Search Engine Land: News About Search Engines & Search Marketing

Friday, May 11, 2012

How are Social Media Web Sites Affecting Google''s Universal Search Landscape?

About The Author:
Brett Lane is the Director of Social Media for Intrapromote LLC.( and has specialized in Internet marketing strategies related to Search Engine Optimization (SEO) since 2000. His knowledge of SEO and Pay Per Click (PPC) marketing has enabled him to aid small, medium, and large sized businesses with achieving their online success.

How are Social Media Web Sites Affecting Google’s Universal Search Landscape?
Social media Web sites are becoming increasingly popular. With this shift, Google has begun slowly adding “Universal Search” listings to its current search engine results, and hence, social media Web sites are occupying a greater number of keyword listings. This is primarily a by-product of social media and blog sites hosting massive, user-generated content and the viral nature of back-links being created from trusted social Web resources.
Surfing the World Wide Web has gotten easier, and users now have more experience regarding online multi-media platforms. As a result, video, podcast, blog, image, and RSS based Web sites have seen a major increase in user engagement. Additionally, Web sites like YouTube, MySpace, FaceBook, and each have millions of registered users interacting with one another on a daily basis. Due to the nature of these social communities Google has placed more significance on links that point to Web sites from such portals. People and organizations around the globe are starting to realize the impact that social media has on the online community. Subsequently, search engines like Google have tapped into this, and we will soon see the true impact that social media is making across multiple aspects of the Internet, in particular, Google’s Universal Search landscape.
Most SEO professionals know that in order to achieve great rankings for their clients, they need to possess optimal “Google Link Love” where social media sites are giving them a mix of high-quality, one way back-links and increased brand exposure. The nature of Google’s ranking algorithm is based on the democratic notion of one Web master linking to another as a vote of confidence for that site as an online resource. Social media Web sites are known as folksonomies, i.e., collaborative tagging, social indexing, etc. which provide Google with an improved gauge of measuring a Web site’s external linking structure and online exposure from a truly democratic standpoint.
How is social media changing Google’s Universal Search Landscape?
Google has begun displaying video, news, and other forms of multi-media content within its regular search results. What does this truly mean, and how is it impacting those Web sites that pride themselves in first-page rankings? First, as Google’s Universal Search landscape blends various aspects of the search process in an attempt to provide Web users with more comprehensive SERP’s, Web sites that don’t take into consideration the impact that social media is having across the Web, will be in for a rude awakening as their site’s keyword rankings decline. The poor Web master who is currently holding a listing of 8-10 can potentially have their ranking drop to the second page because new content will take its place within Google’s current search space. Secondly, Google’s Universal Search landscape not only impacts the Web site owner, but also the Web master and Search Engine Optimizers. With the shift towards Universal Search, Web masters and SEO’ers will have to work twice as hard for their clients to ensure they maintain competitive positions in Google’s search listings by finding creative ways to get their content to show up in social media sites across the Web.
There are a variety of social media and niche multi-media sites that exist online and are showing rapid growth on a monthly basis. With Google progressively displaying Universal search results within its normal SERP’s it is evident that there will be some major changes down the road concerning how they display information to its users. One of Google’s top concerns, as shown in their recent creation of a Universal Search platform, is its ability to provide users with the most relevant search results. Through this shift, and in order to provide higher quality data to its end users, they must compile data from multiple sources, i.e., video, news, books, images, etc. In order for SEO professionals and Web site owners to have higher key word rankings within this blend of eclectic search results, they must ensure their multi-media content is being displayed properly and in the correct social media channels online.
What are the benefits of social media marketing?
Not only is it imperative to utilize social media marketing for an increase in online visibility through Google’s Universal Search results, but Web masters can also take advantage of the greater reputation management benefits. One common strategy for corporate Web sites seeking to better manage their online presence is to build credible corporate profiles at social media sites like, Digg, Magnolia, etc. in order to engage users in this space and help their profile pages rank higher in Google’s search results for their branded keyword phrases. Another major benefit of social media marketing is that it gives each participating company the ability to monitor what’s being said about themselves in these spaces and take action to halt negative campaigns being aimed at them online.
What social media sites should one utilize to gain added exposure in Google’s Universal Search listings?
There are various social media sites available online. However, the following will address a brief summary of some of the most valuable sites for utilizing social media marketing.
Social Bookmarking: – Social media platform that allows Web users to tag resources, i.e., Web sites with keywords to be seen by other viewers online.
StumbleUpon – Social media platform that allows users to “channel surf” Web sites online that other users vote as popular resources online.
YouTube – Video uploading Web site with tabbed pages featuring ratings, favorites, flagging, tagging, and commenting.
VSocial – Video uploading site utilizing AJAX, tagging, rating, reviewing, RSS feeds, and creative commons licenses.
News Aggregator Sites:
180° News – Online news aggregator offering a broad range of topics including technology, sports, entertainment, business, world, society, and health.
Newsvine – Online news aggregator that allows users to vote up or down submitted stories.
Real Simple Syndication (RSS):
Syndic8 – One of the biggest RSS feed directories online.
Technorati – Indexes blogs based on tags and authority as measured by incoming links.

By making all forms of your multi-media content available to various social media sites online, you will increase your sites chances of being found in Google’s Universal Search results when its users search for your targeted keyword phrases. Additionally, this social marketing medium allows you to better manage your reputation management activities by monitoring the social media space where your content exists. Lastly, most of the sites hosting your content will give your site a hyper-link for users to find your other content, thus aiding your keyword rankings within Google’s search results.
Although Google hasn’t completely made the change to displaying only Universal Search results, it’s just a matter of time before they do, and the lives of numerable Web masters and SEO professionals around the world will be impacted. In order to stay ahead of the competition and not get knocked down from Google’s top ten rankings for your targeted keyword phrases, it is imperative to occupy the greatest amount of “real estate” in the social media space. Having a greater presence within the social media sphere will allow your Web site a fighting chance of being found in Google’s top ten Universal Search listings for your targeted keyword phrases.

Mapping Local-Online and Mobile Ad Dollars

About The Author:
Robert Travis is the Marketing & Communications point man for Lat49 is the online
Everyone uses online maps these days. mapvertising system that brings geographically relevant advertising to users of online maps.  

Everyone. Last week, I was pretty sure I caught one of my dogs online, mapping out our latest walk and rating it for distance and quality… and then there’s my aunt – she spends about half of her life checking out vacation spots, not to mention driving directions to the nearest and lowest gas prices.  If you need the numbers, stats and various studies show that approximately 85% of all internet users are clicking and dragging their way from place to place throughout the world; planning trips, house hunting, following their friends around by IP and cell phone triangulation, researching local businesses… or mapping out fitness (and dog-walking) routes.

The fact of it is the audience for online maps is huge. Millions of consumer eyes are just waiting for the right product or service to pop up and tickle their consumer hands right into their consumer wallets. And the demographics are appealing, too. Internet-enabled households have buying power. It’s the perfect opportunity for local businesses and branding campaigns to “reach out and touch someone”, to “be all they can be”, to <insert clever marketing slogan here>.

This isn't earth-shattering, breaking news. It’s mapvertising. Advertisers know about and covet this audience. Website publishers with maps integrated into their sites are drawing huge traffic from this audience -- but the technology simply hasn't been there to serve the need effectively.

Advertisers want drilled down, geo-targeted leads that tap the local markets, the person on the go -- the person with a map on their laptop or their handheld. Consumers want relevant ads that don't drive them crazy; ads that speak to their current focus and needs – ads that are related to what they are looking for, and where they are looking for it. Site publishers want to be able to effectively monetize their sites in such a way that they make money without adversely affecting their users’ experience. It’s a symbiotic relationship that often gets derailed by the fact that current attempts to geo-target tend to miss the point of the user's visit to the map-site, and lose any relevance beyond the user's first 5 seconds on the page.

How many of you have ever gone to a web-page -- with or without maps -- and promptly tuned out the slew of ads that try to sell you a subscription of Viagra when you’re 21, possibly the wrong gender, and are really just looking for directions to a coffee shop called Uptown where you are meeting friends before a day of shopping with your better half.

I know I have.

There was no reason for me to look. The ads were not relevant to me so I ignored them. I did notice them enough to see that, despite the fact that I’d been using the map for 20 minutes, they hadn’t changed once. They didn’t matter. I wasn’t interested in them when I arrived on the site and I still wasn’t interested 20 minutes later, when I left. The site had missed its chance to serve me an ad that was better targeted to what I was searching for; the advertiser had missed a prime opportunity to sell me something more in line with my interests – something that might have been just a click or a block away from where I was going. Or next door, even!

Of course, display and text ads are not the only way to advertise on a map site. There are also pushpins, complete with fancy bubbles that can contain lots of pertinent information like the direct location of the business, sometimes a pretty logo, and sometimes more detail on the company than you might expect. Pushpin ads have been around for a while now, and are helpful, but not always intuitive, and too many things cluttering up the map can assault your eyes. Don't get me wrong; when you, as a user, have some degree of control over the pushpins and they are filled with rich media and other such interactive goodies, they are a powerful tool. But, what if you are trying to advertise a service or something else that is not location specific? You want to reach the people who are searching on the map, in that area – the people who are staring at your business area and are your target demographic. What if you are advertising a new movie opening or a junk removal company? Or you’re a realtor who wants to own the market and become the name for real estate in a particular neighborhood? What if you are raising awareness of your new, special, super-concentrated, kill ‘em dead roach removal technique and you want to target a certain block in a certain neighborhood that you know just had a serious breakout infestation?

Pushpins would have a hard time filling that bill on their own.

Display ads that take advantage of the interactive nature of Flash and Ajax map websites are the first step in answering all of the above questions. Display ads can catch the user's eye, can deliver geo-targeted messaging, and when combined with pushpins, can show relevant locations, and additional information. Integrating the advertising API with the map site itself allows the ads to be intuitive to the user’s needs and location of interest, and it provides a multitude of advertising opportunities as the user interacts with the map:

o Tommy starts off on a real estate website, searching for a rental in Manhattan (good luck, Tommy…).
o An ad for a New York City realty/rental company appears either on or off the map, with an eye-catching graphic, somewhere in Tommy's line of sight -- but not in Tommy's way.
o He moves deeper into the map, zooming in and panning to the Greenwich Village area.
o Lo and behold! An ad for the local realtor from that company, who specializes in The Village, appears, advertising her expertise and years of experience in the Village real estate market, rent or buy – more than enough to catch Tommy’s attention and interest.
o The display ad itself is visually compelling, colorful and well designed. And the ad is offering something that Tommy needs. The realtor knew that people looking at a map of the Village on a real estate/rental site are interested in living there. Tommy would dearly LOVE to live in the village – and now the realtor and Tommy are connected. And that handy little pushpin feature, as well as the ad itself, points Tommy right to her office door.

A recent study by a strategic consulting firm for online marketing endeavors shows that there is a general understatement in the impact of display advertising. Display advertising is a powerful means to drive awareness, and awareness leads to engagement which, in turn, leads to sales. Spur Digital documents that regular display advertising is only just behind paid search in ROAS (return on ad spend) -- and that is without taking into account the interactive, geo-targeted opportunity for display ads when used effectively with online maps. The study also showed that overall results from search were lower when not coupled with display advertising.

The ability of mapvertising to target regional audiences is a major desirable for advertisers and that interest can be lucrative for online map publishers and advertisers, alike, with the proper use of today’s technology. The key to building a successful advertising network that takes advantage of this powerful, interactive medium is an effective advertising model that serves the broad range of advertiser needs – from national brands to local, retail or service-based businesses. The eyes are there, but the question has always been: how do you target them effectively?

One of the first to answer this question and leverage the opportunities inherent in mapvertising is a company called Lat49. is the home of the lat49 mapvertising network. The company’s focus since inception was to develop answers and provide solutions to all of the questions posed in this article. Developed by a collection of cliff-climbing cyber-geeks who also happen to be experts in user interface design and visual experience technology -- not to mention a healthy dose of marketing and advertising, lat49 is the only ad network to deliver fully geo-targeted display ads that change and refresh as the user interacts with the map. Ads can be served on or off map, over any online or mobile mapping technology, and can be accompanied by a branded pushpin feature that further integrates advertising as content in the user’s mapping experience.

With a whole new dimension added to mapvertising, the ability to capture the local market like no one else, a diverse publisher network, and both mobile and white label solutions in the immediate pipeline -- you just might want to consider giving them a call…

Four Sizzling Hot Google AdWords Optimization Tips

About The Author:
Hans Riemer is the CEO of Market-Vantage, LLC, ( ) which helps its clients increase relevant website traffic, convert more website visitors into leads and sales, and leverage web analytics tools to continually improve Internet marketing effectiveness. He is also a founding partner in Contreo, LLC, ( ), a company that has developed a new
Four Sizzling Hot Google AdWords Optimization Tips

Apply these four tips to dramatically improve the efficiency and ROI of your AdWords campaigns.

Tip #1: Beware of Broad-Matched Sponsored Keywords

Are you using broad-matched sponsored keywords in your AdWords account? If so, you need to be careful because Google often triggers ads to display from irrelevant search keyword phrases. Showing your ad with irrelevant search queries costs you money in two ways.

First, your ad will likely not get many clicks, which lowers your Click-Through-Rate (CTR) for that keyword and pulls down the average for the whole AdGroup. A low CTR results in a poor Quality Score, which means that Google will require a higher bid from you to keep from disabling that keyword altogether. In addition, Google will charge you more per click for the same ad position than someone else who is sponsoring the same keyword but has a better Quality Score.

The second problem is that the clicks that you do get from non-relevant keywords generally have a much lower tendency to convert into leads or sales.

How do you avoid this problem?

First, you should always start out your new campaigns with phrase-matched and exact-matched keywords. They are safer because you have more control over when your ads will appear. But sometimes you will find that you just can’t get enough paid click traffic this way and you still have money left in your budget. In that case, add some broad-matched keywords back in, but be sure to monitor the actual search term used via your web analytics tool and use Tip #2 below to filter out irrelevant keyword phrases.

Second, from time to time, you should prune underperforming keywords from your campaigns. These are keywords that have low CTR or poor conversion rates. Just set up a reasonable date range in AdWords and go down your keyword lists. To speed up the process, you can sort columns by CTR and Conversions from low to high.

Tip #2: Take Advantage of Negative Keywords

Broad matching on AdWords opens up the system to show your ads more frequently, because people type lots of relevant search phrases that you or I would never think of, so we could never cover all the bases with exact matches. But broad matching can also be risky, because your ads can show up on non-relevant searches. As we explained in Tip #1, this can hurt your CTR as well as cost you for poor-quality clicks. Negative keywords, when used in combination with broad-matching, is very powerful because as you add negative keywords to your campaign, you keep your ads from showing when they shouldn’t.

One of the best ways to identify negative keywords is through a good web analytics tool. To do this, for any given click you need to know not only the keyword that you sponsored but also the actual keyword that the searcher typed.

Google Analytics has limitations in this area. In its standard, out-of-the-box implementation, Google Analytics will only tell you the keyword someone matched on, not the keyword they searched. Google AdWords is no better. There are filters you can add to Google Analytics that provide the missing info, or perhaps you have another web analytics tool that can fill in the blanks. Either way, it’s worth the effort so you can build out your negative keywords lists.

Tip #3: Stop Your Top Competitors from Clicking on Your Ads

Ever worry about competitors clicking your AdWords ads and driving up your click charges? Then tell Google to stop showing your ads on their computers. What they don’t see, they can’t click!

Here’s how. Under the Campaign Management tab, click on Tools and then click on IP Exclusion. This is where you can list up to 20 IP addresses (that’s the current limit) where you don’t want your ads to appear.

How do you know which IP addresses to block? Just type your most popular keywords into AdWords and see who the top advertisers are. All things being equal, these are the folks who have the greatest vested interest in seeing your ads go dark. Jot down the URLs of these advertisers. Now, go to Google and do a search on “domain to ip.” You’ll find a number of sites that will translate those URLs into their respective IP addresses for you at no charge. Copy and paste those IP addresses into the IP Exclusion window and you’re done.

Just to be sure, if you don’t see one of your top competitors advertising on AdWords, you might want to block them anyway. Who knows, maybe they read this article and blocked YOU from seeing their ads!

Tip #4: Block Your Ads from Showing on Undesirable Content Network Sites

There’s been a debate raging for years on whether you should allow Google to show your ads in the Content Network as well as in the search results. You probably already know that Google enables your ads in the Content Network by default. And you may also know that the quality of clicks from the Content Network is generally lower than the quality of clicks on Search. We wrote about the problem in the December 2007 issue of Visibility Magazine in an article called: “Google’s Content Network – The Good, Bad & the Ugly.”

Now, you could just turn off the Content Network entirely by un-checking the box under Campaign Settings. But that could seriously reduce the number of clicks you get, which could result in lower numbers of leads or sales.

Fortunately, since our December 2007 article, Google has added a feature that allows you to address some of the problems with the Content Network. Under the Campaign Management tab click on Tools and then click Site and Category Exclusion. Select each campaign from the drop-down box and click on the Topics tab. Here you will see certain website topics that may or may not be inappropriate for your ads to show. You will also see data on impressions, clicks and cost to see if this is a problem for your campaign.

Under the Page Types tab, you can see the results from Error Pages, Parked Domains, and a variety of user-generated content sites and social networks. Simply check the appropriate boxes to exclude questionable or under-performing website categories from your Content Network repertoire. While this won’t solve all of the issues with the Content Network, it’s a great start and it’s easy to do.

In Summary

None of the four tips in this article is going to help you get you more traffic to your website, unless you’ve been avoiding the Content Network and Tip #4 encourages you to try it again. Each of these tips can help you reduce wasted spending from your click budget. If that allows you to get better quality clicks while staying within your budget, then you’ll be improving your organization’s bottom line.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Improving Social Visibility

Dr. Horst Joepen , SearchmetricsSocial Media

It used to be if you didn’t have a web page that could be found by Google and other search engines, the public thought you didn’t exist.  Today, the same thing is true with social media.  If you do not have a Facebook Business or Place page, don’t Tweet, or have a LinkedIn profile, customers wonder about your commitment to your business.

In addition, businesses who don’t utilize social media are missing out on the ability to communicate with and market to an increasingly large number of customers.  How large?  Well, in 1997, the Internet reached 50 million users.  Between January 2009 and January 2010, Facebook alone gained 100 million users – a 145% growth rate for that one year.  With social media, you can invite customers to learn about your brand in a way not possible with traditional marketing and advertising.

However, the problem is that unlike traditional marketing and advertising or even SEO and SEM, it’s almost next to impossible to measure the impact and value of social media – especially when you consider all the channels out there.  Facebook, Google +1, Delicious, LinkedIn and StumbleUpon, just to name a few of the top social media sites, all have different users and different benefits.  It’s virtually impossible to compare and quantify social marketing.  Do you know the number of Facebook ‘likes’ vs. ‘shares’ vs. ‘comments’ for your website? Do you know how this compares with your competitors? Can you combine this with detailed analyses of LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, Delicious, and StumbleUpon? 

Without this capability, social media marketing becomes just another shot in dark – an intuitive sense, rather than a campaign based on customer analytics.  Searchmetrics offers a tool we call Searchmetrics Essentials that measures “social visibility.”  The social visibility score Searchmetrics Essentials calculates factors in trillions of points of data from today’s leading social networks to visually show the social media presence of brands. A social visibility score is calculated using all forms of social activity: Likes, shares, posts, tweets, and more, and can be pinpointed down to a URL. 

Capturing quantitative benefits for the first time
Here’s a practical example of how Searchmetrics’ tool can be used to analyze a domain or company’s social visibility: between May and the end of August 2011, we calculated the social visibility of various news outlets.  We found that among the traditional U.S. newspapers, the New York Times leads in social media visibility followed by the Wall Street Journal, the LA Times and USA Today. Searchmetrics found the New York Times’ social visibility score to be 110 million with more than 50 million social Links found.  By comparison, according to our data, the Huffington Post leads with a social visibility score of 136 million, outperforming the New York Times. Of course, this may be an indicator that the Huffington Post’s target demographic is much more socially visible overall than traditional media.

We drilled down even further and looked closely at URLs to chart how successful particular articles were within the medium. Warren Buffet’s petition for higher taxes, “Top Coddling the Super Rich” (published August 18, 2010), was over six times more visible than the announcement of the death of Osama Bin Laden.

This shows you how it’s easy to quantify the value social media can bring to your content, but what does all this mean for companies using social media for marketing purposes?  A few things.  The first thing is that knowing this information is crucial because the social media revolution has a strong impact on any online business. The ‘likes,’ tweets, and +1s from Facebook, Twitter and Google + 1 are new, but might already be very important ranking factors for search engines.  With the Google Freshness and Panda updates, companies learned quickly that content was king.  The more quality, relevant content you provide drives search engine results.  Customers sharing and liking your content seems to improve results as well – without significant investment on your part, besides time and knowledge about what your users really like about you and your competitors.

The second thing that the example above tells us is that armed with both the social and SEO visibility of your brand, you are able to see the true reach of your social media content.  This means you can see instantly what resonates with customers – actually how many users “shared” or “liked” your post – and adjust your marketing campaigns accordingly.  This helps you build brand loyalty (by “giving” customers what they want) and generates more word of mouth marketing.  With any social media ROI calculation, though, you should be able to distinguish between absolute quantity (i.e. social visibility) and the rate of growth (i.e. the number of new social links per week). 

The implications for savvy marketers are enormous.  Social networks continue only to grow in importance.  Facebook now has 800 million (and growing) active users.  LinkedIn has 100 million users.  More than 200 million tweets are sent each day.  Social media is a great way to build brand awareness and have easy high-touch, honest interactions with your customers – turning them from enthusiastic (but passive) fans into transacting customers. And now you can allocate the right amount of resources, in these places, to make sure your brand succeeds and measure this success.

5 Local Marketing Trends To Focus On In 2012


Where do people go for local information? Online, that’s where. According to the Pew Research Center, more folks turn online than any other medium – including newspapers, TV or word-of-mouth – for information and resources.
And they don’t just go online for information, but also to shop. According to Google, 53% of users make purchases as a result of smartphone searches.
To help you capitalize on the vast opportunities presented by the local market, here are five of the most meaningful local marketing trends for 2012:
1.  Paid Search Still Packs a Powerful Punch
Regardless of your local marketing mix, you need to test the opportunities provided to you through paid search marketing. The Kelsey Group reports that 74% of Internet users perform local searches. Additionally, according to the Pew Research study mentioned above, 53% of survey respondents used Search to find local restaurant, bar and club information, and 35% searched for information on other types of local businesses. Google states that a full 20% of searches, or more than 2 billion monthly Google searches, are local in nature.
2.  Mobile, Mobile, Mobile
With more than 320 million mobile subscriptions in the U.S., there is no denying that the country is mobile. That includes your local neighborhood. According to Microsoft Tag, mobile internet usage will overtake desktop internet usage by 2014. Google states that 40% of mobile queries are related to location and that 70% of smartphone users use their device while shopping in-store.
Whether you run a real estate agency, hotel, restaurant, retail store or contracting business, you need to think mobile to effectively reach your customers and prospects. The most popular ways to get involved in mobile local marketing in 2012 will include:
  • Search
  • Display advertising
  • Video (YouTube mobile gets 400 million views a day.)
  • Apps
  • Coupons
  • QR Codes
3.  Deals, Deals, Deals
Deals have grown in popularity in recent years, and 2012 will be no different. Groupon boasts more than 50 million subscribers and is the fastest growing company ever. That’s right, EVER!
In addition to the wildly popular Groupon site, Living Social, Google and even Amazon are offering enticing deals, promotions and incentives. With the daily deals market projected to double in size in 2011, and with so much investment being made in this space, expect a great deal of innovation in 2012.
4.  Location-Awareness
Users of location-based apps are twice as likely to share product information with others, according to Forrester Research, and therefore are a valued audience. From augmented reality, check-in platforms, dynamic map-based services, meetup apps, and geo-triggered promotions, expect location awareness to elevate to the next level in 2012. Juniper Research expects revenue for mobile location-based services to reach $13 billion by 2014.
Another side of this coin is location-awareness enabling technologies. Expect 2012 to be a year filled with new companies arising to help marketers build location-awareness into their solutions.
5.  Localization Will Trump Local
Local marketing has been a hot topic for several years. However, what will set the ultimate winners apart from the pack in the local market in 2012 is “localization,” or customization of your marketing for each specific geographic target.
Take hotels, for example. Various national chains run generic local ads across the country, but one Boston hotel management firm increased its reservation phone calls from the web by 508% in their first month after moving to a localized strategy. Local has been the rage, but the more meaningful trend in 2012 will be localization.
Get ready for 2012 by capitalizing on the local mobile trends. Whether you’re leveraging Search, mobile, deals, location-awareness or localization – or a combination of these tactics – there are plenty of local marketing opportunities that will help your business drive growth in the coming year. []

How Real Should Your Brand Be Online?

By Lida Citro├źn
We've all seen it: Company A gets caught with its proverbial "hands" in the cookie jar; Company B is accused of being overzealous in its marketing and makes misleading statements to its customers; Company C shortchanges quality control, and the product suffers.
Aside from the legal parameters and restrictions put on companies for their online claims, liabilities, and responsibilities, companies today are finding it much more advantageous to address adversity head on, profess a "mea culpa," and answer the tough questions before the media, their competitors, and the online communities get ahold of the story.
We recently saw this with Netflix, the leader in home delivery of movie rentals. The company got ahead of the needs and tolerances of its customers, and the customers let Netflix know they were not happy. In a non-collaborative and non-transparent move, Netflix raised the price of its service offer to unprecedented levels without discussing the effects, impact, or benefits to its customers. Outraged customers took to social media to let the company know they were not happy with the move. While some may argue it is the company’s prerogative to price its product and re-price its service however it chooses, this move was representative of the impact social media has in the times in which we now live.
Without collaborating and informing its key online constituents, Netflix created backlash the likes of which it will be hard to recover from. To make matters worse, many online industry experts have spotlighted the company's lack of response to the online outrage as an example of corporate stagnancy.
Another example was the case of the CEO and co-founder of Wild Oats, who was caught posting negative comments about the natural food store chain in an attempt to affect the sale price of the company. When his name was revealed in connection to the posts, the blogosphere and online community responded with outrage and ridicule. Issues of transparency, influence, and recklessness were discussed in conjunction with the Wild Oats brand.
Most companies are not of the size or notoriety as Netflix or Wild Oats (now Whole Foods). However, most companies have stakeholders—including customers, staff, and vendors—who care about the company and look for a relationship with the values of the brand. We see the laminated posters asserting the company values in the lobby and on the website, and the stakeholders believe them to be true. When reputation is on the line, the stakes are high.
The opportunities for companies to take responsibility and accountability and own their mistakes online are many. The benefits generally outweigh the risks, and the rewards can be an increase in customer loyalty and authenticity indexes across social media.
Apple has done it, such as when the antenna issues on the new iPhone 4 caused uproar with loyal i-fans on blogs and social networking platforms. The company ultimately went to the microphone, admitted they had made a mistake, and issued a solution to customers.
Zappos also did it. When a glitch in the online retailer's software caused incorrect (lower) pricing, it decided to honor the lower price and eat the cost of the mistake.
We've all seen the celebrity apologies, politicians eating crow, and leaders of industry admitting missteps. Taking ownership of the mistake, offering a solution or remedy, and then getting back to the business of business is the highest road for most companies online.

Broadcast Viewing Leads to Online Viewing, Says Digitas Study

Many watch broadcast TV while watching online video, study finds; half would watch videos from favorite celebs.

No Crystal Ball for Online Video Advertising: Here’s What Works

A panel of experts said that pre-roll ads will likely fall away, but what will take their place is a mystery.

M&S Mobile Site Delivers the Goods

 by David Murphy

UK retailer Marks & Spencer launched its m-commerce-enabled mobile internet site on 12 May 2010. M&S worked with Mobile Interactive Group (MIG) for consultancy on the user experience, design and functionality for the launch of its first m-commerce site, in partnership with Usablenet.
The site was designed to extend the Marks & Spencer brand onto the mobile channel, to create another direct communications channel with consumers and to enable consumers to access all product lines on the move. The site has a clear, simple, effective design which presents the user with a quick route to access their desired product.
To date the site has delivered some impressive results, outstripping initial targets. Since launch, it has attracted 1.2m unique visitors, and generated more than 10m page views. The site has take more than 13,000 orders, for goods ranging from TVs to sofas and clothes. The largest single order was for £3,280, for two sofas. The most popular devices used to access the site are the iPhone, followed by Android devices.
Consultancy for the development of the site between M&S and MIG, in conjunction with Usablenet, began in early April this year, and took a phased approach. The first phase was ‘Discover and Definition’, moving through to ‘Concept Look and Feel’; ‘Design Refinement and Approval’; and finally, ‘Making sure the site works on Multiple Handsets’. 
Features on the site include a store finder to locate the user’s nearest outlet; the ability to search by product type and then to refine these searches to a specific item; and to register account information. The site boasts a full product range, including women’s, men’s and kids’ clothing, home and furniture, technology and more.
“We approached MIG because of their success in the retail space, their capabilities in delivering great mobile campaigns, and for their in-depth understanding of the mobile consumer experience,” says M&S social and mobile commerce development manager, Sienne Veit. “For M&S, the m-commerce site is all about getting product quickly and easily to consumers via mobile and paying for their product on their mobile device. Our aim is to integrate mobile as a channel to stand alongside web, phone and increase basket size and drive sales. We’ve also incorporated a customer feedback facility to enable customer reviews, (and) we’ve also given consumers a choice of delivery method.”
Mobile internet is set to outstrip the traditional web by 2013, therefore it is key for retail brands like Marks & Spencer to realise its true potential and to offer mobile as a core purchasing channel for customers, MIG believes.

5 Ways to Generate Sales Leads With Mobile

Aaron Maxwellby Aaron Maxwell

Aaron Maxwell is founder of Mobile Web Up, specializing inmobile websites. He is also chief editor of their mobile newsletter.
If you don’t want any high-quality leads from excellent prospects, stop reading now. Otherwise, you’re in luck. Herein we’ll cover great new techniques to help you score more leads, more sales and more connections every time. And best of all, your competition is oblivious.
In a nutshell, you will leverage the fact that many people now own a smartphone. The latest mobile stats show over 70% of American mobile subscribers regularly send text messages, and over 40% browse the mobile web or use apps.
This rapid mobile upswing has caught almost everyone by surprise — except clever people like you! Let’s get started.

1. Email Newsletter via Text Message

If you have an email newsletter, you know that the more subscribers you have, the better. And the best moment to sign those customers or clients up is when they’re most excited. If they have to wait and remember to sign up later, odds are they won’t at all.
Almost every mobile phone can now send text messages. Take advantage of that to increase email subscriptions. Here are a couple of things you’ll need to set up.
  • A simple text-message autoresponder.
  • A signup webpage, ideally one as mobile-friendly as possible.
Here’s how it will work: Ask people to text a particular word to a five-digit number. For example, suppose your company does sales training. In your marketing, advertising and presentations, invite people to text the word “SELL” to that five-digit number (called a shortcode because it’s shorter than the normal, full ten-digit phone number).
Many affordable services can handle the text messaging side for you, for instance, TextMarks. Try googling “text messaging marketing” or “SMS campaigns” to locate others.
When your customers text that keyword, they will immediately receive a pre-defined reply message that contains your website link and call-to-action. For example, “Click here to get free killer sales tips:” Ideally, that link will lead to your mobile-friendly website.
That’s where step two comes in: Host a signup page that is easy to read and use on any mobile phone. For example, an iPhone page might look like the screenshot at left.
Notice that the text is easy to read without zooming in, doesn’t require a lot of typing (only two fields), and clearly communicates both the benefit and signup form above the fold.
These tips improve conversions, but aren’t essential. It’s also adequate to publish a very simple form, even if people need to zoom to use it. Just verify that it’s not too hard to fill out on either an iPhone or an Android phone — you can always improve the interface later.

2. Text Message Mailing List

Here’s a powerful twist. Instead of collecting email addresses, you can use SMS to collect your prospects’ phone numbers, and thus, their permission to get texts from you.
The advantages of SMS over email:
  • Immediacy: A marketing email is, on average, opened about six hours after it’s sent. By contrast, some studies indicate that on average, a text message is read within four minutes of receipt.
  • Near-perfect open rates: Email campaigns see open rates south of 20% on average, meaning the vast majority of marketing emails are never even read. But you can expect an open rate in excess of 95% for text messages. It doesn’t get much better than that.
SMS has another advantage specific to what you’re doing: Your signup rates will be higher. Mobile signup pages require confirmed opt-ins, for good reason. However, in the interim time it takes for people to log into their emails and confirm, those customers may have already changed their minds. On the other hand, text messages allow people to confirm immediately, in the moment they’re most ready to buy-in.
Your Text Messaging Campaign: The downside of SMS is pretty obvious: You can only do so much with 160 characters of plain text. It’s never going to approach what you can accomplish with rich, HTML email today. So you will have to weigh the tradeoffs based on your particular approach.
It’s likely you have more experience with email marketing than with text message marketing, simply because the latter is so new. Overall, remember to respect the more personal nature of the medium. If people hate email spam, imagine what can happen if you overdo texting. Be extra considerate of your subscribers, especially in the beginning, and you’ll do fine.

3. Using QR Codes

Your prospect points her phone camera at a QR code image like the one at right. Then she can choose whether to view the QR link in her phone’s browser, where it will direct her to your homepage. Try using your phone to scan the code at right, which will take you to Google’s homepage.
The potential here is that someone can load a webpage quickly and easily — even if it contains a long, complex tracking code no one in their right mind would type in. Making it easy for your prospects to take action can only increase conversions.
However, not everyone or every device is familiar with reading QR codes. In fact, most phones require an installed, third-party app before they can read a barcode at all. That will change: QR code awareness is growing extremely fast. I predict that most new smartphones will ship with their own readers by the end of 2012.
If you have an email list already, throw up a barcode that points to your (hopefully mobile-friendly) signup form. Search “QR code generator” to find free barcode services like Kaywa, for example.

4. Mobile-Friendly Landing Pages

For many of the recommendations above, you’ll need to set up a webpage form usable on mobile phones.
If your web designer doesn’t have experience making mobile webpages, suggest he use the mobile HTML5 boilerplate as a starting point. He can then insert the web signup form HTML just as he would in a regular webpage.
Of course, you want to check its effectiveness on real phones first. The tricky part here is testing on different phones; there are hundreds of different models in use. And it’s entirely possible to create a webpage that is easy to use on, say, an iPhone, but fails to translate on an Android phone, or vice versa.
In 2012, I recommend you make the landing page readable on iPhone, Android and at least the newer Blackberry devices. Instruct your web designer to put up the webpage, then visit a couple of phone stores to try it out in their demo devices.
If you need or prefer to set it up yourself, but aren’t enthusiastic about things like HTML and CSS, try using a mobile website builder service like MofuseWapple or Atmio. This will also make it easy to create additional mobile landing pages for different purposes.

5. On Stage, Pick One Tactic and Measure It

If you’re giving a talk, you might be tempted to use all of these tactics in one presentation. In my experience, that has proven a mistake. A better approach is to experiment with these techniques in different presentations, and settle on the one that seems to pack the biggest punch. If you have an email list already, start by capitalizing on that. Then test which tactics lead to more signups.
If you already have a text message subscription campaign, try promoting it in your next talk. If you don’t, it’s worth considering. Text message marketing provides new opportunities for you and your business that are absent in email marketing.
Finally, try a brochure. By including a QR code and a SMS call-to-action, you’ll likely end up with a better response rate. Even so, I suggest you focus on one at a time. Once you have that on autopilot, add another. But always measure and test, so you can tell what’s worth your while.