Social Media Website Icon Integration

25 02 2011

Whether you’re a large e-commerce business or a small brick and mortar company, Social Media is a fantastic route to create exposure and grow a community around your brand.  Adding Social Media icons to your website shouldn’t even be an option, it should be mandatory for all businesses.  Here are a few tips for adding them to your site:

  • Generally putting SM icons in the upper right is the most widely accepted practice.  The fallback should be in the footer if your design can’t handle the header.  Always aim for header or footer as it’s become the “natural” place for people to look for them.  It also depends on how highly you value a “follower” or a “like”.  If gaining these are your main focus, you would not want to put your social media icons at the bottom of a 10 page scrolling blog.  The flip side of this is that you risk the chance of taking someone off your site to your social media profile before passing through your content and being a potential customer/conversion.
  • Branding them (changing the colors/textures) to your site can be beneficial, overdoing it can also be detrimental and hide/blend them into your site too much.
  • Tagging articles, services or products with the ability to share through social media(facebook, twitter and linkedin) is a good way to gain followers and more exposure.
  • Adding Facebook’s “like” button to your website eliminates the middle man of having to actually visit Facebook to gain a follower, which is valuable if you’re goals are on your website. (Same for Twitter and LinkedIn)
  • When using Social Media Icon’s as links to your Social Media profiles make sure they open as a new window.
  • There’s a few ways you can add them:
  • It can be worth utm tracking clicks on your sites Social Media Icons to see where visitors are falling off.  Ie: are you getting 500 people clicking through to your Facebook pages, and only 20 people “liking” it.  In this case this could be worth looking into your FB page itself.  The flip side of that could be you are getting more “likes” then clicks, in which you most likely have bad placement of your SM icons on your website and they are finding your SM profiles through other means.
  • Some different examples of SM icon inclusion:
    • http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ has incorporated their social media icons and a “like” button into their main navigation, which basically tells us that they value those activities highly.
    • http://www.smashingmagazine.com/ makes their SM very prominent in the upper right, but separate it from their content, almost as though it’s on an island.
    • http://www.foxnews.com/ puts their SM icons in the right side of their footer with very little prominence.  This placement is very common as it is a widget area for a lot of CMS’.  It seems a trend for News organizations to bury their SM icons.  CNN does put a Facebook feed on the right side of all their pages so you can repost articles quickly.




Formic Media Seminar Series: Going Places with Google

22 02 2011

Are you a local brick and mortar business? Maybe you have multiple locations? If either of these are true statements you won’t want to miss the upcoming Formic Media Seminar, Going Places with Google.

The seminar will focus on how to help increase your business’ visibility within the local search results by utilizing specific tactics that directly affect how Google “sees” your business. The Formic team will provide insights into the following:

  • How to claim/verify your listing
  • Optimizing your Google Place page
    • Choosing the right categories
    • Obtaining customer reviews
    • Generating web citations
  • New Google Products
    • Hotpot
    • Google Boost

If you’re a local business, you won’t want to miss this seminar. Reserve your spot today.





Google Social Search Evolves Again

17 02 2011

The days where everyone using Google sees the same 10 search results for a particular keyword have slowly passed us by.  Google has managed to integrate video, image, and product information in the search engine results page (SERP) over the past few years. Local search results through Google Places and products like Google Boost have had a huge influence for our clients.  And in 2009, Google introduced Social Search to the world.  If you were logged in to your Google account and scrolled down to the bottom of the SERP, you would see how your social connections related to that search query, whether it be a shared link or blog post of theirs.

Well just this morning Google announced they are pushing the search results envelope even further.  Now, social search results will be mixed in the main organic section based on relevance.  These social results don’t just appear when you friend on Twitter coincidentally shared the same article that’s in the #1 spot.  According to Google’s Product Management Director of Search Mike Cassidy, these social connections may actually influence the rankings you see in Google.

Google Social Search

The other major difference was that with the old version of Social Search, you only saw results from your social network only when they created or shared something through their Google profile.  Now Google can match up information from your friends on Twitter, Flickr, Quora and potentially even more in the future.  This creates an even greater potentially for each and every Google user to have their own unique SERP.  Facebook is the one major platform that is not included in this announcement and Cassidy was a little more vague on. However, Facebook is Bing’s territory and search results there can be influenced by your Facebook friends.

So where does this leave small business and site owners?  We’ve always believed that social networks like Twitter and Facebook can be valuable tools when you listen to your audience and create genuine relationships, not spammy sales pitches every hour. Providing valuable content and interactions with your audience now have the greater potential to affect their search results.  Plus, it sounds like Google has algorithms for these search results to weed out overtly spam content too.  The news today reminds us that you shouldn’t obsess over being #1 for all your relevant keywords, as we all now know everyone’s search results can be drastically different.  Instead, try to focus on your bottom line – driving qualified traffic that will interact with your site and convert well.

Do you like what Google is doing with Social Search?  Tell us your thoughts below.





Branded PPC Campaigns: Should You Bid on Your Company Name?

15 02 2011

A common question that arises while working with and managing a company’s PPC efforts is whether or not they should be bidding on branded keywords if they are already ranking number #1 organically (for their company name).  Logically, it doesn’t seem to make sense to pay for keywords your website is already ranking #1 for in the search engine results, for free.  However, it’s important to consider some of the reasons why a company should enhance their online presence with the help of a branded PPC campaign.

  • Own the search engine results page (SERP) – Bidding on branded keywords can help your listings (paid and organic) own the first page of results for your company name.  Not only do multiple listings help to reinforce your company’s presence, but in some cases it can help simulate brand authority and credibility when a user sees your brand all over the first page of search results; also helping to increase organic click through rate.
  • Protect your brand from competitors – Consider a branded campaign as an online reputation management (ORM) tactic, particularly if you’re in a competitive market space – but even if you’re not.  Branded keywords are often considerably cheaper in comparison to a company’s top, general keywords and can help ensure that you are preventing competitors from appearing above your #1 organic listing for your company name.  Even if competitors are not bidding on your company name now, proactive ORM can ensure your company is being perceived accurately; and keep those pesky competitors from appearing above you.
  • Not all users click on the organic listings – For savvy web users who typically click on organic results over paid results, it’s important to realize that although approximately 70% of users click on organic results, the other 30% or so click on the paid results, not realizing there’s a difference.  It’s critical for your company to be visible to 100% of searchers, not just the 70% that click on the organic results.  With sponsored listings (especially those with ad extensions such as sitelinks or location extensions) taking up a significant portion of top of the page real estate above organic listings, it’s important for your company to be visible in this space too.
  • PPC ads allow you to control your messaging – While you do have control over your organic listing’s title and meta descriptions, PPC ads give you the ability to nimbly change messaging to highlight offers, competitive factors, and different value propositions within minutes.
  • PPC ads allow you to control your targeting – Unlike organic search, PPC ads allow you to control where and when your ads are shown, which keeps your audience targeted, relevant and costs down.
  • Milk that good quality score – Branded keywords often secure the highest click-through rate (CTR), the best quality score and overall performance history, which can help improve account quality score, boosting your overall PPC account history, performance and potential.

In any case, before you rule out bidding on branded keywords, consider the above benefits and conduct a test.  By testing and analyzing the results, it’s undoubtedly a win-win situation, as the proof will be within the data (one way or the other).  If branded keywords are driving up your paid search cost, lowering ROI, or affecting your other traffic sources negatively, then you can decisively rule a branded campaign out of your paid search mix for the time being and not second guess whether you’re missing out on traffic, conversions or revenue – win.  Moreover, if branded keywords help improve your online visibility, traffic, ROI, or conversion activity – another win!





Lessons From JC Penney’s Black Hat Controversy

14 02 2011

The New York Times on Saturday published an in-depth investigative report about retail company J.C. Penney’s seemingly amazing organic search results. For a wide variety of product category keywords, JC Penney was appearing number 1 in the organic results area.  It was even besting some websites of product manufacturers.  And all of this was happening during the holiday season, which is one of the most important times for online retailers.

Unfortunately, not all was as it seemed.  With the help of a SEO firm, the Times discovered that the Penney website was benefiting from a black-hat paid link scheme.  Many of the links were coming from unrelated, “spammy” sites with just the perfect anchor text.   Penney is denying they had any knowledge and has since fired their SEO firm SearchDex, and some of the links appeared to have been created through a site called TNX.net.  The scheme is probably more complex than what the Times discovered, but it’s a great reminder for small business website owners to be more proactive and diligent in their online efforts:

  • If you’re completely new the concept of SEO, read through Google’s own beginner’s guide to Search Engine Optimization.  It contains all the basics including how to promote your site the right way.
  • Conduct white-hat link development methods including valuable content creation (so people will naturally want to link to it), niche directory submission, press release optimization, or article marketing.
  • Sign up for Google Webmaster Tools.  Use it to track how search engines are viewing your site and see inbound links pointing to your site.  Bing also offers a similar product, and both are essential in proactive site management.
  • If a SEO agency handles your optimization efforts or are looking for one, be sure that they are credible and transparent with their link building efforts.  If it’s true that JC Penney didn’t know SearchDex was participating in black-hat efforts, then they didn’t do their due diligence.

Another reason to stay pro-active in your site and monitoring inbound links, is that it’s plausible that your competitors could sign up for these spam link schemes and send the links directly to your site.  If your site is caught and penalized like JC Penney, your competitors come out on top.  According to the article, on Feb. 1 JC Penney has an average organic ranking of 1.3.  On February 8 it was down to average position 4, and just 2 days later it was 52 (6 pages deep in Google’s search results!).  Large, multi-national companies have other revenue streams that could make up for penalized search results for a while.  But for small businesses owners, oversights like that could lead to huge ramifications.





7 SEM Trends for 2011

8 02 2011

After spending the last month reading list after list making SEM predictions for 2011 I thought I’d throw my hat in the ring.  When you truly look at predicting anything, the best case scenario is you’re right and the worst case scenario, well at least you made an effort.  So, without further ado, here are my top 7 SEM predictions for 2011:

1.  Above the Fold Content Becomes Less Crucial

One of the biggest things to take away from the infographic craze is that users are willing to scroll if you have engaging content.  Virtually every mouse has a scroll feature; create amazing content so I want to use it.



2.  HTML5 and CSS3 Will Begin to Go Mainstream

The general population is afraid of change.  Most tech people are early adopters and embrace change.  Now we just need the people building sites for clients that are still using IE6 to let them do it the right way.  Listen to Smashing and start using HTML 5 and CSS3 today.

3.  The Death of Foursquare: As big players integrate location-based services better, the smaller pioneers will fade.

Let me start by saying I’ve never been into letting people know where I’m at so they can go to my house and kidnap my dog while I’m out drinking.  Therefore, I may not be the authority on any this issue.  However, I do hate having to juggle four different apps in order to let everyone know what I’m having for dinner, where I’m having it, that I just became the Mayor and that I checked in to save 20% on appetizers.

4.  Google’s Disdain for RSS Will Continue to Grow

With rumors already swirling about Google moving resources away from Google Reader, it’s likely that support for RSS will fade overall.  Personally, I used to be into RSS as it’s an excellent way to keep abreast to the latest news and industry blogs, however that all went away when Twitter became my professional social vehicle and Facebook became my personal social vehicle.  Using Twitter and using it right helps to filter out all the fluff and only read content that is valued by people who know more than I do.

5.   Blekko Will Become an Important FREE Tool for SEO Professionals

Blekko has already made efforts to supply SEO data to users.  I think the next step in the process is to allow the data to be exported and manipulated.  Stay Tuned…

6.  Local Search Will Drive More Customers to Brick & Mortar Stores

Yelp reported that in December of 2010 35% of all searches on Yelp.com came from a mobile app. Please take into account that this number doesn’t even include the people who go directly to the site through their mobile browser instead of using the app.  People are searching locally and on the go because they want to spend locally.  Looking at Google’s shift towards local content only reinforces the fact.

7.  Customer Reviews Will Take Center Stage

One of the biggest obstacles working with companies that are just now jumping on the local bandwagon is that it’s difficult to get an influx of reviews.  As local businesses begin to optimize for local search, expect to be asked to review a business more and more as you’re walking out the door with your lunch.

In the end, there were a million different predictions I could have thrown out there. Check back next year and we’ll see how I did.

 

What are your thoughts/predictions for 2011 and beyond?





Keywords, the Tiny Building Blocks of Search

4 02 2011

I’d like to revisit one of the single most important aspects of search engine optimization (SEO), keyword research. Many of you, I’m sure, are aware that keyword research must be done, but are you doing it correctly? It’s not necessarily about optimizing your website for your industry terms or choosing the most popular keyword; when doing keyword research you need to take a number of things into consideration. I’ll start with these two.

  • The popularity of keyword phrases as compared to similar/relevant phrases
  • The competitiveness of a given keyword

The goal is to better understand which keywords have the highest potential to drive traffic (i.e. people are actually searching them), but have the least amount of competition. To find out the above metrics, utilize Google’s free keyword tool. Here’s an example of what the tool looks like.

For this particular example, I’m examining whether or not “search engine optimization” or “seo” would be a more valuable term to target as a primary keyword (remember, you should only choose one primary keyword that would go in your title tag & header tags). Based on the above data I’d most likely choose “seo” as it shows there are more monthly searches, and less competition. If you’re trying to decide between a few different keywords, this tool can be really beneficial. There are other tools available that can be helpful as well, such as KeywordSpy, Wordtracker, your own Google Analytics/AdWords data and your competition (see what keywords they are targeting in their title/meta/headers/body copy). There are many other tools out there, both paid and free.

Some other things to remember when doing keyword research:

  • Use both singular and plural versions. I tend to lean towards using the plural version as it already contains the singular version within the keyword, so you’re really optimizing for both versions.
  • Don’t forget to include misspellings. If you have a brand name/product that is frequently misspelled, include the misspellings in your meta keywords tag. I know, I know, the meta keywords tag is virtually invisible. It certainly can’t hurt to do this since you don’t want to include the misspellings in your body copy as that would hurt your credibility and make you look sloppy.
  • If you are a localized businesses operating in a specific market, make sure to use geo-modified keywords throughout your site. If someone were searching for a local Portland restaurant, there is a high probably that they will use ‘Portland” in their search query.
  • I mentioned before that you should target one primary keyword per page, but what I didn’t mention is that you should also have supporting keywords. Supporting keywords would be other keywords relevant to the primary, such as a synonym or acronym or maybe the singular version. In the example above, if I chose “SEO” as my primary keyword, I’d want to use “search engine optimization” as a supporting keyword throughout my copy. This will help strengthen the overall theme of the page, and can help it rank for both “SEO” and “search engine optimization”.
  • Be sure you aren’t optimizing your site for internal keywords. This happens a lot with B2B companies. They seem to have their own internal speak that not everyone, especially their customers, can understand. If you’re a B2B company, make sure you are optimizing your site for specific problems as this is how your customers will be searching. The have a problem, which they’ll be seeking the answer to. You have the solution. Optimize your site for the problem, then introduce them to the solution. For example, a search query from a potential customer might be “data recovery assistance”. You should be optimizing your site for “data recovery” related terms so you rank for that term. Once you get the user to your site, then you drive them down a funnel talking about your services or solution that can help them recover their lost data.

As I mentioned before (I’ll state it again as it’s worth repeating), keyword research is the most important aspect of SEO. If you don’t understand what your customers are searching for, or how to find keywords to optimize your site, you’re dead in the water. The above tips and tools should give you a great start for optimizing your site.

I’d love to hear how others go about researching keywords. What’s your process? What’s worked, and what hasn’t?








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