Google Search Heads Social

30 03 2011

Google has just released a new feature called Google +1.  This new feature gives users the ability to +1(Like) or add a tally to search results, which in turn will help add a socially shared relevancy measurement for search results.  Developers will also have the ability to add the +1 buttons to website pages which in turn will feed your pages overall tally.  Currently users will only be able to see the +1 tally’s from their contacts within their Gmail (or Google Talk) chat list, “My Contacts” group in Google Contacts and People they’re following in Google Reader and Google Buzz.

Google has hinted that they will monitor participation with +1, which in turn could affect its involvement in future search algorithm changes(Think Hotpot for organic).  This feature is being rolled out as I write this, so you will have to opt-in through Google Labs/Experiments if you currently aren’t seeing it.


Yahoo Launches Google Instant Competitor – Search Direct

24 03 2011

Yesterday, Yahoo launched a new product called Search Direct – their answer to Google’s Instant Search.  Start typing at and a small widget-like box slides down, providing you with “search results as fast as a person types, character by character, and presents those results dynamically, generating a fast, simple search experience that goes beyond a list of blue links.”  And that’s the distinction Yahoo is trying to make with Search Direct, that they can provide “answers” and not an overwhelming blue links.

Just for the sake of argument, I tested Search Direct versus Google Instant Search.  Not surprising, Google came out ahead.  Using the same browser and not logged in to any accounts, it took me the full search for “weather 97212” to pull up today’s weather near our office here in Portland, Oregon.  Over at Google, all it took was a simple “w”.  Yahoo may try to spin it as a confusing mess of blue links, but Google has continually evolved rich results to include weather, local sports scores, and more.

yahoo search direct

Yahoo Search Direct



google instant search

Google Instant Search

Now that’s not to say Yahoo Search Direct won’t be a useful product.  First, the Search Direct box is the only thing that updates versus an entire page on Google.  So in theory results can be shown faster.  And currently, Yahoo is displaying results for about 15 different categories including sports, music, celebrities, shopping and local.  Yahoo also revealed that they are considering monetizing the Search Direct box by allowing advertisers to display images or videos on the right-hand side of the search box.

If you are a small business owner that falls within one of those categories (the Local category would be an obvious choice!), it’s another reason to make sure your site is optimized and even enhanced for elements like Rich Snippets. One example would be to format your brick-and-motor’s address in hCard so search engines can easily find your location.  Yahoo Search Direct also gives you another tool for keyword research.  You’ll be able to see some of the most popular results and identify new keywords to target in SEO or PPC.

How do you think Yahoo Search Direct will stack up against Google Instant Search?  Has your site appeared in the results?  Drop a comment and let us know!

Developing a Long-Term, Forward-Thinking SEO Strategy

21 03 2011

Many people look at SEO as a one time consultancy that’s a set it and forget it technique for driving increased leads/sales/traffic to their site.  But, taking a look at something as basic as a keyword research for your optimization efforts can tell a completely different story.  In addition, it’s vital that you hire an SEO firm that understands your industry and can demonstrate that knowledge before a contract is ever put in place.  You must be forward-thinking for a long-term strategy.  The best way to understand what’s going to happen in the future is to look at the past.

A Look Into the Past

A backward-thinking strategy is amazing if your industry is extremely cyclical.  For example, the automotive industry:

If you aren’t familiar with Google Insights for Search and are completely confused at this point – from Google: “The numbers on the graph reflect how many searches have been done for a particular term, relative to the total number of searches done on Google over time. They don’t represent absolute search volume numbers, because the data is normalized and presented on a scale from 0-100. Each point on the graph is divided by the highest point, or 100.”

In the graph above, you can see the comparison of four search terms: “2009 BMW,” “2010 BMW,” “2011 BMW” and “New BMW.”  The graph spans the time from January of 2009 until March of 2011.  The data is extremely telling.  Your first thought might be that if you’re optimizing a page for new BMWs then the keyword “New BMW” would be a given.  Diving into the historical data you can see that, just like the auto industry, the search terms are extremely cyclical in nature.  Due to the fact that the auto industry announces new models at the same time every year, you can see that traffic for the current model year is always higher than the search traffic for “New BMW” until around October when the next model year takes over.  Not to say “New BMW” shouldn’t be part of your overall keyword strategy, but you might want to reconsider a primary focus.

Thus, knowing the industry and having an ongoing, forward-thinking SEO strategy is of utmost importance.  Any on-site changes must be implemented at the proper time in order to capture the flip in search traffic for the next model year.

What industries have you seen the same type of trends?  Leave me a comment and let me know.

adCenter Quality Score to Debut this Spring

16 03 2011

Microsoft adCenter announced news last week of the arrival of the adCenter Quality Score, reportedly set to launch this spring.  With much speculation surrounding when this would eventually take place; it is surprising that it took approximately five and a half years for adCenter to publicly release a Microsoft counterpart to Google’s AdWords Quality Score.  Not to belabor the point, but AdWords released their first generation Quality Score in August of 2005.  Two-Thousand-Five.

Microsoft has also chosen to use Google’s “Quality Score” nomenclature for their new feature, raising speculation that it took adCenter this much time to develop a worthy equivalent.  And, perhaps they tried for several years to create a bigger and better version of Google’s Quality Score and just couldn’t come up with anything better (or with a better name) than a score ranked on a 1-10 scale.  In any case, the similarities between the AdWords Quality Score and to-be-released adCenter Quality Score should make it easier for advertisers to translate what they already know about Quality Score (helping gauge, improve and determine campaign, keyword, and landing page relevance) to adCenter.

Here are the details that Microsoft adCenter has released about their Quality Score:

  • Quality Score will be on a 1-10 scale, and be calculated at the keyword level for each match-type being purchased.
  • Scores are designed to represent how competitive your keyword is within the marketplace, with three sub-scores for keyword relevance, landing page relevance, and landing page user experience.
  • Actionable guidance will be provided to optimize and improve your quality score.
  • At launch, scores will be visible and exportable from the adCenter Web UI, and accessible through adCenter Reporting and Reporting APIs.

Additional Sub-Factors include:

  • Keyword Relevance – assessed on a scale of (Poor, No Problem, Good) and how well your keyword competes against others buying the same keyword.
  • Landing Page Relevance – assessed on a scale of (Poor, No Problem) and how relevant your ad and landing page is to the search query.
  • Landing Page User Experience – assessed on a scale of (Poor, No Problem) and whether your site meets adCenter editorial relevance and quality guidelines.

A notable difference between the two Quality Scores is how Microsoft is positioning their score as a “competitive feedback tool”, instead of being an actual score that helps determine ad rank and performance.  adCenter has officially noted that their Quality Score will NOT directly affect how ads rank and I’m guessing (because of that detail) won’t affect keyword bid estimates or the actual CPC, as AdWords’ does.  adCenter’s Quality Score is designed to tell advertisers how competitive their keywords are in the marketplace, whether or not they are positioned for success and how an advertiser can optimize appropriately to improve their Quality Score.

AdWords Quality Score on the other hand, does affect ad performance and influences how an ad ranks, the actual CPC an advertiser will pay and first page bid estimates.  Both scores are determined based on historical performance data.  While Microsoft has yet to be as transparent about what this historical performance data will be, advertisers familiar with AdWords Quality Score guidelines and formulas can guess that historical keyword CTR and historical account CTR will likely be determining factors.

As a PPC advertiser, I’m looking forward to seeing how adCenter’s new Quality Score will have an effect on ad performance for advertisers, since the score (at this point) does not influence how adCenter ads will rank or the actual CPC an advertiser will pay.  Here’s to hoping this tool will be used effectively by adCenter advertisers to better understand how to optimize and improve campaigns – resulting in improved performance!

Formic Media Seminar Series: Setting Up Google Analytics

16 03 2011

Is your company starting to implement online marketing strategies such as SEO, PPC or social media? If this is the case, are you tracking your efforts through a web analytics platform like Google Analytics? If not, you may be wasting your time as you have no idea which strategies are driving traffic and converting visitors to leads or sales. If you are utilizing Google Analytics, what metrics are you looking at to determine campaign effectiveness?

The Formic team will provide a Google Analytics setup overview, as well as dig into the rich reporting features offered by Google’s free analytics platform. Learn how to measure your efforts, and better understand what success looks like. Register today and reserve your seat as there is limited space available.

Cost: Free

Date: April 13th, 2011

Time: 5:30 – Networking; 6:00 – Presentation starts

Where: Formic Media, Inc., 300 NE Failing St., Portland, OR 97212

Local SEO Opportunities for Small Business

10 03 2011

Each month our agency holds a free search engine marketing seminar geared towards small business owners in the Portland, OR area. Last night our seminar was on Local SEO. I wanted to provide an overview at the beginning of the presentation regarding the number of small businesses in the US (and globally) and compare that to the number of businesses that have actually claimed/verified their Google Place page. The numbers are scary. Small business owners aren’t focusing on local SEO as much as they should. I feel this could be for a couple of reasons:

  • Google isn’t putting enough effort to market this to small business owners, and they are doing even less in terms of support – Google has gotten better at trying to cater to small businesses and give them resources for local SEO, but it obviously isn’t enough as the lack of claimed Google Place pages clearly shows
  • SMBs don’t have the resources/time to put forth the effort it can take to claim and manage their local online presence

So, to the numbers.

  • I’ve seen reported that anywhere from 20%-40% of all searches have local intent
  • Back in June 2010 the Big 3 search engines tallied about 15 Billion searches per month
    • Google – 10.1 Billion
    • Yahoo – 2.9 Billion
    • Bing – 1.9 Billion
  • If 20% of these searches had local intent, that would mean roughly 3 Billion searches each month

Folks, that’s a lot of searches where users are looking to purchase a product/service in the very near future. At a very broad level, roughly one-third of searchers will walk into a brick and mortar location after performing a local search. That’s a huge opportunity for sales.

Now I want to lay out the landscape of small businesses in the US. Most SMBs are not taking advantage of local search, so based on the info above, they’re also missing out on a lot of potential sales.

  • There are roughly 25 Million small businesses in the US
  • About 2 Million have actually claimed their Google Place page

You can do the math on this one. There is huge opportunity for SMBs to take advantage of Local SEO. Now, there are some industries that have jumped all over this, such as locksmiths, plumbers, hotels, restaurants and some others, but the majority of these are all in major cities. If you’re an SMB in a less populous region, you may have the opportunity to claim your page and receive excellent visibility/traffic due to the lack of competition.

If you’re looking to claim your Place page and increase your local visibility, there are some resources that you can utilize to get started, like Google Place help and David Mihm’s local ranking factors. These resources should help you understand what is important in local SEO, as well as how to get started. Additionally, you can view the Formic Media Local SEO presentation (yes, self promotion alert).

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