Google is on the move yet again, but this time the news is better than the usual surprise Panda update. As of two days ago, Google launched its Knowledge Graph in order to better a user’s experience. The new feature will be rolling out in English in the U.S. first, but will soon be available in all languages. Matt Cutts explained that the graph is supposed to help make search results and algorithms “more human.”
How the Google Knowledge Graph Works
Because of the sheer amount of information about users and information about different topics that Google has available, this new feature has the potential to really get search right. Google will be using nearly 500 million different things (people, places, objects, ideas, etc.) and will utilize more than 3.5billion facts about all of the connections between these different subjects. Below is a screenshot Google provided to illustrate how the new graph will look when you type in a search:
As you can see, the bulk of a SERP will remain the same, but the right hand side of the screen will change. Although this map will not be a part of every single search at first, basic search queries will soon have this option.
Benefits of the Google Knowledge Graph
This new feature will do three things for users:
1. Help eliminate ambiguous language so that search results are less confusing.
One of the main problems that Google discussed was the ambiguity of language. The new knowledge graph will help make separate different meanings of the same word. For example, the search query “staples” could mean the Staples Center in Los Angeles, the office supply store, or information about actual staples that hold together paper. The graph will work to make sure that these different results are more separated.
2. Create an easy to understand summary of the topic.
The new graph will make it easy for users to get basic information quickly, much like Wikipedia style content. Google will pull information about past search queries for a given subject and base the summary on those past results. For example, if the majority of people have been searching for the novel To Kill a Mockingbird as opposed to the film, the summary will be largely based on the history of the novel.
3. Help illustrate connections between different subjects.
The graph will help show connections between different things across the Internet. Cutts explained that one of the most important aspects of search is being able to learn something you didn’t even realize you were looking to learn; the Knowledge Graph will help make this possible.
Will the Knowledge Graph Affect SEO and Rankings?
Google changes always seem to mix up rankings and cause trouble for many small businesses, but this change isn’t intended to make things harder on your typical website. It seems as though information resources, such as Wikipedia, could potentially lose traffic, but the majority of websites are specific enough that people will still want to click. The Knowledge Graph will be kept to the side and should not affect rankings. However, it will be a few weeks before we can be absolutely sure.
Do you think the Knowledge Graph will affect a website’s SEO in any way? Do you think the Knowledge Graph is something needed or something that you will when you use Google? Let us know in the comments!
It might be that you are a new startup with a limited marketing budget (and thus want to avoid the costs), or maybe you feel that yourself or an in-house employee will do a better job of capturing the right tone and feel of your company.
Whatever the motivation, there are pros and cons to both approaches. This content will discuss the advantages of both options, and then (hopefully) help you make the right decision for your company.
Writing Press Releases Yourself
After reading through this blog post, you should have a clear idea of what is required to write a press release. In short, you need:
- A good story.
- Good writing skills (specific to press releases).
There are distinct advantages of writing your own press releases, and I would fully encourage you to do so if you can consistently write well (or have an employee to write for you). If you are unwilling to invest in an employee, or unsure of how eschewing a professional PR service can help you, read through the following reasons:
A professionally written press release can cost you anywhere from $200 to $500. Considering that this is just a 1-page document, which will eventually contain information that you will provide, this seems an exorbitant price.
While press release writing services make every effort to personalize every press release, there is a distinct style for each writer and for each company as well. Personalized ‘style’ of press or media releases. A powerful example of this is Google – check Google Press for a sample of effective personalized press releases can be.
Be warned though. This is not something easy to accomplish. As press releases are terse, 1-page news items with a very big emphasis on content, it is difficult to establish a style.
Practice will help you improve, and if you feel that the identity and image of your company will be better served by writing the press release yourself rather than outsourcing it, then make sure you read many different press releases from other companies to get a feel of how to build your unique style.
Being directly involved with your industry, you are in the best position to highlight the advantages of your ‘news’ to your potential consumers and competitors.
You will be able to provide relevant, current information and your insight into your industry will also help you to pinpoint which news hook will be most successful.
Matching the expertise of a professional press release writer is a difficult task. On the other hand, in-house press release writing, especially if done by an employee, can be ‘good enough’ if due attention is paid to getting the details right.
Professional Press Release Writing
Despite the obvious advantages of writing your own press release, a professional press release service gives you specific, money-valuable benefits:
Professional press release services have the advantage of having working in this field for a lot longer than you – they have written (hopefully) dozens of press releases, and know the industry inside out.
As such, they are well placed to avoid mistakes that beginning press release writers might make and are likely to produce good, reliable press releases.
Of course, there is also a chance that the press release might not be what you are looking for – maybe the writer gets the tone wrong, or underplays certain features that you wanted to give prominence to.
The added experience will also ensure that the writer will be able to judge better whether the information you’ve given him is enough, not enough or too much. In addition, there is the value of having an ‘outside’ perspective. Outsourcing your press release to an independent PR service will:
- Allow them to present the news in a more realistic light.
- Discourage you from making a press release without having effective content.
Be careful about putting too much faith in the press release service to tell you what is right or wrong, however. The responsibility of ensuring that there is enough ‘newsworthy’ information in your press release is yours, not of the service.
A press release can take anywhere from 30 minutes to a day to write, revise and get just right. If you are part of a fast-paced company where you measure your time in hundreds of dollars, then spending that much time on a press release might seem expensive especially since you can get better results by outsourcing the press release.
Do not underestimate the time required to write a press release – for your news to be a full-blown success, every little detail has to be just right.
It’s just a 1-page document. Why does it cost so much?
I’m faced with that question every day. Considering that you will still have to provide a lot of the information to the press release service, it seems ridiculous to pay over $200 (and up to $500) for a press release. But in the end, it’s the results that justify the costs.
A professionally written press release will always have a better chance of being accepted for distribution, and the experience of a professional PR service will serve you will in making your press release successful.
Another factor working in the favor of professional press release services is their ‘package deals’ – a promise to distribute your press release at a discounted rate if you have your press release written by them.
Costs vs. Expertise
I’ve been saying this throughout the content, and I say it again:
Your press release is (almost) worthless without newsworthy information. Keep this point in your mind as you make the choice between writing the press release yourself (using the advice in thisblog post) and outsourcing it to a professional press release service. Where will that newsworthy information come from? From you.
In fact, even if you outsource the press release, the bulk of the information put in the press release will come from you, either as part of the original specifications presented, or from the questions that the writer will ask you to help him write the press release.
So what are you really paying them for?
Their experience – press release writers have considerable, battle-field knowledge of writing press releases – the kind that only comes through time. You are also paying for their language and marketing skills, as writing a press release requires a specific writing style that does not fit into traditional sales copy.
Don’t hire a sales letter writer to write your press release until you are sure they have experience in writing successful press releases.
However, if you are willing to learn and apply the knowledge from this content (or have an employee as a suitable candidate), in-house press releases can be just as successful as those from a PR service. The key is to do two things repeatedly:
- Ensure that you are fully prepared.
- Differentiate between traditional sales copy and press release writing and make the effort to write ‘in a reporting, unbiased style’.
Choosing the Right Service
While this content goes a long way towards helping you write your own press releases, the primary aim is to guide you into preparing the best press release for your company, each and every time.
And sometimes, a company does not have the time, or the technical skills, to dedicate resources towards in-house press release writing.
In such cases, outsourcing your press release requirements becomes necessary. This section, although concise, will help you in picking the right service for your company.
Hiring a PR service
If you are looking to hire a professional press release service, make sure that you complete the following checklist.
- Does the service have a portfolio or a client’s list? Make sure that you can see visible results, and don’t be afraid to ask for proof.
- Compare costs and services between different PR companies to make sure you get the best deal.
- Understand the fine print. Some PR firms may not allow for more than 1 revision, and some also don’t allow for free consultations – which essentially means that if the PR firm decides that your ‘story’ is not newsworthy, you would have ended up paying for nothing.
- Don’t automatically jump for combined packages (press release writing and distribution). Make sure the investment is worth it, and that you see a list of the media contacts (at least their names, if not their contact information) that your press release will be distributed to.
- Themed distributions are very different in impact to generic distributions, so don’t fall into the trap of paying less and actually getting something that is worth nothing to your company.
- If you like the company’s portfolio, try to negotiate a discounted package in return for bringing all your press release business to them. PR firms would normally not refuse long-term business relationships, and the promise of continued business can possibly lower your long-term costs as well.
Hiring a freelance writer
Of course, if the cost is a really serious issue, and you cannot have the press release written in-house (for various reasons) then you may be better served by outsourcing to a freelance writer.
There are several online freelance websites from where you can hire good writers – Elance and RentACoder are the most popular, and most effective.
With freelance writers, there is the advantage of saving on money – a good press release can be written for $100 or less. On the other hand, there is a risk of not getting what you really want.
I’ll not go into the details of how to ensure that you don’t get your money’s worth as there are many ”freelance hiring”guides on the Internet (some good, some bad, and some bad copies of good guides).
Just make sure that you follow the same pattern as you would when hiring a PR service – check their portfolio, and do your best to provide them with complete information.
RentACoder has many safeguards that prevent buyers (like you) from projects that go bad, so trust the system and follow their advice.
However, one bad apple does not make everyone else incompetent. Freelance websites are full of hard-working individuals wanting to earn good money – make sure that you find someone who is capable of doing the job, and then enjoy the benefits of a well-written press release for a fraction of the price.
What is your opinion on DIY vs Professional writers?
It’s not just the Googlebot that crawls images on your web properties. There’s also an image-specific robot for indexing images – Googlebot-image. And the best idea to attract maximum attention from Google is to get your images (and pages) crawled by both Googlebot and Googlebot-image. Properly optimized images can prove to be a source of additional traffic. As internet passes through a phase of ‘visual boom’, it’s vital to make sure all the images on your website and blog get quickly indexed by Google, so they can appear in Google image search.
While publishing images, one thing that should always remain at the top of your mind is that it enhances the experience of users. Image search and web search are like the two sides of a coin. Even when it comes to searching images, Google strives to return most relevant results to users.
Google-Supported Image Formats
If you really want to help Google index your images quickly, you should always remember to use only those formats that it supports. On its official blog, Google mentions its supported formats including BMP, GIF, JPEG, PNG, WebP and SVG. Therefore, you should always avoid using those image formats that are not supported by Google.
According to Google, it can index images of almost any size. Though size does not matter (it depends on your specific requirements), images formats must always be paid careful attention.
Googlebot vs Googlebot-Image
As mentioned above, both Googlebot and Googlebot can index your site’s images. But many times, webmasters notice that their images are only crawled by Googlebot. When there’s some confusion regarding the image URL, the image is first indexed by Googlebot. Once Googlebot is sure that the URL leads to an image, Googlebot-image re-indexes the image.
That’s why, getting your images and pages crawled by both Googlebot and Googlebot-image is a good idea from SEO point of view. Getting your pages indexed by both these robots is a way of attracting maximum attention from the search engine giant Google.
Ranking Algorithm for Google Image Search
Earlier, it was believed that PR played the biggest role in the search ranking of an image. Though the PR of the page (where the image is published) also plays some role, there are a host of other criteria that Google uses for ranking an image in its image search results.
Here’re some of the most important ones –
Placement of the image in a page
Image Alt tabs and filename
Image content (identified via the optical recognition system)
Domain authority of the website the image belongs to
Authority of the page that contains the image
Text surrounding the image
Though there are many other criteria that Google may use, these are the most important ones. Therefore, you should optimize your images by using appropriate filenames, alt tabs and the surrounding text. In addition, you should consider submitting an image sitemap to help Google know more about your images and rank higher in image search results.
Don’t Forget to Optimize for Social Sharing!
If you plan to increase the visibility of your images across the web, it’s a good idea to optimize your visual content for the social media as well. Social signals carry a lot of weight in terms of textual content. The same goes with the images that you publish. Always use superior quality, inspiring the relevant images. However, you should also remember to protect your images by making them available under an ‘attribution license’ so that those who share those images can attribute you (link pointing back to your domain) as the source.
Please feel free to share your thoughts.
Designing a website is all about driving traffic to that website—a website can have the greatest information in the world, but it means nothing if no one is reading. You want to catch a reader’s attention through infographics and cool typography, and then the reading will begin. In a sense, you as the designer are the first piece to the puzzle. Once the reading begins, it is out of the designers hands and into the hands of the writers, right? In many cases yes, a writer has to provide quality, clear information to make a website worthwhile. What many designers don’t realize, however, is that they too can improve the actual content of a website (beyond making it look nice).
Many companies are starting to see the potential in translating their websites into different languages. According to the Internet World Stats, English is the most used language on the Internet at 536.6 million users. For this reason, having a website in English is extremely important; however, the benefits to translating a website into different languages are a little less well-known. A few of these benefits include:
- Wider Audience – This is probably the most obvious reasons a company would want to translate a website. You will be opening up information to people around the world.
- Loyal Readers -Although many people speak English, many speak it as their second language. If you offer information in their native language, you will likely capture those readers time and time again.
- Improved SEO – You will be able to rank highly on search engines in other languages because there is less competition. You website may also do well if someone was to type in a different language on an English search engine. Either way, it can’t hurt.
- New Perspectives – Most company websites have an option to give feedback or comment on a blog. With other languages able to read the website, you will have a variety of opinions to help you improve your website.
- Duplicate Content – This does not count across languages, so if you are managing a blog you will not need to worry about writing separate articles for each language you’re targeting.
Most Popular Types of Translation Services
Once you and/or your company have decided to offer content in another language, it is the job of the web designer to install a WordPress plugin. At first glance it seems a bit confusing because there are so many plugins available, but consider a few that are the most popular:
1. Google Translate – This is one of the quickest and most inexpensive ways to translate your blog into different languages. This is considered the best if you expect that most of your readers speak English, but you want to offer the option of different languages. Download the plugin here at Google Translate and then copy the code into WordPress just as you would with any plugin. If you need a refresher course, the Google Translate website will walk you through step by step. You will be surprised just how easy it is!
2. Global Translator – This is one of the best WordPress plugins if you expect your website to be read in a language other than English. If you decide to take this route, it will create subdirectories for all of the translated content. Although this causes extra pages on a website, some prefer this for organization. Download it here and get started.
3. WP Translate – You can’t get much simpler than WP translate. Your readers will be able to select the language they need from a drop down menu. The plugin works as a widget on your WordPress site and you can select the title of this widget. You can download this plugin and learn more information here.
Getting Started with Translation Step by Step
Once you decide which plugin is right for you, it’s time to put the plugin into WordPress. All three services are extremely similar when it comes to downloading and uploading. The below steps take you through how to set up Google Translate onto WordPress:
Step #1: Download – You can download Google Translate here. This widget will bring Google Translate to your sidebar. All your readers have to do is choose from a dropdown menu which language they’d like to read.
Step #2: Select Type of Translation Element – You will have one of two choices: You can either add translation to the entire webpage or add translation to a section of the webpage.
Step #3: Select Language of Your Webpage – This will most likely be “English” for those reading this article.
Step #4: Translation Language and Display Mode – Here you decide which languages you want available to readers and how you want the dropdown menu to look (vertical, horizontal, etc.). You can click specific languages or select all languages available.
Step #5: Copy the Code – This is the most important step. You will need to copy this code into the body section of the web page that you want to be available in other languages.
Once finished, be sure to preview your webpage and make sure everything looks the way you had envisioned. Both of the services will take you through the steps as you begin the process, so few people have any problems. It’s as easy as that!
Quick Tips about Translation Services
- Just as with any language translation services, no computer can translate a piece of content absolutely perfect. Some slang terms or formalities may change, but the general message will remain intact. Even if the language is not perfect, readers will understand that you are using a translation service. They will still get the overall message.
- Many business owners get nervous that they will not be able to answer a comment if it is in a different language. However, it is possible to use Google Translate to translate your responses. Copy and paste the comment into Google Translate that you can find online, see what it says, type your comment, translate it, and then paste it as a response to the comment. It’s extremely easy! I will also add that although many people may read your blog in another language, most will actually answer in English!
In the end, translating a website into several languages will be worthwhile for just about every company. For this reason, knowing how to set-up these WordPress plugins will be a necessity in the future. If you are a web designer who knows how to make this happen, you will be all the more marketable to companies hoping to optimize their website in 2012.
Photo Credit: webtechpoint.com
There are a lot of options when it comes choosing a comment system for your self-hosted WordPress blog. So when people ask me what I suggest, I always say that I go for the basic WordPress comment system that comes with your blog upon installation. Here are some questions I always ask people to consider before choosing a third-party comment system.
1. How will your site speed be affected?
Pingdom did a great study on the WordPress comment system’s load time vs. four popular third-party systems: Livefyre, IntenseDebate, Disqus, and Facebook. Here are their results.
Is the time difference significant? In most cases, not really. But what you have to consider is that if you want a speedy site, you need to optimize everything possible. 1,000 milliseconds here and there can add up to a lot when you consider all of your other plugins, banners, widgets, and images.
2. Who will own your comment author’s data?
When you comment on the basic WordPress comment system, you enter your name, email address, and a comment. That information goes into the WordPress database which the blog owner can backup and export at will. Most third-party comment systems will put the same comment data into your WordPress database. Before you install a third-party comment system, you should be sure that you will still be able to get this information into your database so you can retain ownership of your comments if you decide to remove the comment system at a later date. Speaking of which…
3. What will happen to your comments if you switch systems?
For most people, migrating from a third-party comment system back to WordPress is pretty simple. For others, I have seen some “interesting” things happen. Things like the comments from one post somehow duplicated themselves onto other posts and had to be manually deleted. Also, I saw a customized WordPress theme that was built around the third-party comment system. When the blog owner removed it, they lost the formatting and threading of all of their comments. So along with the question of who owns your comment data, you have find out what will happen to your blog if you choose a third-party comment system and change your mind.
4. How easy will it be for your visitors to comment?
As a tech savvy person, you might forget about how people who are new to the blogosphere will feel about comment systems that require logins. Anyone can understand name, email, website (optional), and comment. Some might get lost in the signup process for a third-party comment system and never get around to actually leaving a comment on your blog.
5. Is it spam you are worried about?
Third-party comment systems boast about spam control and advanced community management features. Registration supposedly cuts down on spammers, right? Not necessarily. Comment spammers can figure their way around any system. Allowing them to register for a comment system means that they get the green light on blogs that allow registered users’ comments to post automatically.
Need more reasons?
If these aren’t good enough arguments to keep you on the base WordPress comment system, then there are two more things to consider.
- CommentLuv Plugin – A great way to encourage comments and get to know comment authors by seeing their latest blog posts. You can even encourage social sharing with CommentLuv premium!
- Aweber Plugin – If you use Aweber as your mailing list program, you can install this plugin which will add a simple checkbox to your comment form. This makes it easy for comment authors to also subscribe to your mailing list.
If you own a self-hosted WordPress blog, what comment system do you use and why? How do you feel about the others?
If you don’t know already, I’m obsessed with Pinterest. I use it a bit as a hobby but mostly I’m interested in browsing to see what others pin and how they organize their pins. There is so much valuable marketing inspiration contained on Pinterest, you just have to go out and find it.
Tomorrow I have a post going live on Search Engine Watch that discusses using Pinterest as a way to conduct market research. One of the things I share in the post that I discovered, is what a wealth of information you can glean to help you improve your website using Pinterest. In the end I think I’ve narrowed it down to 4 key areas in Pinterest that can help inspire a website owner.
The sheer nature of Pinterest is enough to inspire a bit of a website upgrade. The site is so clean, sleek and modern that it’s easy and simple to browse. Additionally, the site’s magazine type layout and heavy photo focus is what appeals to many.
Using the categories as well as search function on Pinterest, you can conduct a bit of research to see the images and items in your niche or industry that are popular. Whether it’s instructographics and how tos to infographics and photos of products, each of these image asset types can be developed and used on your site. Pinterest may inspire you to start a gallery on your website and add additional image assets throughout your site.
I love looking at how users pin images and organize their boards. The board names themselves are hilarious, creative and often interesting. As a website owner, you can use the boards of users pinning posts on your site to help you organize content better. Maybe several users have pinned products on your site and added them to a board called “Graduation party ideas”. If you don’t already have items categorized into a list that is easy to find on your site during graduation season then you should – and users have already done it for you. Check out that board and see what other products and items are there.
Boards can also help you to understand how a user might categorize pages on your site and products as well. Seeing this data may inspire you to set up split testing with different navigation pathways for visitors or organize content differently in the future.
Many products are submitted to Pinterest and marketed by their owners. Often these are small business owners and they know a thing or two about marketing their products. Monitoring the Gifts section in Pinterest can give you ideas to improve the product offerings on your site and show you better ways to present your items.
If you carry an item that many others carry in order to be successful you need to make yourself stand out. Pinterest can help you to see what makes others stand out and eventually you may start to see a pattern in the information, a display style and color combination that really seems to work all because you saw it on Pinterest.
While the platform isn’t heavily comment based, there are still a lot of comments to read through and glean information for your online marketing purposes. Many users simply repin or like but don’t comment, sowhen they do you should listen. Start monitoring what users pin on your site, by going to pinterest.com/source/yourdomain.com, and see what they comment on their pins.
A pin that might say “this would go well with” something else, or “I like this but in a different color”, can be used to pair a product with something else or improve a product offering on your site. Additionally the comments may shed some light on other competitors. Users are often asking each other where to buy the item in the photo. Those with the inside track will give little known places to purchase the item. These sites might be your competitors and are worthy of investigation.
Pinterest can be used for so many things, inspiration for your website is just one of them. How are you finding inspiration on Pinterest? Share your experiences in the comments below.
Anchor text has long been the SEO trump card. However, the last couple of algorithmic updates have turned things around quite a bit. On the one hand, Google’s Panda is targeting low quality sites (low value for the user, copied content). On the other, Google’s Penguin update is hitting those sites that engage in web spam (keyword stuffing, link spam). All these updates clearly signal that you can no more loophole your way to higher search rankings in Google.
The golden era of ‘exact match anchor text’ is finally over.
Thanks to manipulative link building techniques, exact match anchor text is fast losing its importance. In fact, Google is trying to close all the loopholes one after another. A lack of natural links is all you need to see your site fall apart.
Though Google had already been targeting sites that over-optimized their anchor text (for higher rankings overnight), its attack is now more intense than ever. The recently rolled out Penguin update has taken all the webmasters by storm. You can no more blast a site to the top of Google search results by getting tons of links with an exact match anchor text like ‘best seo company’.
According to recently conducted study by Microsite Masters, it’s come to light that sites that were negatively hit by Google’s Penguin update had used ‘money keyword’ in their anchor text as much as 60% (or above) of all linking text. Such a high percentage of money keyword in all inbound links of a site sent manipulative signals to Google. And that’s why these sites with aggressive exact match anchor text were negatively hit. Sites whose money keyword percentage in anchor text was below 50% were not affected by Google’s Penguin update.
Exact Match vs Partial Match Anchor Text
The fact that sites that had a money keyword as their anchor text below 50% were not impacted negatively also clarifies that exact match anchor text hasn’t lost their weight entirely. Yes, it definitely means one thing that you should quickly quit obsessing over exact match anchor text linking. Instead of focusing too much on similar anchor text, it’s a good idea to use partial match keywords.
If you want to rank for keywords ‘article marketing software’ for example, you can use partial matches like ‘the best software for article marketing’, ‘make your article marketing easy’ and ‘article marketer’s software’ among others.
Link Relevance & Diversity
Most importantly, you need to focus on two major elements of anchor text linking – relevance and diversity. When a search engine crawler crawls a link, it also tracks the degree of relevance. A good link value is, therefore, passed when the crawler verifies that links pointing back to your sites are from credible and related sources (both linking page- and domain-wise) . Apart from focusing on link relevance, you need to use different variations of anchor text.
Variations may include your brand name, the URL name, short-tail keywords, long-tail keywords and partial match keywords as anchor text. The more diverse your anchor text linking profile is, the more natural it will look to search engines.
This is What You Need to Do
The first step is to take a closer look at your internal or on-site anchor text linking (over which you’ve all control). Make sure you’re not over-optimizing. Second, you need to analyze the anchor text links pointing back to your site from external sources. If you notice a higher exact match anchor text pattern, you need to take action. If it’s in your control (in case you know site owners personally), you can tweak the anchor text with different variations. If this is beyond your control or doesn’t sound practical, you should start building links with different variations of anchor text to balance out things before it’s really too late.
What’s in your anchor text? Please feel free to share your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below.
Truth be told, I was never a big fan of keyword ranking reports. Sure, seeing your website in that sweet #1 spot is a nice ego boost, and a lot of clients fixate on the precise position of keywords that they deem most important to their business, but these reports often obfuscate metrics that actually matter. After all, attaining that much sought-after top spot is virtually meaningless if it doesn’t translate into qualified visitors, leads, and/or sales.
That said, pending some major, fundamental change in the way people search for information online, it doesn’t look like keyword ranking reports are going away anytime soon, so the least you can do is make sure you’re using a software package capable of producing reports that are accurate.
There are quite a few options on this front, some better than others. I’ve had success using rank tracking software produced by SEOmoz and Link-Assistant.com, but no solution is perfect, and you should do your own due diligence, especially if you’re opting for a paid package.
Still, courtesy of the Google Venice update, if you’re currently in the market for rank tracking software, you might want to save your money, at least for the near future. Here’s why:
In February, Google announced that it was releasing a major update to its ranking algorithm. Dubbed “Venice”, the update was developed to improve “the triggering of Local Universal results by relying more on the ranking of our main search results as a signal.” That’s a handful, so here’s a ten-second primer.
Prior to the update, if you searched for a keyword like “bagels”, you’d generally be presented with two sets of results. At the top would be Google Places listings, i.e. local bakeries, as determined by your location, which Google can detect automatically. Underneath would be national organic results, e.g. Wikipedia links, blogs with bagel recipes, etc.
In other words, local content was limited to the Places listings at the top. If you wanted to have organic presence, you’d literally have to optimize for the keyword “bagel” and beat out major brands like Einstein Bros Bagels and Dunkin’ Donuts.
With Venice, things have changed. Just take a look at the screenshot below:
What you see are depersonalized results for the term “seo” with my location set to Tampa, FL.
Carefully look through the organic results, specifically #3. See that? An organic result for an SEO training company that’s based in Tampa, Florida! Notice that we didn’t search for “Tampa SEO”. In fact, we didn’t include any sort of geographic modifier in our search query, and yet a small company is holding #3 spot for what would normally be an uber-competitive term.
Now let’s try changing the location to Miami, FL.
Again, take a look at result #5: Royal Internet Marketing, a marketing company that provides SEO services and that’s based in Miami, Florida.
Essentially, Google got a lot better at recognizing when there might be local intent behind the query, and is displaying organic results that change based on your location. Let’s try setting our location to USA. It was hard to take a screenshot of the entire search results page, but the results are what you were probably already expecting: all of the relevant local listings disappeared!
If you haven’t put the pieces together yet, this change profoundly impacts the way we measure rankings. Virtually all popular rank tracking packages check results that have been fully depersonalized, i.e. the location is set to USA. What does this mean in practice?
Say that your client is a divorce attorney in Chicago, IL. For demonstration purposes only, let’s assume that the client’s website URL is www.divorce-lawyers-chicago.com (disclosure: I have no connection or affiliation with this website, it’s being used here only as a relevant example). As part of your monthly report, you look at where your client ranks for the keyword “Chicago divorce attorney”. This is the set of search results that most rank tracking software packages would be working with to determine where you stand:
As you can see, within the organic results, you hold position #3, not bad (first two organic results are not shown). But not all people think in terms of the keyword + city paradigm. In fact, even my own primitive research with a few AdWords Express campaigns has shown that people regularly search without geographical modifiers.
Let’s look at what happens if we change the location to Chicago, IL and do a query for “divorce attorney” (same query as before, just removing the “Chicago” modifier).
WOW! Suddenly, we’ve moved up, and are now #1 in the organic results, even above majority of the Google Places listings that follow.
Here’s the thing, though. Because most rank trackers work with the depersonalized results where the location is set to USA, you’d never be able to make and report this discovery unless you had performed the ranking checks manually.
In other words, if you’re currently relying on ranking packages like those of SEOmoz and Link-Assistant.com, your reports are largely incomplete! These tools simply don’t have the option of emulating local search behavior, at least not yet.
There is some glimmer of hope. According to the head of customer support at Brightlocal, the company is actively working to implement this feature in the next roll-out of their web-based rank checking software, but no information yet on just how soon that’ll happen.
I can only presume that the awesome folks over at SEOmoz and Link-Assistant.com are also aware of this problem and are working to update their own rank trackers, but to the best of my knowledge, there have been no details released yet of the when and how. My coding knowledge is pitiful, so I unfortunately can’t comment on how difficult of an undertaking this is.
The lesson here is pretty simple, but important: checking rankings manually is boring and burdensome, especially if you’re working with a large keyword set, but if you want to get an understanding of where you truly stand, it might be time to ditch the automation tools and get busy.
What rank tracking solution do YOU use? How has the Google Venice update affected your keyword rank monitoring strategy? Share your thoughts in the comments!
Seeing the number of your social media fans (Facebook), followers (Twitter) or subscribers (YouTube) grow feels good. But is that an accurate measurement of the effectiveness of your social media campaigns? Definitely, not! That’s why the biggest challenge that most of the small businesses face today is how to accurately measure the ROI of a social media strategy. Unless and until you know the goals (in regard with your larger sales and marketing strategy) and select the right metrics to focus on, it’s impossible to gauge where your social media campaigns are actually headed.
Before you take a plunge into measuring the ROI of your social media efforts, it’s vital to be clear about what you’re looking to achieve. Different social media campaigns have different purposes or goals. When you’re aware of your ultimate goals, you’ll also find it easy to choose the most appropriate social media channels to focus on.
Do you want your social media fans to engage with your brand? Do you want them to share your content? Do you want them to purchase your products? Do you want them to spread the word about your brand? There are many other goals that you may want to fulfill by launching a social media marketing campaign. The more clarity of goals you have, the better metrics you can select to measure the ROI of your campaigns. As a result, this strategic approach also enables you to modify your campaigns as required.
Measuring the ROI
Broadly speaking, there are two ways to measure the ROI of your social media strategy. There are general metrics that you can use to measure the degree of interaction for your social media pages. Second, there are campaign-focused metrics that you can use to find out whether you’re achieving your larger sales and marketing goals. General metrics relate to networking or building a community of followers whereas campaign-focused metrics are about conversion.
General metrics for a social media campaigns may include ‘likes’, ‘fans’ ‘followers’, ‘shares’, ‘comments’, ‘replies’ etc. By focusing on these metrics, you’ll find out whether your fans are followers are interacting. As a result, you’ll be able to learn the significance of your social network community.
Examples of campaign-focused metrics or goal-based metrics would include traffic to your website or blog, rate of subscription, sales of products and online lead generation among others. If your goal is to drive traffic, you can track URL shares and the rate of click-throughs. To dig out further, you can try to find out what visitors actually do or how they respond once they are on your site. This type of analysis can help you to improve the rate of conversion.
What’s the meaning of having 10,000 Twitter followers if your business objective is to generate online leads? That’s exactly why there’s a sea of difference between general metrics and campaign-based metrics. It’s always important to focus on those metrics that align with your large business goals. If you fail to select appropriate metrics to track, you can never get the maximum out of a social media marketing campaign. So, focus on the right metrics!
Apart from measuring the effort on all your social networks on an aggregate basis, you should also remember to get the picture of how you’re doing with each of the networks you’re using. A network-by-network analysis will help you identify which social platforms are most fulfilling your goals. And then you can invest most of your money and time on those networks that bring you the best results.
Have you chosen the right metrics to focus on? Please feel free to share your thoughts and opinions.
Facebook truly seems to be the network that likes to compete. First the takeover of MySpace, then the Twitter-like change to the homepage, then the purchase of Instagram to compete with Pinterest, and now BranchOut—LinkedIn’s new nemesis. This professional networking platform was actually launched in July, 2010 and has quietly been gaining speed ever since. Today, BranchOut has 25 million users with a rate of 3 new users per second. Although this number sounds great, I could help but think to myself: But LinkedIn still has 131,200,000 users, so what’s all the buzz about?
As it turns out, the answer is quite clear: It took LinkedIn 65 months to reach the level that BranchOut has now achieved in a mere 16 months.
How BranchOut Works and How to Get Started
Although people were reluctant to connect professional matters with the very personal matters of Facebook, BranchOut only shows education and work history. You can also connect with someone on BranchOut without becoming Facebook friends, which adds an extra level of privacy for the skeptic. You can get started with BranchOut by either accepting an invitation from another BranchOut user, or typing BranchOut.com into the Facebook search box. Once the app is installed, it will prompt you to grow your BranchOut network. Below is an example of when I was asked to include my friends in my new BranchOut network:
Once you click “include them,” your friends will get a request asking if they would like to join your community. Getting started is as easy as that. You are then brought to your profile page where you can import a resume, look through all of your connections and search for new connections, and check out your endorsements. Below is a screenshot of my profile page:
My profile is fairly empty right now, but the idea is there. You can see that I still need to improve my resume and flesh out my work history. However, Facebook took my work history information from my profile and went ahead and added it to my BranchOut profile. This makes creating a profile very easy and quick for those who have a fairly detailed Facebook account.
You will also notice that there is a tab at the top of the screen titled “jobs.” This is where I can go and type in a job that I’m looking to find. Below is an example of a search I did for the job “social media manager” that turned up three results:
If you were to continue scrolling down the page, you would see that you could filter results based on your experience, a specific industry, and whether or not you’re looking for full time, part, time, internship, etc. Although I am a new user, I can already tell that this application is intuitive and easy to use (which is something I can’t say about all the features of Facebook).
The Benefits for BranchOut vs. LinkedIn
Having a presence on both social networks will help you expand our circles to the fullest. Certain employers may use one over the other, so a candidate will want to be prepared on both platforms in order to find the maximum number of relevant job listings. As long as you can stay active and can maintain both profiles, employers will be happy to see that you are social media fluent.
Saying that BranchOut is better than LinkedIn would be incorrect, but there are a few things that make BranchOut different and a few extra benefits that the application can offer:
- Facebook is larger. Most people sign up for a LinkedIn account and have to try and sync it up with an email address to find connections. With Facebook, you can find a huge pool of connections with the click of one button.
- The connections are broader. The connections you will make on BranchOut are much broader than those you would make on LinkedIn. Many of your friends may not be on LinkedIn, but chances are they are on Facebook. This helps make your connections more personal.
- It’s easy to get started for those intimidated by LinkedIn. Young graduates are more likely to get started with BranchOut over LinkedIn because they already have a Facebook account. For this reason, there is a good chance BranchOut will be the next big thing.
In terms of features, both sites are very similar—search functionality for jobs, filters, finding connections, promoting content, etc.—so I believe it is really a matter of preference. If you have a large following on Facebook, BranchOut is worth setting up. If Facebook was never really your network of choice, sticking with LinkedIn only is still a great way to grow your personal brand. As long as you can make at least one work, you’ll be in a good position when it comes time to find a job.
Are you active on BranchOut? What have been your experiences? Let us know in the comments!
Photo Credit: recruiter.com
Amanda DiSilvestro is a writer on topics ranging from social media to employment background checks. She writes for an online resource that gives advice on topics including recruitment to small businesses and entrepreneurs for a lead generation website, Resource Nation.