Why SEO Can’t Afford to Ignore Google+

Excerpts from my latest article at Practical Ecommerce: “SEO: 5 Reasons Not to Ignore Google+.”

Two years ago when Google+ launched, I had high hopes for its value as a marketing platform to rival Facebook and Twitter. Read my enthusiastic missal, “Google+: The Beginning of a Revolution?” The reality of Google+ for marketers thus far has been less than glorious, with low adoption rates for many ecommerce sites’ target audiences.

Even so, Google+ matters to search engine optimization.

I know, your audience isn’t on Google+. The consumers you’re trying to reach are on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or LinkedIn. So why not engage with them on their social platforms of choice, but echo the conversation on Google+?

What follows is why you can’t afford not to….

Read more at “SEO: 5 Reasons Not to Ignore Google+.”

Read my articles in full at Practical Ecommerce » Jill Kocher

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Originally posted on Web PieRat.

Social Media’s Role in Search Result Domination

Excerpts from my latest article at Practical eCommerce: “Search Result Domination with Social Media.”

Social media and organic search work hand in hand, but not in the way most people think.

Building up a grand social media presence will not drive link authority back to your ecommerce site. The major social networks have long since stripped the link authority from their outbound links to discourage spammers. There are, however, many other ways that social media benefits search engine optimization, including search engine result page — SERP — domination.

Both social media and organic search are essential pieces of a strong content marketing strategy. Organic search helps drive customers to social media, and social media helps customers discover content they want to share and link to. SEO is not the only or best reason to run a strong social media marketing program, but it is certainly one more compelling argument for social media marketing.

A form of reputation management, SERP domination refers to the control of as many ranking slots on the first page of search results as possible with a brand’s own content. To promote diversity in the search results, the engines favor including a variety of domains. Even on a purely branded search, which the brand’s own domain should rank number one for, some portion of the first-page SERPs will feature other domains.

The more content a brand controls on those other domains, the more likely searchers are to choose one of the brand-owned results, and the better the brand can control the messages that searchers see in the SERPs….

Read the article in full at Practical eCommerce »

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Originally posted on Web PieRat.

Facebook’s Graph Search: A Different Kind of Search

Excerpts from my latest article at Resource’s weThink blog: “Facebook Launches a Different Kind of Search.”

Facebook’s much anticipated new search product, Graph Search, launched to a limited set of users this week with a mission to help users connect and discover. With a reported 1 billion people, 240 billion photos and 1 trillion connections to create uniquely Facebook search results from, is this Facebook’s play to win search dominance from Google? Not yet, at least.

Founder Mark Zuckerburg stressed in his announcement speech that “I think what you’ve seen today is a really different product from what’s out there.”

The difference is in the dataset. Traditional web search is designed to receive any textual input via the search box and convert that to search results. Google, Bing, and other traditional search engines use armies of crawlers to index as many pages of the Internet as possible. From that index of content, they apply their own algorithms to determine context, relevance and authority, and produce a set of search results.

Facebook’s new Graph Search is different in two important ways: Facebook doesn’t index the Internet, and search is based on controlled filters rather than open-ended search queries. In place of crawling, Facebook relies on its user base to create or discover content that they find interesting across the Internet and share it with their Facebook friends….

Read the article in full at Resource’s weThink blog for more on how Facebook search works and what it’s ramifications are for users »

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Originally posted on Web PieRat.

Opinion: Facebook Search Is Nifty, Not Necessary

My personal opinion, because of course I have one as a frequent Facebook user, is that Facebook search is a nifty toy but not a compelling feature by itself. I suspect people will try it out, find that the results aren’t as rich as Facebook promises and mostly won’t bother to use it again. Even more than traditional web search, Facebook search relies on network participation and data input.

What percentage of Facebook users have a large, active network with many friends that actually share similar interests? Actually, I’ve never seen statistics like that from Facebook. But unless it’s a majority of users, most users will find their results rather anemic. Few overlapping interests or few active friends and really there’s not a lot of personalized data to return in the search results.

Here’s an example. I’ve lived in the same northwestern suburb of Chicago for two and a half years. I’m Facebook friends with exactly four people who live here. One of them is my husband who pretty much frequents the same places I do. One hasn’t posted on Facebook in over three months. And two are frequent Facebook sharers, but mostly of adorable photos of their kids and lives. In addition I’ve Liked perhaps 10 local businesses and organizations. So if I ask Facebook Graph Search to recommend local businesses based on my friends’ likes, the results are going to be pretty meager. Sure, Facebook will pull in recommendations from other Facebook users near me, but at that point my results are just like any other generic resident of my town. Hmpf.

Now, when we’re talking about photo search I think it gets more interesting. I do see myself using Facebook’s photo search to find that one photo that had my best friend and me in it that at my wedding posted by our best man last summer. It’s a pain the tuchus to scan through his timeline or my photos to find that one photo, but if I can remember who was in the picture, who posted it and approximately when, the list of search results should be nicely targeted to the photo I’m looking for. IF someone bothered to tag me and my best friend. If not, well, all I have to go on is photos posted by the best man last summer. Still an easier task than scanning through them all, but you can see how effective Facebook search requires effective data input.

And that goes to the root of the issue. Google and Bing have spent years trying to find other signals to understand context, relevance and authority. They’ve come a long way but there’s still a long way to go, especially with photos and other media.

Really, it boils down to data input. If I post a photo on a blog with a numeric name like 123.jpg and don’t include any textual information about what that photo is of or who is in it, and there’s no tagging for date or location, that photo is essentially useless to the world of search based on the lack of data input. Garbage in, garbage (or nothing) out. Facebook has a leg up in that they at least have automatic data about who posted the photo and when, but unless it’s tagged with location, date of capture, people involved, and a useful description of what’s going on, that photo will be almost as useless to search as any generic data-less photo posted on the web.

And here’s the big issue: The average Facebook user doesn’t understand this and doesn’t want to. It takes time to input data and think of a reasonable comment. That’s why there are so many comments and descriptions out there like “What’s happening here?!?!” and “OMG.” Garbage in, garbage out.

Unless Facebook can train more users to thoughtfully input more data, Facebook search isn’t going to be as rich as their marketing videos indicate. When a Facebook employee looks at his search results, of course they’re rich — he knows a lot of people at Facebook who probably spend more time than the average bear on thoughtful data input when they share. Because they understand the value and quite possibly just a little nerdy like that. I also enjoy data input when I share, because I’m a little nerdy like that. “Oh, an optional field to fill in, well sure I’ll do that!”

Most people on Facebook and in real life are just not that into data input. And that’s the main reason why Facebook search is nifty rather than truly necessary.

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Originally posted on Web PieRat.

Petflow’s Clever Cardboard-based Push to Social Media

Surrounding today’s shipment of cat food, I met a new friend. His name is Box. And he (?) wants me to post pictures of my cats on Facebook. OK!

Every 2 months or so I get two bags of special cat food delivered to my house by Petflow.com. With free shipping. Without going to the store to attempt to find the special cat food or lug it home. One more time, with free shipping. Awesome. But for the first time today I noticed something else about Petflow that delighted me anew … a clever offline, low-tech, semi-hidden, shipping-materials-based push to Petflow’s Facebook page. Brilliant! And here’s why:

  1. Low risk: Normally the bottom of the box is just wasted space. The cost to add this generic message to the bottom of each already customized shipping container was probably very low.
  2. Delight: There’s a chance that some people won’t even see it, if the box is handled as intended right side up. but seriously, how often does THAT happen? So those who do see it get a little delight out of the fact that something interesting is actually ON the bottom of the box. Like they discovered it and others haven’t. Aren’t they clever consumers? Score one for positive branding.
  3. Personal feeling: I know every customer gets this same box (Oh my god, I just got a slight sad feeling at that admission, further proof that the message did hit home as a personal-feeling communication, awesome!). But it FEELS personal, perhaps because it’s in combination with the point above — it’s hidden so it must be meant just for people like me. Cool, smart people. And Box is casual. He’s real and normal sounding. He sounds like a pal, not a marketing person or a stiff paper box. I like Box. I kind of want to do Box this favor and share pictures of “my cuties” on Facebook for him. Score two for positive branding.
  4. Drive to social: To post these pictures, I have now Liked Petflow on Facebook and gone through the motions to post a photo of Mittens the cat claiming Box as his own. In the process I have also shared the Like and the photo with my network of 484 Facebook friends and commented on another post on Petflow’s wall, which was also shared with my network of 484 Facebook friends. Some of those friends have pets. Most, I’d wager. Some, like me, dislike lugging bags of pet food home from the store or wish they had more options in brands or formulas. They may decide to give Petflow a try.
  5. Naturally earned links: And a few total nerds and/or pet lovers like me will be so delighted by this whole experience and the brilliance of it that they will blog about it, thereby earning a valuable link back to the Petflow site and Facebook page.

All this for the low-risk addition of a generic but clever message on the bottom of a dumb old cardboard box. (Oh my god, I actually feel a tiny bit bad for calling Box dumb and old. I’m going to have a really hard time recycling him, I can tell.)

In all of our efforts to create the most brilliant online campaigns possible, this is an excellent reminder to remember the part that low-tech offline marketing can play in the digital marketing mix. Hats of to you, Petflow! Gotta run, I need to check and see if Box wants another cup of coffee.

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Originally posted on Web PieRat.