Tag Archive | "Focus"

Quit Annoying Your Audience! Take 3 Simple Steps to Focus Your Content

Ever have a friend who tells stories that never seem to go anywhere? It sounds okay at first, then it spins off to a tangent about how they met their spouse, then we go into their first college dorm room, with a side trip to that deeply formative event that happened in third grade, then
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Focus on What Needs to Happen

he-vincent-dignan

My guest today is a speaker, guerrilla marketer, and an entrepreneur.

He founded PlanetIvy.com and ScreenRobot. These two sites combined have received nearly 20 million page views without any paid marketing.

He is currently the founder of Magnific, a company that helps grow early-stage companies through a combination of rapid social media growth, guerrilla community management tactics, and growth hacks.

Magnific also beat out more than 1,500 other startups to be accepted into the prestigious accelerator TechStars London.

Now, let’s hack …

Vincent Dignan.

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To leave a rating or comment, visit iTunes.

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Can SEOs Stop Worrying About Keywords and Just Focus on Topics? – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Should you ditch keyword targeting entirely? There’s been a lot of discussion around the idea of focusing on broad topics and concepts to satisfy searcher intent, but it’s a big step to take and could potentially hurt your rankings. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand discusses old-school keyword targeting and new-school concept targeting, outlining a plan of action you can follow to get the best of both worlds.

Can We Abandon Keyword Research & On-Page Targeting in Favor of a Broader Topic/Concept Focus in Our SEO Efforts?

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week, we’re going to talk about a topic that I’ve been seeing coming up in the SEO world for probably a good 6 to 12 months now. I think ever since Hummingbird came out, there has been a little bit of discussion. Then, over the last year, it’s really picked up around this idea that, “Hey, maybe we shouldn’t be optimizing for researching and targeting keywords or keyword phrases anymore. Maybe we should be going more towards topics and ideas and broad concept.”

I think there’s some merit to the idea, and then there are folks who are taking it way too far, moving away from keywords and actually losing and costing themselves so much search opportunity and search engine traffic. So I’m going to try and describe these two approaches today, kind of the old-school world and this very new-school world of concept and topic-based targeting, and then describe maybe a third way to combine them and improve on both models.

Classic keyword research & on-page targeting

In our classic keyword research, on-page targeting model, we sort of have our SEO going, “Yeah. Which one of these should I target?”

He’s thinking about like best times to fly. He’s writing a travel website, “Best Times to Fly,” and there’s a bunch of keywords. He’s checking the volume and maybe some other metrics around “best flight times,” “best days to fly,” “cheapest days to fly,” “least crowded flights,” “optimal flight dates,” “busiest days to fly.” Okay, a bunch of different keywords.

So, maybe our SEO friend here is thinking, “All right. She’s going to maybe go make a page for each of these keywords.” Maybe not all of them at first. But she’s going to decide, “Hey, you know what? I’m going after ‘optimal flight dates,’ ‘lowest airport traffic days,’ and ‘cheapest days to fly.’ I’m going to make three different pages. Yeah, the content is really similar. It’s serving a very similar purpose. But that doesn’t matter. I want to have the best possible keyword targeting that I can for each of these individual ones.”

“So maybe I can’t invest as much effort in the content and the research into it, because I have to make these three different pages. But you know what? I’ll knock out these three. I’ll do the rest of them, and then I’ll iterate and add some more keywords.”

That’s pretty old-school SEO, very, very classic model.

New school topic- & concept-based targeting

Newer school, a little bit of this concept and topic targeting, we get into this world where folks go, “You know what? I’m going to think bigger than keywords.”

“I’m going to kind of ignore keywords. I don’t need to worry about them. I don’t need to think about them. Whatever the volumes are, they are. If I do a good job of targeting searchers’ intent and concepts, Google will do a good job recognizing my content and figuring out the keywords that it maps to. I don’t have to stress about that. So instead, I’m going to think about I want to help people who need to choose the right days to buy flights.”

“So I’m thinking about days of the week, and maybe I’ll do some brainstorming and a bunch of user research. Maybe I’ll use some topic association tools to try and broaden my perspective on what those intents could be. So days of the week, the right months, the airline differences, maybe airport by airport differences, best weeks. Maybe I want to think about it by different country, price versus flexibility, when can people use miles, free miles to fly versus when can’t they.”

“All right. Now, I’ve come up with this, the ultimate guide to smart flight planning. I’ve got great content on there. I have this graph where you can actually select a different country or different airline and see the dates or the weeks of the year, or the days of the week when you can get cheapest flights. This is just an awesome, awesome piece of content, and it serves a lot of these needs really nicely.” It’s not going to rank for crap.

I don’t mean to be rude. It’s not the case that Google can never map this to these types of keywords. But if a lot of people are searching for “best days of the week to fly” and you have “The Ultimate Guide to Smart Flight Planning,” you might do a phenomenal job of helping people with that search intent. Google is not going to do a great job of ranking you for that phrase, and it’s not Google’s fault entirely. A lot of this has to do with how the Web talks about content.

A great piece of content like this comes out. Maybe lots of blogs pick it up. News sites pick it up. You write about it. People are linking to it. How are they describing it? Well, they’re describing it as a guide to smart flight planning. So those are the terms and phrases people associate with it, which are not the same terms and phrases that someone would associate with an equally good guide that leveraged the keywords intelligently.

A smarter hybrid

So my recommendation is to combine these two things. In a smart combination of these techniques, we can get great results on both sides of the aisle. Great concept and topic modeling that can serve a bunch of different searcher needs and target many different keywords in a given searcher intent model, and we can do it in a way that targets keywords intelligently in our titles, in our headlines, our sub-headlines, the content on the page so that we can actually get the searcher volume and rank for the keywords that send us traffic on an ongoing basis.

So I take my keyword research ideas and my tool results from all the exercises I did over here. I take my topic and concept brainstorm, maybe some of my topic tool results, my user research results. I take these and put them together in a list of concepts and needs that our content is going to answer grouped by combinable keyword targets — I’ll show you what I mean — with the right metrics.

So I might say my keyword groups are there’s one intent around “best days of the week,” and then there’s another intent around “best times of the year.” Yes, there’s overlap between them. There might be people who are looking for kind of both at the same time. But they actually are pretty separate in their intent. “Best days of the week,” that’s really someone who knows that they’re going to fly at some point and they want to know, “Should I be booking on a Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, or a Monday, or a Sunday?”

Then, there’s “best times of the year,” someone who’s a little more flexible with their travel planning, and they’re trying to think maybe a year ahead, “Should I buy in the spring, the fall, the summer? What’s the time to go here?”

So you know what? We’re going to take all the keyword phrases that we discovered over here. We’re going to group them by these concept intents. Like “best days of the week” could include the keywords “best days of the week to fly,” “optimal day of week to fly,” “weekday versus weekend best for flights,” “cheapest day of the week to fly.”

“Best times of the year,” that keyword group could include words and phrases like “best weeks of the year to fly,” “cheapest travel weeks,” “lowest cost months to fly,” “off-season flight dates,” “optimal dates to book flights.”

These aren’t just keyword matches. They’re concept and topic matches, but taken to the keyword level so that we actually know things like the volume, the difficulty, the click-through rate opportunity for these, the importance that they may have or the conversion rate that we think they’re going to have.

Then, we can group these together and decide, “Hey, you know what? The volume for all of these is higher. But these ones are more important to us. They have lower difficulty. Maybe they have higher click-through rate opportunity. So we’re going to target ‘best times of the year.’ That’s going to be the content we create. Now, I’m going to wrap my keywords together into ‘the best weeks and months to book flights in 2016.’”

That’s just as compelling a title as “The Ultimate Guide to Smart Flight Planning,” but maybe a tiny bit less. You could quibble. But I’m sure you could come up with one, and it uses our keywords intelligently. Now I’ve got sub-headings that are “sort by the cheapest,” “the least crowded,” “the most flexible,” “by airline,” “by location.” Great. I’ve hit all my topic areas and all my keyword areas at the same time, all in one piece of content.

This kind of model, where we combine the best of these two worlds, I think is the way of the future. I don’t think it pays to stick to your old-school keyword targeting methodology, nor do I think it pays to ignore keyword targeting and keyword research entirely. I think we’ve got to merge these practices and come up with something smart.

All right everyone. I look forward to your comments, and we’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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SearchCap: Twitter Renews Focus On SEO, Facebook’s New Places Directory & Mobile Search, Shopping & Buying Tips

Below is what happened in search today, as reported on Search Engine Land and from other places across the web. From Search Engine Land: EBay Dumps Google Syndicated Ads For Bing Ads On Mobile Devices Quietly, eBay has dumped Google AdWords sponsored text ads from mobile devices in favor of Bing…



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Focus on These 4 Steps to Harness the Addictive Power of Email (And Turn Your Traffic Into Business)

social women standing in line for a sale

Are you working your butt off to run your business?

But feeling you’re not making enough progress?

You’re building a social following, slaving over weekly blog posts, and managing a heavy client load. Perhaps you’d also love to develop digital products or write a book. But it’s difficult to find the time when you juggle so many demands, right?

Building a thriving online business may often feel like an insurmountable task.

But when you learn the right way to apply the addictive power of email, you’ll possess a dynamite business tool.

A laser-sharp focus on growing and engaging your email list will help you turn casual blog readers into repeat visitors. Sound good?

Here are four steps to make email an integral part of your online business.

Step 1: Hook readers with your voice

You know the concept of a “bribe,” don’t you?

A “bribe” is an incentive for subscribers to join your list.

A report or ebook is the most commonly used incentive, but how many free ebooks have you downloaded that you still haven’t read?

Ebooks are now so common that their value has rapidly diminished. Have you seen how many Kindle books can be bought for the price of a Starbucks coffee?

What’s more, an ebook isn’t addictive. An ebook won’t build long-term connections with readers because it doesn’t invite them to come back. One ebook rarely gets readers hooked on your voice.

So, how do you hook readers instead?

Your first option is to build a content library. Once you have a content library, you can give readers the option of registering to join your library, rather than subscribing to your newsletter.

To create your library, consider sprucing up a series of blog posts and turning them into ebooks or an exclusive series of video tutorials. When you use the Rainmaker Platform to set up your library, the registration process for visitors is simple.

To see how this works, you can register for Copyblogger’s free ebook library, which includes ebooks on copywriting, content marketing, landing pages, and more.

Your second option for an addictive bribe is a short e-course. In its simplest form, an e-course drip-feeds tips by email to your subscribers.

Rather than “hearing” your voice only once a week when you send your blog update, your e-course allows you to email new subscribers frequently, so you can turn cold connections into warm friends.

Creating an e-course is not as difficult as you might think:

  • Brainstorm at least 30 simple tips around a problem your readers struggle with
  • Pick your favorite 10 to 20 tips — the best tips are easy to implement and solve common problems
  • Write a short email for each tip
  • Consider increasing the appeal of your e-course by including one or two free downloadable guides (you can re-use an old ebook!)
  • Create an enticing name for your e-course

Don’t be afraid to schedule your emails frequently. When readers join your course, they’re eager to learn from you. New voices are exciting, so this is your chance to get readers hooked.

For example, if you join my 16-part snackable writing course for busy people, you’ll receive ultra-short emails with writing tips you can implement instantly.

What value can you give your readers so they look forward to your emails? And so they actually email you if they happen to miss one or two installments?

Step 2: Invite blog readers to become fans

How do you get more casual blog readers to join your list so you gain opportunities to pitch and sell your services or products?

Before polishing your sign-up forms, consider these two traffic sources:

  • Traffic you control: This is traffic from, for instance, a link in an author bio of a guest post or from a SlideShare presentation you’ve made; you can control where web page readers land. Rather than sending them to your home page, create a dedicated landing page to increase your conversion rates.
  • Other traffic: You can’t always control where readers land — search or social traffic can arrive anywhere on your site. You can add prominent sign-up forms on your home and about pages, at the top of your blog posts and archive pages, and in your sidebar. For example, Buffer recently doubled their email signups by offering more options to join their newsletter (without popups!).

A common mistake when enticing readers to join your list is to promote it solely with features like a free ebook or e-course. Readers are more interested in the benefits of your information.

The titles of Copyblogger’s ebooks, for instance, highlight benefits like:

  • Landing Pages: How to Turn Traffic into Money
  • Content Marketing: How to Build an Audience that Builds Your Business
  • How to Create Content That Converts

And the landing page for my 16-part snackable e-course promises you these benefits:

  • Learn simple persuasion tricks — such as the power of the subtle nod
  • Discover how to cure sentence bloat and avoid irritating your readers
  • Write more seductive content and win more business

Readers will join your list and become fans when you demonstrate how you will make their lives better.

Step 3: Review your traffic sources

Website traffic doesn’t fuel your business. Most traffic bounces off your website without ever returning.

As you review your list-building activities, you must understand which traffic turns into email subscribers.

If you haven’t done so already, set up a goal in Google Analytics so you can see which traffic converts best. This is how:

  • Go to “Admin” at the top of your Google Analytics dashboard
  • Under the “View” section, select “Goals”
  • Click the red “New goal” button
  • Select “Custom,” click “Next step,” give your goal a name (e.g., “course” or “library registration”), and select your type of goal — in most cases this is a destination
  • Click “Next step” and enter the URL people reach once they’ve completed the conversion — it’s usually a “thank you” page that appears after they’ve signed up for your newsletter or free trial, or after they’ve purchased your product
  • Click “Create goal”

Once you’ve set up your goals, you can start evaluating your traffic sources:

  • Which guest posts generate the most subscribers?
  • How do conversions from social media traffic compare to conversions from guest posts?
  • Which social media activity generates the most subscribers?
  • How well does search engine traffic convert?
  • Which landing page converts the best?

To strengthen your ability to grow your list, you must understand which of your activities work and which don’t.

Step 4: Hook readers on you

Inboxes are bursting under the weight of too many emails. Nobody wants yet another email, another newsletter, another update.

How can you stand out so readers look forward to your emails? Follow these essential email writing tips:

  • Write in a conversational tone, so readers feel your email is personal
  • Consider adding tidbits about yourself, so readers get to know you
  • Be concise; poorly edited emails waste readers’ time
  • Always add value and be helpful

Stop thinking about readers as subscribers, and write as if you’re emailing one friend.

Here’s what to do next

Ready to seriously grow your email list?

Block 45 minutes in your writing journal this week to:

  1. Spend 15 minutes generating ideas to grow your list
  2. Spend 15 minutes brainstorming ideas to engage your list
  3. Make two or three top ideas your first priorities
  4. Block time on your calendar to execute these tasks

A responsive audience is the foundation of a successful business, so the best way to build this asset is to grow your email list and engage your subscribers.

The truth about building a thriving business

The size of your list is not as important as the enthusiasm and engagement levels of your readers.

Do they know you? Do they trust you? Do they look out for your next email? Do they miss you when you’re on vacation?

When you treat your email subscribers like good friends, you can build your own tribe and community with those special relationships.

How do you develop relationships with your readers?

What’s the most addictive offer you present to your audience?

Let me know over on Google+

Flickr Creative Commons Image via Paul Townsend.

About the Author: Henneke Duistermaat is an irreverent copywriter and marketer. She’s on a mission to stamp out gobbledygook and to make boring business blogs sparkle. Get her free 16-Part Snackable Writing Course for Busy People and learn how to enchant your readers and win more business.

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Simplify Your Inbound Marketing Process: Focus on Content Assets

Posted by kaiserthesage

Content ties everything in the digital marketing realm together—that’s why it is king.

Content creation has been the core part of my blog/business’ inbound marketing strategy this year, which was around 70% of my entire marketing effort. The other 30% was allocated to content promotion/distribution, relationship building, site optimization, and analytics.

So this post is basically a case study of how I simplified a very complex process by only focusing on one integral part of inbound marketing (content), and how that led to hundreds of service leads for our company this year.

On content strategy

Content assets help brands communicate their messages to their target audiences. These may come in the form of visual guides, web-based tools, extensive resources and many more (as also listed by Cyrus Shepard on his recent Moz post).

In my case, I aim for every blog post I publish to be an asset that I can continuously optimize and improve.

So in order for my overall campaign to be really scalable (and for me to be able to easily integrate other inbound marketing practices), I based my content development efforts on these core principles:

  • Create content that contains ideas/information that isn’t found anywhere else.
  • Make the content very comprehensive and evergreen if possible.

And as for the content formats, I mostly focused on creating:

  • Case studies
  • Extensive and evergreen blog posts (how-to’s)
  • Reusable content (newsletters, slide presentations, PDFs, etc.)

If in case you’re wondering about the content assets I’ve repurposed, here are few samples:

2 months ago, I released a 4 part newsletter series that talks about 12 different scalable link building tactics.

After a couple of weeks, I decided to publish the entire series as a long-form blog post here on Moz.

Another sample is with one of my most popular guides this year (that was also featured on Moz’s top-10 monthly newsletter) entitled 22 link building tips from @xightph, which I just recently turned into a SlideShare presentation:

Perhaps this approach of allocating the majority of my efforts into content development is easier for me to accomplish because I established my blog’s readership 2 years before I tried it, and also given that I’ve already built relationships with other online marketers who habitually share my new blog posts.

I still believe that this exact process is replicable for those who haven’t yet established themselves. Since it always comes down to what you can provide to your industry and finding ways to let others know you have it.

Content = links

Content assets are able to attract and build links over time, knowing that it is in the nature of content to be genuinely linkable.

Link building becomes automatic when you focus on creating useful and actionable content on a regular basis (and, of course, letting other people who’re interested in your content’s topic know that your content exists).

Your content won’t stand on its own and be linkable by itself, so it’s also important to make an effort for it to be more visible to your target audience. Here are a few things you can do to ensure it’ll get to your audience:

  • Outreach: Connect with other content publishers, industry influencers, and enthusiasts, and see if they’re interested in checking out your content.
  • Social ads: Use content placement services from Facebook or StumbleUpon to get more eyeballs to your content.
  • Conversations: Participate and share your content on relevant discussions from online communities in your space (forums, groups, blogs, Q&A sites, etc.).
  • Distribution: Promote your content assets through other content distribution channels such as guest blogging, regular columns, newsletters, slide presentations, videos, or podcasts.

Further reading:

Content = relationships

Providing high-value content assets on a regular basis will also help you easily connect and engage other content publishers in your industry.

This can somehow impact how other people perceive your brand as a publisher, especially when other thought leaders are sharing your content, interacting with your brand, and inviting you to contribute to their websites (which is quite similar to what Moz has done in past years).

Relationships, partnerships, and alliances are vital in this age of marketing, as they can help increase your readership and follower base, and can particularly help improve the shareability of your site’s content.

Here are a few pointers on how to engage and build relationships with industry influencers:

  • Mention or use their works as a reference for your content. You can also ask them to review and validate the information within your content to build a rapport (which is also a great way to get them to see the quality of your work).
  • Make sure that your content appeals to their audience/followers; this increases the likelihood of getting your content shared.
  • Don’t worry. You don’t have any reason to be afraid to reach out to influencers when you’re really confident with the caliber of your content.

Content = social activity

With the right push, a well-thought-out piece of content will almost always do well in terms of social sharing. Most content assets are designed to be share-worthy, and the common factors that make most content assets shareable are:

  • Their design and if they’re visually appealing.
  • If they’ve been shared by popular/influential entities in their industries.
  • If the content is emotionally compelling, educational, useful, and/or just simply adds unique value to the industry.

Making your linkable assets timeless or evergreen can also amplify its social activity, given that every time it gets a new visitor the content remains relevant, which can continuously increase the amount of social shares it is getting.

And the more you create content assets on your website, the more you can grow your following base and network. Which is why content plays a big role in social media – because it’s what people are sharing.

For more actionable tips on increasing your content assets’ social activity, you might want to also check the post I wrote a few weeks ago at Hit Reach on how to get more social shares for your site.

Content = search rankings

The ways in which search engines determine web pages’ importance (and whether they really deserve to be prominently visible in search results) have evolved over the years.

Major factors such as relevance (which can be measured through usage/page activity) and authority (measured through social, links, domain authority, brand signals, etc.), though, still play a huge role in terms of search rankings. These metrics are also elements that most successful content assets embody.

Great content generates rankings.

A couple of pointers on making the most out of your site’s content pool to boost your SEO:

  • Turn the pages on your website that target key industry terms into evergreen content assets.
  • Optimize your important pages/content assets for interaction, conversions, and user-experience. For example, test your pages’ CTAs, encourag people to share the content, etc. These are the key areas that will make your pages rank better in search results.

Further reading:

Content = email subscribers

Email marketing is an essential part of inbound marketing, because it’s a marketing platform that many businesses have full control of (owned media).

Growing your email list is a whole lot easier when you’re consistently putting new content up on your site (and especially when you consider every piece of content you launch as an asset).

The more content you publish, the more people get to discover your brand, which can ultimately increase your chances of getting them to subscribe or sign up for your email newsletter.

Tips on how to increase email sign-ups:

  • Make your opt-in form(s) very visible on the site’s key landing pages.
  • Incentivize sign-ups by offering free content such as ebooks, whitepapers, newsletter series, and/or access to free web-based tools.

Content = conversions

Content assets can definitely lift conversions, mainly because they can strongly demonstrate the brand’s domain expertise and authority.

If you’ve planted a lot of useful and actionable content on your site, then these things are influencing your site’s ability to convert visitors.

More on improving your content assets’ conversions:

  • Identify which landing pages/assets are constantly driving sales/new customers/service inquiries to your business. Make them more visible by building more internal/incoming links to them, improving or updating the content itself to earn better search rankings, sharing them on social networks, or basically anything that can improve their traffic.
  • Continually test and improve the content’s calls to action.

Becoming a better inbound marketer

Before I became an SEO in 2010, I was a freelance writer. It never occurred to me that I’d be doing both in the future—and actually more.

But I guess knowing how to get the right traffic and having a better grasp of the kinds of content that my audience needs and wants to read made me a better inbound marketer.

I would love to hear your ideas about this approach to inbound marketing, or if you have questions, I’d also love to see them in the comments section. You can also follow me on Twitter @jasonacidre.

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Google’s New Mobile Guidelines Focus On Delivering Content In Less Than A Second

One second. That’s about how long it took you to read the two words above, and it’s also the focus of Google’s latest advice for webmasters when it comes to developing mobile websites. The company has published new guidelines that emphasize why sites should deliver above-the-fold…



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Making Your Online Marketing Work: Sharpen Your Focus on This One Thing

Image of Blurry Eye Chart

You devour online marketing lessons. You feast on articles, reports, books, and ebooks.

Maybe you spend some of your precious time attending webinars and conferences, and you can’t help but join the conversation on blogs and social networks.

Good for you.

There’s a ton of information to take in, the landscape changes daily, and if you’re going to have success marketing your product, service, or idea online, you need to master a good many practices, techniques, and tools.

The more these ingredients get heaped onto our plates, the more the meal calls for a bowl and spoon. It’s digital soup, my friend.

Clarity is hard to achieve. So, pencils out. It’s pop quiz time …

What should you focus on to make your online marketing more effective?

  1. Content
  2. Social networking
  3. Search
  4. Analytics
  5. All of the above
  6. None of the above

Answer: (6). I told you this was a tough one.

If you answered “5″ it wouldn’t be fair to give you an “F.” You studied the choices and decided it’s not all that effective to focus on just one ingredient in this complex recipe.

They’re absolutely interdependent, you’re right about that.

But you’d be wrong to focus on each of these items as tactics alone.

As marketers, we fall into this trap time and again. Right now, in offices everywhere, marketers’ pulses are racing with questions such as:

  • How will we produce video content?
  • What’s our Facebook strategy?
  • Should we revisit our keywords?
  • What’s producing the peaks and valleys in our website traffic?

These are good questions. I applaud you for asking them and agree whole-heartedly that they deserve thoughtful answers.

But you need to push these questions to the back burner until you answer one far more important question …

What does the customer want?

The customer — I chose the singular for a reason. The most effective online marketers have one thing — the word You — written boldly on a sticky note and forever attached to their frontal lobes.

“You” is a person your marketing strategy must focus on, a word your copywriter must use, the living, breathing person your designs need to appeal to and your social media specialist must connect with.

“You” has five senses. Can your marketing team state in no uncertain terms what he or she wants to see, hear, smell, touch, and taste?

“You” opts in or out. “You” follows your company or a competitor. “You” either does or doesn’t find your pages and posts via search. “You” affects your numbers, but is far more complex than a zero or a one.

So what’s wrong with “We?”

A week or so ago, I’m on the phone with a new client and his marketing team. They want my honest opinion about their home page, so I give it a quick once over and say, “It’s all so self-serving. The word ‘we’ is the subject of practically every sentence.

Someone on the other end of the line doesn’t like it. “What’s wrong with we?,” he protests.

If I was in the same room, I might have kissed him for writing such a great line for me. Though it’s the bane of copywriters the world over, in one form or another, clients have been asking this question since the beginning of time.

I go on to explain the website visitor isn’t there for we. He’s not interested in your company. He’s dealing with a challenge. That issue got him a-Googling, and lucky for you, it drove him to you.

If you feed him a steady stream of “we, we, we,” and start singing your own praises, he’ll bounce right back to the search engine and find someone who’s going to help him solve his problem.

That’s what’s wrong with we.

Now for a clinic in you.

The most effective marketers focus on the customer. While it may be the oldest lesson in marketing communications, all you have to do is read corporate websites to be reminded how often it’s forgotten.

How to forge your way down the more effective “you” path

  • Develop detailed customer personas — You can’t push your customer’s hot buttons until you know what they are. Conduct research by interviewing and surveying customers, observing social media behaviors, mining data, and asking the sales and support team for insights gained from their interactions. Armed with the answers to what makes your customers tick, document fictional bios or personas to represent different types of customers.
  • Find the pleasure and the pain — The act of buying boils down to a person striving to avoid pain or increase pleasure. Yes, even in business. Understand what hurts and what makes the prospect’s heart race.
  • Recognize the hurdles — What might derail the sale? Potential hindrances often include price, terms, competitive offerings, approval protocols, risk, time frames, and lack of urgency. Take a proactive approach to addressing common deal breakers.
  • Re-orient your language — As soon as you find your communications creeping back in the direction of what you do, what you make and how you do business, stop. Retreat. Turn features into benefits. Turn around first- and/or third-person voiced propositions into a “you” statement or question.
  • Remember, how to win friends and influence people

    • Make your prospect feel important — Demonstrate appreciation and give encouragement.
    • Arouse an eager want — These are Dale Carnegie’s words. As are these: “The only way on earth to influence other people is to talk about what they want and show them how to get it.”
    • Smile — In copy? Why not? Use welcoming, upbeat, and friendly words and spread the love.
    • Personalize — Apply what you know to make your message as customized and personal as possible.
    • Talk in terms of the other person’s interests — There’s Carnegie again, delivering a copywriting 101 course.

    And, in Dale’s legendary guidebook, he writes,

    You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years trying to get other people interested in you.

    This is a hard habit to break, but you must break it.

    Track the changes that really matter

    The “you” path tends to take unexpected turns. That is to say, if you create a map and follow it forever more, you’re bound to get lost.

    The goal is to connect with and meet the needs of your audience—people—and people change. Brian Clark reminds you of this in the Copyblogger ebook The Business Case for Agile Content Marketing.

    So, when you understand the need to be agile with your online marketing endeavors, it follows you’ll then stay perpetually tuned-in to the mindset of your target audience.

    As Pamela Wilson explains in How to Create an Agile Content Marketing strategy (and Stay Sane Doing It), you need to determine which content your audience responds to and adjust accordingly.

    Remember the one thing that doesn’t change

    You’re not going to dig into any deeply useful source about content that doesn’t get into search, about social that doesn’t get into content, and every other conceivable combination.

    These strategies are awesome. In this age dominated by all things digital, online marketing (done right) is more powerful than ever.

    But the landscape evolves faster than ever. In the field of marketing, the lines will continue to blur. The tools and tactics we rely on will continue to change.

    The need to focus on the customer will not.

    About the Author: Barry Feldman is a content marketing creator and strategist, copywriter and creative director. He writes for several leading online marketing websites and recently published “The Plan to Grow Your Business with Effective Online Marketing.” If you’d like a piece of his mind, visit Feldman Creative.

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Marketing Research in Action: Don’t focus on mobile-optimized email, focus on revenue

At MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2013, Manny Ju, Director of Product Management, BlueHornet, discussed mobile email marketing in the latest episode of Marketing Research in Action. Read on for three takeaways to focus on revenue in email marketing.
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Focus on The Business Model

Google’s Take on Search Plus Your World

A few weeks ago Google announced the launch of Search Plus Your World, which deeply integrates social sites (especially Google+) into the Google search experience to make it more personalized.

While Google claimed that the socialization was rather broad-based, the lack of inclusion of Facebook & Twitter along with the excessive promotion of Google+ raised eyebrows. While the launch was claimed to be social for personalizing results, the Google+ promotions appeared on queries where they were clearly not the most relevant result even when users are not logged into a Google account.

Google+ Over-promotion

A couple weeks ago when Google announced Google Search Plus Your World competitors collectively complained about Google over-promoting their own affiliated websites.

Twitter was perhaps the loudest complainer, highlighting how Google basically eats all the above-the-fold real estate with self promotion on this @WWE search.

It is no surprise that folks like Ben Edelman, Scott Cleland & Fair Search chimed in with complaints, as this is just a continuation of Google’s path. But the complaints came from a far wider cast of characters on this move: the mainstream press like CNN, free market evangalists like the Economist, Google worshipers indoctrinated in their culture who wrote a book on Google & even ex-Googlers now call into question Google’s transparently self serving nature:

I think Google as an organization has moved on; they’re focussed now on market position, not making the world better. Which makes me sad.

Google is too powerful, too arrogant, too entrenched to be worth our love. Let them defend themselves, I’d rather devote my emotional energy to the upstarts and startups. They deserve our passion.

The FTC’s Google antitrust probe is to expand to include a review of Google+ integration in the search results.

Facebook & Twitter launched a don’t be evil plugin named Focus On The User, which replaces Google+ promotion with promotion of profiles from Facebook& Twitter.

For the top tier broad social networks framing the idea of integrating promotion of their networks directly in the search results is a natural & desirable conclusion, but is that just a convenient answer to the wrong question?

  • Whether Google ranks any particular organic result above the corresponding Bing ranking in Google’s now below-the-fold organic results is a bit irrelevant when the above the fold results are almost entirely Google.com. But is the core problem that we are under-representing social media in the search results? According to Compete.com, Facebook & YouTube combine to capture about 16% of all downstream Google clicks. Do we really need to increase that number until the web has a total of 5 websites on it? What benefit do we get out of a web that is just a couple big walled gardens?
  • If Facebook is already getting something like 20% of US pageviews & users are still looking for information elsewhere, doesn’t that indicate that they probably desire something else? Absolutely Facebook should rank for Facebook navigational queries, but given all their notes spam, I don’t like seeing them in the search results much more than seeing a site like eHow.
  • The he said / she said data deals are also highly irrelevant. What is really needed is further context. Before Google inserted Google+ in their search results the Google+ social network was far less successful than MySpace (which recently sold for only $ 35 million). If social media is added as an annotation to other 3rd party listings then I think that has the opportunity to add valuable context, but where a thin “me too” styled social media post replaces the publisher content it lowers the utility of the search results & wastes searcher’s time. Further, when those social media results are little more than human-powered content scrapers it also destroys the business models of legitimate online publishers.

Over-promotion vs “Search Spam”

At any point Google can promote one of their new verticals in a prominent location in the search results & if they are anywhere near as good as the market leader eventually they can beat them out of nothing more than the combination of superior search placement, monopoly search marketshare, account bundling & user laziness. What’s more, they can make paid products free and/or partner with competitors 2 through x in an attempt to destroy the business model of anyone they couldn’t acquire (talk to Groupon).

Amit Singhal is obviously a brilliant guy, but I thought some of the answers he gave during a recent interview by Danny Sullivan were quite evasive & perhaps a bit inauthentic. In particular, …

  • “The overall takeaway that I have in my mind is that people are judging a product and an overall direction that we have in the first two weeks of a launch, where we are producing a product for the long term.” If the product wasn’t ready for prime time you were not required to mix it directly into the organic search results right off the bat. It could have been placed at the bottom of the search results, like the “Ask on Google” links were. Bing has been working on social search for 18 months & describes their moves as “being very conservative.”
  • “The user feedback we have been getting has been almost the other side of the reaction we’ve seen in the blogosphere.” Of course publishers who see their content getting scraped & see the scraped copy outranking the original have a financial incentive to care about a free & automated scraper site displacing their work. They don’t get those pageviews, they don’t get that referrer data, and they don’t get those ad impressions. Google’s PR team is anything but impressed when another company dares do that to Google.
  • “The users who have seen this in the wild are liking it, and our initial data analysis is showing the same.” Much like the Google Webmaster Tools shows that pages with a +1 in the search results get a higher CTR, this Google+ social stuff also suffers from the same type of sampling bias & giving the listings a larger and more graphical stand out further help them pull in much more clicks. Any form of visual highlighting & listing differentiation can lift CTR. I might be likely to click on some of my own results more, but when I do so you might just be grabbing a slice of navigational searches I was going to do anyway where I was looking for something else I posted on Google+ or my Google+ account or the account of a friend & so on. Further, aggregate data hides many data points that are counter to the general trend. I have seen instances of branded searches where the #1 organic site was getting a CTR above 70% (it even had organic sitelinks, further indicating it was a navigational search) and for such a search in some cases there were 2 Adwords ads above the organic results & then the Google+ page for a brand outranked the associated brand in the SERPs for those who followed it! That is a terrible user experience, particularly since the + page hasn’t even had any activity for months.
  • “Every time a real user is getting those results, they really are delighted. Given how personal this product is, you can only judge it based on personal experiences or by aggregate numbers you can observe through click-through.” First, publishers are not fake users. Secondly, as mentioned above, there is a sampling bias & the + listings stand out with larger & more graphical listings. If they didn’t get a higher CTR that would mean they were *really* irrelevant.
  • “out of the gate, whereas we had limited users to train this system with, I’m actually very happy with the outcome of the personal results.” They could have been placed at the bottom of the search results or off to the side or some such until there was greater confidence in the training set.
  • “People are coming to a conclusion about the product today, within the first two weeks, and they’re not fully seeing the potential where we can build this product around real identities and real relationships.” If a publisher promotes a site to the top of the search results & then says something like ‘we will improve quality later’ they are branded as spammers. In the past Google has justified penalizing a site based on its old content that no longer exists on the site. Investing in depth, quality & volume is a cycle. If others get prohibited from evolving through the cycles due to algorithms like Panda then it becomes quite hard to compete as a new start up when Google can just insert whatever it wants right near the top & then work on quality after the fact.
  • “We don’t think of this as a promotional unit now. This is a place that you would find people with real identities who would be interesting for your queries.” If this is the case then why does it only promote Google+?
  • “We’re very open to incorporating information from other services, but that needs to be done on terms that wouldn’t change in a short period of time and make our products vanish.” The problem is, if a company builds a reputation as a secretive one that clones the work of its partners & customers then people don’t want to do open-ended transparent relationships. Naive folks might need to see the blood and tears 3 or 4 times to pick up on the trend, but even the slowest of the slow notice it after a dozen such moves.
  • “I’m just very wary of building a product where the terms can be changed.” Considering Google’s lack of transparency & self-promotional bias on the social networking front, would you be fully transparent and open with Google? If so, then aren’t the search algorithms complex enough that it would make sense to make those transparent as well? How can you ask other social networks to increase transparency at the same time Google is locking down their search data on claims of protecting user privacy?
  • “It’s not just about content. It’s about identity, and when you start talking about these things and what it takes to build this, the data needed is much more than we can publicly crawl.” This is where being trustworthy is so crucial. Past interactions with Yelp, TripAdvisor & Groupon likely make future potential partners more risk adverse & cautious. Outrageous “accidents” like those that happened with Mocality & Open Street Map from playing fast and loose further erode credibility. And even when Google hosts the media & has full access to user data they still rank inferior stuff sometimes (like the recent Santorum YouTube cartoon fiasco), even on widely searched core/head keywords.

The big issue is that if people feel the game is rigged they won’t have much incentive to share on Google+. I largely only share stuff that is irrelevant to tangentially relevant to our business interests & won’t share stuff that is directly relevant, because I don’t want to be forced to compete against an inferior version of my own work when the deck is stacked so the inferior version wins simply because it is hosted on Google.

As we move into the information age a lot of physical stores are shutting down. Borders went bust last year. Sears announced the closure of many stores. And many of the people shopping in the physical stores that remain are using cell phones for price comparisons. Given Google’s mobile OS share this is another area where they can build trust or burn it. A friend today mentioned how their online prices on Google Product search almost always show a lower price near the header than the lowest price available in the list – sometimes by a substantial margin.

Identity vs Anonymous Contractors

In the past we have mentioned that transparency is often a self-serving & hypocritical policy by those atop power systems who want to limit the power of those whom they aim to control.

When Google was caught promoting illegal drug ads there was no individual who took the blame for it. When the Mocality scraping & the Open Street Map vandalism issues happened, all that we were told was that Google “was mortified” and it was “a contractor.” If people who did hit jobs could just place all the blame on “the contractor” then the world would be a pretty crappy place!

Eric Schmidt warned that “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.” That sage advice came from the same Eric Schmidt that blackballed cNet for positing personal information about him. Around the same time Eric offered the above quote, Google was engaged in secret & illegal backdoor deals with direct competitors to harm their own employees.

What happened to Google recruiters who dared to go against the illegal pact? They were fired on the hour:

“Can you get this stopped and let me know why this is happening?” Schmidt wrote.

Google’s staffing director responded that the employee who contacted the Apple engineer “will be terminated within the hour.”

When Google+ launched they demanded that you use your real name or don’t use the product. They later claimed that you can use a nickname on your account as well, but there is a difference between a nickname and pseudonyms.

What is so outrageous about the claims for this need for real identities is that past studies have shown that pseudonymous comments are best & Bruce Schneier highlighted how we lose our individuality if we are under an ever-watchful eye:

Cardinal Richelieu understood the value of surveillance when he famously said, “If one would give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest man, I would find something in them to have him hanged.” Watch someone long enough, and you’ll find something to arrest — or just blackmail — with. Privacy is important because without it, surveillance information will be abused: to peep, to sell to marketers and to spy on political enemies — whoever they happen to be at the time.

Privacy protects us from abuses by those in power, even if we’re doing nothing wrong at the time of surveillance.

In many markets ads and content are blended in a way that is hard to distingush between them. Whenever Google wants to enter they can demand greater transparency to participate (and then use the standard formatted data from that transparency to create a meta-competitor in the market.)

Increasingly Google is placing more of their search data & their webmaster-related functions behind a registration wall. If you are rich & powerful they will sell you the data. If you are the wrong type of webmaster that aggregate data can be used in *exceptionally* personal ways.

User Privacy

Ahead of Google updating their privacy policy Google has directed a large portion of their ad budget toward ads about how they protect users online.

What better way to ensure user privacy than to allow them to register their accounts under psydonyms? The real name policy on Google+ was part of what made Google want to stop providing referrer data for logged in users who search on Google. This has had a knock on effect where other social sites are framing everything, requiring registration to read more of public user generated content & sending outbound traffic through redirects.

Google’s new privacy policy allows them to blend your user data from one service into refining the experience (and ads) on another:

If you’re signed into Google, we can do things like suggest search queries – or tailor your search results – based on the interests you’ve expressed in Google+, Gmail, and YouTube. We’ll better understand which version of Pink or Jaguar you’re searching for and get you those results faster.

Google & Facebook’s war (against) user privacy is catching media and governmental attention. Microsoft highlighted some of Google’s issues in their “putting people first” ad campaign & the blowback has caused Google not only to publish PR-spin “get the facts” styled blog posts, but to launch yet another ad campaign.

EU regulators have asked Google to pause their privacy policy changes.

Bogus Testimonials & Social Payola

Is social media a cleaner signal than links? If search engines put the same weight on social media that they put on links it would get spammed to bits. It won’t be long until a firm like Ad.ly offers sponsored Google+ posts.

Some have suggested that you won’t be able to buy Google+ followers however Google already includes user pictures on AdWords ads (even when they desire not to be & even when they didn’t endorse the product that Google suggests they endorsed). In due time I expect Google will indeed sell followers & other user interactions as ad units (just like Twitter & Facebook do).

Further, celebrities sell Tweets to advertisers. When they are hot their rates go up:

When Ad.ly introduced self-destructing Charlie Sheen to Twitter, he was paid about $ 50,000 per tweet. It was worth it. Sheen’s tweet for Internships.com generated 95,333 clicks in the first hour and 450,000 clicks in 48 hours, created a worldwide trending topic out of #tigerbloodintern, attracted 82,148 internship applications from 181 countries, and added 1 million additional visits to Internships.com.

Search engines might consider these to be clean signals if those same search engines were not busy buying the manipulation of said “relevancy” signals.

Attention is purchased to create demand. It isn’t comfortable to put it this way, but we are trained to obey authority & to like what others like:

The average Facebook user has 130 friends, which equates with four degrees of separation to thousands of people, Mr. Fischer said. Metrics like that led him to believe that if Facebook could figure out a way to capitalize on “social endorsements,” it would be like creating a word-of-mouth campaign that could reach millions of people simultaneously. Since the campaigns would come from a friend, they would theoretically be taken more seriously than, say, a TV commercial, he said.

On an individual basis reviews and ratings get faked everywhere. Even stodgy old slow-moving institutions like colleges game their ranking systems.

There recently was a question raised about how Google’s rating systems skewed high on the underlying data. Surely Overstock (the same Overstock Google penalized earlier this year) wouldn’t promote Google’s trusted stores aggressively on their own site if it made their business appear worse than it actually is, thus a positive bias must be baked in to the system.

Entire categories of demand are created by those tied in with power cost shifting to create bubbles. The federal reserve helped spark a real estate bubble with low interest rates. FBI warnings of mortgage fraud were ignored. Consumers were constantly fed propaganda about “real estate only goes up.” Then when that bubble popped, the US government bailed out those who caused it & burned trillions of Dollars propping up home prices. The government even bailed out a company that is now shorting the housing market (when that company was about to get bailed out the secretary of treasury leaked that material non-public information to some of his criminal investor buddies).

Does all the above sound circular, conflicting, corrupt & confusing? It should, because that is how power works & comes off as seeming semi-legitimate when acting in illigitimate ways. The perception of reality is warped to create profitable opportunties that are monetized on the way up and the way down.

Millions of kids take drugs that address the symptoms of being a child full of energy, imagination & entusiasm. In some cases they may need them, but in most cases they probably don’t. The solution with the highest economic return gets the largest ad budget, even if it only treats symptoms.

Web Scrape Plus+ (Now With More Scraping)

When the +1 button & Google+ launched, Google highlighted how they would use the + button usage as a “relevancy” signal. Google recently started inserting + pages directly into the search results for brands & right from the very start they were using it as a scraper website that would outrank the original content source.

Google used the buy in from their promised relevancy signal to create a badge-based incentivized system which acts as a glorified PageRank funnel to further juice the rankings of these new pages on a domain name that already had a PageRank 10.

I recently read a blog post about how anyone could do the above & the opportunity is open to everyone. But the truth is, I can’t state that something will become a relevancy signal that manipulates the search results in order to get buy in. Or, if I did something which actually had the same net effect, Google would likely chop my legs off for promoting a link scheme.

Recently the topic of Google+ as a scraper site came up yet again via Read Write Web & on Hacker News a Googler stated that it was “childish” to place any of the blame on Google!!!!!!

Google determines how much information is shown near each listing & can create “relevancy” signals in ways that things tied to Google get over-represented (look at the +1 count here). When they do that & it destroys other business models *of course* Google deserves 100% of the blame.

Thin Content & Scraper Sites

Remember the whole justification for Panda was that thin content was a poor user experience?

In spite of sites like eHow getting hit, Google is still pre-paying them to upload content to Youtube.

Now that the (non-Google hosted) thin content has been disappeared (and the % of downstream traffic from Google to Youtube has more then doubled in the past year) it is time for Google to take another slice of the search traffic stream with Search Plus Your World:

The Google vs Facebook locked down walled garden contest will retard innovation. As the corporate internet silos grow larger the independent web withers. Them going after each other may leave room for Twitter, but it doesn’t leave lots of room is left for others, as the economics of publishing have to work or the publishers die.

Start ups that were on a successful trajectory were killed by Panda:

The startup had been on a roll up until last February when Google altered its ranking algorithm with the release of “Panda.” The changes decimated TeachStreet’s traffic, and the company never quite recovered.

“We lost a lot of our traffic, and overnight we started talking to partners for biz dev, not for acquisition,” he said. However, many of the potential partners wanted to know about an outright acquisition.

About.com was also smoked by Google:

The biggest worry, though, is that the decline of About.com itself may be irreversible. Fewer people are clicking on About ads placed by Google and the site’s own display ads have dropped in value.

The company has attributed this decline in value to Google’s decision last year to downgrade About pages in its search results. With more than 80% of traffic coming from search, the Google denigration was indeed a blow but About’s problems may be rooted in something deeper.

Keep in mind that the reason these websites were hit was that they were claimed to be thin & thus a poor user experience. When the NYT bought About.com one of the top competing bidders was Google!

Now that the “thin content” has been demoted in the search results Google can integrate deep content silos from Google+, like this one:

That is an 8-word Google+ post about how short another blog post is. I like Todd & do like to read his writings, but here Google is clearly favoring the same sort of content they would have torched if it was done on an independent webmaster’s website.

How Google has raters view other websites that redirect traffic is based upon those sites having a substantial value add. Clearly in the above example there was nothing added to the interaction beyond sharing a bookmark with a punchy tagline.

If Google wants to use the + notation to pull up that other referenced page then perhaps that can make sense, but to list an 8-word Google+ page in the search results nearly a year after the Panda algorithm is outrageous. This sort of casual mention integration in the search results occurs on expensive keywords as well. Not only do they list your own Google+ posts…

…but they also list them from anyone you follow…

In addition to information pollution, the other big issue here is time. Google wants to make forms more standardized to make filling them out faster & they give regular sermons on the importance of fast search results. Yet when I do a navigational search, Google delivers two AdWords ads, a huge Google+ promotion, and then the navigational search result barely above the fold.*

*Since I thought the above was obnoxious, I renamed our Google+ company page to S_E_O Book to help Google fix their relevancy problems.

Can anyone explain how Google’s speed bias is aligned with putting plus junk right at the top, even on brand searches? Yahoo! has been pretty aggressive with putting shopping ads in the search results, but their implementation is still a better user experience than what Google did above.

And Bing offers an even cleaner experience than that.

Due to how Google integrates Google+ in such a parasitic way I see no incentive for participating on their network except when I have something that is outside of my domain of expertise, something that I am not targeting commercially, something that is thin, or something irrelevant to say! That incentive structure combined with Google’s photo meme feature will ensure that content marketers will help plenty of people see Star Wars stuff ranking for mortgage loan search queries.

When you own search/navigation you own language. that position can easily be extended into any other direction/market in a way a social graph can not:

“The only technology I’d rather own than Windows would be English,” McNealy said. “All of those who use English would have to pay me a couple hundred dollars a year just for the right to speak English. And then I can charge you upgrades when I add new alphabet characters like ‘n’ and ‘t.’ It would be a wonderful business.”

Further, Google can chose at any point to respond to or ignore market regulations in accordance with whatever makes them the most money. They can also fund 3rd parties doing the same (like undermining copyright) to force others to strike an official deal with Google to be “open.”

A lot of businesses live on small profit margins, so Google’s ability to insert itself & fund criminal 3rd parties aligned with Google’s internal longterm interests is a big big big deal. Companies will learn that you either work with Google on Google’s terms or you die.

When a public relations issue brews they can quickly change their approach and again position themselves as the white knight.

Brand Equity & Forcing the Brand Buy

Yahoo! put out a research paper highlighting activity bias, stating that the efficacy of online advertising is often over-stated because people who see ads about a topic were already more closely tied in with that particular network & that particular topic before they even saw the ad. As an example, any person who sees an AdWords ad for hemorrhoid treatment was already searching for hemorrhoid-related topics before they saw your ad (thus they were in the subset of individuals that might have came across your site in some way if you were in the search ad ecosystem or not).

This sort of activity bias-driven selection bias (homophily) exists on social networks online & offline.

Google did research on incrementality of ads & they came to the opposite conclusion as Yahoo! did. Google suggested you should buy, buy, buy, even on your own branded keywords. They suggested that testing was expensive (no mention that the only reason it is expensive is because Google chooses not to make such tools easily accessible to advertisers) & that the clicks were so cheap on branded keywords that you should buy, buy, buy. Many advertisers who mix brand & non-brand keywords together don’t realize that they are using the “returns” from bidding on their own brand to subsidize over-paying for other keywords.

Google Analytics is the leading & most widely used web analytics program. They can share whatever metrics help them sell more ads (defaulting to crediting the last click for conversions, even if it was on a navigational search to your site) & pull back on features that are not aligned with their business interests (SEO referral data anyone?)

This goes back to Scott McNealy’s quote: “The only technology I’d rather own than Windows would be English. All of those who use English would have to pay me a couple hundred dollars a year just for the right to speak English. And then I can charge you upgrades when I add new alphabet characters like ‘n’ and ‘t.’ It would be a wonderful business.”

Analysts didn’t understand why Google CPC rates were down 8% last quarter while overall search clicks were up 34%. The biggest single reason was likely more clicks on adlinks on branded AdWords ads. While a brand buying its own keyword typically pays far less per click than what some of the biggest keywords go for, the branded keywords typically have an exceptionally high CTR. Those additional clicks dragged down Google’s average CPC, but the extra revenue they offered was a big par of the reason why Google was about to grow at 25% even though their display network only grew at 15%.

That slow growth of display is in spite of Youtube now serving over 4 billion video streams per day & Google adding display ads to log out pages.

Online views are not the same as TV views. A comScore study found that 31% of display ads are never seen. In spite of that, US online advertising will reach nearly $ 40 billion this year.

Google wants to insert itself as a needed cost of business in the same way credit card companies have.

On Google Maps they put an ad inside your location box.

Even if most people don’t participate on Google+, Google can still force advertiser buy in through over-promotion of the network in the search results. On your branded keywords they may drive your organic listing below the fold & put Google+ front & center.

Facebook earnings are still growing much faster than Google’s & Facebook encourages advertisers to advertise their Facebook pages, so even when you pay for the click Facebook still keeps the user. Facebook is adding apps to the timeline & is trying to win VEVO music video hosting from YouTube.

While Google is primarily known as a search company, it is getting harder to get off of Google though any channel other than a toll booth. Google keeps driving the organic search results downward, while Google verticals fill up many of the organic results that remain. Many companies already buy Google ads on their own YouTube content. Some buy ads on Google to drive them to their Youtube videos & then buy ads on their own Youtube video to promote their websites. Soon Google will try to push you to buy them on your Google+ page as well. Google is becoming a walled garden:

Google wants to control more elements of your social world now. They don’t just want to be a search engine.

Is that so bad? Maybe not. It’s certainly no different from how other companies, from AOL, to Microsoft, to Apple, to Disney, to Facebook, have viewed the world — as ideally a walled garden, an all-consuming platform that most people use for pretty much every form of entertainment and social interaction.

A lot of people thought that Google was somehow different. They were, of course, wrong.

To move forward either as the old Google or Google+, Google needs to be capable of making fair deals with the partner ecosystem. It needs to curb its instinct to kill competing media companies that were actually producing great content that Google helped you find.

I suspect there will be plenty of bloodshed before Google figures that one out.

“This is the path we’re headed down – a single unified, ‘beautiful’ product across everything. If you don’t get that, then you should probably work somewhere else.” – Larry Page

Google no longer believes in the concept of the open web. Blame it on Larry Page becoming the CEO, blame it on him talking to Steve Jobs & Steve telling him to make fewer and tighter products, blame it on Google funding eHow, or blame it on basically anything. But if you go back far enough, much of the stuff that is going on now was clearly envisioned a decade ago:

I was lucky enough to chat with Larry one-to- one about his expectations for Google back in 2002. He laid out far-reaching views that had nothing to do with short-term revenue goals, but raised questions about how Google would anticipate the day sensors and memory became so cheap that individuals would record every moment of their lives. He wondered how Google could become like a better version of the RIAA – not just a mediator of digital music licensing – but a marketplace for fair distribution of all forms of digitized content. I left that meeting with a sense that Larry was thinking far more deeply about the future than I was, and I was convinced he would play a large role in shaping it. I would rather jump on board that bullet train than ride a local that never missed a revenue stop but never.” – Douglas Edwards

What happens when the Google+ version of your content outranks the version on your own site? And what happens when your branded channel and/or your fans become a vertical ad silo Google sells to your competitors?

I tested submitting a couple posts to Google+ with a Wordtracker top keywords list & valuable keywords (on a cpc*traffic) basis in posts about top keywords. Those posts rank #2 or #3 in Google for many people that follows me. No harm to me since those posts were irrelevant to this site, but if they were about my theme & topic I just would have out-competed myself. When Google outranks you (even with a copy of your content) they get to taste the data again and sell off the attention another time. You only get a slice of that monetization, even when it is your work that is being monetized. Maybe it is great for stuff that is somewhat less relevant and/or keywords that are so competitive that you otherwise wouldn’t score for them, but we have to be really careful we don’t out-compete ourselves. Though if Googke keeps this up they won’t be the only ones monetizing it. Give it a few months and celebrities will be selling sponsored Google+ posts based on some metric created by multiplying search volume, CPC & how many followers they have.

Is Bing Better? Will Enough People Ask That Question to Matter?

For years Google built their reputation as being the search engine that offered the cleanest & fastest search results. They were known for monetizing less aggressively than the competition. But over the past couple years Google has dialed up their ads to where they now send a greater ratio of ad traffic than organic search traffic. One Google engineer recently described the ability to rank highly in Google without buying their ads as being a bug that was getting fixed!

Google’s big risk in their coupling of aggressive monetization, aggressive self-promotion & changing how users feel about user privacy is that they can create the perception that users should go elsewhere for for an honest or trustworthy search. This not only builds momentum for smaller search services like DuckDuckGo & Blekko, but has also won praise for Bing from Gizmodo, Dave Winer & The Next Web.

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