Gods and Monsters: The Technology Gap and The Service Triangle in Second Life


“Cheap, fast, good. Pick two.”

The number of times I’ve said that in my career is uncountable. It’s true of design, architecture, catering, contracting, and all other industries as well. It’s called the Service Triangle and it’s something very close to an immutable law of the universe. Pick two, because you only get two at once. In an industry where each individual job can have different parameters (like interior design), this is not a very difficult prospect, because while client A might want cheap and good, client b might want fast and good, and both clients can be accommodated. However when things are hard wired into a system, such as the case with a virtual environment like Second Life, you start to have problems and need creative solutions to solve them.

Multiple Triangles

SL has a problem, because in reality it’s comprised of not one, but two service triangles, and (in you really want to get technical, a linear spectrum as well.) These are all important and need to be understood.

One triangle has to do with what the platform is capable of doing (good), how fast it can do it (fast), and what the costs are to the residents, and to the Lab itself (cheap). But the other is on the end that Linden Lab cannot control, and that has to do with the hardware the resident is using to access the platform. Computer hardware has its own triangle- how powerful the system is and how little maintenance it may need- and if you add in the case of laptops, how portable it is (good), vs. how much the system costs, both outright and to maintain (cheap), vs, how fast the system can perform (fast). Competing with all of this is another thing that Linden Lab cannot control- that is how technologically savvy the users are. They will fall along a spectrum of being very comfortable with computer technology, to not comfortable at all. For those whose eyes just glazed over here’s my lo-fi infographic showing these relationships:

If we were to speak about what Linden Lab *can* control, that being the demands and potentials of their own platform, catering to one end alienates potential users. If Second Life becomes to complicated for most people to grasp and understand (which has been a problem for them in the past (see: the viewer issue), people simply won’t use it. If they make the hardware demands too great for most computers to handle, the same thing will happen (see: Skylight) . But catering to the other end hampers the entire platform and makes it lag behind in technological advances that not only keep it current, but could potentially be very profitable (see: mesh support and integration with other existing social networks- basically, see the Tinfoil Hat Theory.)

Unfortunately, attempts to go straight up the middle have resulted in confusion and disarray, creating situations where not everyone is on the same page. For example, currently there’s a number of third party viewers still based firmly in viewer 1 code, and there will be a gap of several months before any of them are able to successfully strip v2 code and put it in a v1 user interface. Also, for years the building system has languished and lagged behind major available technological advances (mesh being one of them, but there’s others as well), in part simply to avoid alienating people who currently build and create in Second Life but don’t have the technological comfort, expertise or hardware needed in order to take advantage of them, hobbling what is possible with the platform.

Created In Your Own Image.

There’s a school of thought that believes that people create gods in their own image. Basically, or so it goes, people envision their god as agreeing with whatever it is they feel should be true. Since people draw upon their own experiences to draw conclusions about the world around them, it’s not surprising that no matter where you fall on the technology/hardware spectrum, you tend to think that most people are just like you. Anyone who has less is a luddite. Anyone who has more is a technogeek. If they spent less on their system than you did, they were cheap, but if they spent more, they were a wealthy elitist (btw this theory holds true whilst driving on the highway and in politics. It’s kind of a universal system.)

But this way of thinking is flawed. As an example, I need to look no farther than Apple Computer. Macs have a significantly higher price point than PCs, and yet, a large part of their marketing has been geared toward people who know nothing whatsoever about computers. The higher price you pay for a Mac is in part due to the fact that they are so simple they require little to no computer expertise in order to use one. People who would otherwise be apprehensive about using computer technology are reassured by the Mac’s simplicity, and are willing to pay quite a bit to not have to worry about needing to “know about computers.”

As another example, let’s talk about laptops. Laptop computers (of any stripe) are more expensive by far than similarly powered desktop models. Again, it’s about the service triangle. What you gain in portability, you lose in computing power. A 700 dollar laptop may be okay, but for $700 you can build a PC desktop with significantly greater capabilities. What you buy, like anything else has to do with a balance between how much you can afford (cheap), how powerful it is (fast) and how much maintenance it might need and how portable it is (good.) Service triangle- just like everything else.

Which brings me back to Second Life.

“The Times, They Are a-Changin’”

Recently it seems that Linden Lab has recognized that this is a problem, and has begun testing Skylight, a web based viewer for Second Life that I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. While easily accessible and requiring a lesser hardware investment than a fully invested Second Life experience (see: cheap), and can be accessed via any browser at any time without an additional download (see: fast) it has some problems- notably bandwidth. An hour using Skylight (granted this is only in testing and may change) uses a whopping 1080mb of bandwidth (for those who don’t metric, that’s a gig of bandwidth). For people who are on internet packages with a cap, that’s a huge expenditure for only an hour’s worth of time. Also, there’s a larger question- one of “good”. Currently, the test allows the user to only visit a small list of pre-selected destinations. You have no inventory, and cannot buy or sell things. In fact, during this test, there is no search, either, which makes sense since everything is essentially being spoonfed to you anyway. The experience may be fast, and it may (depending on your internet package) be cheap- but good is iffy at best. To date, Skylight remains a lowest common denominator solution. This may not be so bad for people who are functioning with low end technology, and it certainly will bring them a larger audience via the Tinfoil Hat Theory if it is able to link up with existing social networks like Facebook. But as of now (and granted, it’s still just in testing), it’s a limited experience and not much of a comparison to what you get with the stand-alone Second Life program.

Skylight - 3D Chat Zones 2.png

Exponential vs. Linear

Though people’s income (in a decent economy- let’s pretend a second, shall we?) increases in a linear fashion, technological advancements don’t work that way. Technology increases and expands on an exponential basis. What this means in this case is that the computer hardware people have at their disposal becomes rapidly stripped by the demands of the types of things they would like to do with it. This is, by the way, one of the reasons that console gaming took the lead away from PC gaming years ago- because replacing computer systems would always be far more expensive and with a shorter gaming lifespan than buying a console- even an expensive one. In the case of Second Life, this becomes more complex when you divide the userbase into broad categories like consumers and content creators.

The Capital Investment

One of the best things about being a content creator in Second Life is that you can go into business with a very small to nonexistent capital investment and make a profit. This is one of the ways that SL is superior to RL. However, though the average user can go for a lowest common denominator experience (such as that currently offered by the beta test of Skylight), for content creators, it’s a little different. You need to recognize that the technological advances to the platform are going to keep moving, and though you may not have much of a capital investment in-world, where you do in fact have one is in real life, in terms of your computer hardware. While you *can* operate Second Life on a middle of the road to low end laptop (I know- I have one in addition to my desktop system), I also know it’s not an easy, fast or fun experience. Creating content on such a device is even worse. Why? Because midrange and low end laptops do not contain the graphics capabilities to run immersive 3d environments well. Period. Full stop. This is not news, and it should come as a shock to no one. Laptops which are devoted to 3d gaming are expensive. Desktop systems provide far more power at a significantly lower price point and are much more upgradeable.

Here we have an example of the technology gap. Content creators who years ago, when Second Life was much simpler and less technologically advanced could get by with using one of these systems to create and sell products are finding that with each leap forward, they are falling further and further behind. This is because the tech is exponential, while the ability to afford hardware is linear. It’s also what’s currently being addressed by things like Skylight. But Skylight won’t solve the problem for content creators- it will at best create a low end, but accessible experience for consumers of content.

Content creators must understand that there is a capital investment that must be addressed here- and that is one of RL computer hardware, and one of time, in order to learn how to maximize potential with these new advancements. Though the SL viewer 2 is unpopular, it will be many months before a third party viewer is able to successfully strip the code and shove it into a viewer 1 UI. By that time, creators who are capable of adopting the new changes will have a huge headstart on those who weren’t able to do that.

Though it is not necessary to be a computer geek, or independently wealthy in order to keep up (though both of course provide additional advantages), the real winners in this game are those who understand the fundamental power of the service triangle and accept that it is an immutable law which cannot be circumvented. Just like any other industry, one has to keep up with the latest technology in order to prosper, and though the costs of doing business in SL are less than in RL, they are not completely nonexistent and to ignore them as a content creator comes at your own peril.

Potential advances such as Skylight might offer a fast, easy, fun consumer experience. But in Second Life where all content is user created, advancing technologies like mesh are the wave of the future for virtual goods. At this point a different kind of investment is needed by content creators. More time. More money. Better hardware. In order to take advantage of a 10 billion dollar virtual goods market, you need to invest a little bit yourself, and to think otherwise is setting yourself up for failure and frustration.

Creators and Adaptation

At this point, it seems clear that Linden Lab has decided that they must advance the platform. Frankly, this is long overdue. While consumers of content may be able to take advantage of a low end, low tech solution, content creators have become quite used to getting something for essentially nothing in terms of hard costs vs. the cost of a RL business and that has to change. Though creators may gripe about the additional expense, it is simply a cost of doing business and the choices are either to keep up, or be left behind.


5 Steps to Strategically Managing Your SEO Provider
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5 Steps to Strategically Managing Your SEO Provider

There’s no shortage of stories about bad experiences with SEO agencies. But if you ask an SEO, there’s also no shortage of stories about bad SEO clients. So the real question is how do you make sure that you don’t end up having a bad SEO story to tell or having a bad SEO story told about you?

The truth is that trusting any part of your marketing to a third-party poses some serious challenges. While a search marketing agency can offer you a level of skill and expertise that you don’t have in-house, the wrong choice can end up costing you rankings, revenues, and profits.

But a bad SEO agency experience can often be avoided by being a smart, organized, and efficient SEO client. Specifically, there are five steps you can take to manage the relations you have with your SEO provider, while protecting your investment and your rankings.

1. Educate Your SEO Provider

Make sure your SEO agency understands your business – both your business model and your business goals.

Your business might seem obvious to you, but that’s because you live, eat, and breathe it. Conversely, SEO agencies live, eat, and breathe SEO – that’s what they specialize in. Take the time to make sure your agency understands your revenue model and the particular strategy that you’ve chosen.

Similarly, make sure that you explain your business goals to your SEO provider. After all, there’s a big difference between “cornering your market” and “dominating your niche.” Your SEO agency needs to be aware of your particular goals so that they can devise an SEO strategy that fits best with your business.

2. Define Your SEO KPIs in Advance

Work with your SEO firm to set KPIs that fit with your business goals. After all, there are many ways to measure SEO efforts (i.e., rankings, traffic, conversions, and any blend of these). Both you and your agency should agree in advance on what combination of KPIs to work toward.

For starters, this will enable your SEO agency to develop a strategy around your expectations and business needs. But more importantly, it will put you in a position to evaluate the work they’re doing, as well as measure the SEO ROI.

3. Appoint an SEO Gatekeeper

It’s important to appoint an SEO gatekeeper. Ideally, this person would have been involved in the KPI process, and will fulfill two key roles as a kind of SEO project manager:

  • Operation Level: The SEO gatekeeper will manage any bottlenecks – whether they’re on your side or the agency side. Essentially, by having one person monitoring all SEO projects, it will be easier to map their progress and push them through on a consistent and steady basis.
  • Strategic Level: The SEO gatekeeper will help facilitate cohesion between various projects. By directing all SEO inquiries through a single point of contact, both you and your agency can be sure that the proverbial left and right hands are always working in tandem. For example, your SEO agency will know about new pages, products, and site that your company is creating, and can work them into their strategy.

4. Know Your SEO Stakeholders

Your appointed SEO gatekeeper must now identify all the relevant SEO stakeholders within your organization and establish processes for dealing with them. After all, the SEO gatekeeper will be responsible for ensuring that all strategy decisions are communicated to your agency, so they need to have access to decision makers and be aware of any internal developments that can affect any SEO projects that your agency is working on.

Some of these stakeholders will include:

  • SEO Director: This is the stakeholder who will need to take the lead on aligning all internal efforts. They will need to ensure that SEO is involved early on and for the duration of all web projects, and will provide guidance/direction to your AOR and all local agencies.
  • Execs & Upper Management: This level of decision-makers is ultimately responsible for the results of any marketing initiative, including SEO. Consequently, these stakeholders are critical for holding people account for working properly with SEO, and shouldn’t let things move forward if SEO isn’t involved.
  • Sales, Marketing, & PR: While the sales team needs the leads generated by SEO, marketing knows that SEO will be its number one acquisition tactic. Similarly, PR is responsible for global messaging, and SEO should be a key part of that strategy.
  • Usability/Design: These stakeholders will be integral for creating SEO friend users experiences for all countries/brands, and optimized information architecture for all your sites. Consequently, usability/design in each office needs to be in close contact with local and/or global SEO staff.
  • IT/Dev: This layer of your organization is needed to develop multilingual, SEO friendly technologies and test every release of every site for SEO best practices. Having your SEO team closely involved in their development cycle, then, is critical.
  • Editorial/Content: One reason “content is king” is because of its importance in SEO. Your content team, then, needs to adapt content production according to search trends/volumes in each country, as well as ensure that there’s a steady flow of local content across all your properties.
  • Legal: Your legal department will be important for developing a worldwide policy on SEO (i.e., whether you pursue certain practices). This is particularly important so that they don’t become a roadblock. For example, you don’t every piece of onsite or offsite content to get caught up in legal and slow your SEO momentum. So work out clear processes with them in advance.

With all the stakeholders identified, it’s important that your SEO gatekeeper has access to decision makers within your organization. Sometimes a small change in internal priorities can bottleneck an SEO projects in a big way. Your SEO gatekeeper needs to be able to communicate the opportunity costs of delaying certain SEO projects to those who can influence internal priorities.

5. Protect & Maintain SEO Momentum

As an SEO client, it’s important to understand and maintain SEO momentum. You can’t put SEO on hold and then pick up where you left off a few months later.

Rankings change constantly. If your SEO initiatives get held up, your rankings will slip while your competitors’ increase.

Maintaining SEO momentum is probably where your SEO gatekeeper will play their most important role. In addition to managing internal bottlenecks (IT, legal, etc.) they should also implement procedures to address unforeseen variables.

For instance, if a key IT resource leaves your company, there should have a policy/procedure in place to assuage any potential bottleneck. Similarly, internal SEO deliverables should be planned well in advance of their deadline so that you have breathing room if a sudden internal priority arises.

Most importantly, any change in SEO service provider should be a pre-planned and measured on. After the decision to change is made, a new SEO agency should be selected before you fire your old one, and then your SEO gatekeeper should plan and manage a transition of responsibilities from one agency to the next.

Basically, you should never just fire your SEO firm without there being an alternative in place to follow current SEO projects through to the end, and having additional projects planned and scoped in advance.

Any interruption in your SEO efforts can end up setting you back months or years, and that can not only mean having to reinvest in SEO all over again, but losing the SEO equity you’ve built to date.

Managing Relationships, Rankings, and Your Bottom Line

Every business relationship is a two way street. After all, it takes two to tango. So it’s important to take responsibility for your side of the relationship.

Granted, it’s tempting to think “well, I’m the client, and the customer is always right,” but that’s reckless and irresponsible – especially when future revenues are on the line.

As business goals and priorities change, make sure to keep your SEO agency (and any other marketing service provider) in the loop, because these are changes they need to know about and understand. And make sure you understand what their strategy for you is, and why they chose that route. This will help you get the most out of your investment with them, both in the short and long term.


5 Plus Google +1 SEO Tips from Googleplex in Mountain View
Gods and Monsters: The Technology Gap and The Service Triangle in Second Life
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5 Plus Google +1 SEO Tips from Googleplex in Mountain View

One of the sessions not to miss at SES San Francisco will be Timothy Jordan, Developer Advocate at Google, who will be discussing Google+ and the Google +1 button.

In a pre-show interview with Byron Gordon, Jordan discusses what highlights attendees can expect from his session on “Getting more from Google+ and the +1 Button” at SES Francisco, on Thursday August 18 at 3pm PST. He plans to discuss the Google+ Project (Plus) and the Google +1 button and the wider Google strategy of “socializing” all it’s products.

In light of the lack of official information about Plus, particularly for those users who have not been part of the limited “field trial”, you will see in the video how refreshing it is to get an official perspective from the Googleplex on the Google+ project. In this interview, Jordan provides some tips and workarounds in answer to some of the important questions that many Google+ users and socially-minded businesses are asking.

Questions answered include:

Should we be using this platform for our business brands?

Editted for clarity, Jordan said, “We’re not quite ready for businesses or brands to have a presence on Plus. We realize this is a particular use case with really special needs. So, hold off [creating business pages] for now, but in the meantime if users they want to designate somebody in the company that has their own presence on Google+ and can represent the company in that capacity, that’s fantastic. We’ve see some people do this with great success.”

[Jump to point in the video.]

What are best practices for webmasters to use the Google +1 Button?

“The +1 button allow users to endorse the content of each user but even more importantly, webmasters are beginning to place the +1 button on category pages, not just recommending a single product but an entire category of product on a website.”

In addition, Jordan recommends placement of the +1 button on the homepage of a website, that way users when selecting your +1 button are endorsing your entire website, including your brand.”

[Jump to point in the video.]

How might developers use the +1 button to improve search?

Jordan elaborates on the subject of best practices when using the Google +1 button by suggesting webmasters take advantage of the callback mechanism.

A possible use of the +1 button on mobile devices, is that users could +1 an item in a store and essentially book mark that product so that is easily findable when they go back to search online.

Such a use of the Google +1 button would be akin to scanning a QR code to retrieve information, or using a barcode scanning app to search for alternative prices. However, the simplicity of the +1 button within mobile apps such as barcode scanners could have exciting implications on conversion behavior, potentially drives purchasing both in-store and offline by allowing users to “bookmark” real objects.

Another use of the callback mechanism, is to tailor product recommendations “after the click” of the Google +1 button. He cites the hypothetical example of a retailer who has a page dedicated sunglasses, which a user likes and so clicks the +1 button. Based on the +1 data callback mechanism, the retailer could immediately display product recommendations, and show those recommendations in page, immediately after the click. Alternatively, the retailer could customize the user experience of the store, based on the +1 cookie data, and display more recommendations for that user’s next visit.

[Jump to point in the video.]

How can webmasters improve the implementation of the Google +1 button?

“The speed of the +1 button has been increased and is now three times faster than when it was first introduced”.

Jordan also stressed that webmasters can make the +1 button work even faster if they include canonical URLs to all of their webpages. Google recently increased supprt for using canonical URLs.

[Jump to point in the video.]

How can I search Google Plus?

As for searching within Plus, Google realizes that users expect something great – and consequently is still in development. Jordan recommends as a “patch-on” solution, using, where you can restrict a search to a particular site. So, if you want to search across posts within Google Plus, Timothy suggests you go to, type in your search query, and add a site colon, and then

An example of it in action is searching for mentions of your own website. E.g.

This tip also came in particularly handy last night to find out news of the riots in London e.g. london riots site:

[Jump to point in the video.]

What is Google’s “real names” policy on Google Plus?

On the topic of the Google Real Names policy. Timothy says that Google profiles are designed for users to have a public page on the Web that represents a real person in the real-world that you can connect with. By using a common name, it enables your friends and social network that would like to find you to make a connection with you.

Google has also modified the process for account suspensions relating to a breach of the Google+ Terms & Conditions. Now, your profile isn’t suspended immediately for review but you are given a chance to change your name. If your profile is suspended your review by Google, you still have access to your normal Google account and all of your Gmail.

[Jump to point in the video.]

More Mountain Views on the Google Plus Project

In tandem with this interview with Timothy Jordan, Search Engine Watch also spoke to Jim Prosser, a PR spokesperson representing Google+. In that conversation Google confirmed that Google+ “developer tools are coming,” adding that, “it’s just a matter of time.”

On the question of whether Google Realtime search will return, Prosser said:

“We’re exploring how to incorporate our recently launched Google+ project into this functionality going forward, so stay tuned. Our vision is to have include Google+ information along with other realtime data from a variety of sources.”


Richard Petty Driving Experience Revs Up Fan Engagement 700% on YouTube
5 Steps to Strategically Managing Your SEO Provider
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Richard Petty Driving Experience Revs Up Fan Engagement 700% on YouTube

At NASCAR races – the most popular spectator sport in the U.S. – it’s all about heart-pounding action. Can you imagine actually strapping yourself behind the wheel of a NASCAR racecar and hitting nearly 165 mph like the pros? Not only can you imagine it, you can live it at the Richard Petty Driving Experience, where fantasy becomes reality for thousands of fans at racetracks across the country who pay to experience race car driving on the track.

Elliott Antal, eMarketing Manager at the Richard Petty Driving Experience, knows how to turn fans into customers using the power of sight, sound, and motion.

“NASCAR is something you have to see, hear, and feel – the roar of the engines, the speed of the vehicles, the breathless expressions on people’s faces when they are up close and personal,” he explains. “Right around the same time I started working at the Experience, Google was coming out with amazingly powerful tools that enable smaller companies like ours to play in the same online sandbox with industry giants.”

Working closely with Google, Antal implemented a “hugely successful” YouTube TrueView in-stream ad promotion that increased fan engagement by 700 percent – raising viewership from just over 14,000 to over 117,000 during a 30 day promotion.

To capture new business during the company’s typically slow summer months, the sales team created a Summer of Speed package, inviting everyday people to spend a day or a weekend geared up to drive (or ride in) NASCAR race cars. The Richard Petty Driving Experience’s channel on YouTube was already loaded with great content from television news coverage, ESPN footage and reality shows. Viewership was growing through social networks as well as from natural search.

But the company had yet to mount a targeted sales effort for its driving experience – and here was the perfect opportunity to take the YouTube TrueView product out for a test drive to see just how powerful a strong call-to-action could be.

“We used our strongest tool – video – to inexpensively execute a campaign powered by Google, the company that has mastered the art and science of search, and is now putting brilliant video advertising techniques into the hands of advertisers large and small,” notes Antal.

TrueView in-stream ads ensure viewers are engaged by enabling them to watch or skip after the first five seconds when the ad plays before a show. The advertiser only pays when a viewer watches at least 30 seconds of the video without choosing to “skip” the ad, which counts as an increased view on YouTube.

Out of 107,000 Summer of Speed views, over half of viewers watched the entire video, which lasted over a minute. “Crazy good, in my book,” says Antal, adding that, unlike other ad programs, TrueView in-stream ads allow clips to run over the 60-second mark.

With 650,000 overall impressions and a low cost-per-view, Summer of Speed sales exceeded expectations.

“Results were so hot, we didn’t want the campaign to end,” said Antal, who ended up pulling additional dollars into the effort to further boost the uptick in sales numbers.

No other content on the Experience’s YouTube channel had reached the 100,000 viewer mark.

“It was incredibly exciting for everyone at the company to watch those numbers pick up pace in real time,” Antal said. No other print or media advertising was used to market the Summer of Speed package, or any other Richard Petty Driving Experience promotion.

One of the biggest advantages of the TrueView program, and one that is too often lost in the shuffle, said Antal, is the 30-day remarketing option in TrueView, which enables advertisers to reach out to site visitors who didn’t buy, but are self-expressed as interested in a product or service.

“Remarketing is one of the most cost-effective strategies out there,” he said. “It can have a profound impact on a business model and help formulate what you want to sell when.”

More tips from one who’s been there, done that, on a small budget: “Test everything so you can justify it. Keep successes in you back pocket so you can refer to them down the road and not waste resources re-inventing wheels that don’t need it,” Antal said.

As a constant reminder of how to tell a great video story, Antal regularly strolls down to the pit, turns on a flip cam, and points it at overwhelmed customers as they climb out of the cockpit. Footage captured, emotion prevailed.

“Find your niche and off to the races you go. Little advertisers with little budgets can make big noise,” he said.

The Petty team has the ready-for-a-close-up ESPN pit reporter Jamie Little as a spokesperson, but advertisers still should put the most compelling part of their content up front no matter what, advises Antal. The first five seconds of the Summer of Speed promo featured a laughing Jamie Little trackside, cars zooming by, asking the viewer if they’d rather spend summertime and money in air-conditioning while lolling on the couch, or behind the wheel of race car.

Having a good relationship with a local video crew is also one of the keys to success, according to Antal. With low-cost equipment readily available, affordable talent is there for all budgets. What’s important is that a crew has the right feel for your product, shows creativity, and can edit fast. The entire Summer of Speed video was produced over one weekend, and the final cut was on Antal’s desktop two weeks later.

In between promotions, the Richard Petty Experience team uploads quick customer testimonials from the side of the racetrack. They have been able to capture raw emotion from customers like John Anderson from ESPN, who speak directly to the camera in between laps around the track.

Moving forward, the Experience team plans to launch a new program called Exotic Driving Experience again using YouTube to sell it. He wouldn’t be surprised if results surpassed Summer of Speed, attracting a new audience longing to drive a Lamborghini around a track.

“The car is the star,” he said. “And video is its runway.”


10 Keys to Ranking on Google & Bing During Breaking News Events [Study]
5 Plus Google +1 SEO Tips from Googleplex in Mountain View
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10 Keys to Ranking on Google & Bing During Breaking News Events [Study]

A number of key differences in Google and Bing’s search results for breaking or trending news stories reveals strategies for marketers seeking exposure during these events. Inbound marketing software firm Optify recently examined three types of major breaking news events and the resulting opportunities for ranking on Google and Bing.

In their evaluation of worldwide breaking news events, business breaking news, and local breaking news, Optify found that the two major search engines treated results differently based on authority, multimedia elements, and recency.

Google Favors Authority, Bing Prefers Recency

CEO and co-founder Brian Goffman explains, “Google and Bing both react; they create different SERPs for breaking news events. Google tends to prioritize high authority sources, whereas Bing, in comparison, has more recent results, but they’re not necessarily as high authority.” Interestingly, he notes, “MSN is the number #1 news source every time, in our study. This was true in every case; almost a third of the page results were MSN. Google doesn’t change the results as often, but they are emphasizing high authority sites.”

Among the other changes in breaking news stories, the study reports that on both engines, sponsored stories or ads disappear from the results. Goffman speculates that advertisers may not want to be associated with breaking news and gives the example: if you were an airline, would you want your ad appearing next to news about an airplane crash?

Another notable change is the placement of organic listings, which are bumped down the page during breaking news events. Only the first and second organic results appeared above the fold; overall, these types of results are much less prominent during news events.

Finally, multimedia results with images and/or video are featured more prominently in the results for breaking news events.

How Can Marketers Prepare For and Participate In Breaking News Stories?

Normal vs Breaking News Searches

First, said Goffman, there has to be some measurable incentive for appearing in breaking news results.

“It’s important to executive teams that you are able to show some kind of business value out of the additional traffic. The approach is not to just get garbage traffic on terms that don’t convert. Depending on your business model, you have to look at conversion in your own way,” he said. “If you’re creating traffic just to get people to click on ads, it’s not good traffic. You will get penalized by the search engines if you’re just capturing unengaged traffic. It’s up to you to provide a high quality experience for the visitor. Provided you do that, the technique works and there’s nothing wrong with it.”

There are events that are unpredictable – e.g., a tsunami (worldwide breaking news) or the Amanda Knox story (local breaking news in the report). But business events are something you can prepare for, said Goffman Marketers need to anticipate what people will be searching for during business or recurring events, such as trade shows, large acquisitions, or product launches.

In their report, Optify offers 10 Tips for Driving Organic Traffic to your Site During a Breaking News Event. See the full report for an explanation of each tip:

  1. Format: Search engines try to surface multi-format results higher.
  2. Social sharing: Using your social network and making it easy for people to interact with your content will increase your chances of ranking higher on SERPs.
  3. Google+: Google will give more weight to content with a lot of +1’s, so it is important that you implement it on your site.
  4. Freshness, uniqueness and recency: In the case of news event, freshness and recency are a must.
  5. News category and News XML: You should also submit a news site map to Google so it can discover your content faster and ensure that you get full coverage of your content.
  6. Optimize, optimize, optimize: Without optimizing your content using the durable elements of SEO, chances are that you will not rank very high.
  7. Keyword strategy: Develop a keyword strategy by learning how users search for these events.
  8. Research keywords: Use real-time monitoring tools to learn what resonates and how.
  9. Use Social Media to drive traffic: The use of social media during breaking news event is becoming essential for marketers and publishers.
  10. Think like a publisher, act like a marketer: Don’t forget that you are a marketer and ignore online marketing best practices.

“If you’re a marketer, you can participate in breaking news, but the window is smaller both in time constraints and the kinds of content that get in,” said Goffman.

“Google News: Key Ranking Factors [Study]” also covers more aspects of how websites can increase their visibility specifically on Google.

Becoming a Trusted Contact May Be Key to Participating in News Events

Particularly with Google, Goffman notes, unless you’re connected with a high authority news site, your chance of getting much attention is pretty low. He recommends that marketers and publishers aim to become the person high authority news sources call for comment on these events, rather than attempting to become an authority site (which is a tall order when you’re functioning as a business).

“Building relationships over time is critical in connecting with higher authority news sources,” Goffman said. He also offered a few additional pointers:

“Be available; if you’re not available on a consistent basis, they’re not going to call you the next time. Be interesting. This is hard to quantify, but are you willing to go out on a limb? You have to be willing to not be the center of the story. The story is not about you, but you’re a part of it if it’s related to you or your industry. You have to be okay with the story not being about you and willing to comment on these things that aren’t about you.”

Multimedia is critical and can put you ahead of competitors with plain text content, he advises. Creativity is required to insert yourself into breaking business news. Goffman suggests using software to enable trend monitoring, but reinforces the importance of backing up the awareness of recurring and breaking events with business processes to act on them quickly.

Optify is an inbound marketing suite that enables B2B marketers to drive traffic/leads and to track and share results. They primarily focus on SEO and SMM and have a number of other tools in the suite to help nurture, score and convert leads.


SEO – Content | Confusion | Clarity
Richard Petty Driving Experience Revs Up Fan Engagement 700% on YouTube
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SEO – Content | Confusion | Clarity

“How Many SEO’s are Really Content Marketers?”

So… you’re now a content marketer and not a SEO practitioner. You’re now a strategic thinker and not just a technical or tactical implementer. You’re a marketer.

What’s more, you’re a holistic and integrated digital marketer. You always have been, right?

Since Google introduced its Panda and Penguin algorithmic updates, we’ve seen a seismic shift in the way that we work “with” search engines. Pair this alongside a renewed interest and focus on content marketing and the convergence of paid, owned, and earned media and we have great opportunity.

However, what comes with that is some confusion on direction and clarity needed on what content marketing really is, where and how it fits in your organization. I am big believer in content marketing and utilizing opportunity but in order to gain clarity on the renewed focus on SEO and content marketing relationship, I decided to approach it with an initial sense of skepticism.

Content 4200 BC

Since the days of cavemen carving on cave walls people have been publishing content. This isn’t a new industry compared to post-2000 search marketing. Search and digital marketing have indeed made it easier for brands to tell their story and, for many a good SEO agency, that has been part of their plans.

Since John Deere published “The Furrow” in 1895, content marketing has been right in front of the consumer eye.

Fast forward to 2012 to Coca-Cola’s Content 2020 vision and we begin to see the fusing together of content marketing and digital marketing (of which SEO is a part) with its “liquid and linked” strategy.


In 2011 the content management institute conducted a study and found that 90 percent of marketers do some form of content marketing, whether they realize it or not.

In 2012 an Outbrain and Econsultancy survey found that 90 percent of companies agreed that content marketing would become more important over the next 12 months.

Both reports provide some compelling statistics. What surprises and confuses me is the low number (38 percent) of brands and marketers that say they have no content marketing strategy in place. Brands and marketers have been producing content (as per above) long before the when Tim Berners-Lee created the World Wide Web.

What Has Changed

What has changed though is what has happened in the SEO industry and the perception of content marketing. The growth of social media and the links between content and social and search engine results has changed. That is where confusion comes into the new content equation.

It’s logical to conclude, from the above, that what has changed is the interest and perception of what content marketing is. That has been driven, in the main, by SEO professionals.

1. Google – Algorithms – Panda & Penguin

In many ways Google has driven many SEO professionals to rethink their marketing strategies and shift to quality content production.

Panda was aimed to reduce rankings for low quality sites and improve rankings for sites with great, innovation, and insightful content. Penguin was aimed to remove web spam and combat link tactics that they view as black hat.

My first thought when this happened was, “how many companies will struggle and how many will rebrand?”

The data provided by Google supports this though. Note: A big thanks to 011100110110010 for researching and highlighting this trend.

Google has made it hard for anyone to gain quick results by trying to “game the search engine” or use black hat techniques. A meteoric rise in the interest of content marketing has occurred after this.

Many companies who engaged in dark art practices and tactics got hit hard. It wasn’t just small sites it was also large sites like – formerly part of the New York Times.

Many companies and agencies that had been producing and engaging in online content marketing strategies, as per the diagram above, found that there clients were not hit as hard by Google changes – that’s no coincidence. They saw opportunity to build upon this and rebranded. Quaturo and its subsequent purchase by Bluglass managed the transition right.

2. Convergence of Paid, Owned & Earned Media

Advertising and publishing aren’t new and neither is content marketing. The convergence of paid owned and earned media caused many a debate on how people pitch SEO. However naming conventions and debate around inbound and outbound techniques are really quite insignificant when you look at the bigger marketing picture.

The real, and largest, change has ultimately been the growth and rise of tools, technology, and platforms that have allowed us to build and engage with brands and clients using “pull” marketing compared to traditional content techniques – that were focused on “push.” The rise of social media is all about content and engagement driven through new technology.

3. Growth of the Connected Consumer

The ability of content to attract, retain, and convert customers naturally draws parallels with conversion and purchasing funnels. However, the reality is that in today’s world of converged, connected, and engaged consumerism tactics and strategies overlap in numerous areas. This has meant that customers don’t all always follow a traditional funnel system.

Take social media as an example, loyalty and advocacy from one customer (sharing and promoting via influencers and friends) can lead others straight to awareness and consideration. Hence following a rigid demand funnel to map content strategy is no longer the norm if you aim to plan and prioritize quality content strategies. Why do you think we have so many venns, circle, and bubbles – it’s because of the interaction and coloration of different types of media.

Mike Grehan, Publisher of SEW and ClickZ, shares some great thoughts and insights on the connected consumer as part of his interview for the BrightEdge blog.

4. Shifts Between Strategy vs. Tactics

One thing I have noticed is some confusion between strategy and tactics. As the media landscape grows, converges and Google forces SEO professionals and online marketers alike to re-think there approach – tactics such as algorithm chasing, tricking, and manipulating are becoming outdated. That means in order to survive and grow SEO’s and online marketers alike have to take a more strategic and integrated approach.

If SEO professionals want to be content marketers, then they have to take a much more strategic approach. This involves being a holistic marketer and optimizing for people rather than search engines.

Content marketing is far more than a subtle side shift from SEO to optimizing content. Just look at the way the SERPs have changed recently. Video, social, mobile, local rankings all require much than a singular technical approach. Hope is no longer an effective SEO strategy.

If you want to be top of the CMO’s agenda, who understand content more than SEO, be prepared to think like a marketer and understand cross channel and integrated marketing work on and offline and help them understand SEO in return.


Anyone can produce content. Plenty of people publish tons of content every day. Unfortunately that does not make them content marketers. Likewise, if your content marketing strategy is just a rehash of your SEO strategy, then it could be argued that you aren’t a content marketer.

Do you remember the age-old debate? Technical SEO vs. holistic search marketers. Well, the same could be said for content marketers vs. online/SEO content marketers.

If you really aim to do content marketing, then you need to take a planned, detailed, and holistic approach across all channels. If you don’t have a clear plan and strategy in place then, you may get a few quick wins, but in the main you are really just creating additional noise and new forms of spam.


Quality content comes from quality marketing planning. This is your start point.

Content marketing isn’t simply reproducing content and recycling content (that comes later in the process) into an infographic or list. Using content marketing as content bait is also not a good strategy long term – especially if you simply aim to use it to create a quick link or perceived win to replace SEO.

The wins from content marketing come long term compared to traditional SEO short term, quick win tactics. The more unique and insightful content you produce, the more likely you are to rank/position in the long term.

Now that’s a tough strategic decision for many to make, especially if you have employed manipulative search engine technique in the past and you clients expect similar results. Results and links are now beginning to be a byproduct of great content. Balancing this reversal isn’t only a strategic decision but also a business decision for many a company moving into content marketing.


The audit process is just a vital as content creation. Auditing goes way beyond just looking at online metrics such as traffic, links, and social media data. Such audits are great if your focus is purely on certain aspects of online content.

However, looking holistically (across your organization and integrated content into multiple formats across multiple audience types) includes auditing everything from online to offline assets. Understanding business strategy, target markets, target personas, collateral, and case studies are part of this.

Auditing talent and optimizing talent to ensure content comes from all areas of your organization is a critically important and challenging process that many people skip in a rush to distribute what content they already have. What happens when it runs out?


Brand and Product

Brand marketing and product marketing are stalwarts of marketing strategy. Understanding every aspect of your product and how the brand is perceived on an offline allow to begin to map content ideas to consumer purchasing lifecycles in and outside of the funnel.

What’s more, doing this at an early stage gives you great insight into how to integrate your online, digital, traditional and offline. That’s RCM: Real Content Marketing.

Content Production – Mature and Immature Content

This is what separates the men from the boys and the girls from the women. I have used a maturity-based analogy for a very specific reason. As our industry matures so has our approach. That started with SEO and shifts from tactics to strategies and can now be seen in when and how people produce content.

Producing quality content is hard and working how and who develops content across your organizations is a huge task in itself.

Add branded and co-created content to that equation and you have a huge resource task.

If you can identify the content stars in your organization across all functions – sales, marketing, client service, product, and corporate – then you are far more likely to produce mature and consistent content.

Mature content is thoughtful, unique, insightful, and perfectly placed. It is cleverly distributed and recycled and reproduced in line with quality editorial, seasonal, and consumer based timelines.

Immature content is what I call over production of and needless recycling of content. Sometimes, although there are some great ones out there, this takes the form of a needless infographic, repetitive content, repetitive blogging about conferences, and basic, tactical 101 guides that are produced in their hundreds of thousands. If you do this, then you should make yourself aware of the law of diminishing returns.


This has always been a source of confusion when people talk about strategy and tactics. Distributing content is primarily a tactical activity with an online/SEO bias attached to it. There are obviously strategic considerations when planning outreach to resonate with customers and influencers but in the whole its success relies on execution.

Pitching content vs. traditional advertising is wrong. Placing advertising, even though it is paid for media, against content marketing is wrong. They are all part of the same process and start point as above.

Distributing your content and balancing editorial and advertorial, push and pull, and online and offline tactics are all part of holistic content marketing. Utilizing all marketing channels ensures that your brand story reaches the right people and in the right areas. Read more in this great post on the TopRank blog.


Content marketing has always been a huge and vital important part of company and marketing strategy. It sits at the top of the marketing tree and requires a combination of skill sets and matrix management across all areas of your business.

Search and SEO are a part of content marketing, but aren’t the start or end point in many cases.

Those who are considering content marketing as an alternative to SEO need to have first understood integrated marketing across search, digital, and offline channels.

Real content marketing requires a top down strategic approach compared to traditional online tactical approaches (yes – we now have a term called traditional online marketing). It requires vast resource and doesn’t guarantee you those really short, quick hits.

Quality content really has to be produced by individuals and not technology. Technology only distributes and helps you create and curate some of that content.

Hence identifying and managing content producers in all areas of your organization is a pre-requisite to success. Not only that, engaging and co-creating branded content with your clients are partners makes your content ever more so unique and insightful.

I’m a huge fan of SEO, but I’m also a huge fan of content and marketing. I would advise anyone to think twice before you call yourself a content marketer and produce and distribute that infographic.


How SEO Attracts & Converts Customers in the 3 Purchase Decision Phases
10 Keys to Ranking on Google & Bing During Breaking News Events [Study]
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How SEO Attracts & Converts Customers in the 3 Purchase Decision Phases

Eighty percent of shoppers will research online before making a purchase according to Google. This behavior expands to business customers. 93 percent of tech B2B customers research products on the internet, predominantly via search engines.

Most who optimize know that optimization for brand, product/service, and location can greatly increase visibility in search engine results. However, many still struggle with connecting with consumer intent.

The 80/20 Rule

Non-branded search accounts for 78 percent percent of all search engine referrals, according to Google. This resonates with the theory that a well-optimized website should attract 80 percent of non-branded referrals, and only 20 percent of branded search referrals.

As the ultimate information destination for your product or service, your website can, and should, be the dominant authority for your solution by name. It should also be an authority on the problem the solution solves, how it compares to competing solutions, and offer compelling reasons for purchase.

Most brands find it easier to dominate search engine results for the name of their company, brand, product or service. The ongoing challenge for SEO professionals is to achieve visibility for non-branded keywords. This is easier to achieve when you can step away from the mechanics of SEO and think about connecting with your target customers.

Non-Branded Search

Promote non-branded search referrals by helping customers make informed decisions, while speaking their language. Resist the temptation to limit website content to industry jargon, internal language or sales copy. And, deliver the information customers seek, in context to where they are in their quest for a solution.

The 3 Phases in the Purchase Decision

Research, Comparison and Buy represent the three basic phases of online purchase behavior. Connecting the dots between the customer’s problem and your solution promotes search engine visibility, referrals, and paths to conversion.

Use Personas

Optimizing for the research and comparison phases will increase visibility to customers that have not yet decided what product or brand they wish to purchase. Optimization to promote conversion requires delivering of compelling offers that close the deal.

To improve your effectiveness, consider creating personas for each of your customer types, identify what “makes them tick” in each of the three phases of the purchase decision, create path for each, and optimize accordingly.

Phase 1: Research

Research is the first phase of the online purchase decision. Customers use non-branded keyword searches to find information, answer a question, or find the solution to a problem. Because these customers aren’t yet loyal to a brand, they are essentially up for grabs.

Introduce New Customers To Your Brand

Whether your customers are seeking to treat health symptoms, get a better night’s sleep, find a new place to live, increase profitability of a business, reduce tax liability, find a destination for a wedding, or purchase a more fuel-efficient vehicle, you can greatly increase clicks to conversion by addressing the human element.

Identify the questions most frequently asked, and even those less frequently asked, to present answers in a logical, meaningful way.

Optimizing for the Research Phase of Search

In this phase, customers don’t yet know what product, service or piece of information will best meet their needs.

Keywords entered into the search bar will focus on finding information that will ultimately solve a problem. The more they know, the more qualifiers they add to the search engine query. The more words they add to the search, obviously the more refined the results will be, reducing competition to reach those customers.

If you wish to reach these customers, your website should answer every reasonable question, and be optimized accordingly.

A research-based search query might look something like:

  • stop snoring
  • natural ways to stop snoring
  • devices that stop snoring
  • pillows that stop snoring
  • best way to stop snoring

The example below demonstrates how search engine results resonate with customers conducting research on search.

Accounting Software Programs for Small Business Google SERP

Targeted content, FAQs, tools, guides, studies, forums, etc. connect the dots between the customer’s problem and your solution. This approach to SEO is much easier if you execute create content with a long-tail SEO approach.

These assets become powerful landing pages that should also be used to advance to the next two phases.

Phase 2: Comparison

Once customers identify possible solutions for their problem, the comparison begins. This phase can include non-branded and branded search engine queries.

Comparison will require clear articulation of your solution, as it compares to other solutions you offer, as well as solutions it may be compared to.

Optimizing for Comparison

One of the most powerful way to win new customers in this phase is to answer every possible question about your solution, as well as your competitors’ solutions, on your website.

Optimization should include authoritative coverage on versions, features, models, services, and include ratings, reviews and exposure to third-party endorsements and/or media coverage.

When possible, post blogs that spell out features, benefits of solutions, and how they compare to competitive solutions. Visual tools that spell it all out complement the written word, so be liberal with infographics, comparison grids, video, etc. to attract clicks. After all, it takes more than top search rank to win the click!

Comparison-based search queries might look something like:

  • pillows vs mouth devices to stop snoring
  • acme vs other brand comparison
  • acme pillow reviews
  • cost of acme vs other devices that stop snoring
  • which anti-snoring devices are safest

Note in the screen capture below how top search results explicitly set out to help the customer make the decision.

Quickbooks vs Peachtree which is better Google SERP

Attract Natural Links

The more thorough you are about articulating why your solution is best, the more likely you will be to attract referrals (the kind of links Google favors), shares, likes, etc., all of which provide queues that search engines are inclined to recognize.

Phase 3: Buy

This purchase is where many SEO focus their efforts. Hopefully now you can see how providing the “backstory” within the research and comparison phases serves as a natural progress to the purchase.

Search queries during the purchase phase are different from the research and comparison phase in that they must seize the moment by providing a compelling reason to buy.

Today’s consumer is more savvy than ever. There are several mechanisms that attract conversion. Some are geo-local, some by reviews and ratings, some by brand recognition, and many by price.

Optimize for the Conversion

Your website should be the best possible destination to purchase the solution you promote – unless you aren’t in the business of direct sales to clients and customers, or there are other factors that play into the dynamic between yourself and retailers, VARs, distributors, etc.

If another website is offering a discount on your product, find a way to match it on the website. Even better, establish a “we will not be undersold” policy. Take it to the next level and pre-empt others who will offer discounts, and be sure to create a landing page to attract those clicks.

Purchase-driven queries often look like this:

  • acme pillow discount
  • best price on acme pillows
  • lowest price on acme pillows
  • acme pillow free shipping

When optimizing website assets to appear in search results that promote conversion, make sure to create optimized landing pages to receive these visitors. Please don’t drop them on the home page and ask them to find their way to the deal – you’re likely to lose the conversion you were so close to winning!

The example below demonstrates how discounts, dates, and specific offers appear in search results to promote conversion.

Google Quickbooks Discount SERP

Optimize, Assess & Repeat!

This approach toward optimization works best if you practice long-tail SEO.

As with any SEO effort, measurement, analysis and ongoing optimization will be required to fully realize the potential created within each of the three phases of the purchase decision.

Landing pages, content, and conversion reports will reveal how effectively the website is meeting the needs of your customers, and closing the deal.


6 Social PR Secrets to a Better Website
SEO – Content | Confusion | Clarity
Tác giả

6 Social PR Secrets to a Better Website

A brand’s website or blog should be its ROI hero, but in many cases it ends up being a public relations liability.

The failing truth: “99% of the reasons why websites fail are 100% preventable,” Rebecca Murtagh reminds brands in her new book “Million Dollar Websites”.

Critical. Frustrating. Necessary. Aggravating. Rewarding. Disappointing. Creative. Dated. Fast. Slow.

This rollercoaster of emotions might sound familiar if you’re working on the design or redesign of a website or blog.

By far, one of the most critical components of today’s marketing is an organization’s website; the digital entrance that represents a brand’s aesthetic, culture, personality, mission, vision and business proposition. But as important as a website is to a brand, for many organizations it is the most ignored, dated, and neglected marketing item.

A recent survey reported by WhatUsersDo reveals:

  • 60 percent of brand owners rate their website as average or below average.
  • Despite the stated goal by 78 percent of those surveyed being “extremely” or “quite” committed to delivering a quality user experience to customers, an alarming percentage of brands admit knowing that their website will disappoint their customers.

Website Identity Crisis: Project or Asset

“Too many, for too long, have been conditioned to think of the website as a project. This is one of the most common reasons websites fail to fulfill their potential,” Murtagh said. “If a brand’s success relies upon the performance of a website – in any way – it is imperative to embrace the website as a business asset, vital to the sustainability of the brand.”

Drilling down the long list of best practices of building a better website covered by Murtagh in her book, highlighted are some of the top tier reminders when it comes to leveraging the social media and organic online publicity from your website; which will in turn impact a brand’s search results!


Here are six social PR secrets designed to help brands build a better website or blog.

1. KPIs Matter

Ask yourself the question: What do you need your website to deliver? The answer could be in the form of news, email sign-ups, unique visits, enrollments, etc. Key performance indicators (KPIs) give you the power to quantify the bottom line results and performance of the domain.

“When the website/blog is proactively managed to deliver measurable results related to specific business goals, rather than serving as a marketing communication that is merely updated from time-to-time, the website becomes an asset rather than an expense,” Murtagh said.

It’s also helpful to share these KPIs across all business channels within a company from SEO to PR to HR to customer service. Don’t keep the KPIs as the marketing department’s secret. Share it to build it.

2. Every Page is a Home Page

Given today’s search and social influence, chances are your actual home page isn’t the main gate into your domain.

Both design and content directly impacts the ability of the website pages to appear in search engine results, which can greatly enhance visibility to target audiences. When content, including images and video, is organized and optimized to serve the visitor, conversion is more likely.

3. Money on Mobile Visibility

Have you checked what your website looks like on a mobile device? Brace yourself, this could be a shocker.

In case you missed the mobile PR memo: Your website’s performance on mobile is no longer an option. The status is this: Mobile devices are outperforming laptop and desktop for Internet activity, and it is imperative your brand’s website either render efficiently on mobile devices or that you create an alternative user experience on a dedicated mobile site or mobile app.

A few stats to back this up:

  • 73 percent say that they’ve encountered a website that was too slow to load on a mobile device.
  • 51 percent of mobile Internet users visited a website that crashed, froze, or resulted in an error.
  • 38 percent of mobile users have encountered a website that was not available to view on the mobile device.
  • 75 percent said they would be less likely to return to a website they couldn’t visit via mobile (KISSmetrics, 2012).

If your brand isn’t set up for mobile, this could be a PR crisis called “unnecessary lost visibility.” You’re letting it slip through your mobile fingers.

Mobile websites don’t have to break the bank. Looking for a quick mobile makeover? Check out DudaMobile, you can have a fresh mobile website version today that your users will appreciate and your bottom line will love.

4. Content vs. Copy

Yes, there is a difference. A brand’s digital copy should communicate the value proposition and what makes you different from the competition. Examples of copy include:

  • About Us Page
  • Services Page
  • Products and Catalog
  • Guarantee Page
  • Executive Team Bios and Facts Sheets in the Company Newsroom

Content is best defined as what helps support and tell your brand’s story and news. This could be visual or text based.

Content is more of a subliminal means to communicate a brand’s value proposition and could come in the form of press releases, testimonials, infographics, product reviews, or editorial style articles that might offers tips and helpful resourceful information.

The common denominator between website content and copy – both should be optimized and published with a social strategy in mind. For example, your brand might not be active on Pinterest, but make sure your content and copy is “pin worthy” with an above average image or video.

5. Location, Location, Location

“Geo-location is important to every website at some level,” Murtagh said. “Without a degree of localization, your website essentially competes against every website in the world, especially in search.” Ugh!

Sounds simple?

“It is amazing how many brands are not taking geo-location seriously,” said Joe Laratro who offers these mistakes to avoid for brands looking to gain search and social visibility:

  • The company’s contact information is on the home page but is part of an image versus HTML.
  • Not including physical address in the footer not using schema mark up.
  • Not writing the content of the website in a geo-centric manner.
  • Making sure you claim and regularly monitor your Google+ listing.

“Over the years, I have seen far too many website designers, agencies, and programmers omit even basic location data from websites,” Murtagh said.

6. The Company Online Newsroom

The online newsroom can play a big role in a website’s content strategy. Today public relations resides on your company website or your blog. Unlike the past, press releases, press kits, images, social networks, fact sheets should all be headquartered on your website within a social/public relations online newsroom. The online newsroom provides a way to deliver news 24/7, not just for journalists, but also for visitors of your website.

More than a couple of pages, the true definition of a website according to Murtagh’s “Million Dollar Websites” book.

A digital environment capable of delivering information and solutions and promoting interaction between people, places, and things to support the goals of the organization it was created for.

Check out your website or blog and see if it meets the mark of today’s digital expectation. Is it leveraging the social media and public relations potential?


Facebook Graph Search: Local Search Ranking Factors
How SEO Attracts & Converts Customers in the 3 Purchase Decision Phases
Tác giả

Facebook Graph Search: Local Search Ranking Factors

On January 15, 2013, Facebook released Graph Search, which is the social network’s first attempt at a serious search engine. I’m glad Facebook launched Graph Search, since I often joked that the previous search functionality was so bad, you could barely find yourself.

I gained access to Graph Search on January 17, and have completed an enormous amount of research since then. In my first post on Graph Search, I explained its potential impact to privacy, reputation management, local search, and more. You should check out that post to gain a better understanding of how Graph Search works and the challenges that Facebook is dealing with.

While completing my research, it didn’t take long to dig deeper into local search, and to realize the potential impact to local businesses (if Graph Search truly takes off). Remember, Facebook now has 1.1 billion active monthly users and 665 million daily active users. It’s hard to ignore those numbers.

4 Focus Areas and Local Graph Search

Graph Search has only rolled out to a limited set of users at this point (less than 1 million), and will continue to gradually roll out to more users over time.

Graph Search currently handles four key areas: photos, people, places, and interests. And as you can guess, “places” should be of particular interest to anyone running a local business.


As Graph Search rolls out to more users, ranking well in place search could be an important driver of business for many local businesses.

SES New York and My Presentation on Graph Search

In March, I presented Facebook Graph Search at SES NY, focusing on local ranking factors for Facebook Graph Search, based on the research I have completed since mid-January. I also explained more about Nearby (now named Local Search on iOS), and how to boost rankings in Local Graph Search.

This post will cover a number of local ranking factors (and potential factors) for Graph Search. Just like Google’s algorithm, some of the factors carry a lot of weight, while others might contribute, but aren’t a driving force.

Again, this is based on my research and analysis, and Facebook will continually be refining its algorithm over time. And nobody knows the true Graph Search algorithm other than Facebook itself.

I’ll end this introduction with the standard disclaimer about ranking factors – correlation does not necessarily mean causation.

Without further ado, let’s jump into local ranking factors for Graph Search:

1. Social Connections


When performing local searches in Graph Search, Facebook surfaces places that my friends and connections have liked and visited. You can easily see this displayed in the SERPs when the listing includes “liked by {friend name here}”. Now, this is only one factor out of many, but it’s a strong one.

Takeaway: If you are a local business and don’t have a Facebook page set up, then set one up today. If Graph Search takes off, and you don’t have an official page, then you will be left in the dust. Think about it… if you don’t have a page, then nobody can like your official page. If users can’t like your page, then social connections of people searching Facebook cannot help lift your business in the Graph Search rankings. And I’ll cover the social engagement part of the equation later in the post.



After heavily testing Local Graph Search, it’s pretty clear that likes are a factor. You don’t need the most likes in your category, but you should always look to build more likes (the right way).

For example, since Facebook understands Page engagement, then zombie followers won’t help you. That’s unless you’re The Walking Dead.

Remember, Facebook wants to surface places that have a real following, places that users have voted for, etc. Having a solid like count (based on your category) absolutely seemed to impact rankings.

Takeaway: If you’ve had a Page for a few years, and still only have 14 likes, then you should start refining your social strategy today. You need a strong plan for publishing great content, promoting that content, and then engaging with your fans. And yes, Facebook Ads can absolutely help jumpstart your likes. I’m not referring to buying likes (which makes very little sense given my point about zombie followers from earlier). But a well-planned and researched ad campaign to gain likes from a specific niche is a great way to build real likes.

3. Check-ins


While testing Local Graph Search, check-ins clearly seemed to be a ranking factor. The more check-ins a place had built over time, the higher the correlation to stronger rankings.

If you’re a local business with a Facebook page, make sure you have selected “Local Business” as the category. You absolutely want people to be able to check in to your location.

It makes sense that check-ins are a factor, since Facebook will want to surface places that are actively seeing people visit the location. In addition, check-ins become exponentially more important when you take star ratings into account (covered soon).

Takeaway: Make sure users can check in to your location, and make sure your customers know how to do this. Everyone using Facebook’s mobile app has a mechanism for researching and checking into a place called Local Search (on iOS) and Nearby (on Android). I cover this later in the post, but it’s important that customers understand that Local Search is there and how to use it. Foster more check-ins. It’s clearly a ranking factor.

4. Proximity to Location in Query


Ah, a traditional local SEO ranking factor finally appears in the list! As you can guess, if someone searches for “restaurants in Princeton new jersey”, then it’s advantageous to be located in Princeton, New Jersey.

With Graph Search, I’ve unfortunately seen surrounding towns throw off the SERPs. So, make sure you have the correct address set up on your Page. Also include mentions of that city in your Page information (more on that in point 6).

Takeaway: Location is a strong signal, which shouldn’t be a shock considering we are talking about Local Graph Search. Make sure your address is accurate, mention your target locations in your Page copy, and hope Graph Search gets better at understand bordering towns.

5. Star Ratings

Say what you will about Facebook – I think it takes a smart approach to star ratings. And by the way, the ratings you see are not from Yelp. I know there’s a lot of confusion about where the actual star ratings come from, so it’s important to understand that they come from Facebook.

When a user checks in to a place via their Facebook app, Facebook obviously knows this. After checking in, Facebook might provide a ratings module to you later on (in the right sidebar while you are browsing Facebook). Users can also rate places they checked into by using Nearby in their Facebook mobile app (now called “Local Search” on iOS).

This approach to building star ratings is brilliant since it’s extremely hard to game. You can’t simply call up 500 friends and ask them to quickly give you a five star rating. They won’t have the ability to do that… since Facebook knows who checked in and is control of who sees the ratings module.

Start Ratings in Local Graph Search:


The Ratings Module in Facebook:


Image Credit: Inside Facebook

Takeaway: During my research, star ratings seemed to impact rankings in Graph Search. This is another reason it’s important to make sure customers know how to check in, and then how to rate your business (if they are prompted to after they leave). The more check-ins you can gain, the more star ratings you can get. The more star ratings you get, the more signals you can send to Facebook that your business should rank highly for targeted queries in Graph Search.

6. Facebook Page Optimization


In traditional SEO, there are certain elements under your control. You can control title tags, meta descriptions, content on the page, navigation, internal linking structure, etc. Well, for Graph Search, you can control the information that shows up in your “About” section.

Do not leave this content blank. It is absolutely used by Facebook to help its algorithm understand what your business is about. Don’t take it from me, Facebook even has a page set up explaining how to help users discover your business in Graph Search. And on that page, it clearly explains that you should flesh out the about section with important details about your business. When you add information to your page, you can include the following items:

  • Category
  • Subcategories
  • Address/Location
  • Short Description
  • Description
  • General Information
  • Contact Information
  • Food Styles
  • Specialties
  • Services
  • Team

Takeaway: You control the data. Similar to traditional SEO, make sure you thoroughly complete the pertinent fields in your about page. Understand what users are searching for, and then make sure you provide high quality and useful information that matches what they are searching for. Sounds very traditional SEO-like, right? It is, and you can change this today.

7. Engagement


As I explained in my blog post about BeastRank (right before Graph Search went live), I fully believe that likes, shares, comments, etc. could impact Local Graph Search rankings. Facebook could very well be incorporating Page engagement into the Graph Search algorithm. It’s just another way for Facebook to ensure the businesses it returns in the search results are followed by real users, that those users are actively engaging the Page’s content, sharing its updates, etc.

Takeaway: Engage your fans, analyze your Page insights, and ensure you are providing high quality and relevant content. Take a hard look at the statistics that measure engagement like Engaged Users, Talking About This, and Virality. Look for ways to boost those metrics (the right ways).

8. Age on Facebook


This is total speculation, but it makes sense in certain situations. If there is a page that just pops up today, should it rank above a Facebook page that’s been active for three years, has been building likes consistently, and engaging its fan base? Probably not.

I don’t think this is purely an age factor, but just like domains and SEO, I believe Pages can benefit from age too. But again, you need to be doing the right things on Facebook… and not just letting a page sit there building dust.

Takeaway: If you’re a business owner that still hasn’t set up a Facebook page, then set one up today. If Graph Search gains in popularity as it rolls out to hundreds of millions of users, you could be left behind. Don’t let that happen. Build a strong social strategy now, and begin to engage users as soon as possible.

9. Photos In and Visitors In


When you hover over a local search result in Graph Search, two buttons appear for “photos in” and “visitors of”. When clicking the “photos in” button, you are taken to a page that displays photos from Facebook users that have tagged a specific business.

When you click the “visitors of” button, you can see people that have visited that business. This is obviously more data for Graph Search to chew on, and can potentially influence the algorithm for local search.

For example, if Facebook identifies many photos tied to a business, that score could influence the search results. I’m not saying this factor is as strong as social connection or likes, but it could be a factor.

And by the way, Mark Zuckerberg already explained that Instagram data will be incorporated into Graph Search at some point. That’s a huge amount of photos and data and could absolutely impact Local Graph Search rankings.

For “visitors of”, I already explained how check-ins seem to be a strong factor, and this option lets you view actual Facebook users that have visited the location.

Takeaway: Encourage customers to take photos at your location. You can reinforce this with Page updates by highlighting new photos that your business was tagged in. The more signals you can send to Facebook about user activity, the better.

Now that I’ve covered a number of local ranking factors for Graph Search, I’m going to cover two additional important topics. First, I’ll explain more about Local Search (called Nearby on Android), which is sitting in your Facebook mobile app right now. Then I’ll cover Bing’s connection to Graph Search, including both organic and paid search.

Nearby (a.k.a., Local Search) and its Impact on Graph Search

During my SES NY presentation, I asked the audience if they were familiar with “Nearby” from Facebook. Only a few hands went up. That wasn’t shocking, since the functionality is somewhat hidden in Facebook’s mobile app and there hasn’t been a push to drive its usage.

Nearby (which is now named “Local Search” on iOS), is sitting in every Facebook app right now. Don’t believe me? Go check the menu in your Facebook app and you’ll see it sitting there. And for Local Graph Search, it’s ultra-important, since Nearby (a.k.a., “Local Search”) is essentially the mobile front-end to the Graph Search back-end.


Using Nearby and Local Search functionality in your Facebook app, you can search for places of interest, based on your physical location.

When you click a specific listing, you can read more about the business, read recommendations from other users, view star ratings, etc. And yes, this is also how you can check in to a place and provide your own recommendations.

From a star ratings perspective, once you check into a place, you can rate that business directly from Nearby. And all of this data helps fuel Graph Search.


If you’re a local business owner, you absolutely should get familiar with Nearby and Local Search in the Facebook mobile app. And more importantly, you should make sure your customers know what it is and how to use it.

Let’s face it, if more of your customers know it’s there, more can check in, more can provide recommendations, and more can view the ratings module and provide star ratings.

The Graph Search Bing Connection

Facebook and Microsoft have a strong partnership. Microsoft was an early investor in Facebook and Bing has been working closely with Facebook on various social search projects. Well, Graph Search is one of the areas where the two companies have worked closely together. Below are some important points for you to understand about how Bing helps Graph Search, and how you can leverage that relationship to gain more customers.

  • The Bing Fallback: Graph Search falls back to Bing results when it can’t answer your question. This happens when you enter traditional search queries (that don’t fit into the Graph Search taxonomy). Once you reach the Bing fallback results, you’ll notice that paid search ads are displayed. And yes, you can be listed there too! Facebook is a syndicated search partner, so selecting this option in Bing Ads will enable your ads to show up in the search results. It’s another great reason to launch campaigns in Bing Ads.


  • Graph Search Passing Keyword Data: Based on that last bullet, some of you might be thinking more about the Bing fallback results and its impact on organic search traffic. A few days before my SES NY presentation, I was double checking how Facebook handled traffic it was sending to websites from the Bing fallback results. When Graph Search first launched, Facebook was not providing keyword data to destination websites (yes, a new type of “not provided” had hit the scene).
    Well, during my research in late March, I noticed that Facebook reversed direction and started sending keyword data along with the referrer! To learn more about my findings, and how to track Graph Search keyword data in Google Analytics, you can read my blog post on the subject. I walk you step by step through setting up an advanced filter to capture the keyword data.


Next Steps for Local Business Owners

  • If you haven’t already, request access to Facebook Graph Search. As of now, it has only been rolled out to a limited set of users.
  • Double and triple check your Page information, categories, etc. Make sure you have “Local Business” selected as your category.
  • Develop a strategy for gaining more likes (the right way). Avoid zombie followers.
  • Boost engagement with your fans (with a strong content and social strategy).
  • Encourage check-ins. They matter.
  • Start using Nearby (now named “Local Search” in iOS), and educate customers about how to use it. Remember, it’s present in every Facebook app and can help your business build more power Graph Search-wise.

Local Graph Search – Start Now, Benefit Later

Hopefully this post helped you gain a solid understanding of the local ranking factors for Facebook Graph Search. Again, Facebook is still in the process of rolling out Graph Search to its 1 billion+ active user base, so now is the time to get your Page and social strategy in order. Review the factors listed above and determine how you can strengthen your local rankings in Graph Search.

Nobody knows how popular Graph Search will become, but it’s hard to ignore a social network the size of Facebook. In my opinion, there’s a narrow window of opportunity for local businesses to get their Graph Search situation in order. Jump through that window, and fast. Good luck!


Local Search Key Vendors, Best Practices & Steps to Success
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Local Search Key Vendors, Best Practices & Steps to Success

With the rise of smartphones and mapping apps we’re living in the era of local search and discovery.

Before we dive into the thicket of what it takes to win in the space and who the players are, let’s take a step back and review the basics of local SEO.

Google’s Knowledge Graph – showing information directly on the search results page -and the presence of the ‘Carousel’ results are just two of the game changers making local SEO a moving target.

The carousel will make images and reviews a key driver of clicks. It may also imply that ranking number one in local results is less important as results are listed horizontally.


Before we dive into the thicket of what it takes to win in the space and who the players are, we will review the basics of local SEO.

The Key Drivers for Local Search

In general, SEOs agree the key factors driving local search results boil down to:

  • Keyword-targeted, indexable landing pages (where the keyphrase is the location and the service)
  • Consistent, accurate business listing data across multiple listing data providers
  • Consistent, accurate name, address and phone number on the site landing page, business listings, and search engine local page
  • Good reviews, content, and engagement on search engine local pages (Google+)
  • Inbound links and citations / mentions for the target web page and the domain
  • User searches for the business name in the geographical area
  • Google Map Maker engagement (for Google, obviously)
  • A good mobile experience (50 percent of mobile searches have local intent)

Given a basic understanding of the tactics and the user experience for local search, we can now review the various options for local search optimization.

Local SEO for the Truly Clueless

Say you are a lawyer, a plumber, or an exterminator and you don’t have time to worry about this stuff. Setting aside the fact that you likely aren’t reading this article, let’s look at the 100 percent outsourced options.

These vendors will set you up with a website, a local ad or marketing campaign, and some kind of local off-site page presence for a monthly fee, all you need to do is give them a call and a credit card number.

  • ReachLocal: Pretty much the first players in this space and the industry leader. They tend to target the larger end of the small business market (more than a few employees and more than a few hundreds of dollars a month to spend). ReachLocal will set you up with a web presence and an online marketing (search, social, display, mobile) campaign that fits your budget.
  • Yodle: Lesser known, but providing pretty much the same service as ReachLocal, Yodle targets the small end of the small business segment. They will set you up with a basic template-driven, search optimized website on a domain they own and control. They will also set up a paid search campaign assuming you have the budget, and will track and forward any calls they generate.

One thing to consider with these outsourced solutions is once you stop paying them, you may lose your website, the leads stop coming, and any SEO equity you may have established goes bye-bye.

If you really don’t think you can figure out how to create a website and do basic SEO, the outsourced approach is the solution for you. Just be aware of the downsides and the fact that you are paying them for the service. Otherwise, buck it up and make your own website and follow the instructions below to optimize it for local search.

The Do-It-Yourself Approach to Local SEO

So you are going to do it yourself. As we have seen above, you need good on-page SEO to rock in local search and a good mobile site or responsive design since a ton of your local searches will be on mobile devices.

Step 1: Basic SEO

You need to get your on-page SEO in order – create a nice, responsive site with a local keyword-targeted home page (e.g., “Childrens Resale Store, Brooklyn, NY”). Then go about the usual SEO tasks of getting good inbound links, citations, and mentions in the media.

With basic SEO out of the way, you now need to think about straightening out your business listings and optimizing your off-site local pages like Google+, Yahoo, Bing, Yelp, and many others.

Step 2: Business Listings

For a small business, you can manually create and update your business listings at several places. For example, you can get a Dun & Bradstreet number, and update or create a listing with your name, address, and phone number at InfoUSA. These guys gradually feed many other local services like the Yellow Pages vendors with data.

Step 3: Off-site Local Pages

Now it’s time to get your off-site act together. With a few more basic steps like claiming your Google+, Bing, Yahoo, and Yelp pages and enriching your location on Google Map Maker you are on well on your local search way.

Go get some great reviews, upload photos, and make sure you’re your name, address and phone number (NAP) data is visible on your home or store page and exactly matches your listing data. Add semantic markup code to your NAP data to be 100% sure the engines get the message.

Large Enterprise Local SEO

The same basic rules apply for larger businesses with a big local footprint, but things get considerably more complex and time consuming. Welcome to the world of enterprise local search vendors. And, if you’re really busy, you may need a local search agency or specialist.

Enterprise Listings Management

Let’s take a look at some of the main local search vendors. If you work with an agency, they will most likely be using some combination of these in their service.

  • Universal Business Listings: UBL directly feeds business databases like Acxiom, Dun & Bradstreet, and InfoGroup (last time we checked). These are primary datafeed providers to multiple publishers. UBL also has a bulk claiming service for sites like Google+, allowing you to make a one-time claim and update of your data. UBL is not the company to work with to streamline management and updating of social / local sites, but they can get your basic business listings created or cleaned up so they can work their way through the local data ecosystem.
  • Localeze: Recently acquired by Neustar, Localeze is similar to UBL in that it provides business listings data directly to a variety of publishers and primary data sources. In some ways Localeze is complementary to UBL as it provides data to a different set of distribution partners including Yahoo, Bing,, Facebook, Twitter, and TomTom. Localeze has created an impressive roster of sites it feeds with data.

There are other options as well, but for the sake of brevity, let’s move on to:

Enterprise Local Pages Management

Keeping third-party local sites like Google+, Yahoo Business Listings, and Yelp current and enriched with offers, campaign content, and offers is a big job, especially for brands with hundreds of locations. Previously, it was pretty much a manual job. Nowadays, there are several players who have stepped up and created APIs and interfaces that allow you to manage off-site local pages centrally.

Once you get into the space of managing multiple off-site pages for multiple locations you are going to be spending serious coin. If you have the budget, here are some folks to take a look at:

  • Yext: While not exclusively aimed at large enterprise, the Yext team offers a range of services including the ability to centrally claim and enrich (with offers or other content) a large number of 3rd party sites. Yext charges a yearly fee for management with additional costs that vary with the amount of content you want to push to the managed sites. If you want to quickly push out a short-term offer to dozens of sites for hundreds of locations, and you have the budget, Yext may be for you. Recently, Yext and Yahoo announced Localworks – a service aimed at small businesses that gives them access to Yext and Yahoo listing and management services for $30 per month.
  • Rio Local: Pretty much focused on larger companies with multiple locations, Rio has the only complete hosted local search solution. They 1) Host the local landing page and 2) Claim any number of off-site local pages (G+, yelp, etc) and 3) Create and verify the business listings. If you are OK with having them host your local on-site pages, Rio may be the option for you as they have the most control and due to ‘owning’ the landing page they can give pretty complete end to end reporting.

I am sure I missed a ton of vendors, so feel free to let me know what I left out in the comments.

Conclusion: Local Search Offers Great ROI

For a small business, local search may something that can be done in an afternoon, followed up by a quick daily or weekly review of off-site pages.

For a large business – say 1,000 locations – the costs and difficulty rapidly escalate. While it might seem crazy to spend $500,000 in vendor fees and $50,000 in agency management time to locally optimize your franchises, I would argue that it offers a great return. For some industries (e.g., finance) the ROI could truly be stellar.

Local search results are also less competitive than core web results. While you might not ever be able to rank for ‘Life Insurance’ your might very well be able to rank for ‘Life Insurance broker’ queries in Albany and every other city your do business in. Big brands, small brands, take note.

So if you haven’t already it’s time to add local search optimization to your marketing plan. But there’s no need to hurry – my small local business in Brooklyn would rather not have the competition.

Image Credit: Joe Loong/Flickr


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