing view of what you do or offer while helping to establish trust with the new and repeat visitor.

To be effective, your home page must accomplish several things:

Establish your brand: Your home page sets the tone of the visitor's expectation. Everything from brand identity to confirmation that you can provide what they need must be established here.

Display your offerings: Visitors need to be provided a quick overview of the products, services and information they can expect to find as they dig deeper into the site.

Generate interest: The home page must do more than just provide information of what you offer; it must generate interest in those offerings. It must create a desire within your visitors to click further into the site to find out more and see how they will be benefited by your products or services.

Convey trust: Your home page can often be the first impression you give your visitors, therefore it must be able to establish an element of trust. If you come across as a slick used-car salesman, or a less-than-professional hobby site, your visitors will bolt.

About Us Page

Why do visitors go to the About Us page? Its a good question that is often ignored when web developers fill the content of these pages. Too many sites simply do not provide enough--or the right--information on this page.

The About Us page should be used to provide reassuring company information such as how long you've been in business, organizations you belongs to (chamber of commerce, BBB, etc.,) mission statement, bios of the executive staff. The information you provide on the About Us page is designed to help your visitors feel comfortable doing business with your business.

Contact Us Page

Even if you have your phone number, email address, fax number and snail mail address on every page of your website, it's still important to have a full page dedicated to this exact same information. It may seem odd, but many people looking for your contact info will ignore the information on whatever page they are viewing, looking instead for the link that reads "Contact Us."

Your Contact Us page should provide several different ways of contacting you including email, phone, and a web form. You should also include a physical address and possibly even a map. This is also a good place to display hours of operation.

Product & Service Pages

If you sell a product or a service you need pages dedicated to providing details about what you offer. Many small sites can put all their product information on the home page. This is great, but you still need to provide a page with additional details. If you have more than one product, then it's likely you need a page for each and every product or service you sell.

Product pages need to provide your visitors with everything they need to know to make an informed purchase decision. Price, style, expectations, specifications, size, benefits are all required information, depending on what you're selling. Your product page can never have too much information, provided it's laid out in a user friendly format that sells the product.

Site Navigation

Construction of your site navigation can make or break your website's performance. Shoddy and haphazard navigation schemes can easily confuse visitors causing them to make that dreaded click out of your site and onto a competitor. A properly constructed navigation can help visitors easily move from page to page finding everything that they are looking for quickly and easily.

Be consistent: Don't confuse your visitors by changing how the navigation looks or by moving its on-page location to a different area. Be consistent in it's look and placement. There are many different forms of navigational elements: main menus, sub-menus, breadcrumbs, etc. All of them should work together to create a consistent and recognizable flow as the visitor navigates through the site.

Be obvious: Make sure it is impossible for your visitors to get lost on your website. You want them to know where they are at all times and how to navigate back to the current and other main sections. Make good use of breadcrumb links as this provides your visitors a great visual indicator as well as easy navigation.

Be helpful: Large websites with many pages or products can easily create a navigational nightmare. It is essential that visitors don't have to "hunt" for what they want. This can be accomplished by providing clear section headings in your main navigation. You can also assist the visitors by including a site map that can be easily accessed and a properly function site search box.

Putting the Pieces Together

A website is far more than the sum of its parts. While all the components mentioned above are necessary to have a working site, when implemented properly each component compliments the others.

A website, like any ad made for radio, TV or newspaper, it must effectively do the job it was built for: selling. Building a website is necessary for online success, but you have to go beyond the build. Websites must be promoted effectively in order to get the visitors you need, but once there the site must then be able to do its job selling. Too often we promote the site but fail to get the site to promote the products and services we want people to buy. Before you promote your site, make sure your site promotes you.


Friday, July 24, 2009

Link Marketing Opportunities in Your Backyard

Posted by Justilien Gaspard on Jul 23, 2009

You may have spent a lot of time looking far and wide for links to your Web site. But are you overlooking opportunities in your home town? Local business groups, such as a Chamber of Commerce or regional business council, can offer some great opportunities for links to your Web site. (They also present some opportunities to promote your brand locally and network with other local businesses, but that's a topic for another time.) Today, we'll explore the process of finding these link opportunities on local business groups' Web sites.

Local Business Organization

First, put together a list of all local business organization in your area -- even the very small ones. Then spend some time on each of their sites to find the low-hanging fruit, which is usually the member directory. Often, those aren't direct links.

That's when most people stop their search because the obvious link opportunities aren't present. In the process, they fail to notice other valuable links that could elevate your site into the top 10 from the 50s. It only takes a few high-quality links to make a difference.

Back to the site -- did you check their pages related to your industry? Do a simple Google search, using this code for your chamber's site: ( keyword). Replace "" with the actual URL of their site, and "keyword" with broad-based terms related to your industry, such as medical, auto, attorney, etc. You may find pages that mention members in specific industries, or a place where companies in each vertical can display special offers.

Another approach is to look to see if they give direct links when they profile a company in their news section. Or find out if they need sponsors for upcoming events. Does the organization do any kind of community outreach that would draw media attention?

Of course, acquiring these types of links requires more work than simply filling out a form. They may require several e-mails, phone calls, or face-to-face meetings. Yet the effort is well worth it, in order to obtain top rankings.

Let's say you get them to profile your company in their news section. With a small suggestion, you can get a deep link within the content to one of your main product pages with the keywords as anchor text, as well as a link to your home page.

Upgrade those Links

While many would be happy with the above links, why not upgrade them? That's accomplished by getting other sites to link to your new profile page. Every time another site links to your company's profile, it increases the value of those links to your site.

A link obtained from a page with external links to that page is more powerful. Many in the industry search out those existing pages with a high number of external links.

Why not reverse engineer the process? Get the links first, then get sites to link to that page. This is especially useful because sites can be hesitant to link to an e-commerce site. It's more likely that they'll link to a trusted page on a site, such as a Chamber of Commerce.

Now promote the company profile by all means available to build those links. This includes on your own site, press releases, social media, blogs, and personal contacts. It's time to call in some favors. Don't forget your hometown free newspaper, bloggers, and media companies.

Instead of overlooking link marketing opportunities, start exploring sites deeper. Look for more than just the easy links, which often have less value, and go after those less accessible links. The results could just be top rankings in the near future for your company.


Thursday, July 23, 2009

What about the Risk of Social Media?

Posted by Mike Moran on 22 July 2009

Recently, a commenter on this blog asked a question that I often hear, "What do you say to corporate people worried about security risks of social media within a company?" It's one of my favorite questions, because it really exposes the way we look at risk, which is all-too-human and, simultaneously, dumb.

I like to tell people that social media does not involve a risk. It's not a risk that someone will do something dumb someday. Actually, it is a certainty. If you allow employees to use social media, someone at some time will do something mind-numbingly idiotic.

It might be, as the questioner asks, a security breach. Someone decides that a trade secret would be just the thing to spice of their next tweet. Or it might be something else--making fun of your client, or sexually harassing someone, or telling a politically incorrect joke.

And, in fact, all of these things have been done on social media, and more. The problem, however, isn't social media. It's us. If we don't have the self-control to avoid that kind of behavior, then it will come out in social media or any other place that we operate.

The reason we see social media, or anything new, as risky is as fundamental as human nature. Studies tell us that we always are more comfortable with the status quo than with change, which has probably served mankind well throughout our history.

But risk doesn't disappear just because we are comfortable and accustomed to something. Think about financial risk. Many people were once comfortable with bank savings accounts because their money was growing, but they were running a huge risk that inflation would eat alive their purchasing power. Unfortunately, the risk of changing the investment loomed larger than the risk of staying the course, which seemed safe.

Social media, and just about anything new, is the same. You always have to balance the risk of doing it against the risk of not doing it.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

“Let’s Go” of the Social Web: The New Community Rules

Posted by Lee Odden on 21 July 2009

How to be successful on the social web? Be useful and helpful to others. Few people epitomize this principle better than veteran internet marketer, Tamar Weinberg.

I remember some of my first interactions with Tamar years ago, involving her making sure I had all my questions answered about something I posted on IM. Tamar has blogged about search and social media marketing at 10e20, Search Engine Roundtable, Mashable and many other high profile web sites. A prolific and extremely hard working blogger, social media marketer and techie at heart, Tamar is also a “super user” of the social web. That firsthand knowledge of how to listen, engage and promote is clearly evident in her new book, The New Community Rules: Marketing on the Social Web“, published by O’Reilly.

When I was in college studying abroad, I found my “Let’s Go Europe” guide to be priceless for getting a foundation of information about the cities and cultures I would be visiting. With that perspective, The New Community Rules is a great “Let’s Go Social Web” guide for companies and individuals seeking to better understand the various aspects of social media, sites, tools, and rules of engagement.

Tamar lays the groundwork in the first few chapters with an introduction to social media marketing, listening, reputation management, participation, objectives and strategy. No book on social media marketing would be complete without a nod to Cluetrain and Tamar does a great job explaining the “markets are conversations” principle.

Using numerous examples, the rest of the book emphasizes specific social media including blogs, microblogging (Twitter), social networks, consumer generated media sites, social news, social bookmarking and shared media sites (images, video, podcasts). The final chapter wraps things up with practical advice on putting it all together with process/workflow and thinking outside the social media box.

I think what readers will find expecially useful is the straightforward and example rich approach Tamar takes in explaining how companies and individuals can succeed towards marketing goals through thoughtful participation.

Getting advice from someone who has “been there, done that’ can save a substantial amount of resources, money and shorten the time to get up to speed. Knowing both the explicit rules of engagement as well as the unwritten social rules, helps marketers become more useful and productive with the social media marketing efforts and save themselves from what could be pretty embarrasing moments.


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Web Community Building: Making It Thrive

Posted by Adam Singer on Jul 20th, 2009

Last week we discussed some of the reasons subscribers are vital for an online marketing growth strategy. Those reasons included:
  • The ~11% of web users who know to use RSS include the users savvy enough to be web publishers
  • You’ll become a go-to area to link to
  • Subscribers are your sneezers
  • A base of well-connected fans could very well be the cornerstone of your social media marketing strategy
  • Community is what makes sites worth visiting
  • Subscribers will motivate you to create better content
  • A consolidated network presence is the most effective
  • Social proofing benefits
  • Subscribers and a fan base make you less reliant on push PR

Now that we have gone through the aspects of why subscribers are vital to your brand’s digital growth, let’s get into how exactly you can foster this type of thriving community.

Build networking into the content of your site

It’s all about content, but you need to get people to notice it too. Merely publishing is not enough, make sure that in some way your content functions to connect with others. Work it artfully into the system and it can be an almost invisible part of the process. If everything you published were to in some way connect with externalities interested in sharing it your site will experience growth.

Multiple subscription call to actions

This sounds obvious except for the fact that it is so frequently missed. If the goal is community building there should exist multiple hooks to get visitors to join in addition to great content. Onlookers are fine but don’t necessarily get you to the end goal of a thriving community – conversion is key. Unmissable content is of course the real pull for people to opt in to your messages, but it should be combined with clear subscription CTAs. Utilize both areas above and below the fold. We’ve seen data from bloggers seeing twice as many subscriber conversions by applying this.

Be conscious of the law of attraction

The essence of the law of attraction is that people’s thoughts (both conscious and unconscious) dictate the reality of their lives. Let’s update this for web publishing to say that the content you publish (and even link to) dictates the community you will build. Publish snarky content and you will attract a snarky audience. Publish educational content and you will build up an group of people interested in learning. Publish content specific and uniquely useful to an industry and in time you will permeate that industry. If you follow this carefully, as few as 10 people could spark an unstoppable wave of growth. Like minded people are exceedingly well connected online, making this law extra potent.

Resist the urge to go off-topic

Thriving niche communities exist for a reason, people come there expecting a certain type of content. When that expectation is met, the relationship is reinforced. To encourage an active following with the type of subscribers discussed previously you need to consistently meet that expectation.

Study the existing communities

What’s so different about what you’re doing vs. the rest of the world? Find that differentiation point and focus on it. To ensure the differentiation point is something that matters to people within that niche, simply study the existing communities. The comments, discussions and user responses will provide you great clues into what will resonate with the group. Deliver on the topics that resonate most or even go between the lines and focus on more specific, detailed issues than the current community leaders delve into. Create something existing groups can’t ignore and your web community will achieve rapidfire growth.

Position yourself as an ally to other influencers

Ideally you want the current group of influential community leaders to point their own following at what you’re doing. This is most likely to happen when they don’t consider your content as a replacement for their own, rather they see it as complementary. If others sense you are competition or a threat in some manner you probably won’t get endorsements from them. The way around this is to publicly align yourself as an ally of the people you want to share your material. An easy first step to get on their radar is to start sharing their material, but there are even more subtle and effective ways to do this if you get creative.

Create frequent opportunities to connect your community members to each other

When you are not just forging relationships with your readers but they start to form relationships with each other, your community is reaching a mature level. As a natural part of your growth strategy you should be creating opportunities at regular intervals to connect your site visitors with each other. Web communities encourage this naturally by design, but as a leader you should also take the time to actively encourage connections in all directions, not just top down.

Be accessible as a leader

Several of the most popular blogs and web communities are lead by people who are ultra-accessible. This is no coincidence, we follow the ideas of those we have connected with personally closer than those who we only know their name and reputation. Additionally, this allows for a deeper layer of trust to be built and those valuable, lasting relationships to be forged.


The common ingredient of thriving web communities is of course content. Great content then spawns community which in turn creates more interest in the content. It’s an organic process when done properly, but as marketers it is important to be cognizant of the factors at play in order to provide proper consulting to those seeking to build thriving web communities. The best way to learn is to build your own and consider it your sandbox to experiment in. As it evolves, pay attention to the growth factors and social interactions at play at all levels of the development process.


Monday, July 20, 2009

10 Steps to Advanced Keyword Research

Posted by randfish on July 19th, 2009

Some keyword research is surface-level, fire and forget type stuff. If you just need to see relative volume levels, then a basic keyword research tool is all you need. If, however, you want to really dive deep and get the full skinny on your keywords, I'd recommend having each of these data points.

#1 - Relative Search Volume from 3 Sources

There are three sources on the web that I've found to work best for comparative numbers research. These are:

  1. Google Adwords: Keyword Tool - enter any term or phrase and get back data about both the average search volume and the volume from the previous month.
  2. MSN AdCenter: Research Keywords Tool - you need to be logged in to use this, but the data is solid and shows actual counts.
  3. Wordtracker: Keyword Tool - although the numbers Wordtracker shows are frequently less accurate than the two above, they are reasonably decent for estimating comparative search volume. Unfortunately, due to the declining share of Wordtracker's data sources (the Infospace owned search engines - Metacrawler, Dogpile, DoGreatGood, etc.), niche and long tail term volume estimates can be way off.

Here's why I don't use Yahoo!:

Yahoo!'s Keyword Volume Estimates

From there, rather than build a spreadsheet just showing raw numbers, I like to work in comparative sizes (the real numbers rarely prove accurate anyway). Thus, rather than having a graph of data like this:

Keyword Search Query Volume

I can have one like this:

Relative Keyword Demand

Note how, in this view, I'm showing the relative volume percentage of the demand for keyword "SEO" made up by "seo services" and "seo tools." This graph tells me that while Google thinks "seo tools" and "seo services" are tiny fractions of the volume that comes in for the broad term, "SEO," Microsoft & Wordtracker both say these phrases make up a more substantive percentage. Since keyword targeting is really about choosing one keyword over another and much less about trying to estimate exact traffic, the latter system makes much more sense to me.

#2 - Temporal Fluctuations

When are your queries in highest demand? Knowing the answer can help you predict when competition may ramp up and additional SEO efforts are needed as well as provide insight into your market overall (if demand has been dropping steadily over the last few years, you might want to target some different terms, or even shift product focus). Two sources of data are solid on this front:

Google Trends for Keywords

Google Trends

MSN AdCenter Labs: Keyword Forecast Tool

MSN AdCenter Labs

#3 - Top Ranking Domains

In order to get a full understanding of the competitive landscape, it's essential to know who's ranking for the terms you're targeting. A basic query is a great start, but I like to append those with a bit of extra data, as I've visualized below:

SEO Services SERPs with Data Overlay

Those three are my favorite pieces of link data to append, not because they alone are predictive of rankings, but because the range so perfectly illustrates what's necessary, on both the URL and domain level to be competitive. Nick's been pushing hard to get this functionality automatically included with the SEOmoz Toolbar, so hopefully we can make that happen in the next few months.

#4 - Fresh Web (News, Blogosphere, Tweetosphere) Activity

The fresh web (aka social media sphere) can help to show how often keywords are appearing in content and conversation in blogs, forums, feeds and more. It's particularly valuable for identifying emerging trends which may not yet have search volume (but will if the conversational content acceleration continues). There's a few tools I like on this front:

Facebook Lexicon

Facebook Lexicon Screenshot
There appears to be some correlation between "party tonight" on Friday and "hangover" on Saturday

Twist: See Trends in Twitter

Twist: See Trends in Twitter Screenshot


Blogscape Results for Walter Cronkite vs. Michael Jackson

Google News Trends

Google News Archive Search
I'd love to see some of those 19th century SEO tools!

The real value (and reason for spending time in these sectors) is to:

  • A) Identify patterns or trends indicating a keyword/product/concept is on the rise/fall
  • B) Find content that in the past has attracted large amounts of attention around these keywords (an excellent starting point for viral content development)
  • C) Locate portals on the web or in social communities where your topic may be hot, and opportunities for promotion or links exist

They're not universally valuable for every part of keyword research, and you shouldn't trust the volumes to predict keyword demand (some things get written about more than they get searched), but a good SEO leaves no opportunity un-investigated.

#5 - Vertical Results (and Vertical Opportunities)

It's wise to be aware of where and how your keywords can cross over into vertical search results. The best way to do this currently is, unfortunately, manually. You'll want to:

  1. Search for your target terms at the major search engines
  2. Identify any vertical results that appears in the top 10-20 listings
  3. Employ strategies to reach into the applicable verticals

The most common and highest value are typically:

  • Local
  • Product
  • News
  • Images
  • Blog
  • Video

#6 - Searcher Intent

What are the goals of the individuals searching for your targeted keywords? What phase of the decision process are they in? Answering these questions can give you an excellent idea of the potential ROI from drawing in traffic on a given term/phrase. Many times the highest volume keywords are not bringing in the best traffic.

Some good resources on this front include:

MSN AdCenter Labs' Commercial Intent Detection Tool

Your goal should be to narrow down the potential tasks a visitor who has just performed the query wants to accomplish. This can dramatically boost your site's performance when coupled with delivery of those paths upon arrival.

#7 - Potential Relevance

The best way to determine the relevance between a keyword and the content/service/product you offer is to test. Run a PPC campaign or dig into your analytics and choose only those visitors that have come via the search query. Pull out data like browse rate, time spent on site, conversions, etc.

Page Views / Visit for Keyword "SEO Blog"
The majority of visits who come into SEOmoz for the keyword "SEO Blog" stick around to read at least a couple of pages

Relevance is highly actionable data because it does such a good job predicting which keywords are going to bring valuable traffic. While branded terms often perform highly (and are typically easy to rank well on), longer tail and more specific queries also have this tendency to be more relevant (and, again, are easier to achieve).

#8 - PPC Advertising Data

Even if you're not planning on bidding for keywords through paid search campaigns, it's wise to know what the competition is doing and how much value they're getting from it (and what they're willing to pay). A few good resources for this information include:

MSN AdCenter's Keyword Estimate

AdCenter's PPC Pricing Graph

I really like what AdCenter does with this spiffy graph - showing the cost and estimated clicks in an easy-to-read graphic. Just remember that MSN is the engine with the fewest advertisers, which often means pricing is less aggressive than on Google or Yahoo!

Google AdWords Traffic Estimator

I'm a bit less fond of Google's standard take on the data, but their pricing is the gold standard, as AdWords has the highest number of advertisers and the most traffic by far.

Google AdWords Traffic Estimator Tool Results


A solid tool with a lot of uses, particularly for competitive keyword analysis, SEMRush shows some decent numbers around the average CPC and competition levels for most keywords at the head of the demand curve.

SEMRush Keyword Data

Take the cost-per-click data and competition levels into account when you're considering things like relevance, potential conversion rates and visitor value. Most companies aren't dumb - if they're bidding high dollar values for potential visits, they're converting those visits into dollars and that means you can both learn from them and find strategies to outperform.

#9 - Top Related Queries

Related queries is an easy metric to understand - you want to know what other terms searchers who used these keywords also employed. It's a no-brainer to then add these to your list of potential keyword targets. Many good sources for this data exist:

  • Google shows related searches in both their AdWords Tool and through web search (you'll want to click the "show options" link at the top followed by the "related searches" link in the sidebar)
  • Bing, Microsoft's new engine, shows related searches by default in their web search interface
  • Yahoo! Search has their "also try" list and clicking "more" will give you an interface just below the search box that finds lots of great, relevant keywords
  • The aforementioned SEMRush shows great data on this (though you'll need to sift through as there can be a lot of junk) if you're a paying member
  •'s Search Analytics has good information by query and website, though you'll need to subscribe to their service to get the full value

Get the related queries, dig into the data about them and target those that have enough volume and relevance to help you get increase valuable traffic from SEO.

#10 - Legal Issues

Last, and probably least in most cases, it's wise to do some research into the legalities surrounding the keywords you'd like to target. Using trademarked terms and phrases on your site can cause attorney trouble, and no one likes that. The place to start, at least in the United States, is here - USPTO Trademark Electronic Search System.

Whew... That's a lot of work for keyword research - now you can see why some firms charge hundreds of dollars per hour for this type of deep dive. Put these recommendations to good use, though, and you'll have an impressive set of terms to target - and that can be a serious competitive advantage.