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.

InfoGraphic vs InfoVideo, Which Would Win in the Wild?

Super cute link bait infovideo from MDG Advertising about Pinterest. It’s a bit hard to read at times, but is painfully cute nonetheless.

The video format is interesting but I wonder if it would have gotten more shares as an infographic instead of a video? Or perhaps an HTML5 interactive piece where you could roll over different components and have the data zoom out to the foreground or the sizes of the elements change?

It would be very interesting to do a test of some sort to determine which format was the most effective. But I can’t think of a way to format such a test. If you do it sequentially — first video then static then HTML5 — you risk the latter formats getting less buzz based on saturation of the information from the previous formats. But if you release them simultaneously on different social platforms — say YouTube for video, Pinterest for static and Facebook for HTML5 — you obviously risk the biases introduced by the size of the audiences there.

I suppose you could always do standard A/B testing of the format on your own site, but the most interesting thing is what happens to the information off your site. Where and how it’s shared. Which formats have stronger reach on which social networks. You can make suppositions but what if the data surprised us? What if the sheer volume of Facebook users wiped the floor with YouTube sharing? And would that change if the primary home of the video was a blog post on your site that embedded the YouTube video rather than sending traffic to Facebook or YouTube itself to see the video? So many interesting questions. Too bad I’m an SEO and not a data analyst.

Thanks to Melissa Fach over at SEJ for the post idea.

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Originally posted on Web PieRat.