Archive for the ‘Search Strategy’ Category


The Fight on Google’s Results Pages: Community Platforms

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Dell’s Bob Pearson was right, a company’s corporate homepage is really Google.com

As I was doing follow up research on some of the vendors in the community space, I was entering in some keyword searches on Google to find different product pages. Although a common practice, it’s interesting to see which vendors buy sponsored links on the right hand column of the search screen. It’s not easy to tell if they’ve purchased these keywords directly to display if someone enters a vendors name, or if they bought greater search terms like “community software”, either way it’s an indicator of what Google, or the vendors think their most relevant competitors are.

Search marketing is a pretty normal practice, but over the years I’ve seen and learned a few ethical, and not so ethical ways companies do battle for mindshare. A few examples:

  • Brands often forget to purchase the paid keywords for their specific product name during a launch, a well placed blog post from a competitor mentioning the specific product name can yield some pretty tremendous search engine juice. History tells us that many press release link to the company’s homepage, but not to specific product pages, forcing bloggers, press, media, and analysts to do Google searches to learn more, the result? A competitors blog can easily be visible above the fold.
  • While discussed and reprimanded by Google and other search engines, when I was in web marketing, I heard cases of competitors supposedly clicking on our paid search terms, and since we had a limited inventory of pay per click, they would use up our inventory. Now I’m sure Google has ways around this (by looking at IP address or other behaviors) but every technology has a workaround.
  • For even more nefarious uses, former colleague and internet expert John Cass gives a breakdown how one vendor was using trademarked product names in search marketing strategy, and the difficulties of enforcement. (link via LiveWorld’s Bryan Person)
  • So what’s right and what’s wrong? Time tends to average things out, and those that play above the table will eventually look victorious, those that kick under the table tend to get punished –or others see it and walk away. On the other hand, all’s fair in business, there are no rules, and this just is an indicator of who’s hungrier for your business.

    Screenshots
    Below are some screenshots of some vendors search engine results pages (SERP) and you can see the different sponsored links on the right. Here’s what I see when I search for Liveworld, Kickapps, and Telligent.

    liveworldkickappsTelligent

    Update: Sam Decker, CMO of BazzarVoice created this interesting matrix was created that shows which vendors are buying keywords for other competitors SERP pages. link via LiveWorld’s Bryan Person.

    Panel: Search Engine Optimization for New Media

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    I’m sitting here at the Thin Air Summit in Denver, anyone who is here on a Saturday is very serious about social media –I guess I fit the bill. I don’t know that much about SEO when it comes to social media, so I’m going to blog some of the key findings.

    Moderator: Micah Baldwin
    Panelists: Brett Borders, Elizabeth Yarnell, John Fischer


    Elizabeth a book author had a desire to promote her book Glorious One-Pot Meals –without using a traditional publisher. Her advice? The goal is to be found, rather than focus on traditional marketing which is ‘target markets’.

    Think beyond keywords and be actionable
    Bad: “Elizabeth Yarnell, Author” instead use the title bar to put in keywords about your product, you’ll have better search results.
    Better: “Learn to cook fast meals with Elizabeth Yarnell”, notice the call to action.

    Existing social media sites score high
    She suggests that social media sites (like flickr, myspace, blogger) already get lots of traffic, and page rank, and will increase your SEO ranking.

    Social Media is about the abundance theory
    It’s about giving away what you know and to share with others, in return they will come back to you.

    Learn the keyword search tools on the internet, such as keyword tracker, google tracker, word tracker. Many are free, some are expensive.


    Brett Borders provide some highlights of what SEOs are doing within social media, he doesn’t advocate these tactics.

    Create video to dominate universal search results
    Since Google launched ‘universal search’ (showing images, video, beyond just text) these are opportunities to score well on your search results. Create content in multiple mediums that all support your marketing effort. A snapshot of the video will show up on the universal search results.

    Free Google Adwords
    How to do free google adwords? Have you blog post create similar content pointing to the video, then submit to digg. It can ‘sometimes’ provide Google ads. (I really don’t get this)

    Ego Searches influence your SERP –but not everyone else’s
    If you do lots of ego searches for your own domains, Brett suggests that personalized search will actually cause your results to show higher –but that’s just what you see, not everyone else. You can go to your web history tools and have your history cleared which will prevent this from happening.

    Persona Blogging (flogging)
    Create a branded human character, as a facade, and ‘uplift’ the community, then link to your site every 25 times. There are agencies that are doing this. The risks? like the Edelman fiasco can get the ill will of your community and can result in brand backlash. These tactics will be found out in a few years.

    Make Friends –make links
    Create profiles in social networks such as tribe, then make a lot of friends which will send traffic back to your profile –which links to your website.

    Follow folks on Twitter
    A discussion talking about an automated way to gain followers on twitter, despite the limit of 2000, you can remove them then add more. These get more followers then you can spam them with tweets.

    Link Tuning –and tone down adsl
    Suggests that webmasters tune their page so not important pages have a ‘no-follow’ so Google doesn’t index it. Also he suggests that new blogs not be adsense heavy so it doesn’t look so commercial.


    John Fischer runs a sticker company called Sticker Giants
    Suggests that search engines don’t want marketers to focus on SEO, they just want you to do naturally link building.

    Focus on business goals –not your personal name
    After reviewing one of the attendee’s website suggested that her website content/titles focus on her business goals, not her given name. People will search on her business, not her name

    Show off your media
    On your blog, make it obvious and promote your social media content: youtube, flickr, ustream, seesmic, perhaps use a friendfeed widget, so readers know who you are.


    Strategy perspective from moderator Micah Baldwin

    Understand the difference between long and short term SEO strategies
    There’s a long term and short term strategy. While there’s a lot of things you can do in the short term to generate traffic, it can result in you getting banned in the long term. The short term low value may build up long term value.

    Be pervasive with a sticky post
    Suggests creating a ‘sticky post’ that stays at the top of a blog and lists all the important information regardless of what you’ve posted recently. I think a header or footer could also help accomplish this


    Summary
    From the crowd, isn’t it better to be passionate about a topic and work on long term relevance? This way Google won’t discount your efforts in the long term.

    The end suggestions were to be passionate about whatever you’re doing, it will help you to be relevant in the long term.


    Me? I don’t do any specific SEO tactics in order to get search relevance, I just focus on writing content that people will link to, tweet it, and the rest happens by itself. I encourage you to avoid the short term tactics and focus on building the long term relationships –go for the long haul.
    Picture 014Picture 025Picture 027Picture 029Picture 030Picture 032Picture 034Picture 036Oxygen is provided at the Thin Air Summit in DenverPicture 033Picture 016

    Your Corporate Homepage is Really Google.com

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    I’m not a search expert, but it’s important to note the impacts social media and search engine results have to your online strategy.

    Google Results Is Your Real Corporate Homepage
    Corporations spend a great deal of money and resources to make sure that their corporate homepage looks great. What’s a corporate homepage? It’s the pro-company, pro-brand homepage that highlights what the company does, and it’s latest product campaign or initiative. It’s the starting point in what I call the Irrelevant Corporate Website (and the community has translated this post into 10 languages).

    Fortunately, this is NOT the corporate homepage, as many overlook that the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) for your brand is the actual corporate homepage. The same amount of effort should be spent to ensure that the company is shown in the right light after someone does a Google search for a brand or product.

    While most companies spend money on Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to make sure that their irrelevant corporate website comes to the top of the Google results (and most succeed). Some are unaware of how social media sites (blogs and twitter) can start to bubble up.

    For example, take this research from Cornell University that indicates that approximately the top three results of any SERP are clicked on 75% of the time.

    A Blog Rant ranked above official Corporate Page
    Have you heard of “What the F*ck is wrong with Dell Technical Support” Of course, he didn’t use the asterisk. While it’s an older example, and a case study of success, let’s quickly talk about Dell. Imagine you’re a customer and you’re having issues with your company. A quick Google query for “Dell Support” at one time yielded above the fold a post by former Yahoo top blogger and former developer Jeremy Zawodny (now at Craigslist) way back in 2005.

    At one time, I remember that the top three listings were 1) The official Dell Support site, 2) Jeremy’s post and 3) another Dell Support page. According to the Cornell eye tracking research, Jeremy’s post infiltrated clicks by 13% and were sure to be seen by many on the SERP. Fortunately for Dell, Jeremy’s post has moved down from the top results but is still on the first page, and ugly scar for us to all remember.

    While most would rarely Google negative information about a brand when trying to seek them out, try entering your brand name plus the word “Sucks” you’ll be surprised what you’ll find. When I was at Hitachi (but at a different division) I remember how shocking it was to see this blog post “Hitachi Hell”. Now if this prominant gaming blogger had chosen to single out a specific product, it could easily have risen to the top of the search heap. Therefore do searches for all of the following for each of your product names too.

    For some, Wikipedia is a starting ground
    Other common search results? Wikipedia, and as you know, it also scores high in search results. When I was at Hitachi, I was surprised when I interviewed an executive to learn that he used Wikipedia as a way to make business decisions –well at least to see all the players in a particular space, he found it objective. Wikipedia isn’t a place you can put your irrelevant corporate content, although it’s far from perfect, it strives –but doesn’t always succeed — to contain objective viewpoints from the crowd. If you’re not sure how to engage Wikipedia, Charlene Li has published this report.

    Impacts to recruiting
    What we do online echoes for years, Google has a memory like none other, in fact this Tech CEO prowls through Google search results before hiring some candidates: “CEO Curt Finch will most likely spend some time on the Internet finding out what he can about you, including where you went to school, what your political leanings are, who your friends are, if you’ve run any marathons, and anything else he can lay his eyes on”

    Summary: Don’t neglect your Google Search results for your brand, product, and name In summary, be cognizant that your homepage isn’t the website you own and manage, but actually Google Results. While you can shape that first few entries with search marketing techniques, but note that a influential blog can cause havoc or be a positive endorsement.

    Remembering the Many Opportunities of Social Media –not just the Impacts of Advertising

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    Social Media impacts every aspect of our cultures, from business, politics, journalism, media, and advertising. Within just the business realm, it impacts research, marketing, support, product development and employees within the firewall. Despite the vast impacts of this shift “power has shifted from large organizations to individual participants” as humans connect with other humans, we often forget to see the larger picture.

    Aaron Wall is someone I respect, he is certainly a domain expert in search marketing, in his recent post The Inconvienent Truth About Social Media Marketing, he gives a perspective –that’s limited from a search marketers perspective –is bearish on social media marketing. Several people asked me to blog my responses, so here it is:

    [Social media marketing has it's challenges, yet success should not be measured on 'search marketing' alone]

    Social media has many problems on it’s own (and I’ll frequently point them out) but we should remember that while search monetization is a dominant form in our industry, it’s not the only way websites are monetizes, in fact the complete list is here of the many forms of web marketing.

    We’re seeing many more cases where marketers don’t want to monetize directly with ads, but would rather be part of a community of dialog with customers, so they can listen to the marketplace and learn. Also, we’re seeing examples where companies want the message about a product to spread (but not from their own mouth) but from word of mouth marketing. Companies like Dell want to build next-generation products using tools like IdeaStorm –where the customers define the product specs –in order to build better.

    In each of the above cases, social media is used in a way much more than just search marketing and advertising.

    [The greatest opportunities lie where companies be part of communities where ads may not even be present]

    So before we suggest that social media marketing is ineffective, we should first look at the bigger picture, and perhaps revisit the 95 theses of the Cluetrain Manifesto.

    Think bigger my friends. (Update: Steve Rubel is)

    Back in Google Search Results

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    For over a month, my blog was not being indexed by Google. I recently upgraded to a dedicated server, and apparently something wasn’t toggled correctly, and some websites found my blog to be a 403, permission issues. Although I was being indexed by Yahoo, MSN, ASK and others, google was no longer displaying my blog in any search results.

    I’ve never spent money on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) nor do I go to any great efforts other than blogging best practices, to make sure I score well. I’ve been using Google as the main way to find my own blog posts, as it’s the fastest way, the native blog search returns way to many values, and not necessarily sorted by relevance. I wasn’t the only one, as a few readers emailed me and told me they couldn’t find my blog, apparently they use search to find me, rather than bookmark or subscribe.

    Thanks to the various folks that have tried to offer some advice, although I ultimately found the solution by logging into Google’s webmaster and doing a site verify (have you done that?). I then contacted my host, and a few days later, it’s now easily found in the search results. Here’s what my web host said:

    “Ah!, i found that you have any ip starting from 66.249 blocked, im not sure why this is here, probably to block google when you site was hosted on shared. I dont have any notes on your account that we did this for any issues on your private server, so i`ll go ahead and remove it.”

    It’s now fixed. While many social media purists look down on SEO, one only realizes how important something is once it’s gone.

    Update: I suggested to Dreamhost that this was an opportunity loss for me and it would be appreciated if they credited me a reasonable amount, they did, thanks, that was the right thing to do.

    Change in Google Results?

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    I’ve lost my mojo!

    I used to tell people the easiest way to find me was to Google search “Web Strategy”, or even search for “Jeremiah”. In the last few days, I’ve noticed that I’ve fallen off the search results. What’s interesting is that my old blog that I’ve not updated in 1.5 years on blogspot (a Google property) scores high in the results, and this blog on wordpress (which I update daily) isn’t even on the first page.

    Strangely, I still have many incoming links, increased traffic (according to Google analytics) and I’ve not changed my posting behavior. I certainly don’t do any black hat (or even white hat) SEO, what you see is what you get. I know things have been only going up for this blog as according to compete.com I get more visitors than Gartner.com.

    I’ve been looking for answers, and some of my Google friends directed me to Matt’s blog, which I’ve been reading Matt Cutts blog (he’s the top blogger at Google, focused on search) but I’m not sure quite sure what to do. The other thought is that everyone else has just become more relevant than me. Thoughts?