Friday Fuel: Changes to Google+, Awesome 404 Pages, #NSD2013 & more!
Fri, May 17, 2013
If you’re looking for any of us today, we’re currently at the New South Digital Marketing Conference in Myrtle Beach learning all sorts of ways to kick some major a@#. Check out the website here www.newsouthdigital.com. In the meantime, follow us on twitter (@fuelsocial) for all sorts of tidbits and advise from the event.
Free space from Google Drive
Google Drive announced it was tripling its storage across Gmail, Google+ and Drive from 5GB to 15GB. This more than doubles any of the competition’s storage space- Apple iCloud, Amazon Cloud and SugarSync now offer 5GB. We’ll have to wait to see the reasoning behind it but it’s safe to assume there’s some money making plan in the works. Read more about the changes here: http://news.cnet.com/8301-1023_3-57584080-93/google-drive-triples-free-storage-to-15gb/
404 Pages Rock
404 Pages don’t have to torture your visitors anymore. Many sites are taking what used to be a frustrating experience into something that’s actually fun to see and often times helpful. Use them as a fun way to direct them back to your homepage or navigation menus with cool quotes, images or pretty much whatever you want. Here’s a list of 60 really cool 404 pages out there now: http://www.hongkiat.com/blog/60-really-cool-and-creative-error-404-pages/
Reddit uses “Acceptable Ads”
Adblock Plus, a wildly popular (and free) ad-blocking tool, told Reddit that they meet the new acceptable ads guidelines and that they will be whitelisted on the service. The service aims at supporting websites that are running ads responsibly and. The guidelines for acceptable ads include using static ads only, preferably text-only ads, ads clearly marked as such and several other requirements. Click the link to see more: http://thenextweb.com/insider/2013/02/05/reddit-whitelisted-by-adblock-plus-for-using-acceptable-online-advertisements/
Google+ Rolls out Big Changes
Google Plus is making some changes to their streams, hangouts and photos (everyone loves change, right?). Their new tools can help you back up and enhance your photos and they’ve messed with the way hangouts appear. Personally, I’m not a fan of all of the feed moving around every time I post but as I do every time Facebook makes a change, I’ll deal with it.
Awesome Apps for Productivity
Fri, May 10, 2013
I'm a designer, gamer, techie, and as recently as just now a blogger; I spend a lot of time on my computer. Still, it continues to remain a primary source of my frustration every day. Between all the apps vying for my attention and all the menial tasks that exist between actually doing real work, it's a constant struggle to maintain a smooth workflow - but why? I mean, technology is supposed to make our lives easier, right? So I've compiled a list of free apps and browser extensions that aim to do just that. Many of these apps may be exclusive to the Mac OS or even the Chrome web browser, but I've found their utility nigh indispensable.
FluffyApp, a Windows alternative, promises similar features.
Bazinga 4 PC might be a suitable alternative for Windows users.
LipService fills this role for PC users.
Friday Fuel: Diversify Guest Blogs, Maps Update, Paid YouTube, lrn2searchn00b & more!
Fri, May 10, 2013
Stop Penalizing Yourself With Guest Blogging
Take it easy with your guest blogging. SEOmoz reports that you could be killing yourself with aggressive guest blog outreach. Typically, your site will be linked from a wide spectrum of domain authorities. It would look almost like a bell curve, peaking around the 40’s. However, aggressive guest blogging efforts can skew this into no links below 30 DA and no or very few links above 50 DA, for example. It looks weird, and Google can surely see it. You should also have a variety of authors for your blog content. This will help mix it up a little bit and give the site’s inbound links a more natural feel. If you are an agency, consider switching around who writes the blogs for each client. Don’t forget to check out the guest blogging site and pay attention to where your link back will go. Get the full details from SEOmoz here: http://www.seomoz.org/blog/how-guest-bloggers-are-sleepwalking-their-way-into-penalties
New Google Maps Update
Google is remaining the champion of their map interface and are rolling out some pretty cool new features with their new update. MapQuest has a long way to go to catch Google now, and I think Apple Maps got lost on the way to the party. In this update, we will see new colors and icons. It also wouldn’t be a Google product if it didn’t include Google+. Good thing we all love Google+. Er wait… Well, at least get used to it at this point. It’s not going anywhere. Check out the screenshots and expect this launch as early as next week: http://searchengineland.com/google-maps-to-get-a-major-design-overhaul-158648
Top Secret Search Tips
The internet is awesome. Google makes it easy to learn anything about everything. Shouldn’t you be more proficient at Googling? The honest truth is that you are paying an IT guy $100 an hour to Google your computer problems. Luckily, your tax dollars are finally going back to education. Kind of. In a roundabout way. If you take advantage of this. The NSA uses Google, as well, and has compiled a 643-page document on the essentials to internet searching, including the chapter “Google Hacking” (remember when hacking used to actually mean something?). Anyway, check out the article. You might actually learn some cool tricks to searching. Just don’t be creepy. Just kidding, it’s the internet. http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2013/05/nsa-manual-on-hacking-internet/
Mr. Gorbachev, Tear Down These Virtual Walls!
Congress has introduced a new DMCA reform. That’s right; an online petition actually did something for a change. So what does this mean? Well, for starters, it would legalize the unlocking of your cell phones. It would also allow people to rip various media for their own personal use. If that is too technical for you, I’ll explain. You can put DVDs on your hard drive. You can use a song you bought on iTunes on any mp3 player you want. Dare I even say you can play your computer games without worrying about DRM problems? We should all be excited about this and support it. This is freedom! ‘Merica! Check out the article: http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2013/05/members-of-congress-finally-introduce-serious-dmca-reform/
YouTube Offers Paid Subscriptions
Finally, I can pay for YouTube. Hmmm, that’s not as exciting as I thought. But, if you have kids, this could be great for you. YouTube has set up paid subscriptions to give content partners more revenue, including Sesame Street and Jim Henson Family TV. It’s not just for kids, they also include sports channels and theater channels. Check it out here: http://www.adweek.com/news/technology/youtube-launches-subscription-offering-149336
Vines Shared 4x More Than Online Videos
As attention spans dwindle, this doesn’t surprise me. How soon until we are back to grunts for communication? People are making up to a six second video to share on Twitter. Lots of them. In fact, there are five Vines shared every second. Savvy advertisers have already gotten into this. Doritos, among other big brands have produced some. Check them out here: http://www.adweek.com/news/technology/twitter-vines-get-shared-4x-more-online-video-149340
5 Things I Learned from the Big Leagues
Mon, May 06, 2013
I recently won a contest sponsored by General Assembly that included a free trip to San Francisco to tour some of the biggest names in the tech industry. General Assembly is a relatively new startup that already has a fairly big presence. They are an education company focused in bringing people up to speed in the rapidly changing tech community. They aim to give people the knowledge they need to turn their dreams and ideas into a reality.
From this trip I brought back 5 things that I feel can help improve your company and where you work.
5. Emphasize creative freedom with time to work on different projects
A recurring trend I noticed at the companies I visited was time dedicated to working on a different project than what you would normally work on. You can work on something new or work on something you feel needs improving. Each company did things a little different.
Facebook has Hackathons once a month where they would pick one day and make it basically into an event. Starting at 6 p.m. and lasting until 6 a.m., it was your chance to flex your creativity. Then the next week everyone would go over what they did.
Twitter has Hack Week, which is a whole week instead of just a single day. They do this about once a quarter. And Google has what is called “20% time”. That is where one day a week you get to work on something new or improve something existing.
These weren’t limited to just developers. It’s not limited to just code. Facebook made a point with this by having specific culture Hackathons where everyone would work on improving the office space. Some people at Twitter decided to make some Twitter cornhole boards for their rooftop deck during a Hack Week.
These events are very important to these companies as they help define the company culture. It encourages collaboration and team building and really allows employees to help define the company and feel more a part of it.
4. Community is important
A big thing I learned is the importance of the community. There is a reason most startups move to San Francisco. The community there is great and the environment lends itself really well to networking. Companies like 500 Startups and Y Combinator base their whole business around this community aspect. Having access to their support and alumni network is a big reason to try to enter the program to begin with.
Having such a large pool of resources and talent in your immediate area is really helpful. Things in this industry are constantly changing and evolving and it is impossible to keep up with it by yourself. But being exposed to such a large group of people that all share a similar interest means you are guaranteed to learn something new every day. Contribute back to the community and help it out and it can help your business grow.
3. Be passionate to attract passionate people
Most people I talked to would tell you that they love what they do. The spirit of entrepreneurism is extremely high there. You are encouraged to follow your dream and work for something you are passionate about. To truly succeed in the Silicon Valley area, you have to be passionate.
There was always an extremely welcome vibe at every company I visited. Things did not feel corporate. People worked where they did because they were passionate about their work and that company. It started from the top down. These people that I talked to did not want to work with fellow employees that did just enough to get by. Each person wanted more. This spirit helps attract more quality employees and is one of the reasons San Francisco is the technological hotspot that it is.
2. Embrace competition
As much as businesses would love to not have competition, it is a good thing to have. Competition drives innovation. It causes businesses and, in turn, employees to constantly improve themselves. There is a lot of competition in San Francisco. This forces you to quickly step your game up or be left behind.
But competition between companies isn’t the only competition there. There is even an internal spirit of competition within a company. For example, at Apple the environment can feel a little competitive as everyone is constantly pushing each other to achieve more. This can be a little stressful if you are not prepared for it but I feel it raises the overall skills and quality of every employee involved.
1. Food! (And other perks)
If your business has the first four points, then the last and arguably the most important thing that I saw throughout all the companies I visited were the perks. Especially the food. There was food everywhere we went. I barely had a chance to try any local restaurants as I spent most of my time eating in the free cafeterias. At Google, you could not go more than 100 feet without finding another place to eat.
The other perks were also notable. All these top tier companies had all of the previous four points so they were really competing on this last point. This is what sets your company over the top as long as you have the other points. Google probably had the most perks that I saw. Free food, haircuts, oil changes, gym, and other services just to name a few. They also own more buses than the actual city of San Francisco to shuttle their employees to and from work. Of course these perks work to their advantage also. It helps them bring in the best talent as well as keeping them at work longer. Here at Fuel we know the value of food.
Friday Fuel: Google Is At It Again & Microscopic Movies
Fri, May 03, 2013
Google Tests New SERP Look
Google is at it again. Apparently the search engine giant is testing yet another user interface. The rather drastic change they are experimenting with involves not showing the URLs of the search results of the page. Currently, the URL is displayed in a noticeable green color and is fairly easy to spot. This is a relatively new development and there is no word on what this change means or if it will be utilized in the future. Read more about Google’s URL experiment here.
Like many other services of its time, hotmail is officially just a memory. Microsoft announced this week that all of the hotmail users have now been switched to outlook users, a task that consumed 6 weeks of time and involved transferring a mere 150 petabytes of email. Though it was once the most popular email service of the 90’s, other email providers like gmail and yahoo proved to be significant competition for hotmail and 16 years later, they finally had to let go. If you are an avid hotmail user, keep calm and hotmail on, because you can still use your @hotmail address. Read more on the hotmail / outlook merge here.
Despite Twitter getting praise for being one of the fastest ways to spread important information throughout the world, the social media giant is also getting attention for being a cesspool of misinformation. Did anyone hear about Cher’s death last week? Stories like this, and plenty of other false information, spread like wildfire through the Twitter network and there is no real way to prevent this from happening. Although Twitter has acknowledged this, they have offered little insight on a solution. That’s why an independent developer decided to build his own solution called “Retweet Retract”, or Retwact. This program is brand new and admittedly has its flaws, but it could greatly change the spread and trustworthiness of news via Twitter. Check out how the program works here.
IBM Presents: The Smallest Movie Ever
IBM released a movie this week. Sounds strange right? Well what’s even stranger is the fact that this movie was created by manipulating single atoms, one at a time. Yes, atoms. In the beginning of the film, IBM explains that they have been experimenting with atoms to explore the limits of data storage. They created this film to explore the limits of filmmaking. In addition to their own movie, A Boy and His Atom, they also created exclusive atomic imagery for the upcoming Star Trek film. In order to even see these films, the atoms must be magnified over 100 million times! It’s pretty impressive stuff. View and learn more about these microscopic movies here.
Science Fiction and Technology: Preparing for the Future
Wed, April 24, 2013
I love science fiction. And I think if you work in any kind of tech field, you probably should too.
Okay you don’t have to love it, but you should probably pay attention to it.
What we think of one year as science fiction has a tendency to become science fact down the road. There are numerous instances of this throughout history.
Jules Verne wrote a book in 1863 about life in Paris in the future that included glass skyscrapers, a worldwide communications network, and more. H.G. Wells also wrote numerous books about the role of technology and scientific advancement in warfare. Farenheight 451 even mentions something that sounds an awful like the earbuds more than 50 years before they were invented. Even one of my favorite books Ender’s Game, which was written in 1985, talked about “The Nets” and how they would become the source for all information and essays written there are slowly taken seriously by people in positions of power.
But I’m not saying that you should keep up with science fiction because it so often predicts the future. I’ve heard way too many people complain about the fact that we don’t have hoverboards yet (you have three years, scientists!) or talking robots to make that claim. And it really doesn’t happen all that often when you think about the number of science fiction stories out there versus the ones that predicted something right.
What I am saying is that reading science fiction keeps you thinking about the future and what is possible and what isn’t. And if you start paying attention to it you might be surprised often how your thoughts about what isn’t possible -- and what might be possible -- change.
An odd example of this comes from a dream I had the other night. I dreamed that I was on a ship traveling through space, exploring a market on another planet. Only when my dream was wrapping up did I find out that I wasn’t in fact on this other planet. It was virtual reality. When I woke up I thought about how crazy that was. But then I thought about it some more. And, well, it didn’t seem as crazy. I mean how far off is that idea from what we do now using “rovers” to explore other planets and gather data. And it would make sense to me that if we really are considering space travel in the future to send out a lot of “rovers” to check things out.
Science fiction is about the future and what’s possible and if you work in a technologically based field (like those at Fuel) you deal every day with people who are embracing the future. And in order to serve those people and the industry, you need to be thinking about what comes next or what might be coming after the next you’re currently dealing with.
L. Frank Baum, the author of the Wizard of Oz books, said:
"Imagination has brought mankind through the Dark Ages to its present state of civilization. Imagination led Columbus to discover America. Imagination led Franklin to discover electricity. Imagination has given us the steam engine, the telephone, the talking-machine and the automobile, for these things had to be dreamed of before they became realities. So I believe that dreams - day dreams, you know, with your eyes wide open and your brain-machinery whizzing - are likely to lead to the betterment of the world."
The future is going to be based on someone’s crazy idea and by letting your mind explore possibilities that might seem crazy you open yourself up to those possibilities and the possibilities you can create.
Movies, books, video games -- whatever you can get into. But I think in order to really be a part of this industry you need to find some way to think about and imagine the long and far off future because the things we do and have today were once someone’s crazy dream.
Friday Fuel: Twitter is All The Rage; Dove Hits Another Home Run; Google Glass on eBay?
Fri, April 19, 2013
Twitter #music & Targeted Ads
Twitter embraces new services and hashtags with the release of their new “Twitter #music” service yesterday. The new service was officially announced on Good Morning America and in a blog post on their site. According to Twitter, the app “uses Twitter activity, including Tweets and engagement, to detect and surface the most popular tracks and emerging artists.” The Twitter #music app will include a suggested music screen, the ability to search for music from your favorite artist, and the ability to search for music related information. The catch, however, is that this app is designed solely for the purpose of music discovery and is not a free music streaming service. The actual music comes from Spotify, iTunes, and Rdio and, while users will be able to preview songs for free, a subscription to the source will be necessary to hear the full version.
Twitter also made news this week by announcing its new targeted ad campaign. This unique targeting allows advertisers to base their messages on users’ shared interests rather than relying on geographic or demographic information. For example, if a user tweets about enjoying a dinner at Olive Garden then they might start seeing Olive Garden promoted posts on their feed, perhaps a tweet about a coupon or special running in their area. Twitter promises that this new feature won’t lead to an increase of ads and that some new users are reporting engagement rates of over 10% with this new targeting tool. You can learn more about this new feature here.
In case you live under a rock and missed it, you really need to go watch the new Dove campaign video. Like most of Dove’s previous videos, this one went viral in no time and has people buzzing about the concept of beauty. In this most recent video, women are asked to describe themselves to a sketch artist who cannot see them. They leave and another woman who has only met the subject once is then asked to describe her to the sketch artist. The subjects are then invited to see the two conflicting pictures. In every single situation, the subjects described themselves in harsher terms than the strangers did, bringing self evaluation issues to surface. Women really are their harshest critics. View the original video and read more here.
(Also, for those with a sense of humor, click here to view the parody video.)
Instagram & Vine Changing News
Twitter and Facebook continue to change the way we share information and not just with their mother sites. Instagram, a popular photo editing and sharing app was purchased by Facebook in the spring of 2012 and Twitter recently acquired the lesser known but increasingly popular app Vine, which allows users to create and share 6 second videos. News outlets and reporters are beginning to embrace these emerging technologies and use them to relay information to users. Just last month, the New York Times published a photo of Alex Rodriguez that a sports photographer shot on his iPhone and edited on Instagram. In addition, Vine videos are growing in popularity as user upload short clips of everything from sports events and funny cat moments to more serious videos like clips from the Boston Marathon attack this week that relay unbiased accounts of what is really going on. Click here to read the full article on how news is becoming more accessible than ever through these apps. (Also, if you are a social media junkie like I am and have not checked out Vine, I highly recommend it.)
Google Glass Won’t Make You Millions (But it Almost Made one guy Several Thousands...)
For the lucky few who have gained access to Google’s most coveted new gadget, I have one piece of advice: Keep Calm and Don’t Try and Sell Your Google Glass. One clever 26 year old decided that he would put his new toy on eBay and sell it to the highest bidder before he even got them or read the terms of service agreement. Although the often clicked “I have read and understand the terms of agreement” box is probably the biggest lie in the world, neglecting to understand and abide by these rules often has hefty penalties. He began the bid on eBay at $5,000 and within 4 days the bidding surpassed $95,000! To his dismay, however, a fellow Google Glass explorer who actually did read the agreement informed him of his mistake and he quickly took it down. Read the full article here to learn more on the legal issues and what happened.
Finally, please enjoy this remarkably clever commercial by K-Mart.
Social Media Overload
Wed, April 17, 2013
As the number of social media networks grows and the number of people participating in these networks grows, the temptation to want your business on all of these networks grows as well. But is this the right way of thinking about it?
We've all been online and seen companies out there that have a giant row of social media icons -- share this, share that, friend me, like this page, etc -- but have you ever looked to see just how active the business is? Often times you'll see that a business will only use one, maybe two accounts seriously and the rest they have on the site "just because."
It's a keeping-up-with-the-Joneses situation where nobody wins.
There are only a few "catch all" social media networks out there that cater to everyone. The rest all have a niche that cater to certain users. When your deciding on a strategy for your social media marketing efforts, look at your business and decide which social network would benefit you the most.
Limiting the number of social media networks your business uses also helps with quality. You'll have more time to focus on engaging your customers, attracting new customers and building your network by focusing your efforts on one, two or three networks as opposed to trying to put yourself out there on everything.
Another benefit of limiting your social media marketing is having more room on your website and promotional materials for more beneficial features. Despite what some people may think, seeing a row of 10+ social media logos on a website doesn't really get folks excited. Use this space for better things -- a bigger phone number, a special box, anything really is better than just a row of icons with logos from various other companies.
By limiting the number of social media networks you participate in, you'll also be able to more effectively target your users and attract more users.
5 Power Tools To Connect with Your Visitors
Tue, April 16, 2013
Your site should be a money-making, lead-generating, business-growing asset that outperforms all other sources. If it’s not, here are five tools that will take your site, and your business, to the next level. Next to each item is the “Power Factor” that will help you determine what tools to use and when. Best of all, once you’ve implemented these tools, you’ll see the business start flowing and you’ll be looking for even more ways to optimize your site for your consumers’ needs.
Pop Up Email Requests
In 2012 we tested aggressively pushing email signups to 1st time site visitors and found that people are more than willing to share their email if you do one super secret internet strategy… Just ask them.
Oddly enough in every instance where we added an email pop up we increased conversions by upwards of 1,000% or more. In the example shown here for the Caribbean Resort we were able to increase the email collection from just 3,700 in 2011 up to an impressive 30,100 in 2012!
Mobile is mainstream. Visitors are just as likely to be browsing your site on a tablet or phone as they are a typical laptop/desktop computer. In 2013, there is no reason to continue to force consumers to choose between the full breadth of content on your site and the convenience of browsing on their phone. A site that scales between all platforms will allow your visitor to choose how they want to interact with you and always get the full benefit your site offers.
Unfortunately for our society, we don’t read, but boy do we love our video! Take advantage of consumers love of all things non-reading by building an impressive video gallery. Video provides several benefits to a site:
- Sticky content that will engage a user for the length of the video (if interesting of course)
- A platform for search content in transcripts and surrounding copy
- Value to your YouTube channel (if hosting videos via YouTube)
- Great content to promote inbound links (natural and promotional)
Big Ass Nav
Okay, we’re trying to come up with a better name for a full function, rich, mega, content rich navigation, but in reality, just a really big ass nav will do the trick. Our research has shown that we can efficiently drive visitors deeper into the conversion funnel quicker by giving them intuitive options in the navigation. In one wildly successful instance, we built a dropdown that pulled latest news into the news dropdown which greatly improved content usage on the site. In turn, more visitors stayed on the site longer and resulted in an improved conversion rate to bookings.
Here’s the wild card and is the thing that will really set your site apart from your competitors. Since your “something cool” is going to be unique to your site I can’t tell you what it is, but here are a few ideas:
- What makes you unique? If your company is a automotive parts company and you sell to end consumers, what do they need to buy your products. For instance, would a tool where a user will click a series of sounds their car is making narrow down the issues help you sell that new flux capacitor that will fix their vehicle?
- What’s fun that will keep your visitors coming back? We used to have a lunch idea generator on our site that was a big hit. We’ve since taken it down… but be patient it’s coming back better than ever.
- Remember that the “something cool” should not be purely in the site design, like a neat gallery, dropdown effect or other element. It should be something that your consumer will appreciate and want to use over and over again.
Adobe Summit 2013 Wrap-up Part 3: Analytics Rock Stars
Tue, April 16, 2013
This was a GREAT session for the person looking to improve the way s/he does the analytics analysis and reporting. This panel of presenters included Brent Dykes from Adobe, the VP of Fan Insights at NFL, the Director of Analytics from Brooks Brothers, and the person I was most interested in hearing, Nancy Koons, the Sr. Manager, Web Analytics at Vail Resorts.
- Implementation: Garbage in = garbage out. Debug your implementation, and then debug it some more.
- Establish a process with business owners for capturing goals, KPIs, and technical requirements
- Debug again after launch, and confirm what was signed off on in development was actually delivered in production
- Your PM is your BFF. Tell him/her to alert you on EVERYTHING, even if s/he doesn’t think it applies to analytics.
- When you display the results, show the key metric, and only the key metric. THEN dig into the whys (nice segue into the next area).
- Dashboards: make the titles descriptive, choose the best graph, find the right format, create date comparison reportlets, skip “today” in any weekly reports since “today” does not have complete data
- ReportBuilder: utilize the features in Excel to format, leverage the queries you have built to feed multiple reports, include instructions so others can re-use your Excel workbook
- We must get feedback from the consumer (if there is a customer service group to tap into, that can be very helpful). Test new ideas that come from feedback.
- Do usability studies, online surveys
- Use the internal site search data. Filter on the who, what, where, when, why and how terms. These types of searches typically have such a long tail, that they won’t show up at the top of the regular report without purposefully filtering them.
- Use data + storytelling: use analogies to help your audience relate to what you are trying to present.
- Experiment with the delivery of insights: try email, virtual meetings and in-person meetings to determine which method works best.
This tip is my favorite, as it specifically applies to the travel industry, and came from Vail Resorts: look at your data from a seasonal standpoint, in addition to the standard calendar dates. For example, in Myrtle Beach “peak season” would be considered Memorial Day through Labor Day, but we really do have many more seasons than that. This year, Easter falls at the end of March, while last year it fell later in April. We should be comparing Easter to Easter data to see the true relationship of this season. Looking at March to March data is not going to give us the same insight.
Friday Fuel: ISP complaints, Facebook makes me angry, the second coming of Penguin & more!
Fri, April 12, 2013
When your internet is dreadfully slow or goes out entirely, you might feel there is nothing left to do with your day than to get them on the phone and complain. If you like complaining, we can add something to your cue cards for your next call to your provider. It turns out that some ISPs are overlaying ads onto the sites you visit. In the article, it was narrowed down to CMA Communications, a rural cable ISP in the south. They were also found to be replacing ads on high-profile sites with their own ads. To advertisers, this kind of thing is troublesome. They pay for those ads to appear and ISPs should not interfere with that. For more details on this article, including some nerdy sleuthing, check it out here: http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2013/04/how-a-banner-ad-for-hs-ok/
Dr. Facebook Asks How You Feel
Yet another Facebook change… Is it for the better? For the worse? How does it make you feel? Luckily, you can log in to Facebook and tell the world! Facebook has begun to roll out emotions, among other things. You can write a status and include an emotion associated with it. “I just stuffed myself with bacon” – Feeling Satisfied. I know I have seen it on my newsfeed here and there. Maybe I’m just feeling cynical, but most of the people I see that have it are completely undeserving of it. I think the techy people get this kind of thing last so Mark Zuckerberg can laugh at our pain.
In addition to your feels, you can also include what you are reading, watching, listening to, drinking, eating. Essentially, you can make two statuses into one or you can use your skills from the department of the redundancy department. “Deadmau5 is incredible!” – Listening to Deadmau5. Read more on this story here: http://techcrunch.com/2013/04/09/facebook-mood/
The Second Coming Is Nigh
If you work in SEO, Google is surely your religion and Matt Cutts is your pope. I’m here to spread the good word. The second coming of Penguin is upon us. To keep things short, the future Penguin update is believed to focus on resolving a few things including bad network neighborhoods, hilly linking profiles, how trust is measured, social signals, and more. For network neighborhoods, Google will take a look at the network graph and begin to devalue sites in areas that appear spammy. While Google is already pretty good at looking at link spikes, with the new Penguin, we are expecting to see Google look at your linking profile more in aggregate over a given time. There are graphs and a lot more information in the article, so check it out for yourself: http://searchenginewatch.com/article/2260002/Google-Penguin-the-Second-Major-Coming-How-to-Prepare
But I’m sure you are wondering how you can prepare your site for this. Have no fear. Google is giving you one last chance to repent for your SEO sins. Google has provided us with a link disavow tool, which allows you to tell Google that you have bad links to your site and Google should not count them. Whether you have been toting your black hat or a low-quality site has linked back to you, you just put in that request to Google to treat these as a nofollow link. You might have been hit with penalties already, so act quickly. Learn more about this tool here: http://searchengineland.com/how-google-disavow-link-tool-remove-penalties-154928
eBay Monetizes Consumer Data
Stephen Howard-Sarin reports that eBay is monetizing its consumer data. No, they aren’t selling off your credit card numbers or PayPal accounts; they are allowing advertisers to segment consumers on eBay. Next time you look at a life-size Chewbacca statue on eBay, don’t be surprised when you start to see ads for other movie collectibles. Read more: http://marketingland.com/retargeting-to-ebay-shoppers-now-possible-39340
Bing Follows In Google’s Footsteps… Again
It’s not like we didn’t see it coming. Bing is a sheep that would follow Google off a cliff, even if it took a decade to do it. So what is Bing doing now? They are coming out with product ads around the third quarter of this year. Bing is recommending that you have your API code ready by early summer to prepare for this. They will generate ads that tap into real-time catalogs to show price, description and a pretty picture. Find out more here: http://community.bingads.microsoft.com/ads/en/api/b/blog/archive/2013/04/10/prepare-for-product-ads-coming-in-q3-2013.aspx
So much more happened this week that I cannot get to it all. Here are some of the rest that you should check out.
Social & Content Marketing Lessons From Australia: http://searchenginewatch.com/article/2260735/9-Content-Marketing-Lessons-From-Tourism-Australia
“Internet Money” Bitcoin Crashes To Half Its Value: http://arstechnica.com/business/2013/04/bitcoin-crashes-losing-nearly-half-of-its-value-in-six-hours/
Death To Patent Squatters – New Startup Pushes To End Patent Privateering: http://bgr.com/2013/04/08/patent-trolls-google-startup-423553/
Adobe Summit 2013 Wrap-up Part 2: Time-Saving Tips in SiteCatalyst Advanced
Thu, April 11, 2013
For more on the Adobe Summit Wrap-Up, check out Adobe Summit 2013 Wrap-up: Part 1.
SiteCatalyst Advanced: The Time-Saving Tips You're Not Using
This session featured one of my favorite Adobe peeps, Ben Gaines. We found out we’re not alone when we say that “I have to spend 60% of my time NOT doing analytics.” These tips were meant to help both the analyst and the analyst’s colleagues/clients to alleviate some of the common issues that come up. I’m going to break down these tips into groups of people who most benefit from them:
1. Create segmented dashboards so you can see all of your segments in one place. You can create the same reportlets with multiple segments so the data can be compared across those segments easily. These dashboards can be copied over to client/other stakeholder logins.
2. Retroactive historical data on newly enabled features: this isn’t so much a hands-on tip, but a good fact to know. There are a few features that when they are enabled will have historical data available in the reports from even before they were enabled: correlations, participation model, and pathing.
3. Latency notification: this one crosses all types of users. In the upcoming releases of SiteCatalyst, there is going to be a message that is given when a report loads that will notify you of how current the data actually is. We were also told that the latency is going to be much shorter than it is now.
1. Key Metrics Report: Use this built-in feature, but make sure the correct metrics are set up for the site that are most useful. Then, the report can be saved as a bookmark, and the bookmark can be copied over to a client/other stakeholder’s login, and set as a landing page. BAM! The most important data will now be front and center when those people log into SiteCatalyst.
2. Create the Key Metrics Report, as listed above, except apply a segment (or several segments as noted in item 1 above) before sharing it.
3. Calendar Events: This tip really goes for all SiteCatalyst users. Now that calendar events can be created to be specific to a report suite instead of having them shared across all report suites per user name, let’s start using them! Data without context is meaningless. Using the calendar events will let you start keeping track of campaign dates, site changes, implementation changes, or anything else your heart desires. They can be color and shape-coded. They can be created by any user, shared, and then copied by other users.
Advanced Analyst/Data Administrator:
2. Build segments in the admin console instead of the regular interface. This allows the segment to be used by anyone with access to that report suite. It will alleviate the need to re-create the segments under each login that needs access to those segments.
1. Context data variables: when the developer or IT department doesn’t want to be bothered with learning all about those crazy things called eVars and s.Props, they can use context data variables instead to pass through a user-friendly variable name instead. When using these, SiteCatalyst will automatically collect the data, and the data administrator can simply map these new user-friendly names to the appropriate eVar or s.Prop that s/he will create.
Google Glasses Are Arriving Soon
Wed, April 10, 2013
Over a month ago, I saw this amazing video floating around my twitter feed:
Almost immediately, I went to http://google.com/glass and checked out the information. They were having a contest on Google Plus and on Twitter. Use the hashtag phrase #ifihadglass and tell Google what you would do with a pair. They would pick winners of those with the most creative or interesting tweets.
For those unfamiliar with Project Glass, it aims to provide augmented reality to its users. By using voice commands, you can take pictures and record videos, find directions to the nearest park, see reviews of restaurants and hotels, and much more. Here is another more recent video from Google.
Through the contest, a lucky few would receive the chance to purchase the glasses much earlier than the general public.
I entered the contest on February 20. On Saturday, March 30, I received a notification on my phone that @projectglass had responded to one of my tweets. They had picked my submission.
So in a few weeks, I’ll fly up to New York City and become one of the first people with Google Glasses. And I couldn’t be more excited. I’m hoping to bring back the glasses to our offices and to begin work with our team to create new ways for our clients and their customers to interact with the newest technology.
Leave a comment on how you would use Google Glasses.
Adobe Summit 2013 Wrap-up Part 1: The Last Millisecond
Tue, April 09, 2013
Adobe recently held its annual Digital Marketing Summit in Salt Lake City, Utah, and Fuel took the opportunity to be a part of what some people would say is the best digital conference available. It was quite a week! The amount of information was overwhelming so we'll share what we learned in a series of blog posts.
The theme of the conference was "The Last Millisecond;" a concept presented in the opening session by VP Brad Rencher. He used a baseball analogy saying that the difference between a homerun and strike or foul ball is what happens in the last millisecond between the bat and the ball. If you follow that analogy to digital marketing, it's the last millisecond of when a visitor chooses to come to your website, and the experience given to that visitor. Digital marketing has to deliver the exact right experience at the exact right time, ALL the time.
With that concept in mind, Adobe is rolling out some big changes that will enable the digital marketer to do just that. We watched a "mega-demo" showing how the Adobe Creative Cloud is going to integrate with the Adobe Marketing Cloud.
The systems will use what I would describe as Pinterest-like boards for users. Someone from the creative department can pin a new creative to a board, which is shared with a developer to change on the website, which is then seen by the analyst's board. The analyst can then pin back a report to share the outcome of the change with the creative department. It's a very exciting concept.
Some other features that will be available from an analytics standpoint are anomaly detection and on-the-fly segmentation. The anomaly detection will help alert you when something is out of the normal range for a report. This could be due to something good, like you sent an email out, and revenue spiked. Or could be that conversion rate is suddenly low, and you find out that your tracking broke.
On-the-fly segmentation is one of the items I am most excited about. As it stands now, in SiteCatalyst 15, you can create on-demand segments by going through a wizard when you are ready to create the segment. This new feature is taking on-demand to a new level. This will allow you to create segments as you looking at reports; basically you'll be able to click on a bunch of items within a report, and create a segment from those items.
Building a Superhero Optimization Organization
At one of the first break-out sessions, we got to hear from representatives from Dell and Symantec about building an organization that is focused on optimization. Some optimization road blocks that are common within organizations are: lack of funding, insufficient skills, delayed tests, and a "we don't need to test" philosophy. The panel emphasized that in their organizations they know optimization is going to be hard; it's going to take time, and to expect failures at first. In order to build a great program: assess your current program, engage a committed executive sponsor, start testing, iterate your process, get teams involved, and align with the business, measure progress and highlight the results. We agree, and it was great to hear it from this panel!
Next up: SiteCatalyst Advanced: The Time-Saving Tips You're Not Using
Friday Fuel: Facebook Home, Google Shopping, Vadering and more
Fri, April 05, 2013
Android users will be able to experience a new kind of Facebook with their new app called Home. Facebook Home will offer a Cover Feed which will be featured on your droid’s home screen. You’ll also be able to carry on multiple conversations with friends through chat heads which shows your contacts as little pop up heads. The app will be available on April 12.
Google Shopping Express Service
Google opened up its Google Shopping Express service this week and is testing same day delivery in San Francisco. Participating stores include American Eagle, Target, Walgreens, Staples, Toys “R” Us, Office Depot and several others. With the service you can get unlimited same-day delivery meaning that you can order from multiple retailers and you’ll get everything you need at the same time.
Vadering goes viral
Vadering is the latest craze in the twitterverse and we’d imagine it won’t take long for it to hit other networks just as hard. Check out #vadering on Twitter to join in on the excitement. People are getting pretty creative with it. We’re just glad that the Harlem Shake is on the way out!
Terry the Terrible Marketer Gets Real with Oprah
Terry the Terrible Marketer is at it again and helping spread the word about the New South Digital Marketing Conference held May 17 in Myrtle Beach. In the latest video, Terry comes clean about his “black hat” SEO tactics to Oprah. Also, they talk about poop. Check it out here.
Forum Administration: Making A Successful Online Community
Wed, April 03, 2013
Outside of my work at Fuel Interactive, I help out my community. Well, my online community that I share a common interest with. I am a forum administrator for a car forum, specifically for the Hyundai Tiburon. If you haven’t heard of the car, that’s because it was discontinued in 2008. Even though the car is no longer produced, the community for it continues to grow. I will take you behind the scenes of what it is like to run a forum and answer some questions that I typically get related to internet forums.
What Do Admins Really Do?
Aside from actually making the site work, both admins and moderators on forums kind of take on a member relations role. Most, if not all, of the staff members come out of the community and are chosen based on their leadership, their actions and how they think, which are important traits because we also have to be the police of the forum. Sometimes people violate the rules which infringes on the enjoyment of the forum by other members and sometimes people infringe on sponsors of the site (in our case, selling products that compete with companies that pay to exclusively sell on the site). Admins take on extra responsibilities, which involve leading the staff and making important decisions to enhance the experience for all the members. Permanent member bans come to an admin decision. While we typically try not to ban people, sometimes it feels all too sweet to click that ban button. Ultimately, forum admins are the leaders that set the example for how the rest of the forum should act. After all, without the members, the forum is worthless.
How To Start A Forum
Forums are built on shared interest. Some forums will get a huge following and others will never take off. It really comes down to the user experience. Forums can contain a wealth of information and it is all user-generated. The key to a successful forum is to make that information easily obtainable and to keep people around to generate conversation. That can make you wonder why people continue to take an interest in a forum for a car that was discontinued five years ago. While the cars see new owners, new problems arise and new ideas come about to modify them. Because of this, we typically see over 100 people online at any given time and hundreds of new posts per day.
Having the right staff is a huge factor to the success of the forum as well. This is why you want to put members on your staff, because they have an interest in the forum and are likely to treat everyone with a similar interest. They are also likely to stick around the site for much longer. I have not even owned a Tiburon since 2008 and I am still there.
“Do you get paid to be an admin?” No, I am there with an interest in the community. I have met a lot of people on the forum and I will meet a lot more. It is pretty fun getting to know everybody.
“How much time do you spend on the forum every day?” It is kind of like a full-time, on-call job. The forum is always open in a tab so I can quickly access it if a problem arises. All of the staff members get automated emails for things such as reported posts. I also just go through it when I have some time to kill, just to participate as a part of the community.
“Why are the moderators/admins such jerks sometimes?” Welcome to the internet!
“No really…” Oh, well, the forum has rules created by the staff for a reason. Because the staff comes out of the population, we want to keep the forum as member-friendly as possible. Sometimes we have to come down hard on people who want to make that experience less enjoyable.
“Why do you care so much about forums?” It’s a completely different part of social media. Facebook is for being connected to my friends, Twitter is for pretending people care about what I say in 140 characters, Google+ is for… uhhh…., but forums are a place I know I can go where everybody has the same passions I have.
A successful forum comes down to having a staff that truly cares about the community, so get involved as much as you can.
Google Releases Platypus to Target Poor Spelling And Grammar
Mon, April 01, 2013
Over the past few years, Google has launched several algorithm changes aimed at improving the quality of its Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).
Through articles such as “More Guidance on Building High-Quality Sites,” Google has been encouraging webmasters to produce quality content.
In February 2011, Google officially launched its “Panda” update, which aimed to penalize low-quality sites or sites that contained shallow content. Over the past 2 years, Google has launched 25 separate updates to Panda, as recently as March 18, 2013.
Next, Google released its “Penguin” update in April 2012. The aim of this change was to crack down on sites that violated Google’s Webmaster Guidelines by using black-hat SEO tactics, such as keyword stuffing and cloaking. Some high-profile marketers have come out and admitted to utilizing these unscrupulous SEO tactics. This problem was recently brought to the forefront of main-stream media when Oprah interviewed Terry “The Terrible Marketer” Trebeck.
According to Google’s own Blog, Webmasters who may be concerned about Google’s algorithm changes should ask themselves several questions, including:
- Would you trust the information presented in this article?
- Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature?
- Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?
This is where it gets interesting …
Google’s Matt Cutts stated recently that Google would no longer be officially announcing new algorithm updates. However, employees within the company have told Search Engine Land that there is in fact a new secret algorithm change that is being released in April 2013.
The naming of the new algorithm change follows in the tradition of animals beginning with the letter “P.” Inspired by Agent P from the hit Disney show, “Phineus and Ferb,” the new update will be officially referred to as “Platypus”.
What is Platypus?
Platypus is the new algorithm update for the Google Search Engine. It will be released in April 2013.
What does Platypus Target?
Platypus will focus primarily on websites that contain poor spelling, grammar and punctuation.
Is there a Comprehensive List of Issues Targeted by Platypus?
There isn’t an official list, but some of the common mistakes that will be targeted include:
- Incorrect usage of “there,” “their” and “they’re”
- Using “me” as the subject of a sentence as opposed to “I”
- Using apostrophes to create plural words
- Using “affect” as a noun or “effect” as a verb
- Run-on sentences
- Comma splicing
- Overuse of TLAs (Three-letter acronyms)
Perhaps the biggest controversy surrounding Platypus is its seemingly irrational penalty for the overuse of exclamation points. Critics argue that this penalty is sexist, as it has been scientifically documented that women use this form of punctuation 7 times more frequently than men. A female representative from the New South Digital Marketing Conference, who wished to remain anonymous, has gone on record as saying “I know that one exclamation point is usually sufficient. But I enjoy being able to use three or more at a time. It portrays the fact that I am super excited about something.”
Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer added to the firestorm by stating “I am a woman!!! If a company makes a change that penalizes me for my gender, I am not in favor of that!!!!!!” According to sources close to Marissa, Yahoo has no plans to penalize the overuse of exclamation points or any other punctuation for that matter.
Google has yet to comment on the criticism of Platypus.
On a slight side-note, Google had previously used the codename Platypus for it’s now defunct GDrive product, which was originally released in 2006. Google has wanted to reuse the name for several years and has often stated that they are committed to the success of Platypus, both the animal and the codename.
Friday Fuel: Good Friday/ Thursday Fuel Edition
Thu, March 28, 2013
So it isn’t Friday technically but our office is closed tomorrow so I decided to knock out our delicious round up of internet marketing news today. Ready? Okay...
Apple Maps: Competition for Google?
Andrew Shotland (an expert on Local SEO) gave an interview earlier this week about Apple Maps and how while they had a slow start (infamously directing people to the Australian outback when they first came out) he thinks they have a bright future when it comes to fixing some of the issues local businesses have found with Google+ and are a thing for local businesses to keep an eye on as Apple tablets dominate the market.
Right now Google is the left image and Apple is the right but if Apple decides to take on the map market...how long will that last?
You can read all Shotland has to say here: http://www.localvisibilitysystem.com/2013/03/25/andrew-shotland-talks-apple-maps-marketing/
Replies: at long last
Facebook announced on Monday that it will finally giving pages the chance to reply to comments on their wall, as opposed to the other awkward ways page managers have found to try to let fans know they’re responding to their questions (like tagging them in the response post). The feature will be opt-in until July. Visit this Mashable story for more details. http://mashable.com/2013/03/25/facebook-replies/
“Fire Me” tweets
This one hits close to home for me since a friend of mine recently lost his job shortly after tweeting about his search for another job. There is an app out there that will alert you to how your tweets might look to your boss. Twitter is especially dangerous for this since people feel like they’ll be safe if they are only followed by friends or a few people, but retweets can take your original tweet very far. Get the full breakdown on this app here: http://mashable.com/2013/03/26/fire-me-app-twitter/
Silver Lining to Enhanced PPC Campaigns
There has been a lot of talk about how Adwords enhanced campaigns could mean a rude awakening for internet marketers who are used to doing this a certain way (for example, having a separate campaign for their mobile and desktop campaigns) but this post talks about a “plus” to the new settings-being able to set bid percentages for geographic locations which could be very useful for small business campaigns especially. This post walks you through how and why you might want to play around with this feature. http://www.ppchero.com/enhanced-campaign-silver-linings-geo-targeting/
Negative domain name management
This is something that big brands probably have to worry about more than small businesses, but it doesn’t hurt to think about. This post is all about the urls that your company might want to go ahead and buy if there is any concern about someone else buying them to turn in to a negative campaign. For example, Fuelinteractivesucks.com. I think this one excerpt speaks to what a lot of people might be thinking too
“I’m not doing anything shady, so I don’t need to buy negative domains”. That may be true, and I believe you. But reality sets in when I ask them to think of their favorite brand, and then think about how they may not please everyone. Think about how if they hire someone to manage their social media that the responsibility of the brand’s message is in the hands of a human, and we all make mistakes. Sh*t happens! Even to the best brands.
You can read the full post here: http://www.trackur.com/guide-negative-domain-names-reputation-management
Not sure if I should write about this…
I’m not going to include the link here because it contains a word that might get me in trouble. But for a little bit of a laugh, as well as some pretty good basic tips on SEO you should check out this site *Warning: it contains two things I very much enjoy, vulgar humor/language and SEO so don’t click if you’re offended by either of those* FingSEOTips
Sports and Social Media: How Twitter Turned a March Cinderella Into a National Story
Thu, March 28, 2013
#FGCU... a little hashtag representative of a fairly small Division 1A school, that spent an entire weekend as a top worldwide trending topic on Twitter. Florida Gulf Coast University’s weekend upset victories in the first two rounds of NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship launched this tiny school and its fun-loving, high-flying players and their software mogul turned basketball coach into the national spotlight.
But before the Good Morning America’s of the world, or the countless talking heads at ESPN who litter the network’s daytime programming, or the hundreds of sports radio shows across the country spent all day Monday yammering about the historic pair of upsets, the conversation had already been had... some 60 hours earlier after upsetting Big East heavyweight Georgetown. And a second time Sunday night during the Eagles’ second half runaway from San Diego State in the Round of 32.
#FGCU. “Huh?” [click] “OH MY--” [changes tv channel immediately]
This was Friday evening for non-Georgetown fans scouring Twitter while watching another game and not paying attention to the tiny score bugs the networks clump atop the screens during games. Suddenly, over the span of a wild second half with the Hoyas that saw dunk after highlight-reel dunk, almost reminiscent of the great 1980’s “Showtime” Lakers, this story started to snowball to transcend sports, mostly because it was the dominant topic across social media.
The first weekend of the tournament was ridiculously fun; full of upsets, busted brackets, dominant performances by only a few heavy favourites, and many close and entertaining games. It also gave rise to probably one of the first Cinderella’s of March to break the glass ceiling of the sports world, because unlike the Butler’s and George Mason’s of years past, they got everyone’s attention in the moment.
Over the next several weeks I’ll be examining how fans across different sports not only consume and interact with one another, and with their respective teams and leagues, but how we now do more than just shape a conversation, we can help start a new one. #FGCU indeed.
Friday Fuel: Kindle share buttons, banned phone numbers in ads, Short Cutts and dongle drama
Fri, March 22, 2013
'Send to Kindle' button launch
As an avid kindle fan, I'm pretty excited about the new "Send to kindle" button announced by Amazon in a blog post this week. The button, which is implemented like other share buttons on the web, allows users to send articles to their kindle to read later. Several news sites, such as the Washington Post and TIME have already added the button to their articles.
Google bans phone numbers from ads
Beginning in April, ads on google's AdWords network will no longer be able to include phone numbers unless you use the call extensions (or click-to-call on mobile devices) feature. For mobile calls, advertisers will be charged the standard click rate when users click to call their business. For legacy campaigns, each call to the call extension number will cost advertisers $1. Here's a breakdown of the pricing.
The Short Cutts
Hat tip to Fueligan Gina for this cool find on the web. Google's Matt Cutts answers SEO questions regularly through the company's Webmaster Help YouTube channel, now totaling more than 500 videos. The videos are great and helpful, especially when you have plenty of time to get your nerd on watching them for hours -- which I admit I've done. But for those pressed for time, The Short Cutts site provides a searchable archive of all the videos along with a brief text answer of the question. The boiled-down version is helpful when you need a quick answer to your pressing SEO ponderings without watching a two-minute video explanation.
Really? ... The 'dongle' joke drama
An admittedly juvenile joke made by a conference attendee has caused massive repercussions for two people's careers. Long story short: Adria Richards, a "developer evangelist" for SendGrid, overheard a conversion between men sitting behind her a the Pycon conference in which one joked about his "big dongle." Offended by the jokes, Richards took a picture of the men and tweeted it along with a plea to conference organizers to deal with them. The men were asked to leave the conference, and one was later fired from his job over the incident. An internet firestorm erupted, and Richards was subsequently let go from her job as well.
I'm merely a spectator here, of course, knowing only what I read on various articles and blogs. But I am shocked and amazed at how out of hand something like this can get -- and how seemingly needless it all was. The developer who lost his job issued an apology on Hacker News, taking responsibility for his joke and demonstrating that he seems to be a very reasonable and approachable person. A father of three is now out of work over a not-even-that-funny joke. If Richards had just confronted him personally, I can't believe he wouldn't have apologized and stopped then.
The incident leaves us with so many questions: Why was Richards so quick to go the public flogging route with these men instead of just addressing them directly? Are women in the tech world really the victims that she made us out to be? Are all the trolls that came out of the woodwork to post horrible things about Richards and make threats to her and women in general really for real, and can they be forced to wear signs so we know to avoid them in real life?
It's an interesting case study in how a small incident -- in the grand scheme of things it was a dumb joke intended as harmless fun -- can snowball into something life-changing for the people involved.
Developing your website’s content strategy: 6 tips to get you started
Wed, March 20, 2013
Content is king.
You've heard that one, right? This has been the mantra in the web marketing world for a few years now. But it's almost an understatement at this point. What's bigger than the king? Because that's how you should be thinking about the content on your site.
As search engines become more savvy about sniffing out high-quality, engaging content -- Google's recent Panda update notably slashed the rankings of low-quality sites -- and users expect more from your business in terms of engagement online, good content should be the cornerstone of your online marketing efforts.
Here are 6 tips to get your started on developing your content strategy:
1. Begin at the beginning
It's easy to get excited about the idea of new content on your site and just jump into production, but first you need to assess where you're starting. Audit your site to see what content already exists. Are there any gems that could be re-written and used again? Are there pieces of content that performed well in the past or are still performing well? You want to hang onto the great stuff you already have. One key factor in web content's performance on search engines is its age. Your oldie-but-goodie content may just need some updating and refreshing to make it perform well again. Document everything you have and make note of what you should keep, ditch or refresh. And added bonus: You'll likely find inspiration for future content.
2. Know your audience
It's important when you're developing a content strategy to know what your audience is looking for. What content is useful and relevant for them? If you're unsure where to start, connect with your customers or potential customers through social channels to find out what their interests are. When you're brainstorming content ideas, keep them in mind. The content you create should be for them.
3. Brainstorm and evaluate
Hold an informal brainstorm session for members of your team. Ask them to toss out ideas for content that will connect with your audience. In this brainstorm, there are no bad ideas! Write everything down, and evaluate the ideas later. Put the ideas that you think are most likely to connect with your readers on your short list for your next step: creating a calendar.
4. Create a content calendar
Organization is key when moving forward with a content strategy. Create a content calendar and share it with key players in your organization. It can be helpful to think of regular pieces of content that can be produced on a specific day each week or month. For example, on our tourism site, we do a roundup of weekly events every Monday. When we're filling out our content calendar, we always know we have that roundup on Mondays. It's quick and easy to put it together because we're in a routine with it, but it's great, useful content for our visitors who want to quickly see what's going on at the destination. An added bonus of the content calendar: It creates accountability -- even if you're only accountable to yourself. Stick to the deadlines you've set so you can maintain consistency in your publishing. It's important to your readers and to the search engines.
5. Hire professional writers
A serious content strategy requires consistent production of high-quality content. If you don't have the capacity within your company to produce quality content on a regular basis, consider hiring professional freelance writers. A good freelance writer is reliable, diligent about deadlines and requires little editing. The time and headache you save trying to get this work done by non-writers on staff will be worth the money you'll budget for freelancers.
6. Constantly evaluate and re-assess your strategy
Once you begin producing content regularly, you'll want to monitor the performance of that content. Is it getting traffic on your site? Are customers sharing the content on social media or leaving comments on it? When you find "sweet spots" where your customers are really interested in and engaging with your content, think about ways to expand on it. Produce more of what they like or continue improving the content that is getting good response.
Friday Fuel: 86 Google Reader; Wash You Face(book); eBay Drops a Bomb; Grumpy Cat Melts Hearts SXSW
Fri, March 15, 2013
86 Google Reader
Google announced yesterday that they are going to retire Google Reader this summer. Launched in 2005, Google Reader was created to make it easier for people to keep up with their favorite websites. Although Google claims that their Reader has a loyal following, usage has apparently declined over the past few years and they are more interested in investing their time and efforts into other products and services (Google Glass, anyone?). If you are an avid Google Reader user, fret not! You still have until July 1st to enjoy the service and inevitably find an alternative. For more information, check out their blog: http://googlereader.blogspot.com/2013/03/powering-down-google-reader.html
Wash Your Face(book)
We’ve all been there – The awkward pending Facebook friend request from your boss, co-worker, or parent-in-law. Before you panic and set up a new account, give SimpleWash a try. SimpleWash is a new app available that is designed specifically to clean up your potentially not so clean Facebook page. It works by scanning all of the information that shows up on your page, detects keywords that might be associated with things that you don’t want people to see, and flags that content so the user can easily remove it. So breathe easy and tell your mother in law hello sometime. Follow this link for more information: http://mashable.com/2013/03/10/simplewash/
eBay Drops a Bomb
eBay dropped a bomb on the marketing world earlier this week by claiming that SEM is all but “worthless”. These stunning allegations come after the company discontinued paid search for brand keywords for a limited time and saw little to no impact on sales or site traffic. eBay claims that a majority of their brand search traffic came from organic links and only a marginal amount came from non-branded keywords. Obviously Google had a response for this and referred to the vast amounts of research that they have stockpiled that proves the contrary. Wordstream’s CEO has another explanation for why eBay’s campaigns performed as they did, alleging that eBay’s SEM campaigns “suck”. Interesting arguments across the table, what do you think about the Google –vs- eBay debacle? Read more here: http://searchengineland.com/ebay-says-adwords-ineffective-google-research-contradict-ebay-findings-151573
Tech Nerds’ springs break is officially over this weekend as the SXSW Convention 2013 comes to a close. The tech highlight so far has been Google releasing more information on the ever coveted Google Glass. Other buzz comes not from legitimate company news but from interesting and somewhat tacky marketing stunts, including everything from a giant “Free Tacos & Beer” sign from Bloomfire to a giant yam situated in the middle of the showroom via TriNet. Apparently, however, the real highlight of the event so far has been the presence of Grumpy Cat, the lovable and always grumpy cat that became a worldwide meme sensation. Stay tuned for more antics this weekend before SXSW comes to a close on Sunday. Find out more about the SXSW shenanigans here: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/sxsw-2013-highlights-grumpy-cat-wearable-computers-marketing/story?id=18718785
Friday Fuel: Facebook Changes Again, YouTube May Start Streaming, TweetDeck Updates & #NSD2013
Fri, March 08, 2013
Facebook's Newsfeed Gets a New Look
Facebook announced more changes this week (what’s new?). This time, it’s to the newsfeed which, in our opinion, is in desperate need of updates. They’ll have more feeds available as “sub-feeds” and better ways of organizing the news you want to see. Read more about that in an earlier blog from today. http://www.fuelinteractive.com/blog/facebook-announces-new-news-feed
YouTube wants a piece of the music streaming pie
YouTube plans to launch a subscription of music service later in the year to compete with services like Spotify. Currently YouTube sells ads with its music videos and gives a percentage to the record labels and companies. With the new service, you’ll still be able to listen to your favorite tracks for free but you’ll also have an option to subscribe for a fee to enjoy additional features and likely ad-free music. The new service will likely compete with Google Play for Androids which is said to pop up later in the year. Read more about the music news here: http://tech.fortune.cnn.com/2013/03/05/youtube-streaming/
Twitter Shuts down TweetDeck for Facebook
TweetDeck users will soon have to find a new app to post to Facebook. TweetDeck, which was acquired by Twitter in 2011, will no longer support integration with Facebook for Android and iPhone app users. They are moving their focus to the web and Chrome apps to “provide the best TweetDeck experience yet” according to the team. The details on the decision to discontinue support for Facebook are still vague. For more information you can follow this link: http://techcrunch.com/2013/03/04/twitter-shuts-down-tweetdeck-for-android-iphone-and-air-discontinues-tweetdecks-facebook-integration/
New South Digital Marketing Conference to offer Early Bird Rates
The New South Digital Marketing Conference to be held in Myrtle Beach is offering an Early Bird Rate of $99/person through March 31, 2013. The conference will feature keynote speaker, Jay Baer, as well as other notable speakers from ExactTarget, BoomTown, The Brandon Agency and Fuel Interactive (woo hoo! That’s us!). The main event will be held at the Myrtle Beach Marriott Resort and Spa at Grande Dunes. For ticket information visit: http://www.newsouthdigital.com
If you’ve experienced any of the frustrations of logging into your google account, you’re not alone. This video pretty much nails it.
Facebook Announces New News Feed
Fri, March 08, 2013
Once again, Facebook rolled out some significant changes. This time though, I think it’s a crucial change in the right direction. They’re introducing a brand new look for your newsfeed- one that better organizes all of your stories into a format that’s easy to navigate.
The mission of the new newsfeed is to give each user the best possible personalized news recap. Your newsfeed will include a variety of content from local and socially relevant connections as well as things happening in a broader spectrum just outside of your network. You’ll be able to sort through by Most Recent, All Friends, Photos, Music, Games, Following and other friends lists. They’ll be listed in order of how often they’re used.
With the new organization, you won’t miss a thing. You can easily see all of the pictures your friends have posted (my favorite part from past versions) or your favorite artist’s new concert dates. They’re also rolling out a section where you’ll see relevant content personalized to you with trending topics, articles and popular posts. You can switch to any feed on the top right of the page at any time using the “switcher.”
The new news feed will be much larger than the current version which takes up roughly 40% of your screen. A few changes also relate the way specific content is displayed. Photos will take the spotlight (not really a new feature but they’re even bigger) and your photo albums will see a facelift as well. Instead of one main cover image, you’ll have one main image with several thumbnails underneath to show more of what your album actually contains. Next up, articles that you share will contain larger images with longer and more relevant summaries plus a logo from the publisher. You’ll also be able to see which of your friends have shared a particular video or article and what they’re saying about it with the quick movement of your mouse. Photos posted from a third party app like Pinterest will be much larger in order to better show off what your friends are pinning or even listening to.
As a brand manager, I’m excited for the “Following” feed which means that the fans that are engaged with my brand can find my posts in a simpler way. All they have to do is click on their “Following” list and they’ll see all posts from their favorite sports teams, restaurants and vacation spots. They can scroll for as long as they like without running into the repeated posts and stale news as was the case in the old newsfeed. Our fans can then see every single post that we make without navigating through our timeline. I believe it had the potential to reach more of our actively engaged fans who are out looking for our brand's posts.
Facebook promises that the versions from desktop to mobile and tablet will be much more similar than past versions creating more consistent experiences. They will be rolling out the new newsfeed to the desktop version soon (you can sign up for the waitlist at www.facebook.com/newsfeed). The mobile and tablet versions will follow in a few weeks.
Baking and Project Management Are Related?
Mon, March 04, 2013
Baking and Project Management in the same post…are you intrigued or thinking this person is a crazy, diehard sweets eater? This could be the start of one of these things is not like the other. But, they are actually quite similar when you break it down. (And, I am a crazy, diehard sweets eater.)
Baking is an exact science and hated by many. Some people don’t want to measure and sift and use a timer and test over and over just to make sure that their cake is a little slice of heaven. Other people , like me, love the process of following a recipe step by step, measuring precisely and waiting until the exact minute to remove their perfect masterpiece from the oven.
Project Management is a science as well. And, PM has its fans and its haters. “Doers” by nature love to outline a project and follow the directions step by step. “Thinkers” shun the process. They most likely think it holds back the creative process. But, proper project management is very important to the outcome of a project just like a proper recipe is crucial to baking and the final product.
In baking, you have the following – Temperature, Baking Time, Ingredients and Instructions. In Project Management, you have Budget, Timelines, Client Wants/Needs and Instructions. All of these items are extremely important to the final outcome -- be it a five-tier wedding cake or a top-tier responsive website with online reservations, a store, blog and photo/video galleries among many other items.
Ingredients are the backbone. If you are missing baking powder, your cake won’t rise. If you are missing a list of a site’s content and how images should fade in and content be updated in the CMS, then the client will not be happy with how the page functions – it flops just like the cake. Instructions are just as important as ingredients. You can’t make an ooey gooey brownie without following the proper steps (added bonus: awesome brownie recipe below!) – eggs and sugar must be beaten together before adding the flour. When managing a website project, developers need to know the steps first so they don’t build a site only to find out that it doesn’t function as the client wanted.
Baking Time is third on the list of importance. Cookies baked at 400 degrees might bake faster than called for but will burn and taste pretty gross, and cookies baked at 300 degrees will take longer than planned but will have a moist texture and taste great. Baking Time in Project Management equals the timeline. A proper timeline will yield a properly “baked” website. The site will go live without hiccups along the way and a lot of emergency fixes needed after the fact. A rushed site could mean bugs, errors, lack of polish and, ultimately, client dissatisfaction.
So, now that we all want cake and cookies, I will wrap by saying that Project Management needs to be a precise science just like baking, because just like baking, you only get out of it what you put into it. If you are okay with half-baked cakes and projects, then watch out for salmonella and upset clients. But, if you are willing to take time preparing your ingredients, outlining your instructions and timing your “bake” cycle, then you will be very pleased with your end product.
Brownies- Recipe from Kitchen Classics by Paula Deen
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 4 eggs
- 6 tablespooons cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1.5 cups self-rising flour
- 1 cup nuts (optional)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Blend together sugar, oil, eggs, cocoa and vanilla. Add flour; mix. Add nuts. Spread into greased 13x9 baking dish. Bake for 25-30 minutes.
Friday Fuel: Don’t Take Cookies From Strangers, Working Remote, Socializing
Fri, March 01, 2013
Mozilla is taking one out of your mother’s book, “Don’t take candy from strangers,” except this time, it is freshly baked third-party cookies. Safari has had a default setting for over 10 years to disallow third party cookies, which is what advertisers use to track your behavior. This tracking allows advertisers to better target you with ads that are designed to get you to make a purchase. Mozilla is following in Safari’s wake with their release of Firefox 22. Firefox 19 was just released on Tuesday, so it might still be a little bit before we see this happen. On the other hand, Internet Explorer allows most third-party cookies and Chrome allows all third party cookies, by default. Will we see these internet advertising giants follow Safari and Firefox’s examples to protect user privacy? Read more here - http://webpolicy.org/2013/02/22/the-new-firefox-cookie-policy/.
Yahoo! You can’t work remotely anymore!
This news is less celebratory in the employees’ eyes as the company name would lead you to believe. Marissa Mayer, the iconic female CEO of Yahoo!, made the executive decision this week to ban working from home. This comes as a surprise to a lot of people, considering she is a busy new mother who must balance work and family. Mayer believes that innovation comes from collaboration, which is much easier when you can personally work with someone. But wait, with the technology we have these days, you can communicate with someone across the world at light speed. Studies have also shown that employees have greater satisfaction and are 22% more productive when they work from home. Cisco reports a savings of $277 million per year based on one of their studies of telecommuting. Did Mayer just completely miss this memo? What does she really have up her sleeve? Find out more on this story here: http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/02/marissa-mayer-is-wrong-working-from-home-can-make-you-more-productive/273482/
Search Engines Become More Socially Acceptable
Get out of your dungeons, search engine optimizers. It’s time to see daylight and get more social. Back in 2010, SearchEngineJournal confirmed that both Google and Bing included social signals in their search algorithms. So, if you are still focusing all of your SEO efforts on keywords and word counts, you probably see your fair share of daylight and socialization by sitting on your porch rocker all day shouting at kids to get off your lawn. This begs the question: where are these social signals coming from? Facebook Shares and tweets have an enormous impact on your site’s search engine rank. And we can’t forget Google+, which you are virtually forced into, these days (ha, and you thought Google+ was worthless). Google+ collects data from all across Google’s network, including YouTube, Chrome, Android, Maps, and Gmail and they funnel it all in to their search engine algorithm. So, it’s time to put your SEO team and your Social team together and tell them to play nice with each other – your website depends on it. Your KPIs are shifting as well. Keyword rankings mean less and less as time goes on because Google is personalizing searches and changing results based on location. Just because the SERP tracker is telling you where keywords rank does not mean that is, across the board, what everybody sees. The primary KPIs you will want to focus on with your new Social SEO strategy is organic traffic and conversions. After all, those are the true goals of the website. Read more on this new age of SEO here: http://www.searchenginejournal.com/social-seo-insights-for-the-new-age-of-search/59803/
Friday Fuel: Hack Week, “Working”, Yo’ Website So Ugly and More!
Fri, February 22, 2013
Earlier this week the Twitter-verse was alight with brands getting hacked or “hacked”. It started with Burger King’s twitter getting hacked and then Jeep and then people thought MTV and BET got hacked but that turned out to be a PR stunt…and then I honestly stopped paying attention because it was getting exhausting keeping up with who was hacked and who was pretending to get hacked. But the biggest thing that has come out of this, besides the fact that getting hacked or even pretending to get hacked will increase your Twitter followers a ton, is that Twitter really needs 2 step verification for big brand accounts. So we’ll be keeping an eye out for that very, very soon.
Trust Me: I’m a Search Engine
Another interesting bit of news was a study that came out that said that search engines are at least as trusted as traditional media and more trusted than social media. 58% said they trust search engines and traditional media for information. Search Engine Land has a really good breakdown of the data that you can read here- http://searchengineland.com/search-engines-more-trusted-than-social-media-for-news-information-study-148914
Non-Brand PPC Working, Even When It Doesn’t “Work”
There was also a really interesting post on Search Engine Watch about non-brand paid keywords. This is something we here at Fuel talk about ALL the time with clients and internally. In this post Jason Tabeling talks about why it may be a good idea to spend money on non-brand keywords even if they don’t produce an awesome ROI. One of the examples he gives is that non-brand keywords might produce an offline impact and I know that since we recently implemented a new call tracking system for some of our PPC clients, we’ve been blown away by the amount of impact PPC ads have that doesn’t translate into a direct booking from the ad. I don’t agree with everything said in this post but it is certainly interesting and I agree that:
"The true value of non-branded terms will continue to be a hot topic for a long time to come."
You can read the full post here http://searchenginewatch.com/article/2244429/3-Reasons-Its-OK-That-Non-Brand-Paid-Search-Keywords-Dont-Work
Being #1 Doesn’t Mean What It Once Did
Another interesting study that came out this week was on where ranking #1 organically really lands you for certain keywords. As Google changes up the SERP listings, and displays more information on the SERP page, and there is more and more ad competition ranking #1 just might not drive the same amount of traffic as it once did. I talked about this previously in "Why being #1 doesn't always matter". But Dr. Pete put together a pretty cool study showing how low #1 can be and it even includes a “shout out” to the keyword “Myrtle Beach weather” for having a really low #1 organic position. You can read the full post here- http://www.seomoz.org/blog/how-low-can-number-one-go
Yo’ Website So Ugly
And this is just a hilarious and awesome post from WrightINC, a SEO/PPC/Internet Marketing Agency in Dallas, with some really funny jokes about ugly websites. Enjoy! http://wrightimc.com/blog/2013/02/19/yo-website-so-ugly-2/
Friday Fuel: Speed is everything
Fri, February 15, 2013
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio's awkward dash for a sip of (Poland Spring) water during his response to the president's State of the Union address drew the attention of the social media universe. As the twitterverse went nuts, Poland Spring's twitter account was silent. In fact, it appeared to be inactive since 2010. A day later, the company finally offered cute and non-partisan response. In the lightning-fast world of the internet, a speedy reaction (a la Oreo at the Super Bowl) is essential. Unfortunately, if you miss that very small window of opportunity, the moment has passed.
Google could pay Apple $1 billion
In last week's Friday Fuel, we talked about an ad network deal that will link rivals Google and Yahoo. This week, Apple and Google are making news together -- with the latter set to pay more than $1 billion in 2014 to remain the default search engine on iOS, according to a Morgan Stanley report. As Bing continues to grow -- it's now the default provider for both BlackBerry and Nokia devices, and Microsoft continues to push for its use on more phones -- Google's move demonstrates just how important search data is. They're reportedly paying more to Apple than they're generating from iOS users. As marketers, it's interesting to watch how this battle for dominance in search shakes out as more of our customers are going mobile.
And now, for a bit of fun. Our office has been obsessed with the Harlem Shake. These super-short videos crack me up. Check out a few of our favorites here:
Is It Time For the Word “Website” to be Retired?
Wed, February 13, 2013
So, it's 2013, the internet now is commonplace and we're using the word "website" to describe just about ANYTHING on the internet…but is it time to retire the word?
The internet has evolved so much since the word "website" was coined. Once a word to describe a simple page, maybe a few dozen pages with a link or two and an image (if you were lucky), now it barely scratches the surface of what a modern "website" is and does.
When you take a look at what today's websites do, they are more like Web Applications or to go trendy with things, we can even call them "Web Apps". Today's websites are more than just static pages of information (of course those do still exist AND are important). Today's websites let you do all of your banking online, book reservations, run a virtual office, play games and much more (we could seriously spend all day on this). So is it time to retire the word and go with something more inclusive like "Web Apps?"
Why is this important? It's just a title or a name, right?
It's important because it helps us to understand the full scope of building a "website." Too many times folks will get bent out of shape over costs, complexities and the amount of time taken, so if we were to rename our creations and our work to "Web Apps" it would make much more sense. "Web App" has a different connotation- you automatically expect something of great complexity, something that is much more than just text and photos that you pull up in your web browser.
It's so easy for us all to think of simple text, images and content as a "website" but they are more than that. Websites today are applications that we are interacting with everyday and have become a crucial part of the way our economy and our way of life operate.
Friday Fuel: Yahoo, Google come together
Fri, February 08, 2013
This week in search marketing:
AdWords gets enhanced
Adwords recently announced some new changes that will affect marketers and customers alike. With these new platform additions, marketers will now be able to more easily target and reach customer who are shifting between devices (mobile to PC, etc.). This also will allow for greater ease of location and time-of-day targeting. Marketers will be able to more easily manage and report on their campaigns being able to house multi faceted campaigns in one single location. With Adwords becoming more intuitive, the platform will be able to pick and choose which ad to show to which consumer based on key metric such as time of day, location and device, without the marketer having to set up all of the exact parameters.
Come together – Right now
Two of the greatest Internet rivals have recently teamed up in an ad-network deal that Yahoo hopes can grow revenue and improve user experience. The agreement allows Google to show their ads on selected Yahoo property and partner sites. Yahoo says the partnership will improve user experience by increasing the inventory of contextual ads within the network. Using boots as an example, Yahoo said users will interact more with relevant ads. "If you see an ad for boots, that's instantly going to pique your attention more than an ad for, say, a car battery," Yahoo said.
"That's better for users. This is why contextual advertising is such a powerful tool."
Digital Media Sales Strategies; Rolling with changes, changes, and more changes!
Wed, February 06, 2013
When it comes to digital media, it is now a pretty common understanding that what may have been effective yesterday morning most likely ended up ineffective last night. As quickly as trends come in digital media, they also go which makes for an interesting sales strategy.
With that being said, it takes many variables to compensate for the inconsistency of sales prices, structure, and even ad unit availability. Of the variables, in my opinion the ones of most importance reside in the approach, the client/vendor relationship and history, as well as the performance of the campaign.
This may sound odd, but I have found success in an empathetic and educational approach when it comes to addressing changes. By saying that, I mean I understand that each time our platform changes and prices fluctuate, I take into consideration that these budgetary dollars are important to the clients and decision makers. Many of the clients I call on are directly related to the dollars they spend (ie; owners, partners, executives, and directors.) Each and every dollar spent needs to be accounted for and they spend it as if it's their own. So I approach the client with news of a change in price or new sales model with humble empathy in regards to their dollars. However, I immediately follow up with educating them on WHY the price has changed and turn their focus from price to value. It may seem like going from one end of the spectrum to the other, but it's an approach that says, "Yes, this may cost you more ... but this is why and this is the value, and this is what these dollars are going to do for you."
The next variable that has helped me press on in times of change are the client relationships and trust that is developed over time. One of the most trying times in my sales career came when we changed our sales platform from a flat fee for a limitless amount of clicks to a pay per click program. I could handle that but I was pitching the new sales model AND presenting this new model to brand new clients that I have never even met before! I was taking on a new client list and I had to walk in there and say, "Hi I'm Katie, I'm your new rep and by the way we have some changes coming!" It was a trying time for me as a sales rep because I didn't have any trust or history built up, but going back and relying on the empathy and educational approach made up for the lack of history and trust I had with these clients. They had the history and experience with the company and with the service; I just had to talk them off the ledge when they saw the new prices and begin the relationship from there. It has worked out.
Proof of Performance:
Ultimately what it all boils down to is the performance of the campaign and articulating that performance. You can be the greatest sales rep in the world calling on your very best friends from junior high....BUT if you don't have the proof of performance to quantify their spend, it won't equate into a long-term client relationship. It may seem like getting a new client is the hard part, but equally as hard is maintaining and retaining the client. I have found that it is profoundly important to be able to articulate their ad spend into a success. You have to continually deliver more value, and you have to do it and explain it in their terms. Not everyone bases their ad spend success on the same parameters. So you have to consider what they are determing their success on and articulate their stats into a successful campaign.
From my point of view, sales isn't a science. In fact, I feel that it's this business strategy that resides on a fine line between personal and individual experience, especially in times of change and uncertainty. It's about making someone in a decision-making position comfortable with what you are bringing to the table. It's sometimes a long cycle and also a bumpy ride, but if you have passion for what you do and a thrill for getting that ink on the paper, rolling with all of the digital media change just makes it all that more exciting and rewarding!
Katie is a senior account executive in charge of ad sales for the tourism site MyrtleBeach.com.
3 Reasons Facebook Graph Search is a Disrupter
Tue, February 05, 2013
In the opening scene of the greatest movie ever made, Return of the Jedi, Darth Vader lands on the under-construction Death Star and greets the space station’s commander with an ominous message: “The Emperor is coming and you’d better be ready for him” (Before you Star Wars nerds point it out, I’m paraphrasing). It’s not that the Stormtroopers and the various contractors hadn’t been working their nicely polished tails off to build the ultimate weapon for the past few years -- I’m sure they had been doing a fine job up to that point. It’s just that Darth Vader brought a new incentive -- one that the Galactic Empire would be foolish to ignore. Initially, the commander’s response was that he needed more resources and more time, but then after realizing the magnitude of the situation, he uttered the immortal words “We shall double our efforts.” That’s exactly what marketers are going to be doing because of Facebook’s Graph Search.
Last week, one of our resident Social Media gurus, Ashlee, wrote this great article that explained exactly what Facebook Graph Search is all about.
There’s been a lot of industry discussion regarding Facebook’s new functionality. Sentiment has ranged from the underwhelmed, to the folks that feel like this is the biggest change Facebook has ever released. I sit a little to the right of the center of that spectrum. I would categorize myself as optimistically cautious (which is a bit more optimistic than cautiously optimistic).
For me, there are three reasons that Facebook Graph Search could potentially be a game changer for marketers:
1. Consumers will start using Facebook as a search engine
Until now, there’s been a clear distinction between Google and Facebook. One is a search engine; the other is a community. When a person is actively looking for something, they go to a search engine; when a person wants to absorb non-specific information from their friends, family, coworkers and old flames, they click on the Facebook icon on their device of choice. For average Joe, there’s often no real purpose. They spend way more time reading newsfeeds than they do sharing interesting anecdotes about their children’s latest shenanigans with the world. Facebook is overwhelmingly a passive medium. It requires minimal effort to feel connected and to snoop on those people that pissed you off in high school. And that is exactly why many marketers have struggled to use Facebook ads or promoted posts to sell their products effectively. When someone is on Facebook, they aren’t actively seeking to consume something. Facebook users aren’t looking to leave Facebook (because If they did, they may miss out on something really, really, really, important).
If people start to see Facebook as a tool that can help them make purchasing decisions such as: where to visit, where to stay, where to eat etc, then it’s a whole new opportunity for marketers. When people are actively looking to buy something, it’s much easier to sell them something.
2. It’s not WHAT you know; it’s WHO you know
For businesses and marketers, Facebook has primarily been about content, pushing our remarkable and unique content for the purpose of engagement. The problem is that folks have a place where they go to look for information. It’s called Google. Until now, Facebook hasn’t made it easy for anyone to find what they’re looking for. Both Google and Facebook realized a long time ago that people are influenced by their social circles. If someone could create a platform that married the findability of content with the influence of social relationships, they would rule the world! That’s precisely why Google+ was created. If Google could somehow figure out a way to get people to use their social platform, Graph Search wouldn’t be such a big deal. Facebook is coming at it from the opposite direction. They have the relationship thing figured out; they just don’t have the content organized in a manner that is useful to the consumer. If Graph Search rectifies that problem, as it promises to do, the people you know (or more accurately the people who know your business) will become your business’ unwitting evangelists. Every “like,” check-in and “share” is a valuable endorsement – with Graph Search, it is now an endorsement that people will be exposed to at the very moment that they are considering a purchase. The value of a fan just increased considerably; the value of a well-connected fan increased exponentially. Businesses will adapt their strategy and focus not only on the number of “likes,” but they will also be more aggressive at targeting specific influencers.
3. Marketers will double their efforts
I think it’s fair to say that there have been a lot of high-profile success stories of businesses using Facebook to make bucket loads of money. The reality though is that those businesses tend to be in the minority. The vast majority of businesses still struggle to “get it” when it comes to Facebook marketing. They try their traditional sales tactics, and that simply doesn’t work in the current environment.
There’s still much skepticism out there about what the value of a Facebook “like” really is. Or how much effort and resources you should really put in to social media in general. Many business owners don’t see the real value in it despite overwhelming evidence that it can be very effective if done right. Many of them took a “me too” approach when they started out. They weren’t sure why they needed to do it, but everyone else was and they didn’t want to be left out. From my experience, most companies I have come across do a decent job. They have an individual or an agency that updates their page and replies to posts. Some are utilizing Facebook ads to drive fan growth; some are also promoting contests for the same reason. But one thing I have observed over the past year is that businesses are not as focused on Facebook as they used to be. Maybe because the hype has died down, maybe because it’s not been as successful for them as they had hoped, maybe it’s because the newness has worn off and now it’s just become a part of the routine for them. Whatever the cause, the result is that business are pulling back on their Facebook budgets, they aren’t buying as many ads, they aren’t posting as much, and they aren’t running as many contests as they were 12 months ago. That’s all about to change with the potential of Graph Search. If Facebook really can perform alchemy and turn their relatively worthless asset of more than 1 billion non-consumers into the proverbial pot of gold, where consumers begin to plan their next purchase, this will indeed cause a shift in the fabric of our society.
The Super Bowl And Marketing: Your Friday Fuel
Fri, February 01, 2013
The Super Bowl pits the two best teams in the NFL against each other in a final battle to see who is the best. But the battle that goes on off the field for media placement is almost as intense. Companies spend millions of dollars on a SINGLE ad, betting a ton of time, money and resources on their advertising team and their ability to pull out a “win”.
Because you can win really big with a good Super Bowl ad. I know I didn’t know the first thing about Etrade (or really care to know the first thing about Etrade) before their wildly successful Etrade baby campaign began during the 2008 Super Bowl XLII.
But what the Super Bowl really teaches us about marketing is:
If you do it right, people don’t hate being marketed to.
Normal marketing looks like this Super Bowl Marketing looks like this
That’s right people WATCH the commercials during the Super Bowl. They know they’re commercials and that they’re designed to sell them something but they want to see them anyway. They’re that good.
Imagine what we, as marketers, could accomplish if we put this kind of dedication and effort in to every commercial or advertising campaign?
Okay I’m getting off my soap box now...
Few companies can afford to pay millions of dollars for a 30 second commercial, but there are tons of opportunities in the digital realm that capitalize on the “hype” around the Super Bowl without making you pay for a prime spot.
Digiday put together a list of some of the things you can buy with the same money for a Super Bowl ad. For example, a promoted trending topic on Twitter for a MONTH or 200 pieces of BuzzFeed sponsored content.
http://www.digiday.com/brands/what-a-4-mil-superbowl-ad-could-buy-in-digital/ for the full list.
Another site, Portent.com which is run by Ian Lurie, also put together a comprehensive post on traditional Super Bowl ads (how much the cost has increased over the years, etc.) as well as some of the companies who spent a ton of money on Super Bowl ads in the past and are now out of business (remember Pets.com?). He then gives some great pointers on how to use social media, including ads or sponsorships, instead of traditional ads during this all important day of advertising.
Here’s that full post http://www.portent.com/blog/internet-marketing/social-bowl-xlvii.htm
You can also try to capitalize on what people are searching for in the lead up to the Super Bowl. For example, Huffington Post (using a slightly odd and maybe “Grey Hat” SEO tactic) wrote an article last year titled “What Time Does the Superbowl Start?” in an attempt to get traffic for people searching for exactly that term. Deadspin wrote an article on that and a few other tactics used in Super Bowls past that you can read here http://deadspin.com/5881720/what-time-does-the-super-bowl-start-he-wrote-as-a-headline-to-game-the-google-results.
There are also a ton of people looking for recipes. I know I’ll be looking up the recipe for Buffalo Chicken Dip on Saturday or Sunday. And I’m not alone, according to a blog by WordStream.
"buffalo chicken dip – apparently a dip designed to taste like buffalo chicken wings – owes virtually its entire existence to Super Bowl Sunday and the NFL season."
They put together an interesting post about keyword research for foods around the Super Bowl and encourage industries to look for their “buffalo chicken dip” - An industry related keyword that has seasonal peaks that can drive a ton of traffic.
You can read that full post here- http://www.wordstream.com/blog/ws/2013/01/30/keyword-trends
Have a great weekend and Go Ravens! Or 49ers. Whichever…I’m just looking forward to the food, beer and great marketing.
Client Usability of Analytics Reporting
Wed, January 30, 2013
The back end of analytics reports are often filled with rows of data that to a casual reader would look overwhelmingly unreadable. The goal of creating a front end report is to allow clients to easily find data that is pertinent to their own business goals and objectives. In order to provide clients with a report that has a high level of usability, it essentially needs to meet all of the clients needs without any added clutter. This will make it efficient and effective.
In an industry where data can be pulled on nearly every aspect of business, many analytics reports can fall into the “more is always better” trap. Although these large reports might look impressive from a far, client usability and ultimately effectiveness could be tarnished. There is nothing worse than a report that takes hours to create that returns very few effective solutions for your clients. Some details that are helpful to keep in mind when creating a report are clarity of the data, limiting superfluous information, legibility and accuracy.
Clarity of data can be achieved by using an organization pattern within the report that creates a sensible flow. By setting up reports that have natural transition between the different types of data, it will provide the client with easy reading and let them easily see the end meaning of the report. These transitions could be simple as putting items in alphabetical or numerical order, or placing data in a more specialized manor such as granularity of a specific subject. One example of this can be seen when reporting visits. It is easy to see that the natural flow of visits would continue with the break down into natural search, paid search, social media, and campaigns. These sub categories could then be broken down into an even smaller granularity to show specifics, always keeping in mind your clients overall goals and objectives.
Once clarity has been made, any extra unnecessary information should be weeded out. As stated before, with so much information available it is easy to fall into the “more is better” trap. When creating a report for a client, keep in mind the focus of the report. If the report can successfully show everything that it needs with 10 lines of data, why have 20? A stream line, efficient report will not only create a more useable document for your client but will also give more clarity of the direction and purpose. This is not to say that there won’t be a time where a lengthy and detailed report isn’t necessary, but for a report recurring on a frequent basis, clarity, focus and efficiency will offer a better user interface for your client.
Although a legible report is simple to create, thanks to Excel, simple tricks will make the report even better. The use of conditional formatting to highlight certain elements can easily be used to help identify specific numbers and trends. Not only do simple tricks like this create more aesthetically pleasing reports, but it also helps eliminate the time a client needs to spend hunting for specific numbers they are interested in. Another trick in creating an easier to read report is to use graphs or tables. If the data could be shown in a visual way, for example visits from geographic areas, adding a graph to show this will only add clarity and legibility to the report.
After the information and organization of the report is set, accuracy is the last part in creating a user friendly report. Although simple, it is the most important part of reporting and also the easiest to mess up. Attention to detail is crucial when creating reports, one wrong number, a lack of a decimal point or the click of the wrong cell in excel could be the difference between your client being extremely happy with you or not. No client wants to hear that you over reported their revenue by $100,000.00 because you misplaced a decimal. All of your effort of creating an efficient report will mean nothing if the numbers aren’t correct. This is a simple yet crucial part of reporting.
In the end, creating a user friendly report starts with the collaboration between you and your client to determine what their goals and objectives are. Together coming up with the best way to use analytics report to help meet those goals should be determined. This will provide a great starting point in creating an efficient and user friendly report. Keep in mind, the report could be easy to read, effective and interesting, but if the numbers are wrong it won’t mean anything. Details, details detail!
7 tips to get started writing
Wed, January 30, 2013
Writing can be a daunting task, even for those who find joy in putting pen to paper. We’ve recently beefed up our blogging efforts at Fuel Interactive, and I’ve had several Fueligans tell me they want to contribute but they’re nervous about writing. I can appreciate the concern because good writing can make your site sing, and bad writing is just, well, bad. Luckily, there are tricks that can help you along your way. Here are 7 of my top suggestions for getting started writing.
Find a spot where you can be comfortable writing. Whether you prefer a quiet nook in your house, a coffee shop or even your office, pick a spot where you can write uninterrupted. If you can’t get away from noise, try listening to background music over headphones to drown out distractions. It’s hard enough to get started on a piece; you don’t want to have to stop and restart because you’re being interrupted.
Go With Your Passion
When you’re choosing a topic to write about, go with something you’re keenly interested in or knowledgeable about. If you love baseball, find a baseball analogy you can work into your piece. Love to dance? Compare learning a new dance to learning a skill in your field. When you write about a topic you’re passionate about, your writing will be more engaging and will ring truer to your readers.
Prioritize Your Points
A long block of text can be unappealing and overwhelming to readers. Try organizing your thoughts with bullet points, numbered tips (ie Top 10 lists) or headers. The shorter paragraphs are easier for readers to digest, and provided your topic is interesting to them, they’ll be more likely to keep reading. This is also a great way to keep yourself on track and organized.
It should go without saying, but your work should be your own. While it’s fine to reference someone else’s article, you should not be copying and pasting blocks of text from other websites. Not only is stealing someone else’s work wrong and dishonest, it doesn’t benefit you. Search engines can determine where content originates, and you can get dinged for having duplicate content on your site.
Spellcheck is Your Friend
Don’t let simple spelling and grammatical errors drag down the quality of your work. Readers will be less likely to trust you as an authority on your topic if your writing is riddled with mistakes. Read and reread your work before you publish your writing. I’ve found that if I start at the bottom paragraph and read a piece backwards, I’ll find more technical errors in the writing.
Find an editor
Even the greatest writers have an editor. In addition to checking for spelling and grammatical errors, a good editor will help you rework sections of your writing that are unclear or look for lapses in logic in your arguments. Be open to constructive criticism from an editor you trust; they are reading your piece with fresh eyes and can often see mistakes you wouldn’t notice.
When your final piece is published, look for feedback from your peers and other readers. Share your work on social media and check for comments if your site contains a comment section. Readers may point out facts that you missed or issues you hadn’t considered. Be graceful in your responses. Don’t take offense to trolls and jerks – they aren’t worth your time – but be open to honest, constructive feedback from readers. It may serve as an inspiration for a followup or new post.
Long-Tail Keywords: Strategies to Capture at Purchase Point
Fri, January 25, 2013
We live in the age of fast-paced technology. People can get information faster than ever before with a few simple clicks. Because of this boom in technology, there are a multitude of websites on every topic you can think of. Now, a simple search might not be enough to satisfy the consumers’ needs for information.
Often times, for consumers to get what they want, they have to go deeper. They have to revise every search to be more specific to their needs. If you take a look through your site’s analytics, you might find that a lot of your conversions (whatever you might be measuring) come from key phrases containing 4 or more words. As an SEO, how can you better target long-tail keywords? It’s all in the content.
With a seemingly infinite list of long-tail keywords relevant to your website, there really is no way to cover them all individually. This means your content strategy will have to change. We can no longer expect that a generic blog post with specific anchor text on a link will help as much as it has in the past. Blog posts will have to be a lot more detailed.
When you think about it, this is only logical – more detailed blogs will help rankings with more detailed keywords. With a more defined blog topic consisting greater detail, consumers will be more likely to run into your blog (or guest post) that links to your site. Google, among other search engines, will also see your site as a more dominant authority on the topic. Your blog post will attract more users searching long tail keywords, helping that post rank higher, giving your site more authority as a source on the topic.
In addition to your blogs being more detailed, it might be time to look at your on-site content. What good is having a detailed blog when it links to a page with a paragraph of generic content? All that would tell Google is that you have some great writers on your team and shoddy web content managers. The page you link should be detailed on the same topic you are blogging about. We have seen proven results with this style of link building, in some cases resulting in a doubling of search traffic. And because this search traffic will be more heavily weighted as long-tail keywords, chances are the traffic will convert better.
Bringing PPC into the strategy, you will typically see a 1+1=3 effect. PPC and SEO go together like peanut butter and jelly; the sandwich as a whole is more delicious than both parts separated. Because long tail keywords see less competition, you are likely to spend less per click on those keywords.
As I mentioned earlier, the long-tail keywords make up an endless list of possibilities. So how are you supposed to build a PPC campaign around long-tail keywords? This is where your search analytics becomes pure gold.
You can see the long tail keywords that get a lot of search traffic and/or convert well and transpose those into your PPC campaigns. Your clicks on these campaigns will cost significantly less than their more generic counterparts and are more likely to convert. When consumers get closer to their purchasing point, they get more specific as to what they want, so these ads serving on long tail keywords have the sole purpose of capturing that desire to get them to act upon it.
If you want to start using your resources more wisely, the magic is in the details. Start spending more of your time or money on content and blogs with greater detail to better target long tail keywords. You will see a great return on this strategy, especially if you integrate your internet marketing strategy across the board.
Semantic Web: Closer Now Than Ever
Wed, January 23, 2013
Semantic Web. For those of you who don’t know what a semantic web is, here is a common language description: smart Internet. Moreover, it is an Internet that tailors itself around the user. We’ve seen it creeping into Google with location-based relevant search returns, and in Google’s Knowledge Graph. And last Friday, Fuel’s Ashlee Carson mentioned the new Facebook Search Graph. This makes a leap forward to how our searches will be rendered back to us. Intuitive searching will make the web more navigable, but how will it change SEO, PPC, and social media marketing?
First, a look at what the semantic web really is. It is an Internet that can understand meaning for the user so that they can get to the page that they are truly needing. A simple understanding of our searches based on what we’ve previously searched, location, purchase history, and social media interactions gives the search algorithm the ability to give you the most relevant results. Take "Cricket," for instance. An entomologist would see information regarding the insects in the Family Gryllidae, Prince William will most likely see the sport, and curious children will see a Disney classic that represents that nagging voice that always tells me I should not lie.
Soon searches will integrate your social media inputs, purchasing history, browsing/search history (I already regret searching for the new Furby), and so much more. It will give you the most relevant information without needing a Boolean search. This is a big change in how the world will interact with all search engines and the Internet in general.
Marketers should rejoice, though, and not be afraid of the integration. The search engines are qualifying your audience for you. While Cost Per Impressions (CPIs) will probably increase, the click through rate will also increase and higher conversions are more likely.
So what should SEO folks do? SEO should concentrate on quality content (call me a natural Sherlock for uncovering that one). Structuring your data so that it can be highlighted by the search engines is also equally important.
And Wil Reynolds, founder of Seer Interactive, talked about data structures and its use in the Google Data Highlighter in his first post of the new year, and its use in how engines do what they do.
For those of you in social media marketing, the changes will also be important. The new Facebook Graph Search will also play a key role in shaping searches. The semantic web using the information that you and your friends have provided will tailor your results more deliberately, leading to less sifting through results. Creating relevant and engaging posts on your brand’s social media outlets will allow those interactions to have more of an effect on the internal search results that are produced. Bing powers the web results for Facebook, so the click-through rate on posts may be a factor in their internal search as it is with Bing’s algorithm.
Many interactive agencies are drooling over the possibilities of a semantic web, we at Fuel Interactive especially. It is a big part of how searches will be interpreted in the future. By providing clients with quality information, marketers can help them achieve real and profitable results. The semantic web will evolve and we could just be seeing the big first steps changing into a big evolution.
Friday Fuel: What is Facebook’s Graph Search?
Fri, January 18, 2013
I know for our Friday Fuel blogs we typically touch on a few different things but I thought I’d focus on Facebook since that’s what all the buzz is about lately.
Facebook made a big announcement this week and introduced the world to its “Graph Search.” What the heck is Graph Search and what does it mean to me? Basically Facebook has compiled eight years’ worth of data- everything from where you live to places you’ve been and even photos- to create a simple way to sort and search your friends’ profiles to find almost anything you’re looking for.
Currently to find anything through Facebook you either have to go through each individual friend’s page or complete an extremely broad search through Facebook’s search feature to find what you’re looking for (or Google it like most of the population). With Graph Search you’ll be able to search a specific phrase like “find friends who’ve visited Savannah, Georgia” and Facebook will showcase a list of friends who fit that criteria, as well as photos and places of business. Every person will see different results based on what their current friends have shared with them.
I’m looking forward to seeing this unfold completely and exploring the possibilities for planning weekend activities, happy hour retreats or even my next vacation. My husband and I are planning a trip to Ireland next summer with my family so I’ll be curious to see which of my friends has visited and the secret spots they can offer with their experiences. I also think it may give me a chance to rekindle friendships or get back in touch with certain Facebook friends on a more personal level.
Hotels and travel destinations should be very excited for the possibilities. Let’s say you’re planning a trip to Myrtle Beach and you want to find more information. You’ll be able to see hotels your friends or family members have stayed in, specific restaurants they’ve eaten in and things to do. It’s like having a personal TripAdvisor forum made up of your Facebook friends.
The main challenge I see now is that many users have a relatively small network, full of less savvy users , which means their searches will return fewer results. Those of us who are more experienced in the realm of Facebook (checking in to places, posting photos, etc.) will see more customized results based on our searches. We’ll have the potential of finding a great new restaurant or even a honeymoon destination based on what your Facebook friends have had experience with. There’s no longer a need to create a post asking for suggestions begging for advice on finding a vet or great wine shop, it’s all in Graph Search.
What does Graph Search mean for my privacy? Privacy on Facebook is a tricky beast. The best thing you can do for now is to comb through old posts, untag photos (or bribe your friends to remove specific photos) and make more posts private. When I tried the search, it brought up pictures from my wedding, trips to the beach and even one with me holding a glass of wine. I’m completely fine with pictures like that but for people that have jobs in education or if you’re a nun, you may want to consider your other options. Facebook has done a decent job explaining how to control your privacy settings based on the type of post. Take a look at that here: https://www.facebook.com/about/graphsearch/privacy.
The Strategy Behind Social Buttons
Wed, January 16, 2013
One of the latest fads on the web is the use of social media icons to drive people to like, pin, check-in, watch, order breakfast and countless other things. The question, though, is: Is there thought behind it?
We have been receiving more and more requests to try to get as many social media buttons on a site as possible. “Oh please, if we don’t get this Orkut button on our site today… well who knows what could happen!” In most cases, this is a result of a marketer trying to be the first on a new trend or one making sure they are not left behind. Regardless of the reason, we recommend taking a step back and answering a few questions about the latest social icon:
- Will the consumer find a greater benefit from the content on the social platform?
- Will driving traffic to the social platform from my site improve my business?
- Is there a critical mass of users of the platform to warrant me giving up visual space on my site?
So, let’s dive in and answer these three questions.
Is The Content on The Social Network Greater Than That of The Site?
Just having a presence is not enough of a reason to start plastering social icons on your site. The real question is if the consumer will find greater benefit from the social platform than what is on the site. For instance, if you own a chain of fast food restaurants, do you want to send a visitor to your Pinterest board for them to see images you’ve pinned? Or will they find greater value in a gallery of your food with associated nutritional information, comments and coupons?
There’s a place for extending your brand to a social network, though the goal more often than not should be to drive the visitor FROM the social network to your site. With that said, there are times you want to push a visitor to the social sphere. If the visitor just booked a great vacation on your site, the confirmation page is an ideal place to ask them to share their experience socially.
Will an Icon be KPI Positive?
So you have great content on YouTube and you want to share that with visitors. How will driving the visitor away from your site to your YouTube page benefit the stated goals of your site? In most cases, it won’t.
Consider that you likely have spent a lot of time and money developing a site with a goal to convert the user into a consumer and often spent even more creating a plan to get traffic to your site. If you just got a potential customer to your site, why would you want to immediately send them to another site? Instead, integrate the relevant social content into your site and save the icon for a more appropriate location.
Let’s take a closer look at our YouTube example. You’ve built a great library of videos and want to make sure a consumer can use the content in making a conversion decision. Instead of sending your hard-earned consumers off the site we recommend building an on-site video section where you can paste in the YouTube embed code, like what you can see at myrtlebeachhotels.com/videos/. Now visitors will get all the benefit of your YouTube content, with the ability to control what shows up around the video.
Is the Social Juice Worth the Squeeze?
As marketers, we are all “can do” type people and we want to embrace new technology quickly. In the social arena, you do want to tread a little more carefully though. Placing a prominent social media icon at the top of your site, or anywhere for that matter, takes visual space from other more valuable content. Would you be willing to sacrifice moving your email collection form down to accommodate a Pinterest or Google + icon? If 50% of your consumers are on the platform and you find that you can generate a great return, then by all means, get that icon up there. However, if only 2% of your audience is on a social platform and you have not seen any real value from your presence, you have to forgo the icon for the better converting email signup.
In summary, social media icons have a place in web marketing but it is up to the individual marketer to determine if the cool new icon will positively impact the site or if it’s just the latest fad. So next time you’re building a site or updating a site, ask these three questions before you start dropping social icons left and right:
- Do I have a social presence and is the content better than what’s on my site?
- Will driving visitors away from my site to this platform improve my online performance?
- Has the platform reached a critical mass that makes it worth my time?
Resort Photography and why it matters
Wed, January 09, 2013
So, let's say you're planning a vacation. What's the first thing you see when you start looking at all the resort and hotel websites? It's the photos! Amenities, the rooms, the grounds, you know the really fun stuff. Good photography is a key element to any resort or hotel website. Without it, you're not giving visitors a good idea about what your resort or hotel has to offer.
OK sure -- maybe your resort isn't the Westin or a 5 star tropical oasis, but that doesn't mean you need to just give up. There are plenty of tricks to make your resort or hotel look great on the web regardless of whether you're a 5 star hotel or just a hotel for business travelers. Read on for tips and tricks.
Some folks out there will use the excuse that they don't have the budget for a professional photographer or they don't have the budget for a expensive camera setup. Sure, a pro photographer will cost a good bit, and the equipment can be very expensive -- sometimes just the camera body alone can run thousands of dollars -- but you don't have to spend mega-bucks in order to have 5 star quality photos of your resort or hotel.
Here's a helpful list of inexpensive and easy-to-use equipment that you can use:
1.) Skip the DSLR. Modern (1-3 years old) point and shoots offer great image quality for a price point under $200. If you have the budget though, by all means splurge on a DSLR. Canon and Nikon will be the ones you'll want to pick from for there. If you do go the point and shoot route, pick a camera with a high MP (Megapixel) and "optical image stabilization."
2.) Pick up a tripod. This will improve your photos dramatically -- no more blurry in-room shots or out-of-focus pool photos.
3.) A notebook. A notebook? I know it's a weird item, but it's great for taking notes and making lists of areas you want to shoot. Also, while you're walking around the property, make yourself reminders to get certain areas fixed or repainted or even make a note to revisit a certain area for another set of photos.
Photo Taking Tips for Resorts and Hotels
1.) If the picture is blurry, out of focus, or has "noise," don't put it on your website. A bad photo will do far far more harm than anything else. After all, who can get excited about a blurry out of focus picture of a pool that was taken in the 1980s?
2.) Use a tripod to reduce image blur and focus issues. Place the camera on a steady level surface and take the shot.
3.) For interior photos, turn on as many lights as possible. This will make for a brighter, more welcoming photo, and it will also reduce noise issues in the photo.
4.) For interior photos, make sure you're not in front of a mirror to avoid having your reflection captured. This can be tricky sometimes, especially in smaller rooms, but look at the room and get a good idea of how the angles will work to avoid this effect.
5.) Choose sunny, blue-sky days for exterior shots. Avoid having unpleasant things in the background like trashcans, towels, etc. Take the photo with a clean and neat outside area.
6.) This next tip is for the business traveler hotel areas. A lush pool area may not be high on the list of perks, so take photos showcasing the business amenities: desk areas in the room, conference facilities, special room features like USB hubs or power hubs.
7.) If you are using a DSLR or a camera with interchangeable lenses, consider getting a fish-eye lens. These will make a small area look bigger.
8.) If you are shooting with a clear horizon in the shot, make sure you and the camera are level. This is especially important for quality shots if your hotel or resort has a view or a large pool. A level photo makes a huge difference.
9.) Use photo-editing software. Photoshop can take a while to learn and is expensive, but there are plenty of alternatives. Adobe makes a "light" version of Photoshop called Photoshop Elements that is perfect for touching up photos. Picasa, which is free from Google, offers great and easy-to-use tools as well.
10.) Adjust the photos once you have picked out some editing software. Adjust things like brightness, contrast and the colors to make your photos really stand out.
Okay, enough of text. How about some great examples? First, we'll start with some "what not to do":
Is your hotel or resort on a boat? If not, your room photos should not be leaning to the side more than the titantic after having an unfortunate get-together with an iceberg.
Is this really the best angle? Looking into a slightly empty parking lot and street view? Also, it's blurry and slightly out of focus with a lean. Choosing a different angle or even getting a closer shot would have helped this photo a good deal, not to mention making sure it was in focus and not leaning.
Pulling the curtains open here would have made a world of difference as it lets more light in and also makes the room look bigger. Oh, and it's out of focus, leaning and there's junk on the countertops.
Okay, whew, enough of those! Let's take a look at some great examples of "what to do":
This is a great pool shot. It's sharp, in focus and level. Nothing is covering up the windows, sunshine outside and the area around and in the pool is clean and free of old towels, pool toys, etc.
A great interior room shot: You can tell that the room here is small, but steps were taken to make it look large and comfortable. The curtains are pulled back, porch door to the beach is open, room is clean and organized. The angle of the photo is also terrific; you get to see everything you want to see and nothing you don't. All you see in this room is a big bed and a great view.
Great outdoor pool shot. All of the chairs are lined up, deck area is free from towels, toys, etc, and the water is clean. Photo was taken on a sunny day so that the water sparkles and the landscape is green. Photo is level, every aspect of the photo is in focus and it's cropped in a way that shows you what you want/need to see.
Friday Fuel: Link Building Edition
Fri, October 26, 2012
Links, links, links.
Ever since the latest Panda update from Google everyone and their mother has been talking about how much it has changed the way link building is done.
And it has.
It’s harder and harder to build crappy links and get away with it.
I don’t think anyone out there who works in our field thought they were being genuine or doing great and meaningful work when they scoured the internet for blogs that allowed “do-follow” links. I know lots and lots of companies who were guilty of these less than honest tactics because, well, it was accepted and that’s how other sites got to the top search result.
Others may be kicking and screaming about how much Google is “messing things up” but I’m honestly glad that they’re not rewarding sub-par work anymore.
So, with that rant out of the way, this edition of Friday Fuel is dedicated to some real, honest link building techniques…with some other stuff I just couldn’t resist talking about thrown in too.
Getting a link from the Wall Street Journal
You won’t find any directories or “quick hits” here. This is a fantastic look in to how link building should be approached…just like all other PR and media outreach is done. This was a methodical campaign designed with a goal in mind and hey! Look at that! It also got them some other fantastic links and traffic from some other media sources as well. This is an inspiring piece of work. Yes, inspiring.
Wikipedia is the top search result for about 75% of the things I search on a daily basis, so of course it’s somewhere people want to gain links from. But it’s surprising hard and the way to do it is the same way Larry Kim from the above post got the link from the Wall Street Journal - Great. Useful. Content. The success rate on simply starting a page for your business and having it approved and published by Wikipedia is pretty low. The best way is to:
Establish your business as a thought leader and a resource. The way that this can be done is by creating and publishing great content on the web. Once your business establishes itself as a thought leader and creates lots of great content that is non-promotional, it will be shared naturally throughout the web and there is a greater likelihood of achieving a link from Wikipedia
I would even say that once you have useful content and information, you can probably find a way to build useful and topical links to your content from Wikipedia. But it starts with the content.
The death of the shotgun approach
This is a great summary of what you should be doing to build links: Have a strategic approach, don’t use mass tactics, analyze your competitors and build relationships. It’s not easy but it’s the right way to do it. My favorite “gold standard” that I take away from this post is:
Ask yourself if it’s possible to build a link from the target site in a way that will make sense to a human visitor. If the human visitors won’t even be there, don’t waste your time
SEOers have spent way too long concentrating on the algorithm. We need to focus on the real people.
Moving on to a couple non-link building related topics.
Don’t blindly change your adwords bids to “first page”
This post has some good insights on why you need to keep a close eye on your keyword bids in Adwords campaigns. These very hard to ignore notes come up next to keywords that are “below first page bid”, but you need to dig a bit deeper into the data to make sure it’s actually worth upping your bid.
More on the disavow links tool
I told you all last week that I was going to be keeping an eye on this tool to see how people are using it, and most of this post echoes that I’ve read before. But it had some fascinating nuggets at the end. For example:
It’s reasonable to expect that Google will be monitoring its data, and if many people people indicate one particular domain in their link disavow file, Google might just begin to notice the pattern.
Maybe I’m slow, but I honestly didn’t think of this as a ramification of this tool right away. But I think it’s a really good point and I hope it isn’t abused. I can see this spiraling, which brings me to the next interesting thought from this post.
What happens if someone adds my website to their link disavow file? Will Google think my site is bad?
I would hope that Google (in all their infinite wisdom) would figure out a way to have checks against this. I would also hope that the industry can “play nice” enough to not make this an issue and use it as a negative SEO tactic. But once again, I will be watching the blogs for more news on this as it continues to unfold.
Friday Fuel: Google Disavow Links Edition
Fri, October 19, 2012
I have been dubbed in charge of the Friday Fuel posts for now on. I'm probably a bit wordier and given to talking more than Josh, so I hope you enjoy my explainations and rants about the Internet marketing news of the week
So, here goes.
The big news for this week is the Google Disavow Links Tool, which was announced earlier this week. Lots of people are dancing in the streets about this, since SEOers have been looking for ways to remove spammy links from their link profiles. But, almost everything I’ve read encourages EXTREME caution when using this tool. You don’t want to go through and disavow tons of links all at once or, links you haven’t otherwise tried to get removed by contacting the webmaster.
“We recommend that you contact the sites that link to you and try to get links taken off the public web first…If, despite your best efforts, you're unable to get a few backlinks taken down, that's a good time to use the Disavow Links tool.”- from Google's own post about it.
Here are the big posts about it:
Google’s announcement of the tool and their own advice about it- http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2012/10/a-new-tool-to-disavow-links.html
A “best practices” post about it- http://www.portent.com/blog/seo/google-disavow-links-tool-best-practices.htm
The tool itself- https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/disavow-links-main
I’ll be very curious to see what happens as people begin to use this tool and post their successes or horror stories as a result.
The other big thing is, believe it or not, holiday prepping:
Holiday email marketing
I am a big fan of Portent’s blog in general. He has great insights and this post about Email marketing for the holidays is really useful. Everyone knows about Cyber Monday for email marketing, but he includes some other days that are less known like Free Shipping on Dec. 17 (which is the day most online retailer’s guarantee that the items can be delivered by Christmas Day).
Holiday PPC tips
And, just like with Email marketing, you need a PPC holiday strategy as well and it’s not as easy as adding “Christmas Sale” into your ad copy. You need to do some research into your keyword targets and see when the Holiday season peaks were last year. There are all the different Holiday dates to consider (Cyber Monday, New Years Closeouts, etc.) and if you need to modify your pitches for each of those dates or if there are different things to promote. You’ll want to get the schedule for the promotions first so you can plan out the best plan of attack. And you better do it sooner rather than later.
And other random good information:
Adwords/ Analytics woes (things to check in case data doesn't match up)
A number on hair puller for any one in marketing (and especially our Analytics Pro Melissa) is when data doesn’t match up. You would think that linking two Google products, AdWords and Google Analytics, would be simple and it should be (emphasis on the should). But there are some simple reasons why the data won’t match up between the two from a simple they attribute conversions differently to your destination url has a redirect. If you’re having issues figuring out why or you need to explain why there’s a difference between what the two platforms are saying, this post makes for a good “one-sheeter” to help you do that.
Ex-Googler: “To Please Google With Your SEO, Forget About SEO”
This echoes a lot of things that have been going around the industry for a while—the companies who have good SEO generally aren’t focused on SEO. They’re focused on their customers and the SEO takes care of itself. But it’s similar to when someone tells you “don’t think about it”…your first instinct is to think about it. If you focus on what's best for your customer or potential customers first, you'll go far.
Friday Fuel: 9-28-2012
Fri, September 28, 2012
I usually try to focus on all aspects of marketing in this series, but there was a lot of good search reading this week that I want to highlight. Other marketing channels will just have to wait.
Image Search Branding Opportunities - Peter van der Graff
This is one of those how to posts that you read and say “why didn’t I think of that”. A simple idea that could have a lot of potential. Remember, not everything has to be complex. Sometimes simple is better.
5 Lies You Tell Yourself About Building and Audience (and Links) - Rae Hoffman
Anything by Rae Hoffman usually makes for a good read. This post is no exception. Rae’s blunt writing style cuts through 5 myths that hold back individuals and companies from really knocking it out with content.
The Most Important Local Business Directories for SEO - Andrew Shotland
Local SEO is so much fun </sarcasm>. To be honest I like local SEO (that might make me a masochist). With all of the intricacies and quirks it can sometimes be hard to know where to start. Well, here you go: the top local directories.
Why Small Businesses Hate Google+ Local - Mike Ramsey
Speaking of Local SEO...
Report: Fewer Than 1% of Sales Can Be Tracked Back to Social Media - Greg Finn
Quite the interesting statistic, but then again attribution can get a little murky. I’m still not sold on the idea that social media is a direct revenue channel
How Many SEO Consultants Actually Know What They’re Talking About - Ashley Tate
Although any sort of survey or test like this is going to be difficult to approach scientifically, SEOmoz has tried their best. I’m glad that most responses were good, it shines a good light on the industry, but I can’t say that I’m not surprised by the lack of bad advice.
Top 20 Ad Copy Tests for Improved PPC Performance - Kayla Kurtz
Some good things to consider testing in this one. Step 1: if you’re not testing already, you need to be. Please stop everything and test. Step 2: Test, test, test.
The Return of the Google Dance - Danny Sullivan
Filters. Algorithm changes. Penalties. Personalization. What do all of these things have in common? They fluctuate rankings! The more sophisticated Google gets and the more layers they add to their algorithms, there more dancing they will do. Power through friends, power through.
Insights into what the world is searching for -- the new Google Trends
I loved the Google Insights tool and Google Trends. They’ve now combined their powers into one mighty tool.
Friday Fuel: Watch This Video
Fri, September 21, 2012
So this week has been packed with things that I’ve found interesting and helpful. So much that I’m paring it way down so the list isn’t 100 bullet points. Also, you have to watch the free MozCon video.
2012 #MozCon Videos Are Here - Rand Fishkin
First off. If you touch SEO in any way, please, please, please watch Wil Reynold’s talk from this year’s MozCon. SEOmoz has been kind enough to offer it for free (the other talks are paid). Click the link and scroll down a bit until you hit the “Full Length Sample Video”. At just under an hour, Wil covers a lot of bases but the focus is on RCS (Real Company Shit). Watch it and be enlightened.
The results from our “Mozified” newsletter are in! - Michelle Klann
I’m really digging what I’ve seen from Email on Acid’s Mozify tool. Image blocking be damned! What they did with their own internal newsletter is pretty creative. It’s a tool I’m eager to try out.
Google Maps Popular Summer Searches per Country (Infographic) - Google
This is a cool infographic from Google Maps. I’m always interested to see what people search en masse. According to this Americans like to play paintball, camp, and MYRTLE BEACH! We’re right behind the Grand Canyon and Empire State Building. I’m very surprised to see camping rank so highly across several countries.
Call for an end to ‘click here’ links in email - Ros Hodgekiss
To read more about this story, click here. Just kidding. We’ve seen more descriptive anchor text convert better in almost all cases. Use descriptive calls to action, please. Visitors don’t want to click, they want to ‘see’, ‘hear’, ‘experience’, ‘buy’. The idea of device independence is good to remember too. Some people can’t physically click a link, not because they don’t have hands and arms, but because they don’t have a mouse and a cursor.
The Ecommerce Product Video That Increases Revenue Per Visit - Brian Massey
Interesting test looking at video’s impact on ecommerce conversions. In this case it didn’t increase conversion rate like I would expect, but rather average cart. The methodology behind the video production is also pretty cool. Kudos to the team for considering all the factors they did during production.
New AdWords Budget Option: Shared Budgets - Inside AdWords
Shared budgets: Google’s way of saying “We noticed that you’re not spending as much money as you could be. Let us help you from your money.”
Local SEO Directories and Gyro Sandwiches - Nick Bernard
Mmm...tzatziki sauce. Pay close attention to the middle of the post where Nick talks about the rabbit hole that is local.
Why Wal-Mart’s Local Facebook Experiment Hasn’t Worked So Far - Justin Lafferty
There’s nothing like watching one of the largest companies in the world fail. That’s what’s driving all of the Facebook hate right now. People still love Facebook, but it’s so big they would also love to see it fall. Wal-Mart’s local Facebook pages are sort of like that, except less significant and not as exciting.
This Just In: Subject Line Length Means Absolutely Nothing - Mail Chimp
Quality over quantity. Size doesn’t matter. Insert other cliched phrase here: ______.
What’s old is new again!- The return of meta keywords (for news stories) - Google News
Meta keywords are back! LOL J/K...but srsly, Google has a new keyword tag for news stories only. Emphasis added to emphasize a point.
FTC getting serious-ish about Google Anti-Trust Action - Greg Sterling
In other words, “We’ll get around to it. Google’s not going anywhere”.
What can we learn from the design of everday objects?
Thu, September 20, 2012
I bet the last time you went to the grocery store or one of the many general stores, Target, Wal-Mart, etc you didn't pay too much attention to what you were picking up...at least from a design standpoint.
You should though!
A good deal of though, craft and even mistakes goes into the common items we use in our day-to-day lives. From laundry detergent to orange juice, the shape, the colors, the wording, everything that goes into packaging these items has been carefully thought out.
So, how can we apply this to the world of Websites, Email Marketing, and Advertising?
Lets first take a look at color choices, Its important to say a Orange Juice company to pick colors that will help its product jump into your grocery cart, The colors need to make you want Orange Juice and also clearly convey "Hey, this is Orange Juice". Your website and other Interactive efforts should follow this same approach. If you are a fun, family orientated beach resort, picking drab colors won't be the best route to take, Dress that site up in bright colors, follow cues from the Orange, Fruit Juice package designs, bright, vibrant, "Fun" colors will help convey a message about your resort that its a fun, cheerful and a great place for a tropical vacation.
Another aspect to think about when learning lessons from the world of Package Design is functionality. Lets take the often overlooked Egg carton. It is designed to protect eggs, it can lay flat in the fridge and its even stackable without damaging the eggs. The modern grocery store style Egg carton is also designed to easily let the consumer grab 1, 2, or however many eggs they want from the carton at a time easily and quickly.
These same fundamental ideas can be applied to your interactive efforts. Lets take a website for example, much like the humble egg carton, your website needs to be designed so that it can fit on all devices. Whether its a big screen, medium screen, mobile device, portrait, landscape, etc. Just like the egg carton your website or other interactive marketing efforts need to be able to allow the consumer to easily access your goods.
Another aspect of Packaging Design that can be applied to the interactive world is the ability to evolve and change. Packaging Design is never stagnat, It must change to reflect cultural norms and styles of a given era. The same can be said about websites and other interactive marketing elements. Bright Aqua blue might have been very popular in the mid-90s and a good many brands used this color but after a decade styles change, public perception of colors change and new styles become popular. This is a tricky idea though and many companies have made mistakes by evolving their package design to the point where the product design no long reflects the product, it loses its consumer identification. For example, what if tomorrow, McDonalds decided to get rid of the yellow arches, get rid of the red colors and started using brown bags? These little things might not seem like they would be devestating but you and the consumer rely on the cues of packaging design to guide your purchases. So, just like the Coca-Cola no longer needs to project an image of a rotary telephone and 1950s fashion, your interactive marketing should evolve to match the current trends and styles of the day but still make careful note to retain your brand's image.
So, next time you're at the store and pick up a few things, pay attention to the details and think about why the corners are round, why did the company make the box flat on one side, once you start looking at these things in a new light you can apply them to other facets of life and business.
Creating a Targeted Ad Group Without Exact or Phrase Match
Wed, September 19, 2012
I think we can all agree that the goal of paid search is driving qualified traffic to your site that will ultimately convert. With this in mind it's important to launch a new ad group as efficiently as possible to minimize wasted spend. This can be easy when you have an idea of what queries already work and convert on your site. Exact and phrase match work wonders when you know which specific queries that produce results, but what about the times that you need to explore a new keyword niche?
When you're looking to create an ad group targeting a keyword area or topic that you're unsure of, using broad match paired with a strong set of negative keywords can be a great way to explore without wasting ad spend. Let's look at a recent example I came across.
A client of ours, a vacation rental company, has inventory in a lot of high end hotels across the country. Their current campaigns had a mix of hotel and resort keywords, but we were seeing a sample of "rental" and "vacation rental" queries coming through that had good CTR. We decided to split these "rental" keywords into their own ad group. The budget for some of the properties is limited, so we needed to make sure that we were as efficient as possible while getting a good feel for the rental niche. Here's how we did it:
Modified Broad Match Keywords
I love modified broad match. If you're not familiar with it, all you do is add a plus sign (+) to the front of any word in a broad match keyword. This basically anchors that word when matching to user search queries. It's a great tool to use to cut down on irrelevant queries.
For example, the broad match (no modifier) keyword 'detroit vacation rentals'** could match to anything really: 'detroit lions', 'detriot economy', etc. Adding the modifier changes things. Now, '+detroit vacation +rentals' can only match to queries with the words "detroit" and "rentals". So 'detroit vacation rentals', 'detroit hotel rentals', 'detroit short term rentals' are all game, but so are 'detroit home rentals', detroit car rentals', and 'detroit party bus rentals'. Our client is in the hotel business, though, not real estate or vehicle rentals. That's where negative keywords come in.
**Our client doesn't really have rentals in Detroit
We laid our keyword foundation with modified broad match terms, now it's time to refine and shape the queries we want our ads to show for. Continuing with the example above, there's a lot of stuff you can rent in Detroit and we need a list of just what kind of stuff you can find. Using a tool like UberSuggest, we can plug in a head term and find variations on that term that people are searching for. If you plug in 'detroit rentals', UberSuggest returns 231 results. Use this list to form your negatives list. Scanning through the results we can immediately add negative keywords like '-homes', '-dumpster', '-exotic', and '-forklift'. Don't be afraid of a long list of negatives! Remember that we're trying to qualify the potential traffic as best we can.
After going through this process you'll have an ad group that will cast a little larger net than if you just used exact and phrase match keywords but will hopefully not result in a lot of irrelevant queries. Also keep in mind that keyword refinement is never finished, but a constant process of looking at search queries and making changes based on the traffic you're getting.
Friday Fuel: iPhone 5 Edition
Fri, September 14, 2012
I'm not really going to talk about the iPhone. That's called bait and switch. But yes, it's been announced.
I'll just go ahead and say this without linking to anything: the Microsoft/Yahoo Search Alliance is now the Yahoo/Bing Network. It rolls off the tongue much better.
Anyway, let's roll on to the news.
Psychographics Deconstructed: What We Look Like to Facebook Marketers - Marty Weintraub
I like the concept of using social data and tools for social marketing the same way we use the AdWords Keyword Tool for SEO. After reading this I'm also surprised Marty was the first one to make that connection (or was he...)
3 Reckless ‘After Penguin’ Link Building Myths and Why to Avoid Them - Melanie Nathan
These are three myths that seem pretty common sense to me, but is important to reiterate. If you're freaking out because your site was hit by Penguin, don't freak out. Take a deep breath. Roll up your sleeves. Use common sense.
Facebook Exchange Is Out Of Beta - David Cohen
There's not really much to go over yet, but it's important to note that Facebook Exchange is out of beta. You will now be able to retarget visitors of your site on Facebook. Could be useful, could not be useful. The verdict is still out.
Pitching Search Marketing In Traditional Marketing Terms - PeterD
The ideas presented here are super helpful. In our case, we partner with a traditional advertising agency to help give our clients the full spectrum of services. What we get is a lot of clients that are only now moving into the interactive space. It's always important to make sure these clients are on board and understand things from the get go or the chances of the relationship succeeding will be slim. Meeting more traditional clients on their terms with language familiar to them is a great way to ease them into interactive marketing.
Common Technical SEO Problems and How to Solve Them - Paddy Moogan
Good advice from a technical standpoint. In my experience it's been hard to find SEOs that are really good at the technical side and the marketing side, so it's nice to have a tech refresher every now and then.
What If It Isn’t Linkworthy? - Eric Ward
This is actually an old post (like, grandfather old in web years, circa 2008). If that's the case why am I including it? Simple: the thinking still applies today. I admire Eric Ward's approach to link building with a few reservations. This post in particular brings up the concept of merit based link building, i.e., is your content worthy enough to generate links? Some good quotes:
"All I can do is ask for a link, the result is up to others, not me. It’s never ever me who gets a link."
"...I charge $X, if I spend a full day identifying target sites for you (7 hours), that would mean you have spent $X to have me find target sites. What if I only find 40 appropriate target sites? I can’t predict what I will or wont find, but in the past there have been times when I have found 500, or only 10. Then, once the sites have been identified, someone must contact them, and followup. Then, the outcome could still be zero new links."
16 Differences Between Google Mobile & Desktop Search Results In 2012 - Bryson Meunier
Personalized results. Local results. Mobile results. Can we go ahead and put to rest the myth that there is one authoritative SERP anymore?
How to Declare SEO Bankruptcy - Michael Martinez
Grain of salt time. Take what you will from this one. My takeaway: SEO will not fix your business. It does not make up for a poor user experience, bad customer service, limited inventory, or some combination of those (plus many more). SEO can help to drive traffic to an already good site, but if you don't have your stuff together SEO shouldn't be a priority. Do some housekeeping before you invite guests over.
August Search Share: Bing Hits “All Time High” - Greg Sterling
I feel obligated to include this because it's a big deal to some people. Bing's search market share was at an all time high in August. In case you're not keeping track it was at 15.9%, up from 15.7% the previous month. In related news, Google took a hit (of 0.04%).
Friday Fuel: Slow Week
Fri, September 07, 2012
All in all, I consider this a slow news week. Sure there were announcements from Google, Amazon, and the Zuck, but when it comes to real life application the week was a little anemic.
The Future Of Email Marketing [Infographic] - Lyris via Email Critic
Some very cool stats in this one:
- 145 billion emails are sent per day.
- The average user will receive 9,000 emails annually. 9k actually seems small. They obviously haven't seen my inbox.
- 96% of the US market is on a mobile phone. I expected it to be high, but was surprised at that number.
Bing It On - Bing (hence the clever name)
According to Bing, 2 out of 3 choosy moms prefer Jif..I mean Bing. How do you think you stack up in a blind taste test between Bing and the big G? Bing it on and see. My results:
- Round 1 - "mortgage calculator" - Results are pretty similar, only one or two domains are different. I call it a draw.
- Round 2 - "baby names" - I feel bad because I know which one is Google based on the oddly placed news result in the middle. I choose Bing because of the clean result. I don't need news headlines when looking for baby names.
- Round 3 - "2013 calendar" - I like the results on the right, but I choose the left because of a glaring affiliate URL in the right hand results.
- Round 4 - "free credit report" - I expect a ton of spam here but don't get that much. I choose left because the right hand results are including some localization to WAshington State. I live about 3,000 miles away from Washington.
- Round 5 - "racing games" - Again I can tell which one is Google (I don't think Bing has +1s) so I'm trying to be objective. Same top result. Both have some weird domains ranking, so I go with the result with less suspicious domains.
This is a good overview of how to get started with local SEO. I want to emphasize the following sentence: Local SEO has the undeserved reputation of being "easy" and "not a lot of work". No SEO is easy and most is a ton of work.
Pinterest Now Sending More Traffic Than Yahoo Search, Shareaholic Says - Search Engine Land
Yes, Pinterest may be driving more traffic than Yahoo, but what is the difference in quality. In our experience a lot of Pinterest traffic doesn't convert. I'd rather have a smaller amount of converting traffic any day.
4 Signs You’re Chasing The Wrong Goals In SEO - Search Engine Land
Like the author says, this list is only the tip of the iceberg. If you're using things like Klout scores or toolbar PageRank as your main metrics of SEO, it's not going to end well.
50 Best Internet Marketing Blog Posts of 2012 (So Far) - Search Engine Land
Ah, a list within a list. In my weekly recap list I give you this list. It's a little early, we usually don't see these until the end of the year, but it's a preety good recap of 2012 so far.
Friday Fuel: Labor Day Weekend Edition
Fri, August 31, 2012
Welcome back to another edition of Friday Fuel. What's i store this week? You'll just have to read to find out...
The Rise Of Visual Social Media - Fast Company
It's been pretty obvious that social communication has started trending toward visuals (i.e., photos). The explosion of Pinterest over the last 12 months and the fact that my Facebook feed is inundated with stupid Myspace-esque photo quotes should attest to the change. Moral of the story: if you're not using images as a big part of your social posting strategy, you're behind the curve.
New page post targeting options coming to all Facebook pages over 5,000 Likes - Inside Facebook
This is a great feature that adds a little more control for page owners. You can now (assuming you have 5,000+ fans) target posts at a specific subset of your audience. All posts will be visible on the Timeline, but will only show in the newsfeeds of those fans you target.
Quality Score & How It Affects the Bottom Line For Ecommerce Advertisers - PPC Hero
Pretty solid explanation of how Quality Score affects margins for ecommerce PPC. Maximizing quality score can do wonders for an ad group that's converting, but not getting the return it desperately needs.
Local Search Ecosystem: Fall 2012 Update - Mihmorandum
David Mihm. One of the go-to guys in local search and always has pretty great info to share. The latest is no different, a local universe infographic that makes your lunch want to come back up. Look at all those arrows.
Don't Leave Me! Reasons People "Unlike" & "Unsubscribe" from Email Marketing & Facebook - Exact Target
The headline should probably read: "Exact Target Research Finds What Common Sense Would Have Told You". Why do people unsubscribe? Pretty simple, they don't like you. Good email marketing boils down to the relationship, don't abuse it.
Beyond social media – A rough guide to Employee Generated Content in the travel industry - Tnooz
Good intro guide to EGC (like UGC but with an "E"). Although this post is geared toward hotels, employee generated content is useful for a variety of industries.
Survey: Ten Percent Would Pay At Least $10 Per Year To Remove Ads From Facebook - Marketing Land
A new monetization strategy for Facebook, perchance? "Hey users, we're going to bombard you with ads until you pay us to remove them." Out of that 10%, 3.4% said they would pay up to $99.99 per year to remove ads. Wow. Let's see, 3.4% of 955 million active users...times $99.99...$3,246,675,300 per year! Somebody check my math there because that sounds like a lot.
More Than 10 Is The New 10 Blue Links For Bing - Search Engine Land
Oh Bing. Are you for real or just contrary? On one hand, it would be interesting if Bing and Google are both following user behavior. That would say something about the user bases. On the other hand, it could be Google wanting to make more money and Bing reacting by doing the opposite.
PinPointing: Zappos’ Clever New Tool To Monetize Pinterest - Marketing Land
So far Pinterest has been a huge success for the general public but a bit hard to grasp for some marketers. Zappos' new tool looks to change that. Something to keep an eye on.
ECOMMERCE SEO: PRODUCT VARIATIONS, COLORS, AND SIZES - RKG Blog
Good write up explaining two different approaches to ecommerce product variations. Unfortunately there's no ideal solution, you sacrifice something either way.
Friday Fuel: Scarface, Google Craziness, and Checklists
Fri, August 24, 2012
4 Triggered Marketing Emails That Will Help You Engage Without Effort - Email Critic
Being trigger happy usually carries a negative connotation, but not with email. Good email campaigns are as trigger happy as a powdered up Tony Montoya. If you're not taking advantage of some of the basic triggers in this post, give them a shot. Yes, that pun was intended. I apologize.
SERP Crowding & Shrinkage: It's Not Your Imagination - SEOmoz
Dr. Pete's been busy studying SERPs and noticed that they're getting smaller. A lot of SERPs are now returning 7 results instead of the traditional 10. I've noticed them a lot on brand searches. Larry Kim has a write up as well over at Wordstream.
There's a guy that works for Exact Target whose name is Jonathan Gandolf. How cool is that? How many times do you think he heard "Fly you fools!" on his first day? The answer: not enough.
How Eduardo Saverin Sold Facebook Ads in 2004 - Digiday
Interesting post by Digiday who uncovered a Facebook media kit circa 2004. I will admit, my knowledge of Facebook's company history is based solely on The Social Network. I'm guessing this media kit was used by Andrew Garfield somewhere between the 30 and 45 minute marks.
TripAdvisor responds to a provocative study of bogus online reviews - Tnooz
Gasp! TripAdvisor reviews, bogus!? In other news, rain is wet. Most people in the travel industry have had some sort of suspicion over TripAdvisor reviews for a long time. The system is too easily gamed and many fake reviews are pretty obvious. I wish that TripAdvisor would be a little more proactive in combating this issue. Expedia only allows reviews by actual hotel guests while TripAdvisor is open game. It shouldn't be too detrimental to move to a better system.
How Google Went From Search Engine To Content Destination - Marketing Land
For those who don't know, Danny Sullivan is one of the old guard SEOs. He's been around for a while and is one of the top names in the industry. With that said, most of his articles are worth the read. His latest is anything ground breaking, but he does a good job condensing what Google was, is now, and where they're headed.
Google, a Tool for Narcissists
Read this first. 46% of people surveyed have Googled their name in the past 24 hours. Whoa! It's a small sample size, but still crazy. Now read this. Norton offering to run AdWords ads on your name free of charge. Why would a security company be providing ad services? Because people like themselves. A lot. (Although I may just be bitter because I'm outranked by a bluegrass musician, New York Times journalist, and the founder of Gowalla.)
54 Conversion Rate Optimization Tips To Improve Your PPC Campaigns - PPC Hero
I love huge checklists. It feels like I'm getting a lot of band for my reading buck. It also let's me see how creative I am. If I were to write a post about conversion rate optimization tips, could I come up with 54...?
50+ Things Every Link Builder Needs To Know - Search Engine Land
I told you, I love long lists. Case in point: another list.
Friday Fuel: Inaugural Edition
Fri, August 17, 2012
Welcome to the kickoff post of Friday Fuel! Each week we're going to highlight news, trends, and stories from the internet marketing industry. It's going to be kind of like Tosh.0 except with marketing news and without a host that's pretending to be funny (nor do I make claim of a good sense of humor).
Onwards and upwards...
Customer Intelligence, Privacy, and the "Creepy Factor" - Harvard Business Review
Privacy is something that you hear about a lot and the creepy factor is something that we discuss with our clients a lot. How much is too much? At what point does advertising become creepy? Author Larry Downes, basically says "people are just freaking out, they'll get over it". Advertisers really aren't "seeing" your personal data, they lump you into a category with similar customers and you're soon "lost in the crowd".
As a person that works with a lot of companies in the travel industry, all I have to say is: Yay! Zagat scores for hotels just don't cut it.
Google+ Begins Vanity URL Roll-Out - Marketing Pilgrim
Google's begun offering vanity URLs to select companies. Us proletarians will need to wait until the general roll out, however. Start making plans now to make sure you get http://plus.google.com/+lookatthisweirdcharacterintheurl.
Oh Facebook. A few months ago you could do no wrong. Then you went public. Firs of all, I have to say TechCrunch's title is awesomely condescending. Facebook "tried" to let pages do this. I have to agree with them, though. At this point Facebook seems a bit desperate.
Facebook released a new metric for Sponsored Stories. A welcome addition I think.
AdWords Hangouts on Air - Google
While I think Google+ hasn't realized it's potential, I really like where some companies are going with Hangouts. Google announced an AdWords expert hangout every other Thursday.
PPC Hero has really starting putting out some quality posts over the past year. This one is no different. By no means is it a comprehensive guide to cart optimization, it is a good jumping off point for those who have never done it before.
Google Testing Lead Generation System for New Car Sales - Blumenthals
A great concept from Google. Personally, I hate buying cars. The idea of being able to get dealer quotes anonymously sounds amazing. Now if only Google would go to the dealership and deal with the salesman for me...
Very funny post uncovering the reality behind most internet marketing job posts. Does this make me want to change my official title to "Fancy, Prancy Magic Man", no, not at all. It does, however, make me feel validated as a person that there are other people out there who facepalm at the utterance of the title "rock star" or "ninja" or any other pretentious made up crap. Here are a couple other good posts related to the same topic:
Yes, Bing Has Human Search Quality Raters & Here’s How They Judge Web Pages - Search Engine Land
Very cool look into some of the guidelines for Bing's quality raters. The main topics here are search intent and freshness.
Website Redesign Considerations for SEO and PPC - Coconut Headphones
Lol...Coconut Headphones...Humorous name aside, this is a pretty good checklist for those looking to revamp their site.
Charity Water ~ Big ideas and life-changing email communication. - Email On Acid
Full disclosure, my family started supporting Charity Water this year. It's a great organization that raises money to provide water in developing countries. I encourage you to check them out. It was cool to see them mentioned by an email company and to see what one of their full email campaigns looked like. Charity Water's emails are a good example of how to keep subscribers engaged without overwhelming them.
Move over Hotmail. Look out Gmail. And Yahoo...nevermind. Microsoft revamped their webmail offering, moving away from Hotmail to Outlook.com. It's a great design, has some good functionality, and has already hit 10 million users. Email on Acid has a good write up about what it means for email marketers.
Does the Fold Matter in Email Marketing? - Campaign Monitor
Why is it called the fold? Nothing really folds, it's more like the screen bottom. Can we change it to "above the bottom"? Anyway, this post highlights the for and against arguments of the fold in email design.
There you have it. The very first of Friday Fuel. Hopefully your tank is full and you're...not really sure where I'm trying to go with that metaphor. It is Friday after all.
Creating an Experience..not a Yawn
Tue, July 10, 2012
What do you want your website or interactive marketing efforts to be? Do you want them to be just another billboard or advertisement lost in a sea of others or do you want to create an Experience?
If you are in the Entertainment or Hospitality industry, lets vote for Plan B. Often times a resort website or a entertainment site (a golf course, amusement park, etc) interactive efforts will consist of a static website that conveys prices, times and a location, but nothing more. You've worked hard on creating an Experience for your guests or visitors, why not extend that experience to your interactive efforts, your website, email campaigns and even advertisements.
Lets take for example, a fictional family, lets call them the "Smiths". Now, the Smiths have decided on where they want to go and did spent some time at various websites, travel review sites and decided to book their trip at your resort. This proces though only lasted a few weeks, The Smiths like most familes will only take 1 maybe 2 "big" vacations a year but you want a long-term engadgment with your customers (who doesn't). To do this, you have to make your website an "Experience"
Lets go over some ways you can turn your website into the "Hey look there's their phone number" to "I gotta go see what XYZ resort or attraction is doing"
1.) One way to create an "Experience" is to leverage the social aspect. Create "e-post cards" that can be sent prior to their vacation or during their vacation, Create a system so that they can upload their own photos and create albums and share those with their friends.
2.) Make your site fun to use, include photo galleries (With GOOD photos) and videos, let people go on Virtual Tours, Create a "Kids Zone" (If your resort or attraction caters) so that kids can print out coloring pages (With your branding of course)
3.) Want to run a new special or deal? Come up with 3-4 different deals you can offer and have your visitors decidew which deal gets activated. Put in a voting system with a set deadline and whichever special gets the most votes will become active.
4.) Encourage sharing, Make it easy to write a review or upload photos, Better yet, respond to reviews (both negative and positive) this will create a good feeling with the visitors and an honest view into your resort or attraction (Nobody likes reading 50 phony 5 star reviews, visitors can see right through that trick)
5.) If your resort or attraction is pet friendly, offer up Pet photos section, let people upload their pet photos and share them and encourage people to share with their friends the fact that your hotel or attraction is pet friendly. People talk and share more about pet friendly places to stay and visit more than they do kids!
On the surface, all of these things can seem silly or even considered a waste but when you look at how these things will help form a community around your attraction or resort the value becomes infinite. Instead of people happening across your resort website or attraction, booking a room and thats it, you'll instead have a community of people that use your site year round and share it with other people that may not have even considered your brand before.
People that normally would only take one big vacation will start to take maybe a fall break vacation, a Christmas vacation and of course the normal summer beach vacation. So do you want your website and marketing efforts to be just another billboard or do you want them to be an Experience that matches the excitement and great memories that your brand offers?
THIS IS HOW THE COOKIE CRUMBLES
Wed, June 27, 2012
My SEO team colleague recently approached me with a data inconsistency issue between Google Analytics and Adobe SiteCatalyst for one of our retail clients. It appeared that the data showing for natural search was quite different between the two reporting systems. Google Analytics was reporting nearly twice as many natural search visits than SiteCatalyst. While I always say that there will be some discrepancy between reporting systems, this was completely out of line.
We tried to narrow down the discrepancy. Total visits and revenue overall were very close between the two systems. It simply seemed that one system was either overstating or understating the attribution to natural search. Why would this be? I contacted support at Adobe to see if they could help us. The only thing they could do was tell me how SiteCatalyst natural search attribution works, which I already knew. I really wanted someone to look at our code to see if something wasn't implemented correctly. They offered to send us raw data feeds instead. We used the raw data to look at 50 different test visits we had our intern make to the site, using different keywords, browsers, and operating systems to get there. We were able to verify that all 50 came through. Oddly though, they also came through Google Analytics correctly. What were we missing? How did all of these visits come through correctly in both places, and yet Google shows double the natural search visits than SiteCatalyst? We tested another retail site using the same shopping cart system with a SiteCatalyst implementation to see if it was something in the shopping cart causing the issue. Nope - the discrepancy didn't happen on this other site.
I searched the help files in SiteCatalyst and Google Analytics, I tweeted, I posted in my LinkedIn forums...no help. Finally, I found a tiny blurb in Google's support site on their campaign tracking that says, "If it is the user's first visit to your site, the tracking code adds the campaign tracking information to the cookie. If the user previously visited your site, the tracking code increments the session counter in the cookie. Regardless of how many sessions or how much time has passed, Google Analytics remembers the original referral." OK, this sets me on a wild goose chase to find further information about the various cookies used to track campaigns and sources. On developers.google.com, I finally found what I was looking for: The _utmz cookie stores the referral data, whether it be a referring domain, campaign, or search engine. The cookie expiration is 6 months. 6 months?!?! I continued my search for more info. I found a Yahoo user forum that posed the same exact question I had. The kind person who answered specifically said that Google will cookie your machine upon your first visit to the site. That source will remain until another source/campaign is available to overwrite the original source. Direct traffic is NOT considered a source. Holy cow!
First of all, why is the cookie set for 6 months? That is a VERY long time. Let's not forget that if a visitor returns to the site within that 6 month time, the cookie expiration renews. Why not set it at the same length as AdWords? Secondly, why does Google not see direct traffic as another source?
This isn't a horrible issue if your site doesn't have a large percentage of repeat visitors, or if those repeat visitors don't come back for at least 6 months. However, for our retail client, the situation seems to be that visitors begin their quest using the search engine for the retailer's brand name. They enter the retail site, and from then on become loyal customers. They come back over and over again, with all of their traffic and revenue being attributed to natural search.
Let's take a site like amazon.com. A visitor searches Google for the term "baby cribs." The visitor clicks on a search result that goes to one of Amazon's baby crib pages. The visitor buys or doesn't buy something from Amazon at this time; it's irrelevant for this example. Tomorrow, the same visitor decides that she wants to purchase a book she's been wanting to read. She types in amazon.com in her browser, looks for her book, and purchases it. That book purchase revenue and visit is going to be attributed to the "baby crib" keyword. This is obviously an extreme situation; however, it does make my point. The attribution of that second visit truly was a different source than the first. It certainly would have had different traffic patterns on the site. Yet, all of that was attributed to the initial keyword the visitor came through because there was nothing to override that source. It's just ludicrous to me.
At the end of the day, it was a long journey to find this information, but it is now invaluable. My closing wish to Google is that they break that utmz cookie into crumbles so that it is shorter than 6 months, and rethink that source attribution!
Rise of the Tablets
Thu, June 21, 2012
Did everyone see Microsoft's "Apple Style" secret and announcement of their new tablet? If not, you should really check it out. Its an impressive piece of hardware and something that Microsoft has not typically done in the past. Microsoft's new "Surface" shows that they are taking the competition that Apple is throwing seriously. So why am I writing about tablet hardware on an interactive agencies blog you might be asking? This latest announcement just shows how heated and important mobile devices (this includes tablets if you were confused) have become and thus how important it is for your brand, your company to have an interactive presence on these devices that looks how you want it to look.
So your company has decided it needs more of a mobile presence, everything has to look good and function, from Android Phones to the iPad and other tablets, you've got a few options here:
- Responsive Design
- Standalone Application
- Seperate Site built just for phone screens or tablet screens
Lets talk about Responsive Design first, I know, it sounds a bit...geeky but hang with me for a moment, its a very cost effective and quick way of turning your existing site into a mobile and tablet friendly website. I'm not going to get ya'll lost in a world of jargon, but simply put, we can take the existing stylesheet of the website, add special "rules" to it so that when the site detects that it is on a phone or tablet, it can adjust features on the site and scale things down accordingly. Responsive Design has its limitations however and if you want to really customize the mobile, tablet site from your "main" site it might be best to go with option 3 listed above and create a seperate site alltogether.
Creating a standalone application or "App" that is able to be downloaded in the various "App" markets that Google, Microsoft and Apple have setup is quite a big undertaking but worthwhile if you want to create something that users will use and likely tell their friends about. Its also helpful in getting more people to learn about who you are and what your business is offering. For example, if they search the Google Play market for "Myrtle Beach" Wouldn't you like your resort to come up in that list?
Smart phones have been a dominate force for a few years now but the Tablet market is going to get more and more competitive and soon there will be many many more options besides "iPad" which just means that your website, the product your company offers has to be able to have a nice looking front for users on mobile devices. You don't want your resort, hotel or golf course being that one site that the user is surfing with their tablet on their couch going "why doesn't this work"
Ramblings from the Intern
Wed, June 13, 2012
For everyone that hates numbers and details, I understand why. They’re boring and plain and if you mess one up they’re all wrong. Well, a month into my internship and I can now say that is just not true. Web analytics has taken the guess work out of which half of advertising is working and which half is not. No more wasted advertising money and no more wasted effort. Web analytics turned boring old numbers into an exciting, business improving, efficiency increasing, and necessary part of marketing!
One month into my internship and already my knowledge of analytics has grown exponentially. Coming to Fuel Interactive with a limited knowledge on analytics, my first month has not come without a steep learning curve. The first week I spent observing the day to day activity and learned how to use the different programs. This is when I realized just how challenging yet incredibly useful web analytics is.
After a week of training I was told “tomorrow come prepared because we’re going to throw you into a report”. You can imagine that’s the point in an intern’s short career that you start feeling a bit nervous. My first report (and second and third) was not completed without asking dozens of questions. While completing the reports, I found out just how powerful and tricky web analytics is.
Analytics is so much more than just reporting the number of people that came to your website, or figuring out what the most viewed page was. You can see nearly every aspect of a person’s time spent on your site. To use these numbers in a productive way is what fascinates me the most. By going into SiteCatalyst, pulling out the number that represents a specific list of prerequisites and knowing what that number means and what to do with it is really what analytics is. I’m learning that analytics is all about attention to detail and like a co worker said is the “big brother” of a company’s website. Seeing how one minute change can effect something unrelated, or the fact that one simple thing can have a huge impact on something else is fascinating.
So many things have blown my mind since being at Fuel, from realizing that every click you make is being tracked to probably the biggest and most scary realization that I now love numbers! <3
Say No to Press Releases for SEO
Mon, April 23, 2012
Press releases have been a staple of link building for a few years now. What's better than shooting out a release and getting hundreds of instant back links? The problem is, press releases are not as effective as they once were, at least if you're using them with the intent of link building only.
Why don't press releases make sense? Here are a few reasons:
You Don't Really Have Any Real News...Really
Some companies that relied on press releases for link building would send out several press releases per month. Chances are, if you're a small to medium sized company, you don't really have that much newsworthy content. Who cares if your company just brought on a receptionist with an MBA or updated copy on the website? Nobody. Save your time and energy for big announcements.
Remember, too, that in this social saturated world, there's been a big push back against push marketing. You'll gain far more traction when you build a relationship with your customers and the press/blogosphere/influencers that will be covering your stories. If you have something to say, don't talk at them. Start a conversation </cliche> and build a relationship where they actually care about you and your brand. Once you have that foundation, don't screw it up by blasting them with fake news.
It's Quality, Not Quantity, That Counts
Hooray! You sent out a press release with super thin content and it got picked up by 1,542.6 websites! Now What? Sure, you have a lot of links, but are they helping? Let's think this through:
- All of these sites created brand new pages for these releases with zero equity
- Half of these are probably scraper sites that have no value
- The other half could be small time news affiliates
- All of these pages are duplicates of each other, they're not unique content
Now let's compare that to a well crafted press release that's sent to a small group of journalists with ties to big sites. The latter gets noticed by only three writers, one from USA Today, one from New York Times, and one from the Huffington Post. If you're going for quantity, you screwed up. How dare you only get three links from some of the most important news outlets in the country! Shame on you! If you're going for quality, though, you just became a superstar. These three writers took your release, put their own spin on it, and linked back to you. Magnifique*!
*Yes, that word is French. Please don't hold that against me.
Link Diversity is Part of the Game, Press Releases Don't Play Well
When you're building or generating links, one goal is to make your link profile natural (yes, the fact that you're building links is inherently unnatural. That's a separate debate). Some PR companies have a certain list of sites or outlets that they send to over and over. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. Chances are the PR company has spent a lot of time cultivating a good list. However, from a link building perspective, distributing press releases to the same places over and over is not a good long term strategy. Let's say you generate 100 links from 100 sites with every release and you generate distribute 5 press releases per month. After a year, you've successfully generated 6,000 links, but you're only getting links from the same 100 domains. You need some diversity; 6,000 links from 6,000 sites is much better than 6,000 links from 100 sites.
So how do you successfully leverage press releases for SEO benefit?
Don't do it solely for the "SEO benefit". If that's your intention, you've failed before you started. Instead, focus on real, interesting news. If you don't have any, maybe you don't really need a press release.
Be thoughtful about where you're distributing. Don't just blast out a release to any outlet that will take it. That would be like running up to people at the mall and screaming "Love me, please!" Take time to consider what outlets the release would be relevant to and if there is anyone (journalist, website, or otherwise) that would be truly interested.
Be smart about anchor text. Yes, anchor text is important, but remember "natural" is also important. Don't force anchor text just because you want to rank for a keyword.
Measure the impact. Don't just do something because "that's what companies do". If a press release falls flat, consider why. Was it newsorthy enough? Was it interesting enough? Would it have been more appropriate via an email or social announcement?
Google Announces AdWords Near Match
Wed, April 18, 2012
Today Google announced a new feature for exact and phrase match keywords: Near Match. What is near match you ask? It's an opt-in option that affects what queries exact and phrase match keywords can match. For example, exact match has historically only matched the search query identical to the targeted keyword. With Near Match, you can now expand that to include different variations including misspellings, abbreviations, and singular and plural forms, among other things.
How it used to be:
Keyword: [puppies in south carolina] = Query: puppies in south carolina
With near match:
Keyword: [puppies in south carolina] = Queries: puppies in south carolina, puppy in south carolina, puppies in sc
Google's idea with near match is that it will help target intent rather than a specific keyword. The appropriateness of Near Match is going to come down to how it works for individual accounts and the strategies in place. For some accounts, you want to be as granular as possible since budget and targeting are concerns. There is great potential with eCommerce. Near Match could be a better way to effectively manage the countless variations of product queries. With othe accounts, it could be a way to ensure you're casting the widest net possible. Think about Myrtle Beach in particular. There are a lot of misspellings of "myrtle" (e.g., "mrytle" "myrtel", etc.) and different ways to abbreviate SC (e.g., SC, S.C., S. Carolina, or even "Myrtle Beach North Carolina"). Using Near Match on these keywords would ensure you're getting as much exposure as possible.
Writing for the Web
Mon, March 19, 2012
Coming into this business I would have never realized how much of what we have to do on a daily basis involves writing—writing blog posts, writing site content, writing descriptions, and more!
It’s given me a pretty good appreciation for the things that just won’t work when you’re trying to sell your site or brand as an authority.
Writing Tip 1: Voice
You want to have a specific voice for a site. It’s part of the branding for your company so think carefully about how you want to come across.
Here’s a couple examples:
“If you want customer service dedicated to giving you fun in the sun, Generic Hotel can give you the best vacation ever!”
“At Generic Hotel, our courteous and dedicated staff can meet your every need”
“At Generic Hotel we’ll treat you like family, but better because we can’t kick you out once you start getting on our nerves”
These messages convey basically the same generic message about customer service. But the voice and message is very different, giving the sentences and therefore the site very different feels.
Writing Tip 2: Sentence Structure
It’s probably a holdover from my days in journalism, but I think simple sentence structure is the best way to go. It keeps people from getting confused about what exactly you’re trying to say.
“At Generic Hotel, our staff can meet any need customers throw at us, from booking a charter fishing trip on the Atlantic Ocean to creating a luxurious spay day for a mother-daughter retreat and much more.”
This sentence, while it gets the point across, kind of confuses the main message with lots of details.
I would rewrite it instead to say:
“At Generic Hotel, our staff can meet the needs of any customer. Whether you’re looking to book a charter fishing trip or have a mother-daughter spa day, we can help!”
Writing Tip 3: Goals
I think the main reason people get tripped up when it comes to writing content for the web is they don’t really have a reason for writing or, if they do, it gets lost somewhere in the midst of their trying to figure out how to formulate the words.
Think about what you want someone to do with what you’re writing. If you’re writing a hotel resort description, you want someone to choose your hotel above the others so you want to highlight the things that will make someone choose your hotel over the other choices. If you’re writing a blog post for the same resort, your ultimate goal is the same—you want someone to choose your hotel over another. But you’re also writing for people who may have already booked your hotel and are looking for information about what’s going on there. To do that you’ll need to write a mix of “this is why you should book here” and “this is what’s going on” which is actually not too difficult to do if you tie the two together.
If you keep your goal in mind when you’re writing, you wind up with a much more focused and polished piece of writing.
The Benefits of Great Form Design
Fri, March 16, 2012
The simple "contact us" form is the unsung hero of a website, it often gets ignored, pushed to the side, slapped together in an effort to spend more time on flashy promo panels or fancy navigation effects, but the "Contact Us" form deserves much more attention!
Of course, I'm not just talking about "Contact" forms, I'm talking about forms in general, from a hotel's reservation form to a newsletter signup form, forms can be a very powerful and easy to to gather customer and user data from a website. However in most cases these forms don't get much thought, they are often too lengthy, poorly designed, bland, dull, BORING.
If you want your users to fill out a form, its got to have some FUEL to it and this is where great form design comes into play. Below are just some ways to help gather more accurate data, open up the communication between you and your users and also help instill confidence in your site and product.
1.) Length. Sure it would be great to be able to put up a 20 field form with multiple pages so you can gather as much data as you can to help target your marketing efforts…but a long form more often than not drives away users. Think to yourself, "Would I fill all this out at home on a saturday". Keep the form short, simple and to the point, identify the most valuable aspects that you want to capture, Name, email address, Phone, and so forth.
2.) Text. Be personal with your form, instead of having default text that says "Email Address" try something friendlier, more inviting, like "Let us know your email address so we can get in touch" A user has to have some sort of incentive to sit there and fill out a form, being more personal helps that process, it takes a "Threatning" form that contains their personal information and transforms the process into something much friendlier, more inviting.
3.) Design. Default fields, default text, column 1, column 2. Most forms are boring visually and as mentioned above from a readability standpoint as well. If you want to increase the amount of data you are collecting from forms, design will play a key role. Make sure that the form matches the look and feel of the site, use similar fonts, similar colors, provide contrast between the elements. Most importantly of all make it not look like a form that the user fills out at the DMV or on their taxes, its important that the form is inviting and something the user will look at and feel that there is some value to filling out these fields.
One last note about forms, forms aren't just for collecting information from your users, they also have the power to instill confidence in your product or service. If you're "Contact Us" form looks thrown together, the user may not feel confident that filling out this form will result in answers to their questions.
In a worst case scenario, if you are running an online store and collect credit card information and your forms are just thrown together, don't match or resemble filling out your taxes, your potential customers are not going to feel confident in sharing their personal information with your company resulting in them shopping, booking their vacation or planning a golf trip elsewhere.
Minor Differences: Google AdWords and Microsoft AdCenter
Tue, March 13, 2012
If you're doing any search marketing right now, chances are you're familiar with both Google AdWords and Microsoft AdCenter. Both programs basically do the same things. You put in ads, you put in keywords, then BAM!, you have traffic. Once you get into the thick of things, you begin to realize that they are pretty different. Here are a few ways AdWords and AdCenter diverge:
You're not likely to hear about keyword normalization because it's not always talked about, but it has a profound effect on how you create ad groups in AdCenter. The gist is that AdCenter removes things like punctuation and stop words from your keywords. For example, if you have an ad group about 'cake baking', all of the following keywords would be the same to AdCenter:
- bake cake
- bake a cake
- how to bake a cake
If you have a lot of duplicate keywords in your AdCenter account, normalization is likely the culprit. In a recent blog post, Microsoft states that the benefits of normalization are less keywords to manage and that your existing keywords will match to more search queries.
AdWords is definitely the leader between the two platforms. Not only is the interface quicker and easier to use, it also gives you more options. Over the past few years, AdWords has rolled out Ad Extensions which help you improve your ad with things like maps and directions, site links, product listings, and more. Using these extensions can help improve click through rate on an already effective ad. AdCenter is slowly moving into this space as well with their recent announcement of location extensions. Microsoft still has a lot of catchup to do, though.
Google is always experimenting and opening beta opportunities to users. Although some experiments are available to small groups of select advertisers, Google's constant testing gives advertisers the chance to be an early adopter. The best time to try new ad types or other things is in the beginning when it's still new to searchers. That way, you can make the most out of the novelty of people seeing something new for the first time.
Modified Broad Match
Technically, this should go under "More Options", but I really like it. Match types in AdWords and AdCenter are more or less the same. You get broad, phrase, exact, and negative keywords. AdWords, though, has a secret weapon: modified broad match. Think of it as a partial phrase match. In AdWords, when you place a plus sign (+) in front of part of your keyword, you are telling Google to only match that keyword to queries that include your plus-signed word.
Say you have the keyword 'breakfast restaurants'. Normal broad match could match that to search queries like 'fast food restaurants' or 'japanese restaurants'. When you add the keyword as a modified broad match keyword (+breakfast restaurants), the keyword will only match to queries that have the word "breakfast" in them
One of my biggest pet peeves in ad testing is not allowing each ad to have an equal share of impressions. There's no way to tell which one works better unless the data set is similar. In AdWords, you can set ads to rotate evenly, allowing each ad an equal chance to be clicked, or let AdWords optimize them based on click through rate. The latter isn't helpful when ad testing for anything beyond click through rate. What's worse is that AdCenter always optimizes to show the ad with the best click through rate. There's no way to change it.
Facebook Announcements: Timeline for Pages and More
Wed, February 29, 2012
Facebook made about a zillion and one announcements today at the fmc (Facebook Marketing Conference) in New York. The biggest buzz is around the official word that all brand pages will be updated to the Timeline on March 30th.
If you didn't catch the live feed the first time around, Facebook has some of the highlights online or you can catch up with the plethora of news converage:
- Page Timelines: http://mashable.com/2012/02/29/facebook-brand-timelines-changes-marketing/
- PageTimelines: http://mashable.com/2012/02/29/facebook-timeline-brands-prepare/
- PageTimelines: http://www.allfacebook.com/facebook-pages-timeline-7-2012-02
- Offers: http://www.allfacebook.com/facebook-offers-deals-2012-02
- Industry Reaction (I like Buddy Media's commentary): http://www.allfacebook.com/timeline-reax-2012-02
- (Some) Public Insights Data: http://www.allfacebook.com/facebook-timeline-page-metrics-2012-02
- Ad Changes: http://www.allfacebook.com/premium-ads-facebook-2012-02
- Ad Changes: http://www.allfacebook.com/facebook-officially-debuts-offers-premium-ad-placement-2012-02
- Ad Changes: http://marketingland.com/facebook-finally-brings-ads-to-mobile-devices-7058
For those of you who don't feel like sorting through all those words, I've pulled some highlights:
- Every page will be upgraded on March 30th but you can preview the Timeline right now.
- There won't be anymore landing pages. From now on, all visitors will go to the Timeline by default.
- Only two "tabs" will be visible in addition to the Friends and Like tabs.
- You can pin a post to the top of the page. A pin expires after 7 days or until something new is pinned.
- Tab and app sizes are changing.
- Users will now be able to send private messagesto brands.
- You'll be able to schedule posts from Facebook.
- New ad changes mean it could be less cost effective to "buy" fans, they're moving from traditional ads to stories
- Offers are replacing check-ins. Offers for local businesses will be self serve on the page with an option to pay to promote them beyond the page.
- The Reach Generator is probably the most intriguing announcement. Most pages reach only 10-15% of their audience. You can now pay to reach at least 75% of your audience.
What to Do to Get Ready
Create a cover photo. With cover photos, your brand has a chance to make a great first impression. Use a high quality cover photo that promotes your business. Change things up regularly with new messaging or exclusive specials.
Choose visible tabs. With the new layout, you only get two tabs. Rather than being able to create dozens of tabs, you'll need to be selective with what tabs are most important to your goals. While you're there, reformat your tabs to fit the new width specs.
Create milestones and curate your timeline. Milestones are unqiue to the Timeline layout. You can now denote when certain things have happened like when your business opened or when you page hit 10,000 fans. Get creative. A portion of your connections will take the time to scroll through your Timeline, so make it worth their while.
And After That?
Timeline and the other announcements represent a significant change in the way marketers need to approach Facebook. Rather than using Facebook as a promotion channel, brands need to look at the platform as a place to really engage their customers (something that they should have done all along).
Words of Wisdom from an Email Designer
Fri, February 24, 2012
Content is King…Sort Of
Fri, January 27, 2012
Why being number 1 doesn’t always matter
Wed, January 25, 2012
Everyone wants to be number 1, the best, the head cheese, the top dog, etc., etc.
But when it comes to search rankings, having that coveted number one spot doesn’t mean as much as it once did.
Years ago, there was pretty solid data that said pages that ranked number one in search engines got the lion’s share of clicks and that number of clicks steadily decreased as you went down the search engine results page.
But now the results pages look a lot different than they used to.
Results pages can look different based on where someone is, what they’ve previously searched for, if they’re logged in to a Google account, and more.
Search engines like Bing and Google are personalizing search results more and more in an effort to bring people the information they’re most likely looking for, making it harder to really say where a web site will really be ranked.
They’re trying to get to what the searchers “intent” is based on the previous data they have for them and businesses should be doing that too-- but more on that in a moment!
In addition to the personalized results, the “number one” problem is even more compounded because of the number of ads and other things like news listings that could be taking up the space where the “number one” site was once found. I’ve seen search engine result pages that have only one or two websites above the fold.
All of this means that being “number one” is relative and businesses need to put a bit more thought into what things people would be searching for that would make your site what people most need or want—also known as the searchers intent.
Targeting really generic keywords and expecting a first page ranking isn’t realistic for a lot of businesses. If you want to rank for “music” and you’re a small record shop in Chapin, South Carolina…well, good luck!
But if you target “music South Carolina” or “music stores in Chapin” you’re a lot more likely to see the results you want.
Also, with better keyword research sites can target people who are looking for the specific product or services that is offered by only that company and that is what makes them unique.
Using that same music store, say they were the only place people could get the CDs from the South Carolina BlueGrass Music Festivals, then they might want to think about adding that to their keyword list so that when people are searching for that festival they find out where they can get the CDs from it.
Targeting the things that set a business apart would hopefully result in a higher conversion rate for those keywords and helps brand the company’s unique services or products.
There’s only one number one spot. Everyone can’t be there for the same keywords.
Diversifying your keywords by thinking from a searchers point of view can take you above the fray.
Are People Opening Your Mail?
Mon, January 16, 2012
Most people begin everyday by checking their inboxes. Unlike the USPS, you can check your inbox any time, day or night, and as many times in day as you like. Most people don’t even check their ‘actual’ mail boxes that frequently. E-mails have become the standard form of communication, and inboxes are the place to check for things such as letters from friends, advertisements, e-vites, and the dreaded cable bill. You never know what will show up in your inbox. But just like your real mail box, some items you open and read, and others you simply throw away. What is it that makes you decide which emails are keepers, and which are junkers?
The first item that readers see is the sender address. Mail from a family member, or a friend will surely get opened first. Mail from your local grocer, maybe later. Mail from CheapDietPill.com, maybe never. Make sure that your sender address not only accurately describes who you are, but does so in a non-threatening, casual way. For instance, instead of CheapDietPills.com, maybe try Affordable Weightless Solutions. Also, using an actually person’s name can make the recipient feel more attached to the sender. So better yet try, Renee from Weight loss Solutions. This lets the recipient know (or at least feel) like they are communication with an actual person, not just an entity.
Second, the email subject line. People want to know what the email is about before they open it. Is it interesting? Is it time sensitive? Is it something that I care about? Craft your subject line to sound casual, friendly, and intriguing. Don’t give away so much that they don’t need to open the email, but enough that makes them want to learn more. Don’t over capitalize your subject lines, as this looks more headline- ish and less conversational. Also, if you subscriber list enables you to do so, a simple code can let you insert the readers name into the subject line to further personalize the message. However, do not overuse this tactic, as some people may find it intrusive. This can also be applied in the salutation of the email body.
There you have it – seems simple right? Remember to keep it conversational and people should be more receptive to your emails. Getting the open is half the battle, now which would you choose?
CheapDietPills.com LOSE WEIGHT NOW!!! FREE trial – ACT FAST!
Renee from Weight loss Solutions Let us help shed those holiday pounds affordably!
Tales From an Internet Marketer
Wed, January 04, 2012
Inside 1705 North Oak Street
Mon, January 02, 2012
I’m the newest hire here at Fuel Interactive. I came from a journalism background and am now a part of the Internet Marketing team.
Coming from something totally outside of this field, there are a few things that struck me right away about the people who work at Fuel:
We <3 abbrev
During some of my first conversations with the Internet Marketing Team at Fuel, I caught myself nodding along as they talked about ROAS, PPC, CPC and more.
And then I had to ask the dreaded question at the end of the conversation that made it clear I had no idea what they were talking about: “What did you mean by ___ (fill in abbreviation here)?”
I don’t imagine this is something that’s unique just to us—a lot of people use “industry slang” – but I think it may come off worse from us since what we do and how we do it is hard to explain and our peppering of abbreviations doesn’t help.
So, if you’re talking with someone at Fuel and you find yourself nodding along while they spew out an alphabet soup of terms, politely interrupt and ask them to speak English.
FOOOOOD (and caffeine)
Maybe I’m just easily impressed, but when I saw the inside of the Fuel kitchen for the first time, I was blown away by the amount of soda and energy drinks in that fridge.
And then I turned around and almost got mauled by someone because I was between them and the fresh bread that was on the table.
Food, any kind of food, goes really quick here.
I brought in a dozen donuts on my second day and they were gone literally before I could send out an e-mail to everyone saying they were on the kitchen table.
We also have conversations about where we’re going to lunch starting right after everyone sits down at their desks to start their morning.
I guess we work up an appetite being awesome.
Smart, but dumb
The people here are some of the smartest people I’ve met and some can do magic as far as I’m concerned. But that doesn’t stop them from having face-palm moments from time to time.
From mangling conversational English to needing a GPS to get from the office back home, we all have had some moments that aren’t our best (myself included).
But laughing at ourselves and each other is part of what I think keeps the people here sane.
Fuel Interactive, The Brandon Agency to host New South Digital Marketing Conference
Mon, December 19, 2011
TripAdvisor, Yelp, Yahoo, Google – some of the biggest names in digital marketing will all be taking a trip to the beach this spring.
The Brandon Agency and Fuel Interactive are hosting the inaugural New South Digital Marketing Conference March 26 at the Marriott Grande Dunes in Myrtle Beach.
“We are excited about the opportunity to host the inaugural New South Digital conference here in Myrtle Beach,” said Pete DiMaio, VP of Business Strategy for Fuel Interactive. “This is a great opportunity for web marketers in Myrtle Beach and around the nation to interact with the industry leaders.”
Speakers from across the digital marketing spectrum will be offering their tips and insights to attendees, including keynote speakers Peter Sheahan and Scott Stratten.
Sheahan, founder and CEO of ChangeLabs, has worked with some of the world’s leading brands in the areas of innovation and change. He is also the author of bestsellers “Fl!p” and “Generation Y.”
Stratten, president of Un-Marketing, is an expert in viral, social, and authentic marketing and his book, “UnMarketing: Stop Marketing. Start Engaging,” became a national bestseller before it was even released in September 2010.
In addition to the keynotes, attendees will hear from leaders with TripAdvisor, Google Travel, Yelp, Yahoo, Adobe and ExactTarget during breakout sessions.
And during the lunchtime panel discussion, moderated by The Brandon Agency President and CEO Scott Brandon, speakers will take questions from the audience and each other.
“In addition to the interactive sessions, the group of speakers we've put together, such as Scott Stratten and Peter Sheahan, make New South Digital a must-attend conference in 2012,” said DiMaio.
Scott Brandon said the Brandon Agency and Fuel have “garnered a reputation for being leading edge innovators in the digital marketing area and as a result, we have decided to share our expertise and our connections within the industry.”
“We guarantee that attendees will walk away with new marketing tools to incorporate into their company’s or clients digital marketing plans,” he said.
Registration opened December 1 and tickets can be purchased for $249 per person. Tickets purchased after December 31 will be priced at $299 per person.
For more information, or to register, visit www.newsouthdigital.com or call (843) 916-2016.
Fuel Interactive Named ‘Best of the Beach’ for Website Design Firm
Mon, October 24, 2011
Fuel Interactive recently won First Place in the website design firm category in The Sun News’ 2011 Best of the Beach contest.
The category was included in the “locals’ choice” portion of the contest so only Myrtle Beach residents could vote.
Jordan Pate, Fuel’s vice president of marketing, said the team was excited about the win.
“We’re very proud of our team of designers, programmers, and developers who work so hard, yet are rarely recognized by the public for their talents,” Pate said. “It means a lot for locals in Myrtle Beach to recognize the work we do here, which really speaks for itself.”
In addition to website design and development, Fuel Interactive offers a wide range of interactive marketing services including SEO (search engine optimization), analytics, PPC (pay per click) marketing, email marketing, and call tracking services.
Local clients include Myrtle Beach National, Brittain Resort Management and VacationMyrtleBeach.com.
Search Engine Market Share: Hot Topic or Moot Point
Tue, October 11, 2011
If you follow the search industry long enough, you'll begin to see a trend. Each month, around this time, you see extravagant headlines like these:
- Bing Catching Up to Google
- Google Market Share Takes a Hit
- Bing Chipping Away at Search Giant
This makes for great conversation and can really pump up the page views, but is it really true? Is Bing really gaining that much ground? Let's take a look at a few things.
Long Term Market Share Changes
Sure, Google may have lost a fraction of a percentage point in any given month. But even if Google takes a hit of a few percentage points, does that mean Bing is destined to take over? Search Engine Journal recently released an infographic mapping out some of the differences in the "Big Three" search sites which includes this great chart:
From the looks of this data, Google doesn't seem to be hurting too bad. Their market share has risen from about 53% in the beginning of 2007 to just over 60% in early 2011. Bing and Yahoo combined had a market share of over 35% back in the day, but now they're just skirting 30%. It seems that if anyone need fear Bing, it's Yahoo.
Neat fact: did you know, Bing loses about $462,962 per hour!
Microsoft has lost around $9 billion since they began tracking search engine profitability in 2007. They're banking on changing the way people think about search engines. I'm not sure it's working.
There is a version of our future where Bing could be a serious contender. Bing/Microsoft could buy Yahoo and move beyond their "search alliance". They could plug the holes in their wallet. Microsoft is also supporting antitrust legislation against Google (even though they do the same things Google is accused of). For Bing, gaining market share beyond the 30-35% mark is going to take a lot of work.
Classes Begin at F.U.
Tue, September 13, 2011
Facebook’s Edge Rank Demystified
Tue, August 23, 2011
Lately, there have been many attempts to use Edge Rank as a selling point. These pitches claim that they can increase your page's Edge Rank or that you can advertise on a page with a certain Edge Rank. This approach fails to understand what Edge Rank really is. Edge Rank is Facebook's algorithm that decides what posts or Objects are most likely to show up in a person's "Top News" feed. Among other things, it's based on three main factors: affinity, weight, and decay.
- Affinity is the relationship between the user and the Object's creator. The more often you interact with a person or page, the greater the affinity.
- Weight is the importance of a certain action. For example, a comment carries more weight than a Like because it takes more time and effort.
- Decay looks at how old an Object is. The older it gets, the less important it is.
Edge Rank is focused on the Object, not a page. We can't see Edge Rank for a particular page because that's not how it works. We also can't see what an individual Object's Edge Rank is because Edge Rank is unique to the relationship between the Object and user. Edge Rank for a single Object will vary from user to user depending on how you've interacted with the page before, what time of day you're seeing the Object versus when it was posted, and how other users have already interacted with it.
Basically, this means that when you're posting things to Facebook, you want to encourage people to interact as quickly and as often as possible. The question remains: if Edge Rank is different for each Object and user combination, how can you make sure you're doing what you can to maximize it? Here are a few tips:
- Encourage engagement - Post something that resonates with your audience.
- Include a specific call to action - People respond to stimulus. If you want a specific action, simply ask. Include phrases like "Click Like" or "Comment on this post".
- Know what time of day your audience is most engaged - Since timing and decay are factors, your Objects will be more successful if you post them when your audience is most ready to engage. This is different for everyone, so consult Facebook's Insights to see when your audience engages most.
3 Ways to Find Keywords With Potential
Tue, August 09, 2011
Keywords are the foundation of any search marketing effort, whether it's paid or organic. Without good keyword research, a search marketing campaign will not succeed. One way to perform keyword research is to start from scratch, looking for keywords that you think would perform well. This kind of research, however, is based mostly on intuition and guesses, not actual data. Chances are that you already have a wealth of data that provides insight into what is already working. The following methods will help you find keywords that are already proven to perform and, with a little effort, could perform even better.
Using Pinterest for Business
Tue, August 09, 2011
Vision boards have long served as visual reminders of our lives, goals, decorating ideas, travel plans, or style ideas. Pinterest is a social community that takes this one step further. Here you can create individual boards for areas of your life and pin images from across the web. It’s much like bookmarking, only your boards are shared with the social community on Pinterest, where members can then comment on the images, or choose to repin them. If a particular member of the community is interested enough in a variety of the images that you tack onto a board, they can choose to follow that board. The idea, as Pinterest puts it, is to connect people all over the world based on shared tastes and interests.
Over the past six months, Pinterest has steadily grown, and millions of pins are now added every week. Estimates put unique visitors for June at 866,112 visitors, with 3,033,745 total visits, as compared to just 6 months ago, when Pinterest received approximately 50,000 visitors in one month. While there are any number of reasons to build a board, many build them to save ideas from across the web for their homes, weddings, clothing, and travel experiences.
Because of Pinterest’s unique interaction with the social community, it also presents itself as an interesting marketing opportunity online. While Pinterest’s terms and conditions encourage staying away from self promotion, Pinterest could be utilized in a variety of different ways for businesses:
- Travel Itineraries – for destinations, Pinterest offers the unique ability to tailor individual boards to an experience rather than a place. I envision this being popular creating vacation ideas complete with hotels, restaurants, and attractions geared towards a specific traveler type. Are you gearing up for a romantic beach getaway, or fun in the sun with family?
- Retailers – I specifically have a board geared towards my own unique styling. When pressed, I’d tell you that I’m a romantic retro gal, and that I have a deep passion for one particular online store that fills the board completely. I can picture retailers “pinning” individual clothing pieces to boards to create a virtual “lookbook”. Pins also have the ability to note price, as well as link directly back to the item, which takes this one step further.
- Planners/Designers – Pinterest offers event planners and home designers a techie way to get a feel for their clients unique style, as well translate their own planning/design style back to their clients, ensuring a perfect match in expectations.
As Pinterest continues to grow, businesses should remain aware of the opportunities that may arise out of this unique community and the expansive, yet targeted approach to connecting with those community members.
New Site Launch for Landmark Resort
Mon, July 25, 2011
Located oceanfront at 15th Avenue South in Myrtle Beach, the Landmark Resort features 17 indoor and outdoor water attractions including the exciting water park and 9-hole mini golf course. The Landmark is also a Vacation Myrtle Beach Card participant, which allows for discounts at Myrtle Beach's most popular restaurants, attractions, shows, shopping, etc.
Our design team worked closely with the client to create a design that met all expectations. Some of the upgraded features include a video promo panel on the homepage, a large photo gallery on all pages, new list of attractions in Myrtle Beach, and an RFP for Group Planning Page. The CMS was built on the Expression Engine platform which allows the client to easily update site content in real time.
In addition to the redesign, our team designed and built a mobile site with booking capability which is powered by our state-of-the-art booking engine, Guestdesk. The SEO department worked diligently with our programmers to implement a search engine strategy to help drive additional qualified traffic to the site and increase conversions. The new landmark website also features robust tracking technology that allows the client to better understand site traffic, visitors, and conversions which will ultimately help improve ROI in certain areas of their marketing efforts.
Hats off to our team who worked hard on another A+ project and we look forward to continuing a successful partnership with the Landmark Resort.
My Google+ Top 5 Wish list for Circles
Mon, July 18, 2011
Let me start by telling you that I am a huge fan of Google+. I think it's potentially the biggest disruptor we've seen in the Internet world for a very long time. I plan on writing more about Google+ in the upcoming weeks, but for this article, i want to focus on some specific suggestions I have for improving Circles.
Inner Circles - this one is a point of debate amongst our staff. It's about 50-50 between those who really want this feature, and those who think it's a waste of time. I would love to be able to segment a larger group into multiple sub groups.
Example:.I could have a Circle called "Co-Workers who like Cheese" and another called "Co-Workers who don't like Cheese". I would then have a larger Circle, named "Co-workers", which would contain both sub-groups. If I wanted to write something to the Stilton lovers in the office, I could do so without alienating the lactose intolerant folks.
Public Circles - there's a lot I want to share. Some of it is educational and entertaining; Some of it resembles the mad ramblings of a deranged Orangutan. If I had the option to make specific Circles public or not, then people could "subscribe" to specific content as they see fit.
Example: I write a lot about Star Wars and I know which of my close friends are interested in the topic. But what if some random acquaintance, say George Lucas decides that he wants to partake in some Jedi-related banter with me. He should be able to see that I have a Public Circle to which I publish musing related to a galaxy far, far away, and he should be able to choose to have those specific posts appear in his Stream.
Blocked Circles - when I post some amazing revelation to the world, wouldn't it be cool if I could post it to everyone EXCEPT one or more specific Circles, as opposed to having to check all of the Circles that I do want to send it to.
Example: If I knew that a small minority of my "Friends" Circle have a small kleptomania problem. I could add them to a Circle called "Dodgy Friends" (You know who you are). Now when I'm on vacation in Bora Bora and want to post a picture, I can do so to everyone one that I trust, without fear of the dodgy people in my life coming to my house and stealing my collection of Twilight memorabilia.
Improved Suggestions - when I go to Find and Invite and look at the suggestions. I wonder whether or not a trained monkey wrote the algorithm. It's just not very good. In order to weed out the people with whom I have no affiliation, I'd like the roll-over preview to contain more relevant information. At least show me Occupation/Employment and friends in conman for goodness sake. Possibly even some sort of rating as to how much they post and where it falls on the "This enriches my life" to "Why am I reading this drivel" scale.
- Integration with other Networks - the Yahoo and Hotmail integration is nice and easy. But it would be even better if Circles integrated with more systems. There are ways around it, but I wish I didn't have to create a Yahoo account in order to import my uncle Nigel and his garden gnome anecdotes from my Facebook contacts. They should at least integrate with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and MySpace (if nothing else, so that Justin Timberlake doesn't feel left out)
So Kelly Ellis and the rest of the Google+ team take note. I'm sure these changes shouldn't take more than a couple of hours for you Genius folks at Google.
New Site Launch for Bluewater Resort
Mon, July 11, 2011
Bluewater Resort, one of Myrtle Beach’s premier properties, recently underwent a complete renovation of the property and they didn’t stop there. With the help of the team at Fuel Interactive and The Brandon Agency, Bluewater Resort launched a brand new website to help make booking a Myrtle Beach vacation easier than ever.
Besides wanting an attractive website design, they wanted a site that allows for easy to manage content, improved search engine visibility, and a simplified reservation system that allows visitors to book quickly and securely.
The website that we produced hit on all the goals that they required. We came up with a clean, content rich redesign that is powered by a robust yet easy to use content management system to allow them to update specials and other site content. We also developed a top-to-bottom Search Engine Optimization strategy which is designed to generate more qualified traffic while increasing conversions and revenue. A social media strategy was also initiated to facilitate additional traffic to the website, as well as maintaining customer loyalty and repeat business. Our proprietary online reservation system, Guestdesk, was implemented to simplify the reservation process while maintaining a custom look and feel of the site to maintain brand identify.
We look forward to working with Bluewater Resort with great success and we are confident that you’ll be hearing more good things from this partnership in the future.
Size Does Matter! [Password Security]
Tue, June 07, 2011
- Use a different password for every site.
- Use a mixture of characters and the maximum length (by padding) allowed.
- Change your passwords often - at least every year, but more like every 90 or 30 days for really sensitive sites like online credit card, shopping, and banking websites.
- Use a password manager such as LastPass to encrypt and store all of your passwords.
- Be cautious when using FaceBook Connect (or similar services) to create new accounts on other sites. If anyone ever hacks into your Facebook account, they will also have access to all of those sites as well, in effect exploiting a single point of failure.
Keeping Grandma Safe on Facebook
Wed, May 18, 2011
Has your grandmother recently asked you "Whats this Facebook-y thing all about? How can I get one?" If so, you may be worried about a few things. Yes you will have the inevitable friend request from Grandma, and you in turn will need to adjust your privacy settings accordingly. But what about worrying about Grandma's security? Baby boomers presence on-line is larger now than ever before, and that can be greatly attributed to the goings on of facebook. They too want to share pictures of their new grand babies and tend the fields of farmville! However these folks who are venturing into the ever-changing ever-scamming world of technology need to be schooled on a few things in order to protect themselves. While you may not dare to click on the link posted on you wall by a close friend reading "Hey Duuuddee! Check out this video I found of you! http://www.HUGEVIRUS.com" but Grandma probably will. Here are 5 tips to keep Grandma safe on facebook:
1. There are thousand of apps on facebook. Most are harmless and even fun. Let Grandma know that any app that tries to get her to complete 'surveys' or 'tasks' are likely to be scams. These apps are nothing more than clever way to get your personal information and even convince you to purchase a free trial of something or other. These apps also can post to your wall without your knowledge, and could result in grammas status reading "Oh snap! Check out who my top lover of the day is!" Bad news all around.
2. Dont use facebook to annouce when you are going to be out of town. This is the internet equalivent of hanging a sign on your door that reads, "Not Here, Please Burgelorize".
3. Enable https browsing. Https browsing is what your computer uses when you are online banking, or anytime secure information is sent across the internet. This is always used when your password is sent, but now it can be used during your entire facebook expirence and it is highly recommended. Click here for step by step instuctions.
4. Hide your personal info such as phone number, email and address. Altough facebook may ask for such things as your phone number and address, these things are not nessary and are also available to be made private. Facebook priavcey settings used to be quite lacking but have since been beefed up quite a bit. Refer her here if you can't go through it all with her.
5. Do not accept friend you dont know. It is very easy to create a fake facebook profile, post an innopropriate photo, and tag anyone in it. We do not want this happening to Grandma. Make sure she only accepts friend request from people that she knows, and assure her that a simple "How do I know you?" message is never out of line.
Google +1: An Alternative to Facebook Likes?
Wed, April 06, 2011
Last week, Google announced it's answer to Facebook's Likes: Google +1. Will it be a Facebook killer? Will it usher in Google's social age? Will change the face of the web forever? Only time will tell. Until then, let's take a look at what +1 is. Here are a few posts to get you up to speed:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4RyY2-ofP4g&feature=player_embedded http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2011/03/1s-right-recommendations-right-when-you.html http://searchengineland.com/meet-1-googles-answer-to-the-facebook-like-button-70569
On the surface, +1 is pretty much a Facebook Like with new clothes. When you +1 something, you're recommending that something to all of your social connections and the rest of the world. Behind the scenes, though, +1 has the ability to change the face of search.
For some time now, Google hasn't known what to do with Facebook Likes. Facebook hasn't tried to hide the fact that they're not Google's friend and the wall around Google's side of the garden is getting higher and higher, but Google knows that Facebook is important and Likes need to play into ranking and relevancy the same way Tweets do now. I don't think Google will start including +1 in it's algorithm just yet, but the inclusion of +1 as a social signal is imminent. One of the reasons that Google wants +1 data is because they can't see the correlation between a Facebook Like and relevancy. What better way to get data than by creating and studying a copy it? With +1, Google can get the data they want with their own property, no Facebook involved. Google can then apply the data they gather from +1 and apply it to Facebook likes and, Viola! Two social ranking signals with one stone. The impact of which could be huge.
Currently, Bing's partnership with Facebook puts Google at a severe disadvantage. Google has been lucky that Bing hasn't made more strides with their partnership with Facebook. Yes, Bing is continuing to grow market share, but they're still a long way off from making a dent in Google's. +1 is Google's chance to once again prove why they're number one by being the first search engine to include social signals in a meaningful way.
It's still too early to tell what impact +1 will have, though. Right now, +1 doesn't feel complete. At least not until Google rolls out the ability to add +1 to a webpage. Also, in it's current form, +1 isn't intuitive. It doesn't fit into the flow of a search. A searcher has to +1 something on the search results page. This is a problem because, one, the searcher hasn't found a result they like yet, and two, once they do find something they like, they may not be likely to return to that results page. The same goes for ads. Sure you can now +1 an ad, but will people really do that? +1ing (is that how you write that?) an ad has the same issues as a natural result: once you click the ad, if you found what you're looking for, you're not likely to go back and +1 it.
On a side note, +1 isn't a very good name. But that's just me. I also didn't like the names Wave, Buzz, Knol, or Hotpot, but I'm sure they have good reason.
13 Facebook Contests: Pros and Cons - Part II - Engagement
Mon, April 04, 2011
In Part I of 13 Facebook Contests: Pros and Cons, we looked at why and how you would run a contest on Facebook. In Part II we're going to take a look at some of our most successful contests. What makes these posts great is that they generate a lot chatter and really push the fan base to interact with one another. These types of posts are great because:
- They're popular. The nature of these posts allows everyone to chime in. There's no criteria to meet or hoops to jump through.
- They're easy to theme. The great thing about trivia and some of the other types of contests we'll discuss is that you can also theme them however you want. Theme them around your brand or a holiday, some social object that you know your fans will connect with.
- They're not hard to pull off. The hardest part of these posts is figuring out what you want to post. The trivia nature of these posts require a little digging, but the payoff is worth it.
The only downside that we've seen is that you can have too much of a good thing. If these kinds of posts are all you have, you'll quickly burn your fans out.
Method: This one is simple; find some trivia and ask it! Throw out some questions about your brand. Where was your first store? What is your most popular item? Simple questions like that can really build loyalty in your fan base. They already like you, why not let them know more about you?
Engagement: High (There's a reason why so many bars have a trivia night)
Pros: Popular, Themed
Name That Tune
Method: The Facebook version of the popular game. Post some lyrics and see who can guess the song.
Pros: Popular, Themed
Finish the Jokes
Method: If your fans are sarcastic or funny, jokes can be a good way to generate engagement. We have had a few instances of clients whose fans have been just plain unfunny, but for the most part, people have a good sense of humor.
Pros: Popular, Themed
Fill in the Blank
Method: "I would give ________ to go to Vegas!". If you can manage to keep the comments clean, fans like the chance to be silly.
Pros: Popular, Themed
Method: These contests are usually pretty fun. We usually pose them like this: "walking on hot coals or conversation with your mother in law?".
Pros: Popular, Themed
Method: Everyone has an opinion, why not give them an outlet? Ask them what they think about gas prices, American Idol, or something related to your industry.
Pros: Popular, Themed
In Part III we'll look at contests that revolve around photos.
13 Facebook Contests: Pros and Cons - Part I
Mon, March 28, 2011
Fuel Interactive has been managing Facebook pages for clients for some time now. Over that period, one of the things we have experimented with to drive fans and encourage engagement have been contests and giveaways.
Contests are a great tool to have at your disposal as they can quickly generate buzz around your brand. Done right, contests can generate fans to your Facebook page can be more cost effective than Facebook ads. For example, one of our pages gave away 2 free nights at a local resort and generated a little over 3,000 fans in three days. The value of the stay was about $150 at the time, so the cost to generate each fan was roughly $0.05 per fan.
What Makes a Good Prize?
To ensure that your contest or giveaway is successful, you have to make sure that the thing you're giving away resonates with the audience. Many pages make the mistake of deciding to give away something "cool" over something relevant. If your page is about peanut butter and you sell jars of peanut butter, don't giveaway an iPad.
Before You Jump In
As you read through our list of contest ideas, keep a few things in mind:
- Contests aren't for everyone. If you don't have anything to give away or don't want to give anything away, there are plenty of other options to build up your page. Some of these ideas are great simply as engagement posts without a contest.
- Contests will bring some unqualfied fans. Everyone wants a freebie. The more you give away, the more freeloaders you'll get who are there for a handout and don't care about your brand.
- These contests bend the rules. Facebook's guidelines prohibit any contests done via a wall. Our clients who have run these contests are fully aware of the risks associated with working outside the guidelines. Again, the great thing is that many of these posts can be just as effective without giving anything away.
- What works for us may not work for you. We work in some very specific niches that have produced these results. Going back to #1, these contests aren't for everyone. If you have a very tech savvy fan base, your results could look much, much different than someone who targets women ages 65 and up (no offense to older women).
The Art Of Measuring Customer Satisfaction
Fri, March 25, 2011
It is 9 AM on a Tuesday morning and your boss steps into your office. The shareholders are worried and want a clearer picture of how well the company is doing and how satisfied the customers are. That is why the department managers decided at their 8 AM meeting to launch a series of customer satisfaction surveys to measure the current state and future trend of customer satisfaction by department and product type. “Great!” you think, “all I have to do is to log onto Surveygizmo.com and use some of their feedback templates.” Wrong.
You just fell into the same trap that countless of people in the same position fall into every day by becoming victim to the assumption that customer satisfaction can be accurately measured and then effectively turned into meaningful information. The truth is that actually, quite the opposite is true, which basic sciences and arts from psychology to math have shown. During the course of the article we will have a look at some of the larger issues associated with measuring customer satisfaction.
Whenever I think about marketing research I recall a vibrant memory of a lecture once held at Coastal Carolina University. “All of these are valid forms of marketing research, of course with the exception of what?”[silence in the audience] “The Customer Satisfaction Survey.” It is fair to say that lightheartedly spoken words of the academia are not enough to completely dismiss the endeavor of measuring customer satisfaction; but what are exactly the pitfalls of such research and how should it be done?
Bernd Persi, friend, former risk manager at Deutsche Bank and now a senior consultant at KPMG, formulates his approach to the problem in the following way. “When I go to meetings I simply refuse to include charts or statistics in regards to customer satisfaction in my reports. The human mind cannot resist drawing relations and comparisons between numbers. The bad part is that with something subjective like customer satisfaction these relations do not exist. There is no comparative measure. So all they get is a trend indicator, like an up or downwards arrow, which is based on an index score that I compute.”
What he is trying to address here is a simple mistake, which is often called “objectifying the subjective.” Objectifying the subjective creates two problems. The first problem is what I call a normative assumption” and is at heart a mathematical problem. In order for two different sets of data to be comparable, a researcher needs to normalize it first. Otherwise the data cannot be put on the same scale. Doing so would be like equating pounds to kilograms. Simply put, I might be fine with a cheeseburger, while someone else defines a dining experience as having her personal wait staff.
The second problem here originates in psychology, but also has mathematical implications. Feelings are by definition a so-called “non-finite quantity.” As such, it is impossible to measure how much a person loves something. Any measure of an emotion can only provide a snapshot of a disposition at a certain moment in time. Given a different set of circumstances, what was “ok” service yesterday, might now be just horrible. We all are familiar with that concept. Last December’s power bill just came out of the account, which was reason for a late night argument with your wife, and to top it off, your 99-cent cheeseburger just came without pickles.
These two problems affect a central pillar of any scientifically valid research, which is reliability and consistency of measure. If the numbers that you are devoting resources to cannot be compared and are unreliable, then essentially all that they can do for your business is to invite wrong conclusions, which in the end will invite costly mistakes in decision making.
The last problem I would like to cover in respect to measuring satisfaction is the problem of “measuring a composite.” Customer satisfaction is a construct. The result of a great many factors, some of them that can be measured and others that cannot. Again a simple scenario can explain the issue at hand. While measuring your body’s core temperature can be an indicator for whether you are sick or not, it is completely ineffective for diagnosing your actual sickness and also a bad indicator for the progression of a sickness. A doctor would most likely rather try to measure if the count of influenza viruses in your saliva is above a certain threshold or how low or high your blood level of a certain substance is. The fever is just a secondary effect. In business terms this means that rather than measuring customer satisfaction, one should identify and measure the key performance indicators (KPI) of the processes that led to customer satisfaction.
Now does this mean that one should not at all invest money and time into measuring satisfaction? Not at all, all contemporary management frameworks and probably all major and successful management theories ever written include the aspect of creating feedback. The importance lies in being smart when creating surveys or when interpreting numbers, and to know that a consumer survey cannot make up for a lack of management control in regards to process KPI’s. The examples below will give you an idea of how to create a survey that provides some meaningful data.
The first example survey is often the result of an interaction, successful or not, between the customer and a customer service representative. This survey captures the customer’s satisfaction right after the interaction. It should only include two options, satisfied or not. That way, the success per Helpdesk interaction can be measured in terms of generating satisfied customers.
The second type of survey should only be used in combination with a review of process KPI’s. In fact it can even be used to determine benchmark values of said KPI’s, which are then called critical to quality goals (CTQ).
Such a CTQ survey is shown here.
Please tell us how satisfied you were with the following items:
How fast your initial call was answered (Service Warranty- Availability):
How quickly your request was completed (Service Utility- Turn Around):
How well we listened and empathized with you (Service Utility- Courtesy):
How well we communicated with you on this case (Service Utility- Communication):
Now, when reporting on a certain goal you can compute your consumer’s satisfaction in regards to that one goal in the following way:
% Consumer Satisfaction = #Satisfied / Total responses
If you see that the process linked with a certain goal is performing well according to your benchmarking standards, but at the same time the majority of respondents of your CTQ survey are dissatisfied with said service level, then you know that it is time to revise said standard and rethink your KPIs.
As you can see, there is value in measuring customer satisfaction for the modern enterprise, and with some guidance and thinking, costly mistakes can be averted. Just keep in mind that it primarily is an indicator of consumer perception and stick with your internal KPIs for the decision making process.
Director of Support Fuel Interactive – Guestdesk Division
13 Facebook Contests: Pros and Cons - Part IV - Fan Engagement
Thu, March 17, 2011
Fan Wall Posts
Method: "Post on our wall about how much you like us!" That's a simplification, but you get the point. Ask your fans to post something on your page's wall. We performed these contests in the infancy of some of our clients pages to get people used to posting on the wall. If you already have fans actively posting I would recommend against this method.
Pros: Interaction/Engagement (These make Facebook Insights for your page look really good)
Cons: Clutters the wall
Fan Photo Post
Method: Here we asked fans to post photos on our wall. It's a pretty simple premise and gave our fans a chance to showcase different things. Soem of the types of photos we have asked for are photos of you and your significant other, fall photos, and some holiday-related photos.
Engagement: Low. These contests really connected with some of the more engaged fans but didn't do much to generate interaction from the fanbase as a whole.
Pros: Page Content
Cons: Fan Effort
Fan Video Posts
Method: This was, by far, our biggest flop. We had a great prize lined up, a free resort stay, and asked fans to submit videos of themselves telling us they wanted to win. We had one video. This contest reaffirmed the phrase "know your audience". I have no doubt that video submissions would work with a different brand, but it was a stretch to think that the fan base of this client would be up to task of shooting a video and uploading it to Facebook. You live and learn.
Engagement: Low (for us)
Pros: Page Content
Cons: Fan Effort
Tag the Page
Method: One of our contests involved asking people to tag us in a status update of theirs. This was when taggin on Facebook was relatively new, a few months after it was released. The idea behind having fans tag was so their friends would see the status in their newsfeed. The contest didn't catch on although the few tagged posts we recevied did drive a few fans, it didn't take off like we had hoped.
Cons: Fan Effort
So there you have it. These are all things that have been tried and tested. Some of these we still use simply because they're great at generating engagement, regardless of whether or not you're giving something away. My last peice of advice? Experiment. Find out what your fans like and try different things. You'll eventually stumble across a gem.
13 Facebook Contests: Pros and Cons - Part III - Photos
Thu, March 17, 2011
Method: With the photo caption contest, post a photo and ask your fans to write what's going on in the photo. During Christmas, we posted stills from popular movies and asked fans to rewrite what they though was going on in the scene.
Pros: Popular, Themed
Cons: Brainstorming, Management
Method: In this contest, we post a zoomed-in version of an image and ask people to guess what it is. When we ran this contest, we zoomed in on some popular landmarks and attractions in Myrtle Beach.
Pros: Popular, Themed
If You Knew How to Fix a Toilet, You Wouldn’t Call a Plumber
Mon, March 14, 2011
Broken Toilet Scenario 1:
Your toilet backs up. You have two options. Call a plumber, or attempt to fix it yourself risking a possible disgusting disaster. You make the smart choice and call the plumber. While this costs money, you are smart and realize that the time and effort you are saving by hiring someone that is qualified to fix your problem is well worth it. True, you may have been able to fix it yourself, but you also may have made it much (much) worse.
Remember this scenario when choosing an ad agency, and use the same mindset. You run a successful business. You are a smart and capable businessman. You realize that your business could get more exposure so you do your research and hire an equally smart and capable ad agency to assist in promoting your business.
Once you hire said agency, and they prove to you that they actually do know what they are talking about, let them do their job. You hired them for a reason. Remember that. Yes, you are the client and you have every right to be informed and involved in the decision process, but also know that this is not your expertise and that your agency really does want the best for you.
Trust your agency. If you find yourself questioning their methods, ask questions as opposed to taking matters into your own hands. Any good agency will welcome your criticism and be more than happy to explain the reasoning behind their methods.
Broken Toilet Scenario 2:
So, you call the plumber. He shows up and fixes your toilet. Bright and shiny and new! You then decide that you can do a better job and you shove and armadillo in the tank. That should do it!
DO NOT DO THIS. By undertaking a task yourself that you may think is the right thing to do, you could do some serious damage. Loss of revenue, poor strategy changes, or at the very least, make more work for your agency to spend time fixing things, that they would have been spending making you more money. Always ask questions. Chances are, there are very good reasons that they are doing what they are doing, you just may not understand. Knowledge is power. And power is for rangers.
Aesop’s Advice for a SEO Campaign
Mon, February 28, 2011
SEO tactics seem to change on a monthly basis. There is no shortage of sites and blogs promoting some new SEO tool or a new SEO secret. Additionally, SEOers both wisely and pathetically hang on to every single syllable that Matt Cutts utters hoping to gain an edge on other search engine marketers in the industry. Some of these marketers have good intentions and others are seeking quick results for poor quality websites.
These exploitations have even caught the attention of the mainstream media. The New York Times is developing a reputation as the SEO police as they have recently ousted online retail heavy hitters, J.C. Penny and Overstock for questionable SEO tactics.
Additionally, many marketers and webmasters forget an important fact. Search Engines are constantly changing. Google is a living organism, constantly evolving and changing. Usually, these changes make the search engines smarter.
To me, these facts seem to suggest that over the long haul, search engines are going to figure out how to rank the highest quality sites for the most relevant terms. In other words, if your SEO service is promising you the fast track to a number one ranking, then I’d be willing to bet that even if they achieve that ranking, their success will be short lived. Do you really think that Google engineers are going to be forever fooled by worthless content farms and artificially created links?
At Fuel Interactive, our SEO process always includes the question, “Will this task provide real, lasting equity to our client’s site?”
We want ranking increases that will not last for 6 months, but for 6 years. That’s why we take excruciating pains to serve as a catalyst for natural link growth and high quality content generation.
Do I need to remind you who won the famous proverbial race between the tortoise and the hare?
Mon, February 28, 2011
SEO tactics seem to change on a monthly basis. There is no shortage of sites and blogs promoting some new SEO tool or a new SEO secret. Additionally, SEOers both wisely and pathetically hang on to every single syllable that Matt Cutts utters hoping to gain an edge on other search engine marketers in the industry. Some of these marketers have good intentions and others are seeking quick results for poor quality websites.
These exploitations have even caught the attention of the mainstream media. The New York Times is developing a reputation as the SEO police as they have recently ousted online retail heavy hitters, J.C. Penny and Overstock for questionable SEO tactics.
Additionally, many marketers and webmasters forget an important fact. Search Engines are constantly changing. Google is a living organism, constantly evolving and changing. Usually, these changes make the search engines smarter.
To me, these facts seem to suggest that over the long haul, search engines are going to figure out how to rank the highest quality sites for the most relevant terms. In other words, if your SEO service is promising you the fast track to a number one ranking, then I’d be willing to bet that even if they achieve that ranking, their success will be short lived. Do you really think that Google engineers are going to be forever fooled by worthless content farms and artificially created links?
At Fuel Interactive, our SEO process always includes the question, “Will this task provide real, lasting equity to our client’s site?”
We want ranking increases that will not last for 6 months, but for 6 years. That’s why we take excruciating pains to serve as a catalyst for natural link growth and high quality content generation.
Do I need to remind you who won the famous proverbial race between the tortoise and the hare?
Thin Content, Journalists, and Justin Bieber: How to Boost Your SEO
Mon, February 28, 2011
I had a client pass along an article the other morning that really bothered me. MarketingVox wrote an article that, in theory, claimed to help you maximize social media to "boost your SEO". I read it. It wasn't helpful. It started out linking to a Google post about social results in SERPS. Then it linked to a completely unrelated case study about the impact of a tweet on natural search with no mention of social results. It was the equivalent of me linking to Justin Beiber's Twitter account, then linking to movie reviews of 'Never Say Never' and arguing that if you were Justin Bieber, you would make a movie. How helpful is that?
5 Reasons to Stay on Top of Search Industry News
Mon, February 21, 2011
The world of SEO is ever changing. There are best practices, but even those change over time as search engines improve and evolve. What worked last week may be obsolete the next. With this constant motion, how do you stay on top of things? Although there are several traditional things you can do, like attending conferences and networking, the focus of this post is something that you can start right away: staying up to date on industry news.
Customer Centric Request Fulfillment
Wed, February 16, 2011
The increasing demands of a continually connected society and internet-dependent markets have led to a steady increase in the complexity and diversity of systems that IT operations staff must manage on a daily basis. This, in turn, has led to a steady increase in the number and complexity of service requests, covering anything from password change requests to computer upgrades and service enhancements. This problem is aggravated by the fact that many businesses do not standardize Request Fulfillment systems across their strategic business units or departments, which leads to further confusion for both the customer and the operations staff.
The result, besides growing frustration on the consumer side, is that IT-operations staff spends an unacceptable amount of time validating information, providing status updates and responding to requests. Furthermore it makes delivery in accordance with predefined Service Level Agreements difficult since task resources and information need to be sourced across organizational lines, which raises the possibility for intra departmental conflict.
None of the world leading IT-management standards were addressing this problem adequately. ITILv2, MOF and COBIT were treating Request Fulfillment as part of Incident Management, which caused a number of problems. It meant that technical specialists were dealing with simple requests instead of solving incidents with high business impact. Another problem was that while Incident and Problem management seek to reduce the overall number of incidents, Service Requests inherently increase in number with growing business. This was especially a challenge for businesses engaging in continual service improvement activities, since most key performance indicators of Incident Management were skewed and the reporting burden increased.
The first obvious step to solve this dilemma is to separate Request Fulfillment from Incident Management. Industry experts and technology leaders all around the world agree that this separation is necessary for IT-operations management to become effective and efficient. Thus it recently has been introduced as separate entity into some of the aforementioned frameworks and standards.
The next step is to standardize the request fulfillment process across all SBU’s or departments, which reduces the potential for human error and thus addresses the issue of customer frustration. This is helped further by service standardization and/or the implementation of a service catalogue, which describes each service offered in detail and the corresponding Request Fulfillment process for that service
Once this step has been completed the next step is to review the Request Fulfillment processes in place with the goal to minimize human intervention. This further decreases the risk of human error and lowers staffing costs. If a full automation of a process is not possible, then self service tools and resources should be created. The tools themselves should be menu or dialog guided. Failure to implement said self service tools will make their adoption by users a growing issue. A known benefit is that easy to use front end interfaces with tied in backend fulfillment tools, can greatly reduce the call volume of a service desk and often lead to service requests bypassing it entirely.
The final step is to group all tools and resources under one self-service portal. The ‘single point of contact rule’, which is known as best practice for the service desk itself, is also valid for self-help resources. The opposite, which is having multiple channels for solution finding is again an obstacle for users adopting the tools.
Even when following these steps companies will face many other problems when seeking to implement effective and efficient Request Fulfillment. The challenge does not lie necessarily in simply creating the necessary process structure and software tools, but rather in understanding and predicting the customer’s needs and in creating intuitive user interfaces. Thus customer centrism needs to be part of the organizational culture from top to bottom in order for Request Fulfillment to be successful. This means that the ability to manage change and adapt to new challenges, becomes another crucial part to the success of Request Fulfillment and the company itself. The bottom line is that Customer Centric Request Fulfillment is the one change companies cannot afford to miss.
Follow this link in order to read up on ‘The 21 secrets of Self-Service Request Fulfillment’, as presented by itSMF Australia at their annual conference in 2009. itSMF is the global umbrella organization for IT-service management professionals.
Guestdesk Support Director
Fuel Interactive Answers the Question: What is Spam?
Mon, February 14, 2011
"Spam is something delivered to me that's completely irrelevant of my needs. I consider something to be spam when I glance at it and realize that it doesn't pertain to me or what I'm looking for. For example, if I have put myself out there that I'm interested in booking a vacation, I would expect to receive offers about deals relevant to my search or requests. I do not, however, expect to receive offers about diet or sex pills, YouTube videos, princes of Nigeria requesting a western union money transfer, etc." - Email Marketing
"Overload with non-contextual and/or heavily biased information, either with intent or without; related to marketing definition of 'noise'. In service management terms it would be information that is delivered, which has low utility or warranty for the individual user/customer." - Guestdesk Customer Support
"To me, spam can be a lot of different scenarios.1.) Anything, either via email, instant message, or a social media network that is unsolicited. This I think would be considered the traditional view.2.) Sites that you can tell the content is just SEO fluff content that's jammed with keywords.3.) Emails/messages from places where I've signed up for, but they end up annoying me by sending 3+ emails a day, For example, signing up for a restaurant to get a coupon, and later you find out you get 3-4 emails from them a day talking about nothing of interest.4.) Sites (especially file downloading sites) that have "disguised" download buttons. Ones where you find, say an old printer driver that you need, and you go to download it and there are ads everywhere plus multiple download style buttons that aren't actually the real link, just redirects you to other places." - Designer
"After personally ruining and fixing dozens of systems and fixing hundreds more for other people, I'm at a point today where I feel totally comfortable recognizing spam, scams, and bad overall bad information online. I believe the ability to recognize those things do not depend on a set of skills that you can learn but rather another sense that you have to develop with time and experience. I have a system that's been online for over 2 years without an antivirus and is completely bug free whereas I know people who have an antivirus, malware protection, adware protection, spam filters, and do everything I recommend them to do and still manage to "catch" everything thrown their way.Recognizing spam specifically is equivalent to recognizing a fake Rolex being sold to you in Chinatown. Your only weapon there is getting over the excitement of buying a real Rolex for $50 and looking at the offer objectively, same with spam." - Programmer
"I think spam falls under the old pornography description from the Supreme Court case years ago - "I don't know to define it, but I know it when I see it". I think even the owl.ly toolbar is a form of spam. Any kind of obtrusive or "in the way of what I want to do" kind of advertising, to where functionality for a user is inhibited qualifies for me more than keyword overloading (though, like we talked about, that's also annoying)." - Designer
"I never like sites that are returned in the search on the top pages that are just a page of links to other sites. I immediately leave those sites. I almost find the paid ads on the top and left (I use Yahoo) as a SPAM type of ad as well because I know those are paid and may or may not be what I am looking for. I see them as being the overbearing used car salesman of search results." - Customer Service
"Any type of unsolicited or useless content on the web." - SEO Specialist
Successful Online Video Promotion in 5 Simple Steps
Wed, February 09, 2011
Ask any successful online marketer and they’ll tell you video plays an important role in turning shoppers into consumers. But there’s a wide canyon between knowing you need video and knowing HOW to integrate video into your site and sales process.
For starters you’ll need to determine how you want to host your video? This includes free options such as YouTube.com up to paid solutions like Brightcove, VMIX, Multicast, Sorenson 360 and many others, as well as server solutions where you maintain the infrastructure. Depending on your individual needs the system you should choose will vary.
Free is good, but it comes at a price. Systems, such as YouTube, are great, but do have drawbacks.
- You may have competitive ads running on your video
- Player customization and integration may be limited
- Video length/size may be capped
- The service provider may place their brand on the player
Some of our clients that need maximum flexibility opt for a paid solution. These systems give you customized players, a robust video management system, pre and post roll advertising capabilities and the ability to white label. The drawback… They’re not free. Although in many cases the customizations, revenue opportunities and analytics more than make up for the cost. Also, the cost of storage space and bandwidth continues to decrease as technology improves.
While you’re in the process of selecting your video solution begin working on your editorial calendar. Content is king and just wanting to do video is not enough. If you’re in the accommodations business, interview your general manager about the steps your property takes to make guests happy. Have a restaurant? A cooking lesson by your executive chef would be perfect. The idea is to build a list of things your consumers would be interested in that also highlight your strengths. You will also want to plan beyond your 1st video and ideally have the next six months to a year’s worth of video ideas ready to go.
We’re not going to go into the actual video production in this article, though stay tuned we’ll have more information on that down the road.
Once you have your video, it’s time to start posting and promotion. The key to remember is that posting a video to your site is just the first step. Marketing your video is really what drives demand.
So without further delay, here's the 5 steps to successful online video promotion.
100% Uptime, No Joke! My Favorite Network Device
Wed, February 02, 2011
I wanted to share with everyone a brief look at my favorite network device, currently boasting 100% uptime for 530+ days!
It is our Buffalo Linkstation Duo NAS (network attached storage) that we use for non-critical data storage. Simply stated, it is the perfect turnkey NAS solution I've ever used, and it offers some great features that makes it a hands-off device in my world. Here are a couple of hightlights:
First, the list of options is quite robust and easy to configure and the web-based management client is clean and fast. (It even has a built-in media server for you home users!)
The drive configuration of the DUO line is RAID 5 with 2 built-in disk drives. You can expand this through 2 additional USB ports (not RAID), or you can mirror the entire box to another LinkStation for redundancy or distributed data access on your LAN/WAN.
The System Status/Drive Properties menu gives you access to a quick view of your drive usage for both the RAID disks and any attached USB disks.
We have some data that we'd feel better about having multiple copies of, so I plugged in a 1 TB USB drive and configured the LinkStation to backup a subset of the data over to the USB drive for extra redundancy.
Another nice feature, which really makes it a hands-off device, is the email notifications and you have several alerts choices to opt-in to.
There are many other features and options to look at, but the best bet is to head over to Buffalo's website and pick one out for yourself! You really can't beat the functionality, feature set, reliability, and price. (Our set up is sub $300.00.)
- Phil Spitze
At Look at Session-Based Broad Match in AdWords
Wed, January 26, 2011
Last week the Wall Street Journal published an article addressing the subject of session-based broad match in Google AdWords. The author covered anecdotal claims of AdWords users losing money over these unwanted clicks. Google defends themselves in the article stating that "session-based clicks in the broad match category perform comparably to non-session-based clicks."
Session-Based Broad Match Explained
When determining which ads to show on a Google search result page, the AdWords system evaluates search queries performed by a user during both previous and current internet sessions. If the system detects any correlations in the two search sessions, it will show ads related to these other queries, too.
Is Session-Based Broad Match an Issue?
How to Overcome Session-Based Broad Match
- Use Other Match Types - Broad match has it's place in pay per click advertising. If you're researching the niche, looking for new keywords, or branding, broad match keywords are a great place to start. If you're looking for highly targeted traffic, though, use other match types. Exact, phrase, and even modified broad match keywords will provide more targeted and relevant traffic.
- Negative Keywords - If you decide to use broad match keywords, be generous in your use of negative keywords. Negative keywords act as a filter for the topics that are completely unrelated to your business. If you are a rental car company, use negative keywords like "sales", "for sale", or "buy" when using broad match to make sure your site doesn't show to users searching for car sales.
Busy Week for Google: New CEO, Groupon Competitor, Spam Fighting, & More
Mon, January 24, 2011
There have been a lot of announcements coming from the Google camp over the past week. Here's a quick recap:
Larry Page Replaces Eric Schmidt as CEO
It was announced last week that current Google CEO Eric Schmidt is moving into a new Executive chairman role to make way for co-founder Larry Page. Schmidt led Google as CEO for 10 years. The new position will allow him to focus on Google's many business relationships as well as continue to be an advisor for founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. The $100 million payoff won't be that bad either.
Moving Larry Page into the Chief Executive spot is a good move for the company. With competition heating up in the search realm and Google's eye on the social sphere, Google really needs to revive their image and vision.
Google Prepping Groupon Competitor
Although it hasn't launched yet, Google has been releasing marketing materials for it's Groupon competitor, Google Offers. Not a lot of details are known, but at least we can stop speculating about Google launching a Groupon killer.
2011 is the Year of Mobile for Google
Eric Schmidt laid out Google's vision for mobile which includes superfast networks, mobile money, and really cheap smartphones. It will be interesting to see where Google goes with mobile. These are hardware and infrastructure changes, definitely a huge undertaking.
Matt Cutts Announces Spam Crackdown
Since Matt Cutts said it, the search industry has been abuzz: Google is addressing spam concerns. Over the past month or so, there have been an increasing number of blog posts criticizing Google for having less than relevant search results. Whether or not it is an issue is up for debate, but regardless, Cutts says Google is hard at work:
What does this mean for websites? It's simply an extension of the crackdown that happened last May. If your site has strong original content, you're in the clear. If your site has a lot of shallow, scraped, or spammy content, expect to see some impact.
First Toolbar Page Rank Update of 2011
Not quite as significant as the other stories but still news nonetheless. Google updated Toolbar Page Rank. Check your green bar because it may be different. If it is, does it matter? Not really.
Upgrading to ColdFusion 9.01 with Distributed IIS Web Servers
Fri, January 21, 2011
In this post I will walk you through the steps to upgrade your ColdFusion 9 servers to Update 1 when you're running Distributed IIS Web Servers. If you missed my last post, you can read it here (http://bit.ly/hbwmvv) to learn about the high availability environment we have, and the redundancy you can obtain when using distributed IIS web servers. As with any upgrade or update, it is important to assemble all of the files you may need and read through the documentation available. Make sure you confidently understand the steps you'll be going through. Also, if needed, schedule your downtime window and notify your support departments and/or customers. Okay, let's get started!
Step 1: Backup! This is critical and I recommend doing this whenever applying a hotfix or update. I make 2 different backups. The first is of all ColdFusion settings from the Administrator using a CAR file. This should be old hat to most CF admins out there, but at a high level you do this: Login to your CF Admin, choose Packaging & Deployment from the left menus, select ColdFusion Archives and follow the on-screen instructions.
The second is to backup the entire set of files in the JRUN directory, if your disk space allows. Both of these backups will allow you to recover from most any install crash or corruption of files.
Step 2: Download the update installer from Adobe.com (http://www.adobe.com/support/coldfusion/) and copy to your server. Also be sure to download the install doc as well, as the first set of instructions from Adobe are complete and accurate.
Step 3: Following the instructions in the install doc from Adobe, start by shutting down all of the services listed. A note about ColdFusion version 9: the Windows Services were re-named to start with Adobe instead of Macromedia for multi-server installations. Funny that the default admin instances are still named starting with Macromedia.
Step 4: Double-click the installer to start the install wizard and follow the on-screen instructions, providing the correct responses for your environment.
Step 5: Once the installer has completed, check the log file that was created in the JRUN directory for any errors or warnings.
Step 6: Restart all services that were stopped before starting the install wizard and confirm that you can access your CF Administrator and that it now reflects 9.01 for the version. Since you are probably working within a scheduled downtime window, now would be a good time to apply any CF hotfixes, Windows Updates, and perhaps reboot the entire machine for good measure.
Step 7: Upgrade the JRUN IIS Connectors. Now this is where the Adobe docs are lacking and the main point of this post.
First, locate and copy the wsconfig.jar file from your recently upgraded ColdFusion server to your distributed IIS web server(s). This file will need to be copied to all web servers.
After copying over the file you will need to locate your current wsconfig.jar file and replace it with the new one. It's a good idea to make a complete backup copy of your connectors, just in case.
Now, you can upgrade all connectors by running the following command. Be sure the paths to your java.exe and wsconfig.jar files are accurate.
c:\jre6\bin\java -jar c:\tempcf9\wsconfig.jar -u
Here's a tip: Run this command to dump all of the available wsconfig commands to a text file for future reference:
c:\jre6\bin\java -jar c:\tempcf9\wsconfig.jar -h >c:\wsconfig-commands.txt
Step 8: Test! With any update, testing your sites and code is smart. Overall, this whole process took only about 15 minutes to complete, but we used the remaining 45 mins of our maintenance window to run as many tests as we could. You never know what code you have that might not run on the new server version.
I would like to thank the folks working the @Adobe_Care Twitter account for getting me in touch with Swathi C. who works on Adobe's third tier engineering team. She answered all of my questions about this process and gave me some excellent tips that I use often. Feel free to follow-up with me on Twitter if you have further questions. No guarantees that I'll have answers, but I'm happy to try. On Twitter: @philspitze
- Phil Spitze, Network Manager
Running ColdFusion 9 Enterprise with Distributed IIS Web Servers
Fri, January 14, 2011
Nerd Alert: This post is heavily technical and not for the faint at heart.
In order to maintain high availability (HA) of our mission critical ColdFusion applications, we run a fairly complex hosting environment with multiple levels of redundancy and clustering at every turn. In this post, I will take you on a tour of our setup and point out the various HA technologies we're using. Since this is geared mostly toward ColdFusion users, I've diagramed out those parts. Enjoy!
Layer 1: VMWare
If you haven't virtualized your servers yet, get on it! This layer is critical for us and allows us to move Virtual Servers from one host to another or clone an existing Virtual Server for rapid deployment. All of our virtual machine images are stored on a SAN and connected via fibre channel. We have the ability to spin up a Virtual Server from 1 of 4 different VMWare host machines, which allows for VMWare upgrades and maintance, but especially failover should a VMWare host machine bite the dust.
Layer 2: Microsoft Network Load Balancing (NLB)
We currently run 2 IIS 6 servers in a NLB cluster. This is a software load balancing solution from Microsoft and is included with all versions of Windows 2003 server and later. It works well and you cannot be the price of free! The software takes the place of a more expensive hardware-based load balancer, but serves the same function: distributing incoming web requests equally between 2 IIS servers. Adding another IIS server to the cluster takes only a few clicks after cloning an existing Virtual Server, which gives us very rapid capacity expansion.
Layer 3: IIS Application Pools
This particular functionality is not for rendundancy or failover, but more for isolation. By setting up multiple application pools in IIS and then assigning groups of websites to those pools, we are in effect protecting all of the other sites from a failure should the application pool or JRUN web connector crash. We have found this works quite well and instead of all sites becoming unavailable for one reason or another, only a handful may experience downtime.
Layer 4: IIS Web Garden
If you dive a little deeper into IIS and paricularly the properties of your Application Pools, you'll find the Web Garden setting. This setting directs IIS to spawn multiple w3wp.exe process for each application pool and gives you built-in redundancy. Hot!
Coldfusion Tip #1: Turn off any type of recycling of the w3wp.exe processes in the application pool settings. While this is very useful in an ASP.NET environment, it causes havoc with the JRUN connectors.
ColdFusion Tip #2: CF 9 uses 3x the amount of IIS Virtual Memory than CF 7. Increase that setting accordingly. (We have ours set at 1500 MB with no crashing.) To inspect the amount of Virtual Memory being used, search for and install the IIS DebugDiag crash tool from MS.
Layer 5: ColdFusion Clusters
Running Enterprise version of ColdFusion 9, we have multiple servers setup in multi-server mode. This mode allows the creation of multiple instances (virtual servers) of Coldfusion with independent Administration, configuration, and memory use. To increase our HA protection, we have 1 instance running on each of our physical servers and joined into one of 4 different ColdFusion clusters. Similar to the Application Pool/Web Garden architecture in IIS, the ColdFusion clusters and instances give us both failover protection/redundancy and isolation in the event of a failure. Keep in mind, however, that each instance you add will consume its own memory from the server, so make sure you have enough RAM installed.
As I said in the beginning, fairly complex, but with loads of redundancy and failover protection.
In my next post, I will provide some missing documentation for applying ColdFusion 9 Update 1 in this type of a distributed web server environment. Read it here: http://bit.ly/eoM9wE
- Phil Spitze, Network Manager
Google Is a Harsh Mistress
Tue, January 11, 2011
Metaphor Mondays: Unoptimized PPC Campaigns are Vampires - Stake Them Now
Mon, January 10, 2011
I have a question: are you running a PPC campaign? If you are, I have another question: are you running an effective PPC camapign? Chances are, if this is your first time, you're not. Here are a few rules to kill that PPC account that is simply sucking your bank account dry.
Don't Invite Them In - AdWords Campaign Settings
A vampire can't come in unless it's invited, but Google can wreak havok with an account before it's even up and running. If you've set up a PPC campaign without tweaking the default parameters, you're leaving money on the table. To find these settings in AdWords, click on an account and find the Settings tab:
Locations - AdWords defaults to a gfeneral US geotargeting. If you know your target market, refine this list by allowing your ads to show to those states or cities that you know perform.
Networks and Devices - This is a big one. By default, AdWords set your campaign to run in both the Search and Display networks. Bad idea. What works for one doesn't always work for another. You're better off creating two campaigns; one targeting the Search network and the other running in Display. Also check your Devices settings. If you don't want to show to mobile devices, remove them from this list or vice versa.
Ad Delivery - Google automatically sets your ads to Optimize which shows the ad with the best CTR the most. If you're looking to test ads, set this to rotate to get a better feel for which ads convert better. (Also keep in mind that Google determines performance based on CTR, not conversion rate or cost per lead).
Garlic - Negative Keywords
Garlic repels creatures of the night. Negative keywords repel unwanted searches. Run a search query report to see if your campaigns are running on irrelevant searches.
For example, we run PPC for a hotel client here in Myrtle Beach. Beacuse of the nature of their name, they were showing for "nudist colony" keywords until we added them as negative keywords.
Use negative keywords to keep out poorly converting terms as well. If you're a private golf club, your ads could show for searches like "buy golf clubs" or "putter reviews". Keep Keep from draining your bank account by pluggin that hole with negative keywords.
Stake Through the Heart - Conversion Tracking
What kills a vampire dead? A stake straight through the heart. In PPC, the best thing you can do for a fledging PPC account is to set up conversion tracking. Why settle for guessing at how your campaigns are performing. Prove it...with data! Set up conversion events so you can tell exactly what keywords and ads are resulting in your desired outcome.
Sunlight - Use Reporting to Optimize
After you've set up conversion tracking, take the next step: shed some light on those campaigns by running some reports. If you have keywords that are underperforming, axe them. Ads not working? Pause them and try some new copy. Reporting and tracking are the bread and butter of ROI-based PPC. Use them and you'll be the next bad PPC campaign slayer.
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